Friday, January 10, 2014

Captain Action: Marvel figure on the way

Marvel characters, including Hawkeye, Thor, Iron Man and Wolverine, will be available later this year as 1960s-style Captain Action toys. Take a look:

Video find: The Rolling Stones perform "Not Fade Away" on Hollywood Palace, 1964

BBC Radio 4 spotlights Motown's spoken word label

Listen here.


In 1970, Berry Gordy set up a Motown spoken word label. It was called Black Forum and recorded poetry, civil rights speeches, African-American soldiers in Vietnam and more, before closing in 1973 after eight releases.

In recent years, those releases have started to attract interest and some have been reissued. What has been revealed is a powerful testament to the African-American experience at a turbulent time in American society. Financial educator and spoken word record collector Alvin Hall listens to the recordings and talks to those who were involved in their making.

Pop culture roundup: Jack Kirby! John Buscema! Superman!

Here's an awesome Galactus pic by Jack Kirby via Cap'n's Comics:


More great comics art: A tribute to Marvel artist Big John Buscema.


Superman was a smash hit when he arrived in Action Comics in 1938, but it took the character's creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster more than four years of pitching the idea -- which they viewed as a newspaper comic strip -- before DC Comics paid them nearly nothing for the character. Why so long? And who, at DC, "discovered" Superman? Comics historian R.C. Harvey takes a long look.

Today's best picture ever: Chet Baker

Fab Friday; Beatles in the studio

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Video find: Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass perform "The Lonely Bull"

Today's best picture ever: James Brown and Mick Jagger

Pop stuff: American Hustle: Beatles - Tune In Expanded

What I've been watching, reading, hearing, etc.

American Hustle. This caper film starts off with a gem of a scene as we see aging con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) assemble what has to be -- next to Donald Trump's -- one of the world's most elaborate comb overs. It's sure to be a classic clip in years to come, and it gets American Hustle off to a promising start.

And there's other fun stuff to like: Some great 70s music and garish outfits to match, some humorous conflict between Irving and FBI man Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who has enlisted Irving's help in an undercover sting operation. But the energy and pacing soon flags.

Director David O. Russell, also at the helm for last year's overrated "Silver Linings Playbook" just can't seem to keep things clipping along. In a film like this, where the audience should constantly be kept guessing who's conning who. But there are moments when things here nearly grind to a halt and our minds are left to wander and dwell on what we see. Which, sometimes, just seems like a bunch of actors standing around in silly wigs and clothes.

It's not until the fantastic Jennifer Lawrence turns up well into the film that things pick up again. Lawrence is endearing and hilarious as Irving's eccentric and unpredictable wife, Rosalyn, who throws all sorts of wrenches into his, and everyone else's, plans. She livens up every scene she's in, and isn't in nearly enough of them.

The film works in fits and starts and there are some great performances, too, by Louis C.K. as Richie's beleaguered boss at the Bureau and Jeremy Renner as a young mayor unknowingly pulled into operation. And Bale reveals himself as a great comic actor.

Amy Adams, as Irving's moll Sydney, unfortunately, is left with little to do other than to prance around in provocative outfits throughout, though she and Lawrence throw off some nice sparks in the one scene in which they're brought together.

Not a bad film by any means, and often fun, but it would've been better with some trimming and sharpening up.

The Beatles: All These Years - Volume 1: Tune In Special Expanded Edition. I'm 350-some pages into this behemoth biography by Beatles scholar Mark Lewisohn, and John Lennon has just met Paul McCartney. Notice that I didn't use the word "finally," because, long read that it is, this book is not a slog. Not for me, anyhow.

That's a good thing, since I have a lot more reading to do. The extended version of Lewisohn's book is actually collected in two parts, both hefty hardcovers, and totals 1,728 pages, including notes and index. I've been reading all the notes, too, so I'm really getting the full meal deal.

As the New Yorker mentioned in its review of the short version of Lewisohn's Tune In (a mere 944 pages) must be "the most granular" biography ever written about a non-politician, and, indeed, it's incredibly detailed. But it's not dull.

Lewisohn is a good and engaging writer who is taking the time to build a world around the Beatles. This book isn't about what John Lennon ate for breakfast on a particular day, or that time Paul McCartney had a runny nose -- though Lewisohn probably knows that stuff, too. What it's about is where the Beatles came from and what makes/made them tick. I worried that early chapters would be mind-numbingly boring, going back a couple generations to learn about the band's great grandparents, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Lewisohn tours the family trees, but in entertaining fashion. We see characteristics in these forebears that shaped their famous offspring. We also learn much about the history and character of Liverpool and why the Beatles could have come from no place else. And we see how the second World War and its effects on the Beatles' hometown and British society also contributed to the environment that helped, or made, the Beatles happen.

Instead of reading one big book, it's a little like reading four or five biographies at once (Lewisohn also tells the story of Beatles' manager Brian Epstein in great detail), with a few additional reference books -- about Liverpool, the war, the history of rock'n'roll -- on the side.

Lewisohn brings all these pieces together and his research and sourcing is nigh-impeccable. As I mentioned, I'm (only) 350 pages in, and a few myths have been already been convincingly exploded. The story of how John Lennon was forced into choosing between living with his father or mother, for one, and even whether that first meeting between Paul and John was the first meeting. 

There are two more volumes to go in Lewisohn's epic biography. This one ends in 1962, with the Beatles on the cusp of fame. I figured if I was going to read something so detailed, I might as well go with this expanded edition -- available via Amazon UK -- rather than the single, shorter book, though I'm sure it's a fine alternative for those a tad less obsessive than myself. Looking forward to a lot more reading in the weeks to come, though it's going much quicker than expected.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Video find: Tom Jones performs with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Doctor Who: First pic of Peter Capaldi in costume!

Via the BBC: Here's the first image of Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor.

Press release:

The new Doctor, Peter Capaldi, stepped on set today for his first full day of filming as production begins on series 8 of the hit BBC show.

10.2 million tuned-in on Christmas Day to get their first glimpse of Capaldi in one of TV’s most iconic roles in the festive special ‘The Time of the Doctor’, which saw Matt Smith hang-up his bow tie after 4 years in the role.

Capaldi was revealed as the Doctor in a live BBC One show in August, after months of speculation about the next Doctor’s identity.
Arriving on set in Cardiff to begin filming, Peter Capaldi said:
“New job, first day, slightly nervous. Just like the Doctor, I'm emerging from the TARDIS into a whole other world.”

Steven Moffat, Lead Writer and Executive Producer, added:
“First the eyebrows! Then, at Christmas, the face! Coming soon, the whole Doctor. In the Cardiff studios, the Capaldi era begins.”
Accompanying the Doctor on his adventures will be companion Clara Oswald, played by Jenna Coleman.
The first episode of series 8 has been written by Steven Moffat with the second episode penned by Phil Ford.  These are the first episodes that Peter will shoot and are directed by Ben Wheatley.

Ben Stephenson, Controller of Drama Commissioning, said:
"Excitement and anticipation fills the air as Peter Capaldi’s Doctor takes control of the TARDIS for the very first time today. It’s going to be one hell of a ride and I can't wait for the journey to start."

Charlotte Moore, Controller BBC One, commented:
"A new year, a new face, a new Doctor! 2014 has arrived and it's Peter Capaldi's time so let the adventures begin!"

Filming is taking place in Cardiff until August 2014.  Doctor Who is executive produced by Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin, and produced by Nikki Wilson and Peter Bennett.  It is a BBC Cymru Wales production for BBC One.


Three Spider-Man 2 posters!

Today's best picture ever: John, Paul and Mick in the studio

New comics Jan. 8, 2013

Click the links to order discounted items from Amazon.

Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom Archives Volume 2

Batman: The TV Stories

Deadman Book Four

Doc Savage: The Miracle Menace