Random Hunks o' Con: New York Comic Con 2011 Video

Cinefantastique hit the floor of New York Comic Con 2011 and discovered… people. Lots ‘n’ lots of people. NYCC sold out for the entire weekend, and the upshot was that even the isolated reaches of the show floor became navigational nightmares at certain points during the day. Woe betide the mortal wandering Artists Alley who had a sudden hankering for a bagful of Japanese fruit chews. The trip from one end of the show to the other took slightly longer than traversing the Silk Road.
Nevertheless, in the course of producing his scheduled interviews, Dan Persons had time to wander the floor and snap up a few random encounters and events with his handy pocket camcorder. Come join him to discover 3D printers, pickled punks, Romanian comics, redemption for the Black Eyed Peas, and much, much more, including special guest appearances by cartoonist Bill Plympton and Troma’s own Lloyd Kaufman.
Check out a larger version of the video below, or watch it on YouTube.


Priest: Cinefantastique Spotlight Podcast 2.18.1

The Last Holy Roller: Paul Bettany goes in hot pursuit of ravenous vampires in PRIEST.
The Last Holy Roller: Paul Bettany goes in hot pursuit of ravenous vampires in PRIEST.

The post-apocalyptic future, what could be more fun? Well, puppies, stick ball, and watching Donald Trump eat a bug, amongst other things. Nevertheless, the producers of PRIEST are hoping you’re jazzed to see a ravaged world in which the war between humanity and blind, sluglike creatures called vampires has reached a stalemate, and Paul Bettany’s taciturn, neck-biter-hunting priest threatens to disrupt the peace by chasing after his kidnapped niece. Is a movie that blends BLADE RUNNER with THE SEARCHERS and throws in a despicable Karl Urban — far, far from the U.S.S. Enterprise — and a toothsome Maggie Q for good measure ready to take its place in the pantheon of top-notch action films, or is it just JONAH HEX tricked out with concrete bunkers and nitro-enhanced motorcycles? Join Cinefantastique Online’s Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons as they discuss the merits and demerits.


'The Phantom': An Empty Suit

The Good News: THE PHANTOM (2009) TV mini-series is a big step up from RHI Entertainment’s poverty-stricken FLASH GORDON TV movie/series.
The Bad News: It’s still a serious misfire, showing many signs of that inexplicable (to comics fans) 1960’s – 70’s era disdain for the source material. Why, one wonders do producers choose to option comic book/strip characters if the basic concepts seem to embarrass them? Ryan Carnes as Crhis Moore/Kit Walker
Either they make changes intended to make the characters more “realistic” or they go down the path of camp humor, to show that they are above the material.
Seldom do they appear to recognize the simple iconic power that has make these four-color heroes successful for decades. Intentionally or not, this film adaptation goes down both roads.
In the 4-hour mini-series/backdoor pilot THE PHANTOM, the filmmakers have chosen not to go with the still active 21st Phantom, but start afresh with his son. Fair enough, 70 plus years is a long time for anyone to hold the title.
However, they are not content to have this be the seamless, four century tradition of the comic strip, but instead construct an elaborate and personally tragic origin for this version of The Ghost Who Walks.
The last of the Phantom’s line is a semi-amnesiac 24-year-old who’s been given the name Chris Moore (Ryan Carnes) by his unknown-to-him adoptive parents. (Ray Moore was the definitive Phantom artist, and his mother’s name is Lee, presumably for creator Lee Falk.)
Phantom 21 is said to have died of cancer when he was two, mother Diana Palmer is killed off when he was five, when the car carrying the two was forced into the river by the Singh Brotherhood. The fact that in the strip Kit Walker the 22nd is supposed to have a twin sister and an adopted older brother is ignored — but never mind.
Gaping plot-holes have left the supposedly large and efficient organization dedicated to serving the Phantom unable to track down the missing heir to the legacy for 19 years.
Arrested for skylarking and trespassing charges, the young man is for some inexplicable reason DNA tested, something currently only permitted in NYC for those charged with violent crimes. This test is then further transmitted to police agencies world-wide, again wildly improbable for a supposedly more realistic take on the material.
Let it pass; the movie shows NYPD cars and paramedics responding to incidents in New Jersey, even though the jurisdiction of NY policemen investigating in NJ is later brought up within the same movie.
Again, let it pass — it allows the ‘Bpaa Thap’ (the Jungle Patrol of the comics) to find him (having somehow missed newspaper photos of the ‘wild child’ found after the accident), and get his parents conveniently killed off.
Things like this go on throughout the whole picture, as if father and son writing team Daniel Knauf (CARNIVÁLE) and Charles H. Knauf tried to put as many lapses of logic and inconsistencies into the script as possible, and then have references that point them out. I strongly doubt this is the case, and if the film had moved at a better pace they all might not have seemed so glaring and obvious.
And that above-mentioned inconsistent tone kicks in between the semi-realistic scenes and any time Singh Brotherhood leader Rhatib Singh (Cas Anvar) is on screen, apparently trying to out-camp Treat Williams’s performance in the 1996 PHANTOM. If his arch manner and sudden bursts of violence are supposed to remind us of Heath Ledger’s Joker, it doesn’t work.
Neither, sadly does the new Phantom’s costume, or the actor picked to play him. The suit is supposed to be a high-tech bullet-proof suit that gives the wearer enhanced strength and speed — which only seems effective against test dummies, as Chis seems nearly over-matched by every antagonist thrown at him.
Surley, if the organization had such a wonder suit (reportedly delveloped years before) they could have trained someone how to use it, instead of expecting the last of the Walkers to get up to speed in a few months.
Of course, without the right man you have only an empty suit. Or perhaps the premise for a different, somewhat interesing show.

Carnes tries to fill an Empty Suit

Ryan Carnes is actually a pretty skilled and likeable actor, and he does a good job with what he’s given.
But in the final analysis, he looks like a short, wiry kid swallowed up in a bulky and unappealing costume — and not the imposing figure the legendary Phantom should be.
When you have an actor that’s not tall in a role like this, there are ways to make him appear taller and more impressive (as with Michael Keaton’s Batman). Director Paolo Barzman (DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE, 2008) doesn’t seem to attempt this at all, shooting Carnes in such a way that almost everyone, including his female co-stars, looks bigger and more capable than he does.
Tom Tyler and Billy Zane fit the Iconic Image
Tom Tyler and Billy Zane fit The Phantom's iconic image

Isabella Rossellini is wasted in a thankless, and colorless scientific villain role. I originally thought she might be head of the Brotherhood, as their leader in the comic strip is female.
The script offers no real surprises, as just about every plot development is telegraphed or predicable.
Despite all this, the film is actually fairly entertaining, particularly if you’re not already familiar with or attached to the character. It looks pretty good, with generally nice photography from DP Pierre Jodoin.
THE PHANTOM ends with a promise of further adventures. With some re-casting, a better costume (not necessarily 100 % comics-accurate, just not so awkward-looking) and some refinements— such as not making the hero so dependent on a thousands of miles away support team—a series might have possibilities.
However, at the moment I’m not too anxious to see The Ghost Who Walks return to SyFy.

Little Orphan Annie Ends Run

annie_Sandy“Who’s that little chatter box? The one with pretty auburn locks?
Whom do you see? It’s Little Orphan Annie!”

Well, you won’t be seeing her much longer, it seems. After 86 years, the newspaper comic feature will run it’s final Sunday strip on June 13th, 2010, according to Tribune Media Services. (The daily strip is also ending, presumably the 12th.)

The Chicago-based news and features syndication service decided to cancel the iconic comic, which was running in fewer than 20 newspapers — including the ones owned by their parent the Tribune Company,  The Chicago Tribune, The LA Times, The Baltimore Sun and others—and papers they were formerly associated with, such as The New York Daily News.
The current creative team of writer Jay Maeder and artist Ted Slampyak are said to have left the strip’s last panel as a cliffhanger, showing Annie caught in a tangle with “the Butcher from the Balkans”.
However, Tribune’s press release indicates Annie’s adventures may not be over.
Steve Tippie, vice president for TMS Licensing and New Market Development said:  “Over the years, Annie has generated an enormous amount of international awareness and affection through three generations—children and their parents and grandparents—and now it’s time to go where this new base of Annie fans finds their entertainment.
Our emphasis going forward will be on bringing her more in line with current pop culture and shaping her development as a property that appeals to children and adults on a whole new level. We plan to grow Annie’s popularity by introducing her to new generations of audiences through new media and licensing applications.”
Little Orphan Annie began her run on August 5th, 1924.  The character was created by Harold Gray, who drew or was closely involved with the strip until his death in 1968.
The plucky waif was adopted by Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, who was fairly humorous at first—with a wife that didn’t much care for Annie. She soon disappeared, and as the strip shifted from humor and melodrama, readers saw that Warbucks was a self-made man, (though a war profiteer and likely arms dealer), and adventurer— occasionally with a lethal vigilante streak.
The giant Punjab was enlisted to served as bodyguard to both Warbucks and Annie,  joined later by the somewhat sinister Asian aide-de-camp, the Asp.
Mild science fiction and fantasy elements appeared over the years, such as the strange character Mister Am, a friendly bearded fellow who was possibly possesed of supernatural powers and immortal.
The comic strip spun off a long-running radio series in 1930 —actually, two or three distinct shows, beginning with Adventure Time with Orphan Annie. The lead character was played by Shirley Bell (on and off for ten years), Floy Hughes (live West Coast version with different cast for the first three years), and Bobbie Dean, generally on NBC’s Blue Network.
Sponsored for years by Ovaltine, Annie and her pal Joe Corntassel got into local scrapes while tended by Mr. & Mrs. Silo. When Daddy Warbucks took her along on trips, the redhead encountered pirates and other exotic dangers all around the world. 
After getting dropped by the drink mix in favor of the more exciting Captain Midnight, a new Mutual Network series began in 1940 with Janice Gilbert as Annie, now the sidekick of aviator Captain Sparks — named for the new sponsor, Quaker Puffed Wheat Sparkies.
Little Orphan Annie left the air in 1942. 
The first film adaptation of the comic strip was RKO’s LITTLE OPRPHAN ANNIE (1932), with Mitzi Green in the titular role and slow-burn comedian Edgar Kennedy as Daddy Warbucks. Paramount’s hard to find 1938 LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE starred Ann Gillis.
1977 saw the hit Brodway musical ANNIE, starring Andrea McArdle, and later Sarah Jessica Parker, among others. The song Tomorrow, by composers Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin has become a standard. 
John Huston (THE MALTESE FALCON) directed the 1982 film adaptation. It starred Alieen Quinn, Albert Finney as Daddy Warbucks, Geoffrey Holder as Punjab, and Carol Burnett. 
There has been a TV  sequel,  ANNIE: A ROYAL ADVENTURE (1995), and a TV re-make of the musical ANNIE (1998).
Perhaps Annie will survive her latest peril, she’s a escaped many a close scrape before.