Friday, April 29, 2005

It Came From the Longbox! The Mighty Avengers #241, March 1994

Example

[Photo stolen from this awesome site]

I have way too many neglected comic longboxes secreted throughout my place, unopened for years or even decades. Let's reach inside one, and...

The Avengers was always my favorite comic, at least in the main. It generally featured my favorite Superhero, Captain America, but more than that the group was the analog of DC’s Justice League of America, and featured “The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes.”

The traditional core of the group was Cap, Thor, Iron Man and initially the Hulk. Lesser but long-standing members included Ant-Man/Giant-Man (or one of Henry Pym’s zillion other super-hero identities), the Wasp, Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, etc. However, almost every hero in the Marvel Universe was an Avenger at some point or other.

However, for much of its run, the Avengers has actually featured a constantly-shifting roster of much more obscure members, presumably character that were marginally popular but not at that time carrying their own book. Sometimes, when I dig out an old issue, I scratch my head at the lame line-ups the group ‘boasted.’ And I was a big Wonder Man fan (at least in his safari jacket days), so I’m not that much of a snob.

For instance, let’s look at random at issue #241, from 1994. The team roster included such immortal luminaries as the second Captain Marvel (aka Photon, who was a black woman with a big afro but otherwise pretty forgettable), the alien Starfox, She-Hulk, and ‘topliners’ the Wasp and Scarlet Witch. Not exactly the stuff of legends there. The issue also guest starred Tigra, who became an inexplicably long-running member of the team (probably because you can't go wrong selling teenaged boys comics featuring a furry catwoman in a bikini), the first Spider-Woman, Dr. Strange, as well as a guy called the Shroud, who frankly I don’t even remember.

As if the line-up wasn’t lame enough, the villain for this issue was Morgan Le Fey. That’s right, that Morgan Le Fey, the sorceress. I never had much affection for mixing magic and superheroes, and this issue doesn’t change my mind much.

Frankly, I found the events so uninvolving I couldn’t actually bring myself to read the comic, which seemed dense in more ways than one. Basically Spider-Woman is in a coma, and Morgan Le Fey is attempting to do something malign to/with her, and Dr. Strange sends the Avengers et al to a poorly realized version of one of Steve Ditko’s wonky magic dimensions. The Avengers fight against incredible odds until blah blah blah.

I can’t really judge the script by Roger Stern, since I didn't want to actually read the book, although that probably says something right there. Moreover, the stiff, old-fashioned artwork by Al Milgrom, Joe Sinnott and Andy Mushinsky is just ugly, extremely clunky and more than a little awkward, especially with the huge cast of characters jamming the pages.

Sorry, I’ll try to find a better comic next time. Assuming anyone wants to read about stuff like that.

DVD Bargains of the Day...

DVDSoon.com, the Canadian firm I buy most of my DVDs from (slow service sometimes, but great prices and free shipping), is offering the stellar The Godfather DVD set--all three movies and a bonus disc of extras--for an eye-popping $30, or 72% off list. Moreover, use the code SEARCHMA05 through the 30th (tomorrow) to save 10% off that! Wow!

DVDSoon is also offering an anime set of something called The Slayers, 26 episodes, for only $16, a staggering 88% off list. Again, use the SEARCHMA05 code before Sunday to save even more. Two other Slayers collections are available at the same price and discount, so you could get all three sets at a fraction of the list price for one of them.

Amazon.com is selling the essential Outer Limits: The Original Series Season One Box Set for $38.50, 52% off list price. Amazon is generally pricier than other DVD dealers (except for a couple of huge sellers per year, like the recent Incredibles release), but definately have quick service, don't charge tax (as some places do now), and offer free shipping for orders over $25. So in this case, $38.50 will be your final price, not forty-something after other charges have been added on.

Finally, Overstock.com has all sorts of films on sales discounted between 54 and 77%. The list can be found on today's listings at Dvdpricesearch.com.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Body of Evidence star unfairly maligned...

Per the IMDB [some editing done]:

"Pop legend Madonna has slammed director Norman Jewison for his scathing criticism of her acting abilities. The Moonstruck film-maker attacked movie bosses for giving the Material Girl a succession of coveted movie roles, despite her lack of talent. But Madonna insists she wouldn't have achieved her superstar status if she wasn't a skilled entertainer.

"Jewison says, "Madonna? It's all hype...Madonna has a small amount of talent when it comes to movies. And we're all being suffocated by talentless stars in films. I can't believe that people are obsessed like they are now with celebrity. I don't know what's going on."

"But Madonna's spokeswoman Liz Rosenberg told gossip website The Scoop, "I completely disagree with his statement about Madonna making a lot out of a little talent. I don't think you can sell 100 million records and sell out arenas and stadiums for over 20 years just being a celebrity. Madonna is a Golden Globe winner and a Grammy winner and has had an unprecedented career as an artist and actress."

Wow, Madonna's publicist has come to her defense. That's bold. And really, Jewison's argument that Madonna has recieved film work when she's an untalented actress is completely undercut by the information that she's "a Grammy winner" and "sell[s] out arenas" and has "sold 100 million records." Plus, she's won a Golden Globe! Heck, you might as well attack fellow GG winner Pia Zadora while you're at it!

Also, I agree that Madonna has had an "unprecedented" career as an actress.

New DVD announcements....

Digitalbits.com reports that Cleopatra 2525: The Complete Series and Earth 2: The Complete Series are scheduled for release. Thank goodness, because I can't think of one show in the history of television that would I would see released to DVD than those two.

I was being sarcastic, by the way.

However, I thought the funniest DVD news of the morning was the details for the upcoming The O.C.: The Complete Second Season, which includes "extended takes of the Marissa/Alex lesbian kiss scene and the original "too hot for Fox" version of the scene." Wow. Two ladies kissing. That's incredible. What a mind-blower. Imagine having a DVD that you can watch in your house that has that sort of content. Maybe if it sells well, that long-awaited Fastlane Complete Series set will finally hit the shelves. That had a lesbian kiss, too, didn't it? And...didn't Ally McBeal do one of those? Geez, lots o' lesbian kisses on the Fox network. Surely it's only a matter of time until Misty Mundae gets her own Fox show.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

News!!

Chicago is one of the few towns that still has two major newspapers. (Although at one time I think we had eight or ten...seriously.) I've always been a Chicago Tribune man, to the extent that I read a newspaper (mostly during Cubs season). The Trib has a lot of flaws, but very often the Sun-Times reaffirms my choice.

Today's front page consisted of a picture of a guy with his very small dog that ate up a good third of the available page. This referenced a story about people unhappy with leash laws. Meanwhile, in a column over to the right, were blurbs about two actual news stories, one about a (surprise) state political scandal and another about the latest in a seemingly never ending line of faked 'hate crimes' perpetrated at some college. Amusingly, this little headline was marked with a boxed logo announcing it to be "NEWS", a tacit admittal to the fact that most of the front page wasn't.

What really drew my attention, however, were two photo-accompanied headlines at the top of the page. One hinted at 'proof' of, I guess, Brad Pitt and Angelina Joile's affair (of course, since they are famous, they didn't use the stars' full names, but instead offered something like "The Truth About Brad & Angelina?").

Even more depressing, over to the left of that was a headline promising "Face Time with Paris Hilton", and something like "She talks about life, love, and the pain of being a movie star".

Which means that, to my surprise, this constituted "NEWS" after all. Paris Hilton is a movie star? Who knew?

Let's see. She's fourth billed in the upcoming House of Wax. She played "Female Club-Goer" in The Cat in the Hat. She's tenth billed in an upcoming National Lampoon movie (and what phrase, "starring Paris Hilton" or "National Lampoon movie" is scarier?). Finally, she actually toplines what appears like it will be an independent 2006 flick called Bottom's Up. According to the IMDB: "A Midwestern bartender (actor Jason Mewes) ingratiates himself into the Hollywood system, finding love along the way." The only other name in the cast is Ted Lange, Isaac from The Love Boat, who makes a brief cameo as himself.

Of course, Ms. Hilton has famously starred in other films, but I won't comment on those.

Moreover, if you get annoyed with my bad writing, imagine paying coin to get stuff like the interview's opening: "Paris is burning! Except you wouldn't know it." Blecch!

Anyway, if you want to read her, er, thoughts on such topics as ex-gal pal Nicole Richie, her death scene in House of Wax, her new best friend ("Oh, I've known Kimberly since we were in our mommies' stomachs") and new boyfriend (this week's), also named Paris, check here:

http://www.suntimes.com/output/entertainment/cst-ftr-face27.html

In all, the interview lasts a couple of paragraphs, which makes it's photo-accompanied appearance on the upper lefthand corner of a major metropolitan newspaper all the more nausiating.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

In Came from Netflix! Incident at Loch Ness (2004)

When you ponder whimsy, you naturally think of the Germans…

Well, actually, you probably don’t. That might be why I was a little bewildered as to the motives behind Werner Herzog’s (!) Incident at Loch Ness, a film that suggests what The Blair Witch Project would have been like had it be made by mockumentarian Christopher Guest.

The film follows a bunch of filmmakers, including Herzog, playing themselves. Screenwriter Zak Penn (who directed the film and co-wrote it with Herzog), who worked on the scripts of such films as Behind Enemy Lines and X-Men 2, is producing Herzog’s latest film, a documentary that Herzog envisions as an examination of Man’s apparent need for myths, centering on Nessie and filmed on location.

Penn is outwardly excited by working with the legendary director, but he’s been tainted by Hollywooditis, and unknown to Herzog, plans to make the film a much more conventional opus so as to insure commercial success on an American scale. To this end he outfits the filmmakers with uniforms in hopes of making the film appear to be an actual search to find Nessie. He hires a ridiculously buxom brunette, Kitana Baker—also playing herself, and who makes introductions by noting that she was one of the two women in that famous Miller Light cat fight commercial—to play a sonar expert. He may even be willing to go even farther to ensure success…

Penn’s plans go awry, however. First, Herzog is not a fool (and as somebody who has worked in films for 40-odd years, presumably has a good deal of experience with liars and mountebanks). He quickly kens that Penn is up to something, although he tries to give him the benefit of the doubt as long as he can.

Penn’s other main problem is that a smaller documentary crew is filming a movie about Herzog's life, and they are often capturing on camera things Penn would rather go unseen.

Finally, what if Nessie isn’t entirely a myth at all…

I was a little bewildered as to the intent of the film, which is played almost entirely straight, and seemingly wishes to suggest that it’s an actual documentary. (In the array of deleted scenes, Penn’s ‘character’ is much more broadly comic, and obviously these sequences were cut when a generally serious tone was decided upon. I give Penn credit, by the way, for playing 'himself' as such a prick.) By the end, when the crew find themselves in fear for their lives on the desolate, fog-shrouded lake, the Blair Witch comparisons are both inevitable and a bit puzzling. Only the exaggeratedly comic music that closes the film really suggests that the movie was meant as a jape.

Still and all, it’s an interesting little film, especially for Herzog fans, and certainly a better Loch Ness Monster movie than the usual dreck like Beneath Loch Ness.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Careful What You Wish For Dept.

Per the IMDB:

"Former Sex And The City star Cynthia Nixon has praised the media for treating her lesbian relationship with respect. The redhead actress became headline news last year when she exposed her romance with Christine Marinoni to the world, but the mum of two is pleasantly surprised the paparazzi have stopped following them around and allowed them to enjoy their relationship in private. She says, "There was an undue amount of focus on our relationship at first but it wasn't so bad. The explosion was soon over and people are very respectful about it."

Translation: "OHMYGAWD!! What does it take to draw the attention of you people?!! Didn't you hear me, I'm a LESBIAN?!! That's hot, right?! Where are the friggin' cameras, my career is dying here!! Look, we're kissing in public, and...hey! Get back here! Look, I've got my TONGUE CRAMMED DOWN THIS WOMAN'S THROAT!! What more do you want?! Now I'm groping her...c'mon, that stupid Madonna/Britney Spears kiss was all over the news!!"