June 2006

Film Title, Eight Letters

by Alan Rapp on June 30, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Wordplay
  • IMDB: link

wordplay-posterIntellectual pursuits can be fun.  The new documentary Wordplay looks at those who enjoy a good crossword puzzle from the makers, to the casual fans, to those who take the competition seriously enough to challenge each other in open competition.  It’s an entertaining look at a world that many probably aren’t completely aware of.

The documentary breaks down into three different parts.  First, there is a look at the puzzlemakers, most notably New York Times Crossword editor Bill Shortz.  Second, the film documents many celebrity fans of the New York Times Crossword.  And third, it examines the annual contest and the contestants who journey to Stanford, CT to be crowned the crossword champion of the year.

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Aaron Spelling

by Alan Rapp on June 29, 2006

in Uncategorized

The Love BoatMatt HoustonCharmedStarsky and HutchFantasy IslandThe Mod SquadBeverly Hills, 90210Charlie’s Angels7th HeavenHart to HartMelrose PlaceT.J. HookerDynasty.  You probably watched one of those or one of countless others that sprung from the mind of TV producer Aaron Spelling.  Sadly Spelling died last Friday at the ripe old age of 83.  Spelling was a tiny man who had huge influence on the genre of television creating hit after hit (ok, and a few misses – anyone remember Models, Inc.)?  He was one of the most prolific producers in the history of television including a run in the 80’s where he had seven shows airing on one network the same year!  Spelling earned adoration from fans over the years but little critical praise, but that never bothered the man who when one show failed had at least two in development to take its place.  In a time where good new shows on television are becoming as scarce as good Democratic candidates for President a man like Spelling will sorely be missed

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The Love BoatMatt HoustonCharmedStarsky and HutchFantasy IslandThe Mod SquadBeverly Hills, 90210Charlie’s Angels7th HeavenHart to HartMelrose PlaceT.J. HookerDynasty.  You probably watched one of those or one of countless others that sprung from the mind of TV producer Aaron Spelling.  Sadly Spelling died last Friday at the ripe old age of 83.  Spelling was a tiny man who had huge influence on the genre of television creating hit after hit (ok, and a few misses – anyone remember Models, Inc.)?  He was one of the most prolific producers in the history of television including a run in the 80’s where he had seven shows airing on one network the same year!  Spelling earned adoration from fans over the years but little critical praise, but that never bothered the man who when one show failed had at least two in development to take its place.  In a time where good new shows on television are becoming as scarce as good Democratic candidates for President a man like Spelling will sorely be missed

Superman Remade

by Alan Rapp on June 28, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Superman Returns
  • IMDB: link

superman-returns-posterWhat’s with Hollywood and rubberized super hero suits?  Is there some kind of run on cloth?  Did they buy it all in bulk a few years ago and have to use it all up before buying something new?  Anyway…

Superman Returns isn’t a great super hero flick, but it does have charm and heart which left me happy, though not ecstatic, with the outcome.  Given its similarities, it’s impossible to not compare it to Donner’s original, and find it wanting.  Still, in a summer that’s given us X-Men: The Last Stand and Nacho Libre this Superman looks damn good.

Five years ago (sometime not long after the events of Superman II) Earth’s scientists found the remains of Krypton and, without saying his goodbyes, Superman left his adopted home.  As the movie opens Superman (Brandon Routh) crashes back to Earth on the Kent farm.  After a brief talk with Ma Kent (Eva Marie Saint – very nice casting choice!) Clark returns to Metropolis and his life as a reporter for the Daily Planet.

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The Story So Far

by Alan Rapp on June 27, 2006

in Uncategorized

We’ll have our review for the new Super-flick tomorrow.  But before we see where we’re headed it’s always a good idea to look back to see where we’ve been.  So join us as we take a look back at the first four films – the good, the bad, and that one with Richard Pryor (ugh!).

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He’s the story so far:

The Saga Takes Flight:

Richard Donner gives us the first big comic book movie, and man is it good.  The film breaks down into two parts.  The first chronicles the politics and demise of Krypton and Jor-El (Marlon Brando) sending his only son to Earth who is raised by the Kents, Jonathan (Glen Ford) and Martha (Phylis Thaxter).  The second part of the film follows Clark (Christopher Reeve) in his new job at the Daily Planet with Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and as Superman saving the day and stopping Lex Luthor’s (Gene Hackman) evil plans.

Superman Soars:

“Come to me, son of Jor-El; kneel before Zod.”  The second film involves the Kryptonian criminal Zod (Terrance Stamp) and his two followers breaking out of the Phantom Zone prison and travelling to Earth to rule and take vengeance on the son of their jailer.  While this is going on Lois discovers Clark’s secret and Clark decides to give up his powers to be with Lois , but has to give up his new life to become Superman again to stop Zod.

Crash and Burn:

Richard Pryor is the man who almost killed Superman.  The third entry into the franchise involves Pryor as a computer programmer, Robert Vaugn as a billionaire and Pamela Stephenson as his slut of a secretary, who together plan to use a computer to kill Superman.  Interesting only for the fact of casting Annette O’Toole (Smallville) as Lana Lang.  Horrendously awful entry that forever cursed every third film in comic book franchises.

Superman Stumbles Into Oblivion:

As Superman plans to rid the world of all nuclear weapons, Lex Luthor returns with a kinda’ clone of Superman (though it doesn’t look like him and his powers and weaknesses are a little different) called Nuclear Man.  Superman and Nuclear Man fight all over the planet and on the moon.  Subplots involve the Daily Planet’s new publisher (Mariel Hemmingway) and her crush on Clark.  Hard to imagine why we had to wait 19 years for another film.

Suggested Further Reading

by Alan Rapp on June 27, 2006

in Comics

With the new Superman hitting theaters tomorrow we’d thought we’d suggest a few little nuggets of joy for comic fans that want to read some Superman’s tales.  We’ve got plenty for you, so take a look inside…

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We’ve organized some Super-reading material for you.  It’s broken down into three categories: the first are books that explore similar themes to those in the new film, the second are a group of “Elseworld” tales (sort of “What If?” stories based in alternate realities), and the final lists some Man of Steel reprinted collections.  Enjoy!

Movie Tie-Ins:

The “Superman Returns” theme is strong in Kingdom Come.  After the death of Lois Lane by the hands of the Joker, and the public praising a new hero’s brutal retaliation winning public approval, Superman removes himself from a society he no longer understands and the old guard follow suit.  As the story opens the next generation of heroes is out of control and heading towards a final conflict.  Superman returns with the heroes of yesteryear to battle the newbies and has one of the best knockdown drag-out fights in comic history with Captain Marvel.  Mark Waid’s story is brought into brilliant clarity by the beautiful artwork of Alex Ross.  The graphic novel is available in softcover ($19.99); it’s also available in novel form, and soon to be released into DC’s new Absolute Line.  One of the best graphic novels of all time; a must have.

Contrary to popular belief Superman IV: A Quest for Peace didn’t kill Superman, but DC Comics did decide to do just that in the 1990’s.  The Death of Superman chronicles Superman’s fight against the unstoppable Doomsday in a planetwide battle that Superman wins, but not without paying the highest cost possible.  The follow-up, World Without a Superman, examines the world and Metropolis getting on with their lives without the Man of Steel.  Both are available in paperback ($9.95) and ($7.50).

Superman Returns: The Prequels is a joint conjunction with director Bryan Singer and co-screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris and DC Comics in an attempt to retell the tales of the movie Superman from the first film to the events that unfold in Superman Returns.  The book will explain events leading up to Superman’s leaving Earth and the effect of his absence on the likes of Lois Lane, Martha Kent, and Lex Luthor.  You’d think the release would be timed with the film, but strangely enough, it won’t be available until October (way to drop the ball marketing tie-in people!), but you can pre-order it online if you are interested.  It will be available in softcover ($12.99).

Elseworld Stories:

Elseworld tales take DC Comics heroes (usually Superman or Batman) and place them into a reality similar yet different from that of their current origin.  What if Superman didn’t crash land in Kansas and was found by someone other than the Kents?  How would his life and the DC Universe be different? 

Speeding Bullets rewrites history placing baby Kal-El’s spaceship crashing in Gotham rather than Smallville and it is Thomas and Martha Wayne who find and adopt young “Bruce.”  Interesting combination of DC’s greatest heroes that involves young Bruce witnessing the death of his parents, burning Joe Chill alive with his heat vision, and growing up to become one very scary super-powered Batman.  It’s out of print and a hard find but worth it if you can locate a copy. 

Several others have followed similar themes: in Red Son Superman grows up in the USSR during the height of the Cold War, in a more humorous take True Brit finds him landing in Britain, and in JLA: The Nail the Kent’s flat tire means they are too late and he is raised in seclusion by an Amish couple.  All three are currently available in softcover: both True Brit and Red Son Red Son for $17.99 and JLA: The Nail for $14.99 (and its sequel JLA: Another Nail is available for $12.99). 

The other tale I’ll mention here isn’t actually an Elseworld title per se, at least not when it was written.  In 1986 DC gave Superman to writer John Byrne to revamp, but before he did writer Alan Moore wrote the end to the previous Superman line which was the last Superman story ever told (at least for that continuity).  Since DC didn’t care what was going to happen in those final issues Moore was allowed to do basically anything he wanted and so we get Alan Moore’s vision of what happened to Superman.  Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?  Its a thin grapic novel ($6.95) that you might be able to find in your local comic book store if you’re willing to look hard enough.

Collections:

Many of Superman’s earlier comics are available in DC Comic’s Archival Collections.  The Superman Archives is now up to seven volumes chronicling his first adventures up to his WWII saga.  All are hardback and are available for $49.95 each.

World’s Finest collects the 10-issue miniseries that recounts the first 10 years of the uneasy alliance between DC’s two biggest heroes – Superman and Batman.  Each issue brings the characters back years later to commemorate a tragic event and shows how they two heroes, and their relationship, has evolved.  It’s available in softcover for $19.95.  And the World’s Finest Archives reprints some of the original Silver Age team-ups with Superman and Batman and Robin.  They are available in hardcover for $49.99 each.

There are also volumes like Superman in the Fifties (and Superman in the Sixties, etc) that reprint a collection of adventures from a various decade of Superman.  Each volume is softcover and is available for $19.99.