We wrap our look back at 2012 as Ric Meyers (ricmeyers.com) covers TV drama, the good and bad, and how the movies of the year fared, too. Meanwhile, it seems everyone watched DOCTOR WHO, and which network TV action show is trying a “choose your own ending” trick on Twitter?
It was an interesting party. Held in a Mason lodge, I got to hang out with The Point’s Mike Raub, former ComicMix columnist and book writer and moviemaker Ric Meyers, and Adriane Nash, the one woman condemned to be both a ComicMixer and an employee of arrogantMGMS. And a whole bunch of old friends, about 72 of which used to be in the comic book retail business.
It’s not that I would be friendless if not for the comics racket. Since I spend a healthy amount of time in politics, social services, broadcasting and more dubious endeavors, I know a few folks who couldn’t tell the several dozen current Spider-Men apart – and politely couldn’t care less. They humor me nonetheless.
But it is safe to say most of my enduring friendships are comics-related. I’ve known Mr. Raub for, damn, three-dozen years. Glenn Hauman and I met when he was a “small” child hiding in DC’s darkroom, back when the Earth was still cooling. John Ostrander and I have been buddies since before Watergate; we met through Chicago theater connections and were both herded into a corner at a party in those ancient days because, as comics fans, we “had something to talk about.” Ah, those days when geeks were treated like… geeks.
The list goes on and on. I’ve had the privilege and honor to work with my friends and that has worked out wonderfully more than 99% of the time. There are maybe only two or three people I regret working with – I’ve mended fences with others; creative egos are a mixed blessing and I’ve got one that’s louder than a Sousa march. There’s only one person in comics I actually wish to murder; I’ve spent less time and energy in broadcasting and that list is both longer and older.
So this comics donut shop, to paraphrase Chico Escuela, has been berra berra good… to me.
I’m all backward-looking because this Saturday is my birthday – I turn real, real old; I mean, Mel Brooks old – and seeing all these old friends in one room was a heady event.
Despite its massive expansion (says the man who refers to the San Diego convention as the “black hole of media shows”) and the generational differences and the public’s near-acceptance of geekdom, there remains a closeness in the comics community that, to my experience, is unparalleled elsewhere. Even people who truly hate each other are on a first name basis.
I highly recommend it. This is one hell of a donut shop.
Glenn and Mike were at the movies – separately – just so they could have a heart-to-heart conversation about The Amazing Spider-Man. This time, each has a fairly different opinion.
Of course, there are spoilers ahead.
Glenn: So, this is going to be an interesting exercise. I believe I could hear your teeth grinding from Norwalk…
Mike: You liked it?
Glenn: Most of it, yes.
Mike: Jeez. I found only the last third the least bit tolerable. What did you like about it?
Glenn: The casting, for starters.
Mike: The casting was fine. But it was in service of a director who put everything he learned in community college up on the screen.
Glenn: Andrew Garfield won me over very quickly, with a naturalness that Tobey Maguire never quite seemed to have. Emma Stone could have carried the film even if she didn’t look just like a John Romita drawing.
Mike: The direction was amateurish and the script was worse. They’re lucky this wasn’t an adaptation of an Alan Moore story.
Glenn: I’m curious – what marked this as amateurish to you? The action scenes played fine, the character scenes worked to the actor’s credits – although I think the film may have trod a bit too much to the sort of aspirational stuff out of a Aaron Sorkin script… of course, that might have been a subconscious reaction to Uncle Ben Bartlett.
Mike: Gwen is the nexus of all coincidences. Her dad just happens to be a police chief in charge of the Spider-Man beat. She just happens to have an after-school job that gives her seemingly complete access to all areas and secrets of one of America’s largest high-science development companies – at 17 years-old – where she just happens to work for the arch-villain, who just happens to be the lab partner of the hero’s dead father.
Glenn: Yes, there’s a bunch of coincidences jammed there. But she was a science geek in the comics, just at the college level, and her dad was a police captain.
And yes, Connors and Richard Parker also happen to work for the upcoming big bad villain, too.
Mike: And all that was spread out over several years’ worth of comics. Here, this was all crammed into two hours – although, to be fair, it seemed like much longer. There’s coincidence, and there’s really bad storytelling. This is really bad storytelling. I really wanted to like this movie. Unfortunately, we knew two best actors weren’t going to make it out of the movie alive. There most certainly is such a thing as a great remake. The classic versions of Maltese Falcon and Wizard of Oz were both remakes. The Amazing Spider-Man is in absolutely no danger of joining this crowd. A remake has to answer the question “Why bother?” This movie, like the Superman remake, didn’t.
Glenn: Two best actors? I mean, we knew that Uncle Ben had to die. I can see a few reasons for retelling the story. For one thing, the effects work has improved a lot in places – the web-swinging in particular. Although the Lizard… well, you don’t always get it perfect.
Mike: Yeah, and we knew the Titanic was going to sink. But the latest movie was about a lot more than the sinking of a boat; ASM wasn’t about anything we hadn’t seen before. Why didn’t they show us Spidey actually using his powers? The webbing thing was fairly cool, but outside of that we rarely saw him in action. He’d be on the ground and there’d be a quick cut to him stuck to the ceiling. Web-slinging through the Manhattan cityscape? Nope; it was mostly long-shots or Peter’s point of view. You don’t have to get the villain perfect, just menacing. Certainly the Goblin looked less-than-stellar in the original.
Glenn: Just out of curiosity, did you see it in 3-D?
Mike: No, 2-D. Which doesn’t address a single one of my storytelling and direction complaints. You rarely saw Spider-Man being Spider-Man. Not even if he pops out of the screen and eats the popcorn out of your lap, 3-D has nothing to do with storytelling. Certainly not in this movie. It doesn’t come close to the Sixth Avenue shots in the first movie. Talk about your John Romita influence…
Glenn: The action sequences, web-slinging, etc. worked for me in 3-D. The Lizard – well, it’s a giant lizard. Hoping for emotion in a lizard’s face is going to be an uphill battle, no matter what insurance company mascots teach us.
Mike: You don’t have to get the villain perfect. Certainly the Green Goblin looked less-than-stellar in the original. But the Lizard looked like the Hulk had pooped out a baddie.
Glenn: Of course, there’s a point. How many times can Spider-Man lose his mask in this film?
Mike: About as often as they want the 12 year-old girls to go all Beatles over Garfield. Who, by the way, looks about 30. Did they cast Garfield and Stone because Dwayne Hickman and Tuesday Weld looked too young?
Glenn: Yeah, college age would have been easy to believe. High school?
Mike: And Peter, Gwen, and obviously ol’ Lizzieface certainly weren’t New Yorkers in the least. Flash might have been, Ben and May and Stacy certainly were, but the three leads seem like they never even visited New York. Conners had been there longer than Peter has been alive.
Glenn: I don’t think the Lizard was a poor choice of villain. Curt Connors was played well… except for that “must turn evil” bit, and even there, it played in character more than Doctor Octopus’s character turn in Spider-Man 2.
Mike:. It was in character for the original comics version that evolved over decades. In a two-hour movie (that played like an eight-day bicycle marathon), it was almost campy. At least Alfred Molena had the chops to pull Doc Ock off. I’d seen scarier villains on Doctor Who… in the black-and-white days!
Glenn: One thing that did work for me was the more naturalistic interactions between characters. Garfield and Stone clicked here in a way that Maguire and Dunst never quite did; for that matter, Garfield seemed more natural with everyone – Sally Field’s Aunt May, Martin Sheen’s Uncle Ben, Denis Leary’s Captain George Stacy, and even the crooks.
Mike: I agree, but those moments were brief. ASM wasn’t about the one-man Greek chorus, and that’s good. It’s about a 17 year-old, but only at times did they allow themselves to go there. Tell me. Did you like this movie as much this morning as you did last night?
Glenn: No, but I’ve had a morning that would make Pollyanna grumpy.
Mike: Did anybody applaud at the end? At my screening, absolutely nobody applauded. Not a one. Virtually everybody who wasn’t in the comics business left before the end of the credits.
Glenn: A decent amount of applause, nothing like the roar at the end of Avengers.
And I have to wonder how this plays in the rest of the country, since Spider-Man is really such a New York character.
Mike: That didn’t hurt the development and the success of Marvel Comics, which was almost entirely New York based for decades, and largely remains that way today. There was nothing particularly New Yorkish about the movie. It could have happened in Cleveland or Phoenix.
Glenn: There’s that same moment in this film that came in the first Spider-Man where New Yorkers pull together to help Spidey out.
Mike: New Yorkers like to think they live in the only city that pulls together in a crisis. It’s human nature. It’s what’s kept humans alive as a species. And wolves.
Glenn: Sadly, it didn’t work nearly as well as it did in the first one, mainly due to a big logic problem. There’s a helicopter right above him. Why doesn’t he just hitch a ride on that?
Mike: By the end of the movie I think only Flash Thompson didn’t know Peter was Spider-Man – and he was the one guy who should have figured that out, given all the scenes where Peter used his powers against him.
Glenn: Flash, despite his name, has never been that quick. And Aunt May – well, I don’t know if she knows or not.
Mike: I was never certain what Aunt May understood, except getting over her husband’s death right quick. Oh, and the costume really sucked. Seriously. Cirque du Soleil should stick to cribbing Mummenschanz.
Glenn: One of the nicer bits between Peter and Aunt May is there’s a lot of unspoken subtext there, with her obviously knowing there’s something Peter’s not telling her, but not knowing quite what – maybe that Peter’s suddenly going in for rough trade or something.
Mike: Sally Field handled each scene quite well; not once did I think “Flying Nun!” But together the movie made May Parker seem schizo.
Glenn: Was there anything you liked about this movie?
Mike: Denis Leary, both his performance and the way they handled his character.
Mike: This movie will do well opening weekend because opening weekend lasts six days and has a major holiday in there. But I don’t see it conquering the world. I can understand Garfield wanting to be in Avengers 2. He wants to be in a good super-hero movie.
Glenn: I’m still thinking Sally Field is too young to play Aunt May, but that’s purely a construct that carries over from the comics that has almost no logical basis. Of course she shouldn’t be old enough to be his grandmother, but still.
Mike: You’re absolutely right – if May was Ben’s husband and Ben was Richard’s brother, then Sally was the right age. In the comics Aunt May was born sometime before Barnabas Collins. I should point out I liked this movie more than most of my companions. One, who’s about 17, said it was the worst movie he ever saw. Ric Meyers (who thought less of this than I did) and I replied in unison: “You’re still young.”
Glenn: And ironically, my companion is one of the surliest bastards in comics and prose (David A. Mack, the killer of the Borg) and he enjoyed it even more than I did. This may be the rare film where I can’t easily say in advance whether or not a particular viewer will enjoy themselves.
Mike: Yeah, well I give it a thumb’s up – where the sun don’t shine.
Glenn: I give it a thumb, index finger, and pinky up. Which makes for a very tough review. But hey, kids, go and find out for yourselves.
NBC has given their freshman medical drama MERCY a jump start by adding James VanDerBeek to the cast,. “Dawson” is here to tell us about his place in the show, plus are you ready for a JOE DIRT cartoon and Media Mercenary Ric Meyers covers the new HUMAN TARGET.
Don’t forget that you can now enjoy THE POINT 24 hours a Day – 7 Days a week!. Updates on all parts of pop culture, special programming by some of your favorite personalities and the biggest variety of contemporary music on the net – plus there is a great round of new programs on the air including classic radio each night at 12mid (Eastern) on RETRO RADIO and COMICMIX’s Mark Wheatley hitting the FREQUENCY every Saturday ay 9pm.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN LIVE FOR FREE or go to GetThePointRadio for more including a connection for mobile phones including iPhone & Blackberrys
Pop culture sees a plethora of imitators. Chicken Soup’s endless variations comes to mind as beating a concept to death. The ones that stand out, that beg for attention, are the ones at the head of the wave.
Will Jew-Jitsu: The Hebrew Hands of Fury be such a trend-setter? We don’t know but we’re awfully amused to be seeing former DC Comics and Weekly World News exec Paul Kupperberg co-writing this tongue-in-cheek self-defense book. Just out from Citadel Press, the 114-page illustrated volume is ostensibly written by Rabbi Daniel Eliezer and promises to show how the tefillin and Tallis can be used as defense weapons.
With clear images from photographer Robert Michael Simses, you can learn how to avoid trouble but when there’s no choice, you’re shown exactly how to find your chai and deliver deadly blows. (See if you can spot ComicMix contributor Ric Meyers in some shots.)
This step-by-step guide takes you through the "Eighteen Forms" of meditation to mastering complex martial arts moves such as "Receiving the Torah," "Throwing of the Star of David" and "The Deadly Punch in the Kishkes."
"The secret to humor," he told the Stamford Times, "is introducing an element of reality that people can relate to, and from there you branch off into crazy."
Kupperberg’s writing is breezy and he thoughtfully provides a glossary for people less than familiar with Yiddish. Heck, there’s even a recipe for Challah bread so what’s not to love. For $12.95, what’s not like?
Let’s wait and see if the Mormons offer up their own self-defense tome.
Wow, March seemed to fly by even faster than February, didn’t it? But opening day is finally upon us, allergy season is already in full swing and ComicMix columnists are nipping things in the bud as usual:
I like it when the DVDs I review here are similar, but I also really like it when they’re very different. And other than being made by British talents, the DVDs in this edition are about as different as they can get. First, there’s the cultural classic that is A Passage to India. Columbia Pictures decided that marking the 100th anniversary of director David Lean’s birth (March 25, 1908) was a great excuse to remaster three of his films as “2-Disc Collector’s Edition Columbia Classics.” First out of the box is Lean’s final film, a two-hour and forty-four minute “intimate epic” based on E.M. Forster’s lauded novel of the same name.
Lean came at the challenge with a lot to prove. Despite being one of the world’s most respected filmmakers, with an unprecedented run of sweeping successes behind him, the critical thrashing his turgid, half-badly miscast, penultimate film, Ryan’s Daughter, suffered, had sent him reeling into a fourteen year self-imposed exile. He returned to tackle a cerebral, controversial story that many felt was effectively unfilmable, including, according to the DVD’s extras, the author and several actors in the production.
The reaction at the time of its 1984 release ranged from grudging to delirious, though a majority seemed to feel it still wasn’t quite up to his undisputed classics, Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia (the other two films set to be part of this 100th birthday DVD celebration). The passage of time, however, has been great to this particular film, and this new release could do much to elevate its standing, since it’s fascinating, intriguing, beautiful, and in this artificial age of cgi additives, all natural.
The special features are involving, if not as exceptional as the film. They are, at their best, reserved and civilized like the subjects of their interviews. If the producers and actors had been American, there might have been lots of superlatives and hyperbole, but the likes of producer Richard Goodwin, Lean’s young assistant directors, and actors Nigel Havers and James Fox are polite to a fault.
I’m still recovering from my yearly giggle-fest as my husband and I spent last night MST-ing the Biblical epic The Ten Commandments, which for some reason was shown on Easter weekend rather than Passover weekend. Always remember, Eliezar, he passed over your holiday! So many great quotable lines in that film. ComicMix columnists have been serving up their own quotables this week as well:
Any regular reader will no doubt have noticed something by now. I think I may have mentioned it once before, early on, but there should be no harm in repeating it: this column isn’t really for the big-time releases any DVD fan already know exist. Naturally, by all rights, I, like everyone else, should review I Am Legend and maybe even The Mist, but hey, you’re going to watch, or not watch, those without any input from me – no matter how good or bad the special features are.
Instead, I most like to consider the DVDs that may have slipped under your radar, like Wakeful Nights, which is really an amazing movie for several reasons. Japan in general, and Tokyo specifically, is two different places. It’s an amazingly exciting, beautiful, cultured, exotic place for people who don’t speak or understand Japanese, and it’s an incredibly perverted, sex-soaked, practically demented place for those who do. Wakeful Nights is a DVD that both reveals the lusty fun just under the well-designed, well-dressed surface, as well as revels in the classic art of filmmaking and the ancient delights of Rakugo (Traditional Comic Storytelling).
Director Masahiko Makino was inspired by his grandfather, who was credited with initiating a “100 Years of Japanese Filmmaking” celebration, so he brought together generations of actors, writers, and singers to create a lewd, crude, but loving tale of a family gathering for a master comic storyteller’s funeral. Deciding to release this iconoclastic comedy in America, the good folk at AnimEigo had their translating and subtitling work cut out for them. But, for the most part, little is lost in translation … which is really saying something, considering the content and subject matter of the romp. Much of the time they have to put everything in context for American eyes, while still maintaining the momentum of the warped, culturally-punny jokes.
That’s where the extras help. They include some deleted scenes that contain some of the least effective diversions, but the real fun is to be had with the additional songs and their karaoke companions. First you get to watch two characters have a “Geisha Idol” contest to see who best can deliver the jolly performance and raunchy lyrics of classic sexy songs usually performed by pretty hostesses at mens-only parties, then you get to try your luck at the same songs, with the help of phonetic lyric subtitles, and the occasional actor pop-up. It’s fun to watch and hilarious to try.
Then comes AnimEigo’s vaunted program notes, which are exhaustive to a fault, and much welcome in this multi-layered anniversary effort. Despite their attempt to answer every query the film might elicit, they are also a great starting point for further research – a fact the company seems well aware of, because the final program note is a long list of websites where more material can be found. By the last frame, I felt indoctrinated into a special place in Japanese entertainment, rarely experienced by any outsider. But even if you don’t share that feeling, it’s hard not to appreciate a DVD that comes with the warning: “Contains adult situations and language, disgusting puns, sick jokes, filthy karaoke, and a traumatized Manta Ray.”
Can it be? Is convention season well and truly underway? No, I’m not ready yet! Need job first! Hello to everyone at WizWorld LA, LunaCon and everywhere else I can’t afford to be. At least I and our other weekly ComicMix columnists can engage you from the comparative safety of our home keyboards: