Monday, January 25, 2016

Sub-Mariner! The Underwater Guy!

1968 was such a great year for comics, and especially for a Marvel Comics fan. This was the year when something changed, distribution-wise, for Marvel, allowing them to launch a spate of new titles spinning out of their "two-fer" books. Tales of Suspense spit out Captain America and Iron Man titles, Strange Tales gave us Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD and Doctor Strange, and Tales to Astonish split into The Incredible Hulk and Sub-Mariner books.

I loved them all through thick and thin, through good stories and... LESS good stories. I was dazzled by Jack Kirby's Captain America run, Jim Steranko's revolutionary SHIELD, Herb Trimpe's Hulk and finally, later in the series, Bill Everett's last stand on Sub-Mariner.

Subby was created by Everett back in 1939, and his art and story made the character something special from the start. When superheroes took a rest in the late 40's, Subby was one of the few to make a short-lived come-back in the 50's, again with Everett at the helm. For the book's solo '60's-70's run there were many fabulous artists, from Gene Colan to John Buscema to Gil Kane, but when Everett himself came back with issue #50, things took a definite turn toward the really great.

Much of this run has just been reprinted in Marvel's long running "Marvel Masterworks" series, Volume 227 (!, and yes, I have them all!). It's hard to describe what makes these so special, but there's a lightness and wide-eyed enthusiasm to Everett's art that was different from the house Marvel style and yet perfect for Sub-Mariner. Roy Thomas's introduction tells the story of Everett's return, sadly cut short by Everett's health problems...

The BW image taken from the original art below is just a hint of Everett's style. It's really great that this material is back in print, in easy to find form. Check it out!  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Bone Tomahawk! See It BEFORE Dinner!

Well, so, guess I took a few months off from the blog without realizing I was GOING to take a few months off. But so it goes...

Anyway, hey, back to it! BONE TOMAHAWK! If you see just one Kurt Russell western this year, may I humbly suggest you make it this one. Actually, feel free to see Hateful Eight too -- I'd like it to succeed so maybe the door opens to even more westerns, and it ain't bad -- but Bone Tomahawk is superior in every way.

The plot is simple. The wife of a local cowboy is kidnapped by marauding "troglodytes" (yep, that's what they call them) and Kurt and his intrepid associates head out to find her and bring her back. Suffice to say there are some encounters along with way with varied and sundry, and then things take a very surprising turn. The less said about the "turn" the better, though if you watch a preview it's pretty clear this is an uncompromising horror western and not a straight ahead oater. 

What makes this one stand out are the great performances by Russell, Richard Jenkins, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Lili Simmons, Sid Haig (!) and David Arquette, who are speaking dazzlingly witty and gritty dialogue by writer/director S. Craig Zahler. This movie got my vote in the WGA awards for best screenplay -- it's really that good. Richard Jenkins especially stands out, taking what could have been a stereotypical "Chester" role (is that reference too old? Gunsmoke? Longest running Western in TV history? Anyone? Anyone?) and fleshing it out into a full blown, emotional character.

Then there's the ending. I didn't know anything about the movie going in except "Western", so the conclusion caught me off guard. It's strong stuff but works.

If you have a chance to see the blu-ray version, there is a deleted scene that I found delightful, though I can see why it was cut. I'll say no more. The "Making of" is also interesting, revealing (among other things) that the movie was shot in 21 speedy days on locations only 40 or so miles outside Los Angeles.

It's gets the full MV "Check it out!"




Saturday, May 09, 2015

Catching Up!

Okay, so it's been three months since my last blog post.  I've been busy!  I did this show called Constantine that was unfortunately and unfairly just cancelled by NBC, I wrote a pilot for another network that came "this close" (Maxwell Smart voice, and if THAT doesn't date me, nothing will), and embarked on various other adventures that will remain clandestine for the time being...

When I'm not attached to the computer, I'm, well, attached to other viewing platforms.  Movies, TV, audio, my senses are being attacked on a daily basis.  There is so much out there of interest and so little time... you don't really need my review of the new Avengers movie, but here are a few slightly more obscure objects of art that have piqued my interest.

First up, the latest and greatest from the inimitable Steve Ditko, co-creator of Amazing Spider-Man and a host of other characters. At 80-something, Ditko continues to produce a book every three or four months, financing his efforts through a series of Kickstarter campaigns.  I am proud to say I've contributed to (I think) every one, and just as proudly have the entire S. Ditko collection on my own personal comics rack.  I would try to describe the stories, but really, you have to see these to really get the vibe. The comics don't really tell you how to order, but an e-mail to Ditko's partner/publisher Robin Snyder at RobinBrigit@comcast.net will probably get you the information you desire. Buy, enjoy, savor...


Next, from writer Ken Sharp... Power Pop Heroes Vol 2 is a 800 page (!) wealth of interviews with some of the Kings of Power Pop, ranging from members of Cheap Trick to the Rubinoos to the Ramones to the Bay City Rollers.  And yes, you read that right... this is volume two, with volume three coming soon.  I've always loved power pop and even if you don't, there is a lot of interesting ephemera about the music business, band longevity (The Rubinoos have been together 40 years?!) and just basic survival skills.  Go here for the details -- http://www.goodmusicguy.com/play-on-power-pop-heroes-volume-2/?preview=true, then check in with Bruce at Popgeekheaven@gmail.com to get the upload on all the insane stuff he's got coming out this year.  Then get a second job, you're going to need it!

Also from Bruce at popgeekheaven, an announcement that made me sad and caused me to part with a few more bux.  Michael Carpenter is an exquisite singer/songwriter who has decided to move away from recording, but not before knocking out one more double album of power pop greatness. Check out his financing site and give a power-pop brother a hand... 

MICHAEL CARPENTER ANNOUNCES HIS RETIREMENT FROM MAKING SOLO RECORDS TO CONCENTRATE ON PRODUCING.   I can't think of a solo artists I've known and worked with over my 25 years of power pop who I think more highly of than Michael Carpenter.   His first four solo albums appeared on Not Lame Recordings, as well as one other side-project(The Supahip) and over the last 17 years, he's released a large body of consistently excellent albums - must be close to 20.   Now, he announces this last solo album(a double album) and YOU CAN HELP MAKE IT HAPPEN and show your support.   

Check out all the details:    http://www.pozible.com/project/195751
 
 
 
 

Sunday, February 08, 2015

A Whole Lot Of Star Trek...

So I'm a real big fan of the original (Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley) STAR TREK series.  And over the years I have slaked my fan desire on all sorts of books dedicated to the stars and the show, from the contemporary "Making Of Star Trek" paperback by Stephen E. Whitfield, to David Gerrold's exhaustive examination of the making of "Trouble With Tribbles", to biographies by and/or about virtually every significant cast member.  And when I met my son's babysitter's Grandfather for the first time, I was stunned to be in the presence of the great Anthony Caruso, AKA Bela Oxmyx from "A Piece of the Action."

So like I said, I'm a fan.  And I thought I knew a lot about the show.  But turns out I didn't know diddley.  However, a prolific writer named Marc Cushman knows a WHOLE lot, and he's produced a three volume (!) set of books to prove it, exhaustively looking at the development and production of every single episode of the original Trek.  Exhaustive may not quite cover it -- the book exploring the episodes produced during season three is over 750 (!) pages long. 

Using interviews from the major players, both old and new, Cushman explores the development of scripts (including many that got away), the backstage machinations, concerns of the actors, network battles, on and on and on.  And it's all written in an accessible style that draws the reader in.  It's going to take me weeks to plow through it all, but if you have ANY interest in the original Trek beyond "I kinda liked it", this ridiculously (in a good way!) comprehensive set will make the heart flutter. It's available in hardcover and softcover (tho the price difference between hard and soft cover is minimal) and on Kindle from Amazon. 

(PS: Deforest Kelley was making $2500 an episode in season three.  Walter Koenig was at $650 per show.  Things really HAVE changed...)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Whiplash! The Movie, Not The Song Or Auto-Related Injury!

Finally catching up to my screener collection, and since the studios weren't kind enough to send out John Wick for our amusement (what?  They don't see "Oscar" written all over that one?) I decided to give Whiplash a spin.  As a casual drummer myself (extremely casual!), I was intrigued by the subject matter.  And as a JK Simmons fan, I was intrigued to see him tackle an intriguing character.  And intriguing he is!  Simmons plays Terrance Fletcher, a good hearted music teacher who... oh wait, that was Richard Dreyfuss in Mister Holland's Opus.  In Whiplash, Simmons plays a musical sociopath who plays brutal head games as he pits his students against one another and ultimately against him. 

Miles Teller plays Andrew, a determined young jazz drummer who is taken under Fletcher's vulture-like wing.  Needless to say, the fur flies, along with a chair and other objects, as Fletcher drives Andrew toward "Charlie Parker"-like perfection.  Fletcher lights a fuse under Andrew, but then things take an unexpected turn. 

What I really liked about Whiplash was that I really had no idea where it was going, and was surprised (in a good way) by the plot twists and turns.  Until...

SPOILER.
STOP HERE IF YOU DON'T WANT SPOILERS!
HERE.
RIGHT HERE!

So toward the end of Whiplash, both Fletcher and Andrew have been fired/expelled from the music school and are drifting down alternate paths.  When Andrew accidentally comes across Fletcher playing a jazz gig at a NYC bar, they talk, seem to patch things up, then Fletcher invites his nominal prodigy to play with Fletcher's band of professional musicians at a "JVC competition."  Fletcher raises the stakes as Andrew arrives, warning his (professional) band that record labels and talent scouts are in the audience, but when they hit the stage, Andrew discovers he's been set up.  Fletcher calls for a song that Andrew doesn't know, fails to provide even charts, and Andrew goes down in flames. (That's not where the movie ends, but I'll save SOMETHING for those folks who ignored my spoiler warning and read on anyway). 

So here's my question.  Yes, I get that Fletcher rightfully blamed Andrew for getting fired, and that he might be the sort who would seek "revenge."  But would a guy this crazy-compulsive about making perfect music really throw the rest of his professional musicians under the bus to screw over his ex-student?  During an actual, live, competitive show?  Wouldn't the other professional musicians (not students, remember) want to take Fletcher's head off for sending them out with an unprepared drummer who ruins their set? I mean, diabolical is one thing, but self-immolation is another.

Suffice to say things "work out" to some extent, but it's interesting what's a bump for some is a feature for others....

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Monster! The Magazine!

"Back in the day", before computers and the internet and websites and (f this, I'm feeling old), there were these curious publications known as "fanzines."  Which were pretty much what they sound like, amateur or semi-professional magazines written and published by "fans" of pick-the-genre.  In my world, there were all sorts of fan magazines dedicated to comics, science fiction and movies.  Why, I even published one myself, a mimeographed movie-related 'zine called "The Big Screen."  When I finally gave up the publishing ghost I had close to 100 subscribers, but it was all too much for a high school student with limited funds...

Anyhow, most of these small publications are long gone, but there are still a few out there that have the glorious fanzine feel.  I especially like Video Watchdog (nearing issue #200!), Shock Cinema and a more recent endeavor called "Monster." Available through Amazon and (I suspect, tho I may be wrong!) published using print-by-demand technology, Monster has kept a rigorous monthly schedule, with issue #12 just released.  Basically, if you're into oddball/obscure horror or science fiction, Monster is bound to have something for you.  With articles by experts like Stephen Bissette and editor Tim Paxton, it's a great read.  You have any interest in the world, go to Amazon and check out the detailed contents.  And support these guys so I can selfishly read more!

Monday, January 05, 2015

Crashmobile! I'm Not The Only One Who Likes Them!

I love Crashmobiles.  And is there are a more forgotten figure in American pop culture than Art Linkletter?  How does this connect?  Is Mark finally (?) losing his mind? 

I'll let history be the judge of my mental acuity, but re: Linkletter --for a time Art was the "kids" guy, most famous for "Art Linkletter's House Party" and "Kids Say The Darnedest Things." (He also lived to the ripe age of 98 and passed away in 2010.)  Anyhow, Art also liked exploding car toys.  Here's a cool poster of Linkletter pimping, I mean, selling the wondrous Crashmobile.  As seen on TV!!