Embracing the Melodrama Part II #62: Time After Time (dir by Nicholas Meyer)

TimeAfterTime79So, I just gave the 1979 film Home Before Midnight a fairly negative review but I simply cannot end the 70s section of Embracing the Melodrama on such a negative note!  So, before we move on to the 80s, allow me to suggest another film from 1979 that you could watch while you’re not watching Home Before Midnight!

Time After Time opens in London.  The year is 1893.  Writer H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) is having a dinner party so that he can show off his latest invention, a time machine.  Among his guests is a surgeon named John Stevenson (David Warner).  What nobody at the party suspects is that Stevenson also goes by the name Jack the Ripper and that he enjoys killing prostitutes.  When a detective from Scotland Yard shows up at Wells’s home, Stevenson jumps into the time machine and escapes into the future.  Since Stevenson does not have the “non-return key,” the machine returns back to 1893 but Stevenson has apparently escaped.

Wells uses the machine to pursue Stevenson and soon finds himself in 1979 San Francisco.  Wells had expected to find that the future would be a utopia but instead, he discovers the world of 1979 is loud, polluted, violent, angry, and dangerous.  (Kinda like the world of 2015…)  As Wells pursues Stevenson, he struggles to adjust to the world of the “future,” and he also meets a bank clerk, Amy Robbins (Mary Steenburgen).

Time After Time is probably the sweetest movie ever made about Jack the Ripper and that’s largely because of the romance between both Wells and Amy and the two actors who played them.  After watching Time After Time, I was not surprised to learn that McDowell and Steenburgen got married shortly after appearing in this film.  They were so incredibly sweet together!

Add to that, considering the he’s best known for playing villains and other menacing types, it’s interesting to see Malcolm McDowell plays such a gentle and nice character.  Wells’ befuddlement is charming to watch.  There’s a great scene where Amy calls Wells on a landline phone and Wells stares down at the receiver in frightened amazement.

Time After Time is a really good and likable movie.  It’s sweet and it proves that even hunting for Jack the Ripper can be a romantic experience if it’s done with the right person.  Watch it and enjoy!

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #61: Home Before Midnight (dir by Pete Walker)

-Home_Before_Midnight-_DVD_coverIf there’s any director who deserves to be rediscovered and be given a critical reevaluation, it’s … well, I was going to say that it’s Pete Walker but honestly, I’ve only seen a handful of Walker’s films.  And really, my admiration of Walker as a filmmaker is largely due to one film, 1974’s Frightmare.  So, I’ll just say that, based on Frightmare, Walker might deserve a critical reevaluation.

Unfortunately, I’m not reviewing Frightmare right now.  Instead, I’m taking a quick look at another Pete Walker film, 1979’s Home Before Midnight.

It’s going to be a quick look because there’s really not that much to say about Home Before Midnight.  The film opens with two 14 year-old girls hitchhiking.  Carol (Debbie Linden) is blonde and wild.  Ginny (Alison Elliott) is brunette and responsible.  They end up getting picked up by a truck driver who quickly decides that he’d rather just give a ride to Carol.  So, Carol and the driver drive off together and Ginny ends up alone and, once again, hitchhiking.  Eventually, Ginny is picked up by Mike (James Aubrey), a songwriter in his 30s.

Not realizing that Ginny is only 14 years old, Mike takes her back to his flat and they have sex.  Afterward, Mike discovers just how young Ginny is and tells her that they can be friends but that they can’t have sex because it’s illegal.  Ginny agrees.

And then Mike and Ginny end up having sex again anyway…

Anyway, as you can probably guess, things don’t go well as far as Mike and Ginny’s “romance” is concerned.  Though Ginny swears to her parents that she and Mike are just friends, her parents see Mike being interview on television, along with an unlikely rock star named Nick (Chris Jagger, far less charismatic brother of Mick).  When Mike is asked if he has a girlfriend, Nick announces that not only does Mike have a girl but her name is Ginny.  Soon, Ginny is moving on to boys her own age and Mike is on trial.

As someone whose first “serious” boyfriend was 9 years older than her and who has always appreciated a certain maturity in men, there were a few bits of Home Before Midnight to which I could relate.  Occasionally, the first part of the film even captures the excitement of having a secret and forbidden love.

But ultimately, the film just fails.  To put it lightly, Home Before Midnight is no An Education.  Instead, it’s a painfully boring film, one that pretends to examine a serious issue but then doesn’t even play fair.  We’re told that Ginny is 14 but the actress playing her was 20 and looked and acted like she was close to 30.  As well, about 90 minutes into the film, Ginny’s personality is totally changed, the better to portray Mike as somehow being a victim.  The film makes so many excuses for Mike and the camera spends so much time lingering on Ginny’s frequent naked body (and remember, Ginny is being played by a 20 year-old but is only supposed to be 14) that it actually becomes creepy to watch.

Ultimately, the most interesting thing about Home Before Midnight is the fact that it features Mick Jagger’s younger brother, Chris, in a supporting role.  Chris Jagger looks close enough to Mick that you would guess that they were related.  But Chris has absolutely none of Mick’s charisma and it’s actually funny to hear Chris continually being described as being one of the biggest stars in the world.  Chris Jagger makes Justin Bieber look like Adam Levine.

If you still want to see this boring and creepy movie, it’s currently available on Netflix.  However, I would suggest that your time would be better spent watching any other Pete Walker film.

Happy 100th Birthday, George Orson Welles!

Orson+Welles+Early+CareerToday is the 100th birthday of the great filmmaker and showman Orson Welles!  And what better way to celebrate than listening to the famous 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds?  Reportedly, this caused mass panic when it was originally aired as people tuned in late and were convinced that the Earth actually had been invaded by Martians!

(Like Martians would want this dump!  Seriously….)

Enjoy and join us all in wishing Orson Welles a happy 100th!

“Secret Wars” Is Staggeringly Stupid — Say That Five Times In A Row Really Fast


As my review of DC’s Convergence a few weeks back clearly gave away, I’m not much of a fan of these company-wide “blockbuster” crossover events in comics. I mean, seriously, what’s to like? The main titles are invariably a bunch of useless fight sequences strung together under the flimsiest of pretexts; the tie-in books either have almost nothing to do with said main title or else tie into it too much; the cover prices for everything are jacked up by a buck or two; and in the end, the status quo that we promised would be “forever changed” either isn’t at all, or ends up being pretty much like the old within the space of a few months.

In short, they’re a hustle any way you look at it.

People are wise to this by now, of course, which is why both Marvel and DC have promised that their latest cash-grabs really will shake things up in a fundamental way, and in Marvel’s case they’ve even pretty much given away how the just-released-today Secret Wars is going to end : the so-called 616 and Ultimate Universes will be no more, consolidated down into one, single, “new” universe (except they’re not calling it the “New Universe” because they’ve had bad luck with that name already).

So — the only reason to read Secret Wars (which, by the way, has nothing to do with the original cross-over series of that name and frankly doesn’t even make any logical sense because events in this series are hardly “secret” in the least) is to see exactly how they go about the business of universal consolidation. If that grabs your fancy, then by all means, shell out $4.99 for this over-sized first issue, and $3.99 for each subsequent issue, and knock yourself out. If you think you might have better things to do with your time and money, though, heed my warning and simply stay away.


For the discerning sucker with more money than sense, Marvel has offered up no fewer than 11 different covers for this extravaganza (I’ve included Alex Ross’ main painted cover, and the coolest of the bunch, John Tyler Christopher’s “toy variant,” with this review), and rest assured, once you open the book up, the feeling of “this is some big, momentous shit” will be shoved down your throat from the word “go.” I have no real problem with the intro page that Marvel puts in most of their monthly books, and a “title page” here and there doesn’t bother me, but Secret Wars #1 contains no fewer than seven more or less wasted pages — an “intro” page, a double-page title spread, a “cast of characters” page, an “in memoriam” page marking the passing of the 616 and Ultimate Universes at the end, and two all-black splash pages designed to signify said mutual ending right before the “in memoriam” page. I mentioned before that this was an “over-sized” first issue, and now you know why : when you subtract all that nonsense, plus the cover art reproduction page, plus the full-page “next issue” blurb, plus the six-page “free” preview of Uncanny Inhumans #0, essentially what you’ve got left is a standard-sized comic book. That you just paid a buck extra for.

I could forgive all of that, though, if the standard-sized-comic-hiding-inside-a-bigger-one was actually any good. Unfortunately, Secret Wars #1 isn’t.

SCWARS2015001_int3-1 (1)


Which isn’t meant as a knock of any sort on artist Esad Ribic — his work here may not rise to the level of prior efforts like Thor & Loki : Blood Brothers, but, as you can see, it’s still pretty good. Ive Svorcina employs a solid and effective color palette, as well, so all in all, you’ve gotta say that the book looks pretty good — unfortunately, the story is pure, unmitigated crap.

Apparently this “arc” actually got started some time ago in  Secret Wars writer Jonathan Hickman’s various Avengers books, so if you haven’t read those, you’re going to be lost from the outset here, with no quarter given by either Marvel editorial or the creators to help bring you up to speed. I know Hickman loves his so-called “design pages” — especially in his Image books — but in all the wasted space in this issue, they couldn’t be bothered to include so much as a single “our story thus far —” paragraph? Please.

Bad form, to be sure, but it’s bad form in service, as you’d expect, to the almighty dollar — you see, Marvel have just released a trade paperback collection of all that Secret Wars prelude shit that they want you to spend $29.99 on.

The bulk of the “action” here is just a bunch of big-city disaster sequences and some half-baked plan launched by the 616 Reed Richards and Black Panther to save the “scientific elite” while the grunts from both their universe and the Ultimate one literally fight to the death during something less-than-ominously titled an “incursion” (which apparently involves both universes trying to co-exist on the same — I dunno, dimensional plane or something) to decide which version of reality will win out and which will be completely fucking remorselessly slaughtered. Damn, I knew Reed and T’Challa were 1%ers, but this is some seriously cold-blooded shit even for that crowd.

Let’s just fast-forward to the end, shall we?  The Richards/Panther plan doesn’t work, Cyclops unleashes the “Phoenix Force” at the same time the scheme falls short, and then — total darkness. But we know it’s not over because we know there are seven issues left to go, plus a boatload of tie-in books like Secret Wars : BattleworldSecret Wars Journal, and, just to drive home the point that Marvel has no original ideas left whatsoever, re-makes of Infinity GauntletCivil War, and Old Man Logan that are all gonna dove-tail in with this mess, as well. Thanks for the five bucks, see you back at the comic shop next week for even more!


On a purely economic level, of course, this all makes a mercenary kind of sense — most of these titles will sell, and the main Secret Wars book will sell a ton. But creatively, none of this can be justified in the least. The “reality vs. reality” premise is virtually indistinguishable from DC’s already-running (and equally lousy) Convergence, Hickman’s script is a dour, humorless, senseless cluster-fuck, and nobody makes anything happen at all in this first issue — everything just happens to them. Plus, we get to  find out that, when push comes to shove, most of these characters are assholes more concerned with saving their own kind (our social, economic, and super-powered “betters”) than actually, ya know, protecting us like they always claim they’re out to do. As a comic book, then, Secret Wars #1 is a complete failure of imagination, common sense, and even basic human decency. As a makeshift blueprint for would-be totalitarian elitists who want to make certain that all of us “pawns” are sacrificed to protect the “queens and kings,” though, who knows? Maybe it’ll come in handy when the shit hits the fan.


It’s The Beginning Of The End In “Empire Of The Dead : Act Three” #2


Okay, if we want to be technically accurate about things, I guess we could say that last month’s opening installment of George Romero’s Empire Of The Dead : Act Three was the “beginning of the end,” since it appears that some combination of editorial decision-making on Marvel’s part and agreement among the book’s creators (specifically, I’m sure, Romero himself) has come about to wrap this four-color epic up a bit sooner than originally announced (after three five-issue “arcs” rather than the previously-mentioned four or five — that’s what selling fewer than 10,000 copies a month does, ya know), but it didn’t really feel like the big wrap-up was imminent until this second issue hit the stands today. Gone is some of the dilly-dallying that had slowed down previous issues here and there, gone are a fair number of the supporting players (although they’re sure to be back), and, most crucially — gone are the zombies!

Seriously. There’s not a one of ’em to be found in the pages of this book. And that’s more than just a little weird.


Wih the “shamblers” having temporarily shambled off-stage, our erstwhile “street urchin,” Jo, takes commands the spotlight for about the first half of this issue, as she makes a new friend in her detention center/concentration camp, and the two of them quickly try to effect an escape once they figure out —or at least make an educated guess at — the true purpose of their new “home.”  After that,  it’s back to the “palace intrigue” swirling around Mayor Chandrake, his less-than-faithful wife, and his quickly-falling-apart-at-the-seams political opponent, Chilly Dobbs. Trust me when I say if our vampiric sitting chief executive of New York can’t beat this guy, well — he just plain doesn’t deserve to stay in office.

Dr. Penny Jones pops up for a brief moment — as seen below — but don’t expect any appearances from Paul Barnum. Detective Perez, or Xavier this time out — the action here is pretty concentrated and generally of the “set-up-for-a-big-climax” variety. The “rebel crew” once — and possibly still, to some extent — allied with Dixie Peach has a big part to play, though, as they reveal an audacious scheme to rip off the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in the midst of all their otherwise-random destruction — and that destruction finally begins in earnest as this issue wraps up.


As you can see from the preview pages I’ve included with this review (feeling decidedly un-lazy today), Andrea Mutti continues with his obviously-Maleev-influenced ways here and the art looks pretty good on the whole, certainly a step up from what we were served in the second act, while Romero, for his part,  has thrown all subtlety out the window with his scripting and is painting his characters with pretty broad brush-strokes at this point. Yeah, it may be clumsy at times,  but it  serves the purposes of the story just fine now that we’re in “time is definitely of the essence” mode.


So, yeah — the end is nigh, and in Empire Of The Dead : Act Two #3 you can definitely feel it fast approaching. The once-sprawling chessboard is getting tighter and tighter as the pieces move ever closer together and the moves they’re able to make become reduced exponentially. I have a pretty solid feel of where it’s all going and where each of our players is going to end up once it’s finished, but I certainly wouldn’t put it past Romero to still have a wild card or two left in his hand (shit, I’m mixing my game metaphors here) that he’s saving for precisely the right moment.