Cold Hands, Warm Hearts

I'm glad but a little surprised that Frozen is doing so well.

Elsa in dress, cloak, and tiara standing in a stark, icy setting as it snows
Image © 2013 Disney Enterprises.

Which probably has more to do with my critical eye and very specific tastes — a mite
too critical and crazily specific, I've been told — than with the quality of the film or the general public's own appetites.

More pleasant surprises:

They're Magically Suspicious

Loki Charms / Photo of Tom Hiddleston as Loki behind bowl of cereal on mocked-up box of cereal / General Mills' 'Bifrosted Loki Charms' 'Oat cereal plus delicious chunks of the Rainbow Bridge!' 'Marvel Studios Limited Edition'

Update: The image above with Loki from the Avengers film has been joined by Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers and John Buscema & John Verpoorten "Pop Art" variants, seen thumbnailed below, on my Tumblr log. My hands were really bad when I got the itch to do these and I'd love to be able to rework them but I'm probably better off devoting that energy to other stuff — unless someone wants to actually hire me to design fake cereal boxes...

Here Am I Sitting in a Tin Can,
Far Above the World

Gravity was spectacular.

I saw the film two weeks ago, and whenever it's brought to mind I'm right back in the absolute sense of wonder I experienced in the theater.

Sandra Bullock looking out from environmental helmet in close-up, a floating astronaut in space suit reflected in that helmet, and black void with movie title, credits, and release date

Starring the quietly magnetic Sandra Bullock as a civilian mission specialist sent up
to work on the Hubble Space Telescope and George Clooney as the veteran commander of her shuttle, Gravity demands to be seen not only on as big a screen as possible but in
3D. If you've heard me talk (or read me write) about 3D, you know that I seldom recommend it.

Deft Wonk

John Oliver wasn't the sole member of Comedy Central's late-night team giving
us process junkies a peek behind the curtain in the past couple of weeks. Stephen Colbert was interviewed by Paul Mercurio, who does warm-up for The Colbert Report, over nearly an hour on a variety of topics — but mostly about the Daft Punk fiasco. You can listen to the podcast free.

Stephen Colbert at his desk on set

Daft Punk, scheduled to be on Colbert's show earlier this month, bowed out and/or
was yanked over misunderstandings and Viacom internal politics due to the mysterious French faux-robots' upcoming special appearance at last weekend's MTV Video Music Awards telecast.

Colbert devoted the episode on which they would have appeared to an only slightly fictional account of what happened along with a truly bizarre all-star video set to Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" (featuring Bryan Cranston, Jeff Bridges, the Rockettes, Stephen's animated alter ego Tek Jansen, Henry f---ing Kissinger...) and a performance by Robin Thicke doing his unfortunate song of the summer "Blurred Lines".

John for Jon

Jon Stewart will return to The Daily Show next week following a summer sabbatical. He was in the Middle East directing a film called Rosewater. For the eight weeks out of twelve after Stewart's departure that the show was not on hiatus, writer/correspondent John Oliver stepped in to host in his stead.

John Oliver, a white man in glasses wearing a dark suit and blue tie with tousled dark hair, on set

If you don't already know that, you may not be interested in the video I'm sharing of John Oliver's appearance on Charlie Rose from Monday, Aug. 8th, just as John-with-an-h was starting his final week as Jon-without's substitute.

Nothing Special

If you're disappointed in, or simply growing numb to, this summer's would-be blockbusters — The Lone Ranger, World War Z, Man of Steel, Pacific Rim — I have
the solution: Joss Whedon's adaptation of Much Ado about Nothing.

A man with head and one hand above water in a lake, wearing goggles and snorkel, holding a half-full martini glass

You may be skeptical of a film that can be promoted as "from the director of The Avengers and based on the play by William Shakespeare" but Whedon's Much Ado is just that. And it's a delight.

Ante Heroes

I didn't create this Man of Steel / Dark Knight mashup, but when I shared it from
a friend's page on Facebook I did come up with some dialogue for the scene.

Henry Cavill as Superman, Christian Bale as Batman, and Heath Ledger as Joker seated at table in police interrogation room with cards and poker chips

Joker: "You wanna know how I got these scars?"

Batman: "Don't indulge him, Clark."

Superman: "Will you stop calling me 'Clark'? I've already told you that I don't want anyone to know anything about me other than I'm 33 and grew up in Kansas, except for Lois and everyone in Smallville and the army guys who were there with Lois at my mom's house."

Joker: [does lizard thing with tongue] "As I was saying..."

El on Earth

How did I like Man of Steel?

That's... a good question. I'll be taking part in a roundtable discussion at Forces
of Geek
soon, helping me further hone my thoughts for a proper review. What follows below is bereft of spoilers.

Superman flying above the Earth's atmosphere against the blackness of space
Man of Steel image © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment. Superman ® DC Comics.

Gift Rap

"Okay. Here's the situation."

To a large swath of Generation X, at minimum, it's danged near impossible to hear those words and not feel the urge to reply "My parents went away on a week's vacation."

Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd as police detectives looking into camera

To a decidedly smaller segment of the population — we few who recall the music
video for "City of Crime", a track played over the closing credits of the 1987 movie Dragnet — a similar trigger is provided by an even simpler and more mundane phrase: "Excuse me."


Here we go with a good old link-blogging post for the first time in too long.

Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy in conversation

I know it's been making the rounds at warp speed the past few days, but Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy in Audi's "The Challenge" has at least one moment too priceless not to keep sharing. Note: It's a commercial, obviously, so if you have a hard policy against watching such things there's your warning. [2:56]

The Man in the Iron Mask

I found Iron Man 3 a fine kickoff to what Marvel Studios is calling Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — Phase One having culminated in the assemblage of nearly every superhero thus far introduced to the MCU in 2012's The Avengers.

A scarred, cracked Iron Man helmet in close-up held by Tony Stark

Given that it builds deliberately on what's come before, Iron Man 3 isn't an optimal entry to the series; a familiarity with the characters and their milieu is recommended.
If you've enjoyed the previous films, however, Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark in particular, grab a ticket. For darn sure it's better than 2010's Iron Man 2, although certain flaws of that movie are revisited. The way in which 3 gets to jump straight into its world, history established, might even make it more fun than 2008's original. In that regard (and in some aspects of the plot) it's not unlike an installment of the Bond franchise, a parallel driven home at the very end and made explicit too in press interviews by co-writer/director Shane Black.

So there's a quickie assessment. I'll add spoiler commentary after the next graphic.
Join me below if/when you've seen Iron Man 3 or just don't care...


Panel of Lois Lane meeting Superman from Action Comics #1 © 1938 DC Comics.
Script: Jerry Siegel. Pencils, Inks, Letters: Joe Shuster. Colors: Unknown.

This post is currently down for maintenance.

Roger Ebert 1942-2013

Roger Ebert standing with arms rested on a stack of books atop a desk amidst many colorful items and walls covered in film posters

Just yesterday I was reading Roger Ebert's "Leave of Presence" post, addressing the discovery of more cancer in his body — this, after he'd endured so much — and his promise to write about what he could, when he could, during treatment.

Identity Crisis

The Bourne Identity, which introduced Matt Damon as human weapon Jason Bourne in 2002, was very good. Its 2004 sequel, The Bourne Supremacy, was great, as was 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum. Last year's The Bourne Legacy, a spinoff focused on another agent played by Jeremy Renner, was not as good as any of them but had its moments nonetheless. I'll expound a bit, without spoilers, after the poster.

Jeremy Renner in 'The Bourne Legacy' poster

Why Is This Joke Different
from All Other Jokes?

Fake book cover for 'Pesadick Tracy and the Case of the Missing Manischewitz — by Chester Gould - A Kosher-for-Passover Caper' with signature profile of Dick Tracy in yellow trenchcoat and yarmulke

More years ago than feels possible I drew up a cartoon like this for a Hillel seder in college. I've yet to come across it in my files but with today's technology I was able to rebuild the thing better, faster, and stronger.

Not that I'm about to do a whole strip, but I kind-of want to read this.

Related: Braids of Glory They're Magically
Nice Day for a Sprite Wedding

Five to Stream Up

Promo image with 'Star Trek: The Original Series' logo in bottom left corner; Spock, Kirk, Bones, and Scotty; Enterprise above them; and small screenshots of episodes at top

Hulu began streaming all five live-action incarnations of Star Trek today. You can watch The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise free through March 31st.

’Ship Happens

I'm not sure what I can say about Celeste and Jesse Forever without giving too much away.

Celeste and Jesse, played by Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg, are best friends since college who married and then amicably separated while remaining buds. The entire plot revolves around whether they reunite and/or how they cope with drifting apart.

If I tell you Forever is a comfort film — not that I'm doing so — you'd probably guess that there's a happy ending. If I tell you Forever should only be viewed if you can handle relationships going south — not that I'm doing so — you'd probably guess that there isn't. If I tell you that Forever is good enough to withstand either the cliché of the happy ending or the bummer of the alternative, well, I'd be speaking untruth, albeit not of great magnitude; Celeste and Jesse Forever is good, just not quite good enough for me to honestly say I enjoyed [whatever happened].

Spoilers after the poster, then...

Flow Rider

The blurry figure of a little girl, Hushpuppy, running on grass with sparklers in her hands and movie title above plus blurb reading 'A blast of sheer improbable joy'

Beasts of the Southern Wild, a mystifyingly beautiful work of life and loss,
was one of my favorite movies of last year.

Mind the Bollocks

As great as the political satire on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report is, sometimes the shows' finest comedy is wrung out of human-interest stories on a very modest scale.

large white bucket marked 'formaldehyde' with skull and crossbones

On Monday Colbert led off with an installment of its occasional series The Enemy Within about some misplaced scallop gonads in Maine. It's a great mix of making fun of these kinds of field pieces on the one hand and on the other just letting the ridiculous nature of the incident speak for itself. You're guaranteed to laugh or the next post on this blog is free. [Warning: Scallop gonads, in case you missed that, but they're really just the macguffin. And... Update: The link is dead now that the show's over.]

Related: Deft Wonk Brittality Not Necessarily Not the News

Hide and Sneak

Is Argo worth a watch? No doubt.

Was it worth an Oscar? Not given its competition, as far as I'm concerned, as I wrote at the end of my post-Oscars post last week. But the fact that Argo is merely one of my top five or so movies of 2012 rather than the number-one pick ain't bad. Some thoughts on it that include mild plot spoilers follow the graphic.

Argo DVD
Argo DVD package art © 2013 Warner Home Video.

7 for 007

Maybe there was faint hope of uniting all six men who played James Bond in the cinematic Eon canon on stage last Sunday at the Oscars in honor of 007's half-century in film. All we got was a decent but not exceptional montage and Shirley Bassey singing the theme from Goldfinger, which for the first minute or so I remained unconvinced was not Maya Rudolph doing Shirley Bassey singing the theme from Goldfinger. The Internet, luckily, is here to soften the blow with heaps upon heaps of bloomin' Bondage.

Dr. No UK movie poster

The Bond movies' 50th anniversary actually fell last year — October 5th, to be precise, on the date that Sean Connery's debut as Bond in Eon Productions' adaptation of Ian Fleming's Dr. No hit screens five decades before. Here are seven links — not counting the self-serving ones — that (mostly) honor the Bond legacy, particularly in film.

Exit from Eden

What follows are some thoughts on nostalgia and how it may blur critical assessment, prompted by yesterday's post on this year's Oscars show.

I'd like to preface them with a quote from an interview that Stefan Blitz (now founder/editor-in-chief of Forces of Geek) and I conducted with comics writer Brian Michael Bendis back in 2001 for my magazine Comicology. After I stopped myself literally in the middle of referring to Stefan as a DVD connoisseur, Stefan made my point for me — by admitting that he owned the 1983 movie Krull.

"You know what's funny about that movie?" said Bendis. "I remember seeing that movie [at 15] with my mom and my brother, and sitting in the movie theater having my first realization that movies could suck."

The Bloom Is Off the Gilded Lily

I wasn't going to write about The 85th Annual Academy Awards.

'The 85th Annual Academy Awards' graphic card with statuette
Image ® & © 2013 AMPAS.

Really. Not outside of some comments on other blogs, anyway. And not because the producers tossed out the formal nomenclature and rebranded this year's show purely as "the Oscars". I'm not above a linguistic gotcha; this is simply not such a gotcha. I honestly expected to be too fatigued and just plain iffy about the telecast that I was happy thinking about not writing about it.

But last night's Oscars telecast, hosted by Seth MacFarlane, was so disappointing that I kind-of can't help myself.

I don't have much to say about the content of the show, which of course won't stop me from saying something as long as I'm here. My anticipated mixture of indifference and irritation was pretty much spot-on. It's that during the telecast I finally came to — hmm... not a realization or epiphany, exactly, more of a rubicon I suppose — a rubicon in terms of my relationship with the annual event. I found myself curiously indifferent about my irritation.

Pre-Oscars Post

As you might've heard, the Oscars are tonight.

The big show starts at 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT on ABC — whose Go site has a complete list of nominees. If you're into seeing Oscar hopefuls, presenters, and other celebrities on the red carpet, you'll want to check those good ol' local listings.

I'll probably pass on a review of the show. Then again, I've thought that before, and yet — after a bout of Oscars poetry in 2009, when the blog was all of a few days old — I ended up doing post-Oscars posts in 2010, 2011, and 2012. I've enjoyed experiencing other events through the prism of Twitter since joining its ranks last summer, so I just might end up throwing out some instant commentary of my own there as concentration (and WiFi) allows. You can follow me via @BrianLamken, keep an eye on the #Oscars hashtag during the proceedings, or check my page of collected Twitticisms later on.

What Lies Beneath

'Skyfall' movie poster with Daniel Craig walking through the barrel of a gun in standard Bond opening-sequence fashion

James Bond celebrated his 50th anniversary on the silver screen last year. Dr. No
hit theaters in 1962, based on the 1958 Ian Fleming novel of the same name (sixth in the Bond series). It made Sean Connery a star, launched a slate of films that would cement Bond as a global icon for generations to come, and kicked off a spate of imit-ators capitalizing on the spy craze — some of which, like Get Smart and Mission: Impossible, became icons of a certain size in their own right.

Was Skyfall, now out on home video, a worthy way to commemorate Bond's golden jubilee?

Hawk Boy

Bully, a little stuffed bull who is (as Top Shelf's Chris Staros would say) my "friend thru comics," ran a DC subscription ad from 1972 the other day on his blog Comics Oughta Be Fun!.

'Sorry -- I Have No More DC Comics!' / Kids discuss subscribing after newsagent tells them he's out of DC
Subscription ad from Batman #239 © 1972 DC Comics. Pencils: Carmine Infantino.
Inks: Dick Giordano [see below]. Letters: Gaspar Saladino. Script, Colors: Unknown.

It's part of the 365 Days of DC House Ads feature. Every year, Bully gifts readers with at least one nifty daily feature in addition to all the other great stuff he shares, and this latest is right in my nostalgia zone.

Stan Musial 1920-2013

photo of Stan Musial from 1953 Bowman
trading card via Wikimedia Commons

Bob Costas was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Monday night. In one of the unaired, Web-only clips from their extended interview, Costas shared a nice anecdote about baseball great Stan Musial, who passed away on Jan. 19th at the age of 92. I find the story particularly appropriate to share on Jackie Robinson's birthday, as we celebrate not just No. 42 but those who accepted him.

Musial was a dream come true for both those who love seeing poetry in their statistics and those who love seeing the game played the right way.

Fringe Thinking: Ticket to Ride

With its final episode, Fringe took us back to the first episode of its last and (to me) least season. Much of the capper referenced past moments in the show's run, as Season Five has done to varying degrees throughout. Yet despite the fact that the answer to avoiding its despotic, dystopic future would seem to suggest another rewriting of Fringe history, the events it changed appear to be limited to those that — save for a brief flashforward late in Season Four from which the eventual Season Five sprang — followed the Season Four finale and indeed are, so far, still in our future (or would be if we were living in Fringe's world). Although Season Five has echoed and even recontextualized pivotal elements of previous episodes, it's entirely possible to view the series' bonus stretch as a thing apart, from beginning to the double-shot ending one week ago in...

I'm not sure how much there is to say about the episodes that I haven't said already in this batch of "Fringe Thinking".

Wise to the Wordle

For some time now I've been planning to add a Wordle graphic to the blog. The one below, set in a font called Tank Lite, has at this writing just been slipped into the sidebar between my general and exhaustive lists of post labels. It's followed by four more further down, using four other fonts: Kenyan Coffee, Grilled Cheese BTN, Enamel Brush, and Chunk Five.

Wordle is an online application created by Jonathan Feinberg. You enter a bunch of text into its box and it produces a nifty "word cloud" out of that, customizable in typeface, color, and (to an extent) layout, with the size of each word or phrase based on the frequency with which it appears in the source text.

Mean and Done

If you've ever left a comment on a blog, you may very well have come across “word” verification.

On blogs hosted by Blogger, as elsewhere, the author can select an option asking
people commenting to type a seemingly random bunch of letters to prove that they're actual humans rather than automated envoys of mischief or malevolence. This used to take the form of a single nonsense string that almost always could be a real word, but wasn't; then, last year, the hosting service joined the ranks of websites using heinously jumbled-up, visually skewed mixes of characters. Previously the nonsense “words” tended to have vowels and consonants placed in such an order that they were pronounceable, leading me to invent definitions for them based on actual words, morphemes, and phrases they suggested.

I took to sharing those definitions in comments, when they came readily to mind, then filing them away and periodically presenting batches here on my own blog. It was an endeavor not unlike Sniglets, which Rich Hall popularized on HBO's Not Necessarily the News and in a series of books back in the '80s, except in reverse. I've laid absolutely no claim to being either the first or the best at this, but I've been told I'm not bad at it either, and I'm genuinely sorry that the absence of that older format of word verification has led to a near-total shutdown in new definitions.

cztory — [ztoh ree] n. A Slavic tale.

ermend — [uhr mend; ee ahr mend] v. Fix someone up in the trauma center.

archMC — [artch em see] n. Preeminent (or sly) rapper.

Fringe Thinking:
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away

Last Friday's penultimate episode of this fifth and final season of Fringe on Fox spotlighted crucial moments in time.

We visited the Invaders' future headquarters in 2609 with Windmark. We learned of the discovery in 2167 that sent humanity down the path of suppressing emotion in favor of clinical analysis, ultimately leading to the Invaders' subjugation of their ancestors in 2015. And we revisited, from the perspective of 2036 and Season Five, the fateful moment in 1985 on Reiden Lake back when the Invaders were merely Observers, the plural was a singular, and the Observer who would come to be known as September rescued Walter and his son from another universe, through the title of the episode...

We also metaphorically revisited Olivia & Peter's day in the park with Etta in 2015, a memory that's virtually been a recurring cast member this season.

Greedo, Buzz Lightyear, and
Spider-Man Walk into the Batcave...

I'm not setting up a joke there. It's just what happens when toy lines collide.

Photo of various action figures along with toy fire truck, Batvan, and Bat-Signal outside Batcave playset

During my sister's visit with her kids last summer we decided to drag some old stuff
out of the basement. I had gotten my nephew Ishmael (real name classified) a Batman figure for his birthday — from the 2008 Dark Knight movie line, I think, although I
was happy to find one with a gray-&-black motif rather than the solid black seen in the films. He told me that he "really, really wished" for a Batmobile and he thought that we could find one. Aware that no Batmobile per se was in my stash but having discussed with my sister giving him my Kenner Star Wars figures, I decided to literally dust off a couple of great Mego items for him: the Batcave playset and what was officially titled the Mobile Bat Lab; I liked to call it the Batvan.