September 28, 2011

The Yang to TCM's Yin

I don't watch a lot of television. If you do see me sitting in front of the TV, then more than likely I am watching a sporting event or a movie. The exceptions being "Modern Family" and "Conan".

So all things considered, that means there aren't a whole lot of television channels that I frequent. The sports channels, some of the major networks (if they carry football, hockey, or baseball), and Turner Classic Movies.

However, last week I stumbled upon a channel that I've added to my rotation when I do choose to sit down in front of the TV - Movieplex.

Movieplex is an all-movie channel run by Starz that, from what I can tell, plays B-movies from the 80's and 90's. Meaning that Movieplex's schedule is absolutely fantastic.

In the past few weeks I've seen The Last Starfigher, 3 O'clock High, Stroker Ace, Kull the Conqueror, and The Man Who Knew Too Little. Next month they will be airing Big Trouble in Little China.

Quality classic movies, or even modern movies, are always great, but there's something inherently fun about watching a really awful film from the 80's. It's junk food. You know it's not doing you any good, but it sure tastes great at the moment.

I love this channel. It's the polar opposite of TCM.

September 22, 2011

Batman and Robin - A (Sorta) Review

In 2009 DC launched a new Batman comic called Batman and Robin. The new book debuted as part of writer Grant Morrison's epic Batman story that he has been telling for almost 4 years and across 3 different books - and he still has a final chapter to finish. The "Batman" in Batman and Robin was former Robin/Nightwing Dick Grayson and the "Robin" was Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne's flesh-n-blood son (long story).

What made this book so great to read was the unique character dynamic created when Morrison put Grayson in the Bat-suit and young Damian Wayne as the sidekick. After decades of Batman being the grim and serious archetypical father-figure balanced by the fun-loving Robin, now we had a grim and serious Robin being looked over by a fun-loving older brother type Batman.

Dick and Damian bickered like brothers, but made a fantastic crime fighting team. A distinctively fresh take on Batman and Robin that hadn't been seen before. And when the writing reigns were eventually handed over to Peter J. Tomasi so that Morrison could move on to the next book in his Batman opus, Tomasi continued to develop and have fun with the unique relationship between those two characters.

But with DC Comics recently re-launch of all their titles, the team of Grayson and Damian Wayne has come to an end. DC didn't want two guys running around in Batman costumes, and restored the universe to just one Batman. And that one Batman being Bruce Wayne.

However, they decided to keep the Batman and Robin comic, and even kept Tomasi on as writer along with artist Patrick Gleason. Now the book stars Bruce Wayne as Batman fighting crime with his son, Damian Wayne, at his side.

I enjoyed Tomasi's and Gleason's run on the original Batman and Robin, so I kept the book on my pull list when the relaunch happened.

The first issue of the relaunched title is good. Tomasi establishes the new status quo, giving enough details for those unfamiliar with the Batman back story to understand that the pompous kid giving Batman all the grief is Bruce's actual son and that together they now patrol Gotham City as Batman and Robin with bogging the story down with a history lesson or boring life-long Batman readers like myself. He then quickly sets up the tone for this new series and jumps into the first mystery.

Its all good and an entertaining read. What I miss though is the special conflict of personalities that we got when it was Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne. A bright and a dark knocking into each other. Now it's two dark and grim personalities dealing with each other. Damian is a lot like his dad; driven, grim, and always serious. He's also incredibly egotistical. What saves the character is that he's also only 10 years old, so it's sort of funny to see a little kid talking and acting like a grizzled veteran.

My concern though is that if we've got a 10 year old acting like a 50 year old bouncing around with a 30 year old acting like a 50 year old, will it bring the overall tone of the book down. There has to be some levity, otherwise its just scowls and grunts all the time. That's what Dick Gryason's and Tim Drake's Robin brought to Bruce Wayne's Batman. It's what Dick Grayson's Batman brought to Damian Wayne's Robin. Hopefully Tomasi can find that levity when he's writing what can almost be considered the same character twice.

September 17, 2011

Super Powers

I think this just looks awesome.

Would love to have a print of this hanging in our house somewhere.

This piece was created by artist Tom Whalen. See more of the artist's work.


September 16, 2011

Some Random Thoughts for Friday

I few thoughts of a musical variety:
  1. The other day I was listening to Lou Reed sing "Dirty BLVD" and it got me thinking. Reed doesn't have the finest voice and he speaks more than sings his songs. My singing voice is okay and I can speak lyrics as well as anyone. So really there isn't much difference between Lou Reed and I.

    Well, expect for the killer skills on guitar and the gift for writing stone cold brilliant lyrics.

    I guess Lou does have that over me.
  2. My kids give me grief about the radio stations and select of music I choose to listen to (as I expect all children do to their parents), but I don't let it bother me. Where else can I go from listening to Social Distortion singing a cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" to enjoying Johnny Cash's own rendition of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt".
  3. For as much as I enjoy buying any song, anytime, through iTunes or Amazon.com and then loading up my iPod up with a ton of my favorite (and quasi-favorite) songs, I miss the experience of buying full albums.

    The rise of digital music has all but killed the album experience. When you can pick and choose which songs you want at a relatively inexpensive price, there is less need to buy the whole album. Before iTunes, my criteria for buying new music was that I had to either already be a fan of the artist or I had to have heard - and liked - at least three songs from their album. Then I would lay my money on the counter. That doesn't happen nearly as much anymore. If at all. I have plenty of full albums from back pre-iTunes. Many of which I've include songs that I now consider some of my favorites only because I bought the full album and listened to the whole thing. I often wonder how many non-popular songs I'm missing out on discovering because now I am more prone to just grab the one song from a new artist's album and never go back to try more.

    Seems a little like a disservice to the artists putting out the music.

    Also makes me feel a little like a lazy listener of music.

September 09, 2011

It Would Probably Scare the Beezees Out of the Dog

It's the beginning of September, which means that you're running out of shopping days until my birthday.

If you're stuck for ideas, let me point you towards Sideshow Collectible's website where they are taking pre-orders for an incredibly detailed 12" action figure of Batman from Tim Burton's 1989 movie.

Not only is the figure faithful to the design of the character, the sculpting is eerily lifelike.

Over all I prefer the Christopher Nolan directed Batman films, but Burton's Batman flicks are my favorite when evaluated strictly on design and visual punch. The Batman costume from Batman is still tops in my book, as is the Batmobile that was created for Burton's two Batman movies.



September 08, 2011

Should Have Trusted My First Instinct - A Review of Justice League International #1

When DC Comics announced their plans to cancel all of their current titles and start with 52 new #1 books I took a close look at the offerings to see which ones I was interested in picking up. Based on which characters I like to follow, the creative teams associated with the different titles, and the concepts for some of the books, I tried to scale my new DC Comic pull list down to a fiscally-responsible number of books that I expected to enjoy reading.

One title that was on my list originally, but didn't make it to that final list was Justice League International. The books features a team of heroes selected and sanctioned by the United Nations to address global threats. Dan Jurgens is the writer and the art is being handled by Aaron Lopresti; two creators whose work I have really enjoyed in the past.

Why didn't I take the initial pass on the title? I was looking at all the new DC Comics that I was checking the box next to on the order sheet my comic shop had provided me and thought I needed to be a little more prudent in how many titles I went with at the beginning. I decided to leave off JLI because it was a lock that I would be getting the flagship Justice League by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. Figured I only needed one Justice League title on my pull list.

However, that decision continued to nag at me as the release date for JLI #1 got closer. I really like Jurgens and Lopresti, and was interested in the members of the newly forming JLI. So yesterday, when the comic was released, I took advantage of DC Comics new policy of simultaneously releasing new comics in stores and online on the same date. It's a move that DC hopes will help drive sales overall. For me, it helped drive an impulse buy that I was able to make from my office and then read on my iPad during the train ride home that night.

And I'm very glad that I did. Jurgen and Lopresti deliver an incredibly fun super hero team comic that is efficient and precise in it's setup so that the story can quickly move on to main point of the book - adventuring. I love the mix of characters, though I'm not completely sold on Godiva, a new character who apparently was spawned from the timeline resetting events of the Flashpoint mini-series. Red Rocket stole every scene he was in, and look forward to seeing how he and August General in Iron play off each other. The team dynamic is pretty much what I was expecting and hoping for.

The book was light and fun without being saccharine, but still maintained a level of seriousness in the story that prevent the book from being nothing more than a comedy book.

Most of all, Justice League International was flat out fun to read. I've already read the book a second time, and am anxious to read the next issue. I think that is praise enough, and an indicator that I will be making an change to my pull list next time I visit the comic shop.

September 01, 2011

Kirk Douglas - Tuesdays in September

There are some actors and actresses from the classic age of film making who I think are fasinating, but for one reason or another I have neglected to delve into their body of work. Burt Lancaster and Barbara Stanwyck immediately spring to mind, as does Turner Classic Movies artist of the month for September, Kirk Douglas.

I know I've seen Douglas in Lust for Life and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but that's about it.

Douglas is such and intense and engaging personality, and I've read and heard so much about his presence on the screen that I've always wanted to see more of his movies. If nothing else, to at least see him in Sparticus, one of the great classics that Douglas is so frequently associated with.

Fortunately TCM will give me plenty of opportunities this September. Every Tuesday night the films of Kirk Douglas will be featured. Hopefully I will be able to carve away some time to sit and enjoy them.