A bit of everything


* From the "About Damn Time" Department: Doctor Who on DVD in America! Woot! On Valentine's Day, no less, so Erin, you should have no problem finding a gift for me this year. I read that the original plan was to only release the discs in Canada and delay the release here in the States until it actually aired officially here, but it looks like the BBC finally realized that wasn't going to happen, as most American television networks suck (and I still don't understand why this couldn't air on, and this is just a for instance here, maybe friggin' BBC America, of all places, hmm?).

* Evan Dorkin's Welcome to Eltingville pilot is being re-aired on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim in the Sunday/Monday overnight hours at 1:30 am and 5:30 am. It's a really funny show, and if you never saw it the first time around, it's a good chance to see what CN passed over for a series in favor of utter dogshit other programs like Squidbillies.

* In trying to find children's programming that is as palatable to Erin and I as it is to Liam, I think we may have all found a winner in the Noggin series Jack's Big Music Show. It's a show about 2 puppet kids of indeterminate species and their dog, and all the misadventures they stumble upon as they try to make music in their clubhouse. The show was created by Muppet performer David Rudman (who is the current performer for Cookie Monster, according to IMDB), and the show definitely has a sensibility and sense of humor that will seem familiar to anyone who has watched anything Muppet-related over the years. And thankfully, the music is good, too, whether performed by the regular cast or the guest performers (each show contains two video segments, one of which usually features Laurie Berkner, who is as talented as she is cute... and she's very cute). None of that Raffi crap for this show, thank goodness. Liam's whole face lights up and he starts bopping around the second the music starts, and he's not even six months old yet, so if you have kids anywhere from infant to early-school-age, they may very well like it, too. Just don't be surprised if you end up watching it with them.

And if you don't have any children, this could very well become your guilty pleasure show. Your secret will be safe with me.


* At long last, I managed to finish Essential Tomb of Dracula Vol. 1. It took a while, but I think it was all worth it in the end. If you're a really hardcore vampire fan and revere the sort of tragi-goth-romantic Anne Rice sort of vampire stories, this series probably isn't for you; it's far more Hammer than Bram Stoker. But if you're willing to accept the fuzzy, movie-esque logic of the book and the occasional continuity gaffes in the plot, it's really a lot of fun. The story starts on shaky ground as the book is passed from author to author in the initial issues (including Gerry Conway, Archie Goodwin and Gardner Fox), but really finds it's footing and becomes genuinely intriguing once Marv Wolfman takes over. Wolfman realized that Dracula gets title billing, and should therefore be the book's focus, instead of woefully incompetent vampire hunters Frank Drake and Rachel Van Helsing. In Wolfman's hand, the count transforms from a Lugosi-Lite cliche into a truly frightening, complex, and surprisingly sympathetic protagonist, but never loses sight that he is definitely the villain at all times.

And the artwork by Gene Colan... wow. I was never a big Colan fan growing up; I thought that his work always looked rather muddy and washed out. But in black and white, the crispness and detail of the man's pencil-work really gets a chance to shine. In fact, I'd say that this is the one series reprinted in Marvel's Essential line that actually looks better in black and white than it did in color. Now that I've seen his work at it's unfettered best, this man has quickly become one of my favorite comics artists ever. His ability to convey both the beautiful and the horrific - sometimes in the same panel, no less - is nothing short of astounding. It turns out that for all these years, it was Gene Colan's colorist I held the grudge against. Who knew?

In short, a really great book, and a surprising departure from typical Marvel comics fare, as much now as at the time the series was originally published.

* On the opposite end of the spectrum is the indie superhero book, Hero Corps: The Rookie from Baby Shark Productions. I picked this up at Wizard World Boston, where the creators practically shoved it down my throat. I usually hate the hard sell approach, but their pitch - guy trains his whole life to join superhero police force, gets the call up to the big leagues and find out he hates it - won me over. Well, I should've listened to my initial instincts and passed. The idea is sound, and different enough from other "capes as cops" books like Top 10 to stand out, I suppose, but the execution is off. Unlikable, cliched characters (the rookie, the hard-ass captain, the reckless partner, the one with "daddy issues," etc.) plod through the motions for no other reason than to move the plot along, and since is the first of a series, there isn't even that much plot to move along in the first place; as a result, it feels like there's a lot of "treading water" here. The art isn't great either, though whether that's more the fault of the artist (who has some problems with depicting the characters consistently throughout) or the reproduction (which is often fuzzy and occasionally outright awful), I haven't completely decided. I'd avoid this, if I were you.

Movies (in brief)!

* Mr. & Mrs. Smith - A pleasant enough diversion if you like watching pretty people blow stuff up, and legitimately laugh-out-loud funny in a few parts. There are a few plot points that are unsatisfactorily left unexplored, though, and it doesn't so much come to an end as it just sort of stops, but it's worth a rental. If you need to compare it to some of Doug Liman's other films, it's sort of the exact midpoint between Go and The Bourne Identity.

* Bride and Prejduice - Jane Austen meets Bollywood musical; if you're inclined toward that sort of thing, you'll probably like this a lot. If not, well, it's cute enough in it's own fashion, and there are much worse ways to spend 2 hours than looking at Aishwarya Rai (Roger Ebert has repeatedly claimed she is the most beautiful actress on Earth; look long enough at her eyes, and you'd be hard-pressed to argue with the man). Plus, you get to see some unexpected appearances by Sayid from Lost and, surprisingly, Rory Gilmore, of all people.

The 50 Book Challenge!

#9 Dean and Me: A Love Story by Jerry Lewis and some other guy I can't remember now - I've always been kind of fascinated by Jerry Lewis, who I view as the ultimate example of what happens when enormous talent and enormous ego collide. No one is more convinced of Jerry Lewis's importance to film and comedy than Jerry Lewis, but if you look at the histories of both with an objective eye, you kinda have to admit that he's right (on a related note: Hey! Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences! Howzabout a lifetime achievement Oscar for Jer while he's still alive to accept it?). So when I heard that he wrote a book about his partnership with Dean Martin, I figured it'd be a pretty interesting read.

If you're expecting Lewis to trash his late comedic partner and reveal the seedy underbelly of 1950s Hollywood, you'll most likely be disappointed. As the title says, this is very much a love story; as Jerry states in no uncertain terms time and again that he loved Dean like the big brother he never had. And while their career together as one of show business's most successful duo act is certainly covered in great detail (and if you have any doubts as to the importance of Martin and Lewis, don't worry, Jerry will remind you just how big they were many, many times), it's their relationship that takes center stage, and Jerry writes about it all, the good times and bad, with a surprising honesty. When you're the one telling the story, the urge to paint yourself in the best possible light can be overwhelming, but I have to give Jerry a lot of credit here for being willing to call himself out on his own mistakes. If he acted out of anger, jealousy or ego, or even if he was just being an asshole for the sake of being an asshole, he owns up to it here. You have to figure that hindsight is, as they say, 20/20, and that maybe he's trying to settle his accounts here on Earth before he checks out for good, but still, you have to admire the man's honesty in this regard.

On the whole, it's an interesting book that provides a lot of unique insights about both men as individuals and as a team. I'd love to read this story portrayed from Dean Martin's perspective, but there's only one way to get that now (seeing as the man's been dead for 10 years and all), and I'm not really in that big a hurry to find out.

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