Friday, November 21, 2014

Arrow S03 E07: "Draw Back Your Bow"

Back in the day, the 1950s to be precise, Green Arrow wasn't nothing but Batman with a bow. Millionaire playboy with a masked alter ego, check. Young ward/sidekick, got one. Cave headquarters, themed vehicle and arsenal, got them too. He even had a signal in the sky and an arch criminal clown for a recurring bad guy. Much like Batman had Catwoman and Poison Ivy, Green Arrow had his share of romantic interests/opponents as well.

Most notable is Miss Arrowette, who for decades was lost to the mists of time until resurrected in the Young Justice comics as the mother of new member Arrowette. Like similar villainesses, like the aforementioned Catwoman and the Harlequin who pestered the Golden Age Green Lantern, Miss Arrowette may have posed as a criminal, but she really had a soft spot for Green Arrow, which could reform her at the drop of a bow.

In the Modern Age, a new darker take was tried with an Arrowette-like character. This one however was a full-fledged sociopath, and her name was Cupid. "Arrow" showrunner Andrew Kreisberg created Cupid himself for the Green Arrow/Black Canary comic in 2009, so really it was only a matter of time before she showed up live action. CW veteran actress Amy Gumenick plays the bow and arrow armed villainess obsessed with Arrow on the TV series, and she is very good at psycho. As far as psycho girlfriends go, I much prefer Gumenick to Jessica DeGouw's Huntress.

In the Felicity subplot, she delivers the best line of the episode while watching Brandon Routh's shirtless Ray Palmer doing the salmon ladder in his office, "Oh god, I have a type." It still creeps me out that Ray thinks he can buy Felicity's love, but I kinda dig how Routh is out-barechesting Stephen Amell. I never really thought of the Atom being so buff though. I guess you miss it because he's so small. And just wait, it looks like he'll be getting smaller.

Just like in the comics, Cupid finds an arrow shot by Oliver in a previous battle (Brother Blood's assault on the city in this case) and fixates on it. She begins hunting Arrow's enemies and killing them, for him. Her lair, a love nest that would make any stalker jeal, is really really crazy ex-girlfriend creepy. Over at "The Flash," Cisco usually names the bad guys, and here Felicity pegs Cupid as 'Crazy Pants.' I like that name better.

At last in Flashback Hong Kong, we not only have a few nice moments between young Oliver and Tatsu, but finally we get to see Katana in action. Thea finds a potential new boyfriend in a really annoyingly cliché subplot, and Oliver pushes Felicity into the arms of Ray Palmer, only to change his mind too late. I'm also happy to see the name Arsenal in use finally as well.

Lots of DC Comics name drops this time out. There's St. Walker most famous of the Blue Lanterns, Baron Street in homage to writer Mike Baron, and Sherwood Florist which in the comics was the flower shop run by Dinah (Black Canary) Lance for years. And of course, rather than Iron Heights, Cupid is put in with the other inmates in the Suicide Squad, and an indirect reference is made to Harley Quinn. The biggest Easter egg however is Palmer hunting white dwarf alloy and revealing his A.T.O.M. suit of armor.

This is also the second episode in a row to end with a sneak peek at the next episode's villain of the week. I'm not sure I like that. It just seems a little bit too much Batman '66 for me. In this case, we get another "Spartacus" alum Nick Tarabay as the decidedly non-Australian Digger Harkness AKA Captain Boomerang.

Next: Flash Vs. Arrow!

And remember to see all of my reviews of the "Arrow" series, click here, its companion series "The Flash," click here, and if you'd like to discuss the latest episodes on Facebook, here and here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Tingler

The Tingler ~ This is a movie with a bit of a reputation. Directed by William Castle, the Barnum of gimmick flicks, the promotional campaign for The Tingler included such bits as the fact that screaming will ward off the creature called the Tingler. And then there's the thing with the seats. In some theaters, several seats were rigged to deliver electrical shocks at certain points in the film. Castle is of course the same man who had skeletons come out of the ceiling and buzz the audience and had nurses make viewers sign waivers in case they died during the movie for other films.

Matinee, directed by Joe Dante, featuring John Goodman as a William Castle-like filmmaker and promoter has also played on this tour so one has to wonder if any shenanigans has been planned for a night's viewing on the penultimate night of the TCM Classics Cruise on board the Disney Magic. The Bride ran into Illeana Douglas, granddaughter of Melvyn Douglas, actress, producer, and TCM host and interviewer - earlier in the day and she said that there would indeed be surprises that night at The Tingler.

The film, starring Vincent Price as a scientist searching for an organism that lives in the human body and feeds off fear, is perhaps Castle's most famous, and also what film promoter and historian Bruce Goldstein is known for. He has shown the film all over the world, and now on the TCM Cruise. For more info on Bruce Goldstein, check out New York's Film Forum and Rialto Pictures, well worth checking out, and in between all that cool stuff, he sets up showings of The Tingler.

For what is already a so bad it's good campy horror b-movie, complete with nearly incomprehensible plot, bad acting, silly special effects, and is practically set up for a MST3K workover, this treatment added so much more. Psychedelic full color light effects highlight the acid trip of the flick, skeletons flying out of the ceiling, and of course, the piece de resistance - the Tingler attacking Illeana Douglas in the front row, all made this performance one of the highlights of the cruise.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Avengers Academy

On board the Disney Magic is something I think all of my fellow comic book fans, and especially my fellow Avengers fanatics would be interested in - it's Avengers Academy.

I have been a huge proponent of the Disney Cruise since I first started coming on them, and one of the misinterpretations many folks have is that it's for kids, or that it will be filled with kids. The answer to that is yes and no. The Disney Cruise is for everyone, of any age, and yes, it has many kids, but the fact is - you hardly ever see them. There are entire areas of the ship dedicated to kids of various ages and daycare facilities. They are hardly ever around, and sometimes they don't want to even join their parents for meals.

One of the reasons the kids are so occupied and so passionate about staying in their pens, ahem, I mean, areas, is Avengers Academy. It's like an interactive summer camp (although only for the duration of your cruise) where kids learn to be Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and help the Avengers.

There's a whole training area with interactive computer games, as well as displays of Thor's hammer, Captain America's shield, and Iron Man's Mark VI Protype Armor. Yeah, I know Cool with a capital C, but it gets better

You can be Iron Man. Yeah, seriously. Kinda like green screen, you can be the star of your own comic book testing Iron Man's armor, seeing how you fly, how you use your repulsor beams, and all that cool stuff. Now, more than I wish I was a kid again, I wish I was an Avenger!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Damn Yankees

Damn Yankees ~ This was the first TCM event we attended on the TCM Classic Cruise on board the Disney Magic. I had seen the movie Damn Yankees as a kid, and I think the stage show with The Bride at some point. I'm not a Broadway guy so a lot of these tend to run together for me, sorry.

I remember seeing the film as a result of seeing Tab Hunter in his brief role on "Forever Fernwood," the sequel to "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." I can't remember what he played, but I remember it was a big deal that he was on the show, the implication being that he was a big star, so when I saw one of his movies roll around on TV Guide, I tuned in, and that movie was Damn Yankees.

The best part of the TCM Cruises are that you get to watch movies with the stars introducing and discussing them. When they showed Damn Yankees the first night of the cruise, it was preceded by TCM host Robert Osborne briefly interviewing Tab Hunter on stage and talking a little bit about the film. Hunter's insights on the old studio system, his being the odd man out with the cast brought over from the Broadway show, and his coming up as a teen idol were fascinating, and made the event for me. The Bride and I were wiped from the long day, so we didn't make it through the whole movie, so I caught it when they showed it the next day, sadly sans Tab Hunter.

Neither baseball movies nor musicals are really in my wheelhouse, but a baseball movie musical based on Faust? I'm all in. Joe wants his team, the Washington Senators to win, so he offers to sell his soul to the Devil in exchange for a win, and alternately turn himself into a super player to join the team. The Devil, played wonderfully by pre-"My Favorite Martian" (and even Fast Times at Ridgemont High) Ray Walston, grants him everything he wants, yet what he really wants is his old life back - all set to music.

Tab Hunter is earnest, introspective, and personable as heck, much more than a simple stage musical deserves. The young Jean Stapleton is a delight in every scene she's in (and steals), and quirky but sexy Gwen Verdon, considered by some not pretty enough to play the vivacious Lola burns up the screen whenever she is on screen, another scene stealer.

Damn Yankees is an enjoyable musical romp, more Faust than baseball, and containing more songs than you thought you knew from the show. Definitely worth a look, worthwhile just for Ray Walston, but tab, Gwen, and Jean are great too, and you'll be humming at least one tune afterwards.

Monday, November 17, 2014

TCM Cruise 2014

This was a dream come true, and the best birthday gift I think I've ever gotten, but for my fiftieth, The Bride got us tickets on the TCM Cruise, and as if that wasn't cool enough, it was a chartered cruise on board the newly renovated Disney Magic. My favorite thing, movies, on my happy place, the Disney Cruise - this was heaven.

At this point I'm going to tell you about the guests and the movie schedule, but as I've said before on The GAR! Podcast, it could be anyone or anything, I was already happy. The first and foremost guests were the two main Turner Classic Movies hosts, Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz. These two guys are the best, and crazy cool authorities on everything cinema, amazing founts of movie knowledge. I'll let you in on a secret, sometimes I just tune in for their intros and outros of movies, and skip the movies themselves.

The first star sighting was as we waited to board the ship at Port Canaveral. We saw Richard Dreyfuss arrive, and go right on board. All smiles, he laughed and waved, friendly to a fault. Later as I walked around the ship waiting for the launch party, I spied Alex Trebek. He was the polar opposite of Dreyfuss, looking as if someone had crapped in his Cheerios and he was about to bite someone's head off. I'd been told his trivia events were a lot of fun, but at first sight, I second thoughts about attending.

My third star sighting was the lovely Shirley Jones, all eighty years of her. She was even more exuberant and friendly than Dreyfuss. Smiling, greeting fans, and wow, stunning. There is surely a painting in her attic because she looked fantastic, not a day over twenty-five. Later than day she was interviewed by Ben Mankiewicz in the huge Walt Disney Theatre, happily telling tales of behind the scenes of her movies, her TV work, and even her sex life (buy the book).

As the week went on, and I began to get the vibe of how things work, it became apparent that this was more TCM Cruise than Disney Cruise. People were friendlier, if you can believe that. Granted, everyone is happy and friendly on the Disney Cruise as you all have something in common, here, that thing in common is super-focused, making for a tighter sense of community. Everyone says hi and asks how you are, and especially what are you seeing next.

The movies are phenomenal, and constant, playing in three venues, sometimes more. Add in events, interviews, and just plain old regular cruise stuff, and there can seriously be too much to see. There will be sacrifices, you will be disappointed in what you miss, but what you see… that will rock your world. It's more than seeing a favorite film on the big screen, it's having it introduced live, and sometimes by the stars of the film… wow, just wow.

Imagine seeing The Music Man and Elmer Gantry with Shirley Jones, Jaws and Mr. Holland's Opus with Richard Dreyfuss, The Sea Hawk with Errol Flynn's daughter, and John Barrymore in Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and Buster Keaton in The Navigator with a live orchestra providing the soundtrack. Imagine seeing The African Queen on the big screen then going outside to see the real African Queen. Yeah, that's how it is. Awesome. Best. Birthday. Ever.