Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanks-for-Giving on Thanksgiving! (Part 2 of 2)

This concluding installment is going to read like a turducken, that infamous turkey stuffed with boneless duck and chicken meat - if you're set to have one this Thanksgiving, you might find it dry, tough and tender at the same time...reminds me of the books I read...

Few people know how to handle a turkey without looking like Lupo the Butcher,  so I found a psuedo-helpful instruction guide presented by a familiar face from the past, (Bob Hope!) along with some more wacky turkey day-related festivities, including a turkey made from a Lego Star Wars Imperial AT-AT (can you imagine how easy it would be if a real Thanksgiving dinner made/shaped like Lego bricks? You wouldn't carve it, you would just gently pull the slices apart! ).

In funnybook land, Batman, Superman,  Power Girl and The Huntress make perfect turduckens. I noticed that Scott Snyder has found a way to sidestep present-day continuity by tinkering with Batman's past in Zero Year & Dark City, while his Superman Unchained is shaggy dog turducken that's taken forever to cook. Meanwhile, Power Girl & The Huntress have had their Silver Age origins reinstated, with Modern Age twists - they were the Supergirl  and Robin of Earth 2, which means PG is Superman's Other Secret Weapon (inside joke) and Huntress, in an interesting retcon, was always Helena Wayne. That means that all of her appearances as Helena Bertinelli over the last 26 years or so were in actuality featuring the daughter of Batman & Catwoman of Earth2 living on Earth1, masquerading as the daughter of a slain mob boss(!), working as a schoolteacher by day, falling in and falling out with "uncle" Batman & his "family", becoming Batgirl during No Man's Land, joining the Justice League during the Grant Morrison era,  hooking up with The Question (both in comics and in Justice League Unlimited) and becoming a regular in Birds of Prey. I actually  find this retcon pretty neat, since the "Batman & Catwoman's daughter" hook is still iconic - there's just one problem: it's been two years now; all the loose ends implied by the retcon haven't been addressed yet! Obviously, storylines like Cry For Blood and Huntress: Year One are left hanging in the air, but I don't think it matters - Helena Bertinelli's characterization was rarely consistent and varied with whoever was writing for her: Joey Cavalieri portrayed as mature, but inexperienced;  Chuck Dixon cast her as a "bad girl" action hero, often standing-in as gritty version of Batgirl among Batman's sidekicks; Grant Morrison had fun with her rapport with Batman; Greg Rucka focused on her neuroses; Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee focused on her sex appeal; Gail Simone might have been the first writer who tried to find the rationale behind the inconsistencies; Geoff Johns toyed with reviving the Earth2 incarnation.   Finally, Paul Levitz, who created the character,  resumed writing new stories about her and brought her back and ... held down the figurative "reset" button just a little bit with an identity reveal.

So that's it. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. Remember to tuck your fingertips inward while chopping and slicing food - you'll thank me later.

And just like Snoopy & Woodstock, I'll be enjoying my Thanksgiving after you leave. :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanks-For-Giving on Thanksgiving! (Part 1) :)

I know, I know!  It's called Thanksgiving, but the play on words is a nod to the rarely-seen TV Special, Daffy Duck's Thanks-For-Giving Special, which was produced and directed by Chuck Jones. The reason why it's not shown often is because the cartoons had little/nothing to do with the holiday - it was really just a chance to premiere Jones' sequel to Duck Dodgers Of The 24 1/2 Century: Duck Dodgers And The Return To The 24 1/2 Century. But the marketing for the cartoon featured an image of Daffy Duck in pilgrim garb, which I've posted below, along with other images of Thanksgiving craziness that I've found, including an epic crossover between the stars of three 1960s sitcoms: The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. Too bad it was just a photo op. It also appears to have been taken in the late-60s,  since June Lockhart is present (replacing Bea Benederet).

And I did not forget the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (or CBS's coverage of the parade, which had gotten a little bit hipper after they ditched the cheesy "All-American Thanksgiving" format around 2004/2005, though I wish they'd brought back Daisy Fuentes to cover it like they did to launch the change - nothing wrong with having a hip, sexy woman host a parade, says I). Remember the days when there was no Spider-Man balloon and a fan created an online petition to bring it back? I'm not sure if it made a dent, but I recall meeting the guy while standing on line for autographs from the Romitas, John and John jr. - he was low-key and nervous; he ducked out (!) and the woman accompanying him (I'm assuming it was his girlfriend or wife *) got them to sign a copy of the petition on his behalf.

"I'm a man on a mission" - his reply to me when I saw the long form in his hand and asked about it. Maybe it turned the tide?  Who knows?

And how can I not mention A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving? Even if I had forgotten,  all of cyberspace would have reminded me! My favorite tribute is the fan who made a batch of cupcakes depicting images/items seen in the special. The Peanuts gang's antics might be hard to take in large doses these days (nowadays ol' Chuck would be hooked on anti-depressants), but nowadays people are trying to reinvent Thankgiving dinners to allow for vegans or calorie counters; Charles Shultz's original target was anyone who insisted on having Thanksgiving dinner at a diner or restaurant, in which the experience gets shortchanged by flakey service; we're slowly learning how to love a plate full of pretzels, toast & jellybeans. My favorite scene is the last one played over the credits,  with Snoopy & Woodstock quietly enjoying a Thanksgiving feast after all the kids have left.

Lastly, I'm not a huge fan of Planes, Trains And Automobiles, the John Hughes film in which Steve Martin & John Candy play strangers who keep running into eachother in airports and train stations during the Thanksgiving weekend travel crush and eventually have to work together if they're going to get anywhere - partly because their characters were a bit cardboard (Martin was on his way to becoming the bland suburban "Dad" of Cheaper By The Dozen; Candy is sort of playing off himself - and his weird moustache & frizzy hair - for all of it - their chemistry was weak; maybe if it was Rick Moranis playing the Candy role to Martin or Chevy Chase playing the Martin role to Candy..), but it might be the only Thanksgiving movie I'm aware of, except for Other People's Money, which has a few scenes set around the holiday.

Tomorrow in part 2's installment I'll talk Turduckens - of the comic book kind, that is.

*I don't believe that woman was his wife or girlfriend. It was his mother.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Other Three Doctors

Yesterday, I watched Doctor Who: The Day of The Doctor on BBCAmerica. This TV special just earned a Guinness World Record for being the largest live simulcast of a TV drama in history, airing in over 200 countries at the same time. It will also be shown in many movie theatres throughout the weekend in 3D and will premiere in American cinemas Monday, November 25th.  This special celebrates the 50th anniversary of the series premiere in 1963.

Was it good? It was excellent!  I loved it! I believe it's the best episode of the current series. I was impressed with how writer/producer Steven Moffat was able to integrate a lot of continuity, nods to the past, running gags and characters eloquently in a fairly short (it's about 75 minutes long) movie. The Last Great Time War - the apocalyptic battle on Gallifrey, the Doctor's home planet, was the source of all the angst that had underpinned the characterization of the titular hero for the last eight years; with The Day of The Doctor , the chip gets wiped off his shoulder in a big paradigm shift that actually makes more sense than what we were told; given what we know of him, the Doctor, even when bred for war, is not a killing machine - he wouldn't be the Doctor,  he would be a different character altogether,  and it wouldn't be Doctor Who anymore. Moffat figured out a way to finally resolve/reconcile this contradictory plotline by introducing John Hurt as The War Doctor.

I was curious to see what this new "black sheep" Doctor was going to be. There were a LOT of theories online regarding this mayfly incarnation - happily, they turned out to be wrong. Hurt's performance is fantastic and colorful; his grizzled Doctor is equal parts Gandalf/Obi-Wan Kenobi and 1890s Klondike Gold Rush prospector (think Walter Huston in The Treasure of  The Sierra Madre), he holds his own next to series star Matt Smith and fan-favorite Doctor David Tennant (whose performance is so flawless, it's like he never left!),  which is no easy feat. Costars Jenna Coleman and Billie Piper also get to shine (Moffat's script took care in giving everyone a real part to play and avoid turning the whole works into an overlong curtain call, which is why it bugs me when people compare his & Russell T. Davies efforts to Joss Wheddon, when I believe Joss should take notes - he only knows how to write teenagers, geeks or immature adults who won't grow up). Joanna Page as Queen Elizabeth the 1st was cute as a very catty & minx-like "virgin queen" Bess; at times, she resembles Judi Dench (!), who has played the Queen as well.

Then there were the cameos. There were two BIG surprise cameos, one not-so-big, and one BIG surprise cameo in a separate "minisode" that served as a prequel and premired the week before. That minisode, The Night of The Doctor, featured the first onscreen appearance of Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, an incarnation that was introduced in a Doctor Who TV movie that aired in 1996, but only made subsequent appearances in tie-in novels and audio plays thereafter. His appearance in this short film has revived interest in seeing him reprise his role again, and I wouldn't be surprised if he does appear in the next batch of episodes.

The not-so-big cameo was the reappearance of all the other actors who played the Doctor (living & dead) during the climatic battle sequence via footage from old episodes reedited to appear "new"...and amongst that was a quick blink-or-you'll-miss-it BIG cameo by Peter Capaldi (!), who will be replacing the departing Matt Smith. We only see his eyes and eyebrows, but they are very intense eyes and eyebrows! This Time Lord is a man on a mission - perhaps the mission implied in the final scenes...

The last BIG cameo featured Tom Baker (!). Even though the actor (arguably the most-famous, iconic & recognizeable incarnation of the Doctor - y'know, the one who looks like Harpo Marx, wears an impossibly long scarf and has been caricatured on The Simpsons & Futurama often) told the Huffington Post that he was appearing in it, nobody really believed it. The only clue that he was being truthful might be the Radio Times cover promoting the event, which offered a cover featuring Tom as the Doctor from a 1993 TV Special, "Dimensions in Time", in which he's noticeably older and not an older photo of him from the past, in his classic 70s look. He's spry for his age, even though he's lit up in this special as though he were were feeble/ghostly/spectral in appearance, although there may be something to that - Tom's final DW adventure, "Logopolis", featured the Doctor being haunted by a ghostly watcher as who turned out to be an avatar of his future self!

There's a big debate online as to who Tom was playing in The Day of The Doctor. Was he merely playing the humble museum curator his character claimed to be (with an extensive knowledge of  the Doctor and Gallifrey, even proclaiming/hinting knowledge of what lies ahead?), a future incarnation of the Doctor - one who chose to resume the form of the 4th Doctor and "retire", or maybe he's the Doctor's brother,  Irving Braxiatel, a Time Lord known for his extensive art collection? Nobody knows, but it's a surprise appearance that was loved by many...maybe it was just Tom Baker as Tom Baker, the only man alive who could get away with knowing more about the Doctor than the Doctor!

So...after three years of wobbly storylines that seemed to mark a series that was coasting on good will earned by old feats of greatness (this was Moffat's best script since "Blink", an episode that's regarded as the most-popular episode of Doctor Who of all time in most online episode that the Doctor, ironically, has only a minor part to play in!), or just support from new audiences keen on feeling like they weren't late for the party, this TV special delivered. It had the meat, the sauce, the lettuce, the spice...anyone who disagrees should go watch Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D ...because they're too spoiled from having the good stuff and could use a dose of the opposite.

Here's a fun gallery of images related to the  whole works. Enjoy!