Saturday, July 25, 2015.
By MICHAEL WALSH
Back in January, I received a brief email from my son-in-law. The subject line read "Bingo." Its four-point, seven-word message —"shot here; SF; cute girl; based on comic" — was followed by a link to a YouTube video promoting a new television series: iZombie.
A scientist by training, he is precise and to-the-point in his communications. On more than one occasion, he has heard me complain about the quantity of new content currently available on television, and that as a result I have a personal check list that helps me to decide which new shows to sample.
His note declared that iZombie earned a tick mark in all four of my list's boxes — "Bingo" — and then listed them, just to show me that he'd been listening.
He knows that a certain amount of civic pride figures in my willingness to take a look at just about anything filmed in Vancouver — "shot here" — but it's the quality of the local talent, not the scenery, that's turned the hometown into a major production centre.
When it comes to narrative performance, I favour science fiction and fantasy — "SF" — the genre with endless imaginative possibilities. Ever since the days of The X-Files, Vancouver has cultivated its reputation as "Hollyweird" by nurturing just such projects.
In addition, I'm of an age when I can admit to an aesthetic appreciation of the feminine — "cute girl" — as a basic component of a complete entertainment mix. iZombie's star, New Zealand-born Rose McIver, had already established her local/fantasy/cute girl bone fides with eight guest appearances as Tinker Bell on the Once Upon a Time series.
Finally, I like to laugh — "based on comic" — and I prefer stories written with wit. Life is neither unrelentingly serious, nor a laugh-tracked comedy, and I have little patience for either extreme in my leisure-time viewing.
A sophisticated comics fan, my son-in-law was familiar with the new show's source material. He was kind enough to loan me the first dozen issues of Vertigo's iZombie comic, a funny, inventive title I'd quite overlooked because of, well, the title.
The show's first season premiered on The CW network March 17, and ran for 13 episodes. It delivered in every department — "Bingo" — and has been renewed for a second season, beginning October 6.
That means I'll have an excuse to write more about its delights later this year. Until then, I'll be making regular additions to the Reeling Back archive. The 10 most recent postings were:
THE SWORD IN THE STONE — Artistic inspiration was almost entirely absent from this 1963 look at King Arthur's boyhood adventures. Disney's cartoon factory workers produced a formula cartoon musical that reduced the mighty magician Merlin to a dotty fairy godfather. (Posted July 23)
HOUSEHOLD SAINTS — In her 1994 domestic drama, independent filmmaker Nancy Savoca spoke to the lived experience of three generations of Catholic women in New York's Little Italy. Her luminescent fantasy explores streets that are mystic rather than mean. (Posted July 23)
ALADDIN — in 1992, Robin Williams brought the magic back to the long-moribund Disney animation division. His voice performance as the blue-hued Genie was at the heart of this non-stop cartoon celebration based on a story from The Arabian Nights. (Posted July 21)
PORKY'S — Writer-director Bob Clark made Canadian film history with this shot-in-Florida teen comedy. The fourth highest-grossing picture of 1982, it's a hilarious, sweet-tempered feature that glories in containing "every high school sex joke of all time." (Posted July 20)
MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE — Not to be confused with 1985's The Secret of the Sword cartoon feature, this is director Gary Goddard's 1987 live-action movie. Though both are based on the action figures manufactured by Mattel, Goddard's picture stars Dolph Lundgren as He-Man and Frank Langella as his nemesis Skeletor. (Posted July 18)
MR. HOLMES — Exclusive to the Reeling Back website, this new review finds much to like in director Bill Condon's 2015 reconsideration of the ever-popular Sherlock Holmes character. Ian McKellen has the title role in the story of a once-brilliant nonagenarian's nuanced rage against the dying of the light. (Posted July 17)
OUR FEATURE FILM FEST: 12 — In Part 12 of a 20-part series, Reeling Back continues The Greater Vancouver Book Feature Film Festival with restored notes on the 14 bread-and-butter features that make up The B-List. (Posted July 15)
LIGHT YEARS (GANDAHAR) — Though revered by France's cinéastes, animation director René Laloux had no control over the changes U.S. distributor Miramax would make in the American version of his 1988 science-fiction fantasy about an endangered future world. (Posted July 13)
SELF/LESS — Tarsem Singh directed Ben Kingsley and Ryan Reynolds in this 2015 action thriller that explores the consequences of a medical technology that allows a dying billionaire to transplant his consciousness into the body of a financially-desperate younger man. (Posted July 10)
TURNER & HOOCH — Tom Hanks turned in a fine, funny performance as a fastidiously neat police detective partnered with a big, dirt-loving dog in this 1989 cop buddy movie from Canadian-born director Roger Spottiswoode. (Posted July 9)