Saturday, February 25, 2006

Gossip Crunch

A few chunks of old-style celebrity gossip from last weekend:

• What ultra-hot rocker chick is not only beautiful and sweet, but a great tipper, leaving over 100% on a $38.00 tab?
• What producer / current member of seminal no-wave band ordered a QUADRUPLE Maker’s Mark on the rocks (cost of $24.00 please)
• What SNL cast member seems slightly annoyed at having to pay for drinks and wears white Nikes that say “SNL” on the tongue?
• What once-hot Hot-Topic-ready band representing everything that’s wrong with rock music today asked the beloved barback to join them on the road for an undisclosed purpose?
• What New Jersey punk / indie (puindie?) rock stalwart took to the stage with his lovely wife to sing a karaoke version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing?”

I’ll never tell.
In other events....

The back of my box of Kellogg’s® Cracklin’ Oat Bran® boasts an exciting offer for movie lovers: It’s the FREE MOVIE DVD with purchase; Bring Home the Best Movies on DVD! offer... with five certificates from specially marked Kellogg’s products, you can get one of eight films. According to the box, “If you love movies, FOX SELECTIONS delivers the best entertainment on DVD. Try one ‘on us’ with this amazing offer - and you’ll want to collect them all!”

And what are these eight amazing chunks of Hollywood goodness?

Love Potion #9
Lake Placid
Dr. Dolittle (the Eddie Murphy remake)
the Beverly Hillbillies
Catch That Kid
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
and last, but not least
Jumpin’ Jack Flash.

Whoo! They sure do know how to appeal to the movie lovers, huh? But c’mon, what self respecting movie collector isn’t going to have all of those “best movies on DVD” on their shelves already?

In case anyone is unfamiliar with the screen gems listed, there are “Movie Lovers Collection Film Facts” inside the box, detailing each movie. Airheads is a “hilarious spoof of the music industry.” Beverly Hillbillies is a “riotous rags-to-riches story” that features “hilarious cameos.” Catch That Kid is “an exciting, high-stakes adventure!” Dr. Dolittle’s “wild and wooly free-for-all is your prescription for hilarious hijinks and ‘mischevious fun!’” Hmm, that word “hiliarious” pops up again, and why is “mischevious fun” in quotation marks? Because the movie is neither?

To continue, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (the only arguable classic in the bunch, but still not a great movie) is “a wild and joyously funny ride,” Jumpin’ Jack Flash is a “suspenseful, fast-paced and murderiously funny comedy.” Lake Placid is a “terrifying tale of survival that ‘combines humor and thrills with remarkable deftness.’” That part in quotes had to come from a studio release and not a review, right? And finally, Love Potion #9 is summed up as “a charming romantic comedy.”

Who's responsible for this promotion? How to explain this motley mixture of crap and almost-crap? It definitely was not a selection chosen by a group of cineasts. Odds are, some guy at the Fox warehouse did inventory and there were too many of these titles.

According to the order form inside the box, there is a limit of 25 DVDs per household. So, I guess the target demographic is about a family of 8 or so who eats a TON of food (the “Kellogg’s products” include some Keebler crackers and cookies), doesn’t have a lot of disposable income and isn’t that discriminating when it comes to movies. Heck, for those folks, “Gentlemen” is probably going to be the LAST thing they’ll order!

In fact, upon close inspection of the order form, it seems as if they’re pretty sure the intended audience for this promotion is a bit slow on the draw. Fine print reminds the consumer such things as “Give street address to ensure delivery” and “We must have your zip code to mail order” and “If you do not make a selection, Kellogg will send a ‘PG’ movie of their choice” (whichever title is moving the slowest).

(As a curious side note, isn’t the company’s name the possessive form? I know I always refer to them as “Kellogg’s.” Man, if it’s actually “Kellogg,” that must drive their board of directors... or at least marketing dorks NUTS.

Anyway. I was two/fifths of the way there, but for a disposable-income abled pop culture dork like me, this promotion just isn’t worth the time it’d take to lick the stamps.... Damn, can’t use that phrase anymore! Agh, modern times.

Bronze Beauties #2: the Shadow

In the early 1970’s, DC Comics went on a little nostalgia binge, bringing to comics such classic pulp characters as John Carter, Warlord of Mars, Tarzan (in a great series by the legendary Joe Kubert, due for a Bronze Beauties plug of its own) and the classic radio avenger, the Shadow.

Written by Denny O’Neil and originally drawn by Mike Kaluta, the Shadow comics were set in 1930s Manhattan and were maybe the darkest comics published by DC up to that point. Unlike every other DC hero at the time, the Shadow dealt justice like he always did in the pulps and on radio and in the serials.... ultimately and fatally. These days, most heroes in comics, TV and film have no compunction about killing their enemies (the most fatal flaw in the 90’s Batman movies, by the way). While this bothers me to no end, it’s an essential part of the Shadow’s character. And when you’re killin’ with this much style and class, well, who’s to cry foul?

Here’ are nine fantastic covers to the Shadow...

The Shadow #1, November 1973. Art by Mike Kaluta

The Shadow #2, January 1974. Art by Mike Kaluta

The Shadow #3, March 1974. Art by Mike Kaluta

The Shadow #4, May 1974. Art by Mike Kaluta

The Shadow #5, July 1974. Art by Frank Robbins

The Shadow #8, January 1975. Art by Frank Robbins

The Shadow #9, March 1975. Art by Joe Kubert

The Shadow #10, May 1975. Art by Mike Kaluta

The Shadow #12, September 1975. Art by Mike Kaluta

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bronze Beauties #1: Werewolf by Night

As a fanboy who started reading in the 70s, the so-called BRONZE AGE of comics remains, for all its simplicity and goofiness, my favorite era. I retain vivid memories of hitting the spinning racks of comics at the Pensupreme, Thrift Drug and Rea & Derrick stores (or, even better, the two WALLS of racks at Prince Street News in downtown Lancaster). To this day, certain comic book covers hit me with that same magical wallop they did when a couple of bucks from Mom and Dad could load me up with a fistful of four color goodness (and maybe a Slushie on the side).

I’m gonna post some of these titles and covers, starting with these beautiful Mike Ploog covers from Marvel Comics’ WEREWOLF BY NIGHT series of the 1970s (soon to be turned into a movie, or so they say). Marvel had a number of comics in the 70s that posited monsters as crimefighters.... Frankenstein, the Mummy, a Zombie, heck, even the Son of Satan! Good times, good times. Here are the covers to WBN #13 and 15.

WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #12 (Dec. 1973) by John Romita & unknown inker
WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #27 (March 1975) by Gil Kane & Tom Palmer
WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #33 (Sept. 1975) by Gil Kane & Klaus Janson

Friday, February 10, 2006

(Insert Faith Hill / U2 Song Title Here)

So, I had a dream the other night. I was (apparently) now an actor. And I was shooting a scene for a movie. A love scene. With my female lead. Who was Faith Hill. And, okay, it wasn’t a love scene, it was a SEX scene. And as we’re shooting, with crew members all around, Faith, caught up in the moment, tells me to stick it in. For real.

“What? Faith, are you serious?”
“Yes. I want you to.”
“But... we’re being filmed!”
“I don’t care. I really want you to.”

And then I woke up. No, not “all wet and sticky.”
My first thought was.... “Faith Hill? Wha--?”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not above the dorky celebrity lust. Anne Hathaway? Yes, please. But Faith Hill? Nothing against the pop-country duchess, she’s perfectly lovely and all, but for me? She’s not even on the list! What Faith Hill represents in my dream, I have no idea. Interpret away.

Ah, the celebrities. My pal Gary was working backstage at the Grammys this week (ending up on Entertainment Tonight quite a bit on Thursday) and sent me his thoughts via text message:

“Mariah’s chubby. Paula abdul’s short. Jay-z’s really white. Madonna’s a man.”

Oh, how I wish Gary were the host of Entertainment Tonight.

I didn’t watch the Grammys. My dislike for all awards shows is noted, but the Grammys are the worst. At least with the Oscars, Emmys and Tonys, there’s a BIT of crossover with critics’ lists. But the Grammys are ALL about the sales. I mean, come on... Kelly Clarkson? She makes Milli Vanilli’s statue look deserved.

And besides, I hate U2. I can’t think of another band I once loved (waaaay back in the day.... let’s say ‘81-83) that I now despise with every fiber of my being. Bono saying that Mariah Carey has the voice of an angel made me wanna get rid of Boy, October and War (I stopped after that). Yeesh. He makes Michael Stipe seem humble and reserved.

But I seem to be having an odd relationship with music lately. For the past few weeks, whenever I head into the city or out to run an errand, I leave the house with my iPod, but don’t use it. For some reason, music hasn’t been that important to me lately. I’ve yet to buy a CD this year and just today sold 40 CDs at the local record store.

I saw Matt Pond PA on Tuesday night and, somewhat fittingly, it was by far the weakest show I’ve ever seen them play. Granted, I was a bit distracted by the loud people around me near the back of the room as well as my own internal brain-buzzing, but they were just... off. It made me sad.

Is this a temporary thing or have I finally moved into that stage that most people do in their mid-20s? Where music is no longer an evolving, defining part of their identity, but rather a remnant of a fading youth? A kind of embarrassing rope onto which the aging pop culture dork clings, swinging precariously close to self-deluded obsolescence?

I mean, how many comic strips about the Clash can one man do?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Horseshoes & Clover

After spending some time in Jim Hanley’s Universe on Wednesday, listening to a couple of ridiculously stereotypical comic book dorks debating whether Cyclops could hurt Superman or not (and defending the Fantastic Four movie, a crime against humanity that has no defense), I traipsed downtown to meet John for Match Point.

This is the first Woody Allen film I’ve seen in a theater since 1997’s Deconstructing Harry. I’ve been one of those people who thinks that the once-great Allen has lost it in the past decade, that his last good film was 1999’s Sweet and Lowdown, that as he’s gotten older, his rationalizations for being a sleazy old man have made his art defensive, creepy crap. I thought 2003’s Anything Else was so unrepentanly awful, so painfully unwatchable in every way that it should’ve been his swan song (and had Christina Ricci's SAG card revoked).

But I was intrigued enough by the reviews of Match Point (and the presence of Scarlett Johansson) to go see this supposed “return to form.” And it was good (actually felt far more like a Hitchcock film than a Woody Allen movie). But in the end, it seemed kind of redundant.

Match Point
is basically a remake of the brilliant Crimes and Misdemeanors, but with somewhat less believable characters and performances, an utter lack of humor and an even bleaker point of view. I mean, I agree with most of what nihilism stands for (as oxymoronic as that is). I don’t believe there’s a God, I don’t believe that we’re anything more than a mathematical probability in the universe and I do feel that our existence ultimately means nothing in any grand scheme (how we treat each other is another matter). I agree that luck plays a huge factor in some people’s success and happiness. And I believe that there is no inherent justice in the world. Bad people prosper and good people suffer. We evolved, we suck, we’ll all be dead soon. The end.

So how come the bleakness and absolute amorality of this movie bugged me?

Maybe it’s because I sometimes look to my pop culture for the hope and morality that I find lacking in real life (and I’m including myself here). But then again, Glengarry Glen Ross is one of my favorite movies, so that's not it. I dunno. I just found Match Point to be very well made, entertaining for its duration, but ultimately, well, pointless. And I’m really glad that Woody Allen’s not directing Superman Returns.

In other news, I was given this fortune last night: “Nature, time and patience are the three great physicians.” Boy, I fuggin’ hope so.... otherwise, look for every single thing I own for sale on eBay soon (goddamn corrupt health care system.... grrr).