Wednesday, November 22, 2017

RIP David Cassidy

After a frightening few days, actor/musician/songwriter David Cassidy has passed away at the age of 67. We have lost more than a couple folks in the last few days, but this one has hit me the hardest, perhaps because he was such a part of my childhood.

Mel Tillis was more of someone I heard about than heard from, most as a joke on "The Tonight Show;" Della Reese was a great talent, but other than "Touched by an Angel," I was for the most part unfamiliar with her; Charles Manson haunted the recesses of my formative years, was legend if nothing else, and if I'm being honest, Steve Railsback's portrayal of him in the TV movie Helter Skelter was far more frightening than the real thing I saw cavorting in his cell on Tom Snyder's "Tomorrow;" and Malcolm Young of AC/DC was a great loss, but let's be honest, the band's golden age was decades ago, and that's coming from a fan. But David Cassidy, this one resounded with me.

David Cassidy was Friday night after "The Brady Bunch." And although I preferred the Bradys over "The Partridge Family," the latter was much cooler, much hipper, and more real to me. Perhaps I remember hearing somewhere that they were real, or based on real people (I know now it was the Cowsills), but the Family, their bus, and especially David Cassidy's Keith Partridge, were all way cooler than the Bradys. When David's little brother came along later, I liked him, but still remember thinking David was cooler.

One of my favorite underrated and lost TV series featured David Cassidy as an undercover cop in high school and was a backdoor pilot and spin-off from "Police Story." The premise of cop in high school worked better the first few episodes then fizzled out, but I still remember the oddly titled "David Cassidy: Man Undercover" fondly. It was the godfather of "21 Jump Street," and to this day I think it was better.

Later I discovered his music, both solo and with what passed for the Partridge Family on vinyl, the nerd in me loved his role of Mirror Master in the original 1990 "The Flash" TV series, and I still enjoy his daughter Katie on "Arrow" as both the Black Canary, and now the Black Siren.

David Cassidy was a star of TV, stage, and music, and will be missed.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Torso, Justice League, and the Russian Avengers

Confession time.  I hadn’t thought about this in years, decades really, but it came up recently in a Twitter conversation with friend and fellow Biff Bam Popper Tim Murr.  He’d just seen the 1973 pre-slasher era horror classic Torso and I’d mentioned I’d seen it in its initial run, when I was ten.  I wasn’t a bad kid really I wasn’t, but let’s face it, I was that night.

On what might seem like a dare, but was more like a don’t be a body part Trump thinks he can grab without permission, three other boys in my class and I sneaked out after nine during the summer and watched Torso at the drive-in with no sound from the woods near the screen.  My siblings are probably shocked right now, and my parents both passed would have kicked my butt majorly if they’d known, but yeah, I did it.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Arrow S06 E04: Reversal

With the help of performance enhancing drugs John Diggle is in the Green Arrow gear while Oliver spends time with his son and hides from the FBI investigating the possibility that he is Green Arrow.  How long can this ruse be kept up as the Black Siren attacks again, and the looming threat of the return of Cayden James?  We’ll see in this episode of “Arrow.”

I have to wonder what the endgame is with Black Siren.  What did the showrunners really have in mind when they killed Katie Cassidy’s version of the Black Canary?  Was it always planned she would come back as a villain?  Did the actress herself want this?  This is episode four of the sixth season and I think Black Siren has had as much screen time if not more than some of the regulars.  Is she the new Malcolm Merlyn?  The bad guy who’s always there in the background? 

We open on a date night with Oliver and Felicity, the former really taking advantage of his free time to spend with his son.  The date feels like at best foreplay and at worst to show the role reversal (like the episode title) between Oliver and Felicity when she gets called to Team Arrow and he doesn’t.  One wonders how long Oliver can put up with this.  Will it take John crashing and burning?  I hope not. 

Here’s the gist, the guy who’s ordering the Black Siren around is Cayden James, the super hacker I predicted would be this season’s big bad, and he’s now in the villain game.  Enter Alena, the hacktivist from Helix who groomed Felicity last season.  She of course shows up in Felicity’s apartment looking for help against James.  Apparently his time in ARGUS’ custody turns him into a master villain and he’s planning on wiping out 4% of the world’s population.  And in case you think that’s not a lot - it’s 300 million people.  What else can Felicity do?

Reversal is indeed the name of the game.  Oliver interferes with Felicity and Alena’s mission to find a tech dealer named Amnesiac, just like old times, but in this case Felicity is the hero and Oliver the one who needs to stay safe, of course on the other hand, if Felicity, playing very much the Oliver role, had shared resources and knowledge with Team Arrow, neither would be flying blind against their foes. 

Arclight seems to be the name of Cayden James’ plan to take down the internet.  The conceit is that there’s a vault that physically holds the internet.  No, seriously.  That’s where the final fight, physical and cyberspatial, takes place, with surprisingly Oliver in the Overwatch position.  I wonder if the FBI is watching.  With the internet saved, James’ plan, still vague, seems a bit clearer.  He only wanted Felicity to take down the firewall so he could upload something sinister.  Riiiight. 

I love that Curtis is an Olicity shipper, and also the Corto Maltese name drop.  I have to say that John looks very awkward carrying the crossbow weapon, but it’s a little better on his back.  We saw neither William nor Samanda this episode despite their presence leaning heavily on events here.  We also get a name a mission statement for Felicity and Curtis’ startup - Helix Dynamics.  How long before they start creating metahumans

For my other reviews of the entire "Arrow" series, click here. And if you'd like to discuss this episode, anything else in the Arrowverse, or anything in the Marvel or DC television or cinematic universes, please join the Marvel DC Movies TV group on Facebook.

Next: Deathstroke returns in the aptly titled “Deathstroke Returns!”

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

31 Days of Horror at Biff Bam Pop!

If you've been to the Biff Bam Pop! website, you know that other than the regular pop culture features, we're all big horror fans there. As always, special for the month of October, and culminating today on Halloween is 31 Days of Horror.

31 Days of Horror takes a look at the past and present in horror movies, television, horror television, horror comics, and even horror animation.

This year we had guest blogger Monica S. Kuebler write about Midnight Son; Loretta Sisco gave us a peek at her Halloween playlist, as well as her regular column, True Crime Corner, and her reviews of the television series Outlander; and Robin Renee gave us a tour of Halloween Haunt at Kings Dominion.

Newcomer to the site from over at the late great Popshifter, but terrific writer and whirlwind of terror, Tim Murr gave us looks at Red Christmas, Halloween III, the brilliant Psycho documentary 78/52, Pumpkinhead, Mike Thorn's Darkest Hours, and the latest album by Werewolves in Siberia, as well as his music column Let Us Now Praise Noise. Also from Popshifter, and a terrific comics reviewer, E.A. Henson brought us Alien Toilet Monsters and the seven essential Halloween specials you MUST WATCH this year.

As well as her awesome column Creations of Chaos, about animation and anime films, Sarah Hawkins-Miduski gave us her thoughts on Neil Gaiman's Coraline, Edgar Allan Poe's Mystery Dinner Party, and four creepy animated shorts. JP Fallavollita took us on a tour of the Tomb of Dracula, and also featured horror in ever October edition of his comics column The Wednesday Run. Jim Knipp gave us a look at the deadly dollies of horror films, and Marie Gilbert served up some Soylent Green for the Halloween holiday dinner.

Co-editor-in-chief and founder of Popshifter, the amazing Less Lee Moore gave us reviews of Alone in the Dark, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and The Asphyx, as well as her regular columns, Pump Up the Jam and Now Streaming on Shudder.

Founder and publisher Andy Burns provided insights on Stephen King and Owen King's recent appearance in Toronto, the Creepshow graphic novel and The Dark Tower: The Art of the Film, the games Resident Evil: Biohazard and Outlast Trinity, as well as his popular weekly Box Office Predictions and awesomely on-topiv column The Week in Horror.

Besides my regular reviews of the television series The Flash, and infusing the 31 Days of Horror theme into my comics review column Heroes and Villains, I got my grubby little hands in there too, writing about the classic rat movies Willard and Ben, fellow Biff Bam Popper Lucas Mangum's Engines of Ruin, The Car, Beware the Slenderman, and Halloween in the Marvel Animated Universe.

Don't forget about the other regular columns at Biff Bam Pop! like The Ten Percent by K. Dale Koontz and Ensley F. Guffey, and By the Book by Jim Knipp, and our other great staff writers like Luke Sneyd, Richard Kirwin, Mat Langford, and David Ward.

Clicky-clicky, come on by Biff Bam Pop! and check out 31 Days of Horror. It's the best way to celebrate Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Arrow S06 E03: Next of Kin

Back during the time of late high school and college when I wasn’t actively reading comics any more (I know, shocking), a lot of things happened.  One of them was the first appearance of Onyx, a naive vigilante who Green Arrow crossed paths with in Star City.  Sheltered in a monastery she learned martial arts, and in a move that would make Batman proud, Onyx went out into the world to do good, her parents having been murdered years before. 

Later she was completely revamped as a Batman associate in the War Games story arc.  Now she was trained by the League of Assassins, and no longer naive.  Personally I liked the original teenaged Onyx with the cape better, but it’s the later version who has been brought to the small screen on “,a href="http://monsura.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html">Arrow.” 

Continuing from this season’s first episode, Team Arrow is in pursuit of Alex Faust, with John Diggle taking over as the Green Arrow.  He took on the mantle at the end of the last episode, in spite of the degenerative cell damage he suffered on Lian Yu.  So far only Black Canary also knows, but neither has told Oliver.  Seems like Oliver has definitely rubbed off on the team. 

This pursuit has John pulling the insane stunt of jumping off a building and letting Black Canary’s scream propel him across to another building.  It sounds nuts and comic booky, but the way it was executed I totally believed it.  Bravo.  Also notable the opening gauntlet of symbols lacked one for Spartan, giving more commitment to the idea that John is now the Green Arrow.  Nice touch. 

When Oliver shows up for work the next day Samanda is waiting for him.  She’s not stupid, and despite Oliver’s airtight alibi, she knows someone else was playing Green Arrow, someone who’s not an archer.  Samanda also brings up how the cops might feel slighted (at best) with the mayor leaning on a vigilante.  It’s a thought I had as a little kid watching the original “Batman” TV show - why do the Gotham police even bother showing up to work?  They’re either bored or disillusioned, right? 

Meanwhile the slick Onyx, here a crooked ex-CIA operative named Onyx Adams, breaks into Kord Industries (will we ever see Blue Beetle?) and downloads some serious intel, including a deadly nerve gas (Kord makes nerve gas???).  When Team Arrow protects the gas shipment, Onyx takes them out pretty easily.  I did like Rene’s “Surprise, bitch.” though.  We need more Rene in the show as he gets the best lines.  Why not put him in the Green Arrow suit?  Or Dinah or Felicity, they seem to be leading as well. 

Rene asks Oliver to come back, but he gives John a pep talk instead.  So, the team is splintered when it next goes into action against Onyx and her team - who having seen John in action are unimpressed and don’t see him or his team a threat.  Not good.  Things do turn around however, and the fight sequences of the last act are quite impressive, and a vast improvement over the first episode this season.  And John proves himself. 

Unfortunately, as the end stinger reveals, John is using performance enhancing drugs to stabilize his tremors.  Well, that’s not going to come back to bite anyone in the ass.  There’s more soap with William as Oliver finally allows Felicity into his life.  There was a lot to like about this episode, but all things considered, I’d rather have Oliver as Green Arrow.  This is like one of those tired cliche comic arcs where the hero is replaced.  I’m just waiting for the real Green Arrow. 

Something I talked about last time, but have since given further thought to is the existence of Batman in the Arrowverse.  After a brief exchange with friend Tim Murr on Twitter I’ve reconsidered my position.  There may well be a Batman in the Arrowverse.  And while I’m thinking of it, check out Tim’s work at Biff Bam Pop! right here.  He’s only been with us a couple of months, coming over from the late Popshifter, but he’s written some great stuff.  And a book too.  Check him out. 

So maybe Batman does exist.  After all, we’ve seen Harley Quinn, right?  Felicity wouldn’t take the name Oracle (she does it again subtly in this very episode) when suggested because it was already in use. And then there’s Rip Hunter from “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” who remarked from a dark future that he’d seen dark knights and men of steel fall.  That’s pretty conclusive. And there’s no reason why Green Arrow couldn’t have fought all those Bat-villains before Batman did, right? 

For my other reviews of the entire "Arrow" series, click here. And if you'd like to discuss this episode, anything else in the Arrowverse, or anything in the Marvel or DC television or cinematic universes, please join the Marvel DC Movies TV group on Facebook.

Next: The Black Siren returns in “Reversal!”