Monthly Archive for June, 2010

Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (6/29/10) Netflix (2008 ***1/2) Directed by Sacha Gervasi, starring Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner. Nearly 25 years after rubbing elbows with rock greats, Anvil — founded by two childhood friends — was a band willing to do anything to make a comeback. There is a definite self-conscious comparison with the fictional rock group Spinal Tap. Some of the similarities, which included a concert in Japan, a visit to Stonehenge and the drummer’s name being so similar to This is Spinal Tap‘s director Rob Reiner, only reinforced that comparison. But that wasn’t enough to recommend the film, which succeeded on its own terms as a well-made documentary that was ultimately about one of the most universal themes of all: friendship.

Shazam!: The Greatest Stories Ever Told

Shazam!: The Greatest Stories Ever Told (6/27/10) Comics (2008 ***) Written and illustrated by various. Captain Marvel and family span the decades, mixing silliness with superheroics. It’s been a long time since I read any of the older Marvel Family stories, and this Whitman’s sampler of their adventures was a kick. Of special interest were a couple of stories circa 1974 when DC comics acquired the rights to the old Fawcett comics. It was interesting to see how the “big red cheese” and associates were integrated into the DC universe.

Serenity: Those Left Behind

Serenity: Those Left Behind (6/26/10) Graphic Novel (2007 **1/2) Written by Joss Whedon, illustrated by Will Conrad. Set in-between the Firefly series and the Serenity movie, Mal Reynolds and his merry band take on a scavenger mission but fall into a trap. I appreciated the fact that this story, originally presented as a 3-issue miniseries, was written by series creator Whedon himself, but this quick read never really engaged me emotionally. I undoubtedly would have enjoyed it far more if I’d seen the Firefly TV series, which I assure you is somewhere on my Netflix queue.

Moon

Moon (6/24/10) Netflix (2009 ***1/4) Directed by Duncan Jones, based on his original story, starring Sam Rockwell and the disembodied voice of Kevin Spacey. When astronaut Sam Bell has an accident on the lunar surface, his 3-year mission comes to an unexpected conclusion. I had heard great things about this film, and it’s possible my expectations were higher than they should have been. It’s still a good film, with a solid performance by Sam Rockwell. It falls into the rare category of “Intelligent Sci Fi” films, and we could certainly use more of those. I don’t want to reveal too much, but I particularly appreciated that many of the film’s story elements weren’t stated overtly, yet they were still relatively easy to infer.

Power Girl

Power Girl (6/21/10) Comics (2006 ***) Written and illustrated by various. This is an odd volume, as it combines the… uh, titular character’s early appearances from 1976 and 1987 with more recent appearances, which all attempt to describe her contradictory origin as either the Earth-2 Superman’s cousin or as the granddaughter of an Atlantian Wizard. Cast as an “odd man out” as a result of the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, Power Girl’s search for her true beginnings is much of what makes her an interesting character. However, it’s clear from this volume that it’s probably her revealing costume and… how shall I phrase this?.. ginormous boobies… that have made her a fan favorite. (“Hey, boys — My eyes are up here!”)

Mom’s Cancer

Mom’s Cancer (6/21/10) Graphic Novel (2005 ****) Written and illustrated by Brian Fies. This book collects Fies’ excellent webcomic which was written in “real time” and detailed his mother’s diagnosis with brain and lung cancer and her subsequent treatment. I had this book sitting on my Amazon wish list for a long time, but I was a little afraid to order and read it, honestly. As the son of a woman who went through a similar journey, the subject (and title) hit a little too close to home. I borrowed this book from a friend and read it over a lunch hour. After finishing it, I decided the book would be a very thoughful gift for anyone with a family member with cancer.

Father of the Bride

Father of the Bride (6/20/10) TV-TCM (1950 ***) Directed by Vincente Minnelli, starring Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett, Elizabeth Taylor and Don Taylor. Stanley T. Banks’ little girl has grown up and is intent on marrying a fellow with the unlikely name of Buckley Dunstan. Of course it falls to her parents to arrange for and pay for the whole costly affair. This story is told through the point of view of the father, and even though Steve Martin played the role admirably in the 1991 remake and its 1995 sequel, it’s hard to imagine anyone more perfect for the role than Spencer Tracy.

Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 (6/19/10) Palm Springs Regal Cinema (2010 ****) Directed by Lee Unkrich, featuring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack and Ned Beatty. Andy’s going to college and Woody, Buzz and what’s left of the round-up gang must face their fate. I really have to hand it to Pixar. After an absence of 11 years since Toy Story 2, this third outing could have been a real disappointment, and yet it was one of the best, most emotionally engaging films I’ve seen this year. Many have disagreed, but I thought it was even stronger than TS2. Considering that the film was rated G, I admired the filmmakers’ willingness to take their characters (and their audience) to the precipice of annihilation. On a side-note, there were a LOT of hidden Easter eggs in this film. I spotted one early on and was convinced it would be utilized as a story element late in the film, but it wasn’t. I would love to know if the ending I imagined in my mind had actually been considered or not.

Beach Blanket Bingo

Beach Blanket Bingo (6/13/10) TV-TCM (1965 ***) Directed by William Asher, starring Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Linda Evans, Don Rickles, Paul Lynde and Buster Keaton. There’s a girl singer, some skydiving, a mermaid and a creepy guy with a secret lair. Also, there’s a lot of other singing and shots of dancing girls’ bottoms. This was the fifth (out of seven) film in the “Beach Party” series, and I can understand why they were so popular. The movie seemed to exist in the same innocent, music-filled world as the Elvis Presley films.

Yours, Mine and Ours

Yours, Mine and Ours (6/13/10) TV-TCM (1968 **1/2) Directed by Melville Shavelson, based on the book Who Gets the Drumstick? by Helen Eileen Beardsley, starring Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda, Van Johnson and Tim Matheson. A nurse with eight children falls in love with a career Navy officer with ten. This movie played frequently as the third or fourth feature at the drive-in when I was a kid growing up in Omaha. Watching it now, years later, it occupies the same certain sentimental zone as Darby O’Gill and the Little People and the My Name is Trinity movies. In the cold light of day, Yours, Mine and Ours was not what I could (even charitably) call a good movie. One sign of its lack of quality is that it relied too heavily on voice-over narration… by multiple characters. Also, for a movie made in 1968, its politics were fairly right-wing. In spite of all that, it was still a pleasure to re-watch this little piece from my childhood.