Well, the first of these, and hopefully I can keep this up. I won’t get into numbers until the month is over, except to say that there’s not a ton of “keep/sell/donate/trash” physical media here because I was reading library books or streaming over Hulu, HBO Max, and Kanopy. So let’s get to the rundown.
Comics Read: All books from my pull list, named Nightwing #78, Cross-Over #5, and The Other History of the DC Universe #3. The two DC offerings were very good, with Other History continuing to be the best thing from DC that I’ve read in years. I picked up Nightwing after seeing a few people sing its praises on social media, and it was really good. I’d stopped reading the character at some point in the New 52 because I’d grown bored, but this proved to be a good jumping on point and it’s been added to my pull list. I did re-read some ancillary Titans appearances in various issues of Action Comics, Vigilante, World’s Finest, and Supergirl. None of them are truly essential to the Titans’ story, but a few years ago, I’d been on one of those collecting ventures where I was going to buy Titans guest appearances, at least through the initial Wolfman-Perez run. The World’s Finest issue was #300 and was the most interesting, especially because it was a random few pages of the Titans written by Wolfman and drawn by Perez featuring Dick Grayson an the Titans in action together post New Teen Titans #39. I imagine this was a way to get people to read the issue, and it was fun to see some straight-up superhero action.
Trade Paperbacks/Graphic Novels Read: The New Teen Titans vols 6, 7, 8. These contain the issues leading up to, including, and the aftermath of “The Judas Contract.” I don’t want to say too much about these because I’ve already written about the stories inside them elsewhere, and am also working on covering the stories for a podcast episode. If I am going to comment on the collections themselves, I will say that I’m grateful that they are available, even if the Judas Contract parts clearly just reprocessed the original trade (based on the way that some of the individual issues’ titles are reprinted). Plus, the departure of Romeo Tanghal on inks is very noticeable; while Dick Giordano and Mike DeCarlo are servicable inkers and Perez is spectacular when he inks himself, seeing this shows you how much Tanghal brought to the book (he’d be back with the Baxter series). And this time around, the change in artists to Rich Buckler, Chuck Patton, and Ron Randall is not as jarring as it seemed to me back when I first read these (DeCarlo’s inks work very well on Buckler’s art, for instance), although Nightwing on an airborne Sea-Doo still looks dumb no matter who draws it.
A number of those issues aren’t exactly easy to find on the cheap anymore (especially Tales #44, the first appearance of Nightwing), so having them conveniently in the trade is good. Plus, being able to read the full lead up to and aftermath of the story, from issue #26 to #55, in trade (which is the way it was meant to be read) is something I would have only been able to hope for back in those days when I was trying to hunt down the original issues. Keep.
Books Read: Three, all of which are going to be the topics in some way or another of a future podcast episode. They are two books about baseball cards–Cardboard Gods and Mint Condition–as well as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. All three were very good, and worth checking out. Even not knowing much about baseball or baseball cards will make those two books accessible. No “keep” for this, as they were all library checkouts, but I say you should definitely look for them.
Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla vs. Kong. I hadn’t seen any of the contemporary monster films, but my son had been watching them on HBO Max and was really hyped for Godzilla vs. Kong. We’d been out for a walk one day and he said that Skull Island was really good, so I suggested watching it. Both are great with Skull Island being absolutely outstanding. I would recommend these to anyone who is looking for a tight two-hour entertaining popcorn fest. It was quite refreshing to not have to look through and around what was going on in the film for connections to other films or a universe’s established canon, or some sort of pretentious theme. The themes are pretty evident here and while there are connections to other movies (like Godzilla: King of the Monsters), I didn’t feel as if I was missing something for not having seen it yet. Watch.
Mortal Passions. I don’t know why I got sucked into this movie, which is an “erotic thriller” that saw theatrical release in January 1990 but had it been produced six months to a year later would have been a direct-to-video Skinemax flick. Well, not a lot of skin … just a few scenes. I think I had been trawling IMDb and came across the main actress (Krista Errickson), then was drawn in by both the cheesy beyond cheesy poster art as well as the plot description: “A scheming woman seeks to kill her husband to collect the insurance money, and is willing to seduce anyone she can to do it–including her husband’s brother.” In some ways, this sounds like Double Indemnity, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s nowhere near as good, even there are some memorable moments of stupidity. I’ll probably do a take on this over at Pop Culture Affidavit. For now, just don’t. Skip.
Pump Up the Volume. Finished my latest rewatch of this because I’d gotten the blu-Ray from Amazon. It’s a bare-bones release, but worth the money because this movie is awesome and not available legally on streaming (mainly due to music rights issues). It wasn’t very expensive and I am happy that I can finally offload my VHS copy, even if that copy has some video store nostalgia to it. Keep.
Framing John DeLorean: A 2019 documentary with some acted scenes starring Alec Baldwin as the car maker. The documentary aspects of it are really interesting, because while I knew about the infamous sting operation that brought DeLorean down, I didn’t know his entire story. It’s definitely one for the 1980s as some of the details could have easily found their way into Dynasty, although it’s also one for today because I can see shades of DeLorean’s arrogance in the Silicon Valley tech bros of the last twenty years. The scenes with Baldwin and Morena Bacarin (as his wife) are pretty well-acted, although they feel really out of place and I kept wondering if I was watching a movie that would have been an extra feature on the blu-Ray of a John DeLorean biopic. Plus, it’s very hard to watch Alec Baldwin in any current role without thinking of … well, the personality “Alec Baldwin” has become (though I can still watch The Hunt for Red October or another early role of his and not have that issue). It’s not something I’d seek out again, to be honest, but if you come across it, give it a whirl. Watch … Maybe?
Big Night. A 1996 film directed by Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott that stars Tucci and Tony Shalhoub as two Italian brothers who run a restaurant in the 1950s on the Jersey Shore. Shalhoub plays Primo, a brilliant (yet much a perfectionist) chef while Tucci plays Secondo, who manages the place. The restaurant is failing, mainly because of Primo’s stubbornness to not cater to the tastes of American palates, and because of competition from a neighboring restaurant, Pascale’s. Secondo is also cheating on his girlfriend Phyllis (Minnie Driver) with Pascale’s wife Gabriella (Isabella Rosselini). Things come to a head on the titular night when Pascale (Ian Holm, who plays the same level of prick that he brings to so many other roles) says that he can get Louis Prima to appear at the brothers’ restaurant. The result is a “Babette’s Feast” type of sequence where they put everything they have into what is obviously going to be one great, last meal.
I have to say that this movie charmed me (and I don’t think I’m even doing it justice here … perhaps a podcast episode at some point might be in order). I’d heard about it for years, especially on various Food Network shows, and do remember seeing it on a video store shelf here or there, but never bothered to check it out. The film, despite taking place in the 1950s, definitely looks like a mid-90s indie flick, but that actually allows it to shine, because Tucci and Campbell (who himself has a role as one of the customers, Bob) don’t try to re-create the feel of Goodfellas, which I think would have been an easy trap to fall into in 1996. In fact, there’s a bit of an eyeroll directed at the “Gabbagool!” types through Primo, who Shaloub plays with the neurotic perfection that he has brought to so many other roles. And Tucci, well … I can’t think that I have ever seen Stanley Tucci in a bad performance, but this is extra special because he wrote and directed himself and knew just how to do that without getting overindulgent. This film feels as if it’s one of those “best kept secrets” of ’90s cinema and is more than worth the watch. Watch.