Friday, November 15, 2013

Pop culture roundup: Miyazaki! Bettie Page! Doctor Who: An Adventure in Space and Time! More!

The great anime director Hayao Miyazaki says he's retiring from film, but that doesn't mean we won't be seeing more of his art.
Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki appeared on Japanese television show Sekai-ichi Uketai Jugyo, where he was asked about Miyazaki’s plans now that he’s done with directing feature films. The answer was surprising: ”I think he will serialize a manga. From the beginning, he likes drawing about his favorite things. That’s his stress relief.”
Asked if Miyazaki likes “sengoku jidai no chanbara,” or samurai tales set in Japan’s Sengoku period, he said “That’s what he’s drawing now.”
...This wouldn’t be the first manga from the director, who also wrote and drew NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind, which became his second film, and the stories that led to the films Porco Rosso and The Wind Rises.


Here's a trailer for a new documentary about pin-up queen Bettie Page, narrated by the late Page herself.


And here's a trailer for the new BBC docu-drama focused on the creation of "Doctor Who" back in 1963, "An Adventure in Space and Time."


British composer Sir John Tavener, once signed to the Beatles' Apple Records Company, passed away earlier this week.
In 1967 he fell into the Beatles’ orbit when his brother, Roger, who was undertaking some building work at Ringo Starr’s Highgate home, played the drummer a cassette of The Whale.
A dramatic cantata in eight sections, it was loosely based on the biblical story of Jonah And The Whale and intrigued Starr enough for him to play the piece to John Lennon. The pair subsequently decided that they wanted to sign Tavener to the band’s Apple label and Ringo attended the recording session for the album, participating in the shouting on the second piece, Melodrama And Pantomime.

Fab Friday: Vintage Beatles pics

In the studio.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Video: Paul McGann features in Doctor Who "mini-sode" "Night of the Doctor"

McGann is back as the eighth Doctor in this online adventure:

Review: Thor - The Dark World

The previous Thor film was my favorite of the Marvel Comics films to date. There was a lot of heart and humor to it. And Chris Hemsworth's approach to playing the Thunder God works so well: He's brash, yet thoughtful; funny, yet menacing.

He's a guy with the power and family connections (his father, Odin, is the top Norse god) to have anything he'd like. Yet, he falls in love with a mere mortal and can't help continually, and wrongly, providing his evil brother, Loki, with the benefit of the doubt.

All Marvel superheroes have a weakness. Thor's is that he's a nice guy.

As I said, Hemsworth makes Thor fun to watch. You're constantly awaiting to see how he'll respond to different situations. Will he smack someone with his hammer, or will his more human side win out? Thor is constantly debating whether he should act as a dispassionate god, or as a caring human being.

Unlike the first film, which was set mainly right here on planet Earth, the "Dark World" takes place primarily in the godly city of Asgard. That means a whole lot of CGI (although the resulting blend of fantasy and sci-fi is pretty impressive) and a lot more focus on Thor's family.

Sir Anthony Hopkins is the cranky Odin. Renee Russo plays Thor's sympathetic, yet tough, mom Frigga and Tom Hiddleston is back as the devious Loki. Jaime Alexander also has a bigger part this time out, as Sif, the Asgardian Amazon who's in love with Thor.

The first film's amusing Earth-bound supporting cast is back, too, with Kat Dennings providing comic relief as best pal to Thor's love interest Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman, who also has a much bigger role in this film. This is the best performance I've seen by Portman, who is lively and funny in the film. Oftentimes, she comes across on screen as stilted and remote. Maybe it's because she's given more to do than just stand around and make goo-goo eyes at Thor, although she does that a fair amount here, too.

I'd forgotten that former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston was in the film and I didn't recognize him under all the makeup as the villain of the piece, Malekith. He's suitably menacing, but the whole plot of his scheme to tap a source of  immense cosmic power and essentially wipe out everything in  existence is pretty much beside the point.

This film is about Thor, sometimes humorously, sometimes poignantly, dealing with his family and deciding his ultimate path in life. And, for that reason, even though the main character is a god, it's a very human film.

I enjoyed it more than the third "Iron Man" film, which made me think that Marvel had lost its footing after "The Avengers." "The Dark World" demonstrates that a solo hero can still sustain his own franchise. I'd certainly see a third Thor film and the new Captain America flick looks promising, too.

Watch out for a fun cameo about mid-way through and stay until the very, very end of the credits.