Sunday, March 27, 2016

Flash and Supergirl Crossover!!!

Thanks to mutual producer Greg Berlanti, CBS and CW merge...well, maybe it's more the latter visiting the former, when Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) meets Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) on this week's "Supergirl" installment, "World's Finest" (a title otherwise linked to the ongoing Batman/Superman comic-book line). 


"The Flash" has opened the Multiverse door, and with this, any number of wonderful possibilities await: this particular crossover being one of its imaginative, anything-goes results. (A "Flash" prequel to the installment will air the following night on CW.) Still, that a character from one network can zoom onto another (regardless of the obvious Berlanti/DC/WB connections) is historic. It also generates the same excitement that I experienced as a kid when Batman/Robin and Green Hornet/Kato teamed, or gosh, when the legendary Roy Rogers guest starred on "Wonder Woman". 


Promotion for the Flash/Supergirl episode has leaned heavily upon the popular '70s jumbo-sized comic where Flash and Superman race for charity (an issue I still have, I might add), but this particular meeting will focus mainly on Allen helping Danvers combat the cunning combo of Silver Banshee (Italia Ricci) and Livewire (Brit Morgan).


This merger is truly something to get excited about and is as significant as any other live-action, superhero team-up this year. I hope beyond hope it leads to more such televised crossovers in the near future. One really can't beat this kind of endearing fun!!!

Friday, March 25, 2016

HAPPY EASTER 2016!!!

HAPPY EASTER!!! MAKE A FEW CHEERFUL--OR TEARFUL--MEMORIES IF YOU CAN; JUST REMEMBER, THE EASTER BUNNY IS YOUR FRIEND!!!

SO LONG, EARL HAMNER...

SO LONG, EARL HAMNER...


The "Waltons" influenced me to become a writer, and your "Twilight Zone" stories remain an enchanting part of my life. As in "The Hunt", there's no doubt you'll find passage to Heaven without a hitch. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

I saw Batman and Superman Fight to Unite!!!


Frank Miller claims there’s no way Batman and Superman would ever like each other. Heck, because they come from different crime-fighting vantages, maybe he’s got a point. However, I’ve seen the two team countless times over the decades among various sources, and I’ve come to accept their allegiance as one of the “World’s Finest”. 


With that said, seeing these two at odds can be disconcerting and intense (as Miller's "Dark Knight Returns" demonstrates), and yes, the conflict can be even acceptable, if there's a positive, logical resolution to it. 

That resolution does, in fact, occur in Zack Synder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, which for all its contentious pre-imagery, turns into (SPOILER!!!) a touching buddy movie, divided into three, justice-founding parts, thanks to the scripting skills of David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio.


The initial phase is the set-up: Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) plots to foil Superman (or any available representation of good, for that matter), while Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) and Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) increase their cynicism toward each other: each perceiving the other as reckless extremists. They should know better than to indulge in such petty, personal tactics, but then so should the general public, a portion of which is quick to deride both heroes, despite the fact that they go to great lengths to help and protect people, and yes, sometimes leave destruction in their paths, but with the assurance that the terrorists will always meet defeat.

The collateral damage, however, irks Senator Finch (Holly Hunter), and she implements a crusade and hearing on the matter, focusing her wrath on Superman, regardless that General Zod (Michael Shaunnesey) would have destroyed the world as we know it without Kal-El's intervention. She also blames Superman for deaths caused by a dictator named Anatoli Knyzaev (Callen Mulvey), with whom Luthor has ties. Indeed, why condemn the obvious cretins when an honorable extra-terrestrial is ripe for the picking? 


In a roundabout link to the senator's view, we come to realize that the sectors over which Batman and Superman preside, whether Gotham, Metropolis or beyond, are rough and mean, itching for hope, but just as inclined to celebrate an ugly underbelly and scoot it to the highest heights of praise. It’s an upside-down world in need of revelation, of an essential second wind. Batman and Superman are the potential beacons of inspiration who can crush the dire misconceptions, but Luthor's behind-the-scenes manipulations intend dull the luster of their stellar deeds, further bolstering Batman's existing wariness of Superman and indirectly churning controversy where there would be otherwise none. But fear not. Good has a way of evening out and rising above the scum. 

To attain this "rise", our duo must first take the bait and battle, though the primary brawl results from Luthor kidnapping Martha Kent (Diane Lane) and coercing the Man of Steel to fly forth and kill the Dark Knight in exchange for his mother's life. This scenario constitutes a large part of the film's second phase: an energetic, though unsettling feast for the senses, with one mighty entity gaining the upper hand over the other and back again. Prior to such, Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons), Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) interact with their champions throughout the mounting conflict, offering encouragement and disdain, as does Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), albeit initially on surreptitious terms and essentially with Wayne. 


Though tensions run high, Batman and Superman do eventually acknowledge Luthor's ploy. When the arch criminal realizes they're wise to him, he triggers his backup plan--along with the film's powerful third act--using Zod's extracted DNA to hatch an even greater “devil”: the ferocious, mutating Doomsday.

The creature exceeds Zod’s strength and destruction, and Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman must team to stop the mad monster. (Sorry folks, contrary to conjecture and hope, Bizarro and Riddler don't enter this chapter, but the Hulk-proportioned Doomsday is more than enough mega-villain to cover their absence.)


Visually, the film mirrors Snyder's stylish "Watchmen", with scenes tinted in hazy pigments, which complement its lingering sense of doom. The exchange of heroes is also similar to "Watchmen", with various shades of gray surfacing among the principles, but with a clear-cut distinction surfacing as to what constitutes good and bad; thus establishing a staunch Steve Ditko philosophy that extends beyond the film's climax.  

Ben Affleck, regardless of his controversial casting, is quite good as Wayne/Batman, and what a commendable accomplishment coming off the heels of Christian Bale's sterling portrayal. He remains credible throughout, his mood swings identifiable as he presses on for justice. Affleck's presence is also old-school: a throwback to the past when actors like Buster Crabbe played a variety of heroes. Previously, Affleck portrayed Matt Murdock/Daredevil, as well as Superman, in an indirect way, in the George Reeves speculative bio-pic, "Hollywoodland", in which Diane Lane also starred.


The same crossover dynamics can be attributed to Cavill, who's acted in the mythological epic, "Immortals", as well as portraying Napoleon Solo in the "Man from U.N.C.L.E." remake. He also does an impressive job in matching Affleck's unflinching stance, making his second film portrayal of the Man of Steel much edgier. This troubled Superman works seamlessly into the film's early, despairing moments. Cavill also draws us deeper into Superman's frustration when people reject his gallantry, and through his Kent persona, that woe turns into an empathetic, slow burn. 

Gadot nicely completes the trio: an exotic, old-world Amazon, whose shrewd charms shine through her unassuming Diana Prince guise. Her sparkling eyes are always peeled for clues and ways to assist her predestined super friends. Above all, she believes in doing the right thing and is therefore as honorable an emblem as Batman and Superman, and one can therefore assume that she'd also be susceptible to the same illogical derision they face, if not for the fact that she's remained under the radar for a century. 


Eisenberg, on the other hand, is the personification of cunning evil, his wry, comedic tone comparable to Sherman Howard's much underrated Luthor in the much underrated "Superboy" series: fun, yes, but as Lois Lane astutely acknowledges, "psychotic". One can't help but dislike the son of a gun, but he also gains one's contemptuous respect, which should placate those who may have dismissed Eisenberg's persona as irreverent, based on his trailer footage. 

These character-driven additives stir a mighty big powder keg of suspense, all augmented by Hans Zimmer pulse-pounding score: a well crafted, emotional formula, which inspires us to question our current views of good and bad and then tears them down, only to refashion them into a valuable lesson. No matter how one may try to justify the bad or defame the good, an indisputable distinction between the two will always surface. There's no amount of in-fighting or invading villainy that can control the circumstances long enough to prove such wrong: no jealous Luthor or all-mighty Doomsday who can climb to the top and rule, as long as individuals focus on what's right and ensure that justice prevails. 


Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, as well as the other members of the growing Justice League--Jason "Conan/Game of Thrones" Mamoa's Aquaman; Erza Miller's Flash; and Ray Fisher's Cyborg are insinuated personas in this, too--may lack universal support at the start, but by the picture's tear-jerking cliffhanger, they--and we--will know which side to choose. 

Without question, this "World's Finest" adventure may be excessively hard-hitting, even shamelessly rough around the edges, and the conflict between the Dark Knight and Man of Steel is never all that convincing, but at least the story forces us to choose an ideological platform. That, in its own right, should fuel discussion among fans and the general public for quite some time, or at least until the next cinematic chapter hits theaters.


Friday, March 18, 2016

FAREWELL, LARRY DRAKE...

FAREWELL, LARRY DRAKE...


Your menacing portrayals of Dr. Giggles and Darkman's adversary, Robert Durant gripped me by the throat and wouldn't let me go. You embodied the essence of what a character actor should be; and your vast body of work will be savored as time marches on. God bless, dear friend...

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Daredevil (Season 2): The Punisher Enters...


Netflix's first season of "Marvel's Daredevil" emerged as a fierce, brooding success, with visually impaired but sense empowered Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) facing off against Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin (Vincent D'Onofrio), in a sprawling Hell's Kitchen showdown.


The second season, which begins March 18, promises an even more layered landscape, ushering the entrance of vengeance-craving vigilante, Frank Castle (Jon "Walking Dead" Bernthal), otherwise known as the Punisher. The shapely and lethal Elektra Natchios (Elodi "Gods of Egypt" Yung) also swings on board, while last season's Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) and Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) reunite with their favorite "Man Without Fear" attorney in his continued crusade for justice. From what's implied, we may even get lucky with re-entries from Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), Stick (Scott Glenn) and (by gosh by golly) D'Onofrio's Fisk. (Some are also predicting a Bullseye reveal, but we'll see. Whether this season or another, the villain is bound to appear.)

At any rate, advanced footage insinuates that the Punisher will greatly impact the plot, setting up a pre-"Batman v Superman" and "Cap America: Civil War" clash of the titans. I can't say I believe the adversity will last forever, but for better or worse, rifts between superheroes remain the in-thing now, and I imagine Netflix will nurture the concept for all that it's worth.


This season's projected conflict does, in truth, fit with the initial season's sinister (and often cynical) tone, which also characterizes Netflix's "Jessica Jones", but somewhere along the line, there's got to be a light at the end of the tunnel, right? Let's face it, these folks aren't fighting just for the fun of it. They want something better for their world and therefore, for people like you and me. Let's hope that the culmination of their melees allows them--and us--to achieve it. After all, there's nothing quite as fulfilling as good triumphing over evil. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Collectible Time #55: Atlantis/Revell Flash Gordon/Martian and Polar Lights Headless Horseman Reissue Kits

In 1965, to compete with Aurora's vast monster and superhero model-kit lines, Revell issued its own variations, one being Flash Gordon. Atlantis has now reissued the famous kit, culled from the original molds: a dream come true for those who either had the model in their youth or wished it had come their way. (I purchased my reissue last week at the always reliable Z&Z Hobbies.)


In a general way, the sculpt does capture Alex Raymond's spectacular spaceman (and I do sense a trace of Buster Crabbe and Steve Holland in the features, but maybe that's just because I want such to be there). Nonetheless, this 1/8 scale, styrene Flash could be any number of intergalactic adventurers, but what a cool, retro piece it is, all the same.


The kit also comes with a swell, little Martian (perhaps dropped from a scene in "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars"--ha, ha), along with spiffy, reproduction box artwork. 

On the whole, this reissue does a fine job of capturing the essence of the carefree adventures of the past, and on this rough-and-tumble planet, we sure do need all the innocent thrills we can get. 


Though Atlantis caters to science-fiction themed products, I'd sure like to see the company reissue Revell's Phantom/Voodoo Witch Doctor kit next. For now, though, Flash and his Martian pal should more than satisfy all on their own. 

Also, for the sake of a reissue, I nailed the Polar Lights "Sleepy Hollow" Headless Horseman kit (again thanks to trusty Z&Z).


This 10.5" entry originally connected with the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp 1999 film adaption of Washington Irving's classic tale, but with Fox's "Sleepy Hollow" now so popular, it was only a matter of time before this one again made the rounds. 

The detail on this (slightly retooled) piece is sharp, dynamic and really stands as a genuine diorama, consisting of not only the Christopher Walken Horseman, but his mare and an atmospheric base (equipped with accessories). In many ways, it mirrors McFarlane's Horseman action-figure/movie diorama, which also surfaced upon the film's release.


The "Round 2" packaging is a fiery work of art, which holds its own with Aurora's finest examples. 

On the whole, the reissue is worth having even if one was fortunate enough to seize the original release. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

I visited 10 Cloverfield Lane...


I visited "10 Cloverfield Lane", knowing full well from what I'd read that it wasn't a direct, obvious sequel to Matt Reeves' giant-monster "found footage" hit. However, like that film, this one was also produced by J.J. Abrams, and based on what he's conveyed, a series of seemingly unrelated films could emerge, which will later connect like a puzzle to complete a vast, coherent tapestry. 


This claim, in itself, implies that first-time director Dan Trachtenberg's effort is disjointed in context, and it is, which for the sake of originality is good, but for those desiring a precise, now-we-how-and-why explanation regarding the Cloverfield Monster, well, it ain't gonna happen, despite the title's insinuation. At the same time, the film offers further (if not solely implied) food-for-thought on the creature's origin. 

While "Cloverfield" set the action on many planes, "10 Cloverfield Lane", thanks to Daniel Casey and Drew Goddard's script, is a claustrophobic installment, which for a time plays like John Fowles' "The Collector"; George A. Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" and Rod Serling's "The Shelter". It also smacks of Richard Matheson's "Dying Room Only", with a prolonged, ominous tease, but does the bait land a tasty catch?


The bait is as follows: during a major power outage, a young lady named Michelle (imagi-movie veteran, Mary Ellis Winstead) gets into a auto accident. She awakes in a farmhouse (i.e., a bunker within such) where two men, Howard (John Goodman) and Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), reside. She's informed by Howard that she's being contained for her own good, that to taste the forbidden fruit of escape is unwise, for something now taints the outside, but what exactly is it?

Well, I don't think I'm spoiling much by saying that it's...well, hard to say. It might be a poisoned atmosphere, mutating humans, militant extraterrestrials, or all of the above. One thing is for certain: inside the tension-wrought confines, Howard seems to know what's brewing, but is it through intuition or the roundabout implications of his survivalist know-how? Also, his petulant, enigmatic presence makes one consider the notion that monsters can rise from out the human condition, making this weird tale more "Psycho" than "Godzilla". (Bear McCreary's excellent score also helps drives the atmosphere in that direction.)


According to legend, "Cloverfield Lane" began as a project entitled "The Cellar", with characters hiding from the effects of nuclear fallout. On this basis, it's easy to deduct that the concept was merely recycled into what now stands as a wannabe "Cloverfield" companion piece, but without knowing the intended scope of possible upcoming entries, who can say how this chapter might be viewed in the long run, or even how it should be taken presently? 

In the end, it feels more like a prequel to the 2008 film than a sequel, but if these films are linked (or are to link, as Abrams says), then damn it, let such link in some tangible way. A few pretentious leads here and there aren't enough to do the job, and with that in mind, yes, "Cloverfield Lane" does, offer interesting bait, but its catch is, to say the least, unfulfilled. 


Nevertheless, thanks to its taut direction and performances, the adventure is certainly worth experiencing. (By the way, Goodman is gripping throughout and if this weren't an offbeat horror picture, he'd be a shoe-in for an Oscar.) At the same time, the story may have been more suspenseful as a stand-alone, inspiring us to ponder Howard's sincerity on a grander scale. With "Cloverfield" in the title (whatever the hell that banner means), one realizes that something horrifying does, in fact, exist beyond the shelter, and this blunts the climax's impact, though visually it remains eerie and striking. 

If "Cloverfield Lane"gains widespread favor on the basis of its premise, it's likely because viewers will have granted it through their collective imagination, and perhaps on this basis, the filmmakers deserve credit for fostering this tactic. After all, the new "Cloverfield", like the old, is destined to be discussed, debated and dissected for years to come. Let's just hope that, whether we fancy the ultimate reveal or not, such culminates in something solid. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

RICH HANDLEY'S TIMELINE OF THE APES: Time Travel and Alternate Realities in the Simian Spectrum...


"Every time someone comes into the time barrier--the Hasslein Curve--in either direction, it's possible for history to be modified..." Rich Handley.

The above quote is the author's basis for "Timeline of the Planet of the Apes: The Definitive Unauthorized Chronology": an amazing, mind-bending volume of insight and tidbits pertaining to one of the most thought-provoking science-fiction sensations ever conceived.


Not only does Handley cover the films and television shows, but the vast array of comics, periodicals and novels (including Pierre Boulle's trendsetting foundation), which characterize the saga's evolutionary facets; and he rationalizes their connections with chronological flair. All our favorite characters are included in the interlocking spree, from Taylor, Cornelius and Zira to Galen, Virdon and Burke, all the way up (or is it back?) to Andy Serkis' revised Caesar in the current cinematic saga.


The edition also includes an "Apes" time-travel overview: a nifty catalyst for categorizing the mythology, which also incorporates all the various "contradictions" and co-existing outcomes. On this basis alone, the author's meticulous accomplishment should make even the most proficient fans bow in respect. 


Beyond the obvious omission of the recent "Star Trek/Apes" comic-book crossover, this one has it all, so much so that Handley's volume is unlikely to be rivaled any time soon. Revised editions are inevitable, of course, if only with the guaranteed continuation of the "Apes" movies and their resulting companion pieces.

"Timeline" proves beyond any doubt how extensive and intricate the simian universe is in its incredible scope and layers, matching (and often exceeding) even the likes of "Doctor Who", "Star Trek", "Star Wars" and Tolkien's Middle Earth. 


For any fan of the franchise, "Timeline" is guaranteed to fill one's hours--and days--with endless probing into a mythology that for good reason, refuses to go away. 

"Timeline" is now available through Hasslein Books at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. Get your copy today and...GO APE!!!