Thursday, October 19, 2017

Walking Dead Season 8 Rises Up!!!


With the recent, anguished state of AMC's "Walking Dead", I can't help but think of little Anthony Fremont from Rod Serling's adaptation of Jerome Bixby's "It's a Good Life". That's the classic "Twilight Zone" where Billy Mumy plays a wee fiend who can turn a world upside down by simply wishing it (and wishing, of course, his "enemies" into some mysterious cornfield). For appearance sake, Anthony is an all-powerful adversary and yet there's a scene where one of the desperate oppressed pleads with the others to do the lad in. No one obliges, since Anthony might sense 'em comin', and so...


Anthony, however, is a supernatural freak; "Walking Dead'"s Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is just a guy: weirdly influential and as damn sadistic as they come (David Morrissey's Governor looks like compassion personified by comparison), but still just a guy. So, why hasn't anyone among the various factions done him in?


Perhaps it's because Negan is flanked by his massive, twisted flock. That doesn't make the bat-battering bastard an easy kill, if his mind-warped disciples are stationed in the shadows with rifles aimed. Also, would killing Negan truly stop the range of his villainy: i.e., would his minions break from their stupor upon his death, as those did at the demise of James Earl Jones' Thulsa Doom in "Conan the Barbarian"? Probably not and yet, what does one have to lose by trying? Life under Negan ain't much of a life, anymore than under rotten, little Anthony. 


No matter if shackled or strained, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) has the potential to defeat Negan, if only due to his gusty constitution, but right now our hero seems to be taking a steady, strategic approach, sort of like Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers rounding up the troops against Ming or Kane. Thing is, Flash and Buck could count on their recruits. Can Rick? 


I do have faith in Ezekiel (Khary Peyton). I liked him (and his tiger, Shiva) from the start. Ezekiel entered Season 7 just at the right phase, delivering much needed tenderness in the wake of two grisly deaths. I can't imagine this stately character turning fickle, but then "Walking Dead" has never been predictable. 


Indeed, Season 8 will be packed with surprises and I'm suspecting unsuspecting betrayals. That's a plus and minus all rolled up into one, but despite its ambivalence, there's no doubt the show will be as tension-fraught as ever. We'll bite our nails, squirm in our seats and with eyes tearing and/or bulging, watch as we hope and pray for Rick and the good guys to rise up and (somehow, some damn way) strike Negan down. Sure, Anthony may have lived on, but Negan...well, like I said, he's just a guy, and so...

"Walking Dead" recommences (with its historic 100th episode) this Sunday, October 23 at 9 pm. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Spidey's Headstrong Homecoming: A Second Look...


In July I reviewed “Spider-man: Homecoming” and said (more or less) that it would be swell to see Tom Holland grow into the role: in essence, that an adult Spidey would be a welcome and logical evolution. I still stand by that statement, and yet I must confess, I’ve come to find Holland’s youthful portrayal significant in a time when (pardon the generalization) adolescents too often take the easy, cry-baby way out. 

My appreciation for the present Peter Parker rose higher when I overheard a trio of women at a supermarket check-out lane discussing recent movies and how, in particular, they wouldn't allow their teens to watch the latest Spider-man movie. This, per their collective perspective, was because the film presents Parker as "too headstrong" for his own good.


Mind you, these ladies also admitted that they hadn't yet seen the film, only (from what I could discern) trailers. How they came to dismiss the movie from such fleeting samples is beyond me. I can only presume that similar world-of-mouth denouncements reinforced their skewed views.

For the record, Parker is traditionally diligent and therefore, arguably headstrong, whether in "Homecoming" or any number of previous undertakings: comic, animated or live-action.


In "Homecoming'"s instance, one could say that our hero has taken his industrious zeal to an even higher level. I'd agree wholeheartedly with that. The kid, after all, realizes his potential and puts it to outstanding use. Mind you, he could otherwise waste his time playing video games or sobbing over why his favorite football team lost the big game, but admirably chooses a more purposeful path. 

Parker's passion is to prove to Tony Stark that he's true-blue Avengers material, and with the opportunity at hand, he stays loyal to that cause, even if he has to dance around dear Aunt Mae’s watchful, maternal concerns. All the same, Parker recognizes injustice when it surfaces: understands why it's wrong to turn a blind eye to it. If he can help in any given situation, he'll do so, and when he granted the frivolous chance to impress the girl of his dreams, he abandons it, web-slinging forth to expose the Vulture’s insidious business operation. Now that’s my kind of hero. That’s my kind of kid.


Please pardon me if I sound like some cliched, old fogy (and yep, here comes my editorial within an editorial), but youngsters today are just too damn coddled. They’re told they’re flawless and wonderful, even when they've done nothing to deserve it. It’s predominately the parents’ fault for not exposing and discussing reality's snags with their offspring. Per parental guidance, an adolescent should come to distinguish good from bad, and from there make some positive impact on the world. A teen needn’t have radioactive blood or go up against corporate crooks to make his/her mark. It just takes a little diligence and well, a headstrong vantage to reach one's goals. As the Sinatra song goes, that's life...


I sure wish I had been more cognitive of Parker's intensified stance when I initially watched "Homecoming". I guess I’m just used to him not sitting on his duff and took his heroism for granted. Now that I know better, I take strong issue with those who'd question his character. I've come to realize that those women who jumped the gun in their criticism of Spidey are the J. Jonah Jamesons of the world. Their shared assessment is silly, insolent and above all, out of touch. There's a good chance that their children (and consequently, society) will suffer to some extent or another for that.

“Homecoming” is the type of modern fable youngsters should watch; and if you, a parent, haven’t yet seen it, I urge you to do so and throughout the experience, pay heed to what develops; then share the film with your kids...with the entire family...discuss what you've absorbed. I guarantee you'll be all the better for it.

"Spider-man: Homecoming" is currently available through pay-per-view; the disc release hits shelves Oct 17.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

BEDTIME FOR ROBOTS RETURNS: FILTHY GODS IN THE AGE OF EXQUISITE MACHINES!!!


"I have decided upon a combination of Greek and Roman mythology along with Paganism, the teachings of the Christ figure prior to being watered down and reinterpreted by charlatans, George Carlin's brain droppings, Buddhism, the music of Pink Floyd, the films of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick, and the peaceful vision of MLK, Gandhi, and John Lennon as the basis of my new religion..." Michael Ferentino

Michael Ferentino, whether via eloquent statement or his haunting, musical compositions, doesn't fancy extremes: political or religious. In fact, the artist has always struck me as a pragmatist, based on his reported observations, though he's still a man with a strong, mystical bent. His latest concoction under the Bedtime for Robots heading, Filthy Gods in the Age of Exquisite Machines, reflects his shrewd perspective. 


Because of its sheer scope, Filthy Gods may be the ultimate Bedtime for Robots, which is saying a lot, since there’s never been a minor presentation among Ferentino’s electronic excursions. This new endeavor, however, stands as an epic rebuttal against all those holier-than-thou, phony-baloney, know-it-all bastards who tell us how to think and live; and even more so, those who choose to follow such mainstream gurus, never daring to think or dream for themselves.

The album also implies a fabricated, hollow world that humans have created to imprison themselves (shades of Patrick McGoohan, perhaps?), but through his creation's terse and spacey chords, Ferentino acknowledges a spiteful rejection of the tension and emptiness that such foolhardy existences bring. Hope, therefore, can rise from out despair, or so his music seems to say. 


Filthy's “tension” tracks set forth this notion in an organic and emotional way. One of the most invigorating is "Manchester", which bleeds a snappy, cool atmosphere, but with a underlying tide of creepy menace that warns one that self-imposed slavery is never an ideal thing. Then there's "Serpents", which culls its sweeping vigor from Ferentino's legendary band, Love In Reverse, churning a rich rigidity that counters "Manchester'"s bounce by morphing into an ominous march. In fact, the structure invokes images of Snake Plissken heading once more into dangerous turf to rescue some hapless jerk--hey, maybe me! (Oh, yeah, I'm certain that John Carpenter would give this entry an eager thumbs-up.)

The other "tension" tracks are as darkly influential in their own, specialized fashions, transmitting sounds that are austere, but as hypnotic as any devilish Pied Piper could toot. They include Torquemada the First; Filthy Gods; Sundowning; Magnolia Song; Isotonic World; Forest of Knives; and Poison Garden. 


Coinciding with (and often punctuating) the latter, we're offered the categorized Exquisite Machines selections, which smack of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis", Jean-Luc Godard's "Alphaville", George Orwell's "1984" and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World", at times all rolled into one. The tracks' mechanical magnetism is simultaneously uneasy, soothing and defiant if one listens to the series in whole. They include Cranesong; Exquisite Machines; Goody Powder; Black Sleep Revisited; Music Thing; Marikoriko; Torquemada the Second; Shattered Isles; and Anatomy 7. 


I believe that some (maybe even most) of us are exquisite machines (artists and dreamers) in our own frustrated ways, striving to exist under the rule of all those filthy pillars of judgment. We possess the flip side of our own ideology, if wise enough not to embrace any one ideology. At the very most and least, we must establish our positions with individualized reason, instead of misguided alignment. Filthy Gods reminds us to forge our own concepts--political and/or religious--by never being political and/or religious in the predictable sense of such terms.


Of course, don't take my word for it. Judge for yourself what Ferentino's compelling compositions convey. No matter what your interpretation, you'll be pleased to have played a part in the revolutionary cause. 

Filthy Gods in the Age of Exquisite Machines can be accessed at ..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEi3qb7j2BY&feature=youtu.be. In fact, you'll be able to experience Ferentino's visual wonderment, in addition to his audio grandeur, in movie-length form. Man, oh, man, are you ever in for a big-time, psychedelic sneak treat!!! Pure genius all the way!!! Hooray!!!

Friday, October 13, 2017

AIRSHIP 27 PODCAST #32 (OCT '17): READY FOR TAKEOFF!!!

Fasten your seat belts, ladies and gents! Captain Ron Fortier and Chief Engineer Rob Davis have embarked on another soaring, info-packed Airship 27 Productions podcast!!!


Episode #32 not only caters to Airship 27's latest, New Pulp print releases, such as Fred Adams Jr.'s new "Six-Gun Terrors" (Vol 3) and the upcoming "Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective"; but also exciting insinuations for Brother Bones' live-action future!!! Hot dog!!!  


Also, about midway through the show, Ron and Rob address questions from their readers/listeners, which just so happens to include one from yours truly: Why the heck are parents reluctant these days to let their children read pulp-adventure fiction? 

Tune in to hear the experts' views at...  http://comicspodcasts.com/2017/10/13/airship-27-podcast-32-six-gun-terrors/.  You're destined to gain valuable insight, advice and a whole lot more!!!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

I saw Batman vs Two-Face...


As far as animated, lighthearted Batman adventures go, "Return of the Caped Crusaders" was the best '16 spawned and far eclipsed the on-its-heels "Lego Batman Movie", which for whatever confounding reason gained a widespread, theatrical release over the former. 


To most fans (young or old alike), "Return" was a joy-beyond-joy experience and as such had big shoes to fill,. So, does the highly anticipated sequel, "Batman vs Two-Face" rise to the occasion? Well, it's not as bold as the first re-entry, but still an honorable companion piece. The thing is, I (and I'm sure many others) expected an adaptation of Harlan Ellison's long-thought "lost episode" as the basis for the film, especially since it was recently adapted as a DC graphic novel. With that not being the case, "Batman vs Two-Face", directed by "Return'"s Rick Morales and written by its writers, Michael Jelenic and James Tucker, becomes (for better or worse) a "lost-and found", movie-length episode of an entirely different kind. 


To its advantage, West and Ward again vocalize Bruce and Dick/Batman and Robin, though there's underlying sadness here, since West passed away only a few months prior. Nevertheless, we do have William Shatner adding to the gaudy glee, portraying Harvey Dent/Two-Face (in a role that some claim West had hoped Clint Eastwood would have played if only filmed in the '60s). Shatner's contrasting tones work well for the character(s), with a signature approach for Dent and a rough, mean one for Two-Face. In animated form, Dent also resembles a '60s version of Shatner: ideal for the nostalgic atmosphere.


In this instance, Dent's transformation comes via a Hugo Strange Jekyll/Hyde lab mishap. In his traditional mode, Two-Face mistakenly goes after Batman (and Robin) to avenge his horrid alteration, but receives a rehabilitative "cure", which initially links to the clever King Tut: a delusional two-face in his own right. Throughout it all, we come face-to-face with a string of familiar personas and on-target voices which enhance the coin-flipping villain's anguished caper. 


There's Julie Newmar reprising her role as Catwoman, joined by movie Catwoman Lee Meriweather as Lucille Diamond, manipulative public defender. Desmond Dumas supplies the voices of Joker, Bookworm and the film's narrator; Wally Wingert that of the Riddler and King Tut; and William Saylers as Penguin. In addition to voicing Strange, Jim Ward costars as Commissioner Gordon; Thomas Lennon as Chief O'Hara; Lynne Marie Stewart as Aunt Harriet; Steven Weber as Alfred Pennyworth and a Two-Face thug, plus we get a special-guest appearance from Sirena Irwin's Dr. Quinzel (Harley Quinn yet-to-be)


Holy stupendous line-up, indeed! Of course, "Return" offers every bit as much in this regard, which puts "Batman vs Two-Face" at a second-comer disadvantage. What we're basically given in Two-Face's retold reign of crime is a long, cameo cavalcade, accompanied by nods and spoofs of literary duality and a mental twist that puts an envious Robin (as well as all of Gotham) at a hideous disadvantage: clever, but not enough to elevate this sequel over its predecessor. 

Otherwise, in its brightness and throwback staging, "Batman vs Two-Face" makes for a speedy and fulfilling chunk of fun. It could also further paved the way for additional "Batman '66" animated movies, but without West, we can only anticipate an imitator to occupy his spot. That'll work, but if there's anything "Batman vs Two-Face" confirms, it's an official end to a sentimental era, of which West was a most essential part.

("Batman vs Two-Face" is now accessible per any number of home-viewing options and will be available on disc Oct 17.) 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Collectible Time #91: 10" McFarlane Walking Dead Negan Figure


I really fancy these 10" McFarlane's "Walking Dead" action figures, even if the representation is a character that I despise, but I guess that's just the impact of quality villainy.


The latest addition to the series is Jeffrey Dean Morgan's ultra callous Negan, and yes, he's poised with his monstrous weapon, the dreaded Lucille.

The sculpting on this piece (like with those that have come before) is astonishing, capturing Negan's smug, sadistic smirk as he's undoubtedly set to kill another poor, undeserving soul. The design and texture of the body and clothing are impressive, as well. 


Sure hope Negan gets what he deserves in Season 8, but for the time being, I'll have this piece to look upon in utter contempt and I dare say, with fond appreciation for its all-too-real, deranged detail. (Say, maybe if I just blurred my vision a tinge, I could pretend I'm lookin' at Comedian, instead!)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

CW's DC Crusaders Return, But Oh! How The Mighty Have Fallen (An Editorial Lament)



Betrayed! That’s how I feel by last season’s CW superhero shows. How, you might ask? Well, here's the rundown...

First off, “The Flash” was more soap opera than classic DC. It's bordered on such during past paths, but Season 3 took it to a whole new, humdinger level. Sure, the season had some admirable moments, particularly whenever Gorilla Grodd made the scene, but otherwise its momentum was smothered by Barry Allen (Grant Gustin)’s salacious obsession with his adopted sibling. Damn it, why can't he just love Iris as a sister? The two may not be blood related, but all the same, the psychological and environmental ramifications of their coupling causes me discomfort, and from what I've read and heard, I ain't the only one ridin' that righteous train. 

We can only hope that Season 4's character redesign ("reborn/recharged", as CW proclaims) will get us closer to, not farther away from, Allen's better qualities; if not, perhaps the producers would be wise to abandon this current incarnation and transport us back to John Wesley Shipp's '90s universe, or at least some modernized extension of it. That particular CBS version never once strayed from the straight and narrow, and that's precisely what this current show desperately needs--the damn straight and narrow.


While "Flash" slipped significantly from its once noble standing, “Legends of Tomorrow” actually improved on its second run; of course, Season 1 left much to be desired as it wrestled to find its time-travel footing, sometimes seeming more like a "Doctor Who" wannabe than its own thing. 

What improvement Season 2 gained stems from Dominic Purcell’s dry-humored portrayal of Mick Rory/Heat Wave, but even with Purcell's blunt wit, the show has faltered via historical inaccuracies and a general hollowness. Yeah, it was nice to see that episode devoted to young George Lucas, but it never truly felt sincere: Lucas felt more like a fleeting novelty than a man destined to reinvent Alex Raymond's "Flash Gordon". Without the required credibility, there's no sincerity, and without sincerity, the magic dies. (In the same vein, I could go on for days bemoaning the Reagan/Gorbachev installment, but it's suffice to say, it didn't come close to being all that it could have been: another terrible, missed opportunity...)


To worsen the situation, Ray Palmer, the Atom, has been reduced to a bumbling, along-for-the-ride second-stringer. If he was ever given the chance to shine, the writers were quick to bolt him right back to ineptitude. I mean, gee whiz, wasn’t Palmer supposed to be the primary force behind this show? As I recall, a solo Atom series was even considered at one point. So, what happened? This is a real slap in the face to ex-Superman actor, Brandon Routh, who early on shined in the Palmer role. The Atom must be in the forefront—the competent forefront, that is, with all his amazing abilities amply displayed—if "Legends" is ever to succeed. Somehow, though, I doubt Palmer will reclaim his prestigious spot, but oh, how I wish to be proven wrong...


“Arrow”, in contrast to the latter shows, was at least more consistent in its dark, somber tone. However, there were way too many times when Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell)'s heroics were marred by the same ponderous padding that's cursed “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Instead of experiencing "Arrow" anchored with verbosity and perplexing passages that put Queen at an embarrassing disadvantage, I'd rather that its episodes be cut in half. I know that won't happen, but it still would be preferable to seeing the regal Green Arrow spawn yawns.  


On the other hand, superfluous chit-chat isn't so bad when compared to the monumental way "Supergirl" has derailed. So pleased were we when the series leaped from CBS to CW. The move made sense. Most of us were confident that, in addition to giving Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) more chances to mingle with the other heroes, CW was less likely to make Kara Danvers engage in (and support) skewed politics. Boy, oh boy, were we ever wrong!


Indeed, of all of CW's DC shows, “Supergirl” has become the most ideologically slanted, often favoring elements of corruption before acts of justice. I don’t care if the plots are relegated to some parallel plane. Within "Supergirl'"s sector, good is generally bad, and bad is generally good: distasteful for this character and her regal heritage. 

To add fuel to the fire, the show's guest stars, whether recurring or one-shots, have been shamefully misused, including Dean Cain, Helen Slater, Teri Hatcher, Kevin Sorbo and Lynda Carter. The latter’s misrepresentation stings the most: a conniving Madame President, whose obvious, insincere stance is taken at face value. Okay, Carter isn't playing Wonder Woman here; I realize that, but if she’s supposed to be a baddie, then why isn't that fact acknowledged and/or discussed? That most politicians are corrupt and self-serving might be a given, but that doesn't mean their deceit should ever be accepted with a mere shrug. 


The most heart-wrenching betrayal, however, comes from Superman. Remember how Tyler Hoechlin impressed fans when he flew into Season 2, to the point where the actor and his Man of Steel portrayal seemed destined to give Henry Cavill’s a competitive run for the money? Unfortunately, by Season 2’s close, Kal-El had been diminished into a cruel, mind-controlled parody, incapable of saving the world, let alone supporting his cousin in the cataclysmic circumstances presented. BLASPHEMOUS!!!


Well, at least in “Supergirl’”s case, there may yet be a glimmer of hope, at least some wee promise for the show to return to its roots, if one can believe what one reads. With that said, I still can't shake how the much ballyhooed, second “Flash/Supergirl” (mid-season) crossover was to be a spectacle for the ages, and instead we got an hour-long, musical jaunt that added nothing to either show or for that matter, any of the overlapping plots. Okay, it might be nice to see the cast members show off their talents beyond the DC universe, as in perhaps a non-connecting, variety-show, special-of-the-week, but why squash the established superheroics and story thread? It's like we were being told that these folks are too good for the material they regularly engage in, and we, the fans, needed a cultural awakening, as it were, to reprimand us for our insipid allegiance. That's just plain mean, not to mention sadistically self-indulgent on the participants' part. 


And it's precisely this sort of crazy, CW decision-making that hurts the network's prestige. It doesn't reflect well on DC or WB, either, when such blatant, tradition-stomping is ignored.

If this haphazard, pompous progression continues, DC/WB’s big-screen, Justice League adventures will surely soar without interference, comparison or complaint among fans. As it stands, CW's recent programming has been more a curse than a blessing to those who've tuned in; I wonder how many viewers will remain on board. I can only hope that the tarnish left by the shows' sappy and misdirected experimentation will wash away. It's a pity we can't just jettison the damage to some faraway, unseen, alternate reality: one that we and our heroes would be honored to scorn and better yet, forget.