Funny thing: Patrick Flynn lives in Bethesda, Maryland, a short public-transit trip across the northwest border of Washington, DC, where I live. We know many of the same people because we’re both involved in theatre; him as a playwright, me as a critic. And yet our paths never crossed until he heard me on James Bonding last fall, which Matt Gourley and Matt Mira record weekly at Gourley’s beautiful home in Pasadena, all the way on the other side of country.
Here we are in Year Ten of the Marvel Cinematic Era, and not one piece of music has emerged from any of the two dozen films based on Marvel characters (released by Marvel Studios and others) that can rival John Williams’ mighty score for Superman: The Movie or even Danny Elfman’s brooding Batman theme.
For years I’ve wondered why this is. But only two days ago did I at last get to ask someone who might know. On today’s All Things Considered, I speak with Rupert Gregson-Williams, who composed the score for director Patty Jenkins’ fine Wonder Woman. You might even hear a cameo by one of the most venerable heroes of the National Public Radio universe, the great Bob Mondello.
Posted in movies, radio, super-heroes, Uncategorized
Tagged All Things Considered, Andrew Limbong, Batman, Bob Mondello, Chris Pine, Danny Elfman, Gal Gadot, John Williams, Joss Whedon, movies, Nina Gregory, NPR, soundtracks, Superman
My four-or-five-year tenure buying The Uncanny X-Men faithfully each month had expired by No. 298, cover-dated March 1993. Neither Daoud nor I could identify anyone on the cover with certainty save for Bishop and Gambit.
On this week’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, I join host Linda Holmes and regular panelist Stephen Thompson — and, I am excited to tell you, fellow guest-star Daoud Tyler-Ameen, who sounds and is smarter than any of us — to search or feelings in RE: X-Men: Apocalypse. It’s Bryan Singer’s fourth X-Men movie and third X-Men prequel and second trilogy capper, so no preamble required. I have done the math, and Apocalypse is the second-worst of the six X-Men features. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, even by the relaxed standards of coherence that govern superhero movies, but I didn’t hate it. Anyway, you can listen to the podcast here.
For more of my feelings, please see my NPR review of the film. And for a much longer discussion of do-overs in long-lived franchises, see this essay that I published on The Dissolve last year. I believe that The Dissolve shall, like Jean Grey, rise again. Continue reading
Posted in movies, podcasts
Tagged Bryan Singer, Daoud Tyler-Ameen, Harry Lime, Linda Holmes, NPR, Orson Welles, Pop Culture Happy Hour, Stephen Thompson, Superman, The Third Man, villainy, X-Men
It was a true pleasure to be on Filmspotting again, this time in a World’s Finest-style team-up with my Pal-for-Life Glen Weldon. Glen is “unauthor” (his joke, people) of Superman: The Unauthorized Biography and author the just-published, even-better The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture. Host Adam Kempenaar invited the two of us to join him for this episode’s Top Five segment, Superman/Batman Movie Moments. Adam and Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips reviewed Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice in the show’s first segment. They didn’t like it any more than I did.
There’s always at least one thing in my notes that I forget to say when I’m on a podcast/radio show, and this time it was a big one: In my No. 1 Superman/Batman scene, the Lois Lane/Superman patio interview from Superman ’78, the big guy actually volunteers to the Daily Planet reporter that he can’t see through lead. Hey world! I know I seem invulnerable, but I do have a few exploitable weaknesses which I shall now reveal!
There’s lots of stuff I didn’t have room for in my NPR review of this enervating zeppelin-crash of a superhero flick, but first things first: Gotham City and Metropolis are just across the bay from one another? So close that a person who doesn’t have Super-eyesight can see the Bat-signal lighting up the sky over Gotham… from Metropolis? Continue reading
“Most men know less about their own bodies than they do about their automobiles.”
John Ford, who made Stagecoach and The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and who won the Academy Award for Best Director four times – not for any of the first-rate pictures I’ve just named – also made a sex-ed film for G.I.s in 1942, the same year he collected his third Best Director Oscar for How Green Was My Valley.
Okay, maybe that’s only funny to me. Anyway, if you think it’s worth 26 minutes of your life to learn how not to catch syphilis from – in the charming patois of Sex Hygiene – “a contaminated woman,” you can watch this not-so-casually misogynistic but highly informative short. Even if you’re already fully briefed on how to protect yourself from the predatory vaginas of dirty, dirty whores, this film has at least two other things to recommend it.
1) It features the greatest reaction shots ever captured on film.
2) Eisenhower-era TV Superman George Reeves and Robert Lowery, who played Batman in the 1949 serial Batman and Robin, appear together briefly in an early scene. So if you want a preview of what next year’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice will be like, well… it will probably be like this, at least in hair-gel terms.
“I think it made its point and helped a lot of young kids,” Ford told Peter Bogdanovich, reflecting on Sex Hygiene years later. “I looked at it and threw up.”
1. Happy to Be Here
I was delighted to sit in on this week’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, a Very Special Episode we — okay, I — have decided to call “The Cavil Over Henry Cavill.” The A-topic this week was the arrival of Man of Steel, the muscled-up, darkened-down reboot of Superman film franchise that is, we all agree, short on humor. Also short on height. Zing!
Any regular listener to the show will know that Glen Weldon, my pal-for-life and 25 percent of the show’s regular lineup (along with host Linda Holmes and Stephen Thompson and Trey Graham), just spent the better part of two years researching and writing the marvelous Superman: The Unauthorized Biography. I recently ran a freezing cold 12-mile death race wearing a Superman T-shirt, so our credentials are roughly equivalent.
But they didn’t exactly need a second longtime Supes fan. I snuck in by making fun of Henry Cavill’s average-ish height. He is, for the record, exactly as tall as I am if you believe IMDB, an authority on which actor heights seem to be self-reported.
“I think he makes you feel short,” Linda tells me during the show. Continue reading
This photo is from August 15, 2004. My race-partner Steph — HI, STEPH! — and I are competing in the Muddy Buddy running/biking relay race in San Dimas, CA, home of Bill & Ted.
I dug it up because at this time tomorrow I’ll be — I hope — more than halfway through the Tough Mudder, a 10-12 mile military-style obstacle course designed to be a physical and mental trial for all comers, no matter how fit and/or nuts they are. The Muddy Buddy is not all that similar: It’s only half as long as the Tough Mudder, and you’re not made to swim in icy water (they refresh the ice frequently to prevent the water from reaching a comfortable temperature) or run through a lattice of 10,000-volt live wires. (I’m not exaggerating. You can read about the Tough Mudder obstacles here.) But of the races I’ve done, mostly 10ks and 10-milers and half-marathons, it’s the one that most resembles the Mudder.
I’m starting to get nervous.
SUPERFAMILIAS: David Deblinger and Tim Getman (Stan Barouh/Theater J)
Any honest critic will occasionally find himself out on a lonely limb, and this week it’s my turn. To me and apparently no one else, Arena Stage’s The Normal Heart
— a historically vital play about the early years of the AIDS epidemic in New York City — is morally worthy but artistically wanting.
I am girding myself for hate mail.
People sometimes make fun of Ford’s Theatre’s presidential history plays for being dowdy and pedantic; for being more interested in teaching us A Very Important Lesson than in taking us somewhere. That’s how The Normal Heart felt to me, albeit with a lot more crying. (Also, I tend to like the musty presidential histories.) I happen to agree with the play’s politics, as I understand them — though that really shouldn’t matter at all — and I acknowledge in my review that activist/playwright Larry Kramer was writing in a time and place when subtlety would not have been an appropriate or effective response to the nightmare he and his peers were living through.
I just don’t think the preachy, shouty play he wrote holds up, removed from that urgent context. Your mileage may, and probably will, vary. Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged AIDS, Arena Stage, comics, David Bar Katz, Larry Kramer, sacred cows, superheroes, Superman, The History of Invulnerability, The Normal Heart, theater, Theater J, theatre, Washington City Paper
Great Scott! Book critic, comics blogger, and friend-for-life Glen Weldon — the Green Lantern to my Green Arrow — invited me to participate in an exegesis of SUPERMAN VS. MUHAMMAD ALI, an essential cultural artifact of the 1970s. I’ve had a framed copy of the cover hanging in my apartment for years, in my bathroom in point of fact. But as with so many of the classics, I never actually read it until assigned to do so.
Anyway: Read all about it on your National Public Radio!
I’m off the AFI to catching the screening of Facing Ali in about an hour-and-a-half, even though Ali, sadly, has bailed. Meanwhile, DCist has posted my Supermen of Malegaon review.
No surprise, surely, that there’s a certain benign, solar-powered alien to whom the management of this fine publication is partial. Maybe more on account of his iconography, and for the way he was was so generously embodied by the late Christopher Reeve in the movie-and-a-half directed by Richard Donner in the late 70s — and for the uber-salient fact that his newspapering alter-ego shares my initials — than for the actual comics.