- Posted by Johanna on February 23, 2014 at 9:33 am
- Category: Movies/TV
I have fond memories of watching the original Dallas with my mom, mostly just to see the clothes and the Texas setting. (We lived in the state at the time the show debuted.) I gave the new version a try, but for some reason, I didn’t stick with it. Perhaps because the next generation seemed so young to me now, perhaps because there’s just a lot of good TV out there and not enough time. The theme song still has a weirdly Pavlovian effect on me, though, reminding me of just how outsized so much about Texas is.
The show continues from the original, with J.R.’s son John Ross (Josh Henderson, the weak link of the cast) trying to run the family oil company but clashing with uncle Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) and his son Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe), who wants to invest more in methane and alternate fuel technologies. As well, both the younger men are involved with Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster) and Pamela Rebecca Barnes (Julie Gonzalo). It’s still very much a soap opera among the rich and powerful, with sex, betrayal, blackmail, and murder all on display.
I was curious about this DVD set, because the second season was being filmed when Larry Hagman, who played the irascible cornerstone of the show J.R. Ewing, passed away, and so a number of the special features are dedicated to his legacy. Episode 8 focused on the character’s funeral. The four-disc set contains all 15 episodes of season 2, plus the following extras:
Deleted scenes for almost every episode.
Fashion Files, short (3-minute) discussions with Brewster and the costume designer, Rachel Sage Kunin, about key costume items from selected episodes. It’s insightful about what elements they’re trying to highlight about the characters.
An extended version of “J.R.’s Masterpiece”, the funeral episode, with over 7 extra minutes, available with or without commentary by Cynthia Cidre (creator of this version of the show and writer of that episode) and Michael Robin (episode director).
“Dallas at PaleyFest 2013″, a half-hour panel appearance with the cast members and creative team.
“The Battle for Ewing Energies: Blood Is Thicker Than Oil”, 12 minutes on the family plots that drive the show and how J.R.’s death affected them.
“Memories of Larry Hagman: A Cast and Crew Tribute” (10 minutes) was particularly memorable for me due to the then-and-now photos. It’s not many people who play the same role 34 years apart. The participants all have great, playful, revelatory stories about Hagman, particularly Brenda Strong (who plays Ann Ewing, wife of Bobby). I admit, this piece brought tears to my eyes.
“One Last Conversation With Larry Hagman”, an unedited interview that runs seven minutes that seems to have originally been created for publicity use, covering basic questions about how Hagman worked on the show.
I’m not converted to seeing Dallas as a must-watch, but I really appreciated the honors to Larry Hagman and the chance to see him one last time. The third season of Dallas returns tomorrow (Monday) night on TNT. (The studio provided a review copy.)
- Posted by Johanna on February 23, 2014 at 8:44 am
- Category: Books and Prose
- CREDITS: by Michelle Richmond
- PUBLISHER: Bantam Books; $15 US
I thought at first Golden State was going to be more science-fictional than it was, since the backdrop is a vote for whether California will secede from the United States. That’s not the point here, though. It’s really an exploration of the life choices and relationships of Julie, a doctor at the VA who’s having a really challenging day. The secession is just a symbol of potential future, whether breaking up allows for more options than staying with something troubled and full of problems.
Julie is fighting to get through the crowds and riots on a broken ankle to reach her formerly estranged sister Heather, who’s just gone into labor. Everything is complicated by the presence of a former patient who’s developed an unhealthy obsession with her. Plus, she’s about to get divorced, which leads to her thinking of both the good times and bad in her marriage. Her husband is a deejay, a voice on the radio who brings in songs as commentary as what’s happening.
The novel’s structure is full of time jumps. The reader doesn’t learn the full story until the end, which drives the desire to keep reading to find out what’s really going on. Why does Julie have issues with Heather? Why are kids such a fraught topic? What’s with the patient — whose demands often spur more flashbacks, as Julie tells him bits of her story? At times, the excess of the dramatic events seem a bit too much, as though the story wasn’t interesting enough without the risk of death.
I enjoyed the read, although I’m not exactly the target audience for a story about how broken your life may be without a kid. (At least author Michelle Richmond doesn’t make the desire seem universal, just something that affects Julie, which this person who chose not to spawn appreciates.) The paperback version I read comes with supplementary material, a short interview with the author, a music playlist, and a set of discussion questions. I imagine a book club would have a lot to discuss in regards to this story and the choices the characters make. (The publisher provided a review copy.)
- Posted by Johanna on February 22, 2014 at 12:14 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: written by Mark Waid; art by Paul Smith, Loston Wallace, and J. Bone
- PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing; $21.99 US
Out next month is a dynamite pairing of two comic properties with old-fashioned flavor. Rocketeer / The Spirit: Pulp Friction works so well because the creators know their stuff. The characters sound right (and different from each other), their histories are acknowledged (without leaving out readers who don’t know them), and the look is nicely retro, clear and easy to read.
It’s 1941, and the Spirit, Commissioner Dolan, and Ellen Dolan go to Los Angeles, where they run into Cliff Secord, the Rocketeer. A Central City alderman, against granting exclusive broadcast licenses to the burgeoning medium of television, is discovered dead in the California city. Betty, Cliff’s pinup girlfriend, found the body. There’s something of an impossibility, though, since Dolan saw the dead man eight hours before on the opposite coast, and back then, it would take most of a day to get from one location to another.
The premise, written by Mark Waid, starts out with the characters fighting, then teaming up in the classic style. Cliff’s mechanic Peevish turns out to be a war buddy of Dolan’s, which makes the two title heroes feel even sillier after their in-flight squabble. Although it’s some gorgeous choreography, arms and legs akimbo in mid-air.
Paul Smith’s staging in the first chapter is incredible, full of distinctive panels, many of which could be used to sum up the pulp feel of the story, from Betty’s picture poses to the Spirit, seen through a snowy city window. It’s a shame that the series wasn’t able to keep the same artist throughout. The second chapter, drawn by Loston Wallace, has expressive figures but less creative layout. J. Bone’s second half is more stylized, making the girls particularly seem more “cutesy-pie”.
Betty finds the Spirit attractive, which makes Ellen jealous and annoys Cliff. And the background, looking at monopoly control of the airwaves, is quaint and yet timely in its analogies. As well, it provides aspiring actress Betty a reason to stay involved in the story and eventually be rescued. There’s also an undercurrent of East Coast vs. West, New York vs. LA.
I normally wait for collections for miniseries, but given the art changes and cliffhangers, this probably would read better in monthly issues. Regardless, it’s a fun retro ride. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)
- Posted by Johanna on February 22, 2014 at 10:14 am
- Category: Superhero Reviews
The A+Xseries is a great concept — an anthology with stand-alone stories that team up an X-Men character with an Avengers member. Because it’s mostly one-offs, different creators can contribute, and the variety of story types are more diverse than you usually see have been included. Plus, the character choices can be wacky, as here, in A+X #17, “Iron Man + Broo” by Jeff Loveness and Paco Diaz, with a super-intelligent alien kid excited about interning with grumpy Tony Stark.
Unfortunately, while each issue used to have two stories, now, one of them is a standard superhero action seralization, “Captain America + Cyclops” by Gerry Duggan, David Yardin, Cam Smith, and Terry Pallot. I don’t care much for it, so the series has become much less of a must-read for me (since half of it I ignore).
Anyway, I enjoyed the first story, and here’s a page with gags that show why. Particularly the Thor crack. Superhero comics should have more humor, since they’re inherently ludicrous, and the light-hearted ones are my favorite. It shouldn’t surprise me that this was funny, since writer Jeff Loveness works for the Jimmy Kimmel Live! show.
- Posted by Johanna on February 22, 2014 at 9:44 am
- Category: Movies/TV
The Jimmy Stewart Show is one of those forgotten oddities that I can thank the Warner Archive for rediscovering. The half-hour domestic sitcom ran from 1971-1972, and this set contains all 24 episodes.
Jimmy Stewart is an actor that it takes some maturity to appreciate, since he’s not flashy in his performance, but he’s always worth the attention. I enjoy seeing him wherever he appears — from a young man in a Thin Man movie to romantic rival in The Philadelphia Story or Hitchcock lead in Vertigo or anchor of a holiday classic in It’s a Wonderful Life — although the period societal and generation gap references here took some getting used to.
The audience for this is likely those looking for good, old-fashioned, family-safe television just like they watched when they were kids. It’s not many shows these days where you’ll see a father saying grace with his family around the dinner table. On the other hand, Stewart talking to the camera at the beginning of each episode, to introduce the characters and premises, is reminiscent of the modern fake-docu-comedy style. Particularly when he does it from the studio or holding a script. The pacing here, though, is remarkably subdued. This was made long before short scenes and quick cuts and abbreviated attention spans became the norm. The show doesn’t produce laughs so much as quiet smiles.
Stewart is a college professor, which accounts for the “changing times” references as he interacts with his students. (Very odd to hear the older Mr. Stewart talking about a young woman needing to put on a bra.) The woman playing Stewart’s wife, Julie Adams, is almost 20 years younger than Stewart, and it shows. Combined with the long-ago tendency to patronizing gender and family relations, sometimes their interaction seems more like father/daughter than couple, although affection for each other is thoughtfully written into the episodes.
The family structure is also a bit odd — Stewart and wife have an eight-year-old, and Stewart’s oldest son does too. So there are two little boys running around, one of whom is actually uncle to the other. (And why did Stewart have two kids 20 years apart?) The elder son Peter (James Daly) and his wife Wendy (Ellen Geer) wind up having to move in with dad when their house burns down in the first episode, to allow for more family togetherness.
Still, Stewart rides a bike and plays accordion and wears a cowboy hat and does other charming on-screen things, while trying to cope with everyone wanting the bathroom or taking his child fishing or encountering a pushy co-ed or trying to lay down the law at the dinner table. Every so often, there’s a distinct sign of different times, such as when the professors, old men in sport coats, go to lunch at a nearby joint where they play chess, smoke cigars, and drink beer. Or when visitors smoke in the guest room, or parking tickets cost $4.
Another fun thing is spotting the occasional guest star, including both early appearances from people who’d later be more famous (Kate Jackson) and those from the glory days of Hollywood (Cesar Romero, Vincent Price). (The studio provided a review copy.)
- Posted by Johanna on February 21, 2014 at 2:29 pm
- Category: Comic News
Loki has been a breakout character from Marvel’s Avengers movie (thanks to Tom Hiddleston’s dynamic performance), so it’s no surprise that Marvel launched a comic focused on him earlier this month, Loki: Agent of Asgard. (And note the title evokes Marvel’s other ongoing media property, the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).
However, because they’re based in Norse mythology, Loki, his brother Thor, and their dad Odin (among other characters) are free for anyone to use. You can’t copy Marvel’s specific character design or anything they’ve added to the character, but the core elements are available… and Loki has a lot of recent audience awareness.
Which may be why Boom! Studios just launched their own Loki comic, Loki: Ragnarok And Roll, billed as “a heavy metal twist on Norse mythology” by Eric Esquivel and Jerry Gaylord.
This isn’t the first time such a thing has happened in comics; there are multiple Hercules versions, for example. (And I welcome more examples in the comments.) I can imagine, though, that some people at Marvel/Disney — a company known for taking public domain works and trying to make them their own — don’t like the idea that another publisher is cashing in on “their” character. Yet why not? If there are different stories to tell and different approaches to take (clearly the case here), let’s have more versions!
- Posted by Johanna on February 21, 2014 at 1:53 pm
- Category: Comic News
ACTION LAB’S ZOMBIE TRAMP GOES IN HOUSE!
The popular Danger Zone series becomes Action Lab Entertainment’s first company funded series.
Dan Mendoza’s grindhouse revenge series, Zombie Tramp, started it’s undead rise as a critically acclaimed independent title that recently saw new life at Action Lab Entertainment’s mature readers Danger Zone imprint.
The Story follows Janey Bell, Hollywood’s most popular high-priced call girl, who through the machinations of her transvestite madam and a crooked LAPD sheriff was bitten by a zombie and imbued with strange new powers, has been called an instant classic.
Now with two fan favorite volumes of the creator-owned work nearly complete, Action Lab: Danger Zone is proud to announce that starting with a special introductory Free Comic Book Day issue, Zombie Tramp will be going to the next level as the first Action Lab funded series. Zombie Tramp will also become the companies second ongoing monthly series, joining Jeremy Dale’s smash hit all ages fantasy series, Skyward.
Action Lab, which primarily works with creator owned and creator-generated material, will be financing the production of Zombie Tramp, and relaunching the series with the May FCBD issue, and brand new number one of the ongoing series to follow that up starting in July.
Series creator Dan Mendoza will continue to write the series, while being joined by co-writer and editor, Jason Martin (Night of the 80’s Undead, Super Real), and future superstar artist TMChu. As we find our titular zombie-powered former call girl on the road, learning her budding abilities thanks to the newly acquired “book of the dead”. Janey starts out in Sin City, taking on the local sex trade and the elusive mastermind who controls Las Vegas from the shadows. The series will feature covers and interiors by talented newcomer TMChu, including nude variant covers, and variant covers by series creator Dan Mendoza.
I’ll ignore the typos (please, people, learn to use “its” properly), missing hyphens and apostrophes, and mismatched verbs, and I’ll avoid pointing out that even the covers that aren’t “nude variants” aren’t something I’m comfortable running on this site. (Seriously, the FCBD issue cover isn’t family-friendly, which I thought they were supposed to be.) My bigger point is this: Why would we care who’s paying for what, so long as the creators are receiving adequate compensation?
This only makes me think, “oh, so the rest of your books are all self-funded?” which may or may not be true, but the question is raised by the existence of this press release. I’m sure we’re supposed to see this as a statement of faith in the title — and who wouldn’t see commercial potential in a comic that combines hookers and zombies? — but it’s the kind of backhanded praise that inadvertently makes the rest of the publisher’s line look worse (because clearly, the publisher didn’t have enough faith in them to fund them, only this one). I suppose there’s an argument to be made that customers want to know this kind of thing, since a self-funded series is marginally more likely to run out of money and quit appearing on shelves, but the same could be argued for small publishers.
Ultimately, it comes back to the question: What does a publisher offer to a comic creator? If they’re not providing some kind of funding, more marketing than a creator can do on her own, and other business services, why are they a better choice than going it alone?
- Posted by Johanna on February 20, 2014 at 8:58 pm
- Category: Animation
This is an intriguing release strategy — Warner put out this week on home video Beware the Batman, their new CGI Batman cartoon. The Season 1, Part 1 set includes 13 episodes, two of which have not yet aired on Cartoon Network. (There’s some question when, or if, the show will be returning.)
If you want DVD, that is available through the usual outlets (including Amazon, as shown here). However, if you want Blu-ray, that is only available through the Warner Archive online store. Both versions have the same list price, $19.95, although the DVD version is usually discounted from that. And as we’ve previously discussed, selling directly means the studio keeps more of the money for themselves, without distribution costs.
I was lucky enough to get a review copy, so I’ll be checking out the show for the first time soon. I’m looking forward to seeing Katana as a major cast member.
I hadn’t before noticed the logo, where the words “Beware the” make up the holes in the B, which is pretty clever. Also, we’re promised that the show “dives deep into the Batman mythos to bring some of the more outre members of the world’s greatest rogues gallery including Professor Pyg, Lady Shiva, Humpty Dumpty, Anarky, and Magpie.” So it should be interesting to see lesser-used characters, too.