Saturday, May 12, 2018

Shazam! wraps filming

Director David F. Sandberg announced filming on Shazam! has ended on May 11, 2018.  He also seemed somewhat confused as to why an official photo of Captain... Shazam has not yet been released.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Columbia "Blondie" film series

Recently, Turner Classic Movies aired the first six Blondie movies. Starring Arthur Lake as Dagwood, Penny Singleton as Blondie, Larry Simms as Baby Dumpling and Jonathan Hale as Mr. Dithers, these high quality films are a cornerstone of the family sitcom genre, and hold up very well, with classic comedy that is as funny today as it was in the 1930s and 40s.   It was great to see them on television again, but I'm disappointed TCM aired the edited TV prints. When AMC aired the Blondie film series about 15 years ago (back when AMC was an alternative to TCM and likewise didn't air commercials), many of the films were restored with the original Columbia titles and a couple minutes of footage edited out of the TV prints.


I hope Sony Pictures (Columbia's parent company) and King Features (or its parent company Hearst) will team up to restore all 28 Blondie movies to their original state, with the Columbia titles and missing footage restored, and release it in HD in a Blu-ray box set.

Icing on the cake would be to include bonus discs of all the episodes of the two short lived Blondie TV series from 1957 and 1968. The former with Arthur Lake reprising his role as Dagwood and Pamela Britton taking over the role of Blondie, included 27 episodes plus a pilot filmed in 1954 with Hal Leroy as Dagwood.
The latter was in color, and starred Will Hutchins as Dagwood, Patricia Hardy as Blondie, Jim Backus as Mr. Dithers, Pamelyn Ferdin as daughter Cookie, and had Bruce Lee as a guest star in one episode.  Only 14 episodes were produced.

 
And perhaps some extra bonus features could be Meet The Family, Arthur Lake's own 1954 Blondie-inspired pilot co-starring his real life wife and kids, and may be a few of Lake's silent two-reel shorts from the 1920s.

You can voice support for such a project by emailing Hearst/King Features at
kfs-public-relations@hearst.com
and Sony/Columbia at
consumer@SPHECustomerSupport.sony.com
and
SPE_Feedback@spe.sony.com

Friday, April 27, 2018

movie review: AVENGERS INFINITY WAR

Avengers: Infinity War is an epic event, but what it is not is a true Avengers movie. Captain America: Civil War was more of an Avengers movie.  What this movie accomplishes is being the cinematic equivalent of a comic book multi-title cross over story arc. What directors Anthony and Joe Russo have done is capture each of the individual franchises' tone for the segments featuring those characters. The segments featuring Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy feel like they were directed by James Gunn.  The segments featuring Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Dr. Strange feel like they were directed by Jon Watts or Scott Derrickson.  But unlike Justice League, where the clash of styles of Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon caused a disconnect, Infinity War still holds together, and builds upon the diversity of styles, much like a multi-title cross over comic book arc does with different creative teams on each title building to the singular plot line.


The plot line here, is of Thanos, who bears more than a passing resemblance to pro-wrestler Kurt Angle, collecting the various infinity stones for his gauntlet for the purpose of wiping out half of existence. Truth be told, that's established in the first half of the movie, while the second half is one big battle royal across different locations.  At times, Infinity War starts to look more like a video game than a movie, with all the excessive CGI, as Justice League and the third act of Wonder Woman did, but over all, the Russos pull it off better than their DC counterparts. Still, it would be nice to have a superhero movie that does not feel the need to turn into a video game for the climax.


The large cast gives nearly everyone at least a few seconds to shine (the only ones not attending are Ant-Man, Hawkeye, the Agents of Shield and the Netflix heroes), but the characters that get the most screen time are Thor, the Guardians, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, Bruce Banner, and of course Thanos.  The one character that I thought that got the short end of the stick is Captain America.  Despite one cool bit that is really a Batman rip off of Steve Rogers appearing seemingly from out of nowhere under cover of a passing train, he has little to do other than to lead his team of heroes into battle for the second half's mega fight scene.  After all the previous films where Steve dominates, its weird to have him pushed into the background for this go round.  The Scarlet Witch gets to have the most emotional role, and surprisingly the comedy, which has moved to the forefront in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and the Guardians movies, is reined in to a certain extent this time. But then again, there is the running gag of Thor constantly referring to Rocket as a rabbit- perhaps a House of Mouse dig at Bugs Bunny?  There are some deaths of significant characters, and the movie ends on a cliffhanger to be continued in the next Avengers movie due one year from now. This conforms to the original reports that it would be a two-part film, although the Russos later denied this claiming the third and fourth Avengers movies would be separate installments. Infinity War is a satisfactory ten year milestone for the MCU.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The role Zachary Levi was born to play (and it ain't Captain Marvel)

The comic character Zachary Levi was born to play is not Captain Marvel (or, more accurately, the inferior New52 Shazam, which is the character that will be used in the movie instead of Captain Marvel).... the role Levi was born to play is..... Dagwood Bumstead!

Just compare him to Arthur Lake, who played Dagwood in Columbia Pictures' long running Blondie film series, the simultaneous radio program, and reprised the role for a short lived TV sitcom in 1957.

So now, the thing I want to see most is not for there to be Shazam! sequels, but rather for Levi to be cast as Dagwood in a new Blondie movie, preferably opposite Brittany Daniel, who is a Penny Singleton look alike.
 
In fact, if and when I see Shazam!, every time Levi appears on screen, I may just see Dagwood Marvel.

More Shazam casting news

There are reports, currently unconfirmed but most likely accurate, that actors have been cast as the super powered versions of Billy Batson's foster siblings.  Reportedly, Adam Brody will play the powered up Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), Michelle Borth will play the powered up Mary (Grace Fulton), D.J. Cotrona will play the powered up Pedro, Ross Butler the powered up Eugene, and Megan Good as the powered up Darla.  Coincidentally, Brody was cast as The Flash, and Cotrona as Superman in George Miller's cancelled Justice League Mortal movie from about a decade ago. As the Shazam! movie gets more cemented in being an adaption of the awful new52 reboot Curse of Shazam, my interest and excitement for the movie continues to diminish. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

First Shazam pic

The first pic of Zachary Levi in costume as Captain.... Shazam has surfaced.  True to form, it looks very New52, just like everything else in this movie is turning out to be.  Yep, there's even that damn hoodie.
UPDATE: another shot, this time of the front has surfaced.  The front seems to look just like the Justice League War cartoon... or maybe Robin William's Mork costume.  Not quite sure.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Even better, hi-res pics have surfaced.
New 52 Dr. Sivana, played by Mark Strong.
 And Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman.  Wonder if his hair is dyed blonde like New52 Freddy?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Linux saved my computer

I have an admission I need to make.  My computer's operating system is Windows Vista. I know it has a reputation for being one of Windows' failed efforts, but its what was pre-installed on my computer, and frankly, not only was I used to it, but it really didn't give me any serious problems. Sure, there was an occasional freeze, and rarely a crash, but it was nothing a simple reboot didn't fix. The first real problem I had was a couple years ago, while on the internet, I started to get blocked from websites with a warning that Internet Explorer was outdated and I needed to upgrade.  Normally, IE upgraded automatically, so I went to the website to manually upgrade it, and I found out IE no longer supported Vista.  I ended up switching to Firefox for my browser, and all went back to normal.  Until a couple months ago, when I noticed I didn't upgrade to the latest Firefox browser that was heavily promoted.  I went to the Firefox web site, and there I found out, not only will Firefox stop supporting Vista in May, but that Microsoft itself stopped supporting Vista nearly a year ago.  So now I thought I was screwed.  Does this mean I need to throw out a perfectly good computer just because the OS is obsolete?

My Windows Vista Desktop
There had to be another answer.  Installing the latest Windows 10 on my computer would cost nearly as much as buying a new one, so that was not an option.  Perhaps there was a way to install Windows 7 at a very low cost or maybe even for free.  At least that may give me a couple more years of use out of my computer.  So, I did a web search to see if it was possible.  But what I found was something even better. I discovered Linux, which is a free alternative to Microsoft Windows.  It was the perfect solution to my situation: a perfectly good computer that is a few years old, and has a version of Windows that has become obsolete and unsupported.  Better yet, I didn't even have to install it blind, not knowing what I would be getting.  With Linux, you can create a bootable USB stick to test drive the OS simply by downloading the ISO image from the website, then using the free tool Rufus to burn it onto a regular USB stick. Now, I don't know anything about computer programming, or anything related to coding and how computers work, but this seemed like it would be real easy to do.  The biggest problem was choosing a Linux distribution (or "distro") as unlike its Microsoft counterpart, there are hundreds of different choices.

I decided to limit my choice to the 20 most popular distros according to Distrowatch, and those that are user friendly and aimed at beginners. I also had to decide if I wanted a point release or a rolling release. A long term support point release is a distro that is fully supported for three years, and has limited extended support for another two years.  So, in a similar scenario to Windows, every three to five years, you would need to install the newest version of the OS, or if you like variety, you can switch to a different distro. Naturally, it is free, unlike a Windows upgrade, but you would need to back up all your personal files, as the fresh install would wipe them out.  The advantage is that a point release is very stable and dependable.  A rolling release is an OS you install just once, and you just need to update it every couple weeks.  The down side is rolling releases are not as stable, and can often have bugs.  But there are a couple rolling releases that are not so "bleeding edge" and are considered very stable and dependable.

The first one I tried was Elementary, a point release.  It was kind of slow loading web pages. It was very bare bones, but I liked its Pantheon desktop environment, which mimics Apple Mac rather than Windows. Like it's name suggests, it is probably aimed at grade school computers and perhaps senior citizens.

Next I tried Linux Mint, another point release, and the number 1 distro on Distrowatch. It is the one most often suggested for first time Linux users coming from Windows. It was much quicker than Elementary, and seemed to be just like Windows. It would be a very easy transition. I noticed minor screen tearing while using the web browser while scrolling and watching videos. My printer/scanner works with it, so that was one concern eliminated.

Next I tried Antergos, a rolling release. It had some nice pre-installed apps like weather and maps, but the web browser was very juddery and had severe screen tearing. It also froze a lot. My printer/scanner would not work, so that may be a headache to deal with.

Next I attempted Manjaro, another rolling release that is considered more user friendly and stable than Antergos, but could not get the live boot to work, saying the kernel failed to load.

Then I tried Ubuntu, a point release that is considered the most used and preferred Linux distro. Many other distros, such as Mint and Elementary, are derivatives of Ubuntu, and if you ever happen to come across a computer in the store that has a Linux OS pre-installed, it would be Ubuntu. I really liked Ubuntu, perhaps more than Mint. The Gnome desktop is very different than Windows/Mint, but I kind of like it.  Unlike most other desktops which are based on the standard Windows, Gnome seems to be based on an iPhone or iPad. Gnome is also configured in a way that you can do everything from the keyboard and not use a mouse as much as you do in the Windows style desktops.  Like Mint, there was minor screen tearing in the web browser. My printer/scanner was able to configure.  I made a mental note, Ubuntu will be a finalist.

I tried another flavor of Ubuntu, Ubuntu MATE. It was OK, but seemed like a second-tier version of the main Ubuntu Gnome. I did not care for the MATE desktop.  It just seemed kind of old and outdated to me, like it was from 1995.  I also tried Xubuntu, which is Ubuntu with the XFCE desktop.  It kept freezing on me, and also seemed kind of old, like it was based on Windows XP, which would be a step backward from Vista.

Next I tried PCLinuxOS with the KDE desktop. It is a rolling release and has been around longer than a lot of other distros, making it very stable and dependable.  I really like this one. Just about everything I need is pre-installed. It has a very Windows-familiar system, and is also very modern.  Again, there was minor screen tearing while watching videos in the web browser. My printer/scanner seemed to configure properly. Another little thing I liked about PCLinuxOS is that, like Windows, the number lock is on by default.  All the other Linux distros have the number lock off by default, which can be annoying when you go to use the number pad to type in numbers. I noted this one would also be a finalist.

Solus was a distro I was looking forward to trying, as I have read many great things about it. It is a rolling release, yet is extremely stable. It has rave reviews from those who have used it, and it's Budgie desktop is said to have no screen tearing at all.  It is a rising star on Distrowatch. Unfortunately, I could not get it to live boot on my computer. After the countdown screen, all I would get is a flashing cursor, and then a text that said "unable to get SMM Dell signature".  I tried several things, like burning the ISO image in DD mode.  I  tried contacting Solus for help, but the only reply I got was to the effect "Sorry its not working for you... too bad".  Its really a shame, because for a minute there I thought it would be the one I would pick. Apparently, after looking at some Linux message boards for a solution, the problem live booting Solus seems fairly common. I guess because this is, in fact, a fairly new distro it will be more buggy than a lot of the positive reviews admit.  Maybe in six months or so, if they can fix the problem, I'll give it another try, but now I felt I needed to just move on.
(UPDATE: I ended up finding a work around to get Solus to live boot. In the end I wasn't too impressed by it.  It seemed buggy, and there was screen tearing in the web browser.)

So then I tried Ubuntu Budgie, just to see what Solus' Budgie desktop is like. I liked it. It was like an updated version of the MATE desktop, what it should be in 2018. I did not get any screen tearing while watching videos with Chrome. I was able to switch to Firefox, and did get the minor screen tearing as in the other distros.

I then decided to give Manjaro a second shot, since the first attempt did not boot up. Unlike Solus, Manjaro worked on a second attempt. I tried it's Budgie desktop, which I did get some screen tearing in the web browser. I also tried Manjaro's Gnome desktop. There's something about the Gnome desktop I kind of like.  I made a note- if I want a rolling release with a Gnome desktop, Manjaro would be the pick.

I also briefly tried Korora.  This point release reminded me a lot of Mint, but with more choices in desktop environments.

So now the time came to choose.  In theory I like the idea of a rolling release, but I also realized for a beginner like myself, it could be a disaster.  So I decided for a back up if a rolling release just did not work out for me, I would go with Ubuntu- either the standard Gnome or Budgie.

The rolling release I did pick was PCLinuxOS. I now have PCLinuxOS dual booted on my hard drive with Vista as my safety net.

My new PCLinuxOS KDE desktop

So far so good.  I like it. My computer/scanner works, although it prints out a page very slowly, stopping in between lines. I get some screen tearing in videos in the web browser, but from other sources, like a file, it is perfect. As I use it over the next weeks and months, hopefully there will be no major bugs.  Then perhaps after a few months, if all continues to go well, I will delete Vista from the hard drive.  If things go south, then I will replace PCLinuxOS with Ubuntu while keeping Vista as a safety net for a little while longer.