A Befuddled Father Goes to See Beauty & the Beast

The first movie I saw in the theaters was Walt Disney’s “Robin Hood”.  I’ve been a devotee of the theater experience ever since. Nothing beats a dark theater and a wide screen showing a film you hope will let you escape from the real world.

Sometimes with popcorn; and nowadays a full-fledged dinner and alcoholic drink. Although I miss the days of sneaking in a six-pack …

… or two …

… and I miss drive-ins, too (which is itself a whole other topic)

My daughter is seven years old. This past weekend we took her to HER first movie in a theater. We have been to movie night at the library and have watched movies at home at her own pace. But this was her first real movie experience – popcorn, soda, etc.

It, too, was a Disney movie – the non-animated (I hesitate to use the word “live” with all the CGI in it) version of Beauty & the Beast. For my princess-loving princess, this was a canny choice. She has seen the original many times and will watch anything Disney-princess-related. Sophia the First runs many times on our living room flatscreen.

My wife is also a big fan the original – having many Belle-related dolls in a display cabinet. It’s one of her favorite movies.

Aside #1: my wife’s first movie, by the way, was “Star Wars” which is NOW a Disney movie as well…

Aside #2: the fact that a child’s first movie was made by Disney – especially in the 1960s and ‘70s, is not all that surprising…

When Disney first announced B&B as their next live-action remake, my wife said she wanted to see it. This is a bigger deal than it sounds, as she is not as thrilled by movie-going as I am. And this would be our daughter’s first movie in a theater.

I joked that they could drop me off at the nearest pub on their way. Later I said I would sneak into another movie at the multiplex and meet them in the lobby when it was over.

I kid. I wanted to see it too, grudgingly. Beauty and the Beast was Disney’s masterpiece. I saw it upon release with my mother and sister. I, along with everyone else, fell in love with it. Roger Ebert said, “Beauty and the Beast reaches back to an older and healthier Hollywood tradition in which the best writers, musicians and filmmakers are gathered for a project on the assumption that a family audience deserves great entertainment, too.”  He gave it 4 out of 4 stars – for Ebert, this was a unique grade for a movie that did not show a woman’s nipples.

It was the first animated movie to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. It is also the only animated movie to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture because the bastards at the Academy changed the rules, saying cartoons would no longer be nominated for Best Picture. And the Academy wonders why they are becoming as relevant as the slide rule …

Beauty and the Beast was a fun movie and did not disappoint. It was not without its flaws, and that is only because of comparisons with the original. Granted, it is not fair to compare ANY movie with the original, but a remake is asking for it.

The new version is Jan to the original’s Marsha. Comparisons are inevitable, expected and never in Jan’s favor. Marsha, Marsha, Marsha.

Were there no original, this version would have been more highly touted.

It. Was. A. Good. Movie.

But when the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performs Mozart, it may be beautiful. Its majesty may bring tears to my eyes.

But it’s not Mozart performing Mozart.

Emma Watson made a pretty Belle, and captured her independence and strength. It was good casting. And that WAS her singing throughout – she has a lovely voice. But it lacked the operatic quality of the opening number (“Belle” – NOT the opening number of the remake) by Paige O’Hara that made one swoon. I fell in love with Belle at that song’s break (“Oh, isn’t this amazing…”). Emma Watson’s singing voice – as marvelous as the rest of her performance was – didn’t have that reach.

During an interview, Ewan McGregor said he did not see the original. His loss. His reasoning was that, therefore, he would not even subconsciously base Lumiere on the performance by Jerry Orbach. Our loss. And his mistake – Jerry’s version outshown Ewan’s in every frame. It was not McGregor’s fault, but how could he possibly compete? First Alec Guinness, now Jerry Orbach …  Marsha Marsha Marsha.

Imagine a clip in this movie where Chip looks up into a cupboard to an older teapot and says, “Good night, Grandma” and the teapot (the voice of Angela Landsbury) says “Good night, Luv.” It would have taken five seconds and audiences would have broken into tears. Did Ms. Landsbury refuse to have any part in the movie (doubtful)? Did the producers not want any part of the original (likely)? It would only have helped – a blessing from the original cast would have helped us purists not be such … purists.

And what harm could have come to allow David Ogden Stiers (Cogsworth in the original) to have just one line … one? Not that Sir Ian McKellen did a bad job. He was a highlight!

BUT – when Cogsworth was on the steps of the entrance and the villagers approached? Just a quick “you shall not pass”?

“Daddy, sit down. Stop clapping.”

Mordant bleu! Even Wesley Eure and Kathy Coleman were given cameos (albeit they are still on the cutting-room floor) in that god-awful Land of the Lost remake vomited upon us some years ago … so shame on you Disney.

My main issue with the remake is simply … why?

BUT … go see it and enjoy it. We did. Then go home and watch the DVD of the original and enjoy that, too

We did.

Marsha Marsha Marsha!!

 

It was 10:00 am on a Saturday morning. 10:00am? Weird time for a movie. But Beauty and the Beast is a huge hit and odd movie-times are not unusual for a hit. As we walked down the hallway of the multiplex to Theater 1 I noticed a sign saying this was a Sensory-Friendly showing.

A what?

 

to be continued …

Copyright 2017 by Michael Curry

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About the blogger:

Michael is an author of fiction and non-fiction, including  …

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Toddler TV: A Befuddled Father’s Guide to What the Kids are Watching

https://michaelgcurry.com/toddler-tv/

Murdermoon! Marvel Novel Series #11 – Spider-Man and the Hulk!

Last but not least! Marvel Novel Series #11 concludes with a Marvel Team-Up, featuring their biggest (at the time … and today!): The Amazing Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk: Murdermoon by Paul Kupperberg

Paul Kupperberg is the creator of Arion Lord of Atlantis and Checkmate. He is the author of the “Death of Archie” storyline.

The book is 208 pages long, but begins on page 9 – making it the longest novel in the series. There are Spider-Man and Hulk illustrations at the beginning of each chapter (with no credit for the artists). Maybe they learned their lesson from the prior Avenger book: the illustrations match the star of the specific chapter – Spider-Man for the Spidey chapters and Hulk for old Greenskin’s chapters.

There is no blurb for the “next” novel on the back. Did they know this was the last one?

Cover is signed by Bob Larkin, known for his painted covers of Marvel magazines.

The book is “packaged and edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman.”  Len Wein is the co-creator of DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolverine as well as joining him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men. Marv Wolfman is known for his excellent run on Tomb of Dracula. Within a few years of this novel he would write for one of the best comics ever created – Night Force – and co-create the New Teen Titans.

 

Spider-Man thwarts a quartet of thieves in a government office. One felon gets away with plans and other documents of NASA’s next unmanned space launch. Spidey later learns more plans were stolen from the Johnson Space Center. He discovers through underworld contacts that the thieves were hired by an outfit near Niagara Falls.

After rampaging through Nevada as the Hulk, Banner awakes in a small town in Kansas where he finds work, a place to live, and new friends. An article in the local paper says a cure for gamma radiation may have been found in Chicago. Banner goes to Chicago and is incapacitated by the doctors who planted the article as a trap. They take him to their lair near Niagara Falls.

The scientists plant a device in Hulk’s ear to control him. When Spider-Man busts into the lab, they order the Hulk to attack!

The evil scientists launch their satellite that will hack into all other satellites in orbit, giving the scientists control over all the information in the globe! Can our heroes stop it in time?

 

J Jonah Jameson is not quite on the leash he was with Crime Campaign, but still within tolerable levels. Another nice bit of continuity is the mention of Cindy Sayers from Spidey’s (and Kupperberg’s) prior book!

This is a true team-up! It is not a Spider-Man story with the Hulk as a guest star or visa-versa. Each hero is given his own chapter – with the Hulk travelling the highways and byways of the good ole’ USA: Nevada to Kansas to Chicago to upstate New York … just to get him under Spider-Man’s radar.  But it reflects Hulk’s wandering and his interaction with us ordinary mortals so vital to the TV series. One nice bit shows us how Banner can afford his constant change of wardrobe!

Fun story and a great conclusion to the Marvel Novel Series.

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.

Iron Man: and Call my Killer … Modok! Marvel Novel series #6

#6: Iron Man: and Call my Killer … Modok! by William Rotsler.

The author is a four-time Hugo Award winner for his art and the author of many Star Trek novels as well as the author of the novelizations of the movies Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and Futureworld. He died in 1997.

By now the cover artist signs his work: Bob Larkin, cover artist for many Marvel magazines.

The book is “packaged and edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman.”  Len Wein is the co-creator of DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolverine as well as joining him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men. Marv Wolfman is known for his excellent run on Tomb of Dracula. Within a few years of this novel he would write for one of the best comics ever created – Night Force – and co-create the New Teen Titans

Released May 1, 1979; the book is 189 pages long, although the story begins at page 9.

Gratman: Evanier Electronics is mentioned as a business. Mark Evanier? He had no connection to Iron Man and at the time of this paperback, he worked mainly with DC Comics. However, the next book, #7’s Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts: Nightmare is dedicated to him, so it is likely.

***

AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics, a science-based terrorist group) attacks Tony Stark during a college lecture. Stark, as Iron Man, fights them off successfully but still sustains some harm to his already-damaged heart. Cue origin recap.

One of the sergeants in charge of the failed kidnapping faced AIM’s mysterious leader (we comic book fans – and those who remember the title of the book – have a pretty solid idea who the leader is). The kidnapping having failed, the leader thinks up another cunning plan – he shall create an army of Iron Man suits!

He activates two of his sleeper agents in Stark International to create a diversion to successfully steal the Iron Man armor blueprints.

Modok tries to sell the blueprints to the highest bidder, but Stark outmaneuvers Modok by auctioning off the Iron Man suit directly. At auction, it is bought by an Arabic businessman. Modok kidnaps the businessman and his suit.

Surprise! The suit is really Iron Man himself! He is defeated by Modok and unmasked as Tony Stark.  Stark is then forced to create a new Iron Man suit for Modok’s #1 henchman.

Meanwhile, Happy and Nick Fury & Shield find Modok’s hiding place and attack. Iron Man and the henchman in the new suit duke it out. Ol’ Shellhead then sets his sights squarely on Modok!

***

The author does an excellent job of juggling the superhero action and the “civilian” moments of Tony Stark, Happy Hogan, Pepper Potts and employees of Stark International – we even read moments with the AIM sleepers and soldiers. It makes the novel more … grown up.

It would have made a nice juxtaposition to show Stark creating the original Iron Man suit in Viet Nam with the new suit he was creating for Modok. It would have put the origin flashback near the end of the book, which may have been a drawback being too close to the big finish.

Speaking of that, twenty pages is spent recapping Iron Man’s origins in the jungles of Viet Nam. It is excellently done! The author tells us how Tony met and hired Happy Hogan in a later 15-page flashback. Modok’s origin takes about five pages. More than 20% of the novel is flashback.

Interestingly, I tried to listen to Tony Stark/Iron Man speak in Robert Downey Jr’s voice but could not. Despite his (deservedly) owning the role in the recent spate of movies, and being able to hear his voice in the recent comic books and animated TV shows (where such an imitation is likely done intentionally), I can’t hear Downey speak these lines. Only when he is Modok’s captive and Stark’s dialogue is more smart-alecky and defiant does the current version of Iron Man seep through.

And the author does a wonderful job, despite the sometimes comic-booky dialogue. It does not happen often, but when it does, it is jarring; especially considering how wonderfully the rest of the dialogue is written.

Examples: “Iron Man swears it!” and (I am not kidding you) “I, Modok, knew at once how he hoped to trick me. Me, Modok, he tried to trick!”

Yoda-speak this reads like does…

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.

 

More on The Warlord – a supplement to a prior blog!

A supplement to a prior blog:

See my original review of the Bronze age comic book Warlord from DC Comics.

To quote my review of the series Warlord: “(issue #2’s) … story does not end in a cliffhanger per se, as had the previous issue, but it had an open ending. Yet “The End” was prominently written on the final page. Did Messers. Grell and Orlando know this was the last issue? Did they know it would come back in a few months?”

 

Scoop is an excellent e-newsletter and I recommend anyone who enjoys my blog to subscribe.

Recently Scoop featured an interview with Mike Grell and he addressed Warlord’s hiatus:

“ … when I turned in pages I would pick up the letter pages and stand in the office and read through it, proofread to make sure there were no errors that needed sent back for corrections before I did the finished inks, when it came to issue 3, I was in Joe’s office and at the end of the book instead of saying “Next Issue” it said “The End.” I turned to Joe and said, “This is wrong. It says ‘The End’ but it should say ‘Next Issue.’” Joe said, “Yeah, well, Carmine cancelled the book.” I said, “He can’t do that, he promised me a year’s run.” And Joe says, “Yeah, well, he lied. He does that.”

“Fortunately for me and for the Warlord, within a couple of weeks Carmine Infantino was out and Jenette Kahn arrived on the scene. It turned out that Jenette was a pretty astute cookie and she had studied the entire lineup very thoroughly before she ever took over the company. I come to find out that Warlord was one of her favorite books. She looked at the production schedule and said, “Where’s the Warlord?” I told her, “Well, Carmine cancelled it.” She said, “Carmine’s not here anymore, put it back.” So that’s how Warlord got continued on past issue 3.”

 

So the mystery is solved!

 

Read the entire interview, where he also talks about his time on the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Interview with Mike Grell ©2017 Gemstone Publishing, Inc., Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, Diamond International Galleries, and/or the Fandom Advisory Network. They hold all rights.

 

The Marvel Novel Series

Stan Lee always wanted comic books to be more than just “kiddie” books. He strived to make them more acceptable to teens and adults. Over the years he (and others who worked in the genre) succeeded.

But back in the late 1970s, Marvel had only made its way into the magazine market.

In the mid-to-late 1970s Marvel published books reprinting the origins of various Marvel heroes and villains – Origins of Marvel Comics, Son of Origins, Bring on the Bad Guys, and The Superhero Women – with Lee providing the prose introduction to the featured superheroes.

Marvel also launched a successful series of reprint books in paperback through Pocket Books. Each book contained about six issues (more if the stories were from the various anthologies) of the original run of Fantastic Four, Spider-Man (three volumes), Conan (six volumes) and books devoted to the early tales of the Hulk, Dr. Strange, Captain America and Spider-Woman.

Finally, starting in 1978, Pocket Books released prose novels starring various Marvel heroes.

Bantam Books published two novels in the late 1960s based on Marvel characters: The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker by Otto Binder (1967) and Captain America: The Great Gold Steal by Ted White (1968).

Eleven years later, Marvel once again hoped to bring comics into the genre of “true” literature. The books were aimed at the Young Adult audience so craved in today’s market. The first two of the eleven books were not numbered; perhaps they were the only ones planned until they proved successful. They were printed by Simon & Schuster’s under their Pocket Books imprint:

#1: The Amazing Spider-Man: Mayhem in Manhattan by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman

#2: The Incredible Hulk: Stalker from the Stars by Len Wein with Marv Wolfman and Joseph Silva

#3: The Incredible Hulk: Cry of the Beast by Richard S. Meyers

#4: Captain America: Holocaust for Hire by Joseph Silva

#5: The Fantastic Four: Doomsday by Marv Wolfman

#6: The Invincible Iron Man: And Call My Killer…Modok! by William Rotsler

#7: Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts: Nightmare by William Rotsler

#8: The Amazing Spider-Man: Crime Campaign by Paul Kupperberg

#9: Stan Lee Presents: the Marvel Superheroes edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman

#10: The Avengers: The Man Who Stole Tomorrow by David Michelinie

#11: The Hulk and Spider-Man: Murdermoon by Paul Kupperberg

The first two books were not hyped by Marvel and only appeared in a full-page ad along with other comic book-related wares by an independent mail-order business. The rest of the series (when it became a series with #3), were mentioned as an item in Marvel’s Bullpen Bulletins. Had Marvel pushed the books with their house ads, the series may have been more successful and more books published.

I will spend the next few blogs reviewing the books. They are over-all well-done and, although aimed at the pre-teen to early-teen audience, are exciting and hold the attention of adults; particularly Bronze Age comic book fans like me!

I hope you enjoy it! If you have read these almost-40-year old books, I hope it brings back good memories. If it piques your interest, the books pop up frequently on ebay and, if you are not too picky about the condition, cost about the same as a current paperback.

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was photographed by the author.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.

 

Oh God … George Burns adopted two children! A National Adoption Month Spotlight

Three of the most famous – and funny – comedians of the 20th Century were George Burns, Jack Benny and Bob Hope. They and their wives adopted all their children.

From Wikipedia:

George Burns (born Nathan Birnbaum; January 20, 1896 – March 9, 1996) was an American comedian, actor, singer, and writer. He was one of the few entertainers whose career successfully spanned vaudeville, radio, film and television. His arched eyebrow and cigar-smoke punctuation became familiar trademarks for over three-quarters of a century. He and his wife, Gracie Allen, appeared on radio, television, and film as the comedy duo Burns and Allen.

When Burns was 79, he had a sudden career revival as an amiable, beloved and unusually active comedy elder statesman in the 1975 film The Sunshine Boys, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Burns, who became a centenarian in 1996, continued to work just weeks before his death of a cardiac arrest at his home in Beverly Hills.

The man even had hit records in the 1970s and successful books in the 1980s.

His popularity never faded – because of his caustic, timely and timeless wit.

If you want to see how funny a 93 year old man can be – google “George Burns Johnny Carson 1989”.

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george-burns-gracie-allen

No bio of comedian George Burns would be complete without a brief word or two of his partner Gracie Allen (July 26, 1895 – August 27, 1964).  George Burns said he asked Gracie “How is your brother?” and it gave them a 20-year career. She burned the Thanksgiving turkey because the instructions said to cook twenty minutes per pound and she weighed 120 and …

Say goodnight, Gracie…

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Burns & Allen adopted two children:

Sandra Jean was adopted by Burns and Allen in 1934 at 13-months old. She died in 2010.

Ronnie Burns was five weeks old when he was adopted in Chicago on September 27, 1935.  George Burns said he was the sickliest baby up for adoption from the agency, and Gracie chose him because she thought he needed their help (per Burn’s excellent book Gracie: A Love Story). He died November 14, 2007.

frontcover

The cover of Abby’s Road

“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

 

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor

 

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

 

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival!

 

Abby’s Road is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at Smashwords.