Cool ‘Batman Beyond’ short for 75th anniversary

batman 75th anniversary logo

This will really only whet your appetite for more Dark Knight.

DC Comics is celebrating Batman’s 75th anniversary this year – like it marked Superman’s 75th anniversary last year – with some cool stuff, including some short films.

The latest is comic book artist Darwyn Cook’s tribute to Batman Beyond, the sequel series to the original Bruce Timm Batman animated series.

batman beyond short

Kevin Conroy and Will Friedle return to voice the roles of aging Bruce Wayne and young Terry McGinness, his protege.

batsuits batman short

Cool action, cool shots of the former Bat-family costumes …

batman beyond short batmen

And, at the end, a tribute to a bunch of former movie/TV Batman portrayals and actors.

Good stuff.

Neve Campbell latest fave on ‘Mad Men’

neve campbell w don mad men

There was a lot going on in last week’s season premiere of “Mad Men,” what with the bi-coastal Sterling Cooper office antics, Roger showing why tiny cell phones wouldn’t have worked in 1969, Peggy and that damn little neighbor kid, Megan’s channeling Sharon Tate and Pete’s plaid pants and sweater, the latter worn over-the-shoulder-style.

And yes, that was Neve Campbell on the plane, snuggling with Don.

neve campbell mad men

Neve Campbell of “Scream” and “Party of Five.” Looking amazing and 1969-period-appropriate.

Campbell wouldn’t acknowledge, in talking to Entertainment Weekly, if that’s her only appearance in this, the split-in-half last season of “Mad Men.”

But c’mon, we know it can’t be.

She’s too recognizable to have just a couple of quick scenes. As, as Entertainment Weekly pointed out, the end credits even gave her character a name: Lee Cabot.

Neve has joined the ranks of past TV stars like Madchen Amick, Alexis Biedel and Linda Cardellini playing partners/playthings of the “Mad” men.

So here’s to more of Campbell this season.

madchen amick madmen hd

And – we should be so lucky – more Madchen.

Classic sci-fi: “It! The Terror from Beyond Space”

It_the_terror_from_beyond_space 50k

If there was a heyday of black-and-white, low-budget science fiction movies, “It! The Terror From Beyond Space” might have been smack in the heart of it.

It’s startling to think now that the 1958 release date of “It!” came just 10 years before “2001: A Space Odyssey” and less than 20 years before “Star Wars.” Those movies – although decades old now – seem much more contemporary than “It!”

When you make those comparisons, though, it’s funny to note that a movie that still feels contemporary despite the passage of years, Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi thriller “Alien,” was in many ways inspired by “It!” A lot of people have called “It” the inspiration for “Alien.”

Plot-wise, they have more than a few similarities. An expedition to another planet – Mars in the earlier movie – results in a dead crew and suspicion on the survivor. When a second ship is sent to investigate, the only survivor of the earlier crew – played by Marshall Thompson – is to be brought back to Earth to be tried for killing his crew.

it the terror girl on shoulder

But there’s another addition along for the ride: A stowaway, a monster, a scaly hulk played by stuntman and actor Ray “Crash” Corrigan. The creature killed the earlier crew and, on the trip back, begins picking off the second crew, stalking them in the hidden recesses of the ship.

“It!” is most effective when it doesn’t show the monster. Shots of the creature’s big, rubbery feet and pigeon-toed walk sap some of its menace, that’s for sure. While the hulking monster is appropriately kiddie-matinee scary for its time, every shot of it reduces the mystery and menace.

it the terror lobby card

Random thoughts:

Although the movie is called by some the inspiration for “Alien,” it’s almost like a sequel instead.

The movie’s action is set in 1973, which as we all know was a big period for Martian exploration.

“It” came out during the great period of 1950s black and white science fiction with craggy alien landscapes and beautiful star-filled backdrops and graceful rockets with Buick-style fins.

There’s a lot of science-defying action here, with the crew firing guns pretty indiscriminately at the monster. Lots of gas bombs are thrown and there’s a token wearing of gas masks, but only when hatch doors are open. What about the the air-handling system? The monster and his victims spend a lot of time in the vents, so I’m pretty sure that gas would get all around the ship.

dabbs greer

Look for Dabbs Greer, familiar to “Little House on the Prairie” watchers, as one of the crew.

 

Latest in Parker series is … fine, really

damned if you do robert b parker michael brandman

One of my favorite writers was Robert B. Parker, who wrote scores of crime novels before his death in 2010. Best among them was the series that followed the exploits of Spenser, the Boston private investigator. But Parker also wrote a nifty, if short-lived, series with a believable female protagonist, Sunny Randall, as well as a series of westerns.

Maybe Parker’s most successful “other” series was that featuring Jesse Stone, a alcoholic former cop who is hired as police chief in the New England town of Paradise. Stone is troubled – for a male Parker hero – and struggles with his addiction and his relationships.

After Parker’s death, his wife, Joan (who has since passed) and his estate authorized writers to continue both the Stone and Spenser series. Ace Atkins, a mystery writer in his own right, does a very good job with new Spenser novels. Michael Brandman, who produced a series of Jesse Stone TV movies starring Tom Selleck, was tapped to continue the Stone books.

He’s done three now, with the latest being “Damned if You Do,” and it might be the weakest of the renewed series so far.

That’s not to say there’s not a lot to like about “Damned if You Do.” Brandman has captured the spirit of Stone, the small-town cop who won’t let anything stand in the way of bringing justice to the unjust. The supporting characters are perfect recreations of Parker’s.

But the latest is kind of thin and feels like something Brandman tossed off without a lot of effort.

Parker’s later books, while wildly satisfying, felt pretty slight compared to his meatier earlier stories, so the feeling that Brandman is coasting a bit here isn’t without precedent. But I’m ready to read a book that feels like Jesse Stone – and the writer behind his modern-day adventures – is breaking a sweat.

This story finds Stone investigating the death of a young woman in a seedy Paradise motel. Her death threatens to – but never quite – spark a dust-up between warring pimps.

More satisfying, in a way, is Stone’s crusade to shut down a town nursing home where patients are being abused. But even here, the resolution seems really easy.

Parker’s stories rarely had a lot of twists and turns, as his heroes found a path toward a resolution and bulled their way through to their desired outcome. It feels like, in some of the latter-day books, that the path is just a little too straight and hurdle-free.

What I’m watching: Playing catch-up

The Man Under the Hood

It always feels like a new TV season when “Mad Men” starts up again on AMC. It’s not of course; we’re in the awkward part of the calendar when some shows have completed their seasons, others have a few episodes left and some – “Sleepy Hollow,” in particular – are long gone.

Here’s some thoughts on what I’m watching or watched until just recently.

“The Walking Dead.” This season, after staging a battle at the prison that saw Hershel and the Governor die, seemed to build to a climax in the middle of its year. The last half of the season was made up of really-pretty-good character pieces. The finale, with Rick and the gang playing into the hands of the Terminus cannibals, was shocking in that it was not bombastic. Curiously, it made me look forward to next October more than almost anything else.

“Agents of SHIELD.” This small-screen Marvel flagship series struggled early in the season. I wonder if the “slow build” story the showrunners are maintaining now is really the case – if so, they didn’t do it very effectively – or if, like many other series, it just took them a while to hit a stride. With recent episodes, including tie-ins to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “SHIELD” is finally clicking. I hope it doesn’t falter again in the final episodes of the season.

“Dallas.” I miss J.R. I miss Larry Hagman. But the series is good, soapy fun.

“Arrow.” It’s possible I’m not enjoying any series on TV more than this take on the classic DC hero. The cast is really good, the stories are fun and the show is stuffed with comics characters. What’s not to like?

“Justified.” One of my favorite series, “Justified” had an uneven series at best. Lawman Raylan and outlaw Boyd and their supporting players were good, but the messy Crowe family story just didn’t do it for me. Next year is the final season and the last scene of this past season forecast the story: Raylan vs. Boyd. Can’t wait.

“The Mindy Project.” This Mindy Kaling comedy is funnier than I ever expected. I wish it would run for 10 years.

“Community” and “Parks and Recreation.” With only one episode left this season – and its future uncertain – “Community” has bounced back this year with the return of controversial creator Dan Harmon. It’s so odd and inside baseball that it’ll never grow in viewership. I just hope it hangs on. And “Park” has grown from a series full of oddballs to a series with characters I really care about.

I’ve probably forgotten something. With “Mad Men” back tonight and “Orphan Black” returning April 19, we’ve got more weeks of good viewing ahead.

sleepy hollow cast

But you know what? I think I miss “Sleepy Hollow” more than anything.

The late, great late night

colbert-letterman

Yes, back in the 1980s, I was a huge fan of David Letterman. Yes, I stayed up for his 12:30 NBC show – after Carson’s “Tonight Show” – every night. Yes, I videotaped Letterman as I was watching. Yes, I excised commercials.

Yes, in a hall closet that’s been the repository of most of my VHS tapes over the decades – a closet that should be devoted to some more productive use, as I’m sure my wife is thinking as she reads this – are those tapes, buried along with videos recorded over the air of “The X-Files” and “Lois and Clark.”

Yes, I acknowledge it’s strange that I sat up and taped those Letterman shows.

I regret nothing. (Even though I haven’t watched the tapes in years.)

That’s because, back in those days, Letterman was the cutting edge of late-night comedy.

As I’ve noted here before, I was watching Carson from my late childhood or at least early adolescence. Carson was and will ever be the king of late-night. Nobody did it better.

Letterman – another Indiana guy, who spent time here in Muncie, working at the radio station I always listened to and going to college where I later went – was innovative and funny and awkward in all the right moments.

I haven’t watched a lot of Letterman in recent years and maybe it’s ironic that Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” have taken over my late-night viewing – when I can stay awake that late: The days of staying up until the 1:30 a.m. sign-off of Letterman’s old show are long gone.

So I was pretty pleased at this week’s news that Stephen Colbert was going to take over for the retiring Letterman on “The Late Show” next year. Colbert is sharp and funny and heartfelt and he’ll make a great host. I’ll probably check out at least the start of his show after Stewart’s sign-off.

I’m curious if Colbert’s right-wing ass character will “appear” at all on his new show. I’m curious how Comedy Central will replace “Colbert Report.”

You can bet I’ll be checking out Dave’s victory lap in this final year.

Heck, I might even break out some of those 30-year-old tapes and relive Dave’s glory days.

I can always watch those at 7 p.m., when I’m not too sleepy.

I couldn’t resist: Hydra Hail

hail-hydra-captain-america-yoda

I hadn’t seen this one.

1970s poster flashback: ‘Coffy’

Coffy pam grier poster

A while back I was inspired to begin this recurring look at the poster art of 1970s movies after seeing the throwback-style poster for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

Movies don’t get any groovier than “Coffy,” the 1973 blaxploitation flick starring Pam Grier in the title role. And the poster does justice to the movie’s storyline.

After her younger sister is hooked on drugs, Coffy, a nurse, sets out to kill as many drug dealers as possible.

It’s a pretty straightforward plot.

If you’ve never looked at it, check out the oddly-written Wikipedia page for the movie, complete with plot recap.

“Coffy uses her sexuality to seduce her would-be killers,” indeed.

And good lord, what an impression Grier made on a lot of us.

pam-grier

See what I mean?

Hail Hydra! You know the drill

hail hydra steranko

If you saw “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” you know (spoilers) that Marvel’s longtime super-science, super-evil group Hydra plans a big role.

And you know that “Hail Hydra” is the special password members of Hydra have used since the first “Cap” movie.

Of course, “Hail Hydra” has been around in the comics as long as Hydra has been around, and in the movies  it’s never been used more effectively than when Garry Shandling’s corrupt senator whispers it in corrupt SHIELD agent Jasper Sitwell’s ear.

So the exchange almost immediately inspired a host of Internet memes.

hail hydra lost in translation

This is the first one I saw.

hail hydra bush cheney

This one is great.

hail hydra godfather

And this one.

hail hydra bert and ernie

Can’t top this one.

 

‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ – ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’

Enterprise-d_bridge_yesterday's enterprise

“Yesterday’s Enterprise” might not be my favorite episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” – that top spot might go to “Best of Both Worlds” or “Starship Mine” or “Inner Light” or a handful of others – but it’s one that I stop and rematch every single time it’s on.
“Yesterday’s Enterprise” was the 15th episode of the third season of “TNG,” airing in February 1990. The series had found its footing by that point. What seemed like an awkward, stilted attempt to reboot the “Star Trek” franchise became its own show, with relatable characters and a cohesive, intriguing universe.
That said, “Yesterday’s Enterprise” took a risk that a few series take at some point in their run: Twisting that established universe and showing fans what might have been. The original “Star Trek” did it, most famously, with its “Mirror, Mirror” universe. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” did it better than almost anyone. Heck, in recent years, even “Community” did it, with its “Darkest Timeline” stories, in which beloved Abed suggests everyone adopt Spock-style goatees to signify the twist.
With “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” “TNG” went in a fascinating direction. A team of writers – four are credited with the screenplay and two with the story – and director David Carson took us to a dark place: An alternate universe in which the Federation has been at war with the Klingon empire for many years.
The familiar Enterprise, under the command of Captain Picard, encounters another ship coming out of a rift in time. The ship is the Enterprise-C, and its appearance in the “TNG” reality catapults Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D from the show’s familiar setting to the war-torn universe.

 

Castillo_and_Yar_yesterday's enterprise
The change in timeline means more than a change in the look of the ship. Klingon officer Worf is, obviously, no longer on the ship. But Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby, most recently seen in “The Walking Dead”) is back. Yar has been dead for a couple of years in the mainstream universe, but no one knows this in the rebooted, twisted universe, just like no one knows the Federation really isn’t at war with the Klingons in “our” universe.
No one but Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), the enigmatic alien who tends Ten Forward, the Enterprise-D’s bar.
Against all probability, Picard finds that Guinan’s warnings of the disrupted timeline make sense and has a fateful decision to make. If he sends the Enterprise-C and its crew, including Captain Rachel Garrett and helmsman Richard Castillo, back into the time rift and certain death. But doing so might “correct” the twisted timeline.
It’s a fascinating, spooky “what might have been” episode.
Random thoughts:
The crew did a lot to suggest the wartime Enterprise-D with darker sets, more “war room” type display panels and a few minor costume adjustments. Neither “TNG” or any TV series of the time had money to burn on individual episodes, so a little had to go a long way.
“Yesterday’s Enterprise” was an example of what “Star Trek” always did best: Raising the stakes and building to a suspenseful climax.
The weight of Federation history weighs heavily on this episode and the writers, director and cast rise to the occasion.
The guest cast was good. Richard McDonald played Castillo in a kind of Ryker-ish style. McDonald has been a good character actor for years now, and he’s maybe best known for this and his role as the idiot husband in “Thelma and Louise.” Not to mention Shooter McGavin in “Happy Gilmore.”
And I’ve always loved Tricia O’Neil, who played Captain Garrett. She’s gorgeous and authoritative. I wish we had seen more of her adventures. Or more of her in this episode, for that matter. Her early death leaves her ship in the hands of Castillo and Yar.

 

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