Category Archives: abc

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at Biff Bam Pop!

If you’ve been watching “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” you know what a phenomenon it is. ABC and Disney, as well as Marvel Comics, are thrilled with the show – as are millions of viewers.

Also, you might not be aware, I have been reviewing “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” at Biff Bam Pop!. You can check out my thoughts on the first few episodes there for “Pilot,” “0-8-4,” “The Asset,” and “Eye Spy.”

And there’s a brand new episode tonight, so don’t forget to check out Biff Bam Pop! for my review later in the evening!

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The Great Gatsby 2013

The Great Gatsby ~ Every time I think of this Baz Luhrman flick, I can’t help thinking about the “Entourage” fictional version Gatsby. Maybe if I keep thinking that, I can also manifest another fake movie from the show, Aquaman, ’cause that one I really want to see.

At first, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to see this new version of Gatsby. I remember vaguely reading it as a teenager, and then being made to read it in college. I remember watching a TV version as an ABC movie of the week back in the seventies and being bored to tears.

The Great Gatsby is a lot of tell vs. show, along with subtext and metaphor that if you don’t get, your English teacher or professor will have a seizure. It’s also full of unlikable characters. It serves its purpose, like say Catcher in the Rye, don’t get me wrong, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Then there’s the problem of the director. Baz Luhrman, for me, is a creator of extremes. I think his Romeo + Juliet is a work of brilliance, yet his critically acclaimed Moulin Rouge! revels in the mud of my bottom five. I hated it. And because of it, I approach any further Luhrman work with contempt, derision, and caution. The Great Gatsby, seemingly in a similar vein to those two previously mentioned films, is definitely no exception.

I did not hate this version of Gatsby, but I didn’t love it either. It falls somewhere around my impression of the 1970s one, less than impressed, and bored. The leads are strong and perfect had this been in hands of any other director. Luhrman resorts to camera tricks, fast motion, modern music, and even 3-D trickery, and all any of it does is sour and dilute the classic story. Don’t waste your time, unless you’re a fan or morbidly curious.

Corvette Summer

Corvette Summer ~ I guess it’s impossible to relay to those who weren’t there at the time just how huge this dumb little movie was when it came out. Corvette Summer was Mark Hamill’s first film after Star Wars, and his much anticipated non-Luke Skywalker debut.

In the eighth grade, this was the biggest movie of the summer, period, and must see. If you didn’t see it, you just weren’t cool. I guess that’s why I finally saw it on a Friday night on ABC-TV. It is worth noting that as I remember it, no one was really talking about this flick after they saw it. It’s not Shakespeare, but I wouldn’t be as rash to say it was all that bad either.

Other than Mark Hamill as a possibly slow high school shop jock, and Annie Potts in her film debut as a ‘prostitute in training,’ Corvette Summer is pretty much just a pretty typical teenage romp. It had a bit more heart than most, and could have easily been a TV movie of the week, but it wasn’t bad.

Surprisingly it follows the Hero’s Journey template as Luke, I mean Mark, tracks the shop class’ prize Corvette Stingray across country to Las Vegas, where he learns some hard truths.

Annie Potts is fun, and look out for an awkwardly older Danny Bonaduce, there’s also a cast of great 1970s TV and film character actors. Hamill is good, but after all these years I still wonder if his character is just mental because he’s so obsessed with finding the car, or if he’s just mental, period.

Corvette Summer was harmless and enjoyable, and a nice time capsule to high school and the seventies. I dug it then, and I dig it now.

Soap Revival

We have talked now and then here at Welcome to Hell about the death of the soap opera. It is simply a genre and a style of television that has seen better days, and perhaps a lost audience. However, sometimes, I get proved wrong.

Just a few day ago verification of rumors popped up with the announcement that “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” were coming back. Maybe not to their traditional ABC afternoon time slots, but to the internet. Beginning April 29th, at 12 PM, new half-hour episodes of “All My Children” will be available on iTunes, on Hulu, and on Prospect Park’s The Online Network.

Welcome back!

The Initiation of Sarah 2006

The Initiation of Sarah ~ The original came at the tail end of the great ABC telemovies of the 1970s. In it, Kay Lenz, who I always mixed up with Susan Dey, plays the Carrie part in this Carrie rip-off. Morgan Fairchild is chief tormentor and Shelley Winters the witchy housemother mentor. There were a few of these Carrie wannabes in the 1970s, The Spell with Susan Meyers from “James at 15” was another, that aped the mousy scapegoat girl, who also happens to have telekinetic powers, flipping out in her tormentors. Sarah took place at a college sorority as opposed to high school.

The 2006 version is a re-imagining of the 1978 movie of the week done for, believe it or not, the ABC Family Channel. Well, at least they’re keeping it in the ‘family.’ Yeah, I know, sorry. Here, Morgan Fairchild returns as the snooty mom of two girls about to enter college, and join her old exclusive sorority. Lindsay, played by a post-“Firefly” Summer Glau and mousey cutter Sarah played by Mika Boorem of Blue Crush, are, as one would expect, polar opposites.

It is essentially the same story, with a decidedly non-fun Jennifer Tilly in the Shelley Winters role, but it has become unnecessarily complicated, almost as if someone was watching nothing but “Buffy” and old soap operas for a couple weeks straight. The warring sororities are the guardians of good and evil, people pretend to be other people to sleep with them, and it gets worse from there.

I wanted to like this one, I really did. It could have been the good old campy fun the original was but just took itself too seriously, and too much ABC Family as well, adding a crapload of teenage melodrama to the mix. Avoid and look for the original.

RIP Jack Klugman

Award winning star of stage, screen, and television, Jack Klugman, passed away Christmas Eve in his home, surrounded by his family, apparently of natural causes. Born in Philadelphia, he was 90.

Jack Klugman was probably most well known in the role of Oscar Madison, the sloppy sports writer from TV’s “The Odd Couple,” in which he played opposite Tony Randall as the fussy photographer, Felix Unger. The sitcom ran for five years on ABC from 1970 to 1975, based on the movie, and the Broadway play by Neil Simon. While never having spectacular ratings, it found fame in summer reruns and syndication. As a kid growing up in the 1970s, “The Odd Couple” was a fixture in my Friday night TV programming.

Later in the decade, Klugman moved to NBC with the serious police/doctor procedural, “Quincy M.E.” With a coroner as the protagonist, Klugman had said once, it was the best of both dramatic prime time worlds. In the sixties, he also appeared in four episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” including “A Game of Pool” and “A Passage for Trumpet,” two considered classics.

Before, and after his television days, Klugman was in more than a few films, most notably he was Juror #5 in 12 Angry Men. He also performed on stage throughout his career, even more than a few times in The Odd Couple. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1974, and in 1989 lost one of his vocal cords to it, yet he continued to act, albeit in a much quieter huskier voice.

Jack Klugman was a terrific actor, and he will be missed.

Andy Griffith 1926-2012

Andy Griffith was the multiple award-winning and nominated star of television, film, stage and song. The actor, writer, director, producer, comedian, musician and singer passed away this morning in North Carolina. He was 86.

Back in my preschool days, “The Andy Griffith Show” was my favorite show, second only to “Batman.” The opening of the program with Andy and his son Opie, played by Ronny Howard, going fishing and walking in the woods reminded me of my father and me. Especially the bit with that kid throwing rocks. I was that annoying kid throwing rocks whenever we went fishing or went for walks in the woods. My imaginary friend was even named ‘Opie.’ Hey, stop judging. I never said I was a bright kid. The point is, from an early age, “The Andy Griffith Show” and its spin-offs were a family tradition.

Just as I watched little Opie grow into Richie Cunningham and later a successful director, I also watched Andy in the largely forgotten but also fondly remembered ABC series “Salvage 1,” and later on the more palatable “Matlock.” When my brother-in-law gave me all his 45 RPM records (for the kids out there, think single MP3 iTunes purchases, only round and on vinyl), I discovered another facet of Andy Griffith with his down home comedy spoken word hit, “What It Was, Was Football.”

As an adult I discovered how his humor led to Andy’s role on the stage and then in film with No Time for Sergeants. The film not only firmly established his persona for the next few decades but also was the direct inspiration for later television spin-off “Gomer Pyle, USMC.” Andy also did a flick at this time called Onionhead, that was so bad, he stopped doing movies.

However, before that, he made the film that for me, earns Andy Griffith the most respect. 1957’s A Face in the Crowd, written by Budd Schulberg and directed by Elia Kazan, is one of my favorite films, easily in my top five, and Andy Griffith, as the charismatic but evil entertainer Lonesome Rhodes, is the star. This is an acting tour de force, and Griffith is a whirlwind. If you have not seen this phenomenal drama, I can’t recommend it enough.

We have lost not only one of our most beloved television icons, but also a visionary in the way TV is done, as well as one of America’s greatest actors and comedians. Rest in peace, Andy, we will miss you.

Dark Shadows 2012

Dark Shadows ~ When I first saw the trailer for this new version of Dark Shadows my thoughts were, “Oh boy, here’s Tim Burton raping another piece of my childhood, just like he did with Batman, Willy Wonka, Planet of the Apes, and tried to do with Superman.” To an extent, I was right, but if I’m absolutely honest, having seen the film, there’s also a lot of love and homage in there too, right next to the blatant disrespect and mockery.

The story for those who don’t know is that of Barnabas Collins, cursed by an ex-lover, also a witch, to become a vampire in the 18th century, imprisoned, released and awoken in the 20th century. This was the basis for the last few years of the late 1960s/early 1970s ABC soap opera cult classic “Dark Shadows.” Tim Burton, a supposed fan of the series, has decided to remake it as a camp comedy horror drama, emphasis on the camp and the comedy. Not that “Dark Shadows” wasn’t camp, mind you, it was, it just wasn’t planned to be. Like all good camp, it took itself deadly serious. That’s not the case here at all unfortunately. Often, as with most of his films, what’s funny to Tim Burton is rarely funny to everybody else.

All the good zingers are in the previews, so don’t go in expecting much more. That said however, in between all the failed jokes are tons of in-jokes and Easter eggs for fans of the show. Tim Burton may have disrespected the TV series, but he certainly did know it backward and forward. He does streamline and he does change many details, but still the love is evident. It’s when he tries to make fun of it and fails that fans and non-fans alike will cringe.

I dislike Johnny Depp’s Barnabas Collins quite a bit. As he sometimes does, it seems as if he made up a character in a improv class and then built a movie around it. Depp might be better off getting together and making movies with that Borat guy rather than raping my childhood with substandard remakes of old soap operas. He does have Jonathan Frid’s speech patterns down however. I have to give props to Helena Bonham Carter’s Dr. Julia Hoffman for the same reason. Her voice is perfect, but her over the top dye job alcoholic drag queen version of the doctor not so much. Fans of the show will laugh their asses off at her, it’s both hideous and hilarious.

Another of my favorites, Jackie Earle Haley is cast brilliantly as groundskeeper Willie Loomis (and yes, I bet that’s where “The Simpsons” got the name from). He is one of the highlights of the flick, both dramatic and comedic. Don’t blink or you will miss the two second cameos by surviving cast members of the soap opera – Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Selby, Lara Parker, and the recently late Jonathan Frid – as guests at the ball/happening with Alice Cooper.

Michelle Pfeiffer is pretty pedestrian for a role she wanted so badly, but she doesn’t have much room to act next to the scene-eating Depp. Same for one of my faves Jonny Lee Miller and newcomer Bella Heathcote – not enough room. I would have loved to have seen more of them, but such is the way of the soap opera. Speaking of over the top scene-stealing, Eva Green from “Camelot” is just absolutely crazy town as Barnabas’ nemesis Angelique. It’s almost as if the actors got drunk and played make-believe as their characters at some points. Also, much like 1989’s Batman, Burton is unable to come up with an ending so it feels like he starts pulling ideas of out his butt. Seriously, the last twenty minutes of this movie are insane, and not in a good way. It’s almost unwatchable.

The problem is that it’s not all bad, and that this really could have been a good movie, and not just that, a good movie, a respectful remake, and it didn’t have to resort to low brow comedy. The credits sequence in the beginning, set to the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin,” with Victoria Winters coming to Collinsport, is so ABC telemovie that not only would Dan Curtis (creator of “Dark Shadows” as well as more than a few movies of the week) would have been proud, but I was half-expecting to see Kim Darby, Kate Jackson, or Karen Black make an appearance.

There was a lot of stuff to love set amongst the comedic ruins of this flick. I loved both the inside and the outside of Collinwood, the town of Collinsport they built on the set, including the Blue Whale. The bit with Alice Cooper, which in the previews appears to be a one note joke, turns into brilliance by the inclusion of “The Ballad of Dwight Frye” as background for a couple scenes.

All in all, except for the last quarter of the movie, I did enjoy it. It’s not “Dark Shadows,” it’s not the cult classic gothic soap opera of my youth, but I did laugh, I did smile, and I still have my memories. Worth seeing for the curious, the fans, and for those with no point of reference whatsoever. I just would have rather seen the movie it could have been, as opposed to the one it is.

Jonathan Frid Dead at 87

News came today that actor Jonathan Frid passed away last week from natural causes. He immortalized the role of gentleman vampire Barnabas Collins in the Gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows” in the 1960s and early 70s, as well in a theatrical film. Frid was 87.

Like Dick Clark, who passed away yesterday, Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins was a big part of my childhood. I have very vague memories of the show when it was actually on the air originally (I’m not that old) but I know my sister was a big fan. I can remember it being on when I came home from school in the afternoon, and I recall the haunting theme music from those days as well.

My real association with “Dark Shadows” corresponded with my first TV, a tiny black and white number I put on my bedside table. Local channel 48 had begun showing reruns of the show at 11:30 every night, starting from the episode where Branabas was introduced. Now “Dark Shadows” was on the air before that, and even had supernatural elements, but the show didn’t really start rolling until everybody’s favorite vampire showed up. I would watch whatever 48 was offering before at 11, be it “Mary Hartman,” “Fernwood 2night” or “All That Glitters,” and stay tuned for “Dark Shadows.” It was, in many ways, the best hour on television back then. I can still remember the credits rolling just before midnight on the supposedly still DS set and seeing the coffin shake or a prop fall. Hey, the show was cheap, but serious in its way, and well loved.

Now Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are remaking the show as a campy movie spoof. I’m sure you’ve all seen the preview. I’m not going to comment, but I know that Jonathan Frid had seen it, and sources say he knew they would put their own spin on it. He actually even has a small walk-on cameo in the film. Time will tell. Jonathan Frid will be missed.

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Lost Hits of the New Wave #13

“Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners

This song, and “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats, is one of the reasons I started this “Lost Hits of the New Wave” project. It really bothered me how these two songs are usually what folks who weren’t there, think the new wave is all about. There was so much more, and so much that has been sadly forgotten. It’s not just “Safety Dance” and “Come On Eileen.”

“Come On Eileen” hit huge in the summer of 1982 in the United States, filling the number one spot in the charts between Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and “Beat It.” Like most acts of the era, Dexy’s Midnight Runners had already had several hits in the UK. The group at this time, was led by Kevin Rowland, who would eventually take lead billing over the Runners, and also included the addition of a fiddle section called The Emerald Express.

The album “Too-Rye-Ay” also introduced a new look for the band, a kind of ragged gypsy farmer fashion that was unique at the time. I remember the first time I saw the music video for “Come On Eileen” was on “Dancin’ On Air,” and the host made much of asking the kids what they thought Dexy’s Midnight Runners looked like. One kid said he thought they were all shiny like ABC. Most were surprised.

“Come On Eileen” was followed up in the States by two more songs from the album that went nowhere, making “Eileen” a true one hit wonder. The Runners broke up after another album, multiple hits in the UK, and even attempted a couple reunions. Supposedly there is a new album in the works, with the latest release date June of 2012.

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