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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
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for Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Confessions of a Superhero

When my computer started making awful noises at me and I knew it would be several hours before the fix-it guy could come to Casa Isabella to fix it, I decided to watch a couple Netflix movies that had been sitting in my office for a month. That's your Tipster for you, always looking for that silver lining.

Confessions of a Superhero [Arts Alliance Amer; $14.95] is a full-length documentary about four people who "perform" as super-heroes on tourist-lined Hollywood Boulevard, the Hollywood Walk of Fame. All consider themselves actors and have appeared in films as extras or in small roles. None is likely to achieve the fame and fortune they seek. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Initially, this documentary had a feel-good vibe to it. The actors must abide by strict laws governing their behavior. They must be approached by tourists and they can't charge for posing for photos with the tourists, only say that they work for tips without naming a dollar amount. Each has fine qualities and, to varying degrees, each has personal hangups to overcome.

Christopher Dennis looks very much like the late Christopher Reeve. On the Boulevard, he's a convincing Man of Steel. He's friendly, polite, and always smiling. He's also a avid collector of Superman comic books and movie memorabilia, claiming a personal collection worth over half a million. Yet his claim of being the son of Oscar-winning actress Sandy Dennis is disputed by her family, he's kind of pest when appearing in the venues with Margot Kidder and other Superman-related actors, and, at times, comes off as disrespectful to his wife. I love his enthusiasm, but sometimes he sets it beyond a reasonable comfort level.

Maxwell Allen (Batman) has an uncanny resmblence to George Clooney, if Clooney had anger management issues and had maybe taken a few punches to the face. He spins wild and frankly unbelievable stories of a dark past working for a mobster, desperate to project a tough guy image at all times. He supplements his Batman money by working security at studios and takes martial arts courses to improve his fighting skills. It'd be easy to write him off as a jerk, but then you see how loving he is towards his wife, who is on disability.

Jennifer Gehrt (Wonder Woman) was a small-town cheerleader who just couldn't get out of her small Southern town quick enough. She has curves and a sweet personality and, even more than "Superman" and "Batman," you want good things for her. During the documentary, we learn she went to Las Vegas to marry a guy she hadn't known for very long and it comes as no surprise when the marriage comes to a sudden end. Always optimistic, she sees this as an opportunity to devote herself more fully to her career, hiring a new agent and an acting coach.

Joseph McQueen (the Hulk) is the most impressive of the four. As a young man, he traded his X-Box for a bus ride to Los Angeles, arriving during the Rodney King riots. Homeless for four years, he kept auditioning and, when he wins a small role in a retro kung fu parody, you're thrilled for him. But, when the movie is finished, he is back posing for tourists on the Boulevard in a bulky costume whose interior can reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

The documentary is brutally honest, consistently interesting, and, ultimately, terribly sad. Amazing determination or not, the actors are looked down upon by many in the Hollywood community and, at the risk of doing the same myself, it's painful to watch them following dreams they will likely never achieve.

If I were rating Dennis, Allen, Gehrt, and McQueen, I'd give each of them a full five Tonys. I like them, I wish them well, and, if I met them, we'd probably hit it off. But it's the documentary I'm reviewing here.

Confessions of a Superhero is an intriguing piece of work. It's no award-winner, but it does get a perfectly respectable three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

V for Vendetta

V For Vebdetta [Warner Home Video; $14.95] was the other DVD I viewed on my unplanned movie night. Hard to believe, but, even though the movie was released in 2006, this is the first time I saw it. I have get out more, or, at least, watch comics-related movies in more timely fashion. It's been two decades since I read the Alan Moore/David Lloyd comics on which this film is based, so my comments are based strictly on what I viewed on the screen and not any comparison to the source material.

I liked it quite a bit. The story moved along fairly well, though the flashbacks could have been more to the point. The movie definitely held my interest. Some actors were excellent, notably Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, and especially Stephen Fry. Others, usually the villains, chewed scenery from start to finish, with John Hurt being particularly dreadful in that regard. All in all, V For Vendetta entertained me and, in doing so, earns a respectable three Tonys...and encourages me to reread the comic books at the earliest opportunity.

Tony Tony Tony

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 05/05/2009 | 05/06/2009 | 05/07/2009 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined.

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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