"If we can't learn to live together, we're gonna die alone"

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Keanu Reeves, William Gibson, Dystopia and how much is 160 gigs really worth?

Keanu Reeves, what a guy. A more polarizing Sci-Fi icon you'd be hard-pressed to come up with. Equally revered and condemned for his role as Neo in the Matrix Trilogy, his role as Johnny Mnemonic garnered no such critical disagreement: The "thumbs down" icon was far more unanimously entered. A better argument for the "Dislike" button there may never have been.
     Here's where I stand on the issue. I grew up with Bill and Ted as a "running in the background" constant. While "Excellent Adventure" is familiar to many, far less ubiquitous is the sequel, "Bogus Journey" and its foray into the ultra-weird representations of Heaven and Hell. It's awesome and should be required viewing for any would-be theology or anthropology student. Ted "Theodore" Logan is hard for me to turn my back on, so I'll always give Keanu a little bit more credit than he deserves in any given situation.
     Of course, if he doesn't strike some as the savior of the modern Sci-Fi epic, that doesn't surprise me either.
     "Mnemonic" is an intersection of some really interesting elements, all of which I consider important and iconic,  and remains important to me for combining; pre-90's hip-hop founder(Ice-T), 90's pulp action(Dolph), 90's block-buster and future Sci-Fi savant(Keanu), Ninjas, dolphins with fricking lazers on their heads, the girl from Starship Troopers that isn't Denise Richards and, in my opinion, the Godfather of the Matrix itself and father of the modern science fiction paradigm (future dystopia and the emergence of corporation-states) in the form of William Gibson, who wrote the 12 page short story that "Mnemonic" is based on.
     Basically I'm not sure what all the rush to pan this movie was about in the first place. Keanu is...Keanu. You can't expect someone to be something their not. And he is not a thespian. But Dolph Lundgren turns in what is arguably the performance of his career and there are some really killer action sequences. The ninjas get cool future-ninja technology and do some major f-ing shit up! The lazer-garrot is a particularly awesome touch. For a pulpy sci-fi thriller I think this sweet baby delivers on several fronts. Does it do justice to Gibson's "Bridge Trilogy" world? Yes, in a lot of ways, and importantly visually, it does. We are presented with a dichotomy of haves and have-nots that has reached a biblical scale and the forces of greed and technology have long overridden principles of morality and common decency. I appreciate that "Mnemonic" doesn't bash us over the head with this though, we're simply presented with a world that looks really shitty to live in unless you are really, really rich. And lets face it, most of us can agree that from the looks of things we're headed in a direction much like this. The fact that when the leader of the obligatory underground resistance movement is revealed he happens to be a dolphin is enough to make this movie must-see material on my list.
     When I started writing this I meant for it just be a side column in response to CHUD.com's inclusion of "Mnemonic" on its 365 Days of Bad list, but the more I think about it the more important it is for me to defend this movie vision of one of Gibson's works, a rarity for some reason in this world of hastily-optioned comic book and sci-fi studio properties made even more so by the fact that it just isn't terrible. While I'm still thankful that I haven't been subjected to whatever shit-wash FOX or Sony or some such idiot tank will end up dragging "Neuromancer" through, I think that "Mnemonic" offers a pleasant re-creation of Gibson's ideology without destroying conceptions of perfection most people associate with his flagship work. William Gibson, by my count, stands as probably the most important science fiction author since Orwell as far as presenting a hauntingly real possible future scenario. The original short story "Johnny Mnemonic" was probably almost one of Gibson's afterthoughts, an idea that got cut from the final manuscript for "Neuromancer"(it features the feminine anti-hero "Molly" from the "Sprawl" Trilogy) but the movie version expounds nicely on the basic premise and gives Keanu a great space...to further prove the point that no matter how great of a vehicle you place him in, he will try to crash it.
     CHUD.com is running this monologue that Reeves recites to prove that the character and by extension the movie is no good. I think this monologue is a sad testament to the individualist desperation that would likely exist in an economically and socially debased future environment. Without further ado, the infamous "Room Service" speech...

I can safely recommend this movie to anyone who gets satisfaction from anything involving Paul Verhoeven or John Carpenter...and it reaches beyond there as well, although maybe not too far. Its a genre-specific piece for sure but it's up on Netflix Instant right now. So I think when I get back from the New Deal show tonight, I'm gonna cue this sucker up and check out Keanu's flat top from before he knew Kung-Fu.


Friday, February 4, 2011

File Under: AT&T's Rebound... a cute trist with Android

You have to feel a little bit sorry for AT&T at the moment, and maybe more importantly their shareholders. This is likely going to be a really tough week for those folks. Verizon began pre-sales for their version of the iPhone 3s Wednesday morning...and pre-orders are now closed. All the tech blogs I've checked come to the same overall conclusion; the iOS experience on Verizon's network seems to be significantly superior.

AT&T, now likely completely confused about what software platform to align itself with jumped to release what I admit is a pretty slick looking Android device by Motorola (whose original Droid I still own and swear by) in order to make some sort of statement about their hardware maintaining pace... Frankly AT&T's television ad campaigns have left me totally confused as they jump from Android to Windows to iOS and back... poor little guys with a shitty network..

A link here to Motorola's nifty flash demos on the ATRIX. I still haven't been somewhere where any of my friends sporting 4G devices like an EVO have demonstrated any kind of distinguishable advantage in speed with their network's capabilities.. I'll keep watching out of a general sense of curiosity... but one wonders what would drive AT&T to maintain the charade at this point.

More on the Verizon iPhone as it becomes available. Peep the Atrix below:

Motorola ATRIX 4G - dual-core phone - Android smartphone - Experience - Motorola Mobility, Inc. USA

Z-DAY ESSENTIALS - Part One in a New Ongoing Series


I only have a couple real concerns about the future. I’ve already destroyed my credit rating beyond any possible hope of redemption so the fear of a predatory mortgage lender taking a bite outta my hide is almost comforting… Nuclear holocaust seems so.. what’s the word, relatively painless? Nooo folks what keeps me up at night (besides researching the back story of Superman productions and general insomnia) is the fear of my doors being kicked in by mindless former human corpses missing limbs and leaking all manner of malodorous putrefying bodily fluids. Yup everybody’s thinkin’ it. I’m just the one sayin’ it out loud. We all know Zombie Apocalypse is upon us. It’s simply a matter of time. So while you waste your time taking ticks off the ever-shortening Z-Day clock updating your Facebook status and adding photos to your albums of pictures of you and all your friends in completely compromising drunken debaucherous poses for which one of your friends, unaware that you tagged him, is likely getting fired tomorrow, I’ve thankfully been collaborating with my resident Espionage, Firearms and Field Gear Guru KRS to bring you this list of the most tactical, instrumental, functional and fool-proof items for the one item all households must have set for emergency: The Z-Pack. Starting with the Pack.
The LEVEL III Assault Pack-125 is designed for efficiency and maximum carrying power. Cool-mesh back keeps the sweat a bit further, hydration system compatible, contoured adjustable shoulder straps with D rings. This flexible and adaptable 18x10x10” team assault pack comes complete with 5 stacked compartments great for gear and ammo. Available in colors with super-slick names like Army Digital and Coyote Tan. Amazingly, this sweet baby is available at cheaperthandirt.com for a zombie-slaying $39.97

Not a lightsaber but if you can't get a blaze going with this you wouldn't need one.
The EXO-Tac nanoSTRIKER ferrocerium firestarter takes the “Oh SHIT!” out of having to start a rapid fire in a Cats ‘n Dogs sideways “oh SHIT!storm”. This tool sets a new standard of small and uses two types of stainless steel to create a nearly undefeatable sparking device. Small enough o clip on a keychain, pack ring or just throw in your pocket. Whatever you do just don’t leave home without it.

Oh sorry sir, here's your steak knife..
Knifes are just cool any way you slice it (ha!) but when the bogeys get too cloose (intentional, it’s a Lando thing) and you gotta go from fully auto to arterial spray mode, there’s nothing on the market that feels as good in your hand as a Benchmade. The first choice of U.S. Special Forces for a reason, Benchmade come in many varieties of weight and length to suit your exact specs, but we recommend the 141Nimravus Tanto, a Molle sheath compatible, 154 cm blade featuring a full-tanged anodized machined 6061 T-6 aluminum handle. I don’t know what that means but I know what it feels like in my hand. Feels like victory.
For additional functionality you got to add an all-purpose larger-scale blade. Though we don’t recommend setting up any type of long-term camp deep in the woods since Zombies have been known to roll deep in such areas, some sort of side-blade is an essential for post-human existence. The direct quote from Guru KRIS “I could take you thru the selection process but rest assured FISKARS axes are the way to go.. lifetime warranty and multiple options depending on needs...” It’s important to remember that our needs may involve kindling as well as head-splitting and limb removal. With a shock-absorbing FiberComp handle and non-slip grip, the FISKAR X-11 Splitting Axe will give you hundreds of one-strike log(or skull..) splits with perfected weight distribution, advanced blade geometry and a nearly-unbreakable force-maximizing design. We always endorse function over fashion but this baby looks sweet hanging from a leather Alice webbing sheath. Another steal at $37.99 from FISKARS website direct.

..I’m not totally sure about this one but KRIS swears up and down that the telescoping fork is a can’t-leave-home-without-it style necessity. Not rated for human meat consumption, no matter how long you’ve been working on special sauce. Another steal from Amazon at $6.27

The Surefire SAINT LED Headlamp is a beauty, but runs about the same price as an X-Box clocking in at $185.00. That said investing in a virtually indestructible light source, weight with batteries 9.4 ounces, submersible to 3 feet for up to 30 minutes let-me-count-the-ways perfect may be worth forgoing the next couple copies of Call of Duty you were going to invest in. The variable-output light source is vision-field optimized and adjustable from 0 to 100 lumens even in cold or with gloved hands. The housing is made from hard anodized aerospace-grade aluminum. 2 double AA batteries will get you up to 100 hours of illumination depending on lumen variance.

Streamlight’s Knucklehead series with adjustable headstock with a Moonlight setting 20-day runtime offers engineered optics and dual parabolic reflectors within a larger textured reflector optimizes light-to-target ratio. C4 Premium LED tech offers up to 200 Lumens, the Knuckleheads are designed to put light where the sun don’t shine with the slightest of ease. 2-meter resistance tested high-impact super tough nylon polymer. IPX4-rated water resistance. Only the strong baby…


Step in to my parlor
Eureka!’s solo series offers several variable options but the Solitaire has a durable 6.3mm fiberglass fram, shockcorded for quickset and retrieval. Floor size is 2’8”x8’ and weighs in at 2lbs. 9oz. $89.90 gets you equipped from Eureka!’s website. The Assault Outfitter 4 sleeps 4 survivors with floor space of 8’6”x7’6” but weighs a hefty 13lbs. 5oz. This is for really digging in, preferably from a snipers position or well isolated and secured cuz if yer dug in this hard you better be sure those flesh-devouring creeps are kept well-enough at bay.

This represents the first in our series of Z-Day Essentials. Thanks to Tactical Correspondent KRIS for taking time to field-test and review all of our gear. We look forward to covering ammunition and ordinance in our next episode….

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


this is the best picture of them I could find..

         In the back of an old mill factory right down 63 a few miles from where I normally spend my time in the coffee shops of the 413 is a bunch of converted rental space that local hopefuls use to bang out the next generation of tracks. It’s poorly lit and hard to find and holds that kind of creepy too-deep-in-the-woods feel that makes the mind wander to horror movies of the 80’s. It is here that a fledgling group of MCs and producers decided they were gonna start putting their minds on tape and make a somewhat concerted effort to bring their style out of the woods and into a least a few near-by and far-away speaker boxes. The result of this effort is a 46.7 minute gateway. Its similar in size and dimensions to the one Donnie Darko used to push the jet engine out of the way of his bed, and due to this size Mass Pro is able to push a good chunk of their own resources through this gaping gash in the space/time continuum.
            And yet this is only one of the laws of physics the crew breaks as I end an evening of experimental saxophone improvisation set over a live performance of drum and rhythm samples played by Jake Snow in his dungeon lair, a room in the Renovation Supplies Building in Miller’s Falls which houses a host of rock and pop-punk amalgamations fine tuning what seems to have become a brand more than a sound. Nameless powerchord riffs tumble out of a black orifice splattered with remnants of gig posters and notes to band members about rent dues on the rehearsal space for the month. All in all, the noise level is abrasive and the air tanged with red-bull and wrist-band sweat; it’s the perfect setting to go spelunking and find a truly precious gem of  analog-to-digital conversion, warped vinyl and over-heated mixing board power supplies.
            But back to the scene in Jake Snow’s particular corner of this condemned mill structure. The only word I want to use as I survey Jake’s gear and fire-hazardous cable-and-chord braids is “LAB”. Jake appears to work from an actual mad scientist set for a martial arts movie shot in the early 70’s with already outdated equipment. I’ve met and spoken to Jake before but never actually gotten the chance to sit down and try to absorb his music and, quite frankly, I’m a bit wary of what I see. Its not the first time a young would-be producer or MC has gotten me to sit down and spend some time listening to the verse or the 4-bar sample that is going to relegate said hopeful to the A-List of hip-hop royalty and alter the game forever. I admire those that keep that drive they feel in their hearts positioned so squarely on their sleeves but reserve enthusiasm.
            Jake isn’t too sure I’m going to like anything he plays for me I can see in his eyes that he is actually concerned that my opinion is going to be way south of his as to the artistry he has managed to capture. The simple fact that he isn’t trying to glare me into believing that he IS, in fact, THE ONE is enough to keep me engaged, but it’s soundwaves Jake manages to output from his MPC 1000 and AKAI SB 1200 that make my eyes narrow and really start to listen, and then stop listening and shut my eyes all together. Jake and his compatriots in MASS PRO have, like a rose growing in a concrete jungle, found a thread and pulled hard. They don’t show any signs of letting go, and their collaborative effort entitled THE BOOM BAM drips with true hip-hop, the sights, scents and smells of Brooklyn in ’94 are there, as is the heat and sweat of the early 2000’s in Silver Lake and Echo Park where young producers like Mad Lib were casting off Hollywood’s glitter quotient for something that spoke to them in a stronger fashion. Arguments can be made about almost any period or era of almost any timeline that any particular sector is the truest, the realest, the one with the claim to embody most the spirit of said vehicle. For me, what hip-hop meant in the mid-90’s and for a short while there-after was the claim to this sector in my soul’s ear. Listening to the sounds Jake had mastered, and was creating right in front of my eyes layering drops and samples from the MPC directly over the recorded beat gave me a sense of nostalgia but also a feeling of true grit and a connection that radio hip-hop had long since abandoned.

            Taking all this in and at the same time beginning to write these very words in my head I came to a conclusion, and was immediately satisfied with my decision to drive to Miller’s Falls on this sub zero evening on the Eve of the Second Storm of Destruction during the Winter of 2010-11, and especially that I had brought my saxophone in order to immediately take the chance to throw my own sense of ’94 on his casually calculated vibraphone samples and quantized drum hits.
            Of course, without great depths there can be no great heights.
            While Jake and his crew work with several examples of the canonized equipment, the essentials that Pete Rock, Premier, RZA and others slaved over in order to great the sounds that defined a generation, there is a lack of other basics. We plugged in borrowed headphones and draped extension chords across the console desk to get started. And there is no real output recording module in the room. Everything Jake has needs to be loaded into the MPC before it can be recorded. Nothing he has is mixed down or mastered. A 16-track hard disk recording unit carries the brunt of his operation. I stare blankly for a minute and begin to ask him about backing up his music but the words choke off in my throat. I know he doesn’t have an external drive to store his compositions. It’s a game of chicken that many of us play with fate, I lost my own hard drive a few weeks ago and there are few things more frustrating in life. Scarcity of resources creates desperate measures and I’d be the first to admit that part of the raw appeal of Jake’s music comes from the raw material he works with, the sparse nature of the surroundings, the isolation of the building and several other environmental factors that seem to coax a level of emotion from his equipment which can’t be found in more traditional work spaces. A thought process that could well be used to explain the transition some of my favorite MCs made between their 1st and 3rd albums..from the street to the mansion. Most unfortunate.
            After several loops and a few trips outside to let Rocky, my 90 lb dog child, run around in the snow banks near the transformed mill, I ask Jake if he would be ok with me playing some sax over his beats. His eyes light up and I can tell he has been waiting for the opportunity for some time. I’m actually a bit nervous. This type of creation, playing over beats and then re-sampling to distribute over even more beats, has been a goal of mine since early in the days of my tenure with Audible Mainframe. So in a way I’m actually achieving a long-term goal. And I can tell that Jake has only had the chance to create with a handful of instruments and having an actual horn player in his recording space almost seems too good to be true. We try a couple runs through one of his medium, 85 to 90 bpm, loops with several piano riffs and a nice vocal sample thrown in. We are working on how to run the inputs into his 16 track machine and we make a decision to improvise as much as possible, simply letting the beat run while Jake manipulates the piano and vocal samples and I sit back throwing phrases over and over, trying to give several examples of similar ideas so that the best ones can be harvested and used again, the great tradition of reducing, reusing and recycling in hip-hop allowed to continue. After several minutes just playing for each other we stop to take a break and listen back to a few riffs. Jake is clearly quite pleased and I’m more than satisfied, happy to be still finding new and unique moments of inspiration in my own playing, and to be sharing a recording space with a player who is so singularly driven to just make good music.
            Stepping outside again I let Rocky peruse the snowy wooded edges of the lot housing the Renovators Supply building and take a good look the landscape. As stated, we are certainly off the beaten path. Jake is guy who grew up out here, more woods than lights and no strong penchant for flashy attire, quite the opposite, its all Kurt Cobain-era flannels and ripped jeans. Like myself, he does have an eye for sneakers and footwear, and we comment on the fact that we’re both wearing Nike boots..even in the depths of winter and environmental hardship fashion must sometimes get eye to eye with function. Jake is the kind of person whose disposition, upbringing and love for music and hip-hop would make certain social groups of uninitiated and uncultured mallrats and couture classists ask stupid questions like “where did you even learn to like hip-hop? Why do you think you can make that kind of music?” the usual diatribes of lower intelligence and underlying bigotry; inability to accept or understand even the slightest differences. I long ago stopped trying to understand what drives people to create their own boxes and then distribute every human being they meet into one of these pre-fabricated boxes. It’s a psychological affliction I suppose we are all guilty of at times. What strikes me about Jake is that he doesn’t seem to realize that he doesn’t exactly fit the profile. He is almost overly layed back, even-tempered, the picture of easy-going hilltown Americana. Part of our conversation about current hip-hop (which is short) 90’s hip-hop (which could go on forever) and his own group and goals turns towards his public persona. In this age of internet MCs and YouTube superstars I simply want to know where he is at when it comes to promotional materials. Mass Pro have a website, its got information and lots of music. The basics are there but there isn’t even an attempt to create a lasting impression. I look under Jake’s profile on the website. He is listed as Red Idea. I ask him about the nickname and he tells me he has tried a few different ones and none have really stuck. Then he says something truly profound, “I’m not even sure what the big deal is about having a name,” he quips while I’m prodding him again about promo. I stop and think about this statement, which I realize completely defines his stance and perspective on the music he loves. His casual, perhaps even subconscious resistance to the spotlight is the opposite side of the braggadocio and ridiculous clothing, cars etc. rap that has taken its place in the mainstream of hip-hop, attracting the street dreams of teenagers and solidifying the disgust for the art form held by older generations and the status quo. In this sentence he shows once again how easily he breaks the boundaries of physics by proving that in fact not everyone out there is doing it strictly for the Benjamins. It’s a nice reminder that physics is not the only set of rules at work in the universe and that there is a time and place to break those rules and if you are to be bound at all, to be bound by something on a higher plane that twists physics and science into just another cup of morning coffee and makes hip-hop that makes you want to put your headphones back on. Maybe even makes you want to go look for your walkman and play some tapes and force a hard listen, all the way through the whole side of an album instead of just your top 10 favorite songs of last month determined by…who? Ryan Seacrest?
 It’s hard to know what Jake even expects or hopes to gain from his music, maybe nothing. If that’s the case then I can only hope Jake Snow and his Mass Pro cohorts continue making their brand of time-travel hip-hop, taking us back to when people rhythmed and rhymed for reasons that had nothing to do with champagne or foreign cars. I hope I get a chance to make more music like this with Jake and I hope that someone reads this and takes the time to search out Mass Pro, light something and enjoy music for all the right reasons again.

*check out their website where the generously offer many of their tracks for free

Monday, January 31, 2011


Caprica – A World with No Home           
For those who don't go deeeeeep sci-fi the way I do (although if you don't I'm not sure how you got so turned around that you ended up reading this blog) Caprica was a sort of fable that was set to tell us about the downfall of a society a long time ago. Pushed to hedonism and depravity in a way remanicent of the final days of the Roman, and possibly American, Empire, humanity's last ditch effort to save itself from itself by creating intelligent machines went, predictably, horribly wrong. Caprica was a prequel to the Battlestar Galactica re-imagined series which was introduced in the early 2000's and pretty much single-handedly brought hard sci-fi without a Star Wars tag on it back from the dead. However, discontinued and, in my view, discounted in many ways, Caprica never got a chance to come into its own. It’s unfortunate because the universe they were given to write and play within was already so diverse and intensely populated that it never occurred to me that under-development would be its demise. Perhaps the writers felt too held back by the fact that the end of the story was never in question; the Cylons would destroy Caprica and along with it all colonies and humanity would be essentially lost in space left to figure out life and survival with just Admiral Adama to guide them(masterfully portrayed in the BSG series by Edward James Olmos), but I felt like they spent too much time showing the loss and remorse of characters who's storylines needed to be pushed along in order to create a cohesive narrative. They introduced compelling concepts like the STO or Soldiers of the One, a religious-terrorism organization which believed in the existence of only One True God (as opposed to Caprica’s mainstream ideology which subscribed to a Pantheon religion using the gods we know from Greek and Roman mythology). This created an intense and violently relatable contemporary premise to work from (the main character was killed in a civilian suicide bombing in the first episode) but which never developed along any believable train of thought. The colonies of each planet in Caprica’s solar system were briefly explored with the Planet Tauron’s culture being the most showcased off Caprica and the people of Tauron being cast as stand-ins for Italian gangsters. The toughest gangster on the show also happening to be gay. So they set a whole bunch of stages within the first two episodes and didn’t give the characters the chance to explore the personalities that were written for them. Alas, now we'll never see exactly how “Zoe”, the human being whose personality was uploaded to the internet on the day she was murdered and whose existence was then maintained through an “Avatar”, made the jump from angst-y teen internet creation to bloodthirsty kill-bot (although we do get to see that her physical manifestation is ironically built by her father who is forever trying to devise a way to get her back from the dead without knowing that he has already done it), we'll never see how (future) Admiral William  Adama's sister's death and subsequent internet resurrection impacted Adama's growth and we'll never have a clear vision of what was going on in the "Holonet" (read unregulated internet and media with three dimensional chat rooms and addicted inhabitants of life-like games involving extreme behavior) and how it contributed to the birth of a species of robot with the singular goal to destroy all of humanity. <P>
Later this year we'll be seeing BSG:Blood and Chrome,  a new series set some time after the events that were (not entirely) depicted in Caprica (ten years into the second Cylon War to be precise)  but its confusing to figure how they plan on jumping the narrative to Adama's early days as a pilot without finishing the story of how the Cylons actually came into existence, and working out how Adama avoided joining his uncle's gang for that matter. It's a frustrating end to a show that had a lot going for it, but I'm not necessarily sad to see it go. The production never looked the way it should have; I didn't buy the stylization of Caprica’s city in the way I bought the hard edged, lived-in feel of Galactica, and again, the writers dragged the characters around by the scruff of their necks without ever really getting near the places we knew they needed and wanted them to go psychologically and at times even physically. It is interesting because one of the writing department's major players, Jane Espenson, a veteran of the first BSG series as well as Sci-Fi fan favorites like Buffy and almost every other Joss Whedon project, contributed heavily to the storyline.  Although original creator Ronald D. Moore produced the Caprica project it just goes to show how many roles have to come together perfectly to create that blend of beauty, brawn and brains that is the blueprint for hard-hitting and believable(or at least willingness to suspend disbelief) science fiction projects. Hopefully Espenson and her new crew will find a more interesting story to tell with Blood and Chrome in the near future. Because I for one would hate to see the re-imagined Battlestar Universe placed on the shelf for good.<P>

Post Script: I will be interested to see how Alessandra Torresani’s (Zoe in Caprica) career develops. I thought she had a lot of promise but was never given enough screen-time, especially as what amounted to the central character as “Cylon-zero”. I know she has some schlocky horror vehicle coming out sometime this year, but after that it would be cool if she gets some nifty sci-fi spot. She has the spunk to be a Sarah Michelle Gellar or Eliza Dushku in the ‘10s if she wants to go that route…

Sunday, January 30, 2011

From Superman '78 to Superman 2012... How Hollywood decided to Embrace, Bastardize, Cast-Off and then Fall Back in Love with SuperHeroes

Exploring the relationship between Richard and Shula Donner, Joel Schumacher, Bryan Singer and How the Dye for the Modern Superhero Movie was Cast…And WHERE does Joel Silver fit in?

Enter Shane Black-A forgotten writer with credits that include Lethal Weapon, The Last Boyscout… and the Lethal Weapon Reboot? Where does he fit in?

Christoper Nolan and David S. Goyer as overseers of the Superman reboot to be directed by Zach Snyder (sweet!) and all-around DC (movie) Universe Supervisors.

What's Past is Prologue....

I’m trying to draw some concrete lines between some of Hollywood’s ruling class and the direction and tone that all superhero movies have taken since the release of Superman in 1978. There is a definitely a direct connection between Richard Donner (whom I’m a big fan of) and Joel Schumacher (who has far more arguable credibility) and somewhere mixed in there is a sprinkling of producer Joel Silver and director Bryan Singer who has, honestly, been questionable since The Usual Suspects, but is responsible for the tonality of the X-Men franchise before he jumped ship to work on the abandoned (by glitter-meister McG) Superman project which ultimately flopped, and Fox essentially jumped ship on the X-Men, relegating it to the man behind such gems as Rush Hour 1,2 and 3, non other than Brett Ratner (how do I hate thee for destroying the limited credibility the X-Men franchise had attained? Let me count the ways.)

In any event, when the dust cleared, the was much to be said about the way Singer handled the X-Men in movie one and two, casting at time relative newcomer Hugh Jackman in what would ultimately be the lead role of Wolverine and, and cast the rest of the team in a not necessarily star-spangled manner. He also made the plight of the mutant in society (read civil rights movement) tantamount to the storytelling the way Chris Claremont did in his epic 17-yr run helming the writing duties of Uncanny X-Men. Whether or not I agreed with the feel of much of the first movie and disagreed with the way they side-swiped most of the characters in favor of Wolverine (perhaps due to the not-completely-thought-out decision to cast the team with somewhat less than dynamic personalities) is sort of beside the point. I still can’t quite understand why FOX studios is so determined to keep moving backwards in the X-Men timeline in order to tell the story forward. It’s one thing to "back story" Wolverine (although if it wasn’t for the director and writer by way of story I’d be sick to death of him too). It's quite another to keep pushing the X-Men themselves into younger and younger scenarios in order to RE-TELL the Xavier-Magneto story just doesn't make any sense! I can't see the gameplan. And I haven't heard anyone explain to me how Bryan Singer has been allowed back into the room to help with the development of X-Men: First Class and Wolverine 2.But in any event here are some links that I think are somewhat enlightening when you think about how everyone got to playing the parts they do in crafting what the world will remember of the X-Men (and Superman for that matter.)

An article about Singer and how he approached the X-Men source material. Shula Donner (wife of Richard and Producer in her own right) worked closely with Singer from a production standpoint. Singer relates the atmosphere (dealing with the pressure from hokey hero flicks of the late 90’s presented by Schumacher in Batman Forever/ And Robin and Ben Stiller’s send-up(ironically titled Mystery-Men, a reference to the ultimate 4th wall hero send-up, Flaming Carrot Comics)

 An Article detailing Richard Donner’s development as a Director and list of Hollywood achievements, which include directing important and well-canonized films such as The Omen, The Toy (one in the series of Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor films, likely as not introducing Donner to Prior and sparking the relationship that would land Prior in the Superman Franchise, as well) Directed all the Lethal Weapon films, from a script by Shane Black produced by Joel Silver, and directed THE GOONIES from a story by Spielberg, who produced the flick with Frank Marshall. Also directed the Lost Boys. Worth a read just for director details. And proof positive that Donner is world-class material. It’s sad to think about how much better the Superman franchise might have been handled if he hadn’t been pulled.

An article and interview with Bryan Singer, now producer for X-Men: First Class (not to be confused with the comic book of the same name ??????) which deals with a first class of X-Men that has nothing at ALL to do with the orginal quintet featured in The X-Men comic book series, features James McAvoy as a not-hairless Professor Xavier and will even bring the X-Men squarely into the middle of future games of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon since Bacon will be playing Sebastien Shaw of the Hellfire Club. Singer touches on production details such as look and feel (inspired by early Bond tech and filming on location in Europe and the U.S. to create a more "international" stylization) and casting choices as well as the meat of the storyline, which is meant to deal less with the X-Men and more with Xavier and Magneto's original vision of a future in which man and mutant co-exist happily. Oh yeah, and the film is set in the '60s when JFK is president.

This is the stuff that keeps me up at night...

Concept Art for Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome

If this shows us anything it's that BSG:B&C is gonna be about action in a way that Caprica wasn't (probably ultimately what made Caprica so short-lived). A quick g-search will reveal to you the stars of the pilot featuring the new incarnation of William Adama (which I don't like) and a commanding officer named Coker that he will report to... which I'm fine with.

Umm, guys, they did this it was called Empire?..
The casting means nothing to me really, these pictures speak 1000 more words.

This post is for Jake. I want Blood and Chrome to be as amazing as he does.



Most of the Science Fiction Vehicles in the known multiverse TO RELATIVE SCALE

PANDORA's BOX - Some of what I'm Listening to..

Showing some of my most recent Pandora Station Selections. If you want a serious 90's hip-hop "fire-and-forget" party mix, I always recommend "Black Sheep Radio"