Monthly Archive for June, 2011

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (6/29/11) Netflix (2004 ***) Directed by Adam Mckay, starring Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Steve Carell as Brick Tamland, the weatherman with an I.Q. of 48. San Diego’s top news anchor is on top of the world until his world and ego is shaken by a sexy rival. This movie had a lot going for it, including some awesome cameos and supporting roles by Fred Willard, Ben Stiller, Tim Robbins, Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Jack Black, Fred Armisen, Chris Parnell and Seth Rogen. But even with all it offered, and in spite of decent performances by its romantic leads Ferrell and Applegate, the film never quite rose to the level of classic comedy. It’s possible the reason for that lay in the fact that the main characters (especially Ferrell) remained cartoonish throughout (making it hard to care about them) and ultimately the film (though quite clever at times) lacked any underlying depth.

Amazing Stories, Season 1

Amazing Stories, Season 1 (6/25/11) Netflix (1985-86 ***) Anthology series created by Steven Spielberg, directed by and starring various. The star-studded (Kevin Kostner, Kiefer Sutherland, Mark Hammill) Season 1 began with the Spielberg-directed “Ghost Train” (which actually played me emotionally like a freakin’ violin) and ended with “Grandpa’s Ghost,” directed by Timothy Hutton. Though ambitious for the time in which it was made, the anthology series was pretty uneven, but the producers sure managed to get some “amazing” talent and production values. One highlight was a period piece called “Vanessa in the Garden,” which was — believe it or not — written by Spielberg himself, directed by Clint Eastwood, and starred Harvey Keitel, Beau Bridges and Sondra Locke. Another episode, “Mirror, Mirror” was directed by Martin Scorsese! Ultimately, the weak episodes (one called “Hell Toupee” was almost unwatchable) outnumbered the good ones, and I probably enjoyed this show more for the mid-eighties nostalgia factor than for the show itself. Still, if the second season were available on Netflix I’d probably rent it.

The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive: Lightning in a Bottle

The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive: Lightning in a Bottle (6/24/11) Comics (2007 ***) Written by Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo, illustrated (mostly) by Ken Lashley. Originally published in The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #1-6 (2006-2007). When Bart Allen’s roommate gains powers and becomes a morality-challenged superhero, Bart must put on a clone of his grandfather’s scarlet and gold suit and take “The Griffin” down. Comic book continuity is a funny thing. Seems like just the day before yesterday when I was reading a wonderful Geoff Johns-penned Wally West Flash volume (The Flash, Vol. 7: Rogue War), but in the next book in my borrowed-from-a-friend stack, Wally is gone and the “impulsive” Bart has mysteriously aged four years into young adulthood. Clearly I’ve missed something along the way. The writing in Lightning in a Bottle wasn’t nearly as strong as Geoff Johns at his best, but it wasn’t terrible. And while Ken Lashley’s art was serviceable, my favorite art in this collection was rendered by Karl Kershl in issue #3. All in all, I’m not crazy about a grown-up Bart Allen as The Flash, but with only two books remaining in the stack I suppose I’ll stick with it and see where it goes.

Modern Family, Season 1

Modern Family, Season 1 (6/23/11) Netflix (2009-2010 ****) Created by Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, starring Ed O’Neill, Sofia Vergara, Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell. A 3-household extended family suffers the slings and arrows of weekly thematically-unified misadventures. Confession time: My wife and I started watching this ABC show late in the first season after it won the Emmy. We then watched and enjoyed the show’s second year and then when the regular TV season ended we put this season on our Netflix queue. The 24-episode second season began with a deft introduction to all 11 well-drawn characters (including Cam and Mitch’s adopted Vietnamese infant Lily) and ended with Claire Dunphy’s attempt to corral everyone for a family portrait in white. This is a terrific show with strong writing and acting, and it consistently balances the fresh (“Modern”) with the familiar (“Family”). I predict we’ll be regular viewers for years to come.

The Flash, Vol. 7: Rogue War

The Flash, Vol. 7: Rogue War (6/23/11) Comics (2006 ***1/2) Written by Geoff Johns, illustrated by Howard Porter and Livesay. Originally published in Flash # 1/2, 212, 218, 220-225 (2004-05). This volume begins with full-issue backstory explorations of villains Mirror Master and Heat Wave, then transitions into the titular war between active and reformed rogues, and ends with a return of Professor Zoom. As I read this book it was absolutely clear that Geoff Johns really hit his stride. This collection of stories was well written and thoroughly compelling. Highly recommended.

Bathing Beauty

Bathing Beauty (6/19/11) TV-TCM (1944 **1/2) Directed by George Sidney, starring Red Skelton, Esther Williams and Basil Rathbone, featuring Xavier Cugat, Harry James and their bands. A songwriter’s marriage to a swimming instructor is derailed, and he must go “back to school” to win her heart. The setup for this musical was positively ridiculous, and most of the musical numbers did nothing to advance the plot. Still, the technicolor was eye-popping and Esther Williams was one heck of a knockout in a one-piece bathing suit, and it’s no wonder she went from second billing to top billing.

The Flash, Vol. 6: The Secret of Barry Allen

The Flash, Vol. 6: The Secret of Barry Allen (6/18/11) Comics (2005 ***1/2) Written by Geoff Johns, illustrated by Howard Porter and Livesay. Originally published in Flash #207-211, 213-217 (2004). This storyline mostly runs in parallel with the superb Brad Meltzer-penned Identity Crisis. When Wally West learns that his uncle and hero Barry Allen slid down the slippery moral slope and “fixed” the psyche of supervillain The Top, Wally must try to do what he can to put things right, even if it comes at the expense of making his life considerably harder. There was plenty of evidence in this volume that after some period of struggle Geoff Johns finally figured out what made The Flash work as a character and as a book. It was also fun to see him continue to dig into Wally’s relationship with the rest of the DC universe, including a touching “best friendship” with fellow original Teen Titan Dick Grayson.

The Flash, Vol. 5: Ignition

The Flash, Vol. 5: Ignition (6/17/11) Comics (2005 ***1/4) Written by Geoff Johns, illustrated by Alberto Dose and various. Originally published in Flash #201-206 (2004). After Wally West has his memory “wiped” by Hal Jordan / The Spectre, he takes a job as a Keystone Police Department mechanic and slowly comes to the realization that he’s not just an ordinary man. The tone of this collection was definitely one of transition, and Alberto Dose’s indy comics-ish art was well suited for a storyline in which The Flash spent more time in civilian clothes than in the familiar scarlet and gold.

Super 8

Super 8 (6/14/11) La Canada 8 (2011 ***1/2) Written and directed by J.J. Abrams, starring Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning and Kyle Chandler. In 1979 a group of Ohio teens shooting a zombie epic witness the derailment of a train carrying a mystery with super-strength. This was not a perfect film story-wise, though in that department it was still undoubtedly better than most of the films that will be released this summer. What Super 8 did amazingly well was work as not just a period piece, but also as a throwback to the Spielberg-directed or produced films of my childhood and teen years, like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. and The Goonies. I loved that the story was told from the children’s P.O.V. and it was all too easy for me to identify with a group of kids getting together in the middle of a summer night to shoot a film… on Super 8!

From Here to Eternity

From Here to Eternity (6/13/11) TV-TCM (1953 ***1/4) Directed by Fred Zinnemann, based on the novel by James Jones, starring Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed and Frank Sinatra. Ex-boxer / army private Robert E. Lee Prewitt transfers to Hawaii, where he gets treated like crap and falls for the star of the Donna Reed Show… who turns out to be a hooker. This film is a deserving classic and it won the Oscar for Best Picture. It also contains one of the most iconic screen kisses of all time. However, it’s also an example of a variety of over-the-top potboiler that was in vogue in the 1950’s, and to my 21st century sensibilities it frequently seemed unnecessarily melodramatic.