Surfin’ Safari: Bikini Beach (1964)

Even now I’m not sure why I added Bikini Beach to my Netflix Instant queue. I think the site might have suggested the film after seeing how many teen-oriented summer flicks I’ve watched, but most of those have been from the 80s. The other day I thought about watching Hannibal, but figured it would be a bit too intense for my daughter (who tricked me on Tuesday by making me think that two hour naps were the new norm, tricky baby). When that idea fell through, I saw this Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello flick at the top of the queue and went for it.

I’ve never seen one of their flicks (though research tells me there were seven total films in this series, of which BB is the third installment), but it wound up being a really fun and goofy movie that was perfect for paying limited attention while doing work and watching the kid. The idea is that a group of surfer kids sets up shop on a stretch of beach that happens to be right next to a famous Beatles-esque pop star called The Potato Bug AND near the property of a stodgy old guy who owns a nearby retirement home. This causes two sets of problems as Bug woos Annette away from Frankie AND the old guy tries to get rid of the kids by writing editorials in the newspaper he owns about how animalistic they are. How does he prove this? Well, he’s trained his ape to do all the things the kids do: surf, dance and drive. Why he’s not writing stories about this incredibly scientific breakthrough, I do not know.

After some of those goofy looking surfing scenes we’ve all seen on clip shows and whatnot, the tide turns a bit as Potato Bug shows proficiency at drag racing which makes Frankie want to take it up as well so they can race. There’s also a bunch of stuff with Don Rickles as a guy who owns both the racetrack and the local teen hang out (which doesn’t sell hard liquor because it’s for the kids, but does serve beer…) as well as a biker gang whose leader is a total goofball who allies himself with the old guy even though the old guys is not down with all that. There’s also a werewolf for no reason other than someone won a contest.

There’s also a good deal of musical numbers including one by Little Stevie Wonder at the end. I’m a fan of surf rock, though I’m admittedly ignorant of most of it. I dig the Ventures, Jan & Dean, the Dick Dale stuff I’ve heard and Link Wray (just barely surf, but in the same vein). The stuff in this flick isn’t nearly as good as any of that, but it’s still fun. And that’s really what this movie is about: having fun, even in the face of jerky old people who want to stiffle your fun. It’s kind of cool knowing that this plot goes so far back in film. Think about it, our parents were watching these movies and thinking, “Yeah, man, screw that old guy, I just want to SURF!” I suggest checking out all seven movies and reminding your parents of them when they start giving you a hard time (assuming your folks are still giving you static when you’re nearing 30).

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Ad It Up: Nickelodeon Merch

Like most people my age, I was a gigantic fan of Nickelodeon. That channel was just packed with awesome for kids of the 80s and 90s. I even remember when my local cable decided to swap the channels that Nickelodeon and USA were on (4 and 6). I probably would have knocked someone out to get a Double Dare or Finders Keepers T-shirt and possibly murder someone to actually get on the show. If you don’t remember Finders Keepers, it was like a live action hidden picture search game show where kids ran through a dissected house to find a certain something (or somethings) in a messy room. As a big fan of Highlights and the hidden picture section of that magazine, this game show was right up my alley. Someone should bring that back. Here’s a clip from the show:

This ad was shot from 1988’s Silver Surfer #18.

The Box: Chuch Norris Karate Kommandos #3, G.I. Joe Sigma 6 #1 & The Crossovers #4

This week’s trio of random comics were pretty interesting both in story and variety but also because I didn’t think any of them were stinkers, even though two of them are based on kid’s cartoons. First up we have Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos #3 (1987) from Marvel’s Star Comics, written by Jo Duffy and drawn by, ahem, STEVE DITKO (doing breakdowns) and Jon D’Agostino (finishes). I have fond memories of the cartoon and action figure line this comic was based on. In addition to being Karate Kommandos (which is inherently awesome), everyone on the team had a cool, unique power, weapon or skill set that made young me very curious.

The comic was pretty basic and surprisingly action-light, but it was still a well put together book. One of the things I’ve learned over the years is to not worry when things that are not intended for me as the audience don’t interest me. I mean, this is a comic clearly intended for a kid in the 80s, it’s not going to blow my mind. The plot is a simple one, one you’ve probably seen before, but still done well with the sumo fighter Tabe telling different people different stories about how he met Chuck Norris in the first place. It’s fun and cute, but like I said, it’s also light on action. There’s only a few fight scenes and they’re either training or in good fun.

I was a bummed out because I didn’t get to see Steve Ditko draw those rad costumes I remember so distinctly from the toys and cartoon. Ah well, maybe I’ll pick up another issue along the line.

Interestingly enough, the next comic I grabbed from The Box happened to be another toy/cartoon tie-in, this one G.I. Joe: Sigma 6 #1 (2005) by Andrew Dabb and Chris Lee. I was leery because I haven’t had good luck with G.I. Joe comics from the box and also knew nothing about the Sigma 6 version of Joe aside from the cool toys that came out in the mid 2000s.

So, I was pretty surprised to find myself enjoying this issue. It helps that it’s basically just Duke in a cool underwater armor suit trying to single-handedly take down a below-the-ocean Cobra base. Sure it’s a bit silly and light, but it’s also fun and tells a story with robots and things blowing up, so what’s to complain about.

I also liked the art and character designs for the most part, which was a surprise because, aside from one or two books, I always thought Devil’s Due didn’t get the best artists around. There are a few pages that look pixelated and strange, but I think that’s a printing error.

I wouldn’t tell someone to go out of their way to pick this issue up, but if you happen to find yourself in possession of one, check it out before tossing it in the recycling bin, you’ll have a fun few minutes with the book. Oh, and it ends with Destro’s metal mask frowning and him saying “I need a vacation,” so there’s that.

Guys, I have no idea what went on in The Crossovers #4 (2003) by Robert Rodi and Mauricet, but I still kind of liked it. Unlike a lot of other books I’ve randomly read for The Box, Rodi did a great job of giving me just enough information to understand what’s going on in a broad sense of this series, but not necessarily laying down every aspect of who these characters are and what they’re doing. The Crossovers is basically a superhero family in the vein of the Fantastic Four or the First Family in Astro City (I think).

The reason I don’t know what’s going on is because there is just so much going on in this series. There’s lots and lots of characters, many different locations and all kinds of things going on I’m not caught up on, but I kind of felt like finding out, which is a mark in the plus column for sure.

The art is also pretty interesting, kind of a mix between Mike Wieringo’s and Amanda Palmer’s style with bold figures with great expressions, but still on the cartoony side of the spectrum.

At the end of the day, I dug this issue, but did a little research and saw that it only lasted 9 issues. Are there any Crossgen fans out there? Did this series end with an actual ending or because the company fell through? I’d be interested in keeping an eye out for those other issues, but only if it feels like a complete story.

Reality Rundown: Real Housewives Of New Jersey, Saw Dogs & Next Food Network Star

After writing about Shark Tank, The Devils Ride and the suspiciously missing Real World, I kept thinking of more and more reality shows I wanted to say a few quick things about. This time we’ve got The Real Housewives of New Jersey, a show I used to blog about pretty consistently but have changed thoughts on greatly in the past few seasons, Discovery’s Saw Dogs and Next Food Network Star. Let’s jump in, shall we?

There was a scene in the most recent episode of Jersey Housewives where, after Teresa’s daughter freaks out about cheating at a bunch of games in the yard (huh, wonder why the word CHEATING is such a trigger for her, Joe), Caroline’s daughter Lauren essentially lays out my thoughts on the current situation: why can’t we stop inviting all these crazy people to our family events and just have fun as a family? After four seasons of crazy, I’m all filled on up Teresa’s particular brand. She’s clearly incapable of seeing the world from any perspective but her own skewed one and it feels a little sad to continually see her try to make reality (and reality TV) bend around her to her will to form her life.

I’ve said before that I’d be perfectly happy watching a series about just Caroline and her extended family, but even that doesn’t sound like the most appealing thing at this point. Is anyone else sick to death of hearing Lauren talk about losing weight while seeing her do things that will not help her in any way? Lazily slapping golf balls with her dad and hanging around a kitchen just isn’t going to cut it. This episode in particular seemed PACKED with her bitching and honestly, who cares? Losing weight sucks, either do it or don’t, but stop talking about it either way. The rest of them are fine, I’m glad to be done with Jacqueline’s daughter for the time being, she’s just awful, and I like Kathy and her crew enough, same with the Gorga’s, but I’m starting to think the bloom is off the rose on this one. And, no Bravo, I don’t need more “housewives” shoehorned in, starting over completely makes the most sense to me and still give Caroline her own show!

And now for something completely different, we’ve got Discovery’s Saw Dogs, a show about chainsaw carvers who make beautiful pieces. Some of my favorite reality shows are the ones that follow artistic people who use their talents to sell pieces and the process they go through in first figuring out what to do and then doing it. The fact that this job even exists is amazing to me, let alone the fact that these guys are so damn good at it. In one marathon a few weekends back, I saw them make an amazing tree house, a giant eagle and plenty of other amazing things.

My only problem with the series is that they have a Chumlee. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it comes from History Channel’s Pawn Stars which features a  spacey character of the same name who seemingly has no business being anywhere near the job. If it were a regular TV show you’d just assume this is the goofball people keep around to make or bounce jokes off of, but in reality you’re constantly thinking, “Why don’t they fire this idiot?” In the case of Saw Dogs, the Chumlee is named Ryan. He looks and acts like a Will Ferrell character which is odd in its own right, but then you add in the fact that he’s not great at his job (he ran the forklift through one of the barn walls) and bitches way too much for an apprentice and you wonder if he’s there because he was really there or because the producers wanted a Chumlee. I’m more in favor of the natural method, but even if it is a set-up, there’s enough coolness going on to keep me coming back for more.

Lastly I want to say a few things about The Next Food Network Star that I didn’t say over on my food blog Monkeying Around The Kitchen. First off, while I like the idea of switching the format up — three teams with Food Network stars talking them through the challenges with the bottom two going into a room with FN execs and trying to keep themselves in the game assisted by their team leader — it feels like the show is spinning its wheels a bit. The challenges I’ve seen so far have been great, but doesn’t it seem like there’s an awful lot of fat this season that’s just waiting to be trimmed? I bet if you watched just the first episode, you could probably make a list of the first five or six people who will be let go with a pretty darn good level of accuracey. Sure, it’s possible that one of them will really find a place to shine, but I highly doubt it.

The other huge strike against the show is the length. Does it really need to be 90 minutes? Worse yet, those last 3o minutes go up against Mad Men. I don’t think there’s a show I would watch instead of MM. I know people out there are exactly the opposite, but it also seems like these episodes are padded like those guys who train attack dogs. Do we need to spend so much time not only showing everyone’s everything, but also laying it on so thick that you really don’t have a choice but to understand who’s being thrown to the wolves about half way through. At the end of the day, the show is more boring than it has any reason to be. I highly recommend following Alton Brown on twitter, though, if you are a fan as he has some excellent behind the scenes commentary during the airings.

Casting Internets

Over on Marvel.com I talked to Roger Stern about his five favorite Avengers. Considering how many awesome stories he wrote, this one was a big get for me and the column.

My pal Matt seems to be posting over on Saturday Morning Is Awesome again, check that shiz out.

Check out these James Bond book covers in Hebrew. Some really interesting designs here. (via Illustrated 007)

I’m not nearly as big a Disney fan as my wife and dad, but I would definitely like to go for Star Wars Weekend some time. Dig these crazy wallpapers they posted online this week.

I realized while making a playlist for Lucy’s birthday party that it’s been far too long since I’ve really listened to Offspring’s records. They’ve got a new one called Days Go By. I’m excited to go back and also check out this new one when it drops. Can you believe it’s been 20 years since Ignition came out?! (via Rolling Stone)

THR tells me that Anthony Bourdain’s novel Bone In The Throat will be turned into a film, I like the sound of that.

Reading Leon Hendrix talking about his brother Jimi on Rolling Stone was interesting. Jimi’s such a mythical figure you almost assume he just sprang out of the ether and started shredding, so it’s interesting to hear about him as a young dude.

I’m not the biggest Community fan in the world, but I thought Dan Harmon‘s open letter about getting laid off from the series he created was interesting.

I’m not sure who tweeted this After The Final Curtain link, but these photos of the Loew’s 46th Street Theatre which eventually turned into a furniture storage place were super interesting. I’ve added the site to my RSS feeds, can’t wait to see what else they’ve got coming up.

Rolling Stone posted this interview with Adam Horovitz about his fallen brother and Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, it was pretty moving. I can’t imagine losing a friend you’ve known for so long and also had such creative chemistry with.

The Hollywood Reporter did a long feature about ALF creator Paul Fusco and I was fascinated. Give that guy another shot at the big time, Hollywood.

Book Vs. Movie: About A Boy

I knew about the film version of About A Boy from 2002 well before I realized it was a book by Nick Hornby. I wasn’t particularly interested because I was in college, didn’t really like Hugh Grant and probably had no interest in a strange drama between a grown man and a young boy.

But, since I just read the book, I felt it was as good a time as any to check the film version out and see how it stacks up. I kind of wish I had seen the movie first. I had already pictured Hugh Grant as Will the older guy who looks at life in as emotionless a way as possible being thrown into an incredibly emotional situation with emotional people because he was on the cover of the version I read, but more so because of what was changed from page to screen. I understand that certain scenes need to be done away with, plots need to be simplified and some scenes need to be crammed together, but the end of this flick took a kind of turn out of left field that I wasn’t expecting. Worse for me was that it turned it into your standard romantic comedy and I just do not like that.

But, before that, I thought it was spot on. The casting seemed great with Grant nailing his part and the boy doing a pretty good job as Marcus, though I don’t think he perfectly captured the weirdness of the character in the book. On the other hand, I think actually seeing someone as weird as the book version on screen might have actually been a little off putting. He’s kind of like a kid version of Temperance Brennan from Bones, but that’s not a good look for a kid in a flick. I also thought the casting of Toni Collette as Fiona and Rachel Weisz as Rachel was spot on perfect, though the costuming department went a little overboard with Fiona’s wardrobe in my opinion. Not a lot of subtlety there.

I was definitely a little disappointed with Ellie’s truncated role in the film, though. It’s so rushed and handled in such a silly manner that I almost wish that part wasn’t even in the film, especially with the ridiculous way the film went in the end (I’ll get there). Instead of being both the person who makes Marcus feel a little bit more normal (or more accurately accepted and less hated) and also the person who shows him that certain personality traits, while seemingly great, don’t always work in the real world, Ellie just looks angry and gets other people to like Marcus by default. I know that’s a nicer way to go with the story (other kids seem to respect him just because he hangs with her, she’s no longer the dangerous freak of the book which is a little disappointing).

But here’s the real problem with the film: they completely botch the ending. Instead of Marcus and Ellie going on a disastrous train ride the results in everyone’s parents and Will in the same room arguing about things, Marcus decides that singing in the school’s talent show will make his mom feel better. That’s such a foolish, childish notion and completely disregards the hard truths of adulthood and the real world that the Marcus of the book learned throughout his journey. Book Marcus would have laughed at the idea of singing in a talent show doing anything for his mum, but this one who has learned nothing from Will apparently about flying below the radar decides to get up on stage and sing “Killing Me Softly.”

For his part, Will’s journey is essentially the same in the book as in the film, but instead of the amazing conversation where he tells Rachel he was lying to her to keep her interested in which she admits she would have stopped talking to him had he not let her infer that he had a son and moving on from there, they break up and he winds up winning her back by showing up at the talent show and playing guitar for Marcus while he bombs on stage during “Killing Me Softly.” It just felt so tacked on and weird and too much like another British film I love, Love, Actually.

It’s interesting because the film version of High Fidelity has an added-on ending element in the form of Rob finding and producing the band, but that all still fits in with the themes and elements already inherent in the story. I feel like the changes made to make About A Boy into a movie undercut some of those from the book and that’s disappointing because I liked the novel so darn much and I’d like to think that audiences could have handled a more honest story.

Ad It Up: WWF Games & Quick Shot Controllers

Today’s Ad It Up is a double whammy! I saw this one in Silver Surfer #21 (1989) and it made me smile immediately. This comic is from before I read comics, but features not one, but two things that were a part of my childhood. I’ll start with the Quick Shot controllers first because this is a simpler story and boils down to the fact that I had one of these NES controllers (the one on the far right in the smaller picture). I didn’t use it a ton because it was a little awkward, but I actually still have it and it’s sitting in my living room as I type.

The WWF (as it was known when I was a youngin’), I had a more complex relationship with. My dad wrestled in college and always hated this fake stuff and didn’t want me watching it. I assume there was also an element of my parents not wanting me to watch the violent sport, but I bet legit wrestling pride was an equally strong, if not stronger motivator. As such, I thought the WWF was fake and lame and didn’t care about it. But I did like Hulk Hogan (what kid my age didn’t?) and watched the WWF cartoon and oddly enough became a fan of the video games. I remember playing the NES game advertised about at a friend’s house and it was fun. Later, when I was a teenager and regularly babysitting three boys, we spent many an hour playing one of the Sega versions (it had Doink the Clown if that helps). They’re just fun, beat em up games with colorful characters and big personalities, the same thing that drew me to comics, really. I’ve even thought of picking up the WWE Legends game for Xbox hoping it’s kind of in that same vein. Anyone played it? How does it stack up against games I played on occasion almost 20 years ago?