Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman—R.I.P.

“I don't regret anything. It came at the right time. I was getting bored acting. ...You become passionate about one thing, it leads back into something else. If you can gain a sense of passion and commitment in your life in one arena, it's bound to bleed back into other arenas. ... In all the things I started to attack — football, tennis — I had no gift for it at all. I had no gift for racing, either. It's just something that I really wanted to do."Paul Newman as quoted by the Associated Press in 1990.

FanBoyWonder wishes to express our sadness at the news of passing of veteran actor Paul Newman—he died of cancer today at the age of 83.

We found out about Mr. Newman’s death while at the Baltimore Comic-Con of all places as the news flashed across our best pal and all around Kemosabe’s BlackBerry.

During our drive home from Kemosabe’s house after a long day at the Comic-Con we had some time to reflect on Mr. Newman’s career and it’s impact on our everyday lives—simply put the man was an icon.

Over his long career, he will be remembered for many different roles—Butch Cassidy among them. We remember him for his quiet dignity and as a very centered individual.

Our personal favorites among his many roles include Absence of Malice, Slap Shot, Nobody’s Fool and in one of his final roles, the 1930’s mob boss and surrogate father to Tom Hanks’ gunman in the Road to Perdition.

Newman’s final scene in that drama still moves us to near tears even after multiple viewings.

Below is Mr. Newman’s obit from Reuters. We will be posting our adventures at Comic-Con tomorrow.

Hollywood legend Paul Newman dies, aged 83

By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Legendary film star Paul Newman, whose brilliant blue eyes, good looks, cool style and talent made him one of Hollywood's top actors over six decades has died at age 83 after a long battle with cancer.

Newman died on Friday night at his farmhouse near Westport, Connecticut, surrounded by his wife of 50 years, actress Joanne Woodward, and other family and friends.

"His death was as private and discreet as the way he had lived his life, a humble artist who never thought of himself as 'big,'" said a statement released by his family on Saturday.

Paul Leonard Newman, known as "PL" to his friends, appeared in more than 50 movies, including "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting." He earned nine Oscar nominations for acting and won the best actor honor for 1986's "The Color of Money."

A director and race car driver as well as an actor, Newman was also known for his extensive philanthropy. He created Newman's Own food products, which funneled more than $250 million in profits to thousands of charities worldwide.

"He quietly succeeded beyond measure in impacting the lives of so many with his generosity," his five daughters said in a statement. "Always and to the end, Dad was incredibly grateful for his good fortune. In his own words: 'It's been a privilege to be here.'"

"There is a point where feelings go beyond words. I have lost a real friend. My life - and this country - is better for his being in it," said actor Robert Redford, Newman's friend and co-star in "Butch Cassidy" and "The Sting."

Former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton said in a statement that they will miss their "dear friend." California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called Newman the "ultimate cool guy" who was "one of a kind."


Born in a Cleveland suburb on January 26, 1925, Newman was a Navy radio man in the Pacific during World War Two. He went to Kenyon College in Ohio on a football scholarship, but took up acting after he was cut from the team over a barroom brawl.

He helped run the family sporting goods store, then headed to the Yale Drama School and ended up in New York, winning a Broadway role in "Picnic" in 1953. His first major movie role was as boxer Rocky Graziano in "Somebody Up There Likes Me."

In 1958, Newman starred in "The Long Hot Summer" with Woodward, whom he married that year shortly after divorcing his first wife, Jacqueline Witte.

He played an alcoholic loser in "Cat On a Hot Tin Roof," opposite Elizabeth Taylor, and pool shark Fast Eddie Felson in "The Hustler." Other hits were "Hud" and "Cool Hand Luke."

Newman was also recognized for work behind the camera, earning a best picture Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe award for best director for "Rachel, Rachel," starring Woodward, which he produced and directed.

Although his movie career slowed in later years, Newman picked up Oscar nominations in 1994 for "Nobody's Fool" and in 2002 for "Road to Perdition."

He returned to the stage the same year in "Our Town" at a Connecticut playhouse. The show moved to Broadway and Newman was nominated for a Tony award. He won an Emmy, U.S. television's highest honor, for its 2003 broadcast.

In 2005 he won another Emmy for best supporting actor in the mini-series "Empire Falls." His last film part was a voice-over role in the 2006 animated "Cars."


Newman resisted the glare of Hollywood's spotlight.

His long marriage to Woodward ran counter to Hollywood's tradition of fast weddings and quick divorces, and the pair lived in a 200-year-old Connecticut house, far from the heart of the entertainment industry.

Asked the secret of his marriage, Newman once said there was no reason to roam, asking: "I have steak at home. Why should I go out for a hamburger?"

He started auto racing because he said he was bored with acting, but won respect in that field, coming in second in the Le Mans 24-hour competition in 1975. In 1995 at age 70, he became the oldest driver on a winning team at the 24 hours of Daytona race.

Newman tried to advance many social causes, at times in the political arena. A supporter of liberal Democratic presidential nominee Eugene McCarthy in 1968, Newman ended up on President Richard Nixon's "enemies list," which he termed "the highest single honor I've ever received."

Still, Newman said his deepest satisfaction came from philanthropy.

Particularly close to his heart were his Hole-in-the-Wall Camps for seriously ill children. Today, there are eleven around the world that have helped over 135,000 kids, all free of charge.

Newman is survived by Woodward, five daughters, two grandsons, and his older brother, Arthur. Newman also had a son Scott, who died in 1978.

Friday, September 26, 2008

FanBoyWonder & Kemosabe Invade Baltimore Comic-Con

FanBoyWonder and our best pal and all around Kemosabe are hitting the road early tomorrow to Charm City for the 2008 Baltimore Comic Con.

It will be FBW’s first comic book show since we and Kemosabe hit the Pittsburg Comic-Con in 2006. We’re doing it on a budget this year but we’re glad just to hang with Kemosabe, to attend the panels, acquire a little bit of loot and maybe even give the a piece of our mind to the current brain trust at DC Comics.

Look for dispatches from the Con upon our return.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

FanBoyWonder Television Spotlight—The Return of ‘Life’

It’s been a long time coming but FanBoyWonder is pleased to announce the return this Monday of the second season of one our favorite television shows—Life on NBC.

We’ve been big fans of this show from the start. As much a victim of last season’s shortened writers strike as it was a beneficiary, Life is an under-hyped, yet top shelf action-cop drama that is frequently overshadowed by shows with more (marketing) flash but much less substance.

Life Season 2 kicks off on Monday at 10 p.m. even as the DVD of Season 1 is on sale now, as well as available for viewing on the show’s website

Here’s the Upshot from NBC: Life was his sentence. Life is what he got back. Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers) stars as the unconventional police officer-turned-convict-turned-detective with a second chance in each compelling Season One episode of the critically acclaimed mystery series Life.

After twelve years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, offbeat Charlie Crews has returned to the force with a $50 million settlement, a new spiritual outlook, a strong fondness for fruit, and a highly unusual approach to solving crime. With the aid of his skeptical and demanding new partner, Dani Reese, played by Sarah Shahi (Rush Hour 3), he’s turning police procedure upside down in this unique and fast-paced series with a “terrific cast [and] terrific writing” [according to Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times].

Despite its crappy Friday 10 p.m. time slot, NBC is at least trying to give the show a decent chance of attracting new viewers by rolling out four new episodes in two weeks—the aforementioned season premiere on Monday, at 10 p.m. after Heroes, then Friday, Oct. 3 at 10, then Monday Oct. 6 and back to Friday Oct. 10.

Life creator Rand Ravich has said that new viewers need not have seen any of Season 1 to get up to speed on Monday—NBC has posted the Season 2 premiere on the website and we agree, it’s a good episode for old fan and newcomer alike.

However, if you do get the Season1 DVD or even view it online, if you don’t feel like slogging through the whole season, all you need to do watch is the first episode and the season finale—“Pilot” and “Fill It Up” respectively to get the gist but we guarantee that you’ll want more.

The latter episode, Fill It Up was quite intense and should have nabbed Lewis an Emmy® nomination, as Crews confronted the man who killed his friends and he confronts his rage at serving the time.

Life follows the A plot, B plot formula— not unlike what we saw in USA Network’s Burn Notice, but much more effective in its implementation—the A plot centers around the murder/crime of the week while the B plot focuses on the Crews’ slow unraveling of the murder mystery and conspiracy for which he was framed and lost 12 years of his life behind bars.
It took a couple episodes early in last season but Crews ditched many of the annoying quirks that he displayed in the pilot episode, settling on just one or two idiosyncrasies.

Yet Lewis as Crews still displays an almost child like wonder at some of the many things that he missed while in prison—like GPS or the advent of the Internet, but we have also seen that dark angry side that he struggles—sometimes just barely, to hold back.

"[Crews] was in maximum security most of that time [during his 12-year prison stay], fighting for his life, the rest in solitary confinement," Lewis told USA Today earlier this month. "You have a character who is wild and imaginative and poetic and cracked and warped as you like. The world has changed."

Crews’ partner Reese is the perfect counterweight for him. We like her for a number of reasons—first and foremost that she’s not written as the sidekick to the oddball, quirky detective.

Reese outranks Crews as senior partner and she always seems to maintain her centeredness even as Crews sometimes is at his most wacky. But she has her demons as a recovering drug and booze addict after getting hooked while undercover.

Lewis is the star of the show but Sarah Shahi is ever bit his equal and not the comic relief sidekick or worse the eye candy with a gun pretending to be a cop. (See the episode “Powerless” again if there are any doubts).

Reese and Crews are both very flawed people—in some ways different and others very much alike. Unlike other Life fans, we hope Reese and Crews NEVER hook up romantically but we do hope they work their way toward a battle-hardened friendship.

We weren’t crazy about him at first but we’ve grown to like the character of Ted Early (Adam Arkin), the paroled financier who Crews saved while they were in lock up together and on the outside is Crews’ housemate and money manager.

We are not so taken with Crews' lawyer Constance (Brooke Langton), who appears to have been dropped from the main cast, nor with Crews’ ex-wife Jenn (Jennifer Siebel) who believed Crews was guilty and divorced him in prison.

Crews has some issues with her but unfortunately there’s little chemistry between the two and we blame that on Siebel who seems overwhelmed with the part.

We’ve since learned that Stargate SG-1’s Claudia Black was cast as Jenn originally but she had to bow out due to pregnancy. It’s a shame because we saw some early clips of Black as Jenn from the pilot and she was gangbusters and brought a lot more depth to the table.

Crews and Reese have a new boss this season in the form of Donal Logue replacing Deadwood’s Robin Weigart. We were disappointed by this as Weigart’s Lt. Davis was a tough but fair boss, even as she was subtly blackmailing Reese to give her dirt to use to kick Crews off the force and it seemed she was involved in some way in the Crews frame-up conspiracy.

We hope she gets to come back as a recurring character rather than be thrown away altogether.

Season 2 Wish List: We are really hoping to see more of Charlie Crews’ life before he went to jail; more of the character growth Ted started to show by the end of Season 1, as well as how Crews and Ted met in prison.

Most of all, after nearly two decades of Guilty as charged, prosecutors-can-do-no wrong (got Nifong????) on Law & Order, we would really LOVE to see Charlie Crews getting into the face of the District Attorney over the issue of the wrongly convicted.

Bottom line: Life had a tough time in the ratings last season and with a bad time slot and minimal network support, it can use some viewer help. In a sea of “reality” television crap, Life is a quality drama that is definitely worth your time.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

DC Comics’ Latest (BAD) ‘Decision’

FanBoyWonder was surprised not at all but shaking our head none the less at DC Comics’ latest mini-series to crash and burn on take off—DC Universe: Decisions.

Here’s the Upshot From DC Comics: Election season is upon us, and the stakes have never been higher! An unknown villain is attempting to assassinate the presidential candidates, and only the heroes of the DCU stand in the way. As Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Superman, Batman and more try to learn the killer's identity, they are faced with the difficult task of reconciling their own personal ideals with the mission at hand. Brought to you by writers Judd Winick and Bill Willingham and featuring sensational art by Rick Leonardi.

Frankly, we knew this mini-series was screwed from the moment we heard two words connected to this project—“Judd Winick.”

Admittedly, we weren’t exactly pre-sold on this mini-series when we saw it on the comics shop shelf this week but any notion of giving it a chance and taking it home vanished as we thumbed through Decisions #1. We put the issue back on the shelf in short order. Perhaps it should have stayed “pulped.”

It has been said that the true test of one’s intelligence is how much they agree with you. That being the case the Dan Phillips of is a very smart man indeed. Let’s go to his review of DC Universe: Decisions #1.

“DCU Decisions is not done well, and it is not done intelligently. Its idea of politics is superficial, to say the least. Its idea of left and right is as overly simplistic, insubstantial and deceiving as the red and blue colored maps every network flashes around during election season.

“Its characters express no real opinions whatsoever. In fact, the closest thing to an actual opinion or stance writers Judd Winick and Bill Willingham give any of their political characters is one advisor's shallow and vague promise that his candidate's ‘programs will lift millions out of poverty and despair.’”

Decisions would have been a Brave and Bold idea in the best creative hands but these were NOT the best hands on deck at DC. Or….perhaps they were, which says a lot about the state of Dan DiDio’s DC Comics today.

What the braintrust behind Decisions doesn’t seem to realize is that for all of its blunt force trauma, American politics is a bloodsport of nuisance and sophistication.

We can’t speak so much about Bill Willingham but there is NOTHING in Judd Winick’s portfolio of work to date that remotely suggests that he possesses anything more than a superficial knowledge of politics outside of his own world view—we’re not sure he can even spell “political science,” much less “teach” it to fanboys.

Again, Dan Phillips of IGN.

“If the powers at be at DC really wanted to throw caution to the wind and use their iconic superheroes to explore political issues, they should have dove right into the murky waters of politics and at least tried to explore a few issues maturely. As much as I would have cringed to see a character like Superman take a stance on something as controversial and complicated as abortion or immigration, I at least would have commended DCU for having some serious stones. Instead, they handle everything with kiddie gloves.

“In the end, the book is insulting, not to any of my political leanings, but to my intelligence. This is really the best DC can offer in terms of social relevance? Really? I suspect that even a ten-year old would find this book's overly simplistic take on politics to be suspect.

“I think the fundamental idea behind this issue is ill conceived from a business standpoint. Yet I still would have praised DC's boldness in tackling the issues had they ever, you know, tried to tackle any issues. They too, it seems, are trying to have their cake and eat it too. They want to be praised for real world relevance, yet lack the courage to actually try for it.”

Chalk this up as yet another brainstorm from Dan DiDio’s (Out) House of Ideas. Dan should be glad that HIS job isn’t up for a vote, lest his “constituents” might just “pulp” him out of office.
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