Tagged: comedy

DENNIS O’NEIL: Sherlock of the Movies

Ah, there you are. Still with us. Good. You survived the turning of the new year and the doom some are predicting hasn’t happened. Yet. But be of good cheer, you who are longing to manifest the death instinct that Sigmund Freud said is common among homo sapiens. According to something I read somewhere, the Big Erasure isn’t due until the fall. So we might yet be annihilated, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, we can read comic books and/or go to the movies. That’s what I did day before yesterday, went to my local monsterplex and saw the new Sherlock Holmes flick. And pretty much enjoyed it. Director Guy Ritchie and his associates have done what, I maintain, must be done with olden characters if they’re to appeal to contemporary audiences; he reinvented Sherlock and Dr. Watson and even Sherlock’s smarter brother, Mycroft.

Sherlock is still the world’s greatest “consulting detective” and Watson is still loyal, courageous and honorable and Mycroft is still brilliant and still needs to get to the gym, urgently. Nothing here alien to the 60 Holmes stories Arthur Conan Doyle gave us more than a century ago. But although Doyle’s Sherlock was occasionally a man of action – he could give a good account of himself in a donnybrook, by Jove – and he had a streak of the rebel in him, he was primarily a thinker and a scientist, and despite that tiny flavor of rebellion, he espoused the Victorian values: respect for order and tradition and law and, despite the denseness of some of the policemen he dealt with, also a respect for authority.

Those aren’t our values.

The world has churned and we know that science isn’t always benevolent and order is not the highest good and scoundrels can hide in tradition and authority figures…oh, come on! Check the headlines or a reputable newscast or two.

Mr. Ritchie and friends haven’t gobsmacked those quaint values – if you squint hard you might be able to discern them – but they’re largely ignored. What’s emphasized is comedy and action, along with enough science and ratiocination to qualify the hero as Sherlock. If you’re familiar with the Doyle canon, you might react to the movie’s references and rearrangement of plot elements. If you’re not… no harm, no foul. What you need is up there on the screen, though you might have to pay close attention to get it all.

I have one gripe, and for me it’s not a new one; I can level it against a number of entertainments. It’s this: much of the action is rendered in blurs and pans and ultra-swift cuts and so we popcorn eaters don’t know exactly what’s going on. The Asian actioners have demonstrated that there is considerable entertainment value in a clearly seen, cleverly choreographed fight scene. Why deny us that pleasure, particularly in a movie the budget of which is the size of Neptune? I mean, you can hire really good stunt people.

RECOMMENDED READING: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

Katie McGrath Discusses the Joys of Wickedness as Merlin’s Morgana

img_0710-300x450-2493926To put a new spin on an old phrase, hell hath no fury like a sorceress scorned.

So goes the tale of MERLIN, the international hit series that begins its fourth season on Syfy next Friday, January 6 with the first of a two-part episode that finds Morgana’s blinkered determination threatening not only Arthur’s future, but the very balance of the world. With her magic stronger than ever, the sorceress summons the mighty Callieach to tear open the veil between the worlds. Hellish creatures pour forth, killing any who succumb to their touch. With King Uther a shadow of his former self, it falls to Merlin, Arthur and his loyal Knights to protect the kingdom.

Katie McGrath has spent four years evolving the character of Morgana, once the beloved ward to the king who discovers she is actually his daughter. That secret is revealed to her through her half-sister, the wicked Morgause, who guides Morgana down a path of dark magic, opening her eyes to the true power of her evil. Morgana now has a clear focus: to return to Camelot as its rightful ruler, and bring down her wrath upon all she believes have wronged her.

McGrath has eschewed vacation time away from the MERLIN set in lieu of additional work in productions as varied as W.E., the Madonna-directed drama about the affair between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson; A Princess for Christmas, a 2011 Hallmark Channel holiday enchanter starring McGrath opposite Sir Roger Moore; and the upcoming Labyrinth, a medieval tale from Ridley Scott that centers around the Holy Grail.

Before taking a winter holiday, though, McGrath spent some time chatting about the new season of MERLIN, the virtues of playing evil, “Jitterbug Perfume,” the recurring medieval themes in her professional life, The West Wing, Louis XIV, and Florence and the Machine. The Lady Morgana speaks … read on.

QUESTION: The fourth season of MERLIN continues down a darker, more dramatic path. Do you feel the show is following a natural evolution?

KATIE MCGRATH: The guys (co-creators Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy) have found a formula that works, and they’ve taken it to the next level with the fourth season. This is clearly their most ambitious. In four seasons, the characters have changed and grown, and the audience has grown with them. MERLIN still has all the great comedy and relationships that the audiences adore, but we’ve gotten more sinister and the show has gotten there in a very organic way. That was the path that was destined for us. Plus the show has gotten more filmic – it’s bigger in many ways than when we started, visually and in the storytelling. So our episodes are now more like 14 little cinematic films.

QUESTION: Morgana is having dreams in Season Four that include visions of her future … as well as an aged, bearded Merlin. How does this affect her perspective of what she’s doing?

MCGRATH: I think it breathes a fear in her of this character. Morgana doesn’t know that this vision is actually Merlin – she only knows the name Emrys and that he’s a very powerful person.  Before the visions, Morgana didn’t believe she had anything to worry about, because she is so powerful herself. But these visions breed a fear and mistrust in her because she can’t fight what she doesn’t know. So her fear and paranoia of Emrys becomes a major part of the fourth season. (more…)


Press Release-For Immediate Release and Available for Cross Posting and Sharing
Pro Se Productions, a leading New Pulp Company that Puts the Monthly Back into Pulp, proudly announced today the release of its latest book as well as the next chapter in Pro Se’s SOVEREIGN CITY PROJECT.
From noted New Pulp Author Derrick Ferguson, creator of the popular characters Dillon and Diamondback among others, comes THE ADVENTURES OF FORTUNE MCCALL!  A man shrouded in mystery, McCall is a known adventurer and owner and proprietor of The Heart of Fortune, a luxury gambling ship that finds itself docked off the shores of Sovereign City.   But McCall has come to Sovereign with a purpose, one that soon turns into action, adventure, and mayhem for he and his companions.  Traveling with heroes in their own right, McCall brings his unique brand of investigation and justice to a city that wants neither! 
Follow McCall and his aides as they confront the darker side of lust when they meet ‘The Scarlet Courtesan of Sovereign City.’
Instant death and insanity will lay claim to an entire city unless Fortune McCall survives ‘The Day of the Silent Death!’
McCall meets a woman who challenges him to his very core.  While trying to save her missing husband, Fortune comes face to face with ‘The Magic of Madness!’
Money, Money, Everyone Wants the Money!  A mad chase through Sovereign ensues as Fortune hunts to find ‘The Gold of Box 850!’
“This collection,” stated Editor-in-Chief Tommy Hancock, “shows two things.  First off, it shows what great creators Pro Se is working with and how wonderfully solid a concept the Sovereign City Project is.  Secondly and most important, it is just one more example of how Derrick Ferguson is one of the modern masters of this sort of writing, being able to shift from intense mystery to wonderful characterization, from masculine pulp to humorous screwball comedy type scenes, and all in the space of one story.  Derrick makes words flow better than most around today and he shows that best in THE ADVENTURES OF FORTUNE MCCALL!’
Featuring fantastic cover art by David L. Russell based on a concept by Peter Cooper, this volume features amazing interior effects and design by Sean E. Ali!  THE ADVENTURES OF FORTUNE MCCALL are waiting for you!

Available at www.amazon.com or through Pro Se’s site-www.prosepulp.com and soon in all online retailers!  And Coming Soon in Ebook Format!

Paperback: 158 pages

            Publisher: Pro Se Press

            ISBN-10: 1468112562

            ISBN-13: 978-1468112566

CBLDF argues to keep “Stuck In The Middle” on Maine school library shelves

CBLDF argues to keep “Stuck In The Middle” on Maine school library shelves

201112121606 CBLDF argues to keep book on the shelves of a Maine school libraryStuck in the Middle, the Ariel Schrag edited look at middle school comedy and shame, isn’t a G-rated romp through age 13, but given its subject matter, how could it be. Instead it’s an awful painful look at the most painful ages of all, told by 17 cartoonists including Schrag, Daniel Clowes, Joe Matt and more.

It is potentially a little too rough for the Buckfield Junior-Senior High School Library in Dixfield, ME where one parent objected to the book being available, prompting a review by the school board:

Meanwhile, school board members were directed to read the pages in question, as well as the school district’s policy on challenging books.to read the pages in question, as well as the school district’s policy on challenging books.

The pages in question will remain confidential until the hearing, Ward said.

He said a committee that includes the school principal, the librarian, a classroom teacher and a community member have met to make a recommendation on whether the book should remain in the school’s library.

The board will decide whether to retain or remove the book at a January meeting.



By Doug Farrell
BookSurge Publishing
484 pages
ISBN – 10: 141967496X
ISBN – 13: 9781419674969
Release date – Sept 21, 2007
(fantasy – adventure – pulp)
No Contact Data

About the Author –
Doug Farrell has been a professional actor most of his adult life and spent several years performing comedy a Los Angeles improve troupe. He’s married to his best friend Ellen and raising three remarkable children with her. He taught college classes, was a vegetarian chef and installed home theaters. Recently at night he’s been a guide for ghost tours, telling Savannahs’ paranormal stories to people from around the world. This is his first novel.

Every now and then, I trip over a book that’s really hard to describe genre-wise and this is such a case. It’s a madcap adventure that falls somewhere between fantasy, slapstick comedy and social satire. That all these elements mix effectively and in the end produce a heady concoction of genuine adult delight is a testament to Farrell’s own imagination in brewing what he aptly describes as “A Fairy-tale for Grown-ups.”

The set up deals with a fairy war that occurred in another dimension wherein the goblin race lost and was forced to flee to our world, arriving in 1947, two years after the end of World War II. Convincing certain human scientist to help them, the goblins invented special disguises that allowed them to go undetected in our world and for decades walked among humans, some even interbreeding with them. Ultimately the same scientists who developed these sophisticated camouflages saw the potential for monetary wealth by using the same formulas to create beauty aids for human women. They create Glamorine, a Chicago based million dollar cosmetic empire built on the results of these techniques and certain globin magics.

The book’s theme plays with duel definitions of the word glamour. The first being a quality of fascinating, alluring, or attracting, especially by a combination of charm and good looks. It also means magic or enchantment; spell; witchery.

The protagonist is super model and the face of Glamorine, Laurie Morgan, whose grandfather was one of the scientist who created the company. As the story opens Laurie has become disillusioned by her near perfect life and is in the process of divorcing her loving husband, Nick. Laurie is suffering from ennui unable to explain her own dissatisfaction and believes she’s become trapped in a dull, boring routine of existence. No sooner is the divorce granted then she is contacted by a blue gnome name Hawley disguised as a little girl. He warns Laurie that her life is in danger. As if confronting an actual blue dwarf weren’t enough, Laurie begins to running into women throughout Chicago who looked exactly like her.

As paranoia begins to set in, Hawley explains that there is a goblin revolution in the works. After decades of living in secrecy amongst mankind, a group of goblin leaders have concocted a scheme to take control of Glamorine and replace its board of directors, including Laurie and her grandfather, with phony disguised goblins. Once they’ve achieved this end, they plan on poisoning the cosmetics produced to Glamorine to eliminate all of mankind and take over the Earth.

Needless to say having an army of vicious goblins out to do her in is more than enough motivation to snap Laurie out of her malaise and back into living at full tilt if only to stay alive. Before the book’s conclusion arrives, she will have been held prisoner in an underwater complex below Lake Michigan, met and been devoured by a fire breathing dragon and allied herself with tiny pig-fairies only she can see. “Glamour Job” is a rollicking tale that never lets up and is filled with satirical jabs at how we treasure a make-believe beauty that is simply an illusion devised by Fifth Avenue to milk millions from starry eyed little girls all wanting to grow up and become runway princesses. But do be warned, this is only the first chapter in a trilogy and the ending does come somewhat abruptly.

We also note by the print date that “Glamour Job” is four years old. All the more reason to seek it out as it might have flown under your radar. Urban fantasy isn’t one of this reviewer’s most favorite genres, but “Glamour Job” has enough action muscle to sustain it for even the most jaded pulp reader. If you are looking for something truly different and fun, you would be hard press to do much better than this book.

The Jetsons Season 2 Volume 2

jetsonss2v2-300x429-5449892Warner Archive has been doing an excellent job dipping into the vaults and finding films and television shows for all ages, producing them on-demand for the seriously interested fan. What seems baffling, though, is the time between some of their releases. Take The Jetsons, no, not the 1962 gem but the 1980s revival. Warner released season one from this Saturday morning show a while back and then offered up the first 21 episodes from season two in June 2009. Finally, The Jetsons Season 2, Volume 2 has been released, in time for the holiday season.

Originally, this futuristic situation comedy was modeled at the popular Jackie Gleason series The Honeymooners but found its own voice as the space age family of the future lived a life most families dreamed of: push button cooking, self-folding cars, machines to dress you and help with makeup. It was all far from perfect as we used to see during the end credits as the treadmill George Jetson used to walk Astro went haywire.

Despite a single season of prime time, the original show went on to syndication nirvana, appearing weekdays during the afternoons or weekends as part of the Saturday morning lineup throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The revival was purely kid stuff as you can tell from the more juvenile plotting and more outrageous situations the family found itself in. In addition, young Elroy befriended Orbitty, a fuzzy alien as a sidekick – a seemingly mandatory Hanna-Barbera touch and since they already had a dog, an alien was the next best addition. Also joining the extended supporting cast was Mr. Spacely’s brother Orwell whose inventions propelled more than a few plots.

The stories found in these two discs all have their moments of slapstick and warm humor along with moral lessons they all learn, although George seems to be the one most in need of help. We also get heavy doses of stories lifted from other works such as “Elroy in Wonderland” and “The Swiss Family Jetson” which kick off the set and “A Jetson Christmas Carol” which closes out the season. They also parody the popular ABC series Fantasy Island with “Fantasy Planet” although it just made me miss Ricardo Montalban. In “Jetson’s Millions”, George wins a lottery and suddenly is part of the same class as the Spacely’s and an unflattering rivalry ensues.

The characters are true to form with George lazy as ever, Jane occasionally giving in to her wild side with disastrous results, boycrazy Judy, and prototypical good boy Elroy. We see their fortunes rise and fall, success coupled with failure and an enduring optimism that keeps you coming back for more. The family housekeeping robot Rosie is nowhere near seen often enough.

The synthesizer sounds added to the score somewhat date the episodes along with the topical references which viewers today may find puzzling. The computer animation also makes things look a bit different than the original cel animated style. As you would expect, transfers from 1980s material are pretty clean but not perfect. The sound is fine and overall, it’s nice to have these for your home, even if they are inferior to the original series.




Review: “The Strange Talent of Luther Strode” #1

Review: “The Strange Talent of Luther Strode” #1

I was waiting in line at Modern Myths in Northampton, MA, picking up a few books. Among them, The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, a book I first heard of at NYCC, but in name only. My friends had gotten to the counter first, so (impatient nerd that I am) I flipped through a few pages of Strode while I waited.

Three pages in, I stepped out of line. I was not going to walk out of there without issue two.

The book revolves around (surprise surprise) Luther Strode, tall and lanky high schooler wanting nothing more than to beef up for the ladies. To that end, he orders a copy of the “Hercules” system (a parody of old Charles Atlas ads) to beef up. Miracle of miracles–it works!

Oh, does it ever work.

Strode is like the the mashup of a high school teen sex comedy and a horror flick. It plays a lot like the former, before surprising you with absolute bananas levels of violence. My friends can attest–I finished issue one while in a parking lot (outside of said comic shop) and would punctuate my reading with sudden “Whoa!”s and “Gah!”s. The book balances each genre brilliantly, with the horror flick making a small (yet memorable) appearance in this first issue. As for the teen sex comedy, it’s a little like if Revenge of the Nerds was less about the psychological victory and more about beating the piss out of people. (more…)

Review: ‘The Office: Special Edition’

There are times we lose sight of Ricky Gervais’ comedic genius now that he has become a celebrity in his own right. The news that he will once again host the Golden Globe Awards brings with it nervous anticipation but the better news is that The Office Special Edition is coming out this week from Warner Home Video. The 2001 series is collected in its entirety with both Christmas specials included along with new featurettes plus the original bonus material.

Never before has there been a television series set in an office environment that felt so accurate even though there were some distinctly English touches. Coming two years after Mike Judge’s brilliant Office Space, Gervais and partner Stephen Merchant gave us the employees at Sough’s Wernham Hogg Paper Company and a mockumentary style that has been imitated by numerous shows ever since.

Gervais’ David Brent is everyone’s worst nightmare of a boss; a man who desperately wants to be liked and is willing to ignore the company’s smooth running so as not to ruffle anyone’s feathers. He’s surrounded by your basic office drudges, self-deluded ladder climbers, and the utterly clueless. With sharp writing and excellent casting, the series arrived on BBC 2 with a splash and it wasn’t long before American audiences embraced it. As happens all too often, NBC snapped it up for adaptation but in a rare feat, managed to do so successfully. With Steve Carrell and a wonderful ensemble, the show quickly exhausted the source material – a mere twelve thirty-minute episodes — and found its own voice. (more…)

Review: That Monkey Tune, Michael A. Kandalaft

Review: That Monkey Tune, Michael A. Kandalaft

by Nick Chidgey

That Monkey Tune is a prime example of webcomics at their best, which is, ironically, when its being something else. Taking a cue from classic newspaper comic strips, That Monkey Tune employs a daily 3 panel gag strip format, with a larger Sunday strip, just like in the funny papers. In fact, the strip is syndicated in papers across the US as well as being published online.

While navigating the strip’s October archive,  its slick and simple presentation makes me almost forget that I’m not reading this on the New York Times website’s comics section. Too often when reading webcomics, it’s easy to be put off by bad website layout. That Monkey Tune spares us the headache.


Review: “Same Difference”

Review: “Same Difference”

She left 5 minutes ago.

Getting caught lying is an experience I dread – forehead sweating, tongue stumbling, eyes darting every which way searching for some sort of reprieve. Even with the proliferating success of recent television programs acclimating audiences to the association between cringe-worthy situations and comedy, I still find it difficult to see anyone under that unique pressure. Same Difference revels in this, so you can imagine how hard it was for me to read, doing all I could to avert my eyes knowing the story wouldn’t progress unless I did look.

Same Difference is almost entirely about character development, so it’s difficult to discuss the story without spoiling anything. Generally, life, love, and teenage idiocy are touched upon, with perhaps the most powerful themes being reflection and regret.

Right at the outset, you’re thrust into the amiable characters’ lives, joining them for an everyday meal. The plentiful pop-culture-based dialogues set the timeframe for the story. (Tellingly, not one reference was lost on me.) Similar to meeting someone new in real life, a great way to comfortably get to know someone is through conversational middle ground, and these skillfully used references serve to easily bridge that gap between the reader and the characters. The repartee is clever and the knack for which they glean some wisdom from the random discussions never feels unnatural. Rather, that they can quickly weave through bouts of hilarity and seriousness without batting an eye establishes how good of friends these main characters are.