Monthly Archive for May, 2011

A Caricaturist’s Handbook

A Caricaturist’s Handbook (5/31/11) Illustrated Nonfiction (2010 ***1/4) Written and illustrated by Jim van der Keyl. This book provides a step-by-step walk-through of the theories and practice of caricature, with a handful of exercises and plenty of good examples. Caricature is a skill I highly respect and one for which I have little talent. Jim van der Keyl’s book makes it look fairly straightforward and fun. This book was loaned to me by a friend and was actually self-published by a co-worker at Dreamworks. As a person who self-publishes books for a hobby, I appreciated the book as an example of what could be produced under those constraints. While there were a number of typos in the edition I read, I enjoyed the clean layout and use of lots of color photos and images. Though it doesn’t go into great depth, I don’t think the goal was to be encyclopedic. This book would probably be very useful as an introductory book on a subject that probably requires equal parts craft and talent.

Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids (5/30/11) Glendale Mann 4 (2011 ***1/4) Directed by Paul Feig, screenplay by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne and Chris O’Dowd. Failed bakery owner Annie is a self-centered mess, and when her best friend Lillian gets engaged and asks her to be her maid of honor, Annie finds herself in competition with Helen, an “ever-so-perfect” wealthy bridesmaid from hell. Bridesmaids contains healthy portions of the gross-out humor you might expect from a Judd Apatow-produced movie. Because of its release in close proximity to the Hangover sequel, many reviewers have called it a “Hangover for women,” which I think sells the movie short.

Road to Zanzibar

Road to Zanzibar (5/30/11) TV-TCM (1941 **) Directed by Victor Schertzinger, starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. Chuck Reardon and his pal Hubert “Fearless” Frazier brave the dangers of Africa while resisting the come-ons of two female confidence men. This was the third Hope & Crosby “Road” movie I’ve watched recently, and the one I enjoyed the least. There was a certain mean-spiritedness in Dorothy Lamour’s motivations in this film that was troublesome. Also, the narrative structure of the story was pretty messed up, and there was a point early in the third act when it seemed like the story had played itself out. On the plus side, unlike Road to Morocco, in which Bing & Bob played virtually the same character, in Road to Zanzibar, at least their characters were better defined and differentiated, with Crosby playing the master manipulator and Hope the manipulatee.

The Littlest Rebel

The Littlest Rebel (5/29/11) TV-TCM (1935 ***) Directed by David Butler, starring Shirley Temple, John Boles, Jack Holt and Bill Robinson. Little Virgie Cary is the most polite, most diminutive southern belle you’ve ever seen, but her idyllic life is disrupted by that mean ol’ civil war! I couldn’t tell you the last time I watched a movie with Shirley Temple. (Okay, I can: It was September 2, 2009 and the film was Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, but I don’t think that counts.) It’s obvious from this film why she was such a box-office draw. She was simply adorable, never more so in a scene near the end of the film where she shares slices of an apple with Abraham Lincoln. While this film isn’t exactly politically correct by modern standards, I’ve seen far worse from the period in which it was made, and it’s still worth watching.

Simplified Anatomy for the Comic Book Artist: How to Draw the new Streamlined Look of Action-Adventure Comics!

Simplified Anatomy for the Comic Book Artist: How to Draw the new Streamlined Look of Action-Adventure Comics! (5/29/11) Illustrated Nonfiction (2007 ***1/2) Written by Christopher Hart. With lots of action-oriented super-powered illustrations, this book presents (as its title implies) a simplified approach to anatomy and emphasizes an application toward contemporary “streamlined” comic book styles. This book was loaned to me by a friend and I got enough out of it as a potential reference book that I may order a copy of my own. I have been disappointed by some of Chris Hart’s books in the past, but the the illustrations in this book (drawn by several different artists) were appealing. I appreciated that the book’s target audience skewed young, and I wish this book had existed when I was a teenager. If you know a young man or woman interested in becoming a comic book illustrator, this book would make a great gift.

Tron: Legacy

Tron: Legacy (5/26/11) Netflix (2010 ***) Directed by Joseph Kosinski, starring Jeff Bridges, Garret Hedlund and Olivia Wilde. Sam Flynn follows his missing father into “The Grid” and must fight computer programs in a video game arena in order to bring his father home. I am so glad I decided to rent and watch the original 1982 Tron a couple days before watching this recent sequel. It gave me much more of an appreciation for a lot of the in-jokes and references in the film, and there were many. The visuals were stunning (especially on Blu-Ray) and while the “virtual” young Jeff Bridges (as “Clu”) wasn’t 100% successful, it was still a major technical achievement and he got far more screen time than I expected. Was the story particularly deep or emotionally moving? No, but it was a worthy successor for the original film.

Modern Family, Season 2

Modern Family, Season 2 (5/26/11) TV-ABC (2010-11 ***1/2) Series created by Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, starring Ed O’Neill, Sofia Vergara, Eric Stonestreet and Julie Bowen. Jay Pritchett is the patriarch of a family that extends to three households, all within easy driving distance of each other. I’m embarrassed to admit that my wife and I didn’t start watching this show until after it won the Emmy last year. But I’m glad we did, and of the shows we’ve been DVR-ing this past season, Modern Family has consistently been the one we’ve wanted to watch first. I appreciate that each episode is structurally strong, with a single theme played out in all three of the “sub-families.” However, what really makes this show work as well as it does is that the characters are all so different and well defined (not to mention well played). Even with the show’s deliberate structural framework, Modern Family still feels character-driven, which is a real testament to its strong writing.

Flash: The Human Race

Flash: The Human Race (5/26/11) Comics (2009 **) Written by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, illustrated by Paul Ryan and Pop Mhan. Originally published in Flash #136-141 (1998) and Secret Origins #50 (1990). In two separate adventures, Wally West is forced to race against his childhood imaginary friend, then he must rescue his girlfriend Linda from the grim reaper-ish “Black Flash.” As with the previous volume (Flash: Emergency Stop), this book was published not because the stories or art were good but because it was partially written by Grant Morrison. Well, good for him, I guess. As I continue work my way through that big stack of Flash trade paperbacks my friend loaned me, so far this book has been the weakest of the bunch.

Road to Singapore

Road to Singapore (5/25/11) TV-TCM (1940 **1/2) Directed by Victor Schertzinger, starring Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour and Bob Hope. Shipping heir Josh Mallon and his pal Ace Lannigan drop out of life and wind up in a hut in Singapore with a beautiful live-in maid that looks an awful lot like Dorothy Lamour. The first of their “Road” movies contained a surprising amount of pathos, with Hope and Crosby genuinely falling in love with the same woman. It may be hard to believe, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen this film before. Having recently watched Road to Morocco, it was interesting to note the tonal difference between the two, with Road to Singapore making far more of an attempt at a genuine emotional connection.

The Paleface

The Paleface (5/25/11) TV-TCM (1948 **1/2) Directed by Norman Z. McLeod, starring Bob Hope and Jane Russell. Calamity Jane and a cowardly dentist take on a secret mission and kill a LOT of Indians. As attractive a woman as Jane Russell was in 1948, she sure wasn’t much of an actor, unfortunately. As a result, there was virtually no chemistry between her and her unlikely leading man. Growing up, I was a big Bob Hope fan and I’d remembered this film being better when I watched it in my childhood. Part of the reason I didn’t enjoy it so much this time around was undoubtedly the depiction of American Indians in the film as savages and/or shotgun fodder.