Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman Vs. Gargantua

With the release of the 600th issue of Wonder Woman today, featuring her new costume and making news headlines, here is an episode of the famous 70s series starring Lynda Carter, who defined the character for a generation.  Why this particular episode?  It's the only one available for free.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What Should I Know About Digital Comics?

As comic book fans who read this blog know, the biggest thing happening in comics right now is the dawn of digital comics. Comics are on the verge of being as downloadable as music and movies have become. But for me, a person who is not the most tech savvy in the world, I'm not sure how I'll fit into the digital comics world.

The thought of downloading comics in a digital format is appealing, certainly from an economic standpoint, assuming they will remain cheaper than their print counterparts. But I fear how convenient or not they are to read in such a format. I've tried reading some of the freebies on Marvel's digital service on their Web site, but I find their reader dreadful. The main devices that digital comics are aimed at are mobile devices rather than desktop or laptop PCs. I don't own an iPhone, iPad, Droid, or Kindle, nor do I wish to get one any time soon, which likely puts me at a strong disadvantage in dipping my toe into the digital comics water.

Even if digital comics are readable on a desktop computer, do I still need a special app or media player to view them, or do I just get to open a pdf and read away? Is one file format better than the other (pdf vs. cbr)? Is one service (Comixology, Longbox Digital, etc.) better than another, although I imagine it's way too early to make that judgement.

If anyone out there has experience with digital comics and these services, please leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Mighty Heroes: The Shrinker

You know what I haven't posted in awhile? A Mighty Heroes cartoon. Let's fix that now as the mighty ones battle--The Shrinker!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jaws Week: Saturday Night Live's Land Shark

Continuing Jaws Week beyond acceptable boundaries, here is the famous skit from the early days of Saturday Night Live featuring the door-knocking, repairman-imposturing land shark. Enjoy!

UPDATE AS OF JUNE 20th, 2012: This video is no longer available anywhere on the Internet, so I'm afraid we're out of luck :(  I'll keep the post alive in case the video is available in the future. Sorry!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jaws Week: Animated Inspiration

Yes, it's a whole new week, but since I still have some Jaws material left over, I'm keeping it going, for a couple of days anyway.

Today, I bring you three cartoons that don't directly have anything to do with Jaws, but get their inspiration from the shark consciousness of general pop culture based in large part on Jaws.  First up, Hanna-Barbera's Jabberjaw, released just a year after the release of Jaws.  This shark, however, is not only friendly, he bears a striking resemblance to Curly Howard from the Three Stooges.  Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck!

Next, from Depatie-Freleng, the studio that brought you the Pink Panther cartoons, here is Mister Jaw, who is a snappy dresser and sounds suspiciously like Arte Johnson of Laugh-In.  His catfish partner is voiced by longtime character actor Arnold Stang.

Finally, a more recent example is the Discovery Kids Network's Kenny The Shark, a tiger shark who lives with a young suburban girl.  Here, Kenny deals with a bully killer whale.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Jaws Week: In Defense of Jaws 2

You will commonly hear people say regarding the Jaws sequels, "They all suck!"  In my opinion, this isn't true.  Yes, Jaws 3-D and The Revenge do indeed leave much to be desired. But Jaws 2, while not the landmark film like the original, is a fine film that is unfairly maligned.

Of course, accepting Jaws 2 does require accepting the preposterous idea that a second massive Great White would attack the same northeast Atlantic town from the first film, and I suppose that's a large pill to swallow.  But that fact aside, there are many thrills and nuances to enjoy here.

Take, for example, the acting.  The acting is just as good here as in the first.  Richard Dreyfuss' Matt Hooper is missed here, and of course you couldn't bring back Quint, but Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, and Murray Hamilton give compelling performances just as they did in the first film.  Their characters are consistent with the ones introduced in Jaws, and this is as much a credit to the writing team as to the actors themselves.  Carl Gottlieb and Howard Sackler appear to give as much care with the sequel as they did the original.  You can feel Brody's anger and sense of betrayel in the middle of the film when the foolish town council dismisses him.  Scheider in particular really gives it his all here.

There is also a great deal of chills in Jaws 2.  The opening sequence, as two divers discover both the shipwrecked Orca and the new shark, is a great scene with which to start the film.  The waterski scene and scene with two teens sailing have as much suspense and horror as anything you'll see in the first Jaws.  It's true that some of the horror seems more intent on shock value compared to the first, but with any sequel, you sometimes have to up the ante to keep things interesting, certainly with a thriller/horror film.

The use of teenagers as victims in Jaws 2 is often criticized as a way to attract the then-growing slasher film teen audience, and while I'm sure that's true, they still function as viable victims, and none of the situations they're put into seem terribly forced or contrived to me.  The execution of these scenes is so good, any such stretches of credibility are forgiven.

I couldn't find any usable clips to demonstrate my points, so please put Jaws 2 in your Netflix queue, purchase from the retailer of your choice, or do as I recently did, check the film out from your local library.  If you do, please leave a comment and let me know if you agree or disagree.  Thanks!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jaws Week: Jaws Movie Posters

See that image above?  That, my friends, is one of the most bloodcurdling things I've ever seen in my life.  It scares the crap out of me every time I see it!  It's not real, of course, just a painting used to promote another piece of fiction, no big deal, right?

Yeah it is.

As iconic and familiar as the Jaws movie poster is, it's easy for many to forget just how frightening and effective that image is.  It's as much a part of the power of the film as anything else, right up there with John Williams fantastic score.  I also think it's underappreciated, especially in this day where most movie posters are nothing more than Photoshop projects.  This was carefully painted with a clear artistic vision, and it is, in my opinion, the greatest movie poster ever created.

The artist is Roger Kastel, and you can read more about him here.  He also painted this:

Yeah, the guy's good.

Here are some other posters, mostly from other countries, that also put an interesting spin on the film.

Here is a Japanese poster that adds the cast to the mix.

Here is a poster that doesn't even feature the shark at all, but features his handiwork.  Terrifying!

Here is the poster from Poland that features just the dorsal fin--and a puddle of blood.  Very well done.

Here is the Polish poster for Jaws 2.  Two, two, TWO SHARKS IN ONE!

This American poster for the sequel also features two sharks.  Doublemint sharks!

This is a teaser poster released months (even a year?) before the release of Jaws 2 that was pulled from theaters for some reason.

This is an image I didn't know existed until I did research for Jaws Week.  It's from the soundtrack for Jaws 2 and differs greatly from the usual poster and resembles more closely the first film's poster, with the teen couple on the boat from the film replacing the swimmer.  Nicely done!

Finally, this is a fan-made poster for the first film that hit the Internet last year.  Scared me to death when I first saw it!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jaws Week: Jaws as Pitchman

Jaws Week continues here, but first, a quick plug for a brand new special about the movie airing tonight. Jaws: The Inside Story is a two-hour special detailing the making of the film and its impact on pop culture.  It airs at 9pm ET/8pm CT on Bio, A&E's all-biography channel.  Check your local listings for channel availability.

Now with that out of the way...

It's impossible for a pop culture phenomenon like Jaws not to be used in the selling of products, and there have been several such attempts worldwide.  Here are just a few examples.

One of the most chilling scenes from the film is the very first one.  This parody isn't so chilling, but it does grab your attention, which is the point of any good commercial.  Here the product is a wacky morning radio show Budell and Agony (how's that for a last name?).

Here is a spot which also parodies a scene from the film, specifically the time spent on the Orca. The product is the Hyundai Tiburon sports car. Tiburon translates into "shark."

When sailing out in the ocean, make sure you keep your Diet Coke by your side at all times. You don't want to have a shark separate you from it. Judge Reinhold had a dickens of a time getting his back.

Like the first commercial we saw, several of these spots start out appearing scary, then take a comical turn at the end. The next two commercials follow that pattern.


We're gonna need a bigger jackpot!

Although this next commercial doesn't even feature a shark, it parodies a Jaws parody--the famous land shark sketch from Saturday Night Live. Thank BMW for this one. No embedding is available, so check it out here.

Finally, sharks have great hearing and smell, but their eyesight isn't so good. See what I mean in this funny ad for Hostess cupcakes.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Jaws Week: Universal Studios Jaws Rides

One of the ways Jaws continues to stay in America's collective consciousness is through the popular Jaws rides at Universal Studios in Hollywood and Florida.  They are some of the main attractions at both parks.  However, there is a big difference between the two.  Here is the version at the Hollywood park.

In my opinion, not that entertaining.

The Florida version is much more intense and interactive.  I went on the ride on my honeymoon and was totally psyched for it--then kept my eyes closed for most of the ride because I was too scared.  Yes, I'm that lame.  Take a look!

If you get the chance to go to either park, check them out!

Monday, June 14, 2010

JAWS Week Begins! Making of Jaws 3-D: Sharks Don't Die

This Sunday June 20th marks the 35th anniversary of the release of one of my alltime favorite movies, Jaws!  In honor of this event, I'm devoting the entire week to Jaws and shark-related material.

First up: a syndicated TV special released in 1983 that acted as an advertisement for the release of Jaws 3-D in 1983.  The Making of Jaws 3-D: Sharks Don't Die was a combination of general facts about great whites and, well, the making of Jaws 3-D, and is narrated by one of the film's stars, Louis Gossett Jr.  As bad as the movie may be (more on that later this week), this special captivated me when released, and I'm happy to have found it and present it here.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation's Lemonade Days Are This Weekend!

This Friday through Sunday, June 11-13, Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation will be holding their annual Lemonade Days, their biggest fundraising drive of the year!  Lemonade stands will be held throughout the country to raise money for pediatric cancer research, all in the name of the little girl who started it all, Alex Scott.

On Thursday, June 10th, a telethon will be held in Philadelphia on CBS 3 TV to kick off the campaign.  If you live in the greater Philadelphia area, please give what you can to this incredible organization.

My wife, an elementary school teacher, has held a stand at her school for several years, so this event is especially close to us.

Here is American Idol's Jordan Sparks to tell you more.

Please do what you can to help fight childhood cancer--one cup at a time!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Avengers Teaser Clips From Marvel Movies

I swear I have an Iron Man 2 movie review on the way, as soon as I get either a) more time or b) my home PC fixed, but in the meantime, here are the clips from the two Iron Man films and The Increbile Hulk film teasing the approaching Avengers movie.  I'm sure most readers here are familiar with them, but here they are in one handy place.  Enjoy!  And SPOILER ALERT in case you haven't seen them, especially from Iron Man 2.

For the clip from the Hulk, the teaser clip starts at 55 seconds. Embedding has been disabled, so click here for the clip.

Finally, from the end of Iron Man 2. I love the fan reaction at the reveal. It makes you even more excited for the next films!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Avengers Assemble...For A Contest!

The Avengers have once again been relaunced by Marvel Comics and in a big way.  Rave reviews are pouring in, and between that and the excitement over the Avengers-related movies in the air, what better time than now for me to launch my first-ever contest?

I'm trying to clear out some of my comic book stash, so I thought I'd give a reader a chance to score some free books, all starring the Avengers.  Most are very recent (within the past year) and all are in near mint condition (there may be some slight wear around the edges of a cover here and there or some slight spine roll).  All books are bagged and boarded.  They will be sent via US Postal Service Priority Mail (no insurance or tracking).  The issues are:

Avengers #300 (Inferno tie-in)
Avengers #305 (written by John Byrne)
New Avengers #49 and 50 (Dark Reign tie-ins)
Mighty Avengers # 20 (Secret Invasion epilogue) 21-26 (Dark Reign tie-ins), 35, 36 (Siege tie-ins)

All you have to do is answer three easy questions:

1) Who was the first founding member of the Avengers to leave the team?
2) Who was the first villian the team ever fought?
3) For awhile, Steve Rogers gave up being Captain America and ran around wearing a black variation of  his Cap uniform, most recently worn by the USAgent.  By what simplified name did he go by during this time?  HINT:  the name appears on a cover of one of the issues mentioned above.

And that's it!  The first person to reply in the comments section with all three correct answers wins.  If this works out, I may have more contests in the future.

Good luck, and Excelsior!

UPDATE AS OF 6/4/2010: We have a winner, and that winner is...Bill Doughty!  You can check his blog Trusty Plinko Stick for mirth and merriment.  Bill, you should receive them by the end of next week.  And not only will you receive the issues mentioned above, I forgot to mention that you will also be receiving Dark Avengers #s 1 and 2.  Enjoy!