29 July 2005

Happy Birthday, Molly

Molly, our beautiful and utterly unique tortoiseshell cat, would have turned 11 today, had she not been stricken with a rare feline cancer that had her leave us on May 14, 2005. It's only been a few months and there still isn't a day when I don't ache for her adorable gurgle (she never really had a "meow"), hilarious antics (she always knew precisely how to cheer me up when I was down or too self-absorbed), and comforting paw. In her honour, I'm going to spring for that "cat hammock" that I'd often thought of buying but repeatedly put off, figuring I always had time...Minnie will enjoy it and I'm sure will miss sharing it with her big sister. BTW, this weekend, The Toronto Humane Society is waiving their standard $25 adoption fee, due to a surplus of more than 500 stray cats. So, GTA readers, here's the perfect time to save a new Molly's life and enhance your own in a big way (just don't forget to spay...).

27 July 2005

Any Chance Of Eddie Izzard With Kung-Fu Grip?

Nearly blew a gasket when I read that toy company New Adventures® will soon be releasing 12-inch, talking soft-bodied dolls of "Blue Collar TV" staples Larry The Cable Guy™, Bill Engvall™ , Ron White™ , and, of course, the inexplicably enduring Jeff Foxworthy™ . Press the left hand and each figure offers twelve unique phrases taken directly from their comedy routines (incredibly, 6 inch versions will also be available, with a mathematically-appropriate six phrases in their repertoire).

25 years since "A Clockwork Orange" was released and the toy industry has yet to offer a collectible "Alex The Droog". And Wave 2 of the "Sin City" figures will not include Carla Gugino--but I can easily acquire a Jeff-freakin'-Foxworthy to join Jake & Elwood, Chow Yun Fat, and Alex Ross' "Captain Marvel" on my office bookshelf? I saw a Donny Most action figure at the Snail today--just who's doing the market research on this stuff, and are they drunk on corn liquor? If they're gonna put out comedians, then why not Bill Murray as Nick The Lounge Singer, Steve Martin with bunny ears and his banjo, and Dennis Miller before he went all right-wing on us? Wouldn't a plushy Gilbert Gottfried doing "Ralph Kramden" in "Casablanca" be the ultimate office cubicle annoyance?

FYI--Jeff and co. require 3 triple-A batteries--and if you can't figure out which way they go in,you might be a...sensible person with a better grasp of financial restraint than I...

24 July 2005

"V" For Vindictive?

"Watchmen" creator Alan Moore has to be the crankiest man in comics. Crankier than Harlan Ellison, who once wrote an article entitled "Why I Fantasize About Using An AK-47 On Teenagers"--back in the early 70s! That's cranky. Moore's been quite vocal in his disdain ("imbecilic") for the upcoming film adaptation of his 80s anti-Thatcher, pro-terrorist dystopian allegory "V For Vendetta" (co-created with artist David Lloyd). Granted, "The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen" movie was sub-Golan/Globus hackwork, and the stylish "From Hell" was ruined by a ridiculous happy ending (Mary Kelly survives?!) but "Constantine", IMHO, made for an enjoyable LA noir and retained some of the integrity of its source material, even though the purist in me is still twitching over the casting of Keanu instead of a proper Brit. Moore, who has severed all ties with DC/Vertigo, is peeved at Joel Silver's public claim that he has given "V4V" his blessing, and has asked for a printed retraction/apology, which has yet to materialize. His anger here, is perfectly understandable. But if Moore really feels the state of current cinema is worthy of his "dwindling respect", why does he repeatedly sell the option rights, especially since bad comic book adaptations go back to Lewis Wilson changing into his batsuit in the back of a saloon car? Much of Moore's own esteemed body of work consists of considerable liberties taken with the creations of others (H. Rider Haggard likely didn't envision Alan Quartermain as a junkie, and let's not forget "The Killing Joke", in which the Joker rapes and cripples Barbara Gordon, which I'm sure didn't go down too well with Bob Kane) , so to cry foul when other writers play fast and loose with his work displays a double-standard either naive or arrogant. J. Michael Straczynski has read the shooting script and has hailed it as "a work of freaking genius", and the trailer looks good. Check out bald Natalie and Hugo behind a Guy Fawkes mask here.

21 July 2005

"I Am Gargamel's Sense Of Self-Loathing"

So "Fantastic Four" stirs up a slumping box office and the suits learn all the wrong lessons: "Dark Horizons" (way cooler than "Ain't It Cool News", IMHO) reports that the geniuses at Paramount are teaming up with Nickelodeon to develop a CGI feature adaptation of "The Smurfs". Even worse--in 3-D! Can you take any more? Know then, that it's the first part of a planned TRILOGY! (if it's any consolation, the animated series ran 256 episodes) They'd better get moving, as the 50th anniversary of artist Peyo's original Belgian comic strip is only three years away. Ensuring mediocre results is the addition of a Ratner to pen the screenplay, but this is "Herb", not that other guy, so perhaps there's a chance this'll play painlessly (I was a paying customer for "The Garbage Pail Kids" movie, with Anthony Newley, so it's all perspective). The storyline, btw, is being kept "under wraps". So expect a major Palahniuk-style plot twist...

Go ahead, try out the Smurf Name Generator...

20 July 2005

From Sarnia To Star Command, By Way Of Starfleet...

With today’s sad news of the passing of Canadian war hero and pop culture icon James “Scotty” Doohan, I thought I’d skip the usual Roddenberry references and instead remind those of you “of a certain age” of one of his largely-forgotten forays into TV sci-fi beyond that “other” show…

Many of us reared on Mego action figures and Crazy Foam will remember the rotating logo of Filmation and its founders Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott before shows like “Ark 2”, “Shazam”, and “The Secrets Of Isis”- Saturday morning cheapies that rarely delivered on their promise of live-action spectacle but certainly weren’t lacking in heavy-handed morality lessons.

Doohan added gravitas (and his regular voice) as Commander Canarvin to 1978’s “Jason Of Star Command”, Filmation’s last live action venture. Initially a 15 minute segment during “Tarzan And The Super 7”, it chronicled the cliffhanger adventures of cosmic agent “Jason” (Craig Littler) who worked out of the “Space Academy” (an earlier series that starred another 60s sci-fi vet unable to escape typecasting: “Lost In Space”s Jonathan Harris) to defeat the evil “Dragos” (B-movie regular Sid Haig), who sought to conquer the galaxy and/or the usual thing. Other than Doohan, all I can recall from it is Haig’s eyepiece, some decent model work (except for the pocket-sized robot “Wikki”), and lots of dry ice. Doohan left after one season (presumably to shoot “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”) and the show expanded to 30 minutes, but I don’t think I stuck with it after that. It’s a shame that these aren’t on VHS or DVD, but I’m sure someone with a vintage Betamax—the same brainiac with the foresight to tape the “Star Wars” Holiday Special perhaps—has copies circulating through the gray market.
Meanwhile, Sid “Dragos” Haig lives on and is enjoying his long-overdue career resurgence, thanks to Quentin Tarantino and Rob Zombie. Check him out in this weekend’s ‘The Devil’s Rejects”, the sequel to the not half-bad “House of 1,000 Corpses”.

19 July 2005

"Hazy Conditions, Chance Of Missing Ear"

Who knew that filmmaker, painter, composer, actor, cartoonist, furniture designer, transcendentalist, and former Eagle Scout David Lynch aspired to be the George Plimpton of wacked-out auteurs? Now L.A. residents, the hopelessly devoted, and the merely curious can check out his nicotine-fueled daily weather reports (So-Cal only, sorry) here on his official site. Thankfully, the feeds are free, which is more than can be said of most of the features on his rather pricey internet hub. Hopefully, Lynch's sudden fascination with all things meteorological won't hamper the completion of that long-promised "director's cut" of "Dune" on DVD, or his next feature, "Inland Empire", which he has reportedly shot on digital video in Poland with Jeremy Irons, Laura Dern, Harry Dean Stanton, and Justin Theroux.

06 July 2005

You'd Snap, Too, If You Had To Pronounce "Mxyzptlk"

If there was ever proof as to the damage caused to the comics medium by the ridiculous crusade of Dr. Fredric Wertham, it's here at Superdickery.com, which chronicles the hilarious, and downright depressing, detour into mediocrity Siegel and Shuster's classic √úbermensch was forced into until his eventual restoration to glory courtesy of John Byrne and Alan Moore (not to mention filmmaker Richard Donner). Suddenly, Krypto and Streaky (the supercat) look like the stuff of David Mamet compared to Kal-El's encounter with...Pat Boone!? To tide you over until the release of Bryan Singer's promising remake/sequel, check out Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's rousingly romantic epic "Superman For All Seasons", blare those songs from Crash Test Dummies, Five For Fighting, and Our Lady Peace, raid the DVD dollar bins for Fleischer Bros. compilations--anything to erase these images from your cranium...

05 July 2005

"You're Outta Orbit! You're Outta Orbit! The Whole Trial's Outta Orbit!"

It's John Grisham meets Irwin Allen! The mission that sent the Deep Impact space probe smashing into the comet Tempel 1 kicked up more than cosmic debris--it also brought a lawsuit from a Russian astrologer. The newspaper Izvestia reported today that 45-year old clairvoyant Marina Bai is suing the U.S. space agency, claiming their successful mission "ruins the natural balance of forces in the universe " (NASA scientists hoped the mission would help in the understanding of how the solar system was formed--whoopsie!). Bai is seeking damages totalling 8.7B rubles (about $311M U.S.--the cost of the mission) for her "moral sufferings" and "deformed horoscope". She explained: "somewhere deep inside a voice told me the whole mission had to be stopped. I fear that it could have an impact on all humanity." NASA representatives in Russia could not be reached for comment--big surprise--but U.S. scientists have assured that the crash did not significantly alter the comet's orbit around the sun and poses no danger to Earth. Unconvinced, a Moscow court has postponed hearings on the case until late July...affording little time to train a team of gruff-but-loveable Black Sea oil workers to fly into space to undo the damage...

04 July 2005

Beats Costner's "Waterworld" Solution...

Now you can convert your rumpus room into your very own Tatooine moisture farm--just like Uncle Owen (who looks like he'd had a lot of moisture sucked out of him between episodes 3 and 4...)! The Mr. Peabodys at Air2Water products have perfected an atmospheric water generator that extracts drinkable water from the air. The device pulls air through an electrostatic filter removing 93% of all air borne particles. The water harvested then drops into a tray and is passed throught UV light for 30 minutes, killing 99.9% of all germs and bacteria. The water is then pumped through a sediment screen and back through two solid carbon block 1 micron water filters, removing 99.9% of any volatile organic chemicals that may be left in the water. The water can then be safely dispensed to its thirsty (not to mention patient) consumers. Behold the miracle here. The obvious question is: does it speak "bocce"?

03 July 2005

"Strange Paradise" Finally Ends!

A CanCon nugget so obscure to elude even "cult" status, "Strange Paradise" was The Great White North's response to Dan Curtis' supernatural daytime sensation "Dark Shadows", debuting on Sept. 1, 1969 and running for a lengthy single season of 195 episodes.

The initial story arc was set on the fictious "Caribbean island" of Maljardin (in actuality, Toronto's Casa Loma for exteriors and an Ottawa farmhouse studio for interiors), where various meddlesome characters became the prisoner of eccentric millionaire Jean-Paul Desmond, his zombie henchman Quito , and handmaid/voodoo priestess Raxl. When not becoming possessed-and-un-possessed by the portrait of his ancestor--the DeSade-ian Jacques Eloi Des Mondes--Desmond dabbled with cryogenics to revive his dead wife.

With that plan going predictably wrong, everyone dead and Maljardin burned to the ground, Jean-Paul, Quito, and Raxl somehow avoided incineration and woke up in the Desmond ancestoral home in Canada to begin a second, and even more confusing, serial.

Miraculously, the entire run of the series survived, too, and Canada's "Drive-In Classics" channel relaunched it on an unsuspecting world in October of last year. I stuck it through five nights a week, without a single pre-emption, for the show's entirety (sorry Ken Jennings), which came to an end, mercifully (and appropriately), on Canada Day 2005.

Shot on videotape and starring Canadian vets Colin Fox, Jack Creley, Bruce Gray, and Cossette Lee, "Strange Paradise" was alternately as low-rent charming as the ambitious "The Starlost", or as laughably inept as a Coleman Francis director's cut, with wobbling sets, flubbed lines, and missed cues so de rigueur you'd start to believe they were intended with a knowing wink. This over-padded rubbish wore out its welcome by about episode...oh...100?...but ever the loyal genre nationalist, I stuck it out even thought by February I was slipping into my own empathic trance states along with poor, cursed Jean-Paul to make the weeks go faster.

Those intrigued can brave Drive-In Classics' re-re-broadcast of "Strange Paradise" starting this coming Monday, July 4th at 7:30 PM ET.

01 July 2005

Happy 138th Canada!

...so who sez I'm a "poor patriot"? For the first time in recent memory, we're spending the Dominion Day long weekend in the GTA, where ordinarily, the pace would simmer down to just this side of "On The Beach" once the salarymen flee to Cottage Country. But then Sir Bob had an idea to host this little concert and, well, let's just all be happy that Roger Waters and David Gilmour are speaking again. I watched "Live Aid" waaay back in 1985 from a hospital bed in the Ottawa Civic Hospital, and am hardly nostalgic enough to put myself through that living hell again (wonder if my roommate ever finished that "Herman" treasury?) and having done SARSstock, have opted to leave the Barrie spectacle to the pierced and/or inebriated. Instead, we'll catch a matinee of "War Of The Worlds", bake in the sun at the CHIN picnic at Ontario Place, and stick it out for the evening fireworks. Anyone know the lyrics to "Waltzing Matilda" en francais...?