Blog Archives

The Ten Percent: ‘American Gods’

“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

am1

Greetings and welcome to another installment of The Ten Percent! Every two weeks (well, roughly), Ensley F. Guffey and I use this space to take a look at the inverse of Sturgeon’s Law; in other words, the small portion of everything which is not crud. Viewed as a whole, Sturgeon was, sadly, right – the vast majority of movies, television, writing, art, and so on really is crud – but there has always been that slim slice of sublime. The Ten Percent isn’t limited by genre – I think our previous columns have proven that point – and that’s because these rare gems are high quality productions which demand more of their viewer than simple passive reception.

I have, on occasion, discussed an entry that makes the cut on The Ten Percent in more than one category, such as a book and the movie made from the book. It’s hard enough to create ONE fantastic thing; to create a Ten-Percent-worthy work in more than a single medium is truly catching lightning in a bottle.

Read the rest of this entry

Advertisements

Glenn Walker Reviews Civil War II #6

aciv1

War Machine is dead. She-Hulk is barely alive after a coma. The Hulk is dead, killed by Hawkeye. And now Spider-Man might kill Captain America? Is this really what we want in a comic book? Are readers that bloodthirsty that we’ve entered the era where Rollerball and Death Race are almost real? Surely it can’t be that bad, or as Civil War II #6 rolls out the week before one of the most insane US Presidential elections in history, is it? Or perhaps there is a more sinister reason behind all this. Meet me after the jump for my admittedly dark pre-Halloween pre-election thoughts on Civil War II #6…

Read the rest of this entry

31 Days of Horror 2016: Eek! The Sounds of Horror

“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

horror-soundsHello and welcome to another installment of “The Ten Percent,” a regular column here on Biff Bam Pop! where Ensley F. Guffey and I take a look at the inverse of Sturgeon’s Law; in other words, the ten percent of everything which is not crud.

When it comes to the horror genre, well – there’s a lot of crud. That stands to reason, since horror films can be extra-super-cheap to make (I’ve seen a few that have convinced me that the largest line item on the budget was for Karo syrup and red food coloring), which means they don’t have to do particularly well at the box office to make enough to justify a horde of sequels. Also – to be fair – some of the awful examples from the 1950s and ’60s have a certain charm in their naïveté that elevates them beyond their paltry production values. (Mr. Sardonicus, I’m looking at you. May God bless William Castle.)

One element that is worth discussing in horror movies – the really good ones, anyway – is the use of sound to build the tension and, in some cases, scare the ever-loving bejeezus out of us.

Read the rest of this entry

The Ten Percent: “Don’t Call Me Shirley”

“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

Hello and welcome to another installment of “The Ten Percent,” a regular column here on Biff Bam Pop! where every other week Ensley F. Guffey and I take a look at the inverse of Sturgeon’s Law; in other words, the ten percent of everything which is not crud. Sometimes it can be hard to remember that for each film or television show that gets people talking years after its premiere, there are hundreds of others that barely cleared the horizon before being (thankfully) shot down. The works that soar above the rest – well, those are the works that stand the test of time. And don’t be fooled into thinking that genre matters to the Ten Percent – slapstick comedy is in here, along with science fiction, animation, bloody horror, toe-tapping musicals, and more. The Ten Percent last for two reasons: (1) they are high quality productions which demand more of their viewer than simple passive reception and (2) they somehow manage to capture something fleeting and rare and preserve it for the lucky viewing public.

It’s an often-cited adage that the Academy doesn’t give Oscars to comedies. It’s also a often-cited adage that comedy is difficult – as Peter O’Toole’s Alan Swan says in My Favorite Year, “Dying is easy; comedy is hard.” (Yes, other people are credited with saying it first, but when you try to track that down, the footprints vanish into the mist quite completely. So O’Toole it is.) At any rate, good, gut-busting comedy is hard to come by and comedy also changes with the times; far more so than straight dramatic stories. (This is one reason why Shakespeare’s tragedies tend to be a bit easier for modern audiences to understand than his comedies. Times change, and with that, tastes change as well.) We’ve written about comedy before here at The Ten Percent, but we haven’t delved into one of the great slapstick parodies of the last half-century. This column intends to rectify that.

Parodies often work best when more than one particular item is being spoofed. If all the jokes rely on your audience having seen the One Thing that serves as your source material – well, that can be risky indeed. So Blazing Saddles spoofs the entire genre of Western cowboy movies instead of just sending up High Noon. In a similar fashion, back in 1980, Jim Abrahams, along with brothers David and Jerry Zucker, decided that the disaster film genre could use a comedic treatment. Borrowing from the 1957 film Zero Hour! as well as Airport 1975, they gave us the fast-paced hilarity of Airplane! and lo, the world was a better place.

Much of the humor of Airplane! derives from watching heretofore serious actors who have been given a very loose rein to “go big or go home.” Robert Stack, who plays Capt. Rex Kramer, had previously played the captain who loses his nerve in 1954’s The High & the Mighty, one of the first airline disaster films, and here has a wonderful, scenery-chewing time as the straight man. Lloyd Bridges, who plays Steve “Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up sniffing glue” McCroskey, is directly parodying his role as the airport manager in San Francisco International Airport, a television show from 1970 – 1971. And Peter Graves (Capt. Clarence “Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?” Oveur) had played in the made-for-TV disaster film SST: Death Flight (seriously, what a title!).

Moreover, most viewers don’t know that Leslie Nielsen, who is so incredibly funny in this film (as well as in the Naked Gun series, which was also written and produced by the Airplane! team) began his career as a square-jawed leading man – go watch the science fiction classic Forbidden Planet if you need a refresher.* And yes, it’s that straight-ahead hero type who terrorized the Airplane! set with – yes – a whoopee cushion.

Overall, the plot is standard disaster-film issue and is basically lifted right from Zero Hour! But nothing like the rapid-fire punning, visual gags, and off-color jokes had been seen in a disaster film before – and they worked. The film made a handsome return on its cost and has been named one of the best filmed comedies of all time on a number of polls and is ranked as #10 on the American Film Institute’s list of Best Comedies. In fact, Airplane! is on the National Film Registry, which is run by the Library of Congress, thereby ensuring that generations yet unborn will delight in seeing Johnny (the late, and greatly missed, Stephen Stucker) declare, “There’s a sale at Penney’s!” (And they will also get to benefit from his extensive origami skills.)

Look, life is hard these days. Airplane! gives us an hour-and-a-half of sheer, rib-splitting laughter. Do yourself a favor and watch it again, for any movie that allows the Beaver’s mom (Barbara Billingsley) to send up that pearls-and-apron paragon of domestic perfection certainly deserves its spot on The Ten Percent.

*Plus, bonus points if you know that Gunderson, the tower tech who checks the “radar range,” was played by Jonathan Banks, who would go on to memorably play Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad. (Look at the 15-second mark on this clip.)

Ensley F. Guffey and K. Dale Koontz are co-authors of Wanna Cook? The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Badand of the forthcoming Dreams Given Form: The Unofficial Companion to the Babylon 5 Universe (fall 2017)You can find Dale online at her blog unfetteredbrilliance.blogspot.com and on Twitter as @KDaleKoontz. Ensley hangs out at solomonmaos.com and on Twitter as @EnsleyFGuffey.

 

Glenn Walker + Andy Burns Duelling Reviews of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1

cap1

 

GLENN WALKER:

I woke up this morning expecting the big comics news to be the fallout from DC Universe Rebirth #1, ably summed up here by Biff Bam Pop’s own JP Fallavollita, and reviewed by me here, but it wasn’t. Marvel Comics managed to trump DC’s big universal reboot with a shattering revelation, one that has destroyed almost any joy I might ever have reading another Marvel Comic. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on Captain America: Steve Rogers #1

Read the rest of this entry

Gobbledygeek: Friendly Fire

gobble1

The Biff Bam Pop! Podcast Network presents Gobbledygeek featuring hosts Paul Smith and AJ Wiley and focusing on a variety of entertainment subjects, with our hosts and special guests frequently discussing films, comics, and television.

This week, AJ and Paul are joined by Biff Bam Poppers K. Dale Koontz and Ensley F. Guffey to discuss the latest and greatest Marvel movie, Captain America: Civil War, and then there’s “The Americans.” See and hear more after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry

BBP’s Running Reviews Of: BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

imageYou couldn’t have missed it.

Last weekend, the latest large-popcorn, comic book superhero, cinematic-universe-builder blockbuster, dropped into movie theatres everywhere.

And much like the citizens of fictional Metropolis, none of us could escape the heavy-handed and all-encompassing fallout from both advertising and on-line word of mouth. A strange thing happened after you bought your theatre tickets in advance.

Last week the online crowd roared loader than Doomsday. People hated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Loathed it, in fact.

But was it all that bad?

Over the course of the day, Biff Bam Pop! writers will give their high level take on the film. Check back regularly, as more contributions are added to this post of reviews that are sure to run the gamut of praise and abhorrence.

Let’s not waste another bat-second. Our heroic thoughts on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are but a super-jump away!

Read the rest of this entry

The Ten Percent – It’s the Cat’s Pajamas!

ball

“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

Hello, and welcome to another installment of The Ten Percent! Every two weeks, Ensley F. Guffey and I use this space to take a look at the inverse of Sturgeon’s Law; in other words, the small portion of everything which is not crud. Viewed as a whole, Sturgeon was right – the vast majority of movies, television, writing, art, and so on really is crud – but there is that slim slice of sublime that makes sifting through the crud endurable.  In this space, we’ve written about slapstick comedy, high-toned drama, quality animation, blood-curdling horror, spectacular science fiction, and more besides. We get to do that because the Ten Percent isn’t limited by genre – these rare gems last because they are high quality productions which demand more of their viewer than simple passive reception.

Read the rest of this entry

Gobbledygeek: Nazis and Nightcaps

gobble1

The Biff Bam Pop! Podcast Network presents Gobbledygeek featuring hosts Paul Smith and AJ Wiley and focusing on a variety of entertainment subjects, with our hosts and special guests frequently discussing films, comics, and television.

This week, Hitchcock Month continues with a look at Lifeboat and Dial M for Murder, with special guest, Biff Bam Pop’s own Ensley F. Guffey. See and hear more after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry

The Ten Percent – Let the Sunshine In

hair

“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

Hello, and welcome to another installment of The Ten Percent! Every two weeks, Ensley F. Guffey and I use this space to take a look at the inverse of Sturgeon’s Law; in other words, the small portion of everything which is not crud. Viewed as a whole, Sturgeon was right – the vast majority of movies, television, writing, art, and so on really is crud – but there is that slim slice of sublime. In this space, we’ve talked about slapstick comedy, high-toned drama, quality animation, blood-curdling horror, spectacular science fiction, and more besides. We get to do that because the Ten Percent isn’t limited by genre – these rare gems last because they are high quality productions which demand more of their viewer than simple passive reception.

Read the rest of this entry

%d bloggers like this: