Movie Memories: Seeing Spider-Man 2 As A Wizard Intern

Guys, I hate Spider-Man 2. I think it’s got great casting, some really funny moments and action scenes that are pretty stellar, but then there’s that big middle section that smashes you over the head with how crummy Peter Parker’s life is. I remember sitting in the the theater watching the film and pulling my hoodie over my eyes in pain. I thought I wasn’t the only one, but as it turned out, the movie is beloved. Whodathunkit.

Anyway, I’m not writing this post about the movie itself so much as the circumstances in which I saw it. Back in the summer of 2004, I was doing a nine week internship at Wizard. I was blown away by how cool the guys were both as people and co-workers (no one looked down on us just because we were interns). There were also a lot of perks I hadn’t really thought about. We got a discount at a nearby comic shop, access to all the new and old comics in the Wizard library and even a few random freebies that the writers or editors would pass our way (I have a Bowen Punisher bust from those days proudly displayed on my bookshelf to this day).

One of the really unexpected perks was going down to see Spider-Man 2 at a special screening in New York City. I could not tell you where it was, but it wasn’t a normal movie theater. I was walking along with a big group of Wizard dudes in NYC, a place I’d only been once at this point, and all of a sudden they’re like, “Hey we’re here.” I look over and they’re walking into a door that looks like just about any other one on a street of unassuming doors. Inside was a secret theater that Sony either owned or rented specifically for screenings like this. I believe there were some pretty impressive Marvel folks in the crowd as well, but I honestly can’t remember.

Aside from the movie I didn’t like, the memory that really sticks out is how cool the whole experience was. A group of us interns drove to the train station and met up with the other guys, walked around the city to a secret theater and saw a big time movie before anyone else (or most people, I’m sure there were a ton of these kinds of screenings). I’ve go on to meet a lot of cool people, get a lot of cool stuff and see a lot of cool things before other people, but you never forget that first time. I even remember walking down the street in jeans and a hoodie looking up at the night sky in NYC and just thinking how cool it felt. Good times.

Ad It Up: Taco Bell Marvel Toys

Sorry about the poor quality and small size of this ad. I took a bad photo of it and then shrunk a bunch of my files down a little too far in hopes of saving some hardrive space. Anyway, I have zero recollection of these Taco Bell kids meal toys based on mostly X-Men. You’ve got Sabertooth, Iceman, Mystique, Cyclops, Captain America and Hulk. I just realized how strange of a group this is. When I started typing the list I automatically wrote Wolverine’s name and then realized he was nowhere to be found.

I was about to write about how strange it was that I don’t remember these toys existing, but they presumably came out in either late 2001 or early 2002 (the ad is from 2001’s Defenders #10, which I reviewed over here). While I usually would have been all over any Marvel kids meal toy, especially one at my beloved Taco Bell, I was in college at this time without a car and thus very limited access to Taco Bells. Doesn’t look like I missed too much, though, does it?

Real World Watcher St. Thomas Episode 1 “Paradise Found”

Well, after thinking it should have been on much sooner than it was, last night Real World returned with a brand new season, this time set in St. Thomas. We kick off meeting the cast members in an interesting way. You’ve got Marie, your prototypical Staten Island girl going to Robb’s very nice Pennsylvania home. She drops an F bomb when they discover that they both have Hakuna Matata tattoos and a clear bond is formed. At the same time sassy La Toya welcomes down home boy Trey into her house. The interesting thing about this season is that the kids were surprised with where they were going which I thought was interesting. Meanwhile, the trio of rich boy Swift, Southie-born and bred Brandon and bubbly Laura meet on the island and are the first ones to get to the house, which seems to be on the island.

Not a ton happens in this episode aside from the usual “who has a girlfriend/boyfriend” (none of them), who’s gay? (none of them), who used to be a heavy drug user up until six months ago? (Brandon). Plus all the meet and greet and roommate grabbing and, of course, drinking.

But there is something strange and dramatic going on. Would it be a Real World premiere if it wasn’t these days? Much like last season, one of the boys becomes instantly infatuated with one of the girls. In this case it’s Brandon falling for Laura. Being the one guy in the group who isn’t All American and fairly ripped, Brandon feels self conscious and immediately starts wondering how he can compete with these guys for Laura’s affections. It doesn’t help that she has a thing for Trey who reminds me of another former Real Worlder who I can not put my finger on. Anyway, after everyone starts drinking and Brandon sees Laura talking with Trey, a switch kind of flips and he gets super depressed. Does stripping down naked and jumping in the hot tub count as depressed? Because he did that and it was awkward.

Later he’s talking to Robb and it seems like another much more violent switch goes off, but he winds up letting Robb talk him down. Trey actually walked up to them while they were having this conversation and heard a bunch of it, but that stopped neither of them. Later he tells Laura what he heard and eventually brings it up to Brandon. By now, Brandon seems to have calmed down a bit and realized he was being way too crazy about a girl he doesn’t even really know that well. He apologized to Trey and they seemed cool.

Until later when Trey started reading Brandon’s notebook which he seemed to have left out on one of the outside tables (or at least that’s what Trey said). He showed some pretty strange stuff to Laura and Swift who seemed really concerned. I get where they’re coming from, but I also think it was super shitty to read the dude’s journal. It reminds me of a time in college where I wrote some depressing poetry or song lyric idea on a piece of paper that one of my roommates found. He talked to my girlfriend (now wife) about it and she mentioned it to me and I hardly remembered what I wrote because that’s the point of writing, the get your feelings out of you and onto paper. I’m hoping Brandon got the craziness out of his system and doesn’t spend the rest of the season being the obsessive weirdo he was presented as in this episode.

Other than that bit of drama, not a lot happened. They all got drunk and kind of paired off with Swift and La Toya talking, Trey and Laura and Robb and Marie leaving Brandon a bit out in the cold. Laura’s adopted and showed both Brandon and Trey letters her biological mom wrote her that she just got six months ago. I’m adopted myself and am always interested to see how other people deal with the experience and knowledge. Oh, Marie fell asleep first and the others wrote all over her and put peanut butter jars around while she was sleeping.

All in all, I thought this was a pretty good first episode. I was shocked to see how maturely Brandon handled himself (eventually). Sure, La Toya and Swift seem a little too cool for school and like they’re playing for the cameras a bit, but maybe they’ll prove to be alright. As long as this season doesn’t turn into Jersey Shore Virgin Islands, I’m good.

Captain America Trade Post: Reborn & Two Americas

Captain America: Reborn (Marvel)
Written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Bryan Hitch
Collects Captain America: Reborn #1-6

Man, remember how long it took Captain America: Reborn to come out? It seemed excruciating at the time because I was heavily into Ed Brubaker’s Captain America epic and was dying to see how he would bring Steve Rogers back from the dead. At the time the book came out the whole “becoming unstuck in time, but coming back thanks to a constant” thing was very Lost. It’s funny how similar the idea seemed then, but only vaguely so now. Bru’s had some really funky timing with things like this on Cap, he brought Bucky back right around the time that Jason Todd returned in Batman, he created new MODOKs that were an awful lot like the then-new OMACs were plaguing the DCU and…damn there was another one that I just can’t remember right now.

Anyway, reading Reborn all together several years after the fact was interesting. I was thrust right back into the “how are they going to bring him back” aspect of the story even though I remembered some of the deets. I also liked how the story really felt like a big piece of the Marvel Universe what with H.A.M.M.E.R.’s involvement, Avengers Dark, Mighty, New and whatever else making appearances and Reed Richards helping out. I like how Hitch can marry very real world events like World War II and the street-level feel of Bucky Cap’s adventures with much bigger sci-fi concepts like the aforementioned time becoming unstuck and whatnot.

My biggest problem with this series is that it wasn’t drawn by Steve Epting or one of the other Captain America regulars. I don’t have a problem with Hitch — though it does seem like he was sloppily inked or colored in many of the pages that make them look muddy instead of dark, possibly a result of the book being late — but I’m such a big fan of the ongoing series, that it would have been cool if this landmark story had been drawn by one of the guys who had been killing it up to this point along with Bru. It’s not the kind of thing that makes me want to ditch this book and never read it again, but it was something I kept thinking while reading: why couldn’t this have just been done by the regular team in the regular book? (And yeah, I know the answer is, “money, money, money.”)

Captain America: Two Americas (Marvel)
Written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Luke Ross with Butch Guice
Collects Captain America #602-605, Captain America: Who Will Wield The Shield?

After Steve Rogers came back, he didn’t become Captain America again right away. While he was off heading up the newly reinstate S.H.I.E.D. and leading the Secret Avengers, Bucky stuck around as Cap and some people thought the book began spinning its wheels a bit. I can see where they’re coming from in this arc that finds Bucky infiltrating a supremacist group run by one of the guys who was Cap while the real one was frozen.

The story itself is interesting and well told. I really like the Bucky/Falcon dynamic which takes center stage here without all the dark notes thanks to Steve’s death that loomed over the series earlier. The problem is that this felt sort of like a rehash of some of Bru’s earlier stories. Steve had his own encounters with replacement Caps and they were pretty intense and sad and really well told. So, when it happens again but with a different Cap on both sides of the conflict, it’s not super interesting.

The best part of this collection which feels a little sleight, especially for a hardcover (which I got for half off at a comic shop nearby), is the Who Will Wield The Shield one-shot in the beginning that features Steve trying to figure out what he wants to do moving forward with his superhero career. That issue felt very much in the same vein as Bru’s earlier Cap stories without feeling like its treading familiar territory.

So, while neither of these trades really wowed me, I still really like how Bru handled Captain America in the macro sense. At some point, when he exits the series, it will be interesting to sit down and read all of it to see how well it works as a huge story. As much as I like this ongoing series, I look forward to that day, like I do for most of these things. The hope is that there will be a nice, big ending that’s part of the writer’s plan instead of editorially mandated stuff or, even worse, cancellation.

Casting Internets

Check it out, I talked to John Layman about Mars Attacks and Chew: Secret Agent Poyo as well as the new McFarlane Haunt statue. Ooooh, Mike Cho drew Doctor Strange. He also did Spider-Man, click through for that one.

The SketchAttack crew is doing Doctor Who this time around. It’s interesting how many police box/phone booth drawings came up.

This is pretty rad, The Fwoosh showed off shots of DC Collectibles’ Tiny Titans set. These are great looking little toys.

I’m not much of a sweet or dessert fan, but I would definitely try deep fried Trix and Cinnamon Toast as seen on Esquire.This Nestron robot warrior T-shirt for sale on RedBubble is amazing.

YES! Daria reruns will be back on MTV in the morning between July 30 and August 3. Now I just have to remember because I’m all over that. To be honest, I will probably also watch reruns of Laguna Beach and The Hills as well. (via THR)

Ad It Up: Wizard Valiant Ad

On average, the best part about reading random Valiant comics for my (mostly) weekly The Box column here on the blog has been seeing random ads from the early days of Wizard. These are from a few years before I got into the magazine, but if you’re unfamiliar with it’s history, Wizard covered a lot of Valiant and Image stuff in the early days because they were all coming up at around the same time. So, while it might have been harder to get DC or Marvel on the phone, there was lots of back and forth between the younger companies and the growing mag. So, it comes as no surprise seeing a full page ad in 1993’s Magnus Robot Fighter #21 nor is it surprising to see the “Especially Valiant” tag on the ad. If you want to see how strong the Wizard/Valiant connection was compare the mastheads from the first few years of Valiant comic books and Wizard issues from let’s say about 8 or 9 years ago.

Party On: Pajama Party (1964) & Ski Party (1965)

After watching and really enjoying Bikini Beach, I’ve been on an Annette Funicello/Frankie Avalon kick. Pajama Game is not part of the surf movie series as Annette plays a different character and Frankie’s barely in it. However, the motorcycle gang called The Rats does show up, so maybe this is a Mallrats/Chasing Amy kind of thing and different actors just play different characters in the same universe. Anyway, this time around, a group of kids hang out at the beach and at nice houses with pools. Anette’s boyfriend is more interested in volleyball than anything else (clearly asexual) so she winds up falling for a new boy in town named George. Meanwhile, a neighbor wants to break into a widow’s house and steal all the money her husband left, so he convinces her to have a pajama party to cause a distraction.

Oh, by the way, George is actually a Martian played by Tommy Kirk who also played Biff in The Absent Minded Professor (an often played film in my house growing up, his dad in that movie was the old guy in Bikini Beach!). He’s supposed to be paving the way for an alien invasion, but winds up falling for Annette which works out fine because her boyfriend would rather bump balls.

Oddly, the trailer for the film isn’t on YouTube, so here’s one of the musical numbers:

This movie was very high on fun and hijinks. I love the elaborate way the widow has to go about getting her money. I love the low tech way they set up a teleporter to bring in more Martians for the invasion. I love how instead of relying on either one of the two storylines (breaking into the old lady’s house, alien invasion) they went with both of them along with all the teen drama that usually surrounds these story. I love the cameos by Dorothy Lamour, Buster Keaton, Avalon, Don Rickles and a couple of background dancers/actresses better known as Teri Garr and Toni Basil.  Really, I just loved this movie.

In the following year’s Ski Party, Annette plays a cameo as a professor while Frankie and a fellow college student pal go off to a ski resort to pick up chicks. To get really close to the ladies, they decide to dress in drag to infiltrate their ski class…and maybe learn a little something along the way.

While this film might have been far less complicated than the previous one, I was impressed with how funny it was. Sure there’s the goofy, campy stuff like Frankie inflating his ski coat to go further on a ski jump and accidentally flying all over the place, but there were also some really funny jokes that are still funny today.

One the stereotypes people might have about these kinds of films is that they’re tame by today’s standards. And yeah, that’s true from an on-the-nose perspective. You’re not going to see any topless women or kids randomly hooking up, but that’s more because that kind of stuff wasn’t sold in teen films back then. But all that stuff is still there below the surface. I was surprised with the use of the word “sex” in these movies because it was like they were actually admitting the teenagers want to have sex (shocking!). A lot of creative types say that rules and regulations actually push them to be more creative when it comes to bawdy jokes and dealing with sex and I think that shows in these movies.

Oh, that reminds me of something. As you might expect, homosexuality isn’t mentioned whatsoever in these movies, but I think elements of it can definitely be seen on screen. Pajama had the boyfriend who was more interested in volleyball, which doesn’t really mean anything, but in this one, Frankie’s pal dresses up like a girl and it actually works for him. When, as his guy self, he calls up a girl and gets shot down, he dresses up like his girl self again, calls up a boy who was flirting with him earlier and they go out. And have a wonderful time. Heck, he spends the rest of the movie talking about how great this guy is and that he things he can make a marriage work with him, forget about that whole being a man thing. I guess you could argue this was played for laughs (“This would NEVER happen, so it’s funny!”) or if something got slipped past the censors. I can’t remember how Frankie’s pal ended the movie, but I thought that was a really interesting subplot. For what it’s worth, Frankie did not support his friend.

Another great thing about these movies is the music. While Pajama Party didn’t have anyone I recognized, Ski Party featured none other than the God Father of Soul, The Hardest Working Man In Show Business, Mr. James Brown! AS A SNOW RESCUE GUY! He literally rolls into a lodge on skis with cocktail carrying German shepherds, says a few jokes and busts into “I Got You (I Feel Good).” Holy poop! Oh, Leslie Gore sings “Sunshine, Rainbows and Lollipops” too, but that’s nowhere near as cool as James Brown. Double oh, Yvonne Craig — TV’s Batgirl — stars as one of the objects of affection. I think she was my first ever crush.

So, I just spent a great deal of time bestowing the virtues of these films, but I think the most important thing to take away is that they are silly fun with a real “Up With Kids” vibe to them. It’s funny to think that, right now as I watch these movies, I’m older than the characters in the film (though probably the same age as some of the actors). Even as a burgeoning fogey, I still relate to the themes in these flicks and can’t imagine living in an even more buttoned-up society. Remember, the sexual revolution was still a few years away from really blowing up, so this was the best kids had of seeing even the remotest, nicest form of rebellion on screen (I haven no idea if this is completely factual but it sounds good, doesn’t it?).

Ambitious Summer Reading List: Misery By Stephen King (1988)

Reading something like Stephen King’s Misery has been an interesting reading experience for this year’s Ambitious Summer Reading List. I have not seen the movie based on the novel, but I am a horror fan, so I knew the basic story and had seen clips of the hobbling scene. So, going in, I knew that author Paul Sheldon wound up the unwilling captive of super fan Annie Wilkes who forces him to write a new novel for her. I was surprised, though, at how quickly the book starts off. You’re right in there from page one. Paul’s already being held captive by Annie and we learn what’s going on as he remembers through the fog of pain (his legs were mangled in a car accident).

From there it’s a completely intense psychological thriller as the increasingly unbalanced (read: batshit crazy) Annie finds new and horrendous ways to torture Paul and bend him to her will. It seemed like a really real and honest depiction of the kind of mental torture that someone in that kind of spot would go through as Paul splits into a few different people: the one who wants to survive at all costs and the one who wants to destroy his captor.

I’ll be honest, when I realize how quickly the book got into the action, I wondered how the 338 pages would get filled. Next thing I know, it’s a few days later and I’m already done with the dang thing. This book propelled me through it, much like the last King book I read Under The Dome. I was driven not only by the fascinating character sketches being composed of Paul and Annie, but also by what Paul in the film calls “the gotta.” I hadta find out how or if Paul would get out of this one alive.

In addition to the psychological, thriller and horror aspects of the book (can’t tell you how many times I cringed reading scenes), I was also really interested in the fiction writing aspects of the book. Who better to create a character based on a wildly popular author than King? With that in mind, I really read closely the aspects of the process he talked about like falling through the hole in the paper to capture the story. I also thought the few parts where he wrote about super-fandom were really interesting, how people have, since the beginning of serialized fiction, become obsessed with the characters they love. He even throws in references to things like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killing off Sherlock Holmes and the backlash that caused. The same thing can be said today about Harry Potter or Twilight. Maybe it’s because, for some people, the experience of reading or watching the adventures of a person don’t really seem all that different from listening or viewing the experiences of real people. I mean, think about it, you can never really get into the head of another person and understand them, but you can with a character in a book. Maybe that’s enough for some people.

For me, it’s enough to just read and move on to the next one, though some scenes like the mop water one or the rat one will definitely live on with me for a bit. With King currently working on a book that will follow up with The Shining‘s Danny Torrance, I’d actually be interested to see if he’d ever return to Paul’s life, even if for just a short story. Did he ever get over his boogey man-like fear of Annie? Did he ever write another book? What’s he up to now? But, it’s better to be left with questions than be unsatisfied with all the answers, so I’m cool if he doesn’t go back. Oh, also, I thought it was cool that he made a reference to The Shining in the novel. Looks like King was trying to keep people away from Colorado just as much as Maine.

Up next for the ASRL will be Petal Pusher, a memoir by Laurie Lindeen a woman who I’m not familiar with who had some success with a band in the 90s. You had me at band.

Quick Movie Review: Young Adult (2011)

Last week I watched the Diabolo Cody-written, Jason Reitman-directed flick Young Adult. It’s about Mavis (Charlize Theron), a woman who ghost writes a young adult book series aimed at teenage girls deciding she wants to return to the small town she grew up on and get back together with her longtime boyfriend who happens to be married and a new dad. It’s kind of a modern day Madame Bovary with the main character being a woman mostly disconnected from reality and has based her new plans on the kind of fiction she’s absorbed in the modern world. By that I mean Mavis thinks she can win her boyfriend back because that’s what she’s seen in movies and read in books, but this is real life and things don’t work out that way.

The movie is basically one well-orchestrated train wreck with comedian Patton Oswalt acting as the audience’s stand in. He was a fellow classmate of Mavis’ and was beaten almost to death in high school by a bunch of jocks who thought he was gay. He, like any rational person, tells her that her plan is stupid and that she should forget it, but she keeps on going, fueled at times by his homemade liquor. Theirs is a weird friendship, one I didn’t get to see all of because the Netflix DVD I got was messed up and I had to skip the first scene of her in his garage where he was showing her his still.

I don’t think I liked this film, though it was mostly well done. Mavis is not likeable whatsoever and her plan is foolish. I get that she’s supposed to be this tragic figure, just like Madame Bovary, but if you expect sympathy from this guy because you can’t get a handle on reality, you’re barking up the wrong tree. I mostly just didn’t care about anything in the movie. I liked Patton’s character and the object of Mavis’ affection and even his wife, but when the entire movie is framed through her perspective and it’s one I so clearly disagree with/don’t care about, what’s the point? Maybe it’s because I’m a new(ish) dad myself, but the idea of a woman trying to weasel her way between my family and me holds zero interest and was obviously doomed to fail from the beginning begging the question again, what’s the point? Is it to show me that, as the tagline points out, everyone gets old, but not everyone grows up. Yup, no shit.

While I’ve liked some of Reitman’s other movies like Thank You For Smoking, I’ve found I’m not a big fan of his collaborations with Cody (Juno fell flat for me and didn’t live up to the hype whatsoever). It seems to me like when they’re together they’re both trying way to hard to make me feel something without doing the leg work to actually get me there emotionally. Sure, it was awkward when Mavis had her meltdown at the baby party, but it was just because that was a break from social convention and I was seeing a drunk be stupid, it wasn’t because I feel for her and care about her and am sorry she’s feeling so bad (like I often do with Michael Scott or David Brent on the two Offices).  On the other hand, Oswalt does customize action figures, so maybe I do like the film.

The Box: Detective Comics #662, Suicide Squad #35 & Magnus Robot Fighter #21

In a somewhat shocking revelation, I actually liked all three of the random comics I grabbed out of The Box for this week’s post. It helped that two of them were comics I purchased at a convention in the last few years, but hadn’t gotten around to reading, but it’s still nice to know that randomness can be a good thing.

First up, I checked out 1993’s Detective Comics #662 written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Graham Nolan. This issues happens to be the eight installment in the Knightfall storyline that would eventually see Batman with his back shattered. I’ve said before on this blog that Superman’s death is what got me hooked on comics, but once I was in, the breaking of Batman helped keep me there and broadened my reading habits. I don’t exactly remember where I came in on this story, but it was after this issue because I didn’t already have it. It got me thinking of how shocking the end of this story must have been to people reading the event as it happened. Sure, Batman had been in some tough spots before, but he always made it out okay, that would happen again this time, right?

Nope. Anyway, this particular issue finds an exhausted Batman fighting Firefly at the zoo while Robin stops one of Riddler’s plots. This particular issue doesn’t do a great job of explaining what all is happening though, that Bane released all these criminals and has set them loose on Gotham with Batman trying to bring them all back in. You get the gist here and there and at the end, but if this was a Valiant or Crossgen crossover I wasn’t familiar with, I’d have been lost. Reading this issue made me want to get those new Knightfall paperbacks that came out recently as I realized I’ve never read the whole story from beginning to end as I just jumped in whenever I started reading.

Up next I pulled out another DC Comics, this one Suicide Squad #35 from 1989 by the creative team of John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell. This was interesting time as I’d just finished reading the first arc of the series in trade paperback form a few weeks prior. As I mentioned in that post, I’d read a number of the issues when my pal Ben lent them to me, but can’t really remember how far I got. I’m not sure if I got up to this issue, but the adventure did seem a little familiar, so maybe I did.

Anyway, this one finds the Squad — a group of criminals who go on crazy missions to help alleviate their prison sentences — stranded on Darkseid’s planet Apokolips fighting the Female Furies and doing a much better job than they probably should have been able to do if you ask me.

The issue feels like the middle of a three parter as it’s pretty much one huge fight scene, but there’s still enough explained that I didn’t feel lost. Lashina had been abandoned on Earth in an earlier issue and basically joined the Squad, but still wanted her revenge for being left behind. The issue ended on a cliffhanger that made me wish even more that this whole series was collected in trade. I guess I’ll just have to keep collecting issues like this one and read them all together down the line.

Lastly, I pulled out another issue of Magnus Robot Fighter, this one 1993’s #21 by John Ostrander and John Bock. Huh, just realized that I pulled out two Ostrander comics back to back. After reading Magnus #25 last week, I wasn’t super excited about reading this comic, but I went through with it and it was alright. Much like last time, I still don’t really know why Magnus fights robots, but the issues does have a dream sequence that recaps a lot of Magnus’ recent adventures (and contains lots of robot fighting).

There’s some presumably big reveals to people who had been reading the series for 2o issues before this one. For them, they might have been like “Holy crap!!!!” but I was like “Oh, okay.” That’s just how these things work. You’re not going to surprise a newbie with a revelation in the 21st issue, but you can do your best to set it up for them so they at least understand what’s being revealed and why it’s important. Ostrander did that here and that’s all I can really ask for.

Oh, also, Bock’s art is still awesome in this issue.