Tagged: movie

Dennis O’Neil: The Mighty Marvel Movie

originalHey there, true believer, when you book to the multiplex to see the new Thor flick, you won’t be seeing just a movie, or even just a superhero movie – you’ll be seeing a Marvel movie! And you’ll know it almost from the moment the feature begins to unreel. How? Easy! The word MARVEL will be splashed across the big screen, white letters against a red field – no point in being subtle, here. There may be references to other Marvel movies as the drama unfolds and, count on this, after the end credits – and you are going to stay for them, aren’t you? – there will be a brief final scene that hooks you into another Marvel movie! Or two, maybe.

Almost like it was all planned from the beginning, this creation of the Marvel brand, and in a way, it was. And by “beginning” I don’t mean…oh, say 2002, when Tobey McGuire put on the Spidey suit and began slinging webs. No, we’re referring to the 1960s when Stan Lee was busy revolutionizing the comic book biz. He once told me that he wanted everything Marvel to support everything else Marvel, and he made that happen, insofar as it could happen back in the dark ages. (No Internet? No smart phones? iPads? Google? Facebook? Not even – you gotta be kidding me! – fax machines?)

So Smilin’ Stan Lee created the Marvel Universe, a mirror image of our universe, but a universe not quite so beholden to life’s drearier realities – one in which superheroes could and did exist. Characters from one title popped up in another title and all the costume wearers seemed to know, or at least know of, each other. It was a cohesive fictional construct, this Marvel Universe, and it was given to us almost whimsically; footnotes and text pages and even cover copy emphasized fun and hinted that we didn’t have to take anything in a Marvel book too seriously. Y’know, just hunker down and enjoy. Oh, and you didn’t have much doubt that you were reading, not just a comic book, but a Marvel comic book.

The movie and television folk seem to have learned from the smilin’ one. They’ve taken Stan Lee’s paradigm, adapted it to their media, and achieved marketing success and, recently, a fair degree of artistic respectability. What Stan might call “the Marvel manner” has survived metamorphosis from cheap pulp magazine filler to the stuff of hugely elaborate and technologically sophisticated cinema.

Those cheap pulp magazines? Well, they’re not pulpy anymore and, let’s face it, not so darn cheap, either. But they’re still comic books – Marvel comic books. Somehow, the publishing arm of the Marvel empire has preserved some of its identity though decades of varying ownership and turnover of personnel in both the marketing and the editorial offices. And a lot of artists and writers, including your humble correspondent, have worked for and/or at both Marvel and its rival DC, and still at least a ghost of Stan Lee’s vision persists.

I haven’t mentioned Marvel’s television show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Well, the lead character has mentioned his appearance in Marvel’s big screen Avengers and the word on the street is that S.H.I.E.L.D. will have some connection to the next Captain America flick. ‘Nuff said?


FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

Mike Gold: A Condo On The Wild Side

Gold Art 131030As you may have heard, singer/songwriter/occasional actor Lou Reed died last Sunday.

This didn’t come as much of a surprise. Several months ago, ComicMix’s own Martha Thomases had a swell birthday party at a wonderful-yet-foo-foo West Village Manhattan restaurant. As we left we walked through the massive line waiting to get in and I passed by a guy I thought I knew or recognized. Embarrassed, I waited until we were outside before I asked Martha if she knew who that was. She stopped, stared for a second, and said “Oh my god, that’s Lou Reed.”

Lou looked like shit – well-coiffed shit, but still… A week later we heard he was in for a liver transplant. Ultimately, it was that transplant that led to his death.

Martha and I share another Lou Reed moment, this one with fellow ComicMixer John Ostrander. You see, there is this astonishingly funny and equally hard-to-come-by movie called Get Crazy – I have it on Japanese laserdisc. Starring Malcolm McDowell, Allen Garfield, Ed Begley Jr. and a cast of thousands directed by Allan Arkush, the movie is about the last days of an ancient rock’n’roll psychedelic dungeon, and Lou had a significant role as… well, as a drop-dead-perfect parody of Bob Dylan, right down to the shot of Reed as Dylan emulating the cover to Bob’s Bringing It All Back Home. It’s close to the funniest scene in the movie, second only to the bit where Malcolm McDowell (channeling Mick Jagger) drops acid and makes his penis the manager of his band. John turned me onto the movie shortly after its 1983 release; a few years later, Martha and I tried to turn each other onto the flick at the same time.

Lou Reed was one of the most important people in the history of rock’n’roll. Generally considered the Godfather of Punk Rock, Lou was instrumental in the creation of Alternative Rock (since shortened to Alt Rock), Punk Rock and Glam Rock. Much to the chagrin of many of his older fans (read: Boomers), in his final years he also worked closely with Metallica and appeared with them at the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th Anniversary Concert.

Reed wrote and sang about subjects that many found taboo at the time of recording – addiction, S&M, religion, patriotism. He co-founded The Velvet Underground, worked with Andy Warhol, David Bowie, and Edgar Allan Poe – the latter, posthumously. Depending upon your religious predilections, he may have heard Mr. Poe’s opinion of his work in recent days.

Courage is the bedrock of creativity, and Lou had both in spades. He was a major influence on our popular culture, and he will continue to be for a great many years to come.

Mike will be playing a special tribute to Lou Reed this week on Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind, www.getthepointradio.com and on iNetRadio, www.iNetRadio.com (as part of “Hit Oldies”) this Sunday at 7:00 PM EST-USA – check www.getthepointradio.com for times of rebroadcast and for on-demand information.




Saturday Morning Cartoons: “Mr. Peabody & Sherman”– the movie?

We have improbable future history in the making as we present the trailer for Mr. Peabody & Sherman, coming from Dreamworks Animation to theaters on March 7, 2014, and starring Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Stephen Colbert, and Allison Janney, all directed by Rob Minkoff. Take a look:


In the movie, Mr. Peabody, the most accomplished dog in the world, and his mischievous boy Sherman, use their time machine “the WABAC” to go on the most outrageous adventures known to man or dog. But when Sherman takes the Wabac out for a joyride to impress his friend Penny, they accidently rip a hole in the universe, wreaking havoc on the most important events in world history. Before they forever alter the past, present and future, Mr. Peabody must come to their rescue, ultimately facing the most daunting challenge of any era: figuring out how to be a parent. Together, the time-traveling trio will make their mark on history.

Fans remember Peabody and Sherman from the Peabody’s Improbable History segments on Rocky & Bullwinkle created by Ted Key. Peabody was voiced by Bill Scott, while Sherman was voiced by Walter Tetley. For a reminder of those great cartoons, let’s fire up our own WABAC machine now:


Emily S. Whitten: Zachary Levi– Thor 2, First Date & Nerd Machine

whitten-art-131025-150x191-3606274I’ve always been a fan of musicals and have seen a fair few on Broadway – from the musical that was an actual yearly field trip for eight graders in my New Jersey school, Cats, to that great production of Les Miserables with the rotating stage. I’ve also been a fan of the TV show Chuck from its debut all the way through the final season. So when Zachary Levi mentioned during the Nerd HQ panel I attended at SDCC that he was going to be starring in a musical on Broadway, First Date, I knew I had to see it.

Fortunately, the New York Comic Con was already on my calendar, so before the con I went to see First Date – and boy, am I glad I did! I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard throughout a live show in… well, maybe ever. And yet there was also substance and seriousness to the plot and characterization that balanced out the humor, a perfect blend of entertainment and wry and wise observations about life, human nature, and the modern dating world.

The premise of the show is pretty simple – it’s about a blind first date, and all of the things that might go wrong or right in that situation. But it’s not just about the couple on the blind date, Aaron and Casey. As the website says, during the date “Casey and Aaron’s inner critics take on a life of their own when other restaurant patrons transform into supportive best friends, manipulative exes and protective parents, who sing and dance them through ice-breakers, appetizers and potential conversational land mines.” Is that as awesome and hilarious as it sounds? Yes, yes it is; and the cast portraying those characters, from Zac Levi and Krysta Rodriguez as the main couple, to the other five actors who are often playing more than one character, is stellar, and gave an energetic and engaging performance.

The main couple are a hoot to watch, being quirky and many-faceted all on their own; but the supporting cast is what really allows this musical to explore so many perspectives. From the “perfect” older sister who has the married life that Casey says she wants, to Aaron’s manipulative ex, to Casey’s flamboyant best friend who is also her designated “bail out call” person for if the date isn’t going well. The other characters in the main couple’s life do a great job embodying the pressures and influences people can experience while they’re out dating and trying to find “The One.” And while the premise is simple, the territory explored by the plot is broad, and ranges over everything from potential religious differences to how our online footprint might affect us in real life.

Broad as it may be, though, the plot flows easily and the production is well-designed and choreographed. Overall, the musical is clever, witty, and frequently hilarious. It’s insightful and endearing; if you’ve ever been a single person trying to do the dating thing, it’s also very easy to identify with… and maybe even learn from. The only other thing I can say about it is: Go see it! You won’t regret it.

You also won’t regret reading on, because after seeing First Date, I was fortunate to also be able to talk to Zac Levi about it and the rest of his career at The Nerd Machine booth at NYCC. Here’s the interview!

•     •     •     •     •

Let’s first talk about the Broadway musical you’re currently starring in, First Date, because I just saw it, and I loved it – especially the song about the ex; you knocked that out of the park.
Thank you! Yeah, that’s a fun song.

So how did you get involved in that production, and can you talk about your previous stage experience?

Well, I grew up doing a lot of theater when I was a kid. The last show I did was about twelve years ago; and I always dreamt about doing Broadway one day. Fortunately, I’ve been really blessed, and I’ve been able to do film and television for the last dozen years; but I was just kind of waiting for the right opportunity, and then this show came along and I just felt like, “you know, this could be really fun.” It’s an hour and a half, no intermission, it’s a comedy, there are only seven people in the cast – it’s lean and mean and I thought “I think people might really enjoy this.” And people have, and so it’s been great.

Great; and I know it’s running now. For people who want to see it, how long will it run?

Well, the idea is for the show to run indefinitely. My contract for the show is up the first week of January. There’s a possibility that I could extend, but I don’t know that for sure – it just depends on what work looks like at that time. So I would say that if you really want to see me in the show, you should come before the beginning of January. But I would tell anybody – you never know with Broadway stuff, the show could close so fast. So if you want to come see the show, come see the show now!

Yes! It looked like you were having a lot of fun in the show, and I know you’ve done TV, movies, voice acting and stage. Do you have any thoughts about those different experiences?

They’re all very different. I don’t know that I like any one more than the others. They all have their unique set of challenges and fun that can be had.

Did you come to the stage first?

Yes; I mean, as a kid, that’s what you do. There are not a lot of kids doing, like, community voiceover work. You have community theater and school theater. So stage was definitely where I started.

What was your first ever role?

Of an actual production? I think it was Sonny, one of the T-Birds in Grease. I think I was about eleven.

That’s pretty cool! So I have to ask, with First Date – do you identify with the musical at all? Because I was watching it and thinking, “I’ve so been there.” Or, “My friend has been there.”

Sure, yeah. I think that’s part of the reason why I wanted to do it, and why I think a lot of people enjoy it, is because it’s very relatable. So definitely I do. In fact, in some ways I almost didn’t do the show, because I felt like the character was so similar to Chuck, and I was like, “I’ve already played that character” but then I thought, “Well, yeah, but it’s just a fun way to do it – on stage, with some music.”

I was actually thinking that – it’s a little bit like Chuck, but I think you brought enough to the character that they had written that it wasn’t Chuck – it was Aaron.

Right, it’s not – it was similar, but they’re not the same.

Well I really enjoyed it! Now, I know that you are in Thor: The Dark World, which is coming out really soon, and I’m super excited. Every time I see the trailer on TV I clap. So tell us about being Fandral the Dashing.

Well, Fandral is this Errol Flynn-Lothario type who’s a ladies man, but also arguably the best swordsman in Asgard – or the Nine Realms, I think he would argue. And I mean, the movie is really still Thor and Jane; it’s their movie.

How much do we get of you and the other Warriors Three and Sif?

I really don’t know, because you never know how much of what you shot ends up in it; but I hope there are at least a few cool moments where people go, “Yeah! That kicked ass!” That’s all I’m hoping.

You were originally cast in that and then you were replaced by Josh Dallas due to your schedule; and now you’ve replaced him due to his schedule.

Yeah, it was very, very strange how that all worked. We’ve definitely joked about it – I’ve met Josh before, and he’s just a sweetheart of a guy and super talented, and it was very funny how all of that ended up panning out. But I was grateful that ultimately – after having completely let go of the job, because I thought “this is never happening” – then it came back around. That was kind of like, “Wow, this is very strange.”

Totally. Now I know you’re a comics fan; are you a fan of Thor comics? Had you read about your character before the movie role?

I was definitely familiar with Fandral to an extent, but I really got to know him actually when the first movie came around and I was getting cast; and then a little bit more for this one. But honestly, there’s not that much to find in the comics. The Warriors Three are definitely within Thor mythology, but there’s not that much.

Yes – they help with things but aren’t really the focus.

Yes; but in some ways that’s kind of fun, because it allows you to put your own mark on something, where fanboys and fangirls aren’t like, “Waitaminute! That’s not Fandral!”

Definitely! Do you think it’s still true to the character that you’ve seen in the comics?

I think so. It’s funny, Thor was never really my steez, necessarily. Like, I had Thor comics, and particularly with the Avengers.

I have to admit, I’m the same way. I love the movie, but Thor was always the guy I was sort of reading about on the side, because he was on the periphery of a story or part of a team.

Yeah, and I don’t know, for me – because everybody’s got their flavor of what entices them the most in the comic world –I really liked the mutant world probably the most.

Yeah! The X-Men and all that.

And X-Factor, and X-Force.

And actually, on that note, my favorite character is Deadpool; and I heard you mention that he’s your favorite character.

He’s my favorite villain, yeah.

Well he’s not always a villain! He did save the world…

Well – when I grew up reading him, in the beginning, he was a villain, through and through.

Yeah, in the beginning he was. So do you have a favorite writer or storyline or anything?

Oh, gosh! I don’t know that I could speak to that. I’m mostly nerdy about video games and technology…

What are you playing right now, video game-wise?

I’m actually not really playing anything right now. I left my Xbox back in L.A., because I really wanted to focus on doing the play, and I knew that the new Xbox was coming out in November, so I was like, “I’m just going to wait for that.” And then I’ll probably get lost in Call of Duty: Ghosts. I’ll be lost in that for months and months and months and months.

I bet. So we talked a bit about your voiceover work. You were one of the leads in Tangled. What was your experience like, doing that? Was that your first real big voiceover work?

Oh, yeah! Pretty much my first and only voiceover work. It was amazing. Ever since I was a little kid, I was a giant Disney fan, so to be able to get to do a Disney animated musical – what I’d dreamt about doing my whole life – was like, “Wow, this is really happening.” And singing Alan Menken’s music and everything.

Do you want to do more voiceover?

Oh, totally; I’d love to.

And some of the voice acting greats were in Tangled – like Frank Welker… did you get to work directly with Frank, or John DiMaggio, or some of the other career voice actors?

No; in fact, I didn’t get to work with any of them! I didn’t even get to work with Mandy (Moore). The only time Mandy and I ever worked together is when we recorded the song. But all of the dialogue is all recorded totally separately.

Let’s talk about The Nerd Machine, now, because we’re standing here in your awesome place with phone chargers and photo ops and everything–

In mah booth!

Yeah! Now when did you start The Nerd Machine?

The Nerd Machine started… I think maybe it was 2011. We started the company about a year before we had the first actual Nerd HQ. We launched with just one t-shirt. With just the classic “NERD.” And the idea was just, “I wanted to make a Nike for nerds.” Because there are so many different nerd-doms, right? And if you’re a Doctor Who fan, you can get a Doctor Who shirt. And if you’re a Star Wars fan, you can get a Star Wars shirt; and that’s great. But I really wanted to have one brand that unified all of them, so no matter what you’re nerdy about, you can just represent it very simply, very clearly: “I’m a nerd; that’s what I’m about.” So that’s what we’ve built on through the years, and our branding is simple, and it’s straight. It’s like “We’re a brand for you.”

Yes – so I have to ask, why “nerd” and not “geek”?

A couple of reasons. One, phonetically I like how nerd sounds more than I like geek. Geek is a little too hard consonant. And there was just a lot of wordplay that I was thinking about, like “Nerd is the word” and all that kind of stuff. But honestly, one of the biggest was, the first shirt that I had ever thought of was the original NERD shirt; and the reason why it works so well is because it’s the Nintendo sort of font… so it’s funny, the reason why you end up deciding what something is going to ultimately be. And the other reason, too, was that I felt like “geek” was being used a lot online with Geekology and Geek Chic, and all that, and I wanted to get away from that and do my own thing. By the way – I was totally unaware of Nerdist at the time! I knew Chris (Hardwick), but I wasn’t even thinking about it.

Well, and his brand has gotten exponentially bigger since then.

Oh, yeah. He’s a friggin’ empire!

Yeah. Now, The Nerd Machine benefits Operation Smile, which I think is great. What drew you to that particular charity?

I really think God kind of spoke to me. I was trying to find a charity that I could be an ambassador for. You know, as a celebrity, you do a lot of non-profit stuff, and you’re always asked, “What’s your charity of choice?” and I never really had one. So I was about to do another singing engagement/charity benefit thing, and I was like, “What could be a cool charity to benefit?” and I was praying about it, and thinking about it, and then in one week I saw about five commercials and five billboards. And I was like, “Oh – I believe this is what I’m supposed to cling to.”

That’s great. So tell me, what is the future of The Nerd Machine? I know that it’s gotten a little bigger since 2011, and I like the fact that it’s still being kept to a smaller scale.

Yeah, we’re always going to maintain the intimacy of our activations. The company will continue to grow, and we’ll continue to do more things, but the idea is to always keep those events as things that are special.

Are you planning to do what you did at San Diego at one of the future New York cons?

Yeah, in fact the original idea was that we were going to do a Nerd HQ out here in New York. It’s difficult. San Diego Comic Con brings every star in the world. And so it’s easy then to be like, “Hey, would you mind popping by for an hour and doing a panel?” NYCC is getting there. NYCC has a lot of talent now, and is growing more and more every year… But it doesn’t quite have the same; so in order for us to get the sponsorship money to put on our own little con like that – you really need to be able to bring the talent. So maybe in the future.

Great! Well I look forward to that future, and thank you so much for your time.

Hope you all enjoyed the interview! And if you’re a New Yorker or heading to New York City sometime soon, don’t forget to get tickets to First Date. Trust me, you’ll love it.

And until next time, Servo Lectio!

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman!

SUNDAY: John Ostrander!


Dennis O’Neil’s Gravity

oneil-art-131024-150x178-4099008Has Gravity pulled you in yet?

Okay, that was lame. But at least it served to usher us into the movie that provides this week’s blather. (Did I do it again? Oh, my!)

Gravity is, for the third straight week, the box office champ. Most people, including Mari and I, liked it. Most, but not all. I’m aware of two kinds of criticism, leveled at the film by two of the men I most respect, both of whom shall remain anonymous, not because I’m playing the “unnamed sources” game, but because I can’t quote them exactly.

First criticism was expressed last week by a much lauded novelist and critic.  He had compliments for the filmmaking, but mild complaints about the characters played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Old hat. Too clichéd. The kind of cardboard that the art of cinema should be past by now.

Point taken. But a placid defense: the movie isn’t about the characters; they are devices, vehicles to move the narrative forward, given just enough backstory to save them from being total ciphers. They’re like the characters in old-fashioned detective stories – the lounge lizard, the jealous husband, the kindly vicar, the shrewd amateur sleuth, the scarlet woman. They exist as elements in a puzzle, like the X’s and O’s in a game of tic tac toe. And if that’s the kind of pleasure you’re after, the puzzle solving kind, Mr. X and Miss O will do.

Gravity, I will claim, is about state-of-the-art space travel and filmmaking itself, about the spectacular illusions directors are capable of these days. The story gives them an excuse for being presented in pretty darn fancy theaters and even manages to generate a little suspense. It does its job, and so do Ms. Bullock and Mr. Clooney.

The second criticism, proffered by one of our best public intellectuals, is a bit thornier. Our critic finds fault with the science the movie offers as fact, and, given his credentials and track record, I do not doubt for a second that his disapproval is justified.

When I worked the superhero dodge, I had a rule of thumb: Any acknowledged, verifiable fact must be accurate. So you don’t call a solar system a galaxy or have guys schlep unshielded radioactive ore without suffering consequences, or populate Mars with green hotties who swim in the canals. The idea was to avoid adding to the planet’s burden of misinformation because some folk, somewhere, are likely to believe your nonsense. But made-up technology – time travel, faster-than-light drives – sure, have it do whatever your plot needs it to do. At least until somebody invents time travel or star drives.

A tiny caveat: it’s nice if even your fabricated science has at least a distant acquaintance with something genuine, and the farther shores of speculative physics might provide a writer with a lot of inspiration.

Gravity doesn’t pretend to be a lesson in astrophysics, any more than it pretends to be a probe of the human condition. So, it entertains, and it has done its work. And, arguably, just portraying brainy people as cool and making general audiences aware of physics are services, a task our schools don’t seem to be doing very well. In a recent survey, high schoolers in the United States ranked 25th in math and science among their peers in 34 other nations. Ouch!

So, can we agree? Gravity is good, which should be a load off Isaac Newton’s mind. But I can’t help wishing that they’d gotten their facts straight.


FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases!


Watch the New Doctor Who Trailer: “The Day Of The Doctor”

Watch the specially-shot trailer for the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary adventure The Day of the Doctor, featuring all of the Doctor’s incarnations (and a selection of his friends and foes!)


The Day of the Doctor, starring Matt Smith and David Tennant, airs worldwide on November 23, 2013 and will also be shown in 3D in select movie theaters.


Mindy Newell: Stargate Revisited

Newell Art 131014I never really got into MacGyver, but I got my Richard Dean Anderson fix on Stargate SG-1.

Stargate, as many of you I’m sure remember, was a 1994 movie which circled around a gigantic ring made of unknown metal and covered in what is believed to be Egyptian hieroglyphs that is discovered buried in the sands of Giza, Egypt in during an archeological expedition in 1928. The purpose of the ring remained a mystery for sixty years, its hieroglyphs untranslatable. Finally a brilliant linguist and archaeologist specializing in Egyptology named Daniel Jackson (James Spader) is co-opted by the U.S. government and brought to Cheyenne Mountain (home of NORAD) to decipher the scrawlings on the ring, which has been brought there for study and possible use by the military.

He tells the assembled scientists and military officers (including United States Air Force Colonel Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell) that the hieroglyphs speak of something called a “stargate,” some kind of device used for travelling to other planets. But the symbols on the ring itself aren’t hieroglyphs at all; they are representations of mathematical coordinates of the constellations which, when put into a specific sequence, creates a tunnel through space, or “wormhole” that will allow instantaneous travel to another world. Colonel O’Neil assembles a team, including Jackson, to use the Stargate, as it is now christened, to take them there

Stargate SG-1 picks up a year after the movie ends.

The top-secret Stargate Project is overseen by the United States Air Force, and its mission is to not only explore the galaxy, but to also find new allies and technology as defense against the Goa’uld, alien symbiotes that use humans as hosts in their drive to establish themselves as “rulers of the galaxy.” As established in the movie, the Goa’uld enslaved humans to serve them, posing as the gods of ancient Earth cultures, especially the mythology of Egypt.

The Stargate Project is under the command of General George Hammond, and the reconnaissance teams are dubbed SG-1, SG-2, SG-3, and so on; Colonel Jack O’Neill, now played by the charming Richard Dean Anderson, leads SG-1, composed of Captain Samantha “Sam” Carter, astrophysicist (Amanda Tapping); the Jaffa defector Teal’c (Christopher Judge); and Daniel Jackson (now played by Michael Shanks).

Being a continuing series, Stargate SG-1 gave Anderson the space to expand O’Neill’s character. His Jack was a more relaxed version of the character than that of Russell’s, displaying an “easy-goingness” and a sly wit that, I think, hid a vein of cynicism born from the tragedies of O’Neill’s life, especially the death of his son in a tragic accident that resulting from O’Neill’s own gun. Jack used that wit not only to cope with unexpected and possibly dangerous situations, but as a weapon that sliced through the bullshit with sharp sarcasm. He was career Air Force, he believed wholeheartedly in the mission of the United States as a beacon of liberty and good in the world, but he distrusted the men and women who pinned flags on their lapels and called that patriotism.

Like Star Trek, Stargate SG-1’s true strength was in its characters and the relationships they had with each other. Amanda Tapping’s Sam Carter has been, I think, overlooked as a well written, strong, female character that meets, as my sistah Martha Thomases put in her column last week, the Bechdal Test. (IM-not-so-HO, and if I could arrange some kind of time warp, Tapping would be the perfect actress to play a live-action Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel). Christopher Judge’s Teal’c is the perfect “stranger in a strange land.” Michael Shank’s Daniel Jackson is a quirky nerd whose anti-establishment and anti-military stance is tempered by the people he comes to love and respect. Don Davis’s General Hammond was military through and through, but he was the father figure for everyone on the Stargate Project. Even supporting characters like Teryl Rothery’s Dr. Janet Frasier and Gary Jones’s Sgt. Walter Harriman became important facets of a show that became, also like Star Trek, a starting point for spin-offs (Stargate: Atlantis, Stargate Universe) and movies (Stargate: The Ark Of Truth, Stargate: Continuum). Disparate and brought together by a mission, they became a family.

As the daughter of an fighter jock, I think it’s really cool that the United States Air Force worked with the SG-1 producers, not only allowing them to shoot footage at the Cheyenne Mountain complex, but also providing help with the military minutia that helped make the show so realistic, everything from character backgrounds to uniform and hair style regulations. Air Force personnel worked as extras, and two Chief of Staffs of the Air Force, General Michael E. Ryan and General John P. Jumper, appeared as themselves in Season 4’s “Prodigy” and Season 7’s “Lost City.” According to Wikipedia, General Jumper’s second appearance was “cancelled because of ongoing real-world conflicts in the Middle East.” Richard Dean Anderson was honored by the Air Force Association in 2004, not only for his work as an actor and executive producer, but also for the SG’1’s positive depiction of the Air Force.

The U.S. Navy also got in on the act, inviting SG-1 to film aboard the nuclear submarine U.S.S. Alexandria (SSN-757) and at their Applied Physics Laboratory Ice Station in the Arctic.

Stargate SG-1 is available from the beginning, courtesy of Netflix. That’s where I’ve been rewatching the show.

If travelling through a Stargate doesn’t for work you, there’s still some MacGyver out there for you Richard Dean Anderson fans. As Captain Samantha Carter said in the pilot to Colonel Jack O’Neill: “It took us fifteen years and three supercomputers to MacGyver a system for the gate on Earth.”




Win a Copy of The Internship

TheInternship_BD_O-Sleeve[1]The comedy will be available on Blu-ray and DVD October 22 , but our friends at 20th Century Home Entertainment have a copy available to give away to one of our readers. All you need to do is tell us which of the following is your favorite of the following films and why. Tell us no later than 11:59 p.m. Monday, October 14. The decision of the ComicMix judges will be final and the contest is open only to United States and Canadian readers only.

The Internship reunited two of the central members of the frat pack, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. The guys from the frat pack have been creating comedic gold for years now. In honor of the home entertainment release of the newest frat pack film, let’s take a look back at some of the greatest moments from the pack.

In The Internship, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson team up to crash the digital world in this laugh-out-loud buddy comedy you’ve been searching for! Trying to reboot their obsolete careers, old-school salesmen Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) talk their way into an internship program at the state-of-the-art Google campus, vying for a handful of spots among tech-savvy college students who are half their age and twice as smart. The competition is fiercely funny as Billy and Nick break all the rules in a hilarious quest to land their dream jobs!

Wedding Crashers

wedding_crashers_2005_692_wallpaperWedding Crashers, the film that proved Wilson and Vaughn had perfect comedic chemistry, brought the laughter and good times. To this day, men still dream of crashing a wedding with John and Jeremy. Maybe they can’t fulfill their dreams, but everyone can rest assured knowing the rules of wedding crashing; “blend in by standing out” to “be gone by the sunrise.”


Zoolander is certainly one of the most memorable frat pack movies with Will Ferrell playing a crazed fashion designer and Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller taking on the role of two pretty boys. The Blue Steel look developed by Derek Zoolander will go down in movie history. Wilson and Stiller were hilarious as they portrayed self-centered models obsessed with perfecting their hair and their runway walk.


Ron Burgundy is arguably the best character that Will Ferrell has ever played. He is a legend, a ladies man, and a role model for friends like Brick and Champ. In a moment of sheer brilliance, Anchorman brought together six members of the frat pack for a street fight between anchormen. Five of the frat pack guys were representing various news channels and carrying weapons such as a trident, a wooden post, and a chain.

Old School 

will-ferrell-old-school2Many people consider Old School to be the golden ticket that brought the frat pack together and placed them on the map as the big names in comedy. Ferrell, Vaughn, and Wilson were hilarious as they went back to their glory days and reminded the audience why college is exactly where you want to be. This classic comedy is one that can be enjoyed for generations to come.


Who doesn’t love the idea of watching grown men and women dressed in uniforms and playing intense games of dodgeball? (Especially if two of those men are Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller.) In the movie that taught us the five D’s of dodgeball: dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge, we got to witness another perfect moment between members of the frat pack. Dodgeball may have only had two members of the pack, but it definitely makes the list of the greatest frat pack movies!

John Ostrander: Back Over The Rainbow

ostrander-art-131006-150x180-1064607I’ve mentioned before how I like going to see movies on a big screen and, when I can, on an IMAX screen which is about as large as you can get. I especially like seeing older movies on the big screen; you see them as they were meant to be seen. I still enjoy watching movies on TV although I can’t say I want to watch them on screens much smaller. I know that plenty of folks – especially them younger generation types – prefer watching them at home but I have (and still) argue that the experience just isn’t the same. To each their own.

This week, me and my Mary played hooky to run off and see The Wizard Of Oz remastered for 3D and IMAX before it departed the theaters. I had some apprehension going in. Would the film get stretched to meet the IMAX screen? I’m not always nuts about the results of a film that was not meant for 3D that is manipulated after the fact to make it 3D.

Bottom line – I had a great time. I’ve seen reviews for the BluRay/DVD/kitchen sink combo pack but this is about seeing it in the movie theater, specifically an IMAX theater. So, the images were sharp, the background was a little muddy here and there but I suspect that was in the original and not so much the transfer. It’s more about how the movies were made then than they are now.

How was the 3D? Meh. It didn’t detract but it didn’t add much as far as I was concerned. I guess I was hoping for more. The twister sequence has always been one of the best (if not the best) in films; it’s truly scary. I was hoping 3D would add even more; there was a bit more dust and stuff floating around but that was about it. On the other hand, they didn’t try to add stuff to the sequence and that was a blessing.

I also was hoping for a little more from the attack of the flying monkeys. It did gain some clarity; the images were sharper and that made the flying monkeys even weirder and scarier. They always weirded me out and this edition made that impression stronger.

What really worked for me was the sound quality. IMAX’s sound is almost always superior; immersive, surrounding, and clearer. That was really the case with Wizard Of Oz. The songs, the background music, the cackle of the Wicked Witch, the growls of the Cowardly Lion – all were so crystal clear that it made it as though I were hearing them for the first time.

In fact, that’s what the IMAX version of the film gave me and that I was hoping it would give me – a sense of seeing it anew, of how it must have been when the audiences first experienced it in 1939. Judy Garland’s singing “Over The Rainbow” was stunning; her image fills the IMAX screen and the sound is pristine. It is simple and direct and strikes right to the heart; all the more amazing since it was very nearly cut from the final version of the film. I’ve seen the film many times. Including on the big screen, but never as a big a screen as the IMAX and I saw it with fresh eyes and heard it with new ears.

There are many, many scenes that stood out in this new version: the Munchkinland sequence, with one great song after another, had a sharpness and clarity I had not experienced before. My favorite heroic moment in the film, when the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion march into the Wicked Witch’s castle to go to (so far as they knew) certain death to rescue Dorothy as the score grows (you know the moment – O-EE-O, EE-ORUM!) had me bouncing in my seat, ready to cheer. I think My Mary was very glad there were so few people in the theater for that matinee.

I wish I could’ve told you all about this while you still had a chance to experience it yourself but we very nearly didn’t make it. All I can say is – I’m glad we did. It took me over the rainbow and the experience was very much about the reason I still go out to the movies. As our Brit friends would say, it was Wizard!




REVIEW: World War Z

World War ZEveryone seems to love zombies these days. When I student taught, my eighth graders all wanted to write zombie apocalypse stories, fueled by AMC’s Walking Dead, countless video games, and numerous movies. Of course, to me, a zombie is far more supernatural, far rarer and the stuff of myth and legend. As a result, I’ve never really cottoned to these undead that owe more to George A. Romero’s 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead than voodoo tradition. That said, every now and then one of these tales rises to the top and screams for your attention.

Max Brooks’ clever account World War Z was one of those stories, a survival journal that was nicely written. As a result, it was optioned and after its troubled production, arrived this summer to beat expectations and prove to be an engaging bit of popcorn entertainment. Leave beside the dramatic issues plaguing it during production, what matters is the final product, out now on home video from Paramount Home Video.

The script ‘s challenge was turning the book into a coherent story for film and Matthew Michael Carnahan largely solved that by focusing on Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a former United Nations investigator. Retired, he was enjoying the good life in Philadelphia with his Karin (Mireille Enos) and his daughters Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) and Constance (Sterling Jerins). One day the zombies arrived and he had to protect his family while at the same time, use his experience to help figure out what has happened and how to contain the uncontrollable. How do you stop someone who twelve seconds earlier was a normal person but was now out for your blood? And how did it all begin, was there a cure?

Deputized by Deputy Secretary-General Thierry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena), Gerry goes back on active duty and the roller coaster ride of a movie begins. There’s globetrotting, near-death experiences, explosions, screaming, and plenty of zombies. In a nice political touch, there’s a hint from Captain Speke (James Badge Dale), that Israel knew about this before the disease was unleashed.

Wisely, director Marc Forster keeps things moving so you never stop to realty-check some of the thinner plot points or even remember to eat your popcorn. He makes us feel this really could be the final zombie apocalypse story, the one that can’t be topped. Ever. Everything you want in such a film is here and then some.

Pitt’s everyman guy gives us someone to root for and he grounds much of the action through sheer force of personality. When the story stopped working, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof stepped in to revise the script, including its troubled third act and the two brought their genre cred with them and it helped strengthen what could otherwise have been a train wreck.

Overall, the film transfer is good but not great, more than sufficient to enjoy at home, coupled with stronger sound.

The combo pack offers the film on Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy while the high def disc comes with a 10 minute longer unrated cut that’s more of the same and you have trouble figuring out what was added. It also comes with a bunch of extras including Origins (8:21), a look back at the book and its impact; Looking to Science (7:28) for clues as to how such changes could really happen;  WWZ: Production: Outbreak (8:31), The Journey Begins (8:39), Behind the Wall (9:41), and, Camouflage (9:25), a nicely detailed look at the making of this feature. If you want even more, Paramount once more offers store exclusives: Wal-Mart has an hour of exclusive streaming content via Vudu; Target has an exclusive slipbox with an art book; and Best Buy has a different exclusive slipcover and alternative streaming content. Man, I hope this trick fails and they stop it before the next wave of releases.