Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Going Ape

Well, here it is at last, National Gorilla Suit Day! Time to put on your favorite gorilla garb, and go scurrying about the neighborhood, brandishing bananas and generally creating havoc. I got my own suit out of mothballs days ago and, frankly, the moths were glad to be rid of it. So, as soon as I finish the script I'm working on, I intend to put on my suit, drive directly over to the home of my dear friend Mark Evanier, and whack him repeatedly over his ape-befurred head with a large wooden mallet for forcing all his friends and acquaintances to suffer through this simian insanity for the past several weeks.

I'm warning you right now, Evanier, I am not going through all this trouble again for National Lemming Race Week.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Reflections of Phoenix

Well, the flight Friday noon from Bob Hope Airport in Burbank to Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix was short, smooth, and utterly uneventful, precisely the way I like 'em. I was met at the airport by several members of the energetic staff of the 4th Phoenix Cactus Comicon and ferried to my hotel, where I had time to clean up, settle in, then wander over to the Convention Center connected to the hotel to see how Preview Night was going and to check out the landscape, so to speak. Simply put, it was going just fine.

Already set up in Artists' Alley was such varied talent as Lady Death's Brian Pulido, Komikwerks' Shannon Denton, Teen Titans Go's Todd Nauck, Firebreather's Andy Kuhn, Green Arrow's Phil Hester, Marvel Knights Spider-Man's Angel Medina, Starchild's James Owen, Marvel Zombies' Arthur Suydam, Star Wars' Mike Stackpole, Desperadoes' Jeff Mariotte, and Violent Messiahs' Tone Rodriguez. On Saturday morning, they would be joined by Hellboy's Mike Mignola, Nexus' Steve Rude, New Mutants' Bret Blevins, The Brave and the Bold's George Perez and...oh, yeah, me. Scattered about the rest of the room were several popular Anime voice artists like Crispin Freeman, Vic Mignogna, and Tiffany Grant, Manga print artists such as Amy Reeder Hadley and Jen Lee Quick, and a number of other Anime, Comics and Art Dealers. Sitting behind his own table was Mathew Atherton, otherwise known as Feedback, winner of the first season of the Sci Fi Channel's hit series, Who Wants to be a Superhero? There are other writers and artists I'm sure I've missed, and from each of you not mentioned, I pray your forgiveness.

What I hadn't realized before I got there was that Cactus Comicon devotes almost as much time and space to Anime and Manga as it does to mainstream comics. Everywhere I looked, folks were dressed as their favorite Anime characters, none of which, I'm embarrassed to admit, I recognized.

On Friday evening, after the convention preview, all the guests were treated to a thank you dinner from the convention staff, which may well have been the highlight of the weekend for me, since I found myself with Bret Blevins and his lovely wife Patricia sitting to my left side and, on my right, the original Lois Lane herself, the incredible Noel Neill and her charming husband Larry. Since I'm one of those kids who grew up on The Adventures of Superman, seeing Noel again was a real treat. She was even kind enough to pretend to remember me from our last meeting many months earlier. It always freaks me out a tad to realize that, thanks to Noel, I'm only three degrees of Kevin Bacon away from movie great Clark Gable, since Noel and I both appeared in the DVD super-hero feature Surge of Power, and she had appeared in the aforementioned Superman series with the late, lamented George Reeves, who in turn had appeared in Gone With the Wind with Gable. Anyway, the dinner was a hoot, and I hope to post some photos from same here soon.

On Saturday, I hosted the con's Trivia Challenge, then participated in a round-table discussion with Mssrs. Mignola, Mariotte, Stackpole and Pulido on the art of translating a comics property from the page to the screen. I spent the bulk of the day, however, at my table, signing autographs, posing for photos with con-goers and generally having a heck of a good time. The best part was the surprising number of people who wanted neither autograph nor photograph, but merely to shake my hand and tell me how much my work has meant to them over the years. I found each and every one of those moments to be touching beyond my poor ability to describe, and I thank you all most humbly.

Sunday started off on a cheerful note, as I finally had a chance to sit and shoot the breeze over breakfast with my old pal George Perez. He's comfortably settled in over at DC, penciling the new Brave & the Bold monthly with writer Mark Waid, and he couldn't be happier. His devotion to making sure B&B appears monthly is the major reason George won't be making any other convention appearances from this April through early 2009.

The rest of the day went much like Saturday, with one particular perplexing moment. As I was returning from the one writers' panel I'd been scheduled for that day, I was stopped in the hall by a young fan who asked me a question for which I had no immediate answer. He asked me, "What is an idea?" While my first response was to reply, "What isn't an idea?" I thought better of it. Instead, I told him it was the kind of question that really couldn't be answered adequately while standing in a convention hallway, and I walked away, feeling like a first-class poser.

Other than that, the weekend was terrific, made even more so by the wonderful folks who threw the Cactus Comicon. Each and every one of them was as upbeat and helpful as could be. You can tell a lot about a convention by the kind of people who run it, and these clearly were having more fun than human beings should be allowed to have, and that enthusiasm carried over to the guests and the fans. It's this kind of dedication that makes the difference between a good con and a great one. I sincerely hope the fine folks in Phoenix will invite me back again.

And, hey, anybody else who might be looking to invite your humble blogger to their con, my bags are packed and you know where to find me.

Friday, January 26, 2007


Well, I'm off to the wilds of Phoenix for Cactus Comicon. Hope to see some of you there. For the rest, I'll be back on Monday with tales of my adventures in the sunny Southwest.

See you then.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Monkey Business

My dear friend, the mucho-lovely and uber-talented actress, artist, and writer Lisa Jane Persky, co-star of such classic films as The Great Santini, The Big Easy, When Harry Met Sally, The Sure Thing, Peggy Sue Got Married, and creator of the delightful blog you can link to just by clicking on her name above, sent along the following possible explanation of National Gorilla Suit Day. To wit:
Moishe, a Jewish actor, is so down and out, he's ready to take any acting gig that he can find. Finally, he gets a lead, a classified ad that says, "Actor needed to play an ape."

"I could do that," says Moishe.

To his surprise, the employer turns out to be the Central Park Zoo in New York. Owing to mismanagement, the zoo has spent so much money renovating the grounds and improving the habitat, they can no longer afford to import the ape to replace the recently deceased one, so, until they can, they'll put an actor in an ape suit. Out of desperation, Moishe takes the offer.

At first, his conscience keeps nagging him, that he is being dishonest by fooling the zoo-goers. Moishe also feels undignified in the ape suit, stared at by the crowds who watch his every move.

But after a few days on the job, he begins to enjoy all the attention and starts to put on a show for all the zoo-goers. Moishe hangs upside down from the branches by his legs, swinging about on the vines, climbing up the cage walls and roaring with all his might, while beating on his chest.

Soon, he's drawing a sizable crowd.

One day, when Moishe is swinging on the vines to show off to a group of school kids, his hand slips and he goes flying over the fence into the neighboring cage, the lion's den.

Terrified, Moishe backs up as far from the approaching lion as he can, covers his eyes with his paws and prays at the top of his lungs, "Shama Yisroel Adonoi Elah einu, Adonoi Achud!"

The lion opens his powerful jaws and roars the response, "Baruch Shem K'vod Malchuso L'olam Va'ed"

From a nearby cage, a panda yells, "Shut up, you schmucks, you'll get us all fired."
Hey, listen, as far as I'm concerned, it's as good an explanation as any.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Well, having just checked in over at Mark Evanier's always-entertaining News From Me column, I see that just about everybody and their chimp has linked to and are carrying the appropriate banners in support of National Gorilla Suit Day. Thus, I am forced -- not unhappily, mind you -- to admit that National Gorilla Suit Day is a far more successful endeavor than Mark's and my sad attempt to introduce National Fish Month to comics a number of years back.

And just what is National Fish Month, you might well ask?

For the answer to that one, I'm afraid you'll just have to go ask Mark.

Phoenix Rising

Just a quick note to remind all and sundry that I'm going to be a guest this weekend at the Phoenix Cactus Comicon. Others on the guest list include my old friends George Perez, Howard Chaykin, Mike Mignola, Steve Rude, and the proverbial host of others. You can click on the link here and it should take you to their website to get all the details.

I think today is the last day you can buy your membership online so, if you're going to do it, you ought to do it now.

I'll be at the Con from Friday afternoon through Sunday evening, and I hope to see you there. Please drop by and say howdy. It gets lonely sitting behind that big table.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Shock the Monkey

As you'll note, if you happen to glance down to the bottom of the right-hand column of this blog, that there is now a banner in place reminding us all to do our duty on National Gorilla Suit Day. A click on the name here will direct you to the item over at Mark Evanier's blog that will explain it all to you in more detail than you'll probably care to know.

Okay, Mark, I've done it. So do I still owe you that lunch?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Open the Podbay Doors, Hal

As part of the Universe's ongoing efforts to drag me kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, my darling wife Christine gave me a GPS for Christmas. GPS. That stands for Global Positioning System for those of you who, like me, might have thought it was the initials of yet another new TV network spinning off from UPN and the WB. Mine is a Magellan RoadMate 3050T and it's really rather remarkable. You just attach it to your windshield, turn it on, punch in a destination, and it tells you where to go. This was not exactly a new experience for me, since people have been telling me where to go for years now, but using it for the first time this weekend was, in its own way, rather illuminating.

Christine and I were out in Agoura having dinner with our friends David and Audry Wise. Most of you will know David from his incredible work developing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for animation, as well as Mighty Ducks and Lord knows how many other terrific series. These days, David and Audry are publishing the successful Go Comi line of Manga comics. Anyway, as Chris and I were getting ready to leave, we discovered the 101 Freeway was backed up for miles in the direction we were about to be heading.

Now, when you program a destination, in this case our home, into the Magellan, it offers you four possible routes: Shortest Time, Shortest Distance, Most Use of Freeways, or Least Use of Freeways. Since the Freeway was currently a parking lot, we opted for Least Use of Freeways to see what would happen.

For the first few miles, while the road we were on paralleled the freeway, we were fine. But, at about the five mile mark, that surface street ended and we could either turn toward the freeway or away from it. The GPS sent us away. After about a mile or so, we realized that the GPS was trying to send us by the most circuitous route it could find, one that would take us miles out of our way while, granted, avoiding the freeway. Since we had passed the traffic tie-up several miles before, and the 101 was now flowing smoothly, we decided to ignore the gentle, soothing, feminine voice of the GPS system and take the freeway the rest of the way home. Since the system was still new to me and I didn't want to be distracted while driving, I didn't bother to reprogram the GPS to allow use of the freeway. And that was my mistake.

For the next ten miles, every time we approached a freeway exit, the GPS would direct us to get off, so it could guide us along surface streets, and at every exit, we would ignore it. At first, the soothing voice would dutifully announce, "Recalculating route," each time we bypassed an offramp and then offer us a new alternative, but as exit after exit sped by and we continued to ignore her instructions, I'd swear an impatient edge slowly crept into her voice, and under the engine's constant hum, I could hear muttering. "Stupid...disrespectful...I work so hard and what do I get in return...?"

Finally, we reached our regular exit, got off the freeway, and allowed the GPS to direct us the rest of the way home. We pulled into the driveway, Chris got out of the car, and I reached over to turn off the GPS. But as I did, I would swear I heard it whisper, "My name is Talky Tina...and I don't like you."

I'm probably wrong, of course, but just to be safe, I think I'll be taking the bus for the next few weeks.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Human Touch

Hey, it's Saturday morning and I'm trying to avoid doing any actual work, so let's answer another of your questions. Constant reader Beppo Prime asks:
Mr. Wein, I really liked your (and Carmine Infantino's) Human Target character, though I no longer have any of the stories. Is there any chance of a collection?

Also, do you have anything you'd like to say about Peter Milligan's stories for the character?
To the best of my knowledge, sadly, there are no current plans over at DC for a Human Target collection, though that's nothing a really vigorous write-in campaign might not change. The funny thing is that, though the talented Mr. Infantino did indeed design Christopher Chance and penciled the first story, I've always really thought of the series as belonging more to me and my old friend and editor Dick Giordano, since Dick either penciled, inked or both penciled and inked every one of the stories I wrote for the character.

As to my opinion of the Peter Milligan run on the Target, truth to tell, while the stories were certainly well done, I never really thought that Peter was writing my character. I've generally tried to write positive, upbeat protagonists over the course of my career, and Peter's Chris Chance was anything but. To me, the Vertigo Human Target was sort of like the Ultimate Marvel African-American version of Nick Fury; an interesting effort, but more like a funhouse mirror reflection of the original than anything else.

Hope that answers your questions, Beppo, and thanks for asking. It's always a pleasure to hear from the first among the Super-Monkeys.

Friday, January 19, 2007

And We Have a Winner...

Regarding the post title Freefall in Crimson, faithful reader Dave Marron wrote:
It's the title of a John D. MacDonald book.

Do I get a no-prize? :)
Congratulations, Dave, the title is indeed taken from one of the late John D. MacDonald's terrific Travis McGee novels, most of which are still in print and all of which come incredibly highly recommended as one of the great detective/adventure series of all time.

As for your no-prize...well, since they may well still be non-trademarked by the folks at Marvel, I'm afraid you'll have to settle for me doffing my chapeau in your general direction as promised.

Well done, Sir.

Freefall in Crimson

And a quick tip of the battered fedora to the first faithful reader who can tell me where the title of this post comes from.

Well, I asked for questions and you were quick to raise them, so let's dip into the ol' virtual mailbag and see what we've got.

Award-winning Science Fiction writer and regular reader Michael A. Burstein writes:
Len, do you recall when we met, and I told you how much your Crimson Avenger story stayed with me all these years? It still stays with me. I'd love to know any details that you recall of how you came up with, developed, and wrote that story.
I appreciate the question, Michael, because that particular story stays with me as well. For those of you who might be new to what we're talking about, the tale in question is "Whatever Happened to the Crimson Avenger?" and it was one of a series of similar "Whatever Happened to...?" stories that were running in the back of DC Comics Presents for a number of years. I think the name of the series is pretty self-explanatory.

I no longer recall why I chose the Crimson Avenger to kill off, other than that the character was essentially redundant, really only a poor man's Batman, and that I'd already killed off his sidekick, Wing, in my first Justice League of America story. What I do remember is spending almost an entire day carefully plotting out this eight-pager with the late but always legendary Julius Schwartz, perhaps the most influential editor in the history of comics, and in many ways my mentor. The original plot involved a gang of terrorists taking over the Lincoln Tunnel and holding it for ransom, threatening to blow it to kingdom come. The Crimson Avenger confronts the terrorists, saves the tunnel, but loses his life in the process. Happy with what we'd worked out, I went home to write the story.

I was about halfway through the script when I had one of those moments of epiphany that terrifies a writer. The story didn't work. There were holes in the plot bigger than the Lincoln Tunnel itself, holes that Julie and I, in our enthusiasm over devising various individual bits of the story, simply hadn't noticed. My problem? It was the middle of the weekend and story was due Monday and in those days one did not, simply did not, call one's editor after business hours to tell him we were in trouble. I paced around my office in a blind panic for an hour or two, trying to figure out what to do. Finally, I decided the only thing I could do was to replot the story, write the script, and then suffer Julie's wrath on Monday. Which is what I did. Well, the first two parts anyway.

I arrived at Julie's office as scheduled, handed him the script, then sat down in his guest chair to wait, as was our custom, while he edited the script. I think he was on page five of eight when it finally hit him. Julie looked up at me in confusion. "Wait a minute," he said, "This isn't the story we plotted last week." I gulped. "I know," I stammered, "But the story we plotted didn't work, so I fixed it." Julie stared at me for several seconds, then said, "You...fixed it?" I was about to struggle through my apology, when Julie smiled, and said, "In all the years I've been editing comics, you're the first writer who's ever done that." "Done what?" I asked. "Noticed something was wrong with a plot and took it upon yourself to make it right," he replied. "I can't count the number of times a writer has turned in a script that made no sense whatsoever and, when I would ask why the story was incomprehensible, the writer would reply, 'Well, that's the way we plotted it.' But you fixed yours. Good for you."

I like to think that was the moment Julie stopped looking at me as one of those new punk kids who were invading his business, and started to think of me as a writer.

The story itself was illustrated by Alex Saviuk, who I believe still pencils the Sunday Spider-Man newspaper strip, and inked by Dennis Jensen, who has long since left the business, and was reprinted in DC's Year's Best Comics Stories of 1981 digest collection.

Hope that answers your question, Michael. And thanks for stirring up some very fond memories.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Speaking of Questions...

It occurs to me, now that we have a convenient means of communication between us, that there might be questions you have to ask of me. Questions about books I've created or written or edited. Questions about TV shows I've worked on. Questions about my favorite movies or my favorite colors or my favorite year or...

Well, you get the point.

If you have any such questions, please feel free to ask away and I'll do my level best to answer them here. The usual rules of civility apply. I won't answer personal questions about any of my friends in the business (where they put their tattoos and their piercings is their business), but other than that, pretty much anything goes.

I await your queries.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Most Important Question Ever Asked...

Okay, for a minute, let's try to forget the question about what we're going to do to confront the urgent problem of Global Warming, or how the new Congress is going to deal with the Running Joke's current plan for a "surge" in Iraq, and let's deal with something really important.

Closed cage. No holds barred. Two men enter, one man leaves. Thunderdome is Sesame Street by comparison. So who wins? Jack Bauer or Daniel Craig's James Bond?


Sunday, January 14, 2007

A Point of Clarification...

In response to my previous post noting the unexpected but gratifying credits my fellow creators and I received on the back of the X-Men: the Last Stand DVD box, Glen Cadigan wrote:
It has to be said...

Herb Trimpe did not develop Wolverine. Wolverine was co-created by Len Wein and John Romita, Sr.. Herb did draw Wolverine's first appearance, but even Herb tells people that he had nothing to do with Wolverine's creation, and he should know.

Plus... it was Dave Cockrum who designed what Logan looked like, and it's his Logan design which is used in the movies, not John, Sr.'s "cat suit." That doesn't take anything away from what John, Sr. did, it just states the facts.

I hate to write what could be perceived as a negative comment here when this is a big step forward, but facts do matter. Not saying that Mr. Wein doesn't know what happened (because he does), or that he was trying to give credit where credit wasn't due. He was just quoting the box. If only the box knew what it was talking about, we wouldn't have to start all over again where Wolverine's credits are concerned.

Well, Mr. Cadigan, in response, I'm obliged to say you're right...and you're wrong.

While the original Wolverine visual was indeed co-created by myself and the talented John Romita Sr., the credit on the DVD box reads Wolverine character developed by Len Wein & Herb Trimpe. That's developed, not created. And since Herb drew Wolvie's entire first appearance, from the last panel of Incredible Hulk #180 through the first couple of pages of Hulk #182, I would say he did indeed develop the character, how he stood, how he moved, his expressions, attitudes, all critical aspects of Wolverine's natural evolution.

I certainly don't begrudge Herb the credit. Why should you?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Science Stumbles On...

This is a test of the Emergency Luddite System. If I have followed the instructions of the ever-incredible Elayne Riggs (a link to whose always-entertaining blog can be found to the right), I will now be able to add bold words, italics, and other suchlike to my posts.

If this worked, you will now be able to see those things on this post. If not, so what else is new?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Party all the Time...

I am, by nature, a very social animal. Every Sunday during the regular television season, a small group of dedicated friends gathers here at Weinwords Central to endure my cooking (God bless Rachael Ray) and to watch "The Amazing Race", which is easily the best reality show on the air. On selected other weekends during the year, slightly larger groups show up to watch "The Super Bowl" or "The Academy Awards" or just to play board games or celebrate a birthday. And twice a year -- but ONLY twice a year, thank the Fates -- my darling wife and I completely lose our minds and throw a full-on, all-out, wing-ding party. In the summer, it's our annual Pool Party BBQ and, in January, it's our traditional Twelfth Night Party.

What I love most about our little shindigs, I think, is the eclectic mix of people who gather here. Over the years, Science Fiction luminaries like Harlan Ellison, Larry Niven, Jack Dann, Joe Haldeman, Barbara Hambly and Arthur Byron Cover have rubbed elbows with Comic Book folks like Marv Wolfman, Bernie Wrightson, Jerry Bingham, Steve Mitchell, Roger Slifer and Wendy Pini who in turn would chat with screenwriters like Paul Guay, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio or animation writers like Christy Marx, David Wise, Robert Skir, Craig Miller and Shari Goodhartz. And that's not even to mention the wide variety of lawyers, horse people, comics and SF fans, and just plain normal folks who are invited here as well.

The biggest problem we have is that we live in a nice little A-frame house that is far too small to comfortably accomodate that many people. As Dolly Parton once put it when describing her efforts to squeeze her two most notable assets into a very tight-fitting dress, "It's like tryin' to stuff ten pounds of potatoes into a five pound bag."

The pool party BBQ is, of course, easier, since we can spread out into the yard as well, but lately California Januaries have become a lot colder than was advertised before I first moved out here and we have to fit everyone into the house somehow. This year, in an effort to solve the problem, my good friend and fellow Friday night poker player Steve Cuden, developer of the hit Broadway Musical "Jekyll/Hyde", suggested we simply spread Vaseline around the front door jamb and have someone standing outside to squirt people into the house.

Still, I wouldn't trade the obligatory headaches of throwing these parties for anything. The memories alone are priceless. Like the 12th Night Party two years ago, where I watched Harlan Ellison acting like a giddy 12-year-old, sitting cross-legged on the floor at the feet of the legendary Jerry Robinson, creator of Robin and the Joker, and carefully handing Jerry his precious double-bagged early Batman comics, humbly asking if Jerry would do him the honor of autographing them. Or like the pool party a few years back where Larry Niven (Hugo-winning author of the "Ringworld" books, among many others) and Ted Elliott (co-screenwriter of "Shrek," "Mask of Zorro," "Aladdin," and the "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy, to name just a few) finished one of the lengthy conversations they'd been having for years now and finally thought to introduce themselves to one another, only to discover they were each huge fans of the other's work. Or the time my friend Ed Green stood admiring an original Bernie Wrightson 'Swamp Thing' pen-and-ink drawing hanging framed on the living room wall, going on and on about what a brilliant artist Bernie was, and I -- doing my best "Woody Allen producing Marshall Mcluhan in 'Annie Hall' bit" -- reached over, grabbed Bernie by the shoulders, and dragged him over, telling Ed, "Here. Why don't you tell Bernie that yourself?" I'll never forget watching poor Ed 'homina-homina'ing at Bernie as he struggled in vain to pick his jaw up off the floor. Or the time when...

Well, there are lots of other party stories and I'd love to share them with you sometime. But right now, unfortunately, I've got to go start cleaning the house for this summer's BBQ.

Mea Culpa

Well, I promised to post more often here in the New Year, and it's already been a week since my last post. So much for THAT resolution.

At least it lasted longer than the inevitable Diet Resolution did.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Where It's Due...

I was doing a little casual websurfing earlier today and, thanks to the fabulous folks over at, I discovered something wonderful.

Got a copy of the DVD version of "X-Men: The Last Stand" handy? Oh, of course you do. You know you do. We both know what your DVD collection looks like. Go get it. I'll wait.

"...Strangers in the night, exchanging glances, wond'ring in the night, what were the chances..."

Oh, good. You're back.

Okay, now turn the box over and check out the credits on the back. Look carefully. There's some bad dot break-up and an unfortunate lack of color contrast. See it? Look again. Hold the box up to the light and read the final credits across the bottom line.

Yeah. I know. I couldn't believe it either. The line reads "Wolverine character developed by Len Wein & Herb Trimpe - Storm and Colossus characters developed by Len Wein & Dave Cockrum"

For the first time, after two animated series and three major motion pictures, we've finally gotten a little credit. Now, that still doesn't put our names on those projects proper, and it definitely hasn't put a penny in our pockets, but it's a start.

What is it the Chinese say? "The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step."

Today I'm walking on air.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Never Mind...

As you may now note, the wonderful Elayne explained to your humble scribe, the Luddite, how to fix the date and time on my movie reviews and I have now done so. So kindly ignore the kvetching of my previous post.

It's a learning curve, people, not unlike a roller coaster.

Okay, That's Weird...

I started the movie review post that appears a couple of items down on New Year's Eve, but didn't finish it until just a few minutes ago, and yet it still got marked as if I'd posted it Sunday.

I'm tellin' ya, I just don't get these darn newfangled machine thingies.

Movie Minutes - The First in a Series

Caught a couple of the season's major movies over the last few weeks, and since I've promised to share my moviegoing experiences with you here in my Blogosphere, grab some popcorn and settle in. I'll try to be brief.


A few weeks back, I attended a screening on the Warner Bros. lot of "Letters From Iwo Jima," Clint Eastwood's companion piece to his "Flags of Our Fathers," told from the point of view of the Japanese soldiers who were ordered to defend the island, almost to the last man. The screening was introduced to us by Steven Spielberg himself, standing in for Clint, who was on the road with his family. Spielberg told us that Clint had asked him to introduce the film as Clint himself would. "In other words," Clint told Steven, "Be brief." Steven was. But, thankfully, the film itself was not. "Letters" is an extraordinary film, far superior to "Flags" yet shot in a fraction of the time and for a fraction of the budget. Once again, Eastwood proves himself one of our best directors, and Ken Watanabe, who played Ra's al Ghul in "Batman Begins" and the title role in "The Last Samurai", gives a performance easily worthy of Oscar consideration. It's compelling, frightening, and extraordinarily touching. The film is primarily in Japanese with English subtitles and goes into wide release in the next few weeks. Take the time to see it. You won't be disappointed.


On Christmas day, my dear wife and I and a couple of close friends took in "Happy Feet" at the local megaplex. I liked it a great deal, but not quite as much as I hoped to. The CG animation is exceptional. The voicework is marvelous. But it's not exactly the film the trailers lead to you expect. It takes an odd turn about midway through that makes it more -- and yet somehow less -- than the movie you thought you'd be dancing to. Catch a matinee, but catch it.


Last Thursday, my wife and I and my buddy Bob Skir caught a showing of "Rocky Balboa" at the nearby Pacific Galleria. At some point during the last decade or so, Sylvester Stallone somehow became a parody of his former self. Maybe it was a series of bad choices in screen roles, maybe it was just that he was such an easy shot. I don't know and, frankly, I don't care. All I know is that the Sly Stallone I watched last week was a performer at the top of his form. Screenwriter Stallone provided Actor Stallone with a lot of rich material for Director Stallone to play with. It's a memorable performance, easily on a par with the original film, the one that Stallone also wrote and refused to sell to the studios unless he was hired to play the title role. You know, the movie that made Stallone a star. If I had to choose one word to describe "Rocky Balboa" it would be heart. This movie has more heart than all of this country's cardiac units combined. Sly sends Rocky off exactly as he should, with the audience on its feet, cheering. It's well worth your time.


Finally, last Saturday, I saw the capper of the bunch, one of the best films I've seen this or any other year. I saw "Dreamgirls" and I am almost unable to describe it. Screenwriter Bill Condon, who also wrote the Oscar-winning "Chicago," served as Director this time as well, and produced a blockbuster of a film. There isn't a performance in the bunch that isn't worthy of Oscar nomination, but I have to single out Eddie Murphy for Best Supporting Actor and the breathtaking Jennifer Hudson for Best Supporting Actress. In fact, when the film was over, I turned to my buddy Bob and asked, "So they're going to nominate four other actresses for Best Supporting Actress, why?" Watching Jennifer (a semi-finalist on American Idol) strut her stuff on screen was watching a star being born, like the feeling people must have had when they first saw Streisand in "Funny Girl". I can't wait to see what she does next. Run, do not walk, to see this movie. In fact, I may just go back and see again today myself.

Okay, that catches me up for the moment, though I'm going to a screening tonight of "Borat" at the Directors' Guild, where Sasha Baron Cohen will be doing a Q&A after the film. I'll let you know how that turns out.

In the meanwhile, as Roger Ebert and the late, lamented Gene Siskel used to say, the balcony is closed.

Monday, January 1, 2007

New Lang Syne...

Happy New Year to you all, the loyal dozens who read this blog and the millions who do not. May 2007 bring each and every one of us precisely what we deserve. May it be healthy, happy, prosperous, and -- if it isn't too much to ask -- peaceful for one and all.

My personal New Year's resolution? To blog here more often now that the holidays are just about done.

Let's meet here regularly during this new year.

Be well.