Monday, May 30, 2016

Forgotten TV: Tour of Duty (1987)

After dramas and sitcoms set in World War II (i.e. McHale's Navy, 12 0'Clock High) and the Korean War (M*A*S*H, of course), it was perhaps inevitable that television would move forward toward the Vietnam War. There were two dramas set in that timeframe, both launching relatively around the same time.

One was CBS' Tour of Duty, which lasted three seasons (1987-90). In the wake of the Robin Williams hit film, "Good Morning, Vietnam", and its 60's-centric soundtrack, the folks at New World Television, the show's producers, chose to use the Rolling Stones' "Paint it Black" as Tour's theme song for the first season.



Terence Knox came over from St. Elsewhere. John Dye would later resurface on Touched by an Angel. Kim Delaney would gain greater fame in NYPD Blue. Not pictured in the above video was Kevin Conroy, who only appeared during the 1st season. He's better known, of course, for nearly 2 decades of work as the voice of Batman. One of these days, we'll look at the other Vietnam-era drama, China Beach. Since this is Memorial Day, I thought we'd showcase Tour, which currently airs weekdays on Get TV, which is doing a Tour marathon today until 8 pm (ET).

Rating: B.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Musical Interlude: WOLD (1973)

The late Harry Chapin is best remembered for three hit songs. "Cat's in the Cradle" has been covered by artists as diverse as Ricky Skaggs and Ugly Kid Joe. "Taxi" spawned a follow-up, "Sequel", which was Chapin's last hit before his passing in 1981, and "WOLD", the story of an aging radio DJ trying to reconnect with his ex-wife and realizing his life has passed him by, based on real-life Boston DJ Jim Connors. WOLD does exist as a radio station, having launched on the FM band, not AM, in 1968 in Virginia.

The following is, from appearances, a live performance, date unknown.

Adversity's children capture a championship

It is said that adversity builds character. That being said, what Troy High's softball team dealt with the last two weeks defined their collective character.

With their head coach, George Rafferty, "removed" from the team by school officials after an incident at Averill Park on May 12, the Flying Horses went into the sectional tournament under the direction of assistant coaches Tara Anthony & Talia Valenti, with one goal clearly in mind. Win the title for the coach.

The path was cleared when Troy defeated top-seeded South Glens Falls on May 24. That same day, Burnt Hills upset defending state champion Averill Park, setting up the title showdown in Malta three days later. The Lady Spartans were the Cinderella story, but the clock figuratively struck midnight sometime around 5 pm on Friday afternoon, as Troy captured their 3rd Class A title in 4 years, 2-0.

Now, it's on to the state tournament for Troy. As for Rafferty, a caller to The Record's Sound Off! line provided some further detail, as published in today's edition. The caller stated that Rafferty threw a full-on temper tantrum after a call went against Troy. He not only bumped the umpire, but chased him as well. This show of uncharacteristic misconduct, despite six seasons of success at Troy, conceivably could, if the school board warrants it, cost Rafferty his job. Apparently, in Rafferty's mind, the umpire might've been favoring the defending champions for whatever reason, and was anything but impartial. The caller felt the need to speak up, especially considering that it took The Record, due to its financial & manpower limitations, a week after the Rafferty incident was first reported by the Albany Times-Union, to finally mention that it happened, and for that, we say, thank you.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Moron TV: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (2003)

Martial arts movies dubbed into English have been popular for years. In 2003, Spike TV joined forces with a Japanese network to create a bizarre game show (?) that makes "kung fu theatre" look like high art.

Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (otherwise known as MXC) aired in primetime and on Sunday afternoons during its 4 year run (2003-7). Most of the footage was taken from the Japanese series, Takeshi's Castle, and was presented as a parody of "reality" competition shows dating all the way back to the 70's. At least one episode was recorded here in the US, at Universal Studios' theme park in Florida, with special guest Tony Hawk.

Anyway, the only reason MXC isn't still on the air may be because they ran out of Japanese footage to dub over and/or declining ratings.

Scope out the first episode. All the female voices are performed by comedienne-actress Mary Scheer (ex-MadTV):



Rating: C-.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Someone show this "evangelist" the New Testament!

"I have a name for my pain."---The Joker (Jack Nicholson), "Batman", 1989.

Give a listen to the mindless ranting of Angela Cummings, who is an evangelist from somewhere in the South (no shock). And I use the word "evangelist" loosely here.



Ms. Cummings has been traveling the country, posting videos of her anti-transgender rants, including an incident at a Target store in Queensbury. She's just lucky she didn't spend any time in jail, but her hateful words will remind you of a certain "church" in the midwest that has similar issues. What she forgets, and this is where her rant fails, is that President Obama will be out of office by this time next year, and the next President could repeal a lot of things that Obama has signed into law. Now, we'll see if she stays in New York long enough to visit Albany, Troy, ......

Forgotten TV: She's The Sheriff (1987)

Here's another series that was part of a syndicated checkerboard block (weeknights) back in 1987.

You're forgiven if you only remember Suzanne Somers' other TV work, aside from Three's Company, as being the pitchwoman for Thighmaster back in the 80's. Ah, but that wasn't all. Somers made her return to series television in She's The Sheriff, which lasted two seasons (1987-9), or one more than most folks might've thought it was worth.

The concept had originally been pitched under a different title, Cass Malloy, to CBS 5 years earlier, but didn't sell. So, after a few tweaks, it finally hit the air as She's The Sheriff. While we had become accustomed to crime dramas fronted by women dating back to the 50's (Decoy), and up to the 70's (Charlie's Angels, Police Woman), I don't think audiences were ready for a distaff version, if you will, of the seminal Andy Griffith Show. To be honest, I'd think this could've still been sold to a network, except for the fact that Company was still in reruns, and viewers identified Somers more as the dim-bulb Chrissy Snow instead of accepting her as a completely different character, in this case widow Hildy Granger, who assumes her late husband's term as sheriff. Hildy has to deal with a resentful, jealous deputy (George Wyner), upset that he'd been passed over for the sheriff's job.

Here's the open:



Today, it probably would air on a network. That's about all I can say. No rating.

High School Baseball: Class A/AA championships, 5/26/16

I've said this before, and it bears repeating. When it comes to high school sports, baseball and softball take a backseat to football & basketball in terms of fan attendance. Part of the reason for this is the fact that most games begin around 4 pm or so, when most parents are still at work.

This was evident on Thursday for the first half of the Championship Week doubleheader at Joe Bruno Stadium. It was supposed to be the climax of three days of doubleheaders, but a rainout on Tuesday scotched those plans, bumping the Class B & BB games to Wednesday, and Class C & D were moved from Wednesday to Saturday. In effect, the lowest classes could stand a little extra support, especially with their teams on the area's biggest baseball stage.

The Class A title game pitted defending champion Queensbury against Scotia-Glenville. The Spartans jumped on Scotia starter Liam Rooney for 3 runs in the first, and Rooney's wildness was his ultimate undoing, as he was removed after 1 2/3 innings, suffering the loss. Queensbury's Aaron Cook was brilliant in contrast, limiting Scotia to just 2 hits while striking out 8 in 6 innings. In the 7th, Cook swapped places with shortstop Brett Rodriguez, who gave up a hit and a walk before getting Mike Borbee to pop out to second baseman Justin Troelstra to end the game, as the Spartans repeated, 6-0. Rodriguez, a kick returner and running back in football, was tackled by catcher Matt (Baked) Zita as the Spartans dogpiled on them in celebration.

But it was the Class AA game that everyone came out to see. The host Tri-City Valleycats decided to test their video board for the season, and, in front of the largest crowd to see a high school game in Section II this season, Shenendehowa ace Ian Anderson didn't disappoint.

Shen, which dropped the 2015 AA title game to Saratoga, sought redemption. Christian Brothers Academy, which beat Shen last month in Clifton Park, sought to spoil the party, and sent Elliott Raimo back out to the mound, five days after a complete game win vs. Guilderland. Raimo & Anderson matched zeroes for the first two innings, and it looked as thought we might be going to extra innings.

In the top of the 3rd, Anderson drilled Raimo in the knee with a fastball, the first of two hit batsmen on the night. Raimo shook it off and stayed in the game, but that might've been a costly decision, as in the home 3rd, Shen struck for 2 runs off Raimo, which was all Anderson would need. With big league scouts looking on, Anderson pitched a complete game, scattering 7 hits while striking out 5. Shen added an insurance run in the 6th to ice it, and claimed the AA title with a 3-0 win. Raimo struck out 7 for the 2nd straight start in the loss.

I still believe that both Raimo & Anderson will go in the MLB 1st Year Entry Draft in 2 weeks. Local fans would like to see Houston take one or both, praying they would be assigned to the Valleycats, whose season starts 8 days after the draft.

Shen will return to The Joe for a state quarterfinal game on June 4, and Anderson will likely be right back on the mound.
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Softball takes center stage today, with title games at Luther Forest Park in Malta. Troy High will play Burnt Hills in the title game. The Flying Horses lost coach George Rafferty for the postseason after he had an incident with an umpire 2 weeks ago vs. Averill Park, but while it was reported in the Albany Times-Union 4 days after the incident, The Record didn't report it until mentioning it in passing in a game report after Troy upset top-seeded South Glens Falls on Tuesday. The hometown paper, hamstrung by financial and manpower limitations, has missed a fair number of stories in local sports in recent years, and it'll remain to be the case until a local concern steps up to the plate to buy the paper from its out-of-state parent, Digital First Media. It's not doing the paper any favors for its readers in print or online if they continue to miss out on stories of interest. As the late Walter Cronkite might put it, that's the way it is.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Musical Interlude: Paint it Black (1966)

To some, the Rolling Stones' 1966 hit, "Paint it Black", might be better known as one of the theme songs to the late 80's Vietnam war drama, Tour of Duty, and thus is one of the Stones' best known songs, hitting #1 in the summer of '66.

The following clip was taken from a DVD release of the British musical variety series, Ready! Steady! Go!.

On The Shelf: A different kind of Scooby-Doo, and other crazy things that could make your brain implode!

This ain't your parents' Scooby-Doo. Not by a long shot.

DC has added a 3rd series featuring the beloved Great Dane, but Scooby Apocalypse is very far removed from the other, kid-friendly Scooby-Doo series. How far? Consider:

Shaggy, Velma, Fred, & Daphne are all grown up, and all have jobs. The predictable couplings are well in place. Daphne hosts a cable show, with Fred as her videographer/sidekick, and she's copped quite the attitude. Unfortunately, said show has fallen on hard times, airing in the wee small ones where it's likely to be DVR'd instead of viewed live if enough people know when it's on. Meanwhile, Velma is now a research scientist, and Shaggy a dog trainer (the backup feature shows how he got the job), at a top secret government facility that isn't what it seems. Scooby? He was a test subject for some sort of secret operation, but deemed a failure.

In the opener, the four discover that Velma's superiors aren't as benevolent as she thought they were. To sum it up, instead of saving the world, the owners of The Complex instead intend to, well, unleash hell, for lack of a better description.

What writers J. Marc DeMatteis and Keith Giffen have concocted is a very non-formulaic science fiction adventure that will be a welcome change from the 45-plus years of the same tired old mysteries. Add artist Howard Porter, who hasn't had anything relevant to do since his run on JLA 20 years ago, and you have a surprisingly entertaining story. I had my reservations at first, but now, I'm all in. I'm hooked.

Rating: A.

Scooby Apocalypse was the 2nd of the 4 Hanna-Barbera books being put out by DC. Future Quest preceded it by a week, and it was, as expected, a scorching hot thrill ride.

DC's resident pop culture geek, Jeff Parker (Batman '66 and its miniseries), has brought together Jonny Quest, Birdman, & Space Ghost, just in the first issue alone, but the final panel, which marks the return of the Phantom of the Spaceways to DC after 13 years, will blow your mind. For the first time, readers will see Birdman out of costume as archeologist-turned-government agent Ray Randall, as we never saw Birdman as Randall in the 1967 series or any comic book adaptations thereof. Artist Evan Shaner was assisted by the incomparable Steve Rude, who drew almost a dozen pages to get the book out on time, it would seem. The late Darwyn Cooke, who passed away days before the first issue hit stores, provided the character designs, keeping with the original concepts by Doug Wildey (Jonny Quest) and Alex Toth (Birdman, Space Ghost, etc.), and it's a shame that Cooke was unable to help with any interior artwork before his passing. He would, however, be very proud of what Parker, Shaner, Rude, et al have accomplished.

Rating: A+.

Meanwhile, DC's latest attempt at cleaning up its universe brings with it some unexpected shocks.

DC Universe Rebirth is an 80 page 1-shot, but for only $3, and worth every penny. Geoff Johns tells the story through the eyes of Wally West, aka Kid Flash. The original version, not the African-American reboot that was introduced in the New 52 and is part of the Flash TV show. Wally's been trapped in the Speed Force since the end of his last book, and his absence from the just concluded Titans Hunt miniseries only resulted in that book's writer, Dan Abnett, having to improvise finding someone to take his place. Digressing. As you're probably aware, the New 52 incarnation of Superman has been laid to rest, replaced by the pre-Flashpoint (1986-2010) version, which means Supes and Lois Lane are husband and wife again, but if you read the Lois & Clark miniseries, you knew that already.

Again, it is the closing pages of this issue that will get people talking. What Johns is also doing is integrating Alan Moore's Watchmen into the DCU proper, and I'm interested in seeing where that goes, for good or bad. Of course, if sales tank, DC will hit the reset button again......in about 2-3 years.

Rating: A.

In answer to Rebirth, knowing they were going to be ripped to shreds online as a result, Marvel decided to play fast and loose with Captain America's history. Again.

By now, you've already read about the shocking final panel of Steve Rogers: Captain America 1. Editor Tom Brevoort is claiming this isn't a gimmick, and that Rogers had been a sleeper agent ever since he was a young boy.

Say what? Bollocks & balderdash!

Brevoort is in a no-win situation here, and so is writer Nick Spencer, who is trying to posit Rogers as a double agent, but for however long this story arc lasts, perhaps no more than 6 months, by my best guess, all Brevoort has done is throw shade on "Captain America: Civil War", which opened three weeks ago to rave reviews, by signing off on this lame grab for attention. It's clear what Marvel wanted to do. They wanted to deflect attention from DC and get cheap publicity.

Do I think that Rogers actually killed Jack Flag? No. You know the old adage. If you don't see a dead body....! This is not the first time Marvel has exploited Cap for cheap publicity, and probably won't be the last, but the timing was just pathetically bad.

As for the story itself, I can see this being a case of false memories being implanted somewhere to throw the enemy off course, and you know the payoff will be about 3-5 issues away. Unless they're really stupid and think this can work in the long haul. It won't. The last time they made a grab for publicity at Cap's expense was when they killed him off pro tempore, and we all know what happened after that. As long as the movies are in the public consciousness, there is no reason---at all---to do a stunt like this, because you're undermining your own company. Considering that there is a sequel to Civil War due soon, well, if brains were made of sandpaper, Marvel's editors would've wasted theirs by now.

Rating: B-.

In August, we know DC's going to promote anything and everything related to Suicide Squad and/or Harley Quinn to the moon and back. One of these cases is Harley's bi-monthly Little Black Book series, which will not only have Harley meet up with Superman, but it will be drawn by the one and only Neal Adams. The plot? How about marking the 40th anniversary of a Limited Collector's Edition 1-shot that paired the Man of Steel with the Greatest boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali, except that this time, Harley's lacing up the gloves for an intergender boxing match with Superman. Why the original story isn't being reprinted to coincide with this issue, I don't know, but this might actually be worth the price of admission.

What Might've Been: The Judy Garland Show (1963)

At the end of her career, Judy Garland, much like some of her contemporaries, including Mickey Rooney & Ray Bolger, landed her own television show. A self-titled variety series that lasted just one season (1963-4) on CBS. I swear, CBS would give Heckle & Jeckle a variety show if they thought they could pull it off. It seems that just about anyone could front a variety show in the 60's and 70's.

Digressing. Sony-owned Get TV has unearthed The Judy Garland Show, running Monday nights at 8 & 11 pm (ET), and introducing a new generation of viewers to a talented singer-actress who most folks would still associate only with "The Wizard of Oz" or "Easter Parade" or "Meet Me In St. Louis". As noted, it lasted just the one season, largely because it was a cookie-cutter variety show of the time. Get TV's ginormous library should make it a prime stop for purveyors of classic television.

I was but an infant when the series first aired, and I don't know if my folks ever watched it. I've seen portions of episodes, but not complete ones yet. Not enough to merit a rating. We'll leave you with this clip, which features one of the first American television appearances of one of Canada's best known exports, impressionist Rich Little......

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Weasel of the Week: Jeff Loria

Loria is the owner of the Miami Marlins, who currently sit in 4th place in the National League East, and while they've shown some progress on the field, it's what's going on off it that nets Loria a set of Weasel ears this week.

Let's just say that as an owner, Loria is more thin-skinned than most of his brethren, to the point of insanity. To date, the Marlins are engaged in litigation with a number of season ticket holders and vendors for various, petty issues. Craig Calcaterra of NBCsports.com offers some insight.....
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Earlier this month we reported that the Miami Marlins had sued a season ticket holder, Mickey Axelband, alleging that he reneged on the second year of a two-year season ticket agreement. Axelband, who had been a season ticket holder with the Marlins since their inaugural season in 1993, claimed that the Marlins reneged first, eliminating amenities which they promised upon the move to Marlins Park and failing to deliver on others.

 In that post we observed that it is uncommon for teams to sue ticket holders. It’s bad form to begin with as season ticket holders are a club’s most valuable and dedicated customers. But it’s also dumb in that there are virtually limitless options available to a club to resolve disputes with ticket holders short of litigation. Why would the Marlins sue in this situation? Maybe there was more to it than we knew? Maybe this was just an extreme outlier of a case?

 Nope. The Miami New Times reports today that this seems to be pretty par for the course for Jeff Loria’s Marlins. The Marlins, in fact, have sued at least nine season ticket holders and luxury suite owners since 2013. They are also locked in litigation with two stadium vendors. The concessionaires claim that the Marlins induced them to pay big rights fees in order to set up business inside Marlins Park by promising big, big crowds, only to fail to deliver on those promises and to see the vendors go out of business or be unable or unwilling to pay what the Marlins demanded.

 The story goes deep on Axelband’s dispute with Miami and that of a pizza vendor. Overall it paints a portrait of a Marlins club which doesn’t seem to give a crap about fans or its business partners, only the bottom line. Unless, of course, it’s trying to pose as a civic institution so it can get tax dollars to pay for its big stadium and rights fees from potential vendors. Now that they have the stadium, however, and now that the ink is dry on those deals, they’re portraying themselves like any other company, entitled to enforce their business deals in any way necessary. And, legally speaking, they are. But they’re certainly approaching things differently than most ball clubs do. And in a way that puts lie to the notion that sports teams should be given any extra leeway when it comes to giving them all of the things they ask for.
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What this says is that Loria is the NL's most clueless owner. Not even the Steinbrenner brothers, who run the Yankees, are this crazy. Do yourself a favor, Loria. Lower your ticket prices, and make the game experience a little more worth the fans' while. Otherwise, they'll be screaming for you to sell the team, just like they chased Wayne Huizenga out of town before you. You've been warned.

On DVD: The Road Warriors: The Life & Death of the Most Dominant Tag-Team in Professional Wrestling (2005)

Professional wrestling, as we know it, began to change with the expansion of cable television in the early 80's. Accustomed as viewers in upstate New York were to the then-World Wrestling Federation, and the all-too-brief International Wrestling Association (IWA), fronted by then-Chicago White Sox owner Eddie Einhorn, the addition of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) on Ted Turner's Superstation WTBS (now simply TBS) on weekends exposed fans to future Hall of Famers such as Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, the Fabulous Freebirds, the Four Horsemen, and the Road Warriors.

Two real-life childhood buds from Chicago, Joseph Laurinatis and Michael Hegstrand reunited in Minneapolis in Eddie Sharkey's wrestling camp, and developed the fearsome personas of Animal & Hawk, the Road Warriors. Originally presented as a pair of leather-clad bikers, the Road Warriors swapped out the leather for face paint, spiked shoulder pads, and traditional tights after winning the first of 5 NWA National Tag Team titles. Their typical television matches were short, brutal, and to the point. They jumped their jobber opponents and disposed of them in about two or three minutes. Soon after, they adopted Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" as their theme song, and the legend would grow.

Manager Paul Ellering, a retired wrestler and bodybuilder, handled the team's affairs outside the ring, too. There was a reason why Ellering carried a copy of the Wall Street Journal, rolled up, to ringside with him for matches. He wanted to make sure his charges were financially secure after their careers were over. And they called Bobby Heenan, "The Brain". What a misnomer. Ellering was the real "Brain" in wrestling. The Warriors moved on to the American Wrestling Association (AWA), and won their tag titles, and the accolades kept piling up. A brutal attack on Dusty Rhodes on TBS in 1988 led to Rhodes' ouster as booker for what would become World Championship Wrestling (WCW), as Rhodes would migrate to the World Wrestling Federation. The Warriors captured the NWA tag titles from the Midnight Express (Stan Lane & Bobby Eaton), who were working as babyfaces (fan favorites) at the time, but the Warriors would eventually turn back face, only to lose the titles to the Varsity Club (Rick Steiner & Mike Rotundo) under dubious circumstances, in 1989.

Eventually, the Warriors moved to the World Wrestling Federation, but now were known by their sub-heading, the Legion of Doom, the stable name that Ellering created for the Warriors, King Kong Bundy, Jake Roberts, and others in Georgia, taken from Challenge of the Super Friends. Oh, sure, Ellering could make Lex Luthor look like a piker, and you could imagine Hawk & Animal subbing for Bizarro & Grodd. I digress. The LOD captured two WWF tag titles (1991, 1997), and would be enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011, eight years after Hawk (Hegstrand) passed away.

The Road Warriors: The Life & Death of the Most Dominant Tag Team in Professional Wrestling, a DVD issued by WWE in 2005, ignores the team's brief stints with the American Wrestling Federation (AWF) and Total Non-stop Action (TNA) Wrestling, and focuses on the glory days of the 80's & 90's. Then again, WWE CEO/Chairman Vince McMahon refuses to acknowledge publicly the existence of TNA, but we won't go into that again here. There are plenty of matches on the 2-disc set, including some of their title victories. Seeing them in their original gear will shock a lot of folks. On some matches, Animal is on color commentary with fellow Hall of Famer Jim Ross, as the original audio was either lost or non-existent.

Here's a trailer:



Rating: B.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What Might've Been: Munroe (1963)

Think of Four Star Productions, and what comes to mind? Westerns, such as The Rifleman or Wanted: Dead or Alive. Crime dramas, such as Burke's Law or The Detectives. Sitcoms? Not so much.

Oh, sure, Four Star had their own stable of comedies, but not a lot of hits. We previously looked at their Smothers Brothers Show, which was a 1 year wonder. In 1963, having already tried a service comedy with Ensign O'Toole, which was Four Star's answer to McHale's Navy, the studio tried an Army comedy with Munroe.

It was meant to be a star vehicle for Guy Marks, a veteran character actor who'd been in a supporting role on The Joey Bishop Show the previous year. However, while Marks was the headline star, he was actually a second banana again. Why? The title character, you see, was a dog.

Munroe was a rebellious service dog who got his masters (Marks & Jan Stine) into all kinds of stereotypical sitcom trouble spots. Unfortunately, the pilot went unsold, but is accessible online, so here it is.



Marks went back to being a supporting player, and his last series of note had him playing a Native American opposite Tim Conway on Rango (1967), and we all know Conway's poor track record as a headliner. Marks could sympathize with him.

Rating: B.

Advertising for Dummies: Verizon jumps the shark (2016)

While Verizon employees are on strike over the telecommunications giant outsourcing jobs overseas, the company is continuing with their lame ad campaign about a "better network".

After a series of spots with British funnyman Ricky Gervais, Verizon recruited 30 Rock cast members Jane Krakowski, Judah Friedlander, and Jack McBrayer for this ad, poking fun at internet streaming issues.



McBrayer has kept busy since 30 Rock signed off, working on an [adult swim] series with Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, and voicing the title character in DisneyXD's Wander Over Yonder.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Rockin' Funnies: Spy Hard (1996)

"Spy Hard" was a parody of spy movies that starred Leslie Nielsen, Andy Griffith, and Nicolette Sheridan, among others. By this point, Nielsen had become typecast as a comic actor specializing in these type of movies. What had been a career saving move 16 years earlier now made it impossible for him to return to his dramatic roots.

The title song is performed by master satirist "Weird" Al Yankovic, and the opening titles parody the James Bond film, "Thunderball", whose title song was recorded by Tom Jones.


The movie itself had cameos from talent as diverse as Mr. T, Dr. Joyce Brothers, "Downtown" Julie Brown, and Hulk Hogan. As I recall, it didn't do well at the box office. Hmmmmm.....

On The Air: Preacher (2016)

The good news for comics fans is that Preacher, based on the Vertigo series created by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon, is the 4th series from DC's mature readers imprint, after Constantine, iZombie, & Lucifer, to be adapted for television. The bad news? It's not being handled by Warner Bros..

Instead, Sony Pictures Television acquired the rights to the series, which launched last night on AMC. After the pilot is encored next weekend, the final nine episodes will begin unspooling on June 5, meaning it'll wrap in plenty of time for the return of Fear The Walking Dead, which is set to return in August after a 2 1/2 month break.

Comedian Seth Rogen, whose latest film, "Neighbors 2", opened on Friday, serves as co-executive producer and co-director, and appears briefly in a short commercial parody of Walt Disney to promote his next film, "Sausage Party", also due in August. Is his take on the mid-90's comic book spot on? Nope.

Oh, there's plenty of splatter to be had in the opener, which begins with a preacher in Africa exploding right in front of his congregation after being possessed by an otherworldly being. Rogen and Evan Goldberg have a little fun with that later on, as a television news report claims that Tom Cruise, the world's biggest supporter of the faux religion Scientology, also explodes. There are a lot of folks who probably are wishing that could actually happen, but.....!

Anyway, the focus of the show is the titular pastor, Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper, ex-Agent Carter), who has returned to Annville, Texas, ostensibly to save the town. His allies are his ex-girlfriend, Tulip O'Hare, and an Irish vampire, Cassidy. And, then, there is a young, disfigured fellow, known in the comics as Arseface after a botched suicide attempt left him with a severe speech impediment. Problem here, though, is that while Arseface, after being introduced in the books as an antagonist for Jesse, is actually the preacher's friend in the opener. Not only that, but it seems the subtitles aren't needed, as you can hear Arseface speak very clearly. He supposedly isn't able to do that in the book, requiring subtitles in the footnotes in every panel he appears in. I should know. I read a few issues. Well, you can't have everything work exactly the way it's supposed to. It never does in Hollywood.

Additionally, and this is for those who read the entire Preacher series, which lasted nearly 5 1/2 years of monthly publication, Tulip is the latest character to be racially flipped from white to African American. Par for the course for Hollywood these days. There aren't that many African Americans of Irish background, so maybe that's the angle that Rogen & Goldberg were using here.

AMC's YouTube channel provides a sneak peek:



How WB let this one slip through their corporate fingers, I'll never know. What I do know is that there is room for improvement. We'll just see how this plays out between now and July 31, which figures to be the night of the season finale.

Rating: B.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Forgotten TV: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh (1963)

Here's another Walt Disney entry, this one based on a series of books that were published between 1915-1944.

The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh had first been released in the United Kingdom at the end of 1963 before airing on Disney's Wonderful World of Color in February 1964. Scottish actor Patrick McGoohan, who had starred in the Disney film, "The Three Lives of Thomasina", earlier in '63, was cast as Dr. Christopher Syn, alias the Scarecrow, a sort-of Robin Hood-esque smuggler who fought against 18th century British tyranny. Scarecrow would be repeated occasionally, and was last seen on Disney Channel in the 90's.

McGoohan would follow up by reviving his 1960 ITC series, Danger Man, this time as a 1 hour drama, which was imported to the US as Secret Agent, and that, in turn, led to the seminal The Prisoner.

I have faint memories of seeing a 70's rerun on The Wonderful World of Disney (NBC & Disney changed the title of their Sunday anthology series sometime in the late 60's), so there won't be a rating. I'd just as soon get my hands on a DVD release.....

Here's a sample of The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh to tie you over 'til next time.

High School Baseball: Section 2 Class AA semi-finals, 5/21/16

It was Semi-finals day in New York's Section 2 for the baseball sectional tournaments on Saturday. 12 games, six venues. Ye scribe was at Joe Bruno Stadium for the Class AA semi-finals, an all-Suburban Council affair that, at the end of the day, might've seemed predictable in the eyes of some observers.

Christian Brothers Academy took on Saratoga in the first game, which had an announced starting time of 4 pm (ET), but actually began 4 minutes early, at 3:56 pm, perhaps in an effort to avoid the prospect of a spring rainstorm. While it did rain, it wasn't until the nightcap, and it didn't last long.

CBA's Elliott Raimo went the distance, giving up 2 runs while striking out 7, and had a couple of hits of his own, as the Brothers eliminated the Blue Sreaks, 5-2. CBA spotted Saratoga a 1-0 first inning lead, but to say that Saratoga starter Cory McArthur was wild would be an understatement. McArthur, in truth, needed a GPS to find the plate. He hit CBA centerfielder Nick Melillo on the first pitch of the game, and by the time he was lifted with 2 out in the 3rd, McArthur had walked 7 and hit Melillo a second time. Danny Coleman moved from third base to the mound and held CBA to 1 run in the final 3 1/3 innings. However, Saratoga just didn't have enough offense to catch up.

The second game saw defending Class AA champion Shenendehowa play Guilderland. The two teams met in Clifton Park on April 13, with Shen winning, 5-4, so it was likely we'd see a similar score. As with the first game, first pitch was moved up by about 4 minutes, and there was a brief rain shower, but not enough to prompt a rain delay.

Ben Anderson, whose brother, Ian, has gotten the attention of pro scouts, started, and went 5 innings. Now, here's something that I didn't know was possible in high school ball. If you've followed the Little League World Series over the years, you know that players can come in and out of the game under special rules. Similarly, Shen infielder Nik Malachowski was lifted for a pinch runner in the home 5th, then was seen jogging to the bullpen. In the top of the 6th, Malachowski took over the pitching. Anderson moved to catcher, with Matt Connors coming out of the game. Also, unlike in the pros, a designated hitter can be used for any position player on the field, not just the pitcher. That gives coaches extra flexibility, strategy that isn't used in the college game. Malachowski pitched the last two innings and struck out 3 to earn the save, as Shen rallied for 2 runs in the 5th and advanced to the title game, 4-3.

And, so, on Thursday, CBA & Shen will meet for the AA title. CBA won when these two teams met on April 20 at Shen, 3-2. Ian Anderson, one would expect, will be on the hill for the Plainsmen. While it was a modest crowd on Saturday, the final should have a bigger crowd, scouts included. The Major League Baseball entry draft comes two weeks later, and it's believed Anderson will be the latest Section 2 athlete to be drafted by a pro team.
==========================================
Courtesy of the Albany Times-Union, here are the scores from the other 5 classes:

CLASS A (both games at Plumeri Complex, Albany):

 Queensbury 7, Amsterdam 2 (Final)
 Scotia 5, Burnt Hills 4 (Final)

 CLASS BB (both games at Ballston Spa HS):

 Schalmont 7, Schuylerville 5 (Final)
 Saratoga Central Catholic 5, Albany Academy 3 (Final)

 CLASS B (both games at Veteran’s Memorial Park, Saratoga):

Coxsackie-Athens 4, Voorheesville 3 (Final)
Hoosic Valley 7, Granville 2 (Final) 

CLASS C (both games at Shuttleworth Park, Amsterdam):

Greenwich 4, Whitehall 3 (Final, 8)
Greenville def. Canajoharie. (Score wasn't published, and I couldn't remember the score announced over the PA at the Joe.)

 CLASS D (both games at East Field, Glens Falls):

Fort Plain 6, Germantown 2 (Final)
Fort Ann 7, OESJ 0 (Final)
=========================================
Troy High's lacrosse season ended with a thud on Saturday, as the Flying Horses dropped a 19-5 decision to Burnt Hills, and finish the season at 5-12. That leaves the softball team as the only Troy spring sports team still playing, and they will play South Glens Falls Tuesday afternoon at Schalmont High School, looking at knocking out the top seed.

Meanwhile, the baseball championships will be at Bruno Stadium Tuesday-Thursday, with games announced for 4 & 7 pm starts. The schedule:

Tuesday: Classes B & BB.
Wednesday: Classes C & D.
Thursday: Classes A & AA.

Bruno Stadium will also host New York State regional play on June 4, which will be the last high school games played at the Joe for 2016.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Musical Interlude: Come Saturday Morning (1969)

The Sandpipers had only one big hit on the charts, and it was nominated for an Academy Award.

"Come Saturday Morning" was heard on the soundtrack to the 1969 Liza Minelli movie, "The Sterile Cuckoo". Today, it still plays from time to time on oldies channels.

Maybe some change will do Troy High some good

As I write, two Troy High spring sports teams are still playing, but as the season winds down, one must consider the prospect of change at the ol' alma mater.

Today, the boys' lacrosse team plays a Class B (don't ask) quarterfinal match on the road at Burnt Hills. The Flying Horses, to my knowledge, have never had a winning season in lacrosse, and the sport has been part of the school's athletic program for some 30-odd years. Started after I graduated. Troy finished the regular season 5-11 after blowing away Averill Park on Tuesday and spoiling the Warriors' Senior Night. I can't say I'm confident of their chances vs. Burnt Hills, though. That's just the way it is.

The baseball team went one-and-done in the Class A sectionals, blowing a 3 run lead in the 6th inning at Scotia on Thursday, allowing the Tartans to advance with a 6-4 win. Troy finishes 6-13 on the season, much worse than last year. In the last two seasons (2015-6) under coach Will Whitty, Troy has gone 17-25. The lone Troy game I witnessed, last month at Joe Bruno Stadium, saw Troy escape after nearly blowing a lead against Colonie. I honestly don't know what the issue is, but the sub-.500 record under Coach Whitty, who succeeded Curtis Nobles (Ballston Spa) a couple of years ago, suggests that, if this was any other school in any other market, there would be a change. That said, if Coach Whitty returns in 2017, if I were him, I'd be looking over my shoulders. Yeah, both of them.

I wrote earlier this week that Troy had "removed" softball coach George Rafferty prior to Friday's 10-2 sectional win over city rival Catholic Central, after Rafferty, in his 6th season at the helm, had an incident with an umpire eight days earlier in a loss to Averill Park. Television aside, because I haven't seen anything on the air on the subject, it seems that the Albany Times-Union has been the only media outlet that reported the story. The Record? Fuhgeddaboutit! Not a word was written there. They can cite "limited resources" until the cows come home, but the hometown paper has missed quite a few stories in recent times.

As Albany Times-Union and Time Warner Cable Sports high school reporter James Allen reminded me earlier this season, it's also up to the schools to report games during the regular season, and not a lot of them do, perhaps feeling a bit of a budget crunch as well, and unable to have the extra manpower in the athletic department, like hiring a sports information director, like the colleges do, to handle such things.

Back to Friday's Class A sectional. Troy had 2 assistant coaches guiding the team in Rafferty's absence. Taking on a "win one for the coach" approach, the Flying Horses spotted Catholic Central an early 1-0 lead, then raced ahead and ran away with the game. Top seeded South Glens Falls is next for Troy, which can't afford to look too far ahead toward a sectional title rematch vs. Averill Park. South High blew away Mohonasen, 16-0. also on Friday, setting up the semifinal match vs. Troy, to be played at Luther Forest Park in Malta.

Since Tuesday, when the news of Rafferty's removal appeared in the Times-Union, there has been no follow-up. I am assuming it's a suspension, but what if Troy decided to pull the plug on Rafferty altogether, citing zero tolerance guidelines? We don't know that for sure. Yet. We've seen that Troy has dealt with the sudden aversity in a positive way, and that could galvanize them toward a 3rd sectional title in 4 years. We'll just have to wait & see.

As a alumnus of Troy High, and a fan, I can't help but think that there are changes in order otherwise, for the lacrosse & baseball teams. The question, though, is when will change come about? I can't speak for the fan base, but I have to believe sooner, rather than later.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Classic TV: Mister Ed (1961)

The Beverly Hillbillies wasn't the only hit to emerge from the Filmways barn in 1961.

Mister Ed was a mid-season replacement that aired first in syndication from January-July of '61 before CBS picked up the series for the fall season, and kept it around for 5 years (1961-6). It can be construed as being derivative of Universal's "Francis the Talking Mule" movie series with Donald O'Connor, which producer Arthur Lubin had worked on and tried to obtain the rights to, but Ed came from a series of books that came around the same time.

Alan Young was cast as Wilbur Post, Ed's owner, and the only one to whom Ed will speak. How Ed (voiced by Allan Lane) was able to talk was never fully explained or realized, but a remake might address that issue, I'm almost certain of that.

After co-star Larry Keating, who doubled as the show's closing announcer, passed away in 1963, the producers worked around it and brought in Jack Albertson, who had made some recurring appearances, as a full-time co-star, continuing in the role of Paul Denton. Sad to say, I have no memory of seeing those episodes.

I became acquainted with Mister Ed via syndicated reruns in the late 60's and early 70's before an all-too-brief cable run on Nick at Nite brought the series back in the 80's. Having seen some of the "Francis" movies, too, I felt the same way about both. Unimpressed.

Following is the episode, "Ed Agrees to Talk". Posted in memory of Alan Young, who passed away today at 96.



Rating: B-.

There's no excuse not to wear a seat belt, despite what these people say (1972)

Today, there are laws requiring the use of seat belts when driving for safety reasons.

If more people paid attention to PSA's back in the day, like this 1972 spot, narrated by Jack Webb (ex-Dragnet), they wouldn't have needed to make it a law, don't you think?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Musical Interlude: Hot Rod Lincoln (1971)

A friend tipped me to the fact that Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen will be in the home district this weekend. I've got other plans, so as a tempting treat for the peeps in the home 'hood, here's Commander Cody's 1971 classic cover of "Hot Rod Lincoln".



Guitarist John Tichy now makes his home in the area, and son Graham has made his mark as well. Father & son occasionally play together, and that would be something to see.

Classic TV: Texas John Slaughter (1958)

You might say that the dramatization of the exploits of real life Texas Ranger Texas John Slaughter were Walt Disney's answer to The Lone Ranger, though the latter series had ended by the time Slaughter was added to Walt Disney Presents in 1958.

Tom Tryon was cast in the title role as Slaughter, who initially turned down the Rangers, but would eventually join their number. Slaughter soldiered on for three seasons (1958-61), and reruns later aired on Disney Channel's Vault Disney late night block.

Tryon turned from acting to writing, retiring from the screen in 1969. One of his books, Harvest Home, was later adapted by Disney into "The Dark Secret of Harvest Home", starring Bette Davis.

Here's the first installment of Texas John Slaughter, with intro by Disney.



No rating.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Classic (?) TV: Singled Out (1995)

It was The Dating Game taken to the nth power. It also can be credited for the eventual development of ABC's twin relationship "reality" shows, The Bachelor & The Bachelorette.

Singled Out launched on MTV in 1995, and of course was played into the ground, airing as much as six days a week. Comic Chris Hardwick, currently the moderator of AMC's Talking Dead as well as hosting @Midnight on Comedy Central, served as host, aided by Jenny McCarthy at first, and when McCarthy was spun off into a solo series, singer-actress Carmen Electra was tapped to take her place. Unfortunately, Singled survived for about 18 months into the Electra era before being cancelled.

The dating pool maxed out at 50 prospective dates, and there were even special celebrity editions, which recalled an era early in the Dating Game's run that saw comedy legends Don Rickles & Groucho Marx make guest appearances.

Here's a sample clip:



Raunchy and annoying all at once. Talk about sensory overload!

Rating: C.

Advertising For Dummies: Please Hammer Don't Hurt the Wall! (2016)

MC Hammer hasn't released an album in years. In order to get his career back in gear, he's doing commercials. Like this one for 3M's Command brand of products for the home.



Now, how about a new album, Hammer?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Musical Interlude: The Wild & The Young (1986)

I'm not much of a heavy metal enthusiast, but "hair metal" was big in the 80's, and amidst all the noise, there were a few choice tracks that were worth the listen.

Quiet Riot offered a picture of a dystopian, Orwellian future with 1986's "The Wild & The Young", which suggested that, well, the government had outlawed rock & roll after 30 years of "rebellion", and that the Parents' Music Resource Center (PMRC), founded in 1985, had "won". Perhaps the catchiest image is that of game show icon Wink Martindale (ex-Tic Tac Dough) as a military dictator, and repeating one line over and over:

"No rock & roll! No rock & roll!"

Must've come as a shock to a lot of parents who were familiar with Martindale from Dough as well as Gambit and other shows.



Thankfully, our world didn't turn out that way......

Sports this 'n' that

The Atlanta Braves haven't been this bad in years, but it's gotten so much so that it was just a matter of when, not if, they were going to cut bait on manager Fredi Gonzalez. Well, the deed was done earlier today, with Atlanta occupying the National League East basement at 9-28. Ever since the team was sold, first to Time Warner, then to a smaller concern, the Braves have gradually reverted to their former status as league doormats, which they were for much of the 80's, save for the 1982 season when they won the NL West and fell to eventual World Series champ St. Louis. With the team leaving Atlanta proper for the suburbs next year, it was understood they wouldn't be in the hunt for the playoffs anyway, but none of this would be happening if they were still owned by Time Warner or some other large conglomerate, don't you think?
==================================
Getting swept by Colorado over the weekend leaves the Mets 1 1/2 games behind Washington in the NL East, as the two teams will begin their first series of the season tonight at Citi Field, marking the return of ex-Met Daniel Murphy to New York for the first time since signing with the Nationals in the off-season as a free agent. All Murphy has done is lead the NL in batting and base hits, but the tabloids are curious about how he'll be received by the Mets fans. Meh.

Considering the Mets were, reportedly, rooked by the umpires in losses on Saturday & Sunday, due largely to the umps' poor judgment and inability to ask their brothers in blue for help when they really need it, the defending NL champs' season-long 4 game losing streak shouldn't be a psychological crutch headed into tonight's game, but it's bound to. The lucky thing for the Mets is, they've still got 4 months plus of baseball to play after this series ends on Thursday. Plenty of time to right the ship. Why they have to sound the Chicken Little alarm is just flat out lame, and a sign of a slow sports news day in NYC.
===================================
Closer to home, high school baseball & softball sectionals begin today. Troy High's teams are as different as night and day in terms of records and seedings.

The softball team finished 11-6 in its first season in the Suburban Council, good for a #4 seed in Class A, and a home game vs. city rival Catholic Central on Friday afternoon. However, the Flying Horses will have to play the game without head coach George Rafferty, who has been "removed" (read: suspended) as coach in the wake of an incident during last Thursday's loss to Averill Park. Rafferty, upset about a call that favored the home-standing, defending Class A champs, bumped a base umpire and, according to an account in the Albany Times Union today, used foul language. In other words, he didn't do anything different from a major league baseball manager in getting ejected. Rafferty, in his 6th season at Troy, led the Flying Horses to back-to-back sectional titles before a quest for a 3-peat was thwarted last year by Averill Park.

On the baseball side, coach Will Whitty's club staggers into the post-season after a 5-4 loss to LaSalle yesterday, capping a 2-week stretch where the Flying Horses had qualified for post-season play. The May 11 game vs. Burnt Hills remains unreported, so we don't know if they were on a significant winning streak leading to the LaSalle game. Troy will open on the road at Scotia, a team they were to play last month, but ended up cancelling due to cold weather. That game was never rescheduled. The Tartans are the #2 seed in Class A, meaning that Troy, seeded 7th, has a hard road to travel if they want to get back to the Class A title game at Joe Bruno Stadium, set for May 26. Though I am a Troy alumnus, I'm also a realist, and I can't see Troy returning to the Joe in 9 days.
====================================
The Capital Region has two women's roller derby teams, and neither the Hellions of Troy nor the Albany All-Stars have faced each other. That's about to change.

The Hellions, who play their home matches in Rotterdam because they can't afford the rents being charged for any rink available in Troy, will meet Albany on June 4, but not at the Washington Avenue Armory, the All-Stars' home. Instead, they're moving down the hill to the cavernous Times Union Center, thinking that'll draw a larger than usual regional crowd for the first-ever meeting of the two teams. While such thinking works for college basketball or hockey (UAlbany-Siena, RPI-Union), I don't see it happening for roller derby. As bad as the acoustics are in the Armory for roller derby, it's bound to be worse at the TUC. The upper tier will likely be tarped off, but this may be a mistake that dooms both franchises. We'll soon see.
====================================
And, as the All-Stars finish their season, the Troy Fighting Irish, the Northeastern Football Alliance champions, open defense of their title on Saturday against the local icons, the Albany Metro Mallers, on the road before the home opener on June 4 vs. Broome County. The Irish played their home games at Lansingburgh High last year, and likely will again this year. Maybe this year I'll take in a game or two or three.......

Monday, May 16, 2016

Musical Interlude: 2 Legit 2 Quit (1991)

These days, MC Hammer is shillin' for 3M (the commercial will be up soon), but 25 years ago, he was at the peak of his powers on the pop & R & B charts.

"2 Legit 2 Quit" was the title tune from his 1991 album, his 3rd, and the first without the "MC" appellation. Hammer premiered the video on MTV's Rockline, making his 2nd appearance on the show that year (he was also the first guest, and presented hostess Martha Quinn with a pair of his signature pajama pants) in September. The video was elaborate and equal parts conceptual and performance, something along the lines of, say for example, Michael Jackson.

The following video clocks in at just over 10 minutes, and features quick cameos by a number of athletes of the day, including:

Jose Canseco and Rickey Henderson (Oakland A's)
Chris Mullin (Golden State Warriors, now the coach at St. John's University).
Lynette Woodard (Harlem Globetrotters)
Deion Sanders, Andre Rison, and Jerry Glanville (Atlanta Falcons)
Jerry Rice & Roger Craig (San Francisco 49ers)
David Robinson (San Antonio Spurs)
Wayne Gretzky (Los Angeles Kings, I believe, at that time; Gretzky would also appear in Nickelback's video for "Rockstar" 16 years later)
Roger Clemens (Boston Red Sox)
Dallas Cowboys & Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders

A longer version of the video also includes Mark & Donnie Wahlberg, Tony Danza, James Belushi, and more.

Cosplay at recess? (2016)

Spending recess on the playground hasn't been this much fun. Ever.

As part of the promotion for "Captain America: Civil War", Target, continuing its ongoing association with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, came up with this nugget of joy......



Y'think the kid actors hired for this ad got comp'd with movie tickets?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

On The Air: The Chronicles of Cisco (2016)

Cisco is, of course, Cisco Ramon, alias Vibe (Carlos Valdes), the geeky tech whiz who coined a lot of the villains' names on The Flash these two seasons. What the CW decided to do, with season 2 of Flash winding down, was give viewers an online miniseries spotlighting Cisco, all alone at STAR Labs. Each chapter runs about 2 minutes or so in length, and offers Valdes the opportunity to demonstrate some comedic range.

Here we go:



The first few seconds you've already seen in teasers airing on The Flash, Arrow, and/or Legends of Tomorrow. Trust me, it gets silly before it's all said and done, and leaves room for a sequel. That's all I can say for right now.

Rating: A.

On the Shelf: Reviewing Free Comic Book Day, part 3

As was the case last time, this was the result of collecting "remainders" from Free Comic Book Day one week ago. Let's scope:

Arcana is home to Stan Lee's newest creations, The Unknowns, which co-writer Chris Wyatt has described, according to Arcana, as a cross between Men in Black and Ben 10, but let's factor in that the multi-racial alien group that comes into play could be derivative of the Starjammers from Marvel's X-Men franchise. The Unknowns, boasting some nice art from Alan Otero, takes a backseat, literally, as the backup feature to Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom, a graphic novel excerpt that purports to imagine the childhood, or a facsimile thereof, of noted author H. P. Lovecraft. Maurice Sendak would be proud. The trick is getting kids to read and be enlightened as well as entertained.

Rating: B.

Sticking with stuff for the kiddo's, Nobrow crams three features into their entry. Hilda leads off, and it looks like a homage to the Golden Age with more panels per page than normal. Akissi is an inner-city comedy adventure that the late Morrie Turner (Wee Pals) would be proud of. Sam Bosma's manga-inspired Fantasy Sports closes the volume, as the last page is the inside back cover. Very old school in approach. Unfortunately, I doubt I'll see anything further of any of these, as local dealers don't order a lot of the smaller indies.

Rating: A.

Action Lab checks in with Susan Beneville's Awake, which looks mighty impressive. Again, you're going to have to order copies by way of Diamond Distributors' monthly Previews catalog (next issue out May 25) to get your local shop to get you a copy. Oni Press offers up Junior Braves of the Apocalypse, described by Horrortalk as "....The Walking Dead for kids!". Yes, there are zombies. Unfortunately, with all the attention given to a certain DC comic book coming at the end of the month, folks may forget Junior Braves, and shouldn't.

Both Junior Braves & Awake merit an A.

Z2's Comics Lab anthology volume showcases six diverse and distinct features, again appealing to all ages. All that can be said here is that there's something for everyone. Boom! Studios' 2016 Summer Blast includes a short story featuring Finn & Jake from Cartoon Network's Adventure Time. However, the artwork loses something in transitioning the characters from the screen to the printed page. The monthly book is doing well, though, so they're getting somewhere, though that might be because CN plays Adventure Time into the ground. Mouse Guard's been around a while, and reminds me of the late Brian Jacques' Redwall books, which were later adapted into a cartoon for PBS. The volume also includes an entry based on Jim Henson's Labyrinth, the popular Lumberjanes, and the debut of Boom!'s newest star in the making, Goldie Vance, who can be best described as a cross between Penny Proud (Disney's Proud Family) and Nancy Drew (yes, Goldie's an African-American detective).

Comics Lab gets an A-.

Boom!'s Summer Blast breaks down thus:

Adventure Time: C.
Labyrinth: B.
The Cloud: B-.
Goldie Vance, Lumberjanes, & Mouse Guard: A.
Overall rating: B.

Black Mask pairs up entries from two entities, Young Terrorists & We Can Never Go Home, aimed at teens & young adults. They look like a couple of projects that were rejected by Vertigo for some reason.

Rating: B--.

Space Goat offers Dark Lily & Friends, the "friends" being Monster Elementary, Mage, Inc., & Rocket Queen & The Wrench. The latter pair are the better entries, but there's some charm to Monster Elementary, too. Just can't get into Dark Lily. Too derivative of other concepts.

Rating: B.

Devil's Due-First welcomed back Mike Baron's Badger, but instead of bringing back original artist Jeff Butler, Baron recruited artist Val Mayerik, who's been around since the 70's. Badger is placed in the ring with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Vince McMahon won't like the outcome, considering one of his heels is supposed to be from Russia..! Squarriors and Mercy Sparx deserve some love.

Rating: B.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

On DVD: Ring Of Honor Year One (2012)

Vince McMahon would like you to believe that WWE is the only wrestling promotion that matters. He couldn't be more wrong, and he's been wrong for the last several years.

Ring of Honor, you can say, rose from the ashes of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), in that the promotion was based in Philadelphia in its infancy. In 2012, to mark their 10th anniversary, Ring of Honor (ROH) released a Year One DVD compilation that collected some of the best matches from 2002, featuring some top shelf talent that eventually found its way into----wait for it----WWE.

Low-Ki, the first ROH champ, spent several months in WWE in 2010 under the name Kaval, and won NXT's second season competition that summer. However, WWE's much maligned creative staff, predictably, misused him, and he eventually left, later returning to TNA for a few months last year. ROH was home to a number of men who'd been trained by eventual WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels, including Michaels' nephew, Michael Shane, and Paul London, who met in a memorable street fight match in September 2002.



If Vince McMahon believes there's no competition for WWE, then why is he signing guys away from ROH like CM Punk (2005-14), Bryan Danielson, another protege of Michaels (2010-16), Tyler Black (now known as Seth Rollins), Claudio Castagnoli (now known simply as Cesaro), and guys like Austin Aries and Samoa Joe, who went to TNA and made their names before returning to ROH briefly over the last year? I should point out that men like Joe, like AJ Styles, Eric Young, and Bobby Roode all were used as enhancement talents more than a decade ago in WWE. Young & Roode would eventually establish themselves in TNA before leaving earlier this year. Joe is the current NXT champ, and should be up with the big club before the year is out.

The DVD gives you an early look at Styles, who came to ROH from WCW, Joe, Low-Ki, London, and Christopher Daniels, among others. The production values weren't that great, and would improve in time. The current weekly television program represents how much ROH has grown.

Rating: A-.

What Might've Been: Man From Atlantis (1977)

NBC thought they had something special to combat ABC's 1-2 punch of Happy Days & Laverne & Shirley. What they had was a passing fad.

Man From Atlantis was introduced in a quartet of made-for-TV movies that aired between March & June of 1977, then moved to a weekly series format in September of that year. Ah, what a difference three months can make for a show, can it?? Certainly.

The plot was simplistic. An amnesiac man with webbed hands & feet washes ashore, uncertain of who he really is. A team of government scientists believes him to be the last survivor of the lost city of Atlantis, hence the show's title. Christened Mark Harris by the scientists, our hero (Patrick Duffy) becomes a special operative for the government, and runs afoul of a mad scientist named Schubert (Victor Buono) and assorted other no-good-niks in the course of the 4 movies and 13 hour-long episodes.

Producer Herbert F. Solow had previously been with Desilu-Paramount and MGM, having had a hand in developing shows like Star Trek, Mannix, Mission: Impossible, Then Came Bronson, & The Courtship of Eddie's Father before launching his own production company, which was part of Taft Entertainment's empire, making it a sister company at that time to Saturday morning giant Hanna-Barbera. Solow co-created Man From Atlantis, but, regrettably, this ended up being his last major television project. Slotted against Happy Days & Laverne & Shirley was a losing battle in and of itself. The movies, if memory serves, had aired on a different night, and network suits, looking for something to put a dent in ABC's ratings, thought they had their Man. Nope.

Never saw the show, so we'll leave you with the intro:

Friday, May 13, 2016

Musical Interlude: We Didn't Start The Fire (1989)

Billy Joel's "Storm Front" CD was released at the end of 1989, and as 1990 began, the first single, "We Didn't Start The Fire" was exploding into heavy airplay on MTV. A lifetime of history lessons spun into musical verse, "Fire" was Joel's---and Columbia's, for that matter---answer to R. E. M.'s "It's The End of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), released a couple of years earlier, and while Michael Stipe attempted to rap, Joel simply mixed together pop culture, political headlines, and other newsmakers spanning over 30 years into 4 1/2 minutes. Scope!


Thursday, May 12, 2016

What Might've Been: Fernwood 2-Night (1977)

The talk show genre was begging to be parodied. Norman Lear was more than willing to oblige. Unfortunately, the idea was short-sighted, and shouldn't have been.

Fernwood 2-Night lasted just 2 months as a summer replacement for Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and was set in the same fictional city as the latter, Fernwood, Ohio. While Hartman satirized soap operas, Fernwood's Barth Gimble (Martin Mull) & Jerry Hubbard (Fred Willard) were clearly modeled after Johnny Carson & Ed McMahon (The Tonight Show), but with a more laid back approach. Frank deVol was cast as bandleader Happy Kyne, fronting the Merry Makers, who were anything but when the camera was on them.

In a way, Fernwood was an extension of Hartman, sharing some of the same characters, including the mayor (Dabney Coleman) and citizens like Sylvia Miller (Fannie Flagg).

I don't have much memory of watching the show or its follow-up, America 2-Night, which ran for 4 months in 1978 after Hartman ended its run. Hence, no rating.

We'll leave you with a sample episode.

On The Shelf: More Free Comic Book Day stuff, and other things

Before we dive into our next batch of Free Comic Book Day entries, a few nuggets of joy.

The CW Network is quickly becoming the "CB", as in, of course, Comic Book, Network with the addition of two more Greg Berlanti entries. Riverdale has been green-lit to series, and Supergirl moves from CBS to CW for its 2nd season, opening up the possibility of another crossover with The Flash, this time with Kara (Melissa Benoist, ex-Glee) returning the favor and paying a call on Barry Allen (Grant Gustin, ex-Glee) and friends in Central City.

However, until the fall lineups are finalized next week, I wouldn't count on Riverdale or Supergirl being on the CW's fall slate, as the network had renewed all of their current shows, including The Flash, Arrow, & Legends of Tomorrow. The limited series, Containment, will wrap its run on July 19, as it will not return for a sequel. Have to believe it lost viewers from Flash whilst occupying iZombie's time slot. Riverdale, plus his duties as producer and occasional writer on Supergirl, explains in a nutshell why Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Archie Comics' creative director and scripter of its twin alternate reality horror books, put Afterlife With Archie & Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on the backburner for several months when it would've made more sense to have another writer (i.e. Mark Waid) pick up the baton to fill-in for the duration of Aguirre-Sacasa's stint in Hollywood.

Speaking of Sabrina, she will enter the "main" Archie Comics continuity in a forthcoming issue of Jughead, out in August, which will be a refreshing relief after what we've seen in the horror line. Also, Josie & The Pussycats will appear in Afterlife #10, also in August, as that series will skip June & July, per advance notices from the publisher. Something tells me Josie, Melody, & Valerie could have a decidedly more, ah, feline look, but that's just me. Also, for those of you not digging the "New Riverdale" books, the "classic" version of Archie and pals still exists in the digest books available at places like Rite-Aid & Walmart
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A week ahead of its launch, DC is previewing their new Hanna-Barbera line in a preview issue out now, headlined, of course, by Scooby Apocalypse, which will be co-written by Keith Giffen & J. Marc DeMatteis, reuniting the team that turned the late 80's Justice League into a comedy act (more Giffen than anything else). From what I can gather, those "meddling kids" are now meddling adults, as they all have jobs, but Scooby isn't exactly as we remember him. The series debuts in 2 weeks, but it's the only one I'm not really warming up to. Just call me late to the party if I decide to jump in.

Back to the FCBD pile we go.......

Science Comics, from First Second Comics, a publisher that has been under the radar for a decade. That would be because they don't publish monthly books. Just graphic novels. Here, they offer samplers of works by writer-artists Maris Wicks & Jon Chad, who interject themselves into the stories, which look like the kind you could probably find in elementary schools. Believe me, I think I could see that happening. Safe, non-toxic, and anything but boring.

Rating: A-.

Actor Greg Grunberg (ex-Heroes, Alias) makes his comics debut with the graphic novel series, Dream Jumper, which comes from Scholastic's Graphix imprint. I think Grunberg and artist Lucas Turnbloom (Imagine THIS) drew inspiration from the "Nightmare on Elm St." movie series, as our juvenile protagonist tries to save his friends from a dream monster. No, it's not Wes Craven crossed with Maurice Sendak, but a little safer on the eyes than that.

Rating: A.

Nickelodeon is well represented. Papercutz holds the licenses for two current animated series, Harvey Beaks & Sanjay & Craig, and puts the two together in a single volume. In a way, I can get some of the internet haterizing over Sanjay, which is a buddy comedy that alternates between bizarre comedy that aims for the sensibilities of the target audience, and parodies of movie trailers that look just flat awesome. Can't really have it both ways. I'm not familiar with either series, and I'll reserve comment on Harvey Beaks for Saturday Morning Archives at a later date.

Rating: B-.

Dark Horse holds the licenses for Plants vs. Zombies & The Legend of Korra, as well as a comics adaptation of Dreamworks' "How To Train Your Dragon" movie series. The three are together in one volume, and Dragon looks like the best of the group, with veteran artist Mark Wheatley at the board. Not at all familiar with the other two.

Rating: B.

Castle star Nathan Fillion and fellow actor Alan Tudyk are among the creators of Automatic Publishing's Spectrum, but the real hook is the nigh-realistic work of artist Sarah Stone. Brilliant, and not too busy, that's all I'll say.

Rating: B.

Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez are back with the return of their seminal series, Love & Rockets, which Fantagraphics will relaunch in July. The FCBD entry is a reprint volume, and if you weren't into the series before in two previous itinerations, I doubt you'd be ready for the new series.

No rating.

March, from Top Shelf, is a autobiographical account of one man's journey as a civil rights activist in the 60's. That man is Alabama congressman John Lewis, and his story is told in three volumes, all of which are excerpted in the FCBD issue. If you can find any of the three graphic novels, get them, because this can be shared by the whole family.

Rating: A.

Rom was introduced to comics fans at Marvel in the 80's, adapting Parker Brothers' first non-game product in recent memory. The Galadorian spaceknight now is part of the Hasbro family, as Hasbro bought out Parker Brothers several years back, and, to the surprise of, well, no one, it seems likely Rom will meet the Transformers at some point should IDW take that initiative after Rom begins a monthly run in July. The Dire Wraiths are much scarier at first glance than the original series, and that should be a selling point all by itself.

Rating: A.

We'll close this edition with two more familiar TV names.

Titan books offers a sample of 4 different itinerations of Doctor Who. Absolutely a must-have for any fan of the long running BBC series.

Rating: A.

Finally, Viz Media brings out Pokemon Pocket Comics, which looks more like an activity book than anything else. Just xerox the pages you want your kids to play with to keep the book in mint condition as best as you're able.

Rating: A.

The conclusion of our review will be on Sunday.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Musical Interlude: Guilty (1986)

Barbra Streisand's "Guilty" was released in 1980, and the title tune was the 2nd single off the album. The first, "Woman in Love", topped the pop charts, and likely also the adult contemporary chart. "Guilty" was one of two duets with Barry Gibb, who wrote or co-wrote every track on the album, in this case, with his brothers, Robin & Maurice.

Here, though, is a live concert performance from 1986, and a rare at the time appearance by Gibb without Robin & Maurice. Today, Barry is the sole remaining Bee Gee, as Robin, Maurice, and younger brother Andy, have all left us.

Classic TV: Davy Crockett (1954)

Here's another piece of the anthology series, Disneyland, and, perhaps, its most famous.

Davy Crockett appeared in three episodes in the first season, in what Walt Disney himself would describe as a trilogy. Fess Parker starred as Crockett, with Buddy Ebsen as George Russel.

Even though there were five episodes in all---the last two take place presumably before "Davy Crockett at the Alamo"---, Crockett was enough of a hit to warrant merchandising, such as replica coonskin caps, trading cards, and comic books. Parker even recorded his own version of the theme song, "The Ballad of Davy Crockett", most commonly associated with actor-singer Bill Hayes (Days of Our Lives).

I barely remember seeing reruns airing on The Wonderful World of Disney as a youth, and at one point in that same period, I acquired a bio on Davy that was later donated to a local church after I moved to my current abode. Early on in the following video, you'll see a proverb made famous by Crockett that I've taken to heart over the years:

"Be sure you're right---then go ahead!"

Crockett served as a Congressman from his native Tennessee before the fateful battle at the Alamo. Following is the first portion of that episode, with guest star Hans Conreid as the gambler known simply as Thimblerig, so named for the game he plays, which happens to be a variant on the more well known three card monte.



In the 60's, Parker would bring another famous frontiersman to life. Daniel Boone, however, lasted much longer than Davy Crockett did, and found its way into syndication, unlike Crockett.

Rating: A.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Sometimes, even Superman needs saving (1998)

Jerry Seinfeld channeled his inner geek in this commercial for American Express in 1998, back when Seinfeld had plenty of hair.

It ain't exactly Metropolis, but rather, New York, where Seinfeld is strolling with no less than Superman (voice of Patrick Warburton), though we question why they didn't call in Teri Hatcher (ex-Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) to reprise as Lois Lane for this bit.



I don't think Seinfeld intended to embarrass his idol like that, but this does leave Superman feeling, as a certain student of his might put it, spacey.

On The Shelf: Free Comic Book Day 2016 reviewed, part 1

If there is one thing I've learned the last couple of years, it's the fact that if you don't get the freebies you really wanted on Free Comic Book Day, chances are pretty good your local dealer will have remainders the next day.

And when it comes to remainders, people, all bets are off. No restrictions on how many books you can take, unlike on FCBD itself.

Here are some of this year's entries. I loaded up on remainders on Sunday, and haven't finished reading them all.......

DC reissued the first issue of their 2011 Suicide Squad relaunch to warm up fans for the feature film due in August. When DC first revived the concept of the Squad in the 80's (its history dates back to the 60's when it was known simply as Task Force X), I had the complete set. The idea is the same as the previous series, as DC sees the Squad and the Secret Six as their answers to Marvel's Thunderbolts, with villains being used to fight even badder guys. DC needlessly revamped Harley Quinn, forcing the fan favorite to swap her harlequin bodysuit for rouge white skin (like you know who) and a tendency to have her dialogue lapse into virtual Brooklynese. While Margot Robbie will play Harley in the movie, the way Harley talks sometimes in the books sounds like the writers were wishing for someone else. Just can't figure out who.

I may be, ah, persuaded to invest in trade paperbacks during the summer to get up to speed.

For the post-Barbie set, there's DC Super Hero Girls, the animated version of which was discussed over at Saturday Morning Archives not long ago. This free volume sets up a graphic novel, "Finals Crisis", a clever play on a certain miniseries of a few years back, and due next month.

Marvel, meanwhile, previews Civil War II, their big summer event, cashing in on the obvious box office returns on "Captain America: Civil War". Also, there will be two Caps running around, as Steve Rogers reclaims the mantle once more in a new series by Nick Spencer & Jesus Saiz. Something tells me Sam Wilson's book will be history ere long, and that's unfortunate, since it's a backwards step for Marvel in their quest to diversify their universe of characters. They went to the idea of giving Wilson, aka the Falcon, the Captain America ID and the shield, and now they're playing indian giver. Too many haters in the house, it seems.

Image serves up Steve Seagle's latest, a kid friendly opus entitled, Camp Midnight. Bear in mind that Seagle is one of the geniuses behind the Man of Action stable that created Ben 10 and are tasked with the dreck that is Ultimate Spider-Man. The latter series may have been a warm up for Seagle, as he's working the horror comedy room this time.

Martial arts legend Bruce Lee left us more than 40 years ago. Daughter Shannon realizes there's an audience that wishes he was still around, and so Shannon, together with television producer-turned-comics writer Jeff Kline (he worked for Sony's animation division in the 90's on Men in Black, Jackie Chan Adventures, Jumanji, and others), crafted Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises, which purports to posit an amnesiac Bruce in the 21st century. I get that Bruce is treated in much the same way as another icon who left us in the 70's, Elvis Presley, but this is just wack. Two issues are already out, and the first was reissued for FCBD. I'm on the fence on this one.

Speaking of icons, the Pink Panther is back, this time at American Mythology Comics, the same folks who obtained a license for The Three Stooges. Format's the same. New material, coupled with a reprint, only in this case, I'm scratching my head trying to remember who had a license, besides Harvey, to publish the Panther's adventures in the 90's. The difference, though, is that this time, the Panther, in his new stories, has a rebus puzzle or somesuch in his word balloons, as they want to emphasize that he can't talk, which was where the older comics from the 60's through the 90's went wrong.

Dynamite Entertainment holds the license to Fox's Bob's Burgers, but, to me, the comics version is lacking something, and the FCBD entry proves this out. What is it lacking? Real humor.

Grant Morrison returns with a new project for Graphic India. Avatarex: Destroyer of Darkness is written as if Morrison is using Jack Kirby's seminal Fourth World books as a template. Looks also like a follow-up or spin-off from his current 18 Days opus.

Finally, Bongo's annual Simpsons-centric Free-For-All gets in on the superhero satire as Homer & Bart become father & son crimestoppers in a plot worthy of not so much Batman, but rather some of its knockoffs, like, for example, Mr. Terrific. Where was Radioactive Man when you really needed him?

As for new stuff already out, Marvel is revisiting a classic rivalry from the 80's by pairing Daredevil with The Punisher, and, yeah, this is another cash-in job, this one off Punisher joining the cast of the Netflix Daredevil series, and already ticketed for his own spin-off. Well, three movies didn't quite capture Frank Castle the way Marvel hoped. I just started viewing Season 2 of Daredevil, but unlike most fans, I don't binge. My brain would hurt for a week if I did.

Anyway, A Russian baddie is being sent off to Texas, but escapes, no thanks to the fact that he's on Punisher's hit list. That pisses off DD, who has a new sidekick that hopefully we won't see on TV. Charles Soule writes. Punisher also has his own book needlessly rebooted to #1, and the plotline there is not as good, which is why I didn't buy.

Daredevil-Punisher gets a B+.
Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises merits a B.
Bongo Free-For-All, Pink Panther, & DC Super Hero Girls each merit an A.
Civil War II, Steve Rogers: Captain America, Camp Midnight, & Avatarex each merit a B-.

We'll reserve judgment on Suicide Squad for now. More reviews later this week.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Musical Interlude: Face The Face (1985)

We've heard of rock operas. The Who, for example, recorded "Quadrophenia" & "Tommy" in this fashion. Guitarist Pete Townshend took the idea one step further in 1985.

"White City-A Novel", released in November '85, was a semi-autobiographical tale of the neighborhood where Townshend grew up. Here in the states, two singles were released off the album, gaining some airplay on MTV. "Face The Face" came first, and it's like a time warp, as Townshend is conducting the band like an orchestra leader. Daughter Emma joins him on vocals. Not seen in your picture is another guitar icon, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour.



"Face" reached the top 30 here, and no further, which is a shame, as Townshend was putting some of the previous decade's lesser disco hits to shame with the bouncy retro-beats. Totally awesome.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

In Theatres: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Abut a decade or so ago, Marvel Comics came up with a "event" miniseries, Civil War, which fractured the Avengers and pitted hero against hero. Unlike the movie that's out now, this started over a relatively smaller domestic incident, not an international one.

But a minor skirmish that gets out of hand in New Jersey or somewhere ain't going to sell tickets at the box office, no matter how you dress it up. Have to confess I wasn't reading a lot of comics at the time---I was mostly a DC guy, and still am---so I wasn't really up to speed on things. What I do know is that Marvel decided to kill off Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, pro tempore, for the sake of a few cheap mainstream media headlines. Disney hasn't exactly curtailed the practice of tabloid baiting since buying the publisher in 2009, but that's neither here nor there.

Anyway, "Captain America: Civil War" should've bore the Avengers label instead, since it really is about the team and not just Cap (Chris Evans). It begins with a flashback to 1991 and Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), on what amounts to a routine mission. Turns out it's more than just routine, and has a little to do with what is going on 25 years later. A battle in last year's "Age of Ultron" has ramnifications involving an old foe of Cap's, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), who seeks to avenge the death of his wife and children by projecting his anger toward the Avengers.

Meanwhile, Wakandan King T'Chaka is speaking in Vienna at a conference where over 100 countries are ratifying a pact that would leave the Avengers beholden to the UN. T'Chaka is assassinated, and it appears as though Barnes was responsible. That sets T'Chaka's son, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) off on a quest for vengeance as the Black Panther. T'Challa is now the King of Wakanda himself as a result of his father's passing, and, as comics fans know, he was an Avenger himself. Little does T'Challa know, nor do the Avengers, of how they're being used......!

Unfortunately, as "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" introduced the other members of the Justice League when that film opened six weeks ago, "Civil War" stops the action so the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be introduced to Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) pays a visit to teen science whiz Peter Parker and a very youthful looking Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Tony just has to rein himself in and not try to flirt with May while conducting business with Peter. Just as unfortunate is the fact that while we get the chatty-in-battle Spidey we know from more than 50 years of comics, he's a little too talkative for his own good in both identities, kind of like the current, insufferable Ultimate Spider-Man series on Disney XD. Holland is a better fit in the role, though, than ex-Nickelodeon star Drake Bell, who voices Peter in the cartoons.

Here's the trailer:



And also on the way:

"X-Men: Apocalypse" (May 27): Bryan Singer returns to helm this latest X-adventure, which has the team being led by Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). I've definitely got to catch up....!

"Central Intelligence": Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson ain't exactly Chris Tucker & Jackie Chan,  but this buddy comedy ain't exactly the 2nd coming of "Rush Hour", either (and the TV version of that film series was a bomb, from what I hear).

"The Secret Life of Pets": Hart is also in this one, along with Louis CK and Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family). Thought they did this one already.

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Out of the Shadows" (June 10): Fresh trailer. In case you didn't know, Stephen Amell (Arrow) joins the cast as Casey Jones.

"The Shallows": Just another horror movie from outta nowhere, this one about a woman stranded in the ocean, surrounded by sharks.

"Doctor Strange" (November): Benedict Cumberbatch is Dr. Stephen Strange, physician-turned-sorcerer supreme. Tilda Swinton ("The Chronicles of Narnia") is getting hated on for playing the Ancient One, and Marvel is trying to explain that one away as best as able.

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" (December): Just in time to buy more Star Wars toys for Christmas.

"Civil War" gets a B+.

Good thing the season's almost over at Troy High.........

I really hate to take issues with my alma mater, but in this case, I have to.

In the hometown, we all knew going into the start of the school year in September that Troy High's 1st season as a member of the Suburban Council was going to be rough. Because there are no leagues in football, but rather, classifications (AA, A, etc.), Troy rolled through the Class A schedule, before losing the Class A title game to Amsterdam, and was rewarded by being elevated to Class AA for the 2016 season. Oh, and as noted before, the home opener on Labor Day weekend has Shenendehowa coming to town. That'll almost ensure a near sellout at Picken Memorial Field, and if it doesn't, a rivalry game vs. LaSalle two weeks later certainly could.

However, in the confines of the Suburban Council, merely the toughest league in Section II, things have been radically different.

The men's & women's basketball teams were the only winter sports teams to finish over .500, and the boys took home a Section II title along the way. The lack of communication between the member schools of the Council, Troy & Shen included, and local press leaves us wondering about Troy's overall records in swimming, bowling, golf, tennis, & track, although you can imagine, as I do, that all in all five sports, Troy is under .500. It's kind of like being an expansion team in a new league. That's just the way it is.

The school's soccer teams qualified for sectionals despite sub-.500 records, and didn't hang around very long, as both teams, men's & women's, were eliminated in the 2nd round. With a week to go in the baseball & softball seasons, and 2 weeks left in lacrosse, only the softball team, at 8-5, is over .500. The baseball team qualified for sectionals despite a 4-10 record, much worse than last year, this after losing to Bethlehem yesterday. Lacrosse? Fuhgeddaboutit. Troy is on a six game losing streak headed into today's non-league match vs. Amsterdam, and 3-10 overall. Lacrosse was added to the athletic program after I graduated, so all I can suggest is renting the 2011 movie, "Broken Arrows", starring and co-produced by Brandon Routh (currently on Legends of Tomorrow), for a crash course.

Speaking of LaSalle, Troy had a non-league baseball game scheduled with the Cadets on April 9, but it was postponed, even though there was no rain that day, but the cold weather, and perhaps a Chicken Little forecast suggesting precipitation, prompted the athletic directors at both schools to call the game off. They moved it to May 5, but it was bumped again due to a Troy scheduling conflict, as a Suburban Council game vs. Guilderland, originally set for May 4, was bumped to May 5 due to rain (Guilderland won, 9-1, on Thursday). They wanted to try again today, but it was LaSalle's turn to bump due to league conflicts, as a Colonial Council game vs. Watervliet was moved to today. They wanted to move it to Monday, May 9, but Troy has a Suburban Council game vs. Mohonasen that day. Oooops! Here's an idea, guys. Next Saturday, May 14, is available.

And therein lies the crux of this commentary. The tight Suburban Council schedule leaves Troy very little room for non-league games. One such match vs. Voorheesville, scheduled for April 26, was rained out, and hasn't been rescheduled. The quirky, unpredictable spring weather patterns in the Northeast don't help matters at all. The only time, it seems, that Section II schedules games on Sundays is during sectional play, usually in basketball. It wouldn't hurt for the scheduling committee to consider some flexibility in scheduling in 2017 and beyond to give the teams some additional room for games. It's just a question of whether or not they're willing to even try.

Do I have any confidence that Troy baseball will make another run to the Class A title game at Bruno Stadium? Not a lot, actually. What I saw at the Joe two weeks ago vs. Colonie illustrated what has been wrong for the Flying Horses ever since coach Curtis Nobles left Troy for Ballston Spa. Troy has had trouble finishing games, and escaped with a win in the drizzle after the Garnet Raiders nearly completed a comeback. When the sectional pairings are announced in about 10 days, we'll see how much of a chance Troy really has. There's a better chance of the softball team getting to the title game and a prospective rematch with Averill Park, even though the two teams will close the season on May 13. Lacrosse? Let me repeat myself. Fuhgeddaboutit. If they make sectionals, it'd be a surprise.