Tagged: audio

Mike Gold: Nerd Alert – Here’s What Happens Next!

While reading reports covering Monday’s keynote speech at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, the one where they took the wraps off their new operating systems, a small light bulb went off over my head. I figured out the next big change in our lifestyles… and, since these days nerd culture and pop culture are one and the same, I figured I’d use the ComicMix slice of the ethersphere to prognosticate.

Besides, it beats talking about the Fantastic Four bullshit.

It turns out that Apple’s new mobile operating system, iOS8, will have the capability of allowing for phone calls and such to go over Wi-Fi as well as cellular… provided, of course, that your service provider agrees. Mobile-T and Rogers in Canada have already announced they’re joining in, so I think it will be difficult for others to be assholes about this one. Not that that hasn’t happened before.

Why is this important? You’ll be able to connect to and make calls from Wi-Fi networks for free, you’ll have more choice, a more reliable connection, better audio quality, longer battery performance and fewer bandwidth issues. Apple barely mentioned it; I suspect there will be a big deal made after AT&T and Verizon opt in.

Then my mind started wandering. I’m used to that, as my attention span is roughly equal to the life of a Lawrencium atom. I noted Apple is porting its fingerprint button over to the iPad and is finally allowing other companies to play with it. Personally, I’ve found the device to be almost ready for prime time but not quite. Given their history I think Apple will have it as glitzy as need be very soon. What could this mean for you?

Security. The biggest problem facing the entire computer industry is the theft of personal data. Just as the manager of your local Target or talk to Heartland Payment Systems. Hackers are stealing credit card information, social security numbers, passwords, and the fillings in your teeth. OK, that last one is a metaphor… thus far.

It affects other important operations as well, but this isn’t the place to go into NSA’s issues. That would be a digression.

But… if you had to use a fingerprint as your password, or as part of the password process, and you can choose which finger(s) to use on your own (which you can do already under iOS7), if somebody wants to rip off your bank account they’re going to have to do it the old fashioned way and point a gun to your head.

So it’ll be easier and safer to buy stuff. It’ll also be easier to renew your driver’s license, do high-end banking (as if), notarize documents, buy a house, rent an apartment… and, if the politicians ever grow up (as if), vote. Maybe our voter turnout will actually get as high as 60%.

How does this affect comics readers? Well, besides the nerd thing, it is clear that electronic comics are making substantial inroads and are also bringing in an audience that doesn’t have access to comics shops. The younger you are (unless you’re me, and you wouldn’t want that), the more likely you are to be reading comics on a tablet, computer, or teevee screen. Safe and reliable e-commerce will be an integral part of the future of the comics medium, no matter how it evolves.

And evolve it shall. This is a great time to have a short attention span.


REVIEW: Green Lantern the Animated Series

GL Animated SeriesWarner Bros. was counting on a home run from the misfire that was the live action Green Lantern film. As that film was in production, the animation division was producing their first CGI-animated DC series, also featuring the hero of space sector 2814. Arriving on the Cartoon Network with much fanfare, the Green Lantern: The Animated Series ran from November 11, 2011 to March 16, 2013 for a total of 26 episodes. I disliked its look and found little reason to watch when it was apparent it had little resemblance to the source material. I gave it a second look when Warner Archive recently released the entire series as a 2-disc Blu-ray set. I have not changed my opinion.

The series immediately takes Hal Jordan (Josh Keaton) away from Earth and his sector to send him to “Frontier Space” and establishes the Guardians of the Universe actually have limits to their sphere of influence which makes little sense. He’s partnered with Kilowog (Kevin Michael Richardson), who apparently is no longer needed to train recruits and they jet around space in a spaceship, The Interceptor, which also makes no sense. The ship comes complete with an artificial intelligence, Aya (Grey DeLisle), who takes humanoid form and as she gains independence actually goes from ally to threat in one of the few interesting touches in an otherwise wretched series.

Why are Hal and Kilowog dispatched to the edge of space? Because Red Lanterns, led by Atrocious (Jonathan Adams), are picking off these fringe GLs as an act of revenge for his homeworld being destroyed by the Manhunters. During one of their first encounters, Razer (Jason Spisak) abandons the Reds and accompanies the Corps aboard the Interceptor. The series also features various familiar Guardians and members of the GL Corps.

And just to keep things colorful, we get a bunch of Blue Lanterns, Star Sapphires, and good ol’ Larfleeze (Dee Bradley Baker) of the Orange Lanterns. The relationship between Carol Ferris (Jennifer Hale) and Hal is as tense as in the comics but doesn’t really make either character more interesting. In fact, the writing is perfunctory and not very interesting and it could be the unfamiliarity of the writing staff led by Michael F. Ryugan, Jeremy Adams, and Jim Krieg. Milestone and DC Animated writer Matt Wayne is the only comic veteran on hand.

I will credit the final episode, “Dark Matter” as a cosmic adventure that does a good job raising the stakes but it’s too little, too late.

I love Green Lantern and he’s probably my favorite of the DC heroes which may be why I am so hard on this series and the film. Such incredible potential is continually squandered.  Of late, the various incarnations are so busy being sweeping in scale while leaving characterization in the dark.

The transfer to Blu-ray is excellent with great audio and video. Being from Warner Archive, there are no extra features.

Benedict Cumberbatch with Christmas stories for you

Benedict Cumberbatch gives us a Christmas reading of “A Visit From St. Nicholas”:

Oh, all right– here’s what you really want to see today, the preview episode of the next season of Sherlock, “Many Happy Returns’:

Sherlock happily returns January 1 in the UK, and the 19th on PBS in the US.

Oh, and did we mention the BBC is rerunning the audio play of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere for this week, starring Mr. C.? We didn’t? Well, we did now. Go. Listen. Enjoy, along with

Glenn Hauman: The Heavyweight Titles of Milestone

In celebration of the Milestones show at Geppi Entertainment Museum, we present this piece, originally published in the San Diego Comic-Con International Souvenir Book 2013.

Twenty years. Daaaaamn.

I spent a lot of time hanging around Milestone when they were first starting up. I was working around the corner from their 23rd St. offices at a digital pre-press house, where DC Comics was getting their painted covers scanned and separated. And I’d worked at DC and knew a lot of the folks there informally, and Milestone in those days was a very informal place. There was no standing on ceremony, if you wanted to show up and pitch in, you could just do that. And I did, bringing over lots of fonts for typesetting on a Mac and helping out with little production things here and there— I couldn’t do much because of my full-time job, but they were a start-up, which meant they worked after 5 PM a LOT. But even as busy as any start-up can get, you could go in and sit in the editor-in-chief’s office and talk— although, to be fair, that was Dwayne McDuffie, a man who had the laid-back confidence that you can only get from being the size of a small mountain. Of course, that didn’t mean you couldn’t push back— I remember asking him after Hardware #1 came out how he really felt about work-for-hire.

It turned out, years later, that Dwayne wasn’t really sure why I was there. We knew each other, and he’d seen me around various comics offices and conventions and the like, but at the time, for some reason he thought I was Walt Simonson’s assistant. The point is, he didn’t care— you wanted in on what they were doing, you were in. Everybody had something to contribute.

The thing about Milestone, and this was a big one, is that it wasn’t a “black” company, even though everybody outside the office thought of it as such. It was a “people” company. Didn’t matter whether you were as dark-skinned as Derek Dingle or as pale as Matt Wayne, a guy even paler than me and that’s going some. Everybody there wanted to make comics— although there was a lot less of the feeling that people wanted to grow up and become Julie Schwartz. Milestone came from knowing that there was a different kind of story to tell, a story that had been neglected in everybody’s straight white male superhero stories, stories that might as well have taken place in 1960’s Riverdale. Milestone showed an entire generation of readers that there were strange new worlds just on the other side of town, and took you there.

More importantly, Milestone broke the monolith of minority character stereotypes in comics, that there was more to the characters than just being black or hispanic or gay or whatever. Icon, Hardware, Rocket, Static, and Wise Son were all black, but they all had different points of view— which just hadn’t happened much in comics before that; heck, I’m having a hard time trying to think of comics before Milestone where two black characters showed up together for any extended amount of time. Is there a minority version of the Bechdel Test? Let’s make one right now and call it the Milestone test: A comic passes if (1) there are at least two minority characters in it, (2) who talk to each other, (3) about something besides a white person. And if you have to tell the reader the character is black because it’s in his name– Black Lightning, Black Manta, Black Goliath, Black Panther, Black Racer, Black Vulcan– it’s not really a black character.

But the most amazing thing is that, in many ways, it’s not as big of a deal anymore. You can put Static Shock on TV and people don’t look at it as pandering to connect with the urban audience, he’s a character. And for that alone, the work done by Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Robert Washington, Matt Wayne, Ivan Velez, Michael Davis, John Paul Leon, Mark Bright, Trevor Von Eeden, Andrew Pepoy, Janet Jackson, Jimmy Palmiotti, Noelle Giddings, Janice Chiang, Steve Dutro, Mike Gustovich, James Sherman, Joe James, John Rozum, Steve Mitchell, Joe James, Chriscross, Prentis Rollins, Derek Dingle, and so many others… well, it’s a Milestone worth celebrating.

(Originally published in the San Diego Comic-Con International Souvenir Book 2013.)

REVIEW: Big 25th Anniversary Edition

Big 25Heart and soul.

It’s what Josh Baskin and MacMillan play during the memorable dance scene in 1988’s Big but it’s also what the film is infused with, making it stand up to the test of time. Yeah, its look is dated thanks to bad hair and big shoulder pads, but the story of a 13 year old’s wish to become an adult endures.

20th Century Home Entertainment has released Big 25th Anniversary Edition this week, in time for last minute stocking stuffers. It belongs under every tree because it’s just so well crafted, explaining how Tom Hanks earned an Oscar nomination for his performance. His work stems from the Academy Award nominated script by Gary Ross and Annie Spielberg.


Frustrated at being small for his age and unable to achieve his modest goals, Josh (David Moscow) makes a wish at the local carnival. The unplugged Zoltar fortune telling machine grants his wish in a nice touch of magical realism and then we’re off. Josh (Hanks) wakes up as a 30 year old complete with stubble. He panics after discovering the carnival has packed up and left, and goes on to terrify his mother (Mercedes Ruehl), who believes the man an intruder. Thankfully, his best friend Billy (Jared Rushton) accepts his crazy explanation and uses his savvy to help him navigate an adult world.

When the two learn it’ll take six weeks to receive details on carnivals in the state, it’s clear Josh needs a job so he can survive on his own. Fortune leads him to a computer job at MacMillan Toys where his unique perspective rockets him up the corporate ladder, much to the consternation of Paul Davenport (John Heard), confusion of Susan Lawrence (Elizabeth Perkins), and fascination of MacMillan (Robert Loggia). Of particular interest is Josh’s pitch for an interactive comic book way before graphic novels and digital comics were tangible parts of our world.
Tom-in-Big-tom-hanks-20282275-1024-576Director Penny Marshall brought a light touch to the film, encouraging improvisation from her cast, and a keen eye on treading the line between drama, comedy, and slapstick. She unleashes Hanks, who excels in several set pieces beyond the immortal dance bit such as the office party where he demolishes the appetizer table or gently caresses a woman for the first time. Her casting was pitch perfect, allowing the film to be alternatively sharp and warm.

The film comes nicely packaged with a Blu-ray and DVD, along with sound chip playing “Heart & Soul” and Zoltar cards for personal wishes. The Blu-ray offers you the 1988 theatrical release (104 minutes) along with the extended cut (130 minutes) which was first released in 2007. The deleted scenes are reinserted for the longer version and it’s not appreciably better. If you prefer the original, the ten deleted scenes are included as an extra, with five intros by Marshall.

Tom-in-Big-tom-hanks-9828233-1024-576Ported over from the 2007 release are several features including the audio documentary by Ross and Spielberg and the Carnival Party Newswrap. New is the Big Beginnings where Marshall, producer James L. Brooks, Ross, Spielberg, Perkins, Loggia, Perkins, and Rushton discuss the film’s origins. Interesting to note is that even though they had the body switching notion first, mounting the production took so long that other stories, now easily forgotten, hit the screens first making everyone nervous about its reception. Chemistry of a Classic further breaks down elements of the film, including behind the scenes footage of key scenes. The Work of Play is a nice companion feature looking at the real world of toy manufacturers and how closely Big captured the goings on. Finally, the syndicated Hollywood Backstory episode on Big is included.

Alan Spencer’s Bullet in the Face gets Collected by Shout!

Bullet in the FaceGet ready to journey into the intriguing, neo-noir universe of Brüteville, a dystopian city where high-octane thrills, gangster mayhem, and a generous dose of subversive, satirical bent collide!  On January 21, 2014, Shout! Factory will unleash the outrageous action-comedy cult hit BULLET IN THE FACE: THE COMPLETE SERIES on DVD.  Creator and executive producer Alan Spencer (Sledge Hammer!) developed the series with producers and executive producers Jesse Prupas and Evi Regev of Muse Entertainment and Just For Laughs Television. All-star cast includes Max Williams (Night of the Living Dead) as Gunter Vogler, Neil Napier (Riddick) as Lieutenant Karl Hagerman, Jessica Steen (NCIS) as Commissioner Eva Braden, and Kate Kelton (Haven) as Martine Mahler, alongside special guest stars Eddie Izzard (Valkyrie, Ocean’s Thirteen) and Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight, The Expendables) as notorious crime lords. Featuring special audio commentary by Alan Spencer, BULLET IN THE FACE: THE COMPLETE SERIES DVD is priced to own at $19.97 SRP.


Fun and Mayhem in Brüteville!

Violent criminal Gunter Vogler (Max E. Williams) is a sociopath. He hates everyone and everything. When a bloody jewelry store robbery goes awry and he is shot by his accomplice and girlfriend, Martine (Kate Kelton), he eventually wakes up in a hospital having received a face transplant. Gunter now has the face of a police officer he had killed earlier and as payback, the police tell him he now has to work for them and fight crime. 

With old friends becoming his new foes and enemies turning into allies, Gunter suffers an identity crisis that has him seeking revenge against the entire human race. Law enforcement thought that with Gunter in their ranks, they were fighting fire with fire, but instead, Gunter is scorching the Earth. He is a one-man wrecking crew, a raging inferno carrying a police badge. He’s also a man on a mission to reunite with the woman he loves, Martine, who gave him the ultimate parting shot…a “Bullet in the Face.”

Co-starring Eddie Izzard as Tannhäuser, an agoraphobic criminal with a flair for the dramatic, and Eric Roberts as Racken, an old school, mob boss with a complete disregard for human life, BULLET IN THE FACE is a gruesome satire much darker then creator Alan Spencer’s previous series Sledge Hammer!.

Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)/2013/Color/135 mins.

REVIEW: The World’s Endf

THE WORLDS END BD_2DAfter a steady diet of stupid buddy movies, including this summer’s Grown-Ups 2 flop, I welcomed Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s unique take on the concept in The World’s End. After a steady stream of funny and inventive films, this one hewed closer to a traditional premise: five high school buddies reunite for one last blast. However, being from this duo, one could expect something different.

The first forty minutes of the film felt fairly straightforward as the one who refused to grow up gathered his peers, all mired in staid existences, and convinced them to do what they failed to accomplish in their teens. In this case it meant visiting and quaffing a brew at all twelve pubs along the Golden Mile, finishing at the fabled World’s End. We see them struggling to reconnect, all annoyed at their leader for one reason or another. Unlike other films in this manner, the men are archetypal, not caricatures, and you feel the weight of adulthood on their shoulders. Their resentment towards Gary King (Pegg) is also tinged with envy as he has never lost that boyhood spirit, that Can Do attitude that made the next step an adventure.

Then things take an unexpected twist and we’re plunged into an entirely different story that pits these five against an alien threat with the very world’s fate at stake. How they handle this fuels the remainder of the satisfying film, out now on Blu-ray from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Considered the final installment in the Cornetto Trilogy, viewers should be aware it has absolutely no connection to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. What they do share in common is an ensemble cast and smart, witty writing that never trips over the line into dumb humor or slapstick.

Worlds-EndWright nicely skewers the horror, cop, and science fiction conventions in these films, always taking ordinary people with ordinary problems and sticking them in extraordinary circumstances. Gary King is the boy who never grew up and as an adult, his actions now appear inappropriate but it is his spirit to never give up that forces the others — — Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), Oliver “O-Man” Chamberlain (Martin Freeman), Peter Page (Eddie Marsan) and best friend Andy Knightley (Nick Frost) – into action. The quiet home of Newton Haven is too quiet and the looks the quintet receive from the patrons borders on The Stepford Wives, even their old college professor (Pierce Brosnan) seem s a little off. When King rips the head off a young punk, he discovers the inhabitants have been replaced with robots out to “civilize” humanity.

There’s a tremendous amount of running, fighting, screaming and humor but in the end it all comes down to King and Andy debating the Voice (Bill Nighy) behind it all. As climaxes go, it falls a little flat but is whimsical in a nice way. And there’s even a touch of romance with Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike), the sole major female role in the film, a failing on the Bechdel scale.

The-Worlds-EndThe film’s tone is a steady one, despite the rising complications and activity. The performances are strong as one would expect from the cast, who have worked together for many a year, making this one of the strongest and best comedies of the year. Out on a combo disc (Blu-ray, DVD and Ultraviolet digital), the video transfer is fine, matched by sharp audio. Unlike a lot of recent releases, this one comes with an excellent abundance of material staring with Commentary from Wright and Pegg and Wright and director of photography Bill Pope and Pegg with co-stars Frost and Considine. The first is funny and interesting, the second interesting for technical folk, and the third is as hilarious as you would expect.

U-Control Storyboard PiP lets you see the film’s storyboards alongside the film which is interesting for storytellers. Better is Completing the Golden Mile: The Making of The World’s End (48:00) which takes us through the concept to production although you know some of this through the commentaries.

Additionally, there’s Filling in the Blanks: The Stunts and FX of The World’s End (28:00); VFX Breakdown (9:00); Edgar & Simon’s Flip Chart (13:00), a fascinating look at the beat by beat breakdowns writers use to craft screenplays; Director at Work (3:00); Pegg + Frost = Fried Gold (3:00) Friends Reunited (4:00), mostly culled from a press kit; Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy (5:00); Animatics (11:00), for two scenes; Hair and Make-Up Tests (4:00); Rehearsal Footage (6:00); Stunt Tapes (9:00); There’s Only One Gary King: Osymyso’s Inibri-8 Megamix (5:00); Music remix montage; Signs & Omens (8:00); Deleted Scene (1 minute); Outtakes (11:00); Alternate Edits (SD, 5 minutes); Bits and Pieces (3:00), additional alternate takes and shots; and, Trailers & TV Spots including the TV Safe Version. Finally, there are Galleries of photographs, concept art, animatronics, prosthetics, theatrical posters and pub signs and a fun Trivia Track.

By all means, check this one out and enjoy the bonus features which enhance the enjoyment.

Doctor Who Anniversary prequel – “The Night of the Doctor”

Rule One: The Moffat Lies.

Rule One-a: So Does The McGann.

After nearly a year of what showrunner Steven Moffat described as “lying through my teeth”, the prequel to the Doctor Who anniversary episode “The Day of the Doctor” reveals that the one fact that upset people the most is the one that was the biggest lie.

Watch, and squee with me. (more…)

REVIEW: Doctor Who: “Terror of the Zygons”

The Zygons only appeared in one episode of the classic series, but their look was so unique they continued to appear in the novels, audio plays and more.  After an off-camera cameo in this season’s The Power of Three, they’ll be featured on the anniversary episode, The Day of the Doctor.

Their original adventure, Terror of the Zygons, get the restoration treatment in this new DVD release.  The episodes are in great shape, and includes a :director’s cut” of episode one, with a deleted scene, a rarity in the original series where nearly no waste was allowed.  The adventures feature commentary by the series producer Phillip Hinchcliffe and the writer, Robert Banks Stewart.  The subtitle option of the trivia track is an exhaustive repository of production factoids that almost guarantees you facts you didn’t know previously.

The extras on disk two are a delight – in addition to a documentary about the making of the episode, where Sussex took the role of Scotland.  There’s a truly hilarious interview with Tom Baker, who rules the screen with a series of mad stories.  Elisabeth Sladen shares lots of stories about the early Baker adventures in her short, and there’s part three of a continuing doco on the UNIT team, featuring interviews with Lohn Levene and Nicholas Courttney.  Also included is an episode of BBC educational program Merry Go Round, starring Elisabeth Sladen, about the oil derricks of the type that played so important a part of this adventure.  A news piece from South Today features an interview with Baker on the location in Sussex, about the episode and his success in the series.

The early series’ adventures don’t often get seen by new fans who are largely unaware of the show before 2005.  These classic series DVD releases give the new fans that chance to see more of the history of the show, and see that many of those stories still hold up today.

REVIEW: American Horror Story: Asylum

American_Horror_Story_Asylum_DVDFX’s American Horror Story has helped change the way we consume terror tales on television. First of all, each season is self-contained and although some performers can be seen as different characters in each of the three seasons, they are entirely different stories. The limited nature of the premise allows the producers to nab major performers and it has worked with great success, judging by the Golden Globe and Emmy nominations it has been receiving. By having a strong story and an ensemble of repertory players, anchored by the amazing Jessica Lange, the series keeps you from ever getting bored.

With season three now airing, 20th Century Home Entertainment is releasing Asylum, the Complete Second Season. They share the umbrella title but have little to do with one another as Asylum focuses on the inhabitants of an institution for the criminally insane in 1964.  Cocreators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, this is closer in spirit to their Nip/Tuck for FX than their Glee for Fox. I appreciate their ability to not repeat themselves and keep things interesting and fresh.

Asylum was written around Lange and then others from the first season came back in roles written around her Sister Jude. Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Lily Rabe, Frances Conroy, Zachary Quinto, and Dylan McDermott are all back for the ride. If the first season watched a family unravel in the traditional haunted house, setting the second tale in an asylum just begs for dysfunction and terror. The Briarcliff Mental Institution in Massachusetts is set in an era when caring for the mental ill was some limbo realm where treatment was sporadic, attempts at rehabilitation was nonexistent and patient care was little better than inmates at a penitentiary.

The season explores 1964, the year after JFK was assassinated and the birth of modern day pop culture (cue The Beatles on Ed Sullivan) and the present day. As a result, it’s interesting to see how the characters react to things such as homosexuality and changing mores. The institution was packed and functioning back in the day and now stands empty, haunted by those who dwelled and worked in its halls. Lange is tortured and hides behind her habit, avoiding coming anywhere close to the stereotype created by Nurse Ratchet. Instead, she is avoiding her past, much as Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) does leaving people to wonder if he was a Nazi torturer. Similar to Parminder Nagra’s psychiatrist set in the past portions of the failed Alcatraz, Quinto’s Dr. Oliver Thredson arrives with “progressive” approaches to treatment which he wants to apply to a serial killer.

But it’s not all psychological horror as Frances Conroy returns, this time as the literal Angel of Death. Let’s not forget the extraterrestrials, too. Of the thirteen episodes, contained on three Blu-ray discs, there are several self-contained bits while other threads spread across the entire season with Lana (Sarah Paulson) as the through-line involving her relationship with Sister Jude.

The filming is shadowy, moody, atmospheric in fresh ways, refusing to repeat the first season’s visual flair. Thankfully, the transfer to high definition is handled well so the overall visuals are strong, accompanied with good audio.

For a show packed with as much detail as there is, the paltry selection of extras is disappointing. You have deleted scenes on two of the three discs and then four short pieces. The Orderly (9:00) wastes space with an orderly being interviewed by an unseen woman, ending with a shock. What Is American Horror Story: Asylum? (21:55) is a collection of interviews from cast and crew, likely pulled from press materials. More interesting is Welcome to Briarcliff Manor (15:04), letting us look at the impressive production design. Finally, there is a look at the make-up and prosthetic work done on The Creatures (14:49).