Thursday, September 30, 2010
Both his life and career had missteps and misfires aplenty but Tony Curtis was a survivor, reinventing himself in later years as an artist. At the end of the day, though, it's his winking charm, his unlikely swashbuckling and his long list of memorable movie and TV performances of every stripe that place his legacy with the greats of Hollywood.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
I don't watch very much US television anymore. Some documentaries here and there, the odd PBS special, ancient films on TCM and a good cartoon when I can find one. As far as regular series, I'm hooked on TRUE BLOOD and BOARDWALK EMPIRE but I have to depend on others to see them as I don't have HBO. The only sitcoms I watch regularly are THE BIG BANG THEORY and 30 ROCK and quite frankly I wasn't thrilled with the season premieres of either of those.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
If ever there was an idea whose time had come...and gone, it was STRIPS. I have no idea how long it lasted but the only copy I saved is dated July of 1992. STRIPS was a tabloid newspaper published by the folks who published THE NATIONAL FORUM and sold wherever one would find such things in those pre-(for most of us, anyway) Interwebs days of not-so-long-ago. In a way, it was almost like a revival of the late, much lamented MENOMONEE FALLS GAZETTE (and GUARDIAN) of two decades earlier. Literally every issue would run 40 pages of comic strips good and bad, all at a nice size and most with a full week's worth of dailies per page! These days, of course, one can pick and choose on the Net which comics they want to read daily. You can subscribe to just the strips even! But in 1992, as the local newspapers continued to shrink their comics to unreadable proportions, this was, at least briefly, like a dream come true for strip fans!
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
If you're a comics fan and you haven't heard, today has been declared to be FANTASTIC FELIX FRIDAY, a celebration of the little black cat who was a cartoon star long before Mickey Mouse was even born! This, of course, ties in with Craig Yoe's new FELIX THE CAT: THE GREAT COMIC BOOK TAILS as seen in the IDW flyer above.
(c) 2010 Felix the Cat Productions
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
One of my favorite movie songs from the sixties is "the Windmills of Your Mind" which pops in and out of Steve McQueen's THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR as sung by Noel Harrison. Here's Noel rattling off the song's fun word poetry live on a mid-sixties TV appearance. Like his father Rex, Noel wasn't really much of a singer but he nailed this perennial favorite better than anyone else in my opinion.
Although the upcoming film itself will not be safe for work, here's a PG-rated Behind-the-Scenes look at the upcoming SUPERMAN XXX from the folks who brought you the rather brilliantly realized BATMAN XXX earlier this year. Showrunner Axel Braun is lavishing teh same attention to detail here on this parody of the first Christopher Reeve picture and you can see some of that in this featurette. The actor playing Superman is a tad skinny but looks the part and seems to have a respectful attitude toward the role. Hopefully they'll do a clean edit of all the non-sex scenes like they did with Batman. Should be fun!
I don't know. They have their fans, they have their detractors. Neither side is particularly vocal about the Ritz Brothers. Still, they always make me laugh and this cute little song was no doubt amusing in its innuendo even way back when...although poor old Adolph Menjou doesn't seem to be particularly amused!
In case anyone's forgotten, that's the late JD Salinger's boy Matt as Cap and he looks pretty good! At least until you realize those fleshy ears sticking out of the sides of his mask are rubber! As to the film itself, Cap is frozen in ice on his very first mission and by the time he awakens, the Red Skull--who, by the way, is Italian for some reason--has had plastic surgery and now looks like an ordinary guy with a scar. Our hero spends most of his time out of uniform and in the end, it's Ronny Cox's US president character that ends up saving the day rather than Cap!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
I ended up having to skip last weekend's Cincinnati Comic Expo and I won't be going to this weekend's MID-ATLANTIC NOSTALGIA CONVENTION either but if you're reading this blog and you're anywhere near the Baltimore area YOU should! Prolific author Martin Grams, Jr is the brains behind this annual pop culture love fest. This year's guests do NOT include the announced Van Williams but I'm told that GILLIGAN'S ISLAND's Dawn Wells is already in town. Other guests include Will Hutchins who is always fun to see, LOST IN SPACE's Major West, Mark Goddard, THE INVADERS' Roy Thinnes (billed as his first signing in 20 years) and even "Fake Jan, " Geri Reischl, who has, with the rise of the Internet, become a cult figure in her own right! If you can get there and you can afford it, go! Take pictures, meet people you feel like you've known for decades and have a great time!
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Along with the aforementioned ASHES TO ANGELS, the other books I’m talking about are THE CALLING by Rob Kiefer, THE SOUL SEEKERS: THE STORY OF ZOEY TALLMAN by Rochelle Buroker Cochran and LOVE SUCKS! By Lauren Hammond.
First, here’s a refresher on what I said about ASHES TO ANGELS: This just published book, the first for author Natalie McCollum, is
derivative but purposefully so. Its characters think in song lyrics and poems and quotes and pop references as we wind our way through the tale of an angel who cuts off her wings and falls for a self-destructive poet. Well, that’s it on the surface anyway. Even that is an interesting story but there are so many levels to it!
With its almost stream of consciousness narrative and heavily footnoted pages, the book brings to mind works as disparate as Joyce’s FINNEGAN’SWAKE or Mark Danielewski’s HOUSE OF LEAVES. More than anything else, though, ASHES TO ANGELS reminds me of the slightly disturbing yet welcoming vibe one gets from Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN. And I dearly love Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN.
Ms. McCollum's writing style has a poetry over and above the generous amount of actual poetry in the story itself as part of the plot. The subjects veer into deep dark corners and complicated philosophies, much of which are dealt with in the characters’ heads rather than in dialogue. By the middle of the book you find yourself asking if anything is what it seems…not just in the book but in real life!
Aptly described by its publisher, Punkin House Press, as “a love story told as a horror story and a horror story told as a love story,” ASHES TO ANGELS is the type of book you go into expecting a throwaway horror story and come out of with so much more.
Rob Kiefer’s THE CALLLING harkens back to books like WATERSHIP DOWN and
JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL in that its characters are all anthropomorphized birds and animals. Riley is a young purple martin glorying in his first summer when he first hears of “the calling,” the natural instinct of the birds to head for warmer climes during the winter months. Both dreading and anticipating the calling, his thinking is changed when he encounters prejudice upon finding a wounded pigeon. The elder birds tell him that pigeons aren’t like him—they’re dirty and scrounging and bad. Riley’s curiosity gets the better of him and he ends up saving the pigeon who then reciprocates. In the end, Riley decides to reject the calling and see for himself how pigeons live only to find out that wasn’t necessarily a good choice. What follows is a series of often harrowing adventures as the two very different friends take care of each other while attempting to get Riley back to his tribe. Taken on one level, this is a simple, exciting children’s story but on another level, it subtly explores the implications of prejudice and friendship. The characterizations are good throughout with Riley leaving quite a memorable impression. Kiefer’s writing is solid and professional even though this is his first published novel. THE CALLING would make a marvelous CGI animated film and in a perfect world should be in school libraries everywhere.
THE SOUL SEEKERS: THE STORY OF ZOEY TALLMAN is, as are so many fantasy books these days, the first of a trilogy.
Author Rochelle Buroker Cochran sidesteps the prevalent issue of making the whole first book seem like setup when she presents her lead character’s personal
love story as the main plot in this volume while the constantly building overplot remains back-burnered until next time.
Instead we meet Zoey, a typical teenage girl with typical teenage issues and fantasies but a wonderful relationship with her single father dad. Zoey is written so well right from the beginning that even if you aren’t a teenage girl yourself you can relate to her fears and hopes almost as if you were. She’s normal. She's ordinary. She’s written very, very real. Thus it’s all the more intriguing when Zoey starts hearing a voice in her head and seeing a world that isn’t there.
Before long we find that Zoey isn’t who we think she is and neither is anybody else. One of the great fantasies of all young people is that maybe their real parents were from another world and maybe someday they’ll learn that they secretly have magical powers. In this case, Zoey’s fantasy comes true only to have all the inherent issues attached to it suddenly invading her life. Along the way, though, she falls in love and it’s her enjoyably written love story that we follow the most.
THE SOUL SEEKERS: THE STORY OF ZOEY TALLMAN is another book that would be quite appropriate for school libraries as the author successfully taps into so many fantasies of the typical teenage girl today. I came to really like the main characters and I can’t wait for part two!
Finally, LOVE SUCKS! By Lauren Hammond is a vampire novel with a twist. Its protagonist ends up as the last vampire on earth
…in the present day. Well…she thinks she is the last vampire anyway.
Like Zoey, Cara was a typical teenage girl, also, but about three centuries back in Europe. One thing led to another and, as often happened in those days (in fiction at least), before she knew it she was a vampire.
As you might imagine, this is frowned on by the local villagers and so Cara moves around and eventually ends up in Colonial America. About halfway through the book, she goes to sleep and sleeps for three hundred years. When she awakens in the present day, the book takes on a lighter tone as Cara’s attempts to fit in and get by in the modern US become almost sitcom moments, up to and including the stereotype wacky neighbor. There’s a hot guy and her long dormant hormones kick in for a bit of a love story even.
Don’t get me wrong though. This is nowhere near vampire sex on the scale of the Anita Blake or Sookie Stackhouse books. In fact, it’s closer to what you might find in TWILIGHT only with less angstier characters.
LOVE SUCKS! is also the first of a series dealing with Cara and her modern-day adventures both darkly serious and seriously fun. The dialogue is sharp and you come off the book feeling like you really do want to spend more time with some of these folks.
So four books that I’ve read recently, all from the same publisher and all enjoyable, inexpensive reads. Four new authors with great potential. Go here http://shop.PUNKINBOOKS.COM/ and you can get your own copy of one or more of these books in minutes. You won’t be disappointed.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Is it Richie Rich or isn't it? This super secret agent sure looks like the world's richest boy. Of course, Richie often performed as a secret agent in his adventures. I think what we're seeing here is, in fact, Richie moonlighting as a shill for these cheesy pens! Come to think of it...perhaps the "R" in the "LSR" stands for "Rich!" Perhaps Richie was actually manufacturing these cheesy pens!! Thanks as ever to LM for the heads up on this follow-up to our Grit piece!
Friday, September 17, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
For many years my all-time favorite comic book was FANTASTIC FOUR. I discovered it with the MARVEL COLLECTOR'S ITEM CLASSICS reprints in 1966 and first picked up the regular title during Johnny's search for the Great Refuge and Crystal! Throughout its long run, the FF has been a constant and splendiferous source of wonder and has generated some genuinely amazing art, plots and characters. Kirby, Buscema, Byrne, Ordway, Ryan, Weiringo, Davis, Pacheco...so many great comics artists showing off some of their best work here BUT...as you might imagine, from time to time there were some odd panels here and there. This occasional series will spotlight a few of them, starting with this Kirby shot from waaaaaaay back in issue 2. Here we see the teenage Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, capable of white hot firebursts and fighting intergalactic menaces, brandishing a rifle and seemingly threatening whoever has been impersonating him!
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Since this is another of Craig's books that I was privileged to have been able to help with, let's call this an unabashed plug rather than a review.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
One of the scariest films I saw as a child was Don Siegel's INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS starring actor Kevin McCarthy. Not long after I first saw it, I recognized McCarthy on an episode of TWILIGHT ZONE that has since become a favorite. He continued performing on TV and in films totaling nearly seven decades and was always a welcome presence whether in a serious performance or a tongue-in-cheek cameo. A fan-favorite in recent years at Conventions and autograph shows, Kevin McCarthy lived to be 96 years old.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Here's a little seen comics ad from the late 1970's for the WORLD'S GREATEST SUPERHEROES newspaper strip. The strip, written by Martin Pasko and drawn by George Tuska, was essentially a JLA strip with a nod to the SUPER FRIENDS TV series that had been popular throughout that decade. Superman. Batman, Aquaman, Flash and Wonder Woman starred with others appearing from time to time. In the end, it became more or less a Superman strip.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
If this 1953 product worked so well, how come they didn't incorporate it into all models of televisions before the sixties when I had to sit through all of these exact same types of interference throughout my entire formative years? I can't help but think this was more like somebody's wishful thinking and the product disappeared when folks realized it wasn't that much help. Kids today? they just don't know what we had to go through before cable!
Monday, September 06, 2010
It's telethon day...again. Here's what remains THE crowning moment of entertainment form all of the decades of MDA telethons that Jerry Lewis has put on--Frank Sinatra's sneaky Martin & Lewis reunion, their first in 20 years, pulled off live on the air so Jerry wouldn't have any chance to react negatively to it. It' cute, funny and touching. You just wish Frank would've had the sense to step back and just let the pair keep the spotlight for a but longer.
Rock Star Alice Cooper made one of his earliest appearances as an actor in this mid-seventies episode of THE SNOOP SISTERS, a fun fun mystery movie series that ran sadly only 4 episodes and a pilot over two seasons. Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick were delightful as slightly ditzy little old lady mystery authors who constantly frustrated their police detective nephew by nit only getting involved in murders but solving them. This episode was set in the world of Satan-worshipping witch covens (never mind that witches don't even believe in Satan) and features fun performances by the great Joan Blondell and the flamboyant stage star Cyril Ritchard. Alice appears as the with head of a local coven in this one scene. He sings one song, then does some casual schtick.
Back in the days when the imported Japanese cartoons SPEED RACER, ASTRO BOY, MARINE BOY and KIMBA THE WHITE LION were all the rage in the US, my personal favorite was PRINCE PLANET. I notice today that YouTube has all 52 episodes! Here's the first one for some vintage black and white anime fun!
After years of wanting to see this odd one-off redo of the 1930's Peter Lorre Mr Moto films, I finally did recently. While it isn't bad, it is kind of dull. Nice photography though in the rainy, snowy London of the mid-sixties. Brooklyn born Henry Silva, of Spanish/Italian descent, plays the Asian detective as a tall, cool Interpol agent. His Japanese background isn't mentioned at all nor are any stereotypical mannerisms affected until the character wears a disguise in the end of the film. The trailer here, however, refers to him as Chinese! Outside of a few spaghetti westerns, the Actor's Studio trained Silva usually played villains but here he gets his turn as a James Bond type. Logically envisioned as the first in a hit series, that would've depended on this one being a hit in the first place. It wasn't.
Friday, September 03, 2010
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Here's a cool new trailer for the book LOVE SUCKS by Lauren Hammond. It's a fun vampire novel set both in the distant past and in the present. If you like TWILIGHT or TRUE BLOOD or ANITA BLAKE or any of the other bestselling vampire novels and want more good stuff (as opposed to the scores of lesser quality rip-off titles that abound), then this is the place to go for your blood fix!
You can pick up a copy at Amazon or directly from the publisher, Punkin House Press, at :