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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #146

June 1981

In a Nutshell 
The reserve X-Men storm Murderworld.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Josef Rubinstein
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Dr. Doom watches as a storm surges around his castle, then shows Arcade the various specially designed cells he's placed the captured X-Men in, hoping to gain knowledge about their strengths, weaknesses and strategies. The villains are served drinks by a robotic replica of Storm, while Doom reveals the real Storm has been encased in organic chrome. She is unable to move and unconscious, but her subconscious is reacting to her claustrophobia by manifesting an ever-growing storm, the effects of which are felt on the East Indian island where Cyclops and Lee Forrester are stranded. As the storm knocks free his blindfold, Cyclops optic blast is revealed. Lee replaces the blindfold, and Cyclops promises her an explanation.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

X-aminations in March

March 7th: Uncanny X-Men #147
March 14th: Uncanny X-Men #148
March 21st: Uncanny X-Men #149
March 28th: Avengers Annual #10

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Few Thoughts on the Oscars

In general, I found the ceremony (and Billy Crystal's much-ballyhooed return to the hosting gig) generally affable. It's wasn't bad, nor was it terribly good. It was safe, and after last year's debacle, that's probably exactly what the Academy and ABC wanted. So even if the show wasn't as entertaining, in its own way, as watching last year's train wreck or when the host, the show, and the nominees combine to make for a genuinely good show, it wasn't as awful as some on the internet would suggest. And for good or bad, it delivered exactly what it promised. Which is an achievement all its own.

I did like the overall premise of the show's design, hearkening back to classic movie theaters, and thought the various stage designs rolled out throughout the evening (as well as the title cards that appeared on screen when nominees were read) did a nice job of "celebrating the movies" without being too garish or attention getting. It tied in nicely with the fact that many of this year's best picture nominees were also about the history of or a celebration of movies.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

And the Oscar Goes To...

My consecutive streak of winning the Oscar pool was heartlessly ended last year by Mr. Shabadoo, so this is a big rebound year for me. Here's how I'll be filling out my ballot in the hopes of reclaiming the title.

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Kenneth Branagh ("My Week with Marilyn")
Jonah Hill ("Moneyball")
Nick Nolte ("Warrior")
Christopher Plummer ("Beginners")
Max von Sydow ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close")

We'll start with probably the biggest lock of the night, as Christopher Plummer has won nearly all the critics and industry awards in the run-up to Oscar night, and is a beloved industry veteran who's never won (and only been nominated once before, in 2009). Interesting bit of trivia: should he win, at 82 he'll be the oldest acting Oscar winner of all time. Any chance of an upset will come from the similarly beloved, old and under-nominated Max Von Sydow, who has the distinct advantage of being nominated for his performance in a film that is also a Best Picture nominee. But the consensus is that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has a small but devoted group of fans within the Academy that got it nominated, and that when the dust settles, the Academy will fall in step and give the award to Plummer.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Last Week in TV #21

Still playing catch-up. I did watch last week's 30 Rock and Parks and Rec (the Batman pastiche where Jack was mugged and the one where Louis C.K's Dave returned to Pawnee), but haven't had a chance to write about them, so feel free to sound off in the comments (and I'll get to Glee eventually, I swear). 

The Simpsons: At Long Last Leave

500 episodes is one heck of a milestone, but at the same time, how can this show celebrate it? It's not like the writers can try to make it extra good; for all the talk of declining quality, I have no doubt the various writers, directors, cast, etc. of each episode believe they are always turning out the best possible product. And for a show like The Simpsons, which rarely allows for long term changes in the characters or the status quo of the series, it's not like the 500th episode can feature some radical new direction or the introduction of a significant new character. And so we're left mainly with a brilliant couch gag that celebrates the history preceding it, and an episode that, like every before it, does the best it can.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #145

May 1981

In a Nutshell 
The X-Men vs. Dr. Doom

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Joe Rubinstein
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: GlynisWein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Stevie Hunter and Storm, sitting in for an ill Kitty, attend the ballet at Lincoln Center when Arcade's assistant, Miss Locke, enters their box, drugging both women. As they pass out, she explains that Dr. Doom has captured Arcade, so Miss Locke has kidnapped the X-Men's friends and family, including Moira MacTaggert, Amanda Sefton, Candy Southern, Illyana Rasputin and Jean Grey's parents, and is holding them hostage in Murderworld. If the X-Men don't free Arcade, their loved ones will die. When Storm awakens, Stevie is gone, taken by Locke, and Storm scouts the city, quickly confirming Miss Locke's claims. At the mansion, Storm informs the other X-Men of the situation and announces she has a plan. Professor X telepathically contacts former X-Men Havok, Polaris, Iceman and Banshee and asks them to return to the mansion.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dr. Bitz Ranks Every Television Series Ever...Sorta (Part 6)

Well, I'm still slogging through my ranking of television series. The bad news? More series that are fair to midland. The good news? We're dangerously close to television shows I'd actually recommend! (And maybe series you've heard of.) Actually, I'm fairly confident there's a couple series here people have heard of.  As always, if you're unfamiliar with these posts, check out the introduction here.

35. The Tomorrow People: A bunch of kids are the next stage in human evolution...or maybe they're aliens? I kind of forget. But they have telepathic powers and can teleport. So that's cool.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What's Your Favorite Episode of The Simpsons?

It's lazy day here at GoL (well, lazier than usual): first, I wanted to do some kind of Presidents Day post, but couldn't come up with a good hook. So instead, I'll direct you this older Presidents Day post I did back in 2009 in which I compared America's Founding Fathers to the Avengers.

Second, last night marked the airing of the 500th episode of The Simpsons, a remarkable achievement for any TV show, especially in this day and age (I'll share my thoughts on the episode itself in Friday's "Last Week in TV" post).

As someone who both loves The Simpsons and writes about it frequently, I feel like I should have done something significant to mark the occasion (perhaps even my long-gestating "favorite episodes" post). But, frankly, the whole thing kind of snuck up on me. So the favorite episodes post will have to wait for another milestone (perhaps even the end of the show; you have no idea how daunting that post is), but in the meantime, to half-assedly mark the occasion, as I'm sure Homer would appreciate, I turn it over to you, the readers: what's your favorite episode (or episodes) of The Simpsons?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Last Week in TV #20

The week got away from me fast, with Mrs. Teebore watching the Grammys on Sunday, a couple nights away from the TV and the arrival of a new puppy. I know, excuses, excuses.  Here's what I did find time to watch.

Once Upon A Time: Skin Deep

A solid episode, which tweaks the Beauty and the Beast story and uses Rumpelstiltskin as the Beast and Emilie de Ravin from Lost as Belle. References to the Disney version of the story, from Belle's dresses to Gaston and even Chip the insufferable teacup kid, abound, but the real charm of the story comes from watching Rumpelstiltskin grapple with his growing feelings for Belle and his desire for power. Per usual, the events in Storybrooke are overshadowed by FTL, though this episode did present a more-unhinged than usual Mr. Gold as he attempted to retrieve the memento of his time with Belle. Which led to one of the show's biggest reveals: like Regina, Mr. Gold remembers FTL. This, in turn, led to an episode-ending cliffhanger that Belle, believed dead by both Rumpelstiltskin and Mr. Gold, is actually alive in Storybrooke, albeit imprisoned in some kind of secret asylum below the hospital run by Regina. That Belle was still around was mildly shocking, only because I assumed her presumed death was a way to not need Emilie de Ravin to come back to reprise the role, but ultimately, Regina's secret prison will probably turn out to be the bigger surprise.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

X-amining Spider-Woman #37-38

"Who Am I?/Criminal At Large!
April/June 1981

In a Nutshell 
The X-Men team-up with Spider-Woman against Black Tom, Juggernaut and Siryn.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Layouts: Steve Leialoha
Inkers: Terry Austin, Bob Wiacek, Alan Weiss, Al Milgrom, Frank Springer (#37), Wiacek & Co (#38)
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Carl Gafford (#37), Scheele &Warfield (#38)
Editor: Denny O'Neil
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Issue #37: Above San Fransisco, Spider-Woman infiltrates the SHIELD helicarrier to get a letter of recommendation from Nick Fury, as she is applying for a private investigator's license. Afte discussing her situation with him, she flies home, unknowingly passing over Black Tom, Juggernaut and Black Tom's niece, a young woman named Theresa, who are planning to rob the San Fransisco Mint of its stock of the United States' vibranium. Meanwhile, in New York, Cerebro alerts the X-Men to the presence of a new mutant, and Professor X assembles a team to make contact with the mutant. Back in San Fransisco, Spider-Woman arrives home to an impromptu party thrown by her roommate. She changes into her civilian identity of Jessica Drew and hits it off with their landlord before her acute senses detect a crippling sonic scream. Investigating, she trails the scream to the mint, where she stumbles upon the robbery in process. She takes out Black Tom, but Theresa, calling herself Siryn, attacks Spider-Woman with her sonic scream. Spider-Woman defeats her, but is knocked out by Juggernaut, at which point the villains leave with the vibranium. Spider-Woman wakes up surrounded by the police, and is put under arrest for the vibranium heist.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Retro Review: New Kid on the Block

Or the One Where
Bart crushes on the new girl next door while Homer sues a seafood restaurant for kicking him out of the "All You Can Eat" buffet before he's had all he could eat.

The Setup
After the Winfields move away, a single mother and her daughter move in next door to the Simpsons, and Bart is immediately smitten with the tomboyish Laura.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Last Week in TV #19

How I Met Your Mother: The Burning Beekeeper

This was clearly an episode meant to play with structure and tell a simply story in a structurally complex and interesting way. And in that regard, it succeeded. I'm a sucker for these kinds of episodes, and HIMYM has a history of doing them, and doing them well. The only problem is that this episode wasn't very funny. It elicited a few laughs, but I'm an easy mark. For the most part, any reactions I had to the episode were to the reveals created to the unique structure ("oh, that's why Ted was so eager to fight Martin Short", "that's why Lily stomped the Gouda") instead of to any of the jokes. And while HIMYM has certainly had episodes intentionally light on the laughs before, in most of those cases the laughs were replaced with significant character development; here, we didn't get much of that aside from Lily's realization about being a parent, and even that seemed less important that the structural wackiness. Like I said, I like these kinds of episodes that manipulate the traditional time/space elements within a show, but it only works if that manipulation is done in service of big laughs, good character moments, or both. Here, it did neither, and we're left with nothing more than an episode with a unique structure.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #144

"Even in Death...
April 1981

In a Nutshell 
Cyclops and Man-Thing battle D'Spayre

Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Penciler: Brent Anderson
Inker: Josef Rubenstein
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

In the Florida Everglades, Jock Forrester contemplates suicide, having learned he has incurable cancer. His despair draws the attention of the empathic Man-Thing as well as the demon D'Spayre, who goads Jock into killing himself. Man-Thing attacks the demon, but D'Spayre, filling the creature with fear, chases him off and assumes Jock's form. Meanwhile, down the coast, the fishing boat Arcadia comes into port, and Lee Forrester asks Scott to join the rest of the crew at the local tavern. After dinner, Scott reads a letter from the X-Men. Back in New York, the X-Men are still cleaning up after the N'Garai demon attack, with Nightcrawler and Wolverine teasing Kitty relentlessly about the incident. As Kitty runs out of the Danger Room, Nightcrawler catches up to her and apologizes, and tells her that both he and Wolverine are proud of how she handled herself. In Florida, as Scott plays pool, Lee gets a call from her dad asking her to come home, and she asks Scott to accompany her. The pair arrive at Lee's childhood home and are greeted by Jock, who quickly transforms into D'Spayre.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Last Week in TV #18

Busy week, and I'm already posting late. Let's get right to it!

The Simpsons: Moe Goes From Rags to Riches

The idea of an episode built around Moe's sentient bar rag, voiced by Jeremy Irons, is the kind of thing that could be ridiculously fun or just awful. In the end, it turned out to be neither, which is pretty much the most disappointing outcome.

The episode started out strong, as I'm enough of a history nerd to enjoy some of the historical jokes (like Medieval Homer fighting in Flanders), but lost focus as it became apparent that the bar rag's tale would have to jump huge swathes of time (I could have used less of the 1001 Nights segment) before ending up in Moe's hands in the most random way possible (he's the son of a Mt. Everest Yeti). Then, the episode suddenly shifted into Moe searching for the rag after it was stolen, and because the episode was almost over, it turned out to be Marge who stole it, and the whole thing could have been avoided if she'd just left a note. The episode ends with the Simpsons affirming their friendship for Moe, and it could have been a sweet moment, except for the fact he'll go back to being an unliked troll the next time the plot or a joke demands it. With a high concept like this, you hope for something clever and fear something awful. What we got was, unfortunately, neither.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #143

March 1981

In a Nutshell 
Kitty fights a N'Garai demon

Writer/Co-Plotter: Chris Claremont
Artist/Co-Plotter: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

On the mansion grounds, a N'Garai demon crawls from the wreckage of the cairn destroyed by Storm months ago, and proceeds to devour a couple looking for a Christmas tree. On Christmas Eve, Professor X finishes teaching Kitty the start-up sequence to the Blackbird. The X-Men prepare to go their separate ways for Christmas, with Wolverine going out with Mariko and Angel flying off to meet Candy Southern, while Colossus and Storm go into the city with Professor X, leaving Kitty home alone. In Florida, Cyclops calls the mansion to wish the X-Men Merry Christmas. He then meets Lee Forester, the captain of a fishing boat. At the mansion, Kitty runs through an exercise routine in the Danger Room until the intruder alert goes off. She heads up to Storm's attic to check it out and is confronted by the N'Garai demon.