Quick Thoughts on the Fourth Season Premiere of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

(Promotional image above courtesy of ABC.)

After months of my son asking me when is the premiere of (his favorite TV show) Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we finally got to watch it. Just a few thoughts I had:

  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.Brett Dalton + a 10:00 pm starting time = me feeling some kind of way. Sleepy, for one.
  • I like Agent Coulson more than Director Coulson.
  • FitzSimmons are much more attractive now that they’ve gotten together. They should have done this a long time ago!
  • Note to Agent May: You really looked like such a hater when you were talking to Gemma. Not a good look for you.
  • Wonder how Mack will use his exploding pen…
  • Who’s faster — Yo Yo or Quicksilver? I hate Quicksilver, so I hope it’s Yo Yo. But I think The Flash is faster than both.
  • I like Gabriel Luna as Robbie Reyes/Ghost Rider. Even if he does look like the IT guy at my job. (The flaming skull would be appropriate after the IT guy tells someone for the fifth time to make sure the computer is on!)
  • So, just as I’ve gotten used to calling Skye Daisy, now I have to call her Quake?!? Sigh!
  • Note to self: Sliding Doors (starring John Hannah, who plays Dr. Radcliffe) is now on Netflix. Watch it!
  • If she was on, I missed her, but I heard that Parminder Nagra is on the show now. As an aside, I think she’d make an awesome Doctor Who.
  • This single episode was more racially/ethnically diverse than many networks’ entire schedules (I’m looking at you, CBS).

Looking forward to watching more episodes this season, even if the 10:00 start means a later bedtime for my son (and me).

Pop Rocking Culture Goes to Comikaze 2015!

Blue Striker, Dad and I went to Stan Lee’s Comikaze 2015 at the Los Angeles Convention Center on November 1, 2015. For starters, this may be a landmark year for the five year old convention, because Stan Lee (who bought out the convention a couple of years ago) made an unofficial announcement on Friday that this may be the last Comikaze he attends. It would be strange not to see Stan Lee at Comikaze. However, he is in his nineties, and it is amazing that he maintains such a high profile.

We last attended Comikaze in 2012, and upon entering the Convention Center, it was obvious how much Comikaze has grown. For one, we had a hard time getting through the crowds in the vendor area. While this is generally a sign of success, it made things a bit overwhelming. Blue Striker also noted that it also made it difficult to determine who had stuff to give away. A suggestion to those responsible for the day-to-day logistics of the convention: Make sure attendees (including members of the press, like me) have easy access to the programs.

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There was a lot of neat cosplay at Comikaze. I noticed that there was a relatively small number of people dressed as “traditional” superheroes. That said, there continues to be a plethora of Harley Quinns, Jokers, Deadpools and Spiderhumans. There were also plenty of anime and video game characters (who Blue Striker had to point out to me), as well as TV and movie characters. For even a minor Doctor Who fan like me, it was neat to see people dressed up as Doctors Tom Baker, David Tennant and Matt Smith. There were more fezes there than at a Shriners convention!

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As Pop Rocking Culture is also about the pop culture experience for kids, I did notice a few kids who seemed overwhelmed by all of the action. I am sure many of them were tired, hungry and even bored as well. It would be great that on Sunday, which is supposedly the traditional “kids’ day” at cons, there were a few more things geared towards the young set. On the plus side, there was a pretty neat panel called “Pop Culture Parenting with the Geeklings and Parental Units”. I got the chance to find out like-minded moms and dads, who had a few great ideas for bringing up the next generation of pop culture mavens. There is actually a group called Geeklings and Parental Units, who host meetups in the Los Angeles area.

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There were plenty of Baby Boomer and Gen X icons such as Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig of Star Trek: The Original Series fame, as well as Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox from CHiPs. It was also neat to see kid star Kel Mitchell, the one half of the Kenan and Kel team from Nickelodeon whom we don’t see every week on Saturday Night Live. I pointed out to Blue Striker that this guy is the same one who played the goofy kid with the braids in Good Burger. (Note: I mentioned Mystery Men to Blue first, but then I realized that he’s never seen it. Another thing to add to his pop culture “to do” list.)

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All in all, we had a good time at Comikaze 2015. We hope that wpress credentials in 2016. Blue Striker says that he will definitely dress in costume the next time around. As for me, I might as well.

Blue Striker’s Review: Disney Infinity 2.0

You can play Marvel, Disney and Pixar characters in Disney Infinity 2.0.

You can play Marvel, Disney and Pixar characters in Disney Infinity 2.0.

The game I am writing about is called Disney Infinity 2.0. In Disney Infinity, you can build anything, buy anything Disney, and go on cool missions. I have an even amount of Marvel and Disney characters that I can use. My favorite character is Buzz Lightyear, because he has a super jump. If you upgrade Buzz’s health to maximum, he can almost never die. I liked this game very much, because it is action packed and you can do anything you want. I would recommend this game to anyone and everyone.

Review: The Interview – Better Late Than Never, I Guess

Well, now that all of the hoopla over The Interview has died down, we here at Pop Rocking Culture recently watched the movie.  (An aside:  Yes, Blue Striker did watch the movie with Bill, Dad and me.  Blue will tell you, in his words, that this movie is “inappropriate for kids”. I had to cover Blue’s eyes about two times.  When asked for a reaction to the movie, Blue gave a mock vomiting sound — not exactly a thumbs up.)

The Interview is yet another in a string of “bromances” that get a lot of play at the movie theater.  It was obvious that one of the sources the film drew from was the old Bob Hope/Bing Crosby “Road” movies.  This movie could have been called The Road to Pyongyang.  In case you were wondering, James Franco is in the “goofball” Bob Hope role that spurs the plot of the film.  Seth Rogen has the “smart guy” Bing Crosby part, and even gets the girl (for a while).  Yes, I know that Rogen resembles the suave, witty crooner as much as he did Van Williams’ Britt Reid in The Green Hornet.  Read into that what you will.

I admit that I laughed a lot at James Franco’s Dave Skylark character.  His hair, wardrobe, political/social cluelessness and monumental ego were pretty funny.  Skylark’s relationship with Randall Park’s Kim Jong Un is the real romance, er, bromance here.  (I am sure that the gay subtext regarding Kim was one of the things that made the North Korean government unhappy.)  Park had the best role in the movie, as the unpredictable “Supreme Leader”.  Park, who currently plays the dad on Fresh Off the Boat, is definitely a Hollywood version of Kim Jong Un, right down to the perfect teeth.  At one point, I found myself wondering who Park’s orthodonist was. (Oh, come on, NO ONE has teeth that great naturally!)

Unfortunately, at the end, the movie stretches an already absurd story to the breaking point.  The movie becomes a rather bloody, bad (unintentional?) parody of an action movie.  I rolled my eyes at the shift in tone. I thought, all of sudden, these buffoons know how to fight/shoot guns/drive a tank successfully?

To wrap it up, The Interview, while it wasn’t as bad as I expected, wasn’t as good as it could have been.  It wasn’t worth risking the wrath of a country that is both unknown and unpredictable — whether or not North Korea was responsible for the Sony hack.*  I found myself wanting to watch Team America:  World Police again…later.  Because as “inappropriate” as The Interview is for kids, Team America is really inappropriate.  But it’s a much better movie!

*P.S.:  Suki Kim’s memoir about teaching the sons of the North Korean elite in North Korea, Without You, There Is No Us, is a great book.

Review: Peter Pan Live!

I just wanted to write a quick review of NBC’s Thursday broadcast of Peter Pan Live!  Watching this had completely slipped my mind, until Blue Striker finished his homework early and wanted to watch some TV.  BTW, thanks a lot to NBC for showing a three hour long play (padded by commercials) on a school night.  I realize that Fridays and Saturdays are TV graveyards nowadays, but this meant that many kids stayed up way past their Thursday bedtimes.  Oh, well, I guess it’s my fault that I failed to plan for this “special event”. (Sarcasm intended.)

I think Alison Williams, the daughter of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, dispelled any notion of nepotism with her portrayal of Peter Pan.  She was very cute and spunky when she needed to be, and appropriately melancholic at the end. Her English accent was good, but I say this as an American, so what do I know?  She had a bit of a problem with the flying, but in the final scene, when Peter flies into Wendy’s window for the last time, it was magic. Blue Striker, as with most kids watching the play Peter Pan for the first time, was confused by Peter’s gender.  Was Peter a boy or a girl?  I had to explain to him that a petite woman traditionally portrays Peter on stage, because the role is too demanding and strenuous for an actual 12 year old boy. (I didn’t go into child labor laws and all that.)

As much as I like Christopher Walken as an actor, I think he was out of his element as Captain Hook.  He is, at best, a double threat — great actor, OK dancer, please leave the singing to someone else.  And I think he was a bit old for a part that involved some physicality. Blue Striker was less generous with regard to this; according to him, “wow, that guy is old!” Neil Patrick Harris would have been great as Captain Hook, but he’s overexposed as it is.

The other cast members ranged from splendid to just OK.  Taylor Louderman as Wendy was a bit flat, although I did like Minnie Driver as the adult Wendy, bad blonde wig and all.  The Lost Boys, the pirates and the Indians were fantastic dancers.  Blue Striker did object to the Indians’ costumes — “they’re half naked!”  But I had no such objection (hot guys in flesh-colored Speedos and feathers? <<Ahem>>).  And I appreciated the fact that the Indians’ song “Ugg-A-Wugg” was replaced by “True Blood Brothers”.

The production values were pretty good.  The costumes were pretty nifty — I really liked the pirate costumes.  And I can’t believe they used a real dog to play Nana!  Given the unpredictability of animals and the live setting, the fact that the dog who played Nana did such a good job is a testimony not only to the dog, but to the trainer. On the other hand, whoever designed the crocodile should have been told to do it over — it looked terrible!  And the flying apparatus crew needed more practice with pulling Allison Williams around on the wire rig (except, as mentioned before, at the end).

Overall, Peter Pan Live! was good, not great.  Blue Striker enjoyed it, despite the objections noted above.  And he had no problem staying awake until 11 o’clock.

Review: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes for Xbox 360

While Blue Striker awaits his Christmas gift of LEGO Batman 3, he weighs in with a review of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes:

This entry is about the video game LEGO Marvel Super Heroes.  I liked the game because it is fascinating and hard, but simple. One fact about the game is that you get to have vehicles.  There are three types of vehicles, boats, cars and jets.  Another fact is that some characters, like Iron Man and the Human Torch, can fly.  The game has only 15 levels, then you get to go to New York City, which is very exciting.  This game has the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, where you can “spawn” [customize] new characters, and replay levels.  And last, but not least, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes have the Guardians of the Galaxy!

Relevance is Comin’ to Town: Rankin/Bass Productions and Santa Claus

Earlier this year, Arthur Rankin, one of the founders of Rankin/Bass Productions with Jules Bass, died at age 89.  Rankin/Bass Productions (“RBP”) is probably best known for its Christmas TV specials, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town and The Year Without a Santa Claus.  These specials have become so much a part of American pop culture it seems that a Christmas season doesn’t go by without a spoof of one.  One of the things that made the specials appealing at the time they were originally broadcast, and which contributes to their continuing appeal, is the parallels of the story lines to what was happening in the United States at the time.

Although Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), based on the popular song, focuses on the titular reindeer, Santa Claus plays an important role.  Rudolph, first broadcast during the time of the Civil Rights Movement, presents many lessons in acceptance.  When Santa at first rejects Rudolph based on his appearance, it reminds one of the real-life intolerance many authority figures of the 1960s had towards those who looked different.  (One could go further with this idea – was the Island of Misfit Toys a ghetto?) Once Santa recognizes Rudolph’s abilities, he realizes that Rudolph, given the chance, can be a productive member of North Pole society.  Similarly, the subplot regarding Hermey, the elf who wanted to be a dentist reflected the increasing desire of young people of the time to follow a path different from that of their parents.  That Hermey was able to work at the North Pole fixing dolls’ teeth showed that even the most traditional of places can find room for those who have different ideas.

In contrast to the authoritarian of Rudolph, Santa is downright rebellious in 1970’s Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (“SCCT”).  SCCT, first shown during the height of the “youthquake” of the Baby Boom generation, is the story of how the young and cute Kris Kringle becomes the jolly old elf we all know so well.   Kris, with his long, almost Beatlesque red hair and his sunny demeanor, spurs an uprising against the old uptight ways of the establishment – personified by the grumpy, anti-toy Burgermeister Meisterburger.  Along the way, Kris manages to find romance with the lovely town schoolteacher Jessica. In a scene that has been cut from recent showings of SCCT, Jessica sings about the changes Kris has brought to her and her town.  This reflects the real-life changes that youth brought to American life during the 1960s and early 1970s.

SCCT also draws a parallel between Santa and another iconic figure – Superman.  Both Santa and Superman were foundlings adopted by elderly couples.  Both assume an identity (Kris Kringle/Clark Kent) separate from their true identities (Claus/Kal-El).  Both have special powers that don’t manifest themselves until adulthood.  SCCT manages to wrap the heretofore mysterious Santa in a cloak (or cape, as it may be) familiar to many viewers.

A few years later, in 1974, RBP introduced The Year Without a Santa Claus (“YWSC”).  Departing from the generally “known” aspects of Santa’s world, and based on a book by Phyllis McGinley, YWSC was released at a time of moral crises in the United States.  The events of Watergate and the subsequent resignation of President Richard Nixon, as well as the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, were on the minds of the American people.  Meanwhile, at the North Pole, Santa sees the increased disbelief in the spirit of Christmas.  Disappointed and discouraged, Santa decides to take a (permanent?) vacation instead of delivering toys.  It’s up to Mrs. Claus, with the help of a couple of elves, the reindeer Vixen, and a bunch of kids in a small Sunbelt town, to get her husband back in the sleigh.  The casting of Shirley Booth, TV’s “Hazel” from the 1960s, as Mrs. Claus is appropriate here. (This was also Shirley Booth’s last acting role.) Just as Hazel the maid took charge of a dysfunctional household, Mrs. Claus takes charge during the chaos.  In real life as well, women were beginning to take charge in many ways.

But despite the fact that Santa is encouraged enough to resume his duties (of course), YWSC may have been seen as too cynical for some people.  Network TV hasn’t shown this off-canon look at Santa Claus since 1980. The cable channel ABC Family does show YWSC as part of its “25 Days of Christmas”.  This hasn’t affected the popularity of YWSC one bit – there are regular references to it in other parts of pop culture.

Rudolph, SCCT and YWSC demonstrate that Rankin/Bass Productions, and in turn Arthur Rankin and (the still living) Jules Bass, recognized that American society was undergoing a shift.  Rankin and Bass were aware as well of the pop culture of the time, and of the need to be relevant to television viewers, no matter what their age or knowledge of current affairs.  For many of us who, as kids, sat in front of the television in our pajamas year after year, the underlying themes of these shows sunk in.  In any case, we continue to hold these shows dear in our hearts.

Lynne a.k.a. Poprocker1