Talking about comic books, TV shows, movies, sports, and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Last Week in TV #15

Not a lot this week, as I watched very little TV worth discussing between work, the run-up to Christmas and the onset of a cold.

Top Chef All-Stars: Advantage Chef

This episode showcased another fun and interesting challenge. By keeping the teams out of the loop, judging-wise, the resultant whoops and cheers from the winners telling their team they won were infectious, making things a lot of fun to watch. I was a little confused by the structure of the competition: the way it was edited, at least, it seemed like Spike's team was always in a position to respond to the other team's competitor and never had to designate their next player first, which, while Spike's team ultimately lost, seemed to give his team a distinct advantage.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Countdown to Christmas #24: Christmas Eve

"To the most beautiful moment in life, better than a deed, better than a memory, the moment...of anticipation!"

--Jacques, Marge Simpson's would-be-lover in the season 1 episode "Life on the Fast Lane".

In much the same way that Friday is my favorite day of the week because the promise of what the weekend holds is usually better than what actually ends up happening, I've always enjoyed Christmas Eve far more than Christmas Day.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Countdown to Christmas #23: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Without a doubt, A Charlie Brown Christmas is my favorite Christmas TV special, though it's difficult for me to explain exactly why. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

X-amining X-Men #66

"The Mutants and the Monster"
March 1970

In a Nutshell
The X-Men fight the Hulk. 

Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Sal Buscema
Inker: Sam Grainger 
Letterer: Artie Simek

The X-Men gather around a comatose Professor X. After Iceman and Havok quarrel over Lorna's affections, Beast guesses Xavier might know how to cure himself, and uses the Professor's mind probe device to read Xavier's surface thoughts. All he gets is an image of Professor X urging the X-Men to find the Hulk. Then Marvel Girl telepathically probes Xavier's mind and similarly sees nothing but the Hulk. Deducing that Xavier is actually telling them to seek out the help of scientist Bruce Banner, the Hulk's alter ego, the X-Men depart, leaving Havok, Lorna and Iceman behind to guard Professor X.

Countdown to Christmas #22: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

If Santa Claus is Comin' to Town is the Rankin/Bass version of a modern comic book writer's pedantic origin story, than Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is their version of a batshit insane Silver Age DC comic.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Countdown to Christmas #21: The Muppet Christmas Carol

The Muppet Christmas Carol is my favorite Christmas movie, one I watch in whole or in part every year. The movie takes the standard story of A Christmas Carol and adds the Muppets (including Kermit as Bob Cratchett, Fozzie Bear as Fezziwig and Statler & Waldorff as the Marley Brothers), Michael Caine as Scrooge, original songs and fourth wall breaking narration from Gonzo (as Charles Dickens) and Rizzo the Rat.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Last Week in TV #14

Walking Dead: TS-19

Not a bad episode, but not quite what I was expecting. I'm curious at what part of the production process it was determined that episode six was the first season finale. When Rick and company arrived at the CDC at the end of the last episode, it seemed to be setting up the kind of status quo ending in which season finales traffic. I didn't expect them to spend the rest of the show hanging out there, but I thought maybe the next season would open with them there before something forced everyone to leave. Instead, it looks like the CDC was just one more step in the journey, and the status quo that ended was more thematic (now that they've realized the full extent of the zombiepoc, perhaps they'll look for salvation somewhere other than a pre-apocalypse institution of authority that maybe survived intact). 

Countdown to Christmas #20: Soundwave

Yes, Soundwave. Megatron's second-in-command (well, the second-in-command who wasn't also constantly trying to kill and/or usurp him). The monotone Transformer who turns into a tape player.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Countdown to Christmas #19: Christmas Village

For whatever reason, I've always been fascinated by Christmas villages, those dioramas of buildings and figures you'll see in fancy Christmas stores. My grandpa always setup a small one on an end table in the living room, and I think my interest stems from that (as well as the fact that, as a kid, I never just played with my action figures but set them up in elaborate diaroma-esque scenarios first).

Friday, December 17, 2010

Countdown to Christmas #17: Christmas Comic Books

Whether taking on A Christmas Carol or featuring Superman teaming up with Santa Claus to defeat Toyman, super hero comic books, like TV, have a long tradition of paying homage to the holiday.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Countdown to Christmas #16: Elf

The most recent of my favorite Christmas movies, Elf combines my love of Christmas with my love of Will Ferrel comedy into a fun little movie I watch in whole or in part every holiday season. Though the climax bugs me (specifically the shoehorning in of some pretty random action movie beats) there's plenty of good stuff to balance that out in this story of a man raised to be an elf trying to reconnect with long lost father.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

X-amining X-Men #65

"Before I'd be Slave..."
February 1970

In a Nutshell
Professor X returns and helps the X-Men repel an alien attack.

Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Dennis O'Neil
Penciller: Neal Adams
Inker: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Jean Izzo

The X-Men return to the mansion and find Havok and Lorna waiting to brief them. Havok tells the X-Men of the alien Z'Nox, a compassionless race of aliens who live to destroy and conquer other worlds. They have developed technology which enables them to move their planet through space, and the planet is heading towards Earth, following a scout ship that recently landed at the South Pole. When the X-Men question how Havok learned all of this, he reveals a very much alive Professor X. Jean bursts into tears, thankful that she longer has to pretend that Xavier is dead.

Countdown to Christmas #15: Candy

The candy most associate with Christmas is, of course, the candy cane, but I'm not a big fan. They make my hands sticky and get rather difficult to eat as one approaches the curve.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Countdown to Christmas #14: Santa Claus is Comin' to Town!

"Santa Claus is Coming to Town!" is one of Rankin & Bass' Christmas stop motion specials (and is less well known than their Rudolph special, which will be covered in this series in due time). It first aired in 1970 and is essentially the origin of Santa Claus, but even better, it's the origin of Santa Claus as though a modern comic book writer wrote it for the most pedantic of comic book geeks, in which even the most minor of details are given a specific background story to explain it. This thing is like the "Superman: Birthright" or "Green Lantern: Secret Origin" of Christmas specials.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Last Week In TV #13

The Simpsons: Donnie Fatso
What started out as a rare New Years episode turned quickly into a fairly standard mobster/mafia movie parody. As a result, the best stuff was, as usual, in the first act (the New Years stuff, Homer's tickets, Moe on the set of Wicked) before the main plot kicked in and the story started hitting all the expected beats. For a moment, I wondered if the show was going to do one of its rare continuity changes by replacing Fat Tony with Fit Tony, but I did enjoy how they showed us the reset button by transforming Fit Tony into Fat Tony II instead of just bringing back Fat Tony in a later episode with no explanation.

Countdown to Christmas #13: Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics

"Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics" is a Christmas album released in conjunction with the South Park episode of the same name. Like most of South Park, the songs (some original, some covers of classic Christmas songs) are crass, offensive and hilarious.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Countdown to Christmas #12: Dominick the Donkey

Another thing I love about Christmas are those more regional and international traditions and characters that haven't made it into the Christmas zeitgeist yet.

Of those, my favorite is, without a doubt, Dominick the Italian Christmas donkey, who helps out Santa by climbing the mountains around Italy to deliver toys to children.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Countdown to Christmas #11: Presents

Presents! Whether you like to give them, receive them, or (like most of us) both, there's no denying that the modern holiday season is centered around presents.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Dark Side of Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has come to a theater near you! I have recently finished reading The Chronicles of Narnia in its entirety and I'm glad that The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the Narnia installment that is coming out because it coincides with this post well since it marks when my opinion of the series started to change.

I knew going into reading The Chronicles of Narnia that the books would have a heavy dose of Christian symbolism. But that didn't really bother me. I might not buy everything C.S. Lewis is trying to sell, but I understand the fact that his stories are based off of his beliefs. However, I started getting some weird vibes in the last three (in-universe chronologically) books.

So, without further ado, here are five things I think are messed up about The Chronicles of Narnia *spoiler alert!*:

Countdown to Christmas #10: Ebenezer Scrooge

Ebenezer Scrooge is one of literature's great iconic characters, one of those characters (like Sherlock Holmes) that's become an archetype. Even if you've never read A Christmas Carol, you know who Scrooge is and what his deal is. His name has become an adjective synonymous with miserly and skinflinted and his use of the word humbug to describe Christmas has transformed that word's meaning to one who doesn't like Christmas or isn't cheered by the holiday season.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Countdown to Christmas #9: Snoopy's Christmas

"Snoopy's Christmas" is a Christmas song recorded by the Royal Guardsmen in 1967 as a follow-up to their hit "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron." The song chronicles a Christmastime aerial duel between the World War I Flying Ace and Germany's most notorious aviator and illustrates the power of Christmas to bring even the bitterest of enemies together, if only for a brief moment.

It is one of the best Christmas songs ever.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

X-amining X-Men #64

"The Coming of Sunfire!"
January 1970

In a Nutshell
The X-Men battle Sunfire

Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Don Heck 
Inker: Tom Palmer 
Letterer: Artie Simek

In New York, the X-Men's mini Cerebro unit alerts them to the presence of a new, powerful mutant. At the United Nations, Japanese statesman Saburo Yoshida is unveiling a new peace monument when the gathering is attacked by the mutant Sunfire. The X-Men arrive and battle Sunfire, but he flees when the police arrive. Sunfire, the son of Saburo, meets with his uncle and expresses doubts about their mission to attack America. His uncle reminds him of Hiroshima and the vows he swore.

Countdown to Christmas #8: Snow

This one's for Joan!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Countdown to Christmas #7: TV Christmas Episodes

It's darn near inevitable that, at some point in its run, a TV show will air a Christmas episode. Usually, these episodes come in one of four varieties: 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Last Week In TV #12

The Walking Dead: Vatos

Reviews of this episode have been fairly critical of it, especially the whole "gangsters turn out to be nice social workers" plot. While it certainly got ham-fisted at times, it didn't derail the entire episode, as there was plenty of other good stuff going on.

Countdown to Christmas #6: A Christmas Carol

I'm not a big Charles Dickens fan, but A Christmas Carol is the one exception. With it, Dickens manages to speak to the subject most important to him (the disenfranchised poor in Victorian England) but due to it's relative brevity compared to his other works, that subject doesn't overwhelm the story.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Countdown to Christmas #5: Egg Nog

Marge: Homer, didn't you get any milk? All I see is egg nog. 
Homer: 'Tis the season, Marge! We only get thirty sweet noggy days. Then the government takes it away again.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Countdown to Christmas #4: Cookies

I'm not a big cookie guy. They fall behind pies and ice cream in the dessert pantheon (and just ahead of cakes). But I definitely enjoy me some Christmas cookies at this time of the year.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Countdown to Christmas #3: Christmas Trees

After Santa, the Christmas tree is perhaps the most recognizable secular symbol of Christmas. As a kid, I always got excited when the Christmas tree was setup because it was fun place to play with my GI Joes (Christmas tree lights make great lasers). As my brother and I got older, my mom got picky about what kind of ornaments went on the tree, so we each got a small three foot fake tree for our bedrooms, on which we could hang our handmade and fun ornaments.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Countdown to Christmas #2: A Christmas Story

While I certainly wasn't a child circa 1940 (heck, that predates my dad's childhood) a heavy sense of nostalgia still fuels my love of this movie, largely because it's one of those movies I watched every year as a kid. It's always been a favorite of me and my dad (our favorite line: "Wow, yippee, a Zeppelin!" It still gets shouted every Christmas at least once as we open presents). We've always found the movie uproariously funny while my mom and not. Even though it takes place in an era with which I'm not personally familiar, I still feel nostalgic watching it (and let's be honest: nostalgia has a lot to do with my love of the holiday season).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Great Moments In Sports Tweeting

Twitter has become the next big thing. People's attention span are so short now that 140 characters of information is all we can handle in one sitting. Twitter has changed the way a lot people get their information and the way a lot of people give their information or idle thoughts or removal of all doubt of their status as a fool. However, almost nothing has felt Twitter's affect more than the sporting world.

X-amining X-Men #63

"War in the World Below!"
December 1969

In a nutshell
The X-Men and Ka-Zar fight Magneto in the Savage Land.

Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Neal Adams
Inker: Tom Palmer 
Letterer: Sam Rosen

As Angel flies off to battle the X-Men, Magneto enjoys the irony before informing his followers that soon his ultimate mutant creation will be complete. Angel meets up with the X-Men and Ka-Zar, but Ka-Zar simply bats him aside and continues towards the Creator's headquarters. Magneto's Mutates and the Swamp Men emerge, engaging the X-Men in battle. Angel, realizing he's been duped, flies back to Magneto and overhears him gloating about creating the Mutates. Magneto explains to Angel how he survived their last encounter just as his latest creation emerges.

Countdown to Christmas #1: Santa Claus

Let's start with the big guy : Santa Claus. Saint Nicholaus. Sinterklaas. Sandy Claws. As Bart Simpson once reminded us, let us not forget the true meaning of Christmas: the birth of Santa.