Category Archives: Commentary

007 IS James Bond

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For years, Bond fans have debated the issue of one guy with a rebooted universe every few years or one of many Bonds every few years; the face changes whenever the former agent retires; whoever takes on the number 007 takes the identity of “James Bond.” It’s neither new or an epiphany, but its great fun to spell things out.

The guys assigned 007 means they take on his history; death of his parents in a skiing accident, his family estate in Scotland and all his enemies and emotional baggage; all new agents, rebooted, share the same “memories” and experiences.

Yes, he is a new guy, but in essence just replaced with a new shell, but remaining the same 007; MI6 had to think big on how to keep the man Bond in the field without word getting out he was “retired.” Changing his appearance over the years became not only smart business, but a necessity as it would make no sense to keep Bond as the same guy or as a REAL guy when he goes around the world saying his name to anyone who asks- banging every chick he meets-hardly a secret agent behavior, but it’s perfect cover as it would be even harder to track down a guy who is complete fiction and leaves no trace but used condoms.

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By changing his face every few years, it confuses the hell out of the enemies, when they get conflicting descriptions of what he looks and sounds like….(Scot, Aussie, Irish, Welsh, English- WHAT is he?) with his height, hair color and weight constantly changing.

Plastic surgery would not be out of the realm of possibilities, but only for the first two. Brainwashing is more apt. It makes no sense otherwise for us to accept the absurd notion that he is the same Bond each time—a man who, incredibly, changes faces and remains relatively the same age no matter what the decade yet his friends and counterparts change and age.

 

The films have been reluctant to take such a stand, but have slyly toyed with said notion or in the case of Skyfall, gleefully took the stance of fence-sitter in not spelling it out completely but not ruling it out either, but however have left nuggets of information to chew on.

#1 Sean Connery

#2 George Lazenby

#3 Roger Moore

#4 Timothy Dalton

#5 Pierce Brosnan

#6 Daniel Craig

A scene that was scripted for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but was never filmed showed Lazenby under the knife to explain his new appearance. It of course was cut and doesn’t count, but it at least showed some consideration for the change up. Lazenby too drops a great riff after the fight on the beach, he quips, “This never happened to the other fellow.” A meta-wink most likely, but still it gave rise and slight credence to the possibility of many Bonds.

If things aren’t given, fans like me theorize and expound on things seen, unseen and merely hinted at- I see it as this.

MI6 recruits and trains the best of the best. It’s too not far-fetched to accept the notion that they brainwash, they implant memories of lovers, family, friends and enemies. A wise tactic to keep the agent complacent, due to their high intelligence, if there were any linger doubts of their existence, truth would be sought and an agent would with missing memories would lead him into another franchise of him seeking the truth-finding boredom, shitty camera and editing. By creating a fake persona and through indoctrination they can control him and do whatever it takes to keep her Majesty safe and sound. The following is based on the evidence given and spread throughout the various installments.

Die Another Day, has an interesting scene where we see off in the background behind Bond, many of his previous gadgets; the attaché, Little Nellie autogyro from “From Russia with Love”, and the jetpack from “Thunderball,” while flashing a knowing smirk.

Skyfall #6’s Bond has an original Aston Martin, from Goldfinger, a tool left over from all of his predecessors.  The same film also to some had put the issue to bed, but not really when it’s entirely possible for MI6 to create the character in the first place and to then create a world around him to make him feel normal and real.

License to Kill and Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is Not Enough mentions Bond having been “married a long time ago,”…. It’s used to support the emotional thrust of the flick and pushing a female character away; all part of the character known as Bond, always surrounded by beautiful women, but forever alone.

“Hey, what about 3 laying flowers on Tracy’s grave at the beginning of For Your Eyes Only?”  Again, the implanted memories or just simply recognizing the past-all the references to Tracy Bond throughout the series could just be the later agents’ acknowledgement of and respect for a heartbreak that once occurred to one of their astonishingly exclusive clan- plus he was playing the part and the bad guys, especially Blofeld knew he had a wife, and was all part of the act. The best part, it neatly explains why Lazenby was quietly dispatched- he was too emotionally destroyed to carry on. But why didn’t Blofeld acknowledge Bonds changed appearance? He too used doubles, clones and plastic surgery; he was in the same proverbial boat, it obviously wasn’t the same Blofeld either.

The movie’s best example of this is Money Penny was played by the same actress from #1 through the end of #3’s run.  Q (Major Boothroyd) lasted from #1 to the second mission of 5 and the first M was with all of #1 and to the end of the fourth mission (Moonraker) of #3. Second M lasted through the rest of 3’s run and to the end of 4’s.

The first female M (Judi Dench) was with all of 5 and to the end of the third mission of #6- what does this all mean? They were all played by the same actors and they all have the same history and experiences, only Bond is the changed face, Hmmm?

And the first guy is always remembered the best. James Bond 007 started with #1 in the middle of the cold war in (Dr. No) 1962 and created a legend for himself. Known as a charming brute to some, but in reality a refined gentleman with an impeccable taste in wine and women; also a formidable opponent who struck the fear of God into many of his enemies. As he began taking his enemies down, he became too well known and had to be “discharged.” He retired in 1967.

Enter Bond #2, his only mission stops Blofeld, who should, but doesn’t seem to recognize Bond in OHMSS since they met in the previous film You Only Live Twice, understandable considering he looks different, Blofeld does too (a double perhaps?) Bond stops the Blofeld plan and marries, but revenge is sought as two of Blofeld’s henchmen murder Bond’s wife, Tracy on their wedding day- emotionally destroyed, distraught and rendered useless- #2 is discharged in 1969 never to be heard from again.

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With no available 00’s and with no new 007 waiting in the wings, #1 is called back for one time use only- to stop Blofeld-again in Diamonds Are Forever. He too has changed his face with doubles, clones and plastic surgery. We see #1 again, on the hunt for Blofeld, he is out for revenge, for his friend #2 and for his own gripe with Blofeld. After Blofeld’s demise, he retires permanently in 1971. There were rumors of his return to service in the early 1980’s, but nothing was ever confirmed.

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#3 enters in 1973 (Live and Let Die) and turns out to be the most successful Bond yet; he’s refined, a true English gentlemen who would rather use his wits to get out of a situation than his weapon. His posh looks disguise his ability as a mean fighter. He’s credited with stopping WWIII with Stromberg, worldwide death by Hugo Drax and finally killing Blofeld or at least his double/clone; stopping many other instances of war he is rewarded with his extend stay. He is kept around too long by his own admission actually and retired near demise of the cold war in 1985.

#4 enters in 1987 (The Living Daylights) and is regarded as a cold, efficient surgeon. He’s forgettable, humorless to some, a bad temper and does not last long with MI6. His final mission takes on a personal agenda that disrupts MI6 and his superiors and renders him unstable as he seeks revenge for the maiming of his friend and American counterpart Felix Leiter,(who is also treated to a similar change-up process) by a Columbian drug lord, and the murder of his bride; bringing back awful memories no doubt. His mission was disavowed and his actions spooked MI6 and he was prematurely forced out and retired in 1989.

#5 (Goldeneye) imbued with the spirit of #1 and the sense of humor of #3, a fighter, but very much a lover, enters in 1995, was frowned upon initially by his superior, M, who didn’t care for his predecessors nor his personal antics calling them a ‘misogynistic, sexist Dinosaur.’ She slowly gains respect for him relying on his resourcefulness and unconventional methods. In 2002, after four successful missions he is shown the door for reasons unknown.

#6 enters in 2006, (Casino Royale) as a former protégé of M. He is cool, calculating, a real bruiser- blunt instrument and is a bit headstrong.  She sees some of herself in him and they have a mutual respect that goes back to his earliest days of training. She often acted as a mother figure. She died while on a mission with 6. #6 continues to hold the prestigious spy designation of 007. While on his first mission, he experienced a personal loss as well.

Works for me….

Some far-fetched geeking out to something that would never happen, but an inspired opening sequence would explain what I just laid out and show the MI6 list of secret agents from the present to past has been stolen and all the former BONDS are being picked off.. We could see, briefly each and every past Bond in their current lives, a line or two, enjoying retirement, getting knocked off…Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton and Brosnan….Geeks heads would explode will the quintuple threat of manliness and cool.  While a brief sequence shows the NEW Bond getting his memories wiped, new memories implanted adjusted to fit the persona JAMES BOND 007.

A geek can wish- I didn’t think I’d ever get a Star Wars Episode VII and look how that turned out?

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The Dark Knight Rises and then Sinks…

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 Christopher Nolan was just what the Batman movie-verse needed. He gave respect and emotional depth to the world’s greatest detective. He didn’t make a mockery of his glitch or carry his fetish for bats over the top. He gave us two of the best comic book movies ever made, “Batman Begins,” and the sequel “The Dark Knight” is one of the best sequels ever made and was a fantastic ode to mayhem. The Joker was finally realized on film and he was exactly what he was meant to be; a mean, unpredictable, unhinged son-of-a-bitch.  The late Heath Ledger gave his best and nearly last performance of his career nabbing a posthumous Oscar win.
And then he made, “The Dark Knight Rises,” everything the first two films are not. Not sure exactly what happened in the interim, but what a colossal squandering of potential. I tried really hard to like this movie, my first viewing was elation, but soon, I was shocked to learn how forgettable the whole thing is; the inconsistent dialogue, no real iconic images or moments, nothing as I write this that makes me want to revisit it, it’s tedious, but strangely too; it’s as dull as a silent fart. Not one single action scene that sticks out or compels me for another view.  What does the title mean, exactly? Rises from what? His seat, a deep sleep, his selfish exile?
I used to think Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher did far worse acts to Batman, but now, I’m not so sure. They never made a good Batman film so the expectations were never fully realized, but Nolan played with our geeky hearts and effortlessly  broke them in half, spit in our eyes and said, “Take that, suckas!” Nolan seemed to have too much resentful anger inside and this is the result. Maybe he lost interest or just fooled us all into thinking he knew Batman, because from the looks of this, he has not a clue.
What a difference a year makes. It has taken me that long to realize one of the biggest movies of 2012 is one of the worst, which is mind-blowing and disappointing as it’s photographed and shot beautifully, but a pretty package does not enough make for a quality Batman adventure. I wanted to start this review honestly and with good intentions so I watched the film again recently and its many flaws, warts, omissions, glitches and out-right stupid moves jumped out at me and wagged its finger as if to daring me to spot them all. I did! Most of them.
I want to stress the fact that I am not being overly-critical or fanboyish- this film is sloppy- these things do jump out; it’s incoherent and needlessly complex, too many occasions there are scenes missing that should have been noticed in the editing bays or even during the first re-write. There’s an excellent story in here, but it’s buried underneath awkward moments, out-of-character moments and just dumb moments. The film, despite some moments of brilliance and awesome, implodes on too many scenes that make zero sense, convenient coincidences and as if it’s re-counted by an out-of-breath 8 year-old, describing all the good stuff; “And this happened, and then this and this…”, leaving out the necessary connective tissue. I’d rather see that version of the movie, as the one we got commits the worst sin any movie can make- it’s boring!  The skeleton of this movie is solid, but the brain is dead, the muscles atrophy and the heart in cardiac arrest.
Right from the giddy-up I never understood why the Batman had to be vilified, while Harvey Dent a martyr. Commissioner Gordon liked what both men were doing, why not support them both? Why not put the blame of Dent’s death squarely on the Joker and reiterate that the Batman stopped him and do a propaganda campaign of sorts to make Batman a citywide hero? This crap of him taking the heat, brunt- whatever made zero sense and was politically stupid on Commissioner Gordon’s part. Sure, it came back to bite them, but why was it even implemented?
Why again was Bruce Wayne a hermit for 8 years? Did it not occur to him that if he did that, Batman would also being missing for the same exact time and people might connect the dots. What does that say about Bruce that he would rather hide and pout instead of fight back. Why where his legs so busted up? There is no mentioning that he fought anyone after the Joker. He seemed fairly well after that battle. A quick montage of sorts would have been nice show how he got so badly whipped another strange scene has a doctor listing off his injuries like he’s an NFL player. All of that from catching FOUR bad guys, Huh? Yet it does a flip flop and shows us he’s quite alright. For a movie grounded in realism (remember all the bruises from the first film) we see Batman shrug off an awful lot of punishment in this film; first the no cartilage in the knee, the ass beating/broken back from Bane, a stab to the gut from Talia. Batman shrugs all of this off and doesn’t lose a single step. As a matter of fact, the more punishment he receives it appears the stronger he gets through the film.  If there was something to show us he was healed – fine, but we got nothing. Bull and crap!
Bane certainly has a dramatic entrance, but it’s undercut by that annoying voice. Tom Hardy seems to be miscast, not quite big or intimidating enough to break Bruce Wayne’s will and his back. Sounding like Paul Lynde doing Sean Connery- that stupid voice sounds phony and very queer. Hardy tries, but is not quite there. Bane too is involved in many dumb moments, the first is when his team breaks into the city stock exchange; the cops surround the place and they escape on motorcycles- HOW? When and where did they get the bikes? A panel truck somewhere? A closet?  Where?
Who the hell is this John Blake character as fake Robin? Why, why, why was he created when Nolan could have used any version of boy wonder, Robin; the original, Dick Grayson who goes on to be “Nightwing;” Jason Todd who is murdered by the Joker, Tim Drake or Bruce’s biological son, Damian Wayne. Why did we get a made up loser who fits in nowhere in the Batman’s history and comes out nowhere to make not one bit of difference. Robin is not his given name, it’s a nickname due to his family being circus performers, Dick’s aerobatics and skill as a performer prompted his family to call him “Robin” since he flew swift and fast like the bird. The name “Robin, The Boy Wonder” and the medieval look of the original costume are inspired by the legendary hero Robin Hood, as well as the red-breasted American Robin, which parallels the “winged” motif of Batman.  His origin has a thematic connection to Batman’s in that both see their parents killed by criminals, creating an urge to battle the criminal element. Bruce sees a chance to direct the anger and rage that Dick feels in a way that he himself cannot, thus creating a father/son bond and understanding between the two.. .See how much better that works than some idiot nobody with a girls name.
Too bad, Joseph Levitt is a solid actor, he was the right age, size and could have been the right antidote to Bale’s serious case of pretentiousness and overall douchebaggery as the real Robin.  I’m still a little perplexed as to why Robin was never introduced, (he should have been added to part 3) his story is just as important and compelling as Bruce’s. With a sidekick it would have lightened Batman up to a familiar degree and get him out of his pretentious funk Bale is so good (or bad however you take it) at doing, maybe even dropping the cancer throat voice, which worked when he said only a few words, but entire speeches is a bit much to take and at times hard to understand. For both the hero and the villain to have f—ed up voices, this movie was at times a wanna-be wrist slitter.
One of the fatal flaws is the look of the fights between Batman and Bane  which are laughable and undersold especially where Bruce’s back is broken. In the story from whence it came, “Nightfall,” this was a huge deal and some of the best writing the character ever had; a brilliant deconstruction and rebuilding of the character with one simple act. Here, it’s basically a throw-away. The fights between the cops and the thugs are worse, all that was missing was the “BAM,” “POW!” and “BIFF!” action bubbles from the Adam West years. It’s worse, because this is supposed to be serious, yet the melees are terribly choreographed, they look fake as hell, worse than wrestling. No hits ever connect and no bodies are shown lying on the ground. The biggest fight of them all between Bats and Bane is an epic failure. Batman is known for his gadgets, yet he never uses them once for his fights, sure he flies around, but none for his fighting; just weak fisticuffs. They trade swings, unconvincingly. It amounts to big shoulder shrug as the Batman never uses his environment to fight back, again, just trade blows like an episode of “Matt Houston.” SO what! Where are those fighting skills we saw in the previous films?  Batman is as good as Bruce Lee, imagine a Batman moment cooler than anything in “Enter the Dragon,” I think you know what I mean…
Another Lamont Sanford  style, “Big Dummy” moment, Bane breaks his back and then sends him off to some hole… in Europe I think, maybe Mongolia, or was it Asia? The build up to this hole is huge; we are to think it’s, well, a hellhole, but once we get down there- it’s not so bad.  This prison hole is supposed to hold the worst of the worst, YET they have electricity, flat screen, shaving devices and all seem rather nice to Bruce; they nurse him back to health, one punches his back, forcing the vertebra into place.
Again, here comes the weird time, I’ve never had a back injury, but it would seem the very shortest amount of recovery would be 6-8 weeks, vertebra in or out of place, an injured one would hurt like hell, yet he’s up and moving in no time… I mean really, NO time. What’s worse, and here come more time idiocies, Bruce could barely walk without his robo-legs in the beginning of the movie from cartilage wearing out. This isn’t something that heals all by itself. After he is stripped of his gear and thrown into the prison he seemingly has no troubles walking after a couple weeks of recovery. We are shown his robo-legs were taken when he is doing the exercises in shorts later in the prison scenes. Did he grow new cartilage? How did the legs heal so fast?
Some weird chanting and up a rope he goes to escape… YET how does he get back to Gotham? He doesn’t have his wallet; he can’t make a phone call? Or Maybe he did we just didn’t see it… HUH? No effort is made to show how he makes it back! These aren’t simple mistakes, this is lazy filmmaking.
Don’t tell us, show us, but we get neither!  I can accept a lot of things, but obvious and needed transitions shots are a must to tell a coherent story. We didn’t get a transition shot of any kind, no airplane, no helicopter, no hot air balloon- nothing… no logical sense of time passes to which is the beginning of the end for this flick as it has massive problems with the stories timeline. Where were the planes that Talia mentioned; Alfred co-piloting a chopper and spotting Bruce signaling for help… anything would have made sense, but no, we get nothing… A simple few second shot.
The same thing happens to Bane- he’s in the hole, then the VERY next scene he’s back in Gotham! How????? I still don’t know! I realize he has planes and transportation at his command, but c’mon! Another dumb moment, is how can a CIA plane transporting an important scientist they have captured seemingly have no radar support to realize another plan is hovering directly above them. At no point is the plane ever mentioned as being stealth or equipped with some cloaking device, just two ordinary planes  flying along – yeah, right!  Also from that same sequence, one of Banes suicidal followers is given a blood transfusion from a doctor in order to fake his death. This wouldn’t fool any forensics team into ID-ing the dead body from a plane crash.  Dumb.
It wastes sub-plots that mean nothing… I could get past that, IF this was an otherwise great film, but it’s not, far from it. It’s horribly schizoid and forgets what the characters are about. Butler Alfred Pennyworth as played by Michael Caine, a fine actor, but here he’s way out off the mark. To use a co-worker’s term, ‘he’s quite the bitch.” He never acts the way Alfred should; stoic, loyal and resourceful. He’s winy, teary-eyed and demanding. The ultimatum he gives Bruce is not something he would do. He would stand by Master Bruce’s decisions, but would try to talk sense into him if he thought it necessary, he wouldn’t weep, tell a heart-tugging story and then give him a, “if you do this, I’m gone” sort of deal. I could let that pass if the rest was not so dead-freaking wrong for the character. He has another odd and stupid scripted moment when he tells Bruce the first time he heard his voice, “in that room up there…” WHAT ROOM? The original Wayne Manor burned at the end of Batman Begins, how it could be the same, ‘THAT room?’ Trivial, but not really, because it could so easily have been corrected in editing.
Director Nolan made a huge deal of making Batman real and went to great pains of giving the universe some depth, yet he forgets that the biggest part of reality is time. I have mentioned some weird time happenings before, but the worst offense is in the final act when the bomb is dispatched. At one point the following things happen; Talia stabs Batman in his gut with a knife. He then gets in the flying chopper, battles Talia and her henchmen while they drive a big tanker carrying the bomb with Commissioner Gordon in back; along with some chopper fu and gun play and then takes the bomb out to sea so it can detonate- ALL in ten minutes! I can’t take a good dump in ten minutes. Again, it’s lazy filmmaking.  Also, the timer on the bomb constantly changes its time readout. Some shots it reads 10 minutes, other shots it reads 17 minutes, back and forth and not in linear form- all of this after Lucius Fox has said, “There is only ten minutes left!” All this coming from a visionary writer/director that boasts he has the entire movie blocked out in his head and knows the run time and budget long before actual filming starts…and my mom would be a wagon if she had wheels.
“YOU Big Dummy” moment occurs right with the Gotham police force. Are we to believe the ENTIRE police force has to go down into the sewers, and several thousands of them, led down below, together… It’s stated they are of questionable character, corrupt perhaps, but are they all that gullible and stupid? Down below, all at once, but don’t worry they’ll emerge looking clean and healthy. WHY?  Bane and his crew were hunting down cops on the surface like dogs. We are given this information several times. If their goal is to hunt down and eradicate the cops and exile them to death to walk across the ice then why the hell are they feeding and giving the cops supplies for THREE MONTHS!?! Why not just kill them – he wants to get his revenge anyway- while they are down there, rape pillage the city like a good bad guy… but no, he goes through the Bond villain productions and thinks he’s the smartest kid in the room, pathetic… If that’s not bad enough and it is, Talia Ah-Gaul shows up in a too-late-to-give-a-hoot plot twist that she is going to get revenge on the city for the death of her father… What took her so long…?
Why was Talia so wasted? She’s brought in for Bruce to have a roll in the hay and for her to help him take back over Wayne Enterprises which is battling corporate takeover. Why didn’t she get more screen time, Bane should have been nothing more than a henchman, a Darth Maul of sorts, doing her dirty work, IF Talia was going to be the main baddie that is. A female villain would have been a refreshing change. Poison Ivy would have worked great as her sidekick as a wacko environmentalist,(a terrorist for a cause- a perfect sign of the times) a great movie we could have had, but no. It all feels like a money-grab. Nolan no longer interested and just full filled his contract, nothing more.
Anne Hathaway did a fine job as Selina Kyle, “Catwoman,” but I’m still not sure why she was in the movie other than to give Bruce Wayne a happy ending, but that’s wrong too- Batman is doomed to never have a happy ending since his search for justice is unending, unyielding. He’s the perfect tragic character- all the money he could ever spend, but the one thing he wants so badly constantly and forever eludes him. Batman thought to be dead was wrong as well. No one wants the last James Bond movie to end with him dead or giving up, no one wants to see Indiana Jones dead or quitting, the same for Superman. Hell, or even John McClain. Instead the make Bruce Wayne a quitter? Bull and crap. A nice shot of him flying away to continue to fight the good fight.
The entire cast, except for Hardy, did a great to acceptable job. Oldham being the best. Ultimately, they are not to blame as they can only do so much with what they are given; two things killed this flick; unrecognizable characters and Christian Bale’s continued poisonous pretentiousness, he’s done this in nearly all of the films I’ve seen him in since post “American Psycho” and he’s becoming a joke= The English Robert Deniro. He’s always come across as one step away from dismissing the comic book thing as stupid kids stuff.  It does not have to be that way.
It’s shameful. $250 million squandered on crap that is far too distracting to be interesting. Also too, the film is a flipping bore! It’s nearly an hour before Batman shows up and then he’s gone right when things get good. Like the rest and especially the ending, it strays too far to have a ring of truth and does not stick to its convictions, it wants it both ways- but no one wants Batman dead so why even attempt it? He made Batman into a quitter which made no sense.  I complain because there is a great story here, we saw glimmers of it, but the final product was weak, sloppy and the characters full of dumb and amnesiac moments.
Nolan needs to get past this “realism” kick and just make a solid movie. He seems afraid of the Batman universe to fully commit. The previous incarnations understood the universe, but didn’t understand the character, Nolan kind of understands the character but never the universe so he had to remake it from the ground up. It worked twice, but thrice- no dice!  For the next go around, let’s get someone who would use Clay face, the Riddler without hesitation, Solomon Grundy and even the Penguin. Fear is for losers and Batman has had too many of those.
Man of Steel is my new best friend.

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Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders – A Book Review

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Which Jesus? There’s all kinds of Jesus there’s a black Jesus down in Florida, he’s having a good time, there’s a Mexican Jesus down in Mexico, I mean there’s all kinds of Jesus there’s a Jewish Jesus. I mean Jesus, you know all kinds of Jesus coming back everywhere! And nothing can stop it! It’s a consciousness that lives in your mind!! Ladadadada!”  -Charles Manson-

I wanted to do something a little different here on the site, offer something other than the usual nerd offerings; plus its always good to expand ones horizons and not get stuck doing or watching the same old thing. Another area of interest for me is crime, noir stories and true crime novels. Attorney Vincent Bugliosi wrote the single best crime novel as he details every inch of the bizarre Manson family and the twisted soap opera that followed.

I was offered the chance for some extra credit in my Criminal Justice class and thought a book review of “Helter Skelter” would be an interesting topic considering it’s been a fascination of mine since high school. Manson is constantly lumped in with the rest of the psychos the media has brought to our attention over the last 50 years. Except he was not full-blown insane as usual suspects of Bundy, Gacy, Berkowitz and Ramirez. Sure, Manson was a wack-a-do of the highest order, his derangement stemmed not from a physical trauma or chemical imbalance, but a hatred for society. His terrible upbringing; his teen prostitute mother, his status as ill-legitimate delinquent- all stewed together to make the most infamous Sociopath. Manson provides the study of a man whose life revolved around interpersonal violence in all its manifestations. There was nothing this man wouldn’t do to reach his goals – he would rape, murder, manipulate, and lie – all in the name of his personal ambitions. He was really no different than most of our elected officials of the last 40 years, except Manson was a dirty hippie, ex-con with the knack to convince ugly women to follow him. Whatever Manson lacked in solid judgment and reason, he made up for it with charisma and the ability to communicate exactly what he wanted you to know; an ability most politicians would kill to have.

As many times as fiction has tried, none have created a villain as compelling, fascinating, stupid, brilliant, evil and pathetic as Charles Manson. It’s hard to believe Manson has been in prison for over forty years now due to his participation in the Tate-LaBianca murders in Los Angeles in the summer of 1969. So far removed, yet still chained to current events, Manson has become the go-to boogey man only nightmares are made of, yet a true individual who was destined to burn his world to the ground. An unremarkable man, he become the icon of the failed hippie movement of the 1960’s, a twisted representation of free love that was spawned in Height Ashbury Park in 1967 and culminated with the deaths of nine people, life sentences for the perpetrators and a murder story that created a media frenzy foreshadowing what occurs with alarming regularity today.
Long before OJ Simpson and the media circus began with a “trial of the century,” Prosecuting Attorney Vincent Bugliosi had the daunting task of convincing a jury of twelve that Charles Mills Manson manipulated, twisted and convinced his band of bloodthirsty, naive followers to do anything he ordered them to do- including murder. His first-hand account, “Helter Skelter” is quite simply the finest true crime novel ever written. It spares no expense, highly detailed and gets inside, as much as anyone could, the mind of Manson and his followers, or at least his twisted motivation for his/their reign of terror.
The novel reads very much like a noir book; it establishes a vibrant Los Angeles city; a character itself, full of conflict; dreams, beauty and unheeded evil and establishes a cast of wild characters each with their own unique reveries and motivations. Bugliosi never goes overboard with legal talk and always keeps the prose easy and understandable. He sets the scene and the backstories of all the victims and the murderers are given much detail and insight; he dissects and cracks their psyche; we feel we know them by the time the horror begins with the two nights, of the drug-induced murder spree.
A fascinating story from all angles, the idea that a short little ex-con in his 30’s could rope, manipulate and coerce a band of young men and women in their late teens and early 20’s into doing his bidding could only be claptrap cooked up by Hollywood B movie makers, but it happened. A sordid, disturbing assembling line of characters plays out like a sleazy soap opera full of all the required ingredients; sex, drugs, the Hollywood connection, a roller-coaster narrative, double-cross and murder, set against the backdrop of the “free love and counter-culture movement” of the late 1960’s. Bugliosi does a fantastic job of setting the historical context and keeping things linear and coherent, he captures the tenor of the times. There is a massive amount of characters and players in this bizarre story, but Bugliosi and co-writer Curt Gentry keep it simple despite its wordy 700 pages; we feel we are getting a history, law and criminal lesson all in one.
He keeps the focus on the story’s main villain- Manson- a study in the power of words, charisma and a perverse, evil vision. The best aspect of the novel is how Bugliosi engages Manson; he establishes a rapport and draws him into conversations. He knows this inconspicuous little man is proud of what he’s done and wants to brag in his own way; as does his conspirators, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle, and Leslie Van Houten. There are some truly deranged thoughts and words that emerge, but Manson stays the focus and we quickly realize what a con he’s always pulling. A terrible upbringing, no father, a prostitute mother, with a persecution complex, he always blamed everyone else for who he is, telling the jury “you made me this way.
The novel’s engrossing elements are two-fold; the legal perspective as Bugliosi works diligently and at times, he thinks, futilely, to prosecute the gang on what at first, appears to be flimsy evidence. His talents were not just telling the jury Manson and his bunch were nutjobs, he did that, but allowed them to show off their psychosis through tantrums, yelling profanities, On several occasions, Manson verbally threatened both the judge and prosecutor Bugliosi in court, and at one point attempted to physically attack the judge while his followers were laughing during testimonies of the relatives of the victim’s stories. The criminal perspective as, for the first time, Manson is allowed to give his reasons for the killings. This is truly the work of a bizarre, crazed mind. Although never clinically diagnosed as “insane” he appears to have done it to scare people and to impress his followers and to instill some form of loyalty among his Family making them believe in and with him, they’d not survive what was going to happen. The gospel according to Manson as foretold, by The Beatles, on The White Album Manson was preparing in early January 1969, the Family escaped the desert’s cold and positioned itself to monitor L.A.’s supposed tension by moving to a canary-yellow home in Canoga Park, not far from the Spahn Ranch.   Because this locale would allow the group to remain “submerged beneath the awareness of the outside world”, Manson called it the Yellow Submarine, another Beatles reference.          There, Family members prepared for the impending apocalypse, which, around the campfire, Manson had termed “Helter Skelter”, after the song of that name. By February, Manson’s vision was complete. The Family would create an album whose songs, as subtle as those of the Beatles, would trigger the predicted chaos. Ghastly murders of whites by blacks would be met with retaliation, and a split between racist and non-racist whites would yield whites’ self-annihilation. Blacks’ triumph, as it were, would merely precede their being ruled by the Family, which would ride out the conflict in “the bottomless pit”—a secret city beneath Death Valley. Manson and his clan would hide out and wait for the victor to seek them out, deeming him King Charlie. However since it didn’t begin on its own, the Tate/LaBianca murders would set things in motion. It happened gradually as he begged the prison to let him stay upon his release in 1967, but as he gained power and influence over his minions, he saw the opportunity and jumped on it- always the opportunist.
The most intriguing element in the entire Manson saga is how he manipulated the young people to do his bidding. How does a guy in his early 30’s relate to the new generation who was supposed to be suspicious of anyone over 30? Incredible more so that most of the girls that came to live with the family were from good, wealthy, upper-middle class families with nothing to run from- yet they ran straight into the arms of a devil. Some of the girls did have father-issues and Manson was quick to tell them how he could fix that problem. Through constant drug use, (LSD mostly) sex and good ole’ fashion brain washing, Charlie got inside their heads and remade them; removed their social conditioning and installed his rules. Much like a drill Sargent in the army; he stripped them down to build them back up into his own soldiers. Whatever the young people believed in, Manson would tear it down. Whatever they didn’t understand or like, Manson would praise it, love it and keep it. He told them exactly what they wanted to hear and what he wanted them to know.
The worst kind of Sociopath you can imagine coupled with mother issues and a twisted world view. He hated society and felt he was given a raw deal in life and wanted everyone to pay for it. He had already created his own society; had his own rules, values (lack thereof) and morals. He rewrote everything about society he hated; (removing taboos- murder was acceptable) in thy image. By instigating a “race war,” he wanted to replace the current society with his own; one where he was somebody who mattered and people paid attention to him. Every time in the past when someone hurt Manson, he tried but usually failed to strike back, now was the first time he had power behind his threats- for one brief moment in time he was somebody; no longer the dirty ex-con with the bruised ego and demolished self-esteem that people shunned.
To say Manson was/is nuts is easy to gather, but he was never diagnosed as insane, but with a severe Anti-social Personality Disorder, which makes it impossible for him to feel remorse or empathy for his actions. He would like to be remembered for his kooky race war scenario, but Manson was and still is just a taker having never taken any responsibility for his actions despite the overwhelming evidence against him. Which is why he did what he did- anything that came out of his warped brain was fine with him and gave power to his blossoming Messiah complex- makes sense as to why he constantly referred to himself as Jesus Christ- in his many self-aggrandizing speeches he wanted everyone to know and feel sorry for “poor Charlie,” yet he also called himself the Devil as he liked to use fear, power and intimidation to get his ways. Whatever he called himself, his Family believed every word he said. They worshiped him, they were all his disciples.
The real reason for the murders was initially being rebuffed by Beach Boys’, Dennis Wilson who at first tried to connect Charlie up with music producers to get a deal and later pulled away from the family. No one liked what he was selling and Manson was angered. He had been to the Tate residence 10050 Cielo Drive, himself in the early summer of ’69, looking for music producer Terry Melcher, but he had moved. His motive was to instill fear into Melcher because Manson felt he had given his word on a few things and never came through with them. As for the LaBianca killings- Phil Kaufman – who Charlie befriended in Terminal Island prison before being released in 1967 – had connections to the music industry and was trying to help Manson get a break. Kaufman also used to hang out at the home of Harold True, who until September of 1968 lived on Waverly Drive next to the Labianca house. None of Kaufman’s music industry connections panned out for Charlie and Phil suggested that one possible reason why Manson picked the Labianca house was to send him a message.
Here was a little man who had nothing of achievement behind him, floundering in the present and prison for his future, undone by the power of his own hubris. Surprisingly, Charlie has a point, society was the one that made him; we all are, he was thrown in and out of reform school and prison with no real evidence or efforts of rehabilitation. Not a real smart way to handle criminals, to make them worse coming out than when they went in, but then Mason wasn’t the brightest bulb in the lamp and could have reformed on his many chances at freedom, but his ego, and over-powering need to “strike back” was too consuming.
Bugliosi brings it all to a sobering end with a win for the Prosecution- sending Manson and his family to prison for the rest of their natural lives. Reading the novel, even if you weren’t alive at the time the crimes occurred, (I wasn’t born until 1972) you feel a sense of dread as you realize Post-war America died that summer of 1969; all the dreams, ideals and hopes set forth by President Kennedy in 1961 were finally swept away.
These were horrible times in American history, California Dreaming or not, and the simple fact of the matter is that Charles Manson and his family lived a counterculture lifestyle that was hip with middle class and upper-middle class culture during this era. They hung, ever-so-briefly, with the young in-crowd of Hollywood, (Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, music producer Terry Melcher, son of Doris Day) But when the constant use of psychedelic drugs, Manson’s derangement, combined with the unique isolation of Spahn (and later Barker) ranch, began to take hold, Manson and his family entered a deadly alternative world having no touch with reality. The in-crowd slams the door in their face, the hope for rock and roll super stardom disappears, Manson becomes God, and it’s time to strike back at the rich and powerful piggies. It’s such a sad and ugly story.

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EPISODE 7 HAS IT’S DIRECTOR!

 

jj-abrams-star-wars-episode-7Now we have it; JJ Abrams is now been picked to direct, once again, one of the most anticipated films in history- STAR WARS: EPISODE VII! My mind is blowing out having just now wrote that!

Not since Dylan went electric has there been a bigger brouhaha over who will direct Episode 7. The nerd community went ape-poop-crazy, dropping names like they actually knew the people- everyone who has held a camera in the last ten years was ‘vetted.” Some inspired choices like David Fincher, Matthew Vaughn, but some truly awful choices, Tim Burton and Jon Faverue, anyone? No! Of course not!

One that kept popping up and then was denied, was JJ Abrams.  A lot of nerds freaked their shit out considering he’s in charge of Star Trek at the moment and one man can’t be in charge of both. For some vociferous nerds, this feels like a Bryan Singer situation when he had two excellent X-Men films under his belt, was prepped for Part 3, but bolted in 2005 to make “Superman Returns.” That situation had two casualties, X-Men 3: Last Stand” has not gained any popular votes since its release and will probably be “erased” thanks to the forthcoming, “X-Men: Days of Futures Past.” Directed by ironically by Singer, who it seems is going to right the biggest snafu of his career.  “Superman Returns,” a film I like; hardly terrible, but understand its mostly cool reception that left many fans dissatisfied and annoyed at Singer for nearly killing two franchises.

This is hardly Abram’s situation. He’s just a very lucky nerd given two nerd properties that fans love with a great deal of passion, pain and history.  With two Trek’s under his belt and now he’s bolting for Star Wars, it’s easy to see a Singer comparison, but things are considerably different as this is F****** Star Wars and any fool to blame Abrams for leaving his Trek universe is a Shad-like Fool!

Abrams deserves this for several reasons. He brought Trek from the cinematic dead basically in 2009 and for all intents and purposes, and most likely by design, made his version of “Star Wars.”  Abrams was disliked for this by many trekkers, but a lot of fans, myself included, dug what he was doing as it was needed. Audiences loved it and made it the most successful film ever starring a Spock and Kirk.

And now Abrams has been put into a nerd-size dilemma as big as the Death Star since being tapped for Director of Episode 7. I feel sorry for the man, from this point forward, he will soon take Uncle George’s place up-top the Nerd sacrificial cross, alongside Ridley Scott and Peter Jackson. Henceforth, he will be dragged, beaten and called all kinds of names simply for taking the job and far worse will happen once the movie is released and his work will be dissected with more scrutiny than the Kennedy/Zapruder film.

Per usual the geeks don’t know what they speak of nor do they research, assuming and declaring things that are irrelevant to the situation without simple investigation. Let’s jump in the way-back machine to 1979 when “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” was headed into production. George Lucas at that time had struck not only cinematic gold, but created a pop-culture phenomena and was fool-enough to make a sequel to the then-most successful film of all time. He was tired, worn out and needed to take it easy the second time around so he hired a director; bankrolling the film himself he hired an old friend from his USC days, Irvin Kershner.

To many of you who just now said WHO? I say exactly!!!!

Who was Kershner? His resume is rather unimpressive; “Up the Sandbox” with Barbra Streisand is the most famous pre-Empire film he directed, but it was a box-office flop and a sequel to the western, “A Man Called Horse,” titled “Return of the Man Called Horse.”

Still Lucas felt he was the right choice, giving his reasons for picking him as, knowing everything a Hollywood director should know, but wasn’t Hollywood. Lucas also liked Kershner’s focus on character development, thought he would be great with the actors and liked him personally. He was right.

The rest is history as they say, as Kersh directed the most esteemed entry of the entire series. It’s a masterpiece, of fantasy genre- nay, of any genre. Striking, bold colors, murky, threatening and dark themes and tones. The emotions are turned up to complex levels as the characters are taken to extremes and put in constant danger. Wild alien characters, thrilling action, deeper emotions and through-provoking narratives blew the minds of fans in 1980 and continue to do so. It was a good thing Kersh did such a stellar job as his follow-ups did nothing to remind us he directed a Star Wars movie. “Never Say Never Again,” with Sean Connery as Bond and “Robocop 2,” the latter being his final theatrical directing gig, were tedious at best. Hell, his final directing gig period was an episode of the piss-awful television series, Sea Quest! Not with a bang, but a whimper!

My point to all this is to shut the naysayers down with the disagreement; Kersh was far lesser known as Abrams at this point and as stated above, his resume far less impressive and yet look what he accomplished. No one had a clue as to what this guy was capable of, but what he did have was Lucas’s guiding hand and a flawless script by Lawrence Kasdan, but still, comparing the two, there is no comparison. Abrams too has Lucas and Kasdan so there should be no worries!  Take “Empire” from Kersh’s resume and he’d be remembered as possibly a competent director, but not a memorable one.

JJ Abrams’s resume is not without a few turds; his television series “Felicity” was about as fun as an autopsy on a baby and I hated “Lost” for the most part, yet a very popular series with a lot of fans and the critics so….no worries. On the good side, he did “Fringe” one of the best science-fiction series in years. His years as show-runner on “Alias,” are flawless…. Super 8” was a fantastic little nostalgia ride into the 80’s and is the best Spielberg movie not directed by the Beard.

Plus, his former mentors were Kathleen Kennedy, former Spielberg producer and now the boss, head of Star Wars and the Beard himself, Steven Spielberg, who is good, from what I hear…. Not too shabby so the nerd rage needs to stop. The Phantom Menace can no longer be their excuse for their life failures and embracing of empty values. Move along!

Now things have gotten serious as he preps for directing duties on Star Wars: Episode Episode VII (I can’t believe I just wrote that!). What I hope and what I want is what all the fans expect- a great, memorable film. Let’s keep the style in check, no stupid violent camera shakes or choppy editing, or inappropriate forgettable music- that’s what I don’t want. Everything else- SURPRISE ME!

Good luck, JJ!

 MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!

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Best & Worst of 2012!

 

 

 

 The Avengers – Marvel’s best picture to date! A new gold standard has been set by Writer/Director Joss Whedon’s whose trademark snark fits perfectly with the always squabbling Earthiest mightiest heroes. Perfectly cast and performed, this is what summer entertainment, and comic book heroics are all about. Certainly not a game changer creatively, but definitely one to emulate- what a magnificent ride! Almost nostalgic in its transportation effect of recalling bigger and better summers of years past. A unique contender as it entered into the exclusive billion dollar box-office club, a feat well earned.

Skyfall- James Bond at 50, the 23rd entry in the franchise and 007 has never been better. Directed by Sam Mendes, this wonderfully gritty character study has some of the finest moments the franchise has ever seen. A great villain in the form of Javier Bardeem plays it to the hilt, (hints of Ricardo Montalhban for future reference) without taking it too far. Wonderful shot in the arm; dark, agile, and scattered with moments of unanticipated visual genius. Judi Dench steals the show as M, but Director Mendes is the true star as his brings a sheen of classiness; his approach is elegant – no manic editing and blurry unintelligible images here – but what makes the movie special is the attention he pays to the characters. Not since the also brilliant “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” has Bond been so open, interesting- human. 

We Have to talk about Kevin – Bleak and very prophetic, the shootings in Colorado and Connecticut reverberate here. This is not exploitation, but a smart and exhaustive examination of a meaningless, horrible act. Tilda Swinton plays the mother of the son convicted of unspeakable acts. Despite its oppressive sadness, the film is enormously compelling and never takes the Lifetime Movie of the Week route with trite emotional gushers.

Bernie– Jack Black gives his finest performance as Bernie Teadme, a guy nice who murdered the town’s meanest resident played by Shirley MacLaine. Directed by Richard Linklatter, this twisted little black comedy is based on a real and true story. Matthew McConaughey is hilariously sleazy as the town’s District Attorney. Surprisingly funny despite its morbid outcome.

John Carter – Disney bungled the marketing of this film to colossal proportions. Had they left the title alone, “John Carter and the Princess of Mars,” they might have had a franchise on their hands, despite its failure, the film is tons of fun. Excellent special effects and a capable performance in lead Taylor Kitsch. I say capable because no one goes to see films like this to get Lee Strasberg’s style acting.  Inspired action and plenty to get a thrill from as the seeds for Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones are buried within. A film that will gain its respect in the decades to come.

Moonrise Kingdom– Director Wes Anderson has a style all his own. Like David Lynch he has a bent sense of humor that is lost on most people. His best film to date, the joys and pains of first love, and the adults who seem to get in the way.  Interjected with his trademark wit and whimsy; his sense of the absurd, and his singular visual style is at peak performance. Ed Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand lead the cast.

Cabin in the Woods– It was definitely Joss Whedon’s year; co-written by the man of the hour, he does what Scream did 15 years ago (but far better) by removing the guts of the horror genre, examining them, poking fun and shoving them back in for future use. Funny and ingenious, the film nearly was lost in a studio bankruptcy having been completed in 2009. Chris Hemsworth, Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins are excellent and a genre favorite makes a clever cameo.

Prometheus – Ridley Scott returned to his sci-fi roots, the ALIEN universe to bring a long-awaited prequel, this time detailing the Space Jockeys, Misunderstood by most of the geek community, as they leveled stupid, ignorant gripes that are answered by doing something miraculous- PAYING ATTENTION TO THE MOVIE!  Scott’s visual eye is unrivaled; magnificent in every scene, a real eye-popper. It’s not without some narrative weight to throw around and chew on after the movie is done. An excellent film, Roger Ebert agrees!

Django Unchained – Tarantino gives out some genre love with his cross-pollinating of spaghetti western and blacksplotation; using plot points from the trashy 1976 Mandingo;” he creates a fascinating monster that underscores the horror of slavery while showcasing the strength of the human spirit. Not nearly as talky and tedious as “Basterds,” but a tad too long in the running time. Still it’s worth the effort, some outstanding performances make this his best film since “Kill Bill.” Jamie Foxx in the title role and Samuel L. Jackson as Steven, the foul-mouthed Major Domo to Candyland, are the two best performances with Leonardo DeCaprio having a great time as Plantation owner, Calvin Candy. Despite this fantasy, it’s one that truly clatters the chains of slavery, confronting not just the racist expectations but also the economic power structure that buttressed it — the ironies, duplicities and sinister evils that permitted the system to thrive for so long. Only Tarantino could take such an ugly chapter in human history and make it enjoyable. It’s an emblematic, even epitome of the Tarantino strategy: to take two obsolete, infamous genres, dust them off and mash them together into a digestible meal.

Lincoln – Daniel Day Lewis stars the 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. Unusual for Lewis, his performance is surprisingly low-key, very well-modulated as is the Directing by Steven Spielberg who could have taken this to the extremes by revering Lincoln to a sickening and untruthful degree. Sally Field is excellent as she grapples with Mary Todd’s fragile emotional stability. Not necessarily the best version of Abe’s life, but a damn good one as DDL makes him about as real and human as we’ve ever seen. A wonderful look at how our government if used for noble intentions, can work miracles. Abe’s moments with his son Tad, cuddling with him on the floor are profound in their simplistic way. James Spader and Tommy Lee Jones offer great support as Abe’s opponents in the Senate.

 

Best Comedies 

 That’s My Boy – At this point in his career, Adam Sandler is Jay Leno. Tired, lame, irrelevant and enormously unfunny…left to his own devices he is the worst. Formula pays the bills and his ego and the nice guy schmaltz take over and render his comedies instantly forgettable and clichéd.  Except when he pushes himself, like FUNNY PEOPLE and PUNCH DRUNK LOVE– he’s funny as hell when he doesn’t play it safe. Ignored by audiences and trashed by critics, I’m not sure what the beef was; this is far and removed from the pain of JACK & JILL as it takes come real chances and goes for the juggler to get its laughs, some of the most un-PC laughs might I add of any recent film. Andy Samberg offers great support and plenty of SNL alumni, make cameos, the best part- NONE for David Spade or Chris Rock!

Ted – Seth McFarlane has finally branched out in this love letter to the geeks who grew up in the 80s. With appearances and references to Bond, Indiana Jones, Star Trek and Star Wars. Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis are fantastic, have some great jokes; infinite rewatchability. Who would have thought that Sam J. Jone’s best performance would be playing Flash Gordon– again! Love this movie!

21 Jumpstreet – The trend of adapting long dead television series into mediocre movies is a trend that was on the go-bye due to massive suckage, except this time it works. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum team up as youthful looking cops who go back to high school to stop a drug ring. It follows all the usual action-comedy tropes, but with tons of wit, great supporting performances; Ice Cube being the stand-out and the most important- great jokes.

The Dictator – Sasha Boron-Cohen is attacked by a female assassin that uses her breasts as the weapon…exactly!

 

Best Re-Releases:

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D– An impressive box-office take of $100 million worldwide- not bad for a movie that is supposedly hated. Per usual, the crybaby losers are wrong and the pod race and Maul saber duel rocks it-again…

Raiders of the Lost Ark IMAX – Only two films have ever impressed me on the IMAX screen; this one and Prometheus. ‘Nuff said.

 

Best Television

Dallas– A sleeping dragon was awaken in the form of Larry Hagman as oil baron J.R. Ewing as he headlined the revival of televisions biggest phenomena when it returned in  the summer to TNT. Picking up twenty plus years after the original ended; “Dallas” (The Next Generation) is vastly agreeable, a snarky cauldron bubbling over with oil and sex, power and betrayal; just as it was all those years ago. And there is a sense that, in spite of the new faces and the injection of some 21st-century pace, sensibilities underneath everything, it’s still the same old same old and that’s exactly how it should be. With the passing of Larry Hagman in November, the show’s challenge will be to carry on and thrive if that’s even possible without him.

Biggest Disappointments

 

The Dark Knight Rises

Chris Nolan’s movie was a victim of the previous entries near-perfection. On my initial viewing I thought Nolan had pulled it off, broke the third-in-the-trilogy curse that nearly all superhero films have suffered; Superman III, Spider-Man III, Batman ForeverRises is not nearly the epic failure as those, but for its pedigree earned, it should have known better and makes mistakes too freely. It’s mind-boggling in the ineptness that sneaks through. The narrative being fractured and spread out; why do the cops stay in their underground “jail” for so long and yet don’t change in appearance….when Bane breaks the Batman’s back, sends him off to the pit- how much time has passed? How long did it take to heal? And yet during all of this Gotham is held hostage by Bane and his goons… there is no clear timeline and the film feels like a total mess….

 

Trouble with the Curve

Clint Eastwood returned to acting for the first time since “Million Dollar Baby,” and he seems very bored. He plays a baseball scout on his way out and estranged from his daughter. I was surprised by the film’s overall dull vibe. Eastwood can usually make any line work, and sell it if needed, but here he strains to find good words to speak. Amy Adams as his daughter is the best, full of piss and vinegar, she is a real doll.  At 80 plus years old, Eastwood is always a welcomed force and his talent appreciated, but he needs to stick to his pledge of ‘no more acting.’

 

Worst:

Piranaha 3DD- The first film knew what it was and knew its boundaries, it embraced its B-movie orgins and exploited it with a fair amount of skill and fun. Part 2 is a parody of the first and is about as subtle as a Benny Hill sketch, only not nearly as funny. 

This Means War– Chris Pine and Tom Hardy star as friends, who are really spies, and fall for the same woman. The problem is that they are written as gay guys really in love with each other, they just don’t know it. Neither romantic nor comedic- the attempt is forgettable.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance– Ugh! Hard to believe it could be worse than the first, but it is…it is. Nic Cage has got the formula down pat on playing freaks, weirdoes and oddballs, he does a good job of playing up the absurdity of it all, but he doesn’t know when to quit. Ghostrider is a cool character, if only the producers would get off the campy, wink-wink garbage, we might have something…

Wrath of the Titans– More noisy eye-rape that makes even less sense than the pointless first. Ugly cinematography, bland special effects and incoherent editing, render this horribly forgettable.

Parental Guidance– What would Christmas be without a terrible holiday release? Not sure why Billy Crystal continues to get work with his very mediocre resume, but Mr. Box-office Poison proves his comedy is still antediluvian as it ever was. Bette Midler held hostage for 90 minutes proving to everyone she will do anything for money as well. Typical, family claptrap with emotions and sentiments about as subtle as a Benny Hill skit.

The Hunger Games– A stale rip-off of the The Running Man, written for pre-teen girls. Obnoxious, ugly. Despite its well-earned swipe at Liberalism, yet once again, infinitely forgettable.

Project X– Mean-spirited and insufferable, this yet another entry in the found footage genre fails to do anything but bother and annoy. All of the teen movie tropes are here, but the characters are all unlikeable and occasionally psychotic douchebags seeking selfish goals. The worst humanity and the genre has to offer.

Killing Them Softly– Someone forgot to write a third act and an opportunity for greatness was lost! This heist movie has some cool moments, and it’s always good to see Ray Liotta working, but too much talk and no action bring this to a crashing bust. Monotonous- forgettable dialogue, uninteresting characters, yet occasionally stylish is ruined by an obnoxious pointless performance by James Gandolffini and one boring performance from Brad Pitt. If the script read as dismal as it would be watching the movie, why did this get made at all?

 

Worst Remakes

Total Recall – The original had the charms and talents of Director Paul Verhoven and star Arnold Schwarzenegger. The remake has nothing and lacks the intricate plotting, wry humor, thrilling wild violence and bizarre, (Quado, anyone?) fleshed out characters that made the original a sci-fi classic.

Red Dawn – A foreign country invades the shores of the pacific northwest-high school kids from a small town band together, hide in the woods and fight them off. The original film was a bit on the far-fetched side, but had a nice pro-American message. The remake is stupid from the ground up. Korea is the invading force…..KOREA? I guess in Obama’s weak-ass era, they seem like a deadly force. The movie is just deadly dull.

The Worst thing ever in 2012

The re-election of President Barack Obama. Not since Jimmy Carter has an incumbent President had a worse performance record. The economy was in the toilet in most parts of the country, debt had accumulated to $16 trillion in a mere 3 and half years. Yet every loser, lazy moron, idiot, cement-head, half-wit, nit-wit, drooling shithead who apparently hates to work, got their wish. If ever there was a need to dump the Electoral College, this is it! I don’t think we can take 3 and half more years. It will take at least two generations to clean this idiot’s mess up.

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Merry Christmas, Dammit!

As the Christmas holiday is approaching, here are some that underscore the reason for the season or just merely take place on the holiday and have a great story to tell. In no particular order or preference.

Die Hard 1988. The definitive action movie of the 80’s that not only made Bruce Willis, as John McClain, a household name, but also created it’s own sub-genre that today any action taking place in a cramped space is called, ‘Die Hard on a _______.”  We all know the story… as the film plays out, we have to ask how certain stunts were done as the film constantly reminds you what a logistical speculate, a marvel of engineering, and relentlessly, mercilessly thrilling and entertaining to this day. Die Hard set the bar that many movies today still can’t quite compete with this sumptuous, noisy extravaganza that gets the adrenaline pumping. Willis’s smirk and every-man persona still rings true and as he nervously drops some one-liners. Enormously popular, three sequels followed, the fifth film is on its way in February 2013. Yippee Kay-Yay, Mr. Falcon!

Lethal Weapon 1987.  The first pairing of Danny Glover and Mel Gibson, Directed by Richard Donner revamped, revitalized, rechristened the Buddy-cop formula purging it of its bloat, excess, stupidity and contrivance. Fun and razor sharp, the action is plentiful and the performances strong and memorable. The action delivers adrenaline jolts with both barrels while not skimping on character development and wry humor, but amped up with stylish and sharp direction, efficient and just a solid, well told story. Gibson’s emotionally unstable, Martin Riggs, is the film’s hook. He jumps into danger, doesn’t care if he might get killed; he’s missing his dead wife and spends most nights with a loaded Beretta in his mouth; he seems to enjoy it as do we. Glover is the sane guy with a family who constantly grumbles, “I’m too old for this shit.” Composer Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton deliver an excellent musical score just as energetic and interesting as the characters on screen. Solid all the way around! One great, one good and one lousy sequel followed. First remains the best. Still not sure what it has to do with Christmas, but it’s in there- enjoy!

It’s a Wonderful Life 1946.  What else can be said of Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra collaboration that has not already been… it’s just simply, wonderful. A box –office disappointment, (it lost $555,000) in its initial release, the film gained a following once it hit television in the 1970’s and now is in heavy rotation becoming a holiday favorite. Highly powerful, it is one of Stewart’s most complex performances, one that didn’t get proper recognition until decades later, as he is confronted with the realization and driven to near insanity as he realizes his town doesn’t know him and he ponders the question, what would life be like for your family if you had never been born? Stewart takes George Bailey to dark places as does Director Frank Capra who was not known for edgy material, his most bold piece of work, was made to denounce atheism… The holiday setting only underscores the power and thematic point; the impact of living a good, decent, fulfilling life cannot be underestimated. The impact a person has on just one other can have massive reverberations. Our actions do speak loudly and the film’s happy ending is not merely expected, but demanded.

A Christmas Carol 1984.  Forget all previous reiterations- this is the definitive version. Broadcast on CBS television. George C. Scott stars as Ebenezer Scrooge and captures every Dickensian moment and nuance flawlessly. It’s fidelity to the novel is a sight to behold and even though this path has been taken many times, in the endless adaptations and episodic television episodes that did their takes, the end is still heartwarming. Production is simple, imaginative, at times, very dark, but well staged and never feels stiff or cramped like most television productions of the time.   One of Scott’s finest roles, his best from his television movies, he takes the character to the extreme as a grouchy old hate-filled old sinner to gleeful man of the people and a grateful believer in all things Christmas. His character arc is full, effective and believable and by the time he seeks his redemption, it’s a cathartic experience to say the least. Never once do you question his non-English, English accent, more of an old English accent with full and proper enunciation.  Scott is supported by a wonderful cast, Robin Rees as Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, David Warner and Susanna York as Bob and Mrs. Crachit, Edward and Woodward headlines the Ghost cast as the Ghost of Christmas Present.

The Muppet Christmas Carol 1992. The first production released after Henson’s death in 1990 is surprisingly, still full of charm and appeal. The Muppet’s  vibrant take on the story is fun and breezy; it’s still up there with the best. Michael Caine is excellent as a mean and moody Scrooge with a heart of stone. Gonzo and Rizzo the rat provide most of the laughs as our courageous narrators, and the rest of the Muppet gang all take part, with even Sam the Eagle making a memorable cameo (“it is the American way!”). The musical interludes are memorable (I will never tire of hearing “there goes mister humbug”) and despite huge chunks of the original story being left out, it’s a balanced and hugely entertaining take that deserves to be a festive TV staple.

 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 1989. The best of the quad, surpassing the original with its manic performances and laugh-a-minute jokes provided by the genius writer, the late, great John Hughes. Chevy Chase heads the Griswold family as Clark, the upbeat goof who doesn’t really learn his lessons from family gatherings. Packed from scene to scene with one memorable joke after another, (the kids have changed again, this time Rusty is the younger child) the film has a sentimental streak a mile wide that is hard to deny. Cousin Eddie and his brood are equally dysfunctional in their redneck ways. Critics missed the boat on this one, but the film continues to endure, 23 years later.

Scrooged 1988. The best off-shoot adaption of one of the most adapted stories ever. Bill Murray and Director Richard Donner give a comedic take on the Dickens tale and although misshapen and at times pandering; Murray gives an entertaining performance, even though he’s meaner than the real Scrooge ever was. Cast as Frank Cross, a nasty, heartless television network executive who green lights such inspired and inappropriate Christmas specials titled, “The Night the Reindeer Died“, with an AK-47 toting Lee Majors and “A Cajun Christmas with Robert Goulet.” All of the television jabs are dead-on perfect; the Solid Gold dancers showing their nipples during a live Christmas broadcast is brilliant. It’s when the Dickens story comes in and tries to take over, that doesn’t quite work, Murray is still yucking it up when he should just shut up and act. The script is filled with dark and ingenious twists on an over told tale. Still, despite its wobbly pace, the jokes are still great some a little too adult, as when Cross throws water on a burning waiter, “I’m sorry, I thought you were Richard Pryor.”  The supporting cast is full of familiar faces; Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Alfre Woodard, Ann Ramsey, Carol Kane steals the show as an abusive Fairy, former front man of the New York Dolls, punker David Johansen, is perfect as the cigar chomping Ghost of Christmas Past and Bobcat Goldthwait as Bob Crachit. Cross’s transformation is expected of course, but Murray has fun with it and the ending, with its breaking of the fourth wall, makes for an unlikely holiday favorite.

Bad Santa 2003.  Billy Bob Thornton plays the worst Santa Claus- ever. Foul, mean-spirited, inappropriate, politically incorrect demented, twisted and tremendously funny. This raunchy comedy has more heart and Christmas spirit than most traditional holiday-themed flicks. Despite its cast of wackos- Bernie Mac, John Ritter (his last film) and Lauren Graham give great performances. Thornton lets it all hang out as Willie, a drunk, a loser and a thief, who has a black midget sidekick dressed as an Elf, he as Santa as they plan to rob a local mall. Willie finds redemption in a very Dickensian sort of way becoming an unlikely role model for a lonely kid named Thurman who lives with his clueless grandmother. Not for everybody and especially the entire family, but it makes for a great antidote when things get a little too sickly sweet.

A Christmas Story 1983. Mostly overlooked during its initial release, (sounds familiar) the movie gained its now classic reputation from the many cable television airings and 24 hour marathons throughout the 1980’s. This brilliant comedy, Directed by Bob Clark, (Yes, the same guy), the film takes place in Indiana in 1940 pre-WWII middle America. A nostalgic and easily relatable look back is also loaded with sarcastic jokes and inspired one-liners.  10 year-old Ralphie wants a BB gun for Christmas, but the adults object, “you’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” What follows is a quest by Ralphie as he persists and cajoles to get the best Christmas gift- ever.  A humorous narration by the story’s writer Jean Shepard provides some of the film’s best moments as adult Ralphie taking a walk down memory lane ass he recalls with fondness the foibles of his parents. The Old Man, his Dad, Darren McGavin is hilarious as he becomes obsessed with a leg lamp in the shape of a female leg “Fragile… Must be Italian.”  His schoolyard, friend, Schwartz, who sticks his tongue on the icy flagpole, gets a beating and the false blame for saying the dreaded “Queen Mother of Dirty Words,” the “F-dash-dash-dash” word, the F-word. Hilarious and heartfelt, there is never a false moment or over-the-top corniness. It’s sentimental without being fake and genuine without being calculating never trades a thing for a good joke. The cast is great from the top on down, especially Peter Billingsley as the bugged-eye and enthusiastic Ralphie.

 Love Actually  2003.  British Director Richard Curtis set out to make the “ultimate romantic comedy,” and although I usually cringe as such tripe, this one works in the face of it’s massive attempt of a dozen main characters, eight couples each weaving his or her way into another’s stories over the course of one particularly eventful Christmas in London. The film is about love in its many forms and guises: love between siblings, love between parents and children, love between spouses, puppy love, platonic love, unrequited love, and (of course) sexual/romantic love. Not all of the stories are comedy, two go the dramatic route and are quite good; Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, married couple, Karen and Harry, seeking to rekindle some passion, Harry, secretly pines for a young colleague of his. Thompson is the movie’s best performance as she opens a package not intended for her realizing it’s for the other woman. Lara Linney’s office crush on her younger co-worker comes to a crashing end as she can not deny her mentally ill brother’s constant attention. A huge cast led by mostly British actors- Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Kiera Knightley, Alan Rickman, Billy Nighy and Rowan Atkinson. We have a few American actors, Billy Bob Thornton as an American president who’s Bill Clinton sleaze factor is obvious, Eliza Cuthbert and Laura Linney. Probably not recommended for those with Diabetes as things get a little too sweet, but it’s nice not to have to suffer through modern cynicism via Kate Hudson or Katherine Heigel.

Black Christmas 1974. Bob Clark’s underrated horror gem is stylish and skillfully done, subtle, tense and peppered with familiar genre faces like, John Saxon, Margot Kidder, Olivia Hussey and Keir Dullea…An escaped mental patient takes refuge in a Sorority sister’s house. At first he makes obscene phone calls which leads to the films great sense of humor, but then gets nasty as the killer begins to pick them off one by one. Even up to the climax, the film never goes for cheap scares of over-the-top violence, just good old fashion tension and some excellent mood setting. Highly influential and admired, a sequel was planned to take place on “Halloween,” but John Carpenter beat them to it with his brilliant opus. Many forget this created a sub-genre of film that still exists today.

 

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*Cue Laugh Track

 

I hate The Big Bang Theory, there I said it. I’ve been told by some friends that it’s the show to watch, it has geek references, geek jokes and basically a love of all things nerdy…except it doesn’t  I’ve tried to watch a handful of shows over the years, to have an open mind and perhaps surprise myself by digging it- I didn’t  In fact, my initial reaction was the correct one- I hated it, still do.
So why is it one of the most watched comedies on television right now? Not sure, it seems either the zombies who watch CBS and all of its repetitive crime shows are of the zombie persuasion and wouldn’t know a good joke if it were in the laps or perhaps even series creator/producer Chuck Lorre signed a deal with the devil; I like to believe that last one since Lorre also is responsible for the even-worse “Two and a Half Men,” which is offensive on every level, the least of which is the alleged comedy, but that’s for another rant….I’m not making fun of those people that do dig it, I’m merely pointing out the makers of this and why the show is as phoney as a $3 bill.
Having grown up on copious amounts of classic television, good and bad, I know my way around a great sitcom and Big Bang is not it- it’s basically nerd/geek blackface; it’s full of unfunny jokes, inauthentic speak and exaggerated stereotypes. The stories are from the usual sit-com tropes sure, yet nothing original is done or said. The jokes are lazy, obvious, over-sold, under-baked, low-brow, low-frequency and bogus. The characters never feel like real people with “funny” problems or funny people with real problems; just hack actors waiting to deliver their trite lines. The character of Sheldon should be an easy sell; he’s a genius in his field of study, yet treats everyone around him like dirty hobos knowing he’s smarter than everyone in the room, except there’s no room for comedy when that happens. He instead comes off as an asshole, borderline Sociopath. An irritating know-it-all that no one wants to root for or be around… You can’t do that with comedy, IF he was funny he could get away with murder but since he’s not, the “jokes” fall flat and sucks the humor right out. That’s the problem with most network television today- they wrote from PLOT, not character, which is dull as hell; isn’t that right, “Law & Order?”
Sheldon: I’d have a diet coke.
Penny: Please order a cocktail. I need to practice bartending.
Sheldon: Fine, I’ll have a Virgin Cuba Libre
Penny: That’s rum and Coke, without the rum?
Sheldon: Right?
Penny: So coke!
Sheldon: And will you make it diet, please?

*cue Laugh track!
Why is that funny?

Or they will throw in some science techno jargon to make Sheldon a real card…

(A sick Sheldon on phone with Leonard)
Leonard: Take rest, and drink plenty of fluids.
Sheldon: What else would I drink?? Gases?? Solids?? Ionized Plasma??!

To be fair, the above is probably just a matter of taste- ME having some! *rim shot!
Except my problem with this show goes deeper, after watching several episodes I noticed a fatal flaw. Recall all the classic sitcoms and a formula will emerge; not so much a formula as the required ingredients in sitcom DNA. The series is a bust right down to its mechanical structure. It violates nearly every rule established for a quality show and the rules it does adhere to, it abuses them.

Below are the best examples of said template on how to use great stock characters, the huge difference is the following series ran with them. Gave the characters nuance and foibles. Not only stock characters, but real, well-rounded people we got to know. They weren’t always right or even good, but always human and always, always funny!

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” -every show has the main kid, the well balanced one- usually told from this character’s POV, they tend to balance out the wackiness created by the others; Mary Richards was the sane one who balanced everyone else out. Dorothy from “The Golden Girls” and Andy Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” did the same on their respective series.

Cheers” -the dumb one, Ernie “Coach” Pantuso, was mostly a dim-bulb, but once in a while he would say something very sensible and wise. Occasionally they will exhibit more wisdom and sanity than anyone else. Rose from “The Golden Girls often did the same; a real putz, with stupid stories and nearly insane form of naivety but would surprise everyone with her wisdom and tough competitive streak. Diane Chambers was a great character because she was high-strung, pretentious, so completely self-analyzing that she was often unaware of her surroundings and was ripe for a great insult. Despite being the best educated, she was at times, the dumbest, an huge irony indeed.

“The Andy Griffith Show”, the buffoon- Sometimes these are separated into two different characters or combined with the dummy, in the case of Barney Fife from he was three. Another great angel to write a character from as they could grind him in the dirt and humiliate him anyway possible, but often would have the audience feel his pain and empathize with him. Andy would go to great lengths to protect Barney’s feelings from being hurt. Barney was easy to relate to, but easier to laugh at. Ted Baxter was another great example, slightly more destructive than Fife with his rampaging ego as a TV weatherman. Always good for a laugh, but occasionally would surprise everyone with his courage.

Everybody Loves Raymond” is a perfect example of a modern series with classic ingredients. Ray’s wife was the sane one, usually, while her in-laws were definitely a mix bag of buffoons and dummies and all the other archetypes. Husband Ray was somewhere in the middle and often exhibited all these traits.

“Sanford & Son” – Son Lamont was the steady, usually the rational mind while his father Fred was the schemer, the conniving and constantly played mind games with his son to keep him home. Both characters filled most of the stock character roles/archetypes. The strong supporting cast filled out everything else- especially friend Grady Wilson as the dumb one and sister-in-law Esther Anderson as Fred’s nemesis. Despite the quarreling between father and son, they loved each other deeply and would do anything for each other when called for.  

“Seinfeld” had all those in play with Jerry acting as the normal one, yet exhibiting all of the above traits at one time or another. Kramer and George were of varying degrees of buffoons and dumb and Elaine filled in the rest of the blanks. They all worked in tandem, without one, the group would be ruined and not nearly as funny. Despite their near mental psychosis, the gang was funny. Their selfishness was horrifying yet occasionally relatable and the show gets points for having the guts to not always go for the safe, obvious joke and would relish any moment to make fools out of the characters to sell a joke, but never went cheap and stepped out of character at the expense of a joke. Even though the characters were all ciphers, the show wrote comedy from the characters, not PLOT.

Three’s Company”- for all the critical drubbings it took; it had the classic formula down pat. Jack was the crazy/buffoon, Chrissy was the dummy, and Janet was the normal one that balanced out the others. The Ropers were a mixture of all of the ingredients with neighbor Larry Dallas filling in the blanks, but mostly was a skirt-chaser. Landlord Ralph Furley was definitely THE buffoon. This was farce taken to the extreme and done with hilarious results.

“All in the Family”- the single best sitcom ever produced, had the stock recipe down to perfection along with its provocative writing and flawless acting you didn’t really notice; the dumb character was wife Edith, the loud-mouthed bigot (or buffoon) was Archie. The Loud-mouth arrogant youngster was son-in-law Mike and the mostly normal character, daughter Gloria who balanced the other three out when she wasn’t doing her own freak out. ALL stock characters, but taken a little further than expected. What could have easily have been cliché is ignored for truth and a good joke- the execution was so mechanically and creatively sound we never noticed the formula. The humor and topics rose above the premise and created something bigger, it become the first water-cooler show that would have tongues wagging the following day. Full of passion, guts and humanity, the series never sacrificed character for a cheap joke and it never sacrificed a joke for fake emotions. When it was dramatic it deserved it and when it was funny, it earned it. Instead, we got variations and nuances from each every character; they had their moments to shine and would surprise the viewers with some personality revealed. Sometimes Edith was the wisest character on the show. Although Archie was a bigot with distasteful opinions, he’d often surprise everyone with his generosity and humanity. He and Mike fought like cats and dogs, they would band together in times of crisis. Mike, the crusading Liberal was often wrong and Gloria could at times be as dense as her mother. Archie Bunker with all his flaws was an inherently good man, who worked hard all his life and was only saying what society and his father had taught him, he was just confused and the changes were too fast for him. The audience over the years grew to like him, cheered him on, laughed and cried with him and at him… only through the love of his family does he occasionally see the error of his ways and at least, soften his opinions. That’s real, that’s relateable and that’s excellent writing! That’s what good comedy does, delivers the laughs, but gives us something of the characters to relate to- real human moments with some unexpected bits thrown in. The nuance, the human foibles that makes us who we are; this is why we laugh at those shows decades after they’ve left the air.

“The Big Bang Theory” has NONE of that! It will enter syndication and leave undisturbed or talked about, and dull as a silent fart. When you break it down the series is paper thin and terribly lacking in good, well-constructed, memorable jokes. Having watched two episodes two days ago, I cannot recall a single one-liner or funny aside. It’s also enourmously fake and inauthentic… the following proves to me this show is full of crap!

 Sheldon: “Saturn 3 and Deep Space 9 are on tonight. What shall we watch?”

Raj: “Deep Space 9. It’s better than Saturn 3 anyway…”

Sheldon: “Since when is Deep Space 9 better than Saturn 3?”

BULLSHIT! IF Sheldon was a big nerd as he is suppose to be, IF he is as smart as he says he is, then he would know what a terrible movie “Saturn 3” is and would never say its’ better than “Star Trek: Deep Space 9,” but per usual, the people watching this show yuck it up because it sounded nerdy, the laugh track kicked in therefore it’s funny…. right?!

WRONG!

In the same episode the same two debate which is worse, “Star Trek 5” or “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” Sheldon thinks TMP fails, but again, this is not a true geek talking… this is a fake nerd speaking words writen by posers and idiots who hate nerds but think it’s funny to make fun of them… Epic Fail. Every Trekkie knows TMP is a beautiful, accomplished film with plenty of admirers and fans… fake tv nerds are not among them…
Perhaps I’m asking too much by comparing gold to tin foil, but it’s a legitimate gripe and a serious problem for nearly every 3 camera sitcom/live studio audience on the air today. There are no pauses in the humor for real moments; it’s an endless assembly line of soulless mechanical writing that lacks humanity and truth. The show has stock characters, but refuses to anything with them; they merely sit around, spout their stupid lines and let the laugh track do the heavy lifting. It’s not just the humor that doesn’t work, but the inside structure, the building blocks to what makes a series solid and a test of time are not there in “The Big Bang Theory”.
Humanity, nuance, originality, surprise-none of that is on display in Instead, its surface, crappy writing. A pack of writers sit around a table eating their pizza trying to beat a deadline writing whatever comes to mind forgoing logic, quality of the jokes and taste.  There’s no depth, no interesting quirks, Sheldon only exists to serve as a “comic” foil to his roommate Leonard, who serves to only cower and kiss his ass. If Sheldon was a bully with sociopath tendencies, which he has, then Leonard is a scared, wimpy, wispy weakling who’s afraid of his own shadow. The characters are annoying jerks- neither are unlikable in a funny way, but both are unlikable in an unlikable way.
His friends are equally horrible.
Leonard is supposed to be smart and possibly smarter than Sheldon, but his kvetching Jew shtick is beyond pathetic- there are some occasional signs of competition with this as Sheldon’s narcissism comes out whenever his intellect is challenged- again, not very funny. Leonard’s self-esteem is so low and his nerdiness so over-powering that it’s enormously hard to swallow that neighbor Penny would show an interest in him, but of course she does…but she is dumb of course, god forbid they write a beautiful girl in the Lorre universe that’s also smart. The romance between her and Leonard is phony, why a girl that hot would show the slightest interest in a cream puff like that is still a mystery even Colombo couldn’t solve.
Would it not be more interesting and funny if Penny were as smart as the guys….?
Anyone? ….Bueller?

The girl that Sheldon does have an interest can’t look like a real woman- sorry, Mayim Bialik is not easy on the eyes…but of course since she’s smart, a borderline genius, she has to look like an Ape dressed up as Bette Midler. Keep those clichés coming; we can’t have realistic people and identifiable human traits on display.
Howard is whatever he is, a punching bag for Leonard when Sheldon gets pissed off. Rajesh is Indian and that’s why he’s funny…I guess? Those two serve no purpose other than to reinforce old racial stereotypes and to fill the sitcom quota for “Dumb guy” and get a condescending look from Sheldon from time to time with the laugh tracking kick into over drive. Which itself is not a terrible thing, IF something was done, inject some personality, HUMOR, do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, but the laugh track ticks on every five seconds laughing off every trite stupid joke and nonsense one-liner. If that weren’t enough, it’s the geek pandering; throw some Nimoy references around (a funny way to show off Sheldon’s sociopath tendencies), have the gang dress up like a comic book characters- oh how funny!!…and best of all- lets revive the old fashioned stereotype of guys who like science also like Star Trek/Star Wars!  
I love both of those and I HATE science and it goes back and forth between those two distinct personality types mixing them up liberally showing the audience they have no clue- This is why the show is a fraud-it may not matter to most watching but the lack of edification is annoying. The show has no idea what the difference is between a Geek and Nerd and it shows.
Splitting hairs perhaps, but there is a huge quantifiable difference. A geek is someone who lives a reasonably normal, healthy life, but “geeks-out” over whatever they like, Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, movies in general…and that’s basically it…they go on about their lives, have a family and are usually socially sound, date are and fun people to be around. They usually have other interests, a job and are not afraid of expanding their horizons.
Nerds are near mental cases. They live for whatever they are obsessed with and suck it dry. Nitpick and dissect it to death. They tend to be those basement-dwellers, unkempt mouth-breathers that live for only one or two things. If they have a job, it’s usually some dead-end retail madness. They are usually mean-spirited, self-centered jerks with zero interest in anything in life outside of their sphere of influence, emotionally regressive and social retards. They like only what they like, they don’t engage well in conversations if it’s not about them or their interests; they will keep it always about them and how it impacts their lives are generally jerky people that do not participate much in the game of human existence with very limited horizons. World of Warcraft seems to attract this type.
I realize they have to mix and match to make these freaks palatable and give them some mass appeal, but it’s insulting to my intelligence, again, it would not be a deal break, IF this damn thing was funny, but it’s not… the nerd/geek thing is the gimmick, the hook, the point of the show, but it seems, at least for me, to end right there… too bad…they don’t show the normal side of these guys, the mundane with the absurd, it’s JUST the absurd. We don’t laugh at the characters because they are funny, we are suppose to laugh at them because they are awkward, goofy and weird.  If this show wanted to go for the nerd/geek jugular, it could and really have fun it. There’s plenty of material- take aim at the basement-dwellers and the tubby unhygienic crowd.  Humiliate these freaks like crazy, but give them some humanity first and make one of the gang a normal person or twist it up and make Penny a nerd and the guy next door is the normal guy looking in or just have the main character the normal guy with nerdy friends and he keeps them balanced as they all learn from each other. Don’t just make it one long gimmick of assembly line and unfunny jokes.

*cue laugh track!

This show would have fit right in during the 1980’s/early 90’s sitcom renaissance sandwiched between “Family Matters” and “Step-by-Step,” with “Webster” coming up the rear- three horrible shows with all the same problems; lack of great characters, lack of solid joke building and the rudimentary concept of humor.

The worst part is that Jim Parsons has won the Emmy twice for his portrayal as Sheldon. and if that doesn’t make you sick enough here’s some disgusting trivia- Andy Griffith, Jackie Gleason and Redd Foxx never won an Emmy.

Penny: Umm, I guess the jokes only funny in Nebraska.

Sheldon: No, from the given data, all you can say is that this joke is not funny here…

Exactly!

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Star Wars Forever!

 Like everyone else, October 30, 2012 will be a day long remembered. I sat down to read the news and BOOM! As if a Hutt fell on me, I too saw those words, “NEW STAR WARS FILM IN 2015! LUCASFILM SOLD TO DISNEY”
Wow! I had no idea such a thing was cooking and to be honest, had it been vetted as rumor first, I probably would have dismissed it.
Now that it’s true, I’m excited for all parties involved, Lucas for keeping the franchise alive, for allowing other, talented, fresher folks to come play in his yard, take his creation to places he never considered, to set his “baby” free and allow future generations to experience the purity of the thrills.
My story with Star Wars is not unlike millions of other kids born at the exact perfect time, 1972, being 5 y/o at the time of ANH’s release. I was hooked. In 1983, after the release of JEDI I believed George when he said he’d do no more SW movies and he was correct for at least eight years, nothing new came from the franchise…I should have learned my lesson to never pay attention to George’s declarations of NO, he may mean it at the time, but he changes his mind too often to stick it out. It happened with the prequel trilogy and now it’s happening for a new sequel trilogy begining in 2015!
Many are probably asking, why did he sell? Tired of the game I guess and realizes there is more to life than to create movies for ungrateful pricks. His flock turning on him like a pack of churlish spoiled babies; the immature fat, dumpy losers who focus too much on someone else’s work and not their own, the nagging, stupid, whiny fan boys who vilify him for trivial reasons. He is probably just sick of it all; sick of the name calling, the dumb questions from the press and most of all, and the idiots just not getting what he’s selling.
I’m all for film criticism, but to take the guy to task personally, wish him dead, call him filthy vile names, for you own glitches, I don’t get that. I will always forever side with Lucas, mainly because the fanboys are self-centered and ignorant beyond belief. Once they lost sight of their issues and turned their personal glitches into public displays of adult temper tantrums, I was out and once they used his work for parasitic gains, (Red Letter Media, Plinkett et all douches, I’ am talking about you!!!!)… DONE!
Nope, not going to side with the virgin, sexless geeks, ever again in a Star Wars conversation. If it’s not that, it’s the whining over the Special Editions, which save for one, are all welcomed. If anyone honestly thinks those slight alterations completely ruin the experience, they are so full of hate and myopia and are beyond help… all on you my stupid friends, the so-called Star Wars fans who grew up to embrace bad values, and stabbed him in the back. Why would anyone stick around for that crap?
To be fair, he created this monster and he opened a nerd Pandora box that probably perplexed him. As the leader of the ship, he will and deserves some of the heat…I will admit, some of his ideas, aren’t great; Jar Jar should have been dialed down a bit, not quite so insanely goofy…but you can’t bash a guy for showing off his new creation and you don’t go to a Star Wars film for its ACTING!

 

 Lucas’s only sin is that he’s too creative and has way too many cool tools to make them a reality. He needed a partner, a sparer, someone to bounce off of, to let him know what works and what doesn’t  He’s like that kid in the candy store unsupervised and he will eat until his stomach hurts. Hey no big deal, I was never one of those that bitched too loudly, I ignored the stuff I disliked, which wasn’t much and embraced the rest… why is that still so hard to do for some? I’ve never understood why people can’t sidestep stuff they don’t like – as if Elvis sucks because someone likes Velvet Elvis’ or Vegas Elvis cookie jars. Huh? This is why Trekkers have more dignity! They can move on to the stuff they like and live with the stuff they don’t. There is plenty to love; if not, move on, we don’t care about your pathetic moans about the “raping of your childhoods” (a truly despicable term, by the by). Calling Lucas filthy awful names, wanting him to die, making fun of his kids…what is wrong with you geeks?

It’s time to move on, as a great Poet once said,

GET A LIFE, YOU PEOPLE!

It’s not going to be “cool” on the Internet to hate on Star Wars for much longer. You no longer have Lucas to blame for your pathetic existence. He never once disappointed me and so I keep coming back for more.  Haters of Lucas, you take to the internet every chance you get and smear his name and insult his work; why are you still paying your money?

Let’s take a moment and admire the man’s accomplishments, of legendary proportions with five masterpieces on his resume, “THX-1138, “American Graffiti,” “Star Wars: A New Hope,” “Empire Strikes Back,” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Not a bad run I must say. For those flicks alone he’s in my cool book and a legend.

For the misguided hate and stupid fury aimed at the prequels, well, that’s all on you…what else can be said, Lucas made those for himself, he answers to no one and either you dig them or you don’t.

I found plenty to like and did something smart people do; I use the movie measuring stick, the kooky one with gradation scale and guess what- they are NOT the worst things in the history of ever… so learn to calm your emotions and put things in their proper context. No one cares about your loser lives and that your parents divorced… Not everything Hobbit related is good and not everything Star Wars related is bad.
Lucas has made a profound gesture with this sale, in his own lifetime, choosing the path for the continuation of his creation (and making the money he wants to doing so) instead of having it raided and exploited in a manner not of his choosing. He fully acknowledges the desire to hand it over to a new generation of filmmakers and is doing it in a structured way that shows he still cares a lot about what he created. He wants it to endure.

What’s wrong with that?

So many of the cranky brats demanded he relinquish control once they felt their pathetic hopes were dashed, and now that he has, they continue to gripe?
I say let the negative nimrods have at…they will never be happy, they will pick, dissect and bitch the life out of everything they touch, no wonder George took the last train out.

I’m thrilled he had the foresight to let others partake, he’s always been his best when he collaborates and now that he’s given it to people who also love Star Wars, it will be quite a happening.  I’m just excited because for the first time since 1983, we have no idea what’s going to happen. The prequels we had sketches, some history and our own imaginations to fill in the blanks, but now, the possibilities are endless and the only gurantee we get is we will get nothing what we expect…

at least aside from the vehicles, the weapons and possibly music….

So disgruntled morons clutching your original versions, watching them in the basement, wishing the Special Editions never happened and cursing Lucas and now Disney’s name- bugger off. You’ve had your pathetic tantrums. Time to find a new song to sing and ease that bitterness in your nasty little black hearts because honestly, truly and completely it sucks to be you.

 I just can’t wait! 

This is amazing! It’s 1997 all over again- the buildup, the lines, the collective love for Star Wars will be over-kill and I will love every second of it.

For the rest of us…the future looks bright! Get a life, get a good job, make some money, buy a house, drink some booze, stop mooching off others and ENJOY THE NEXT STAR WARS MOVIE!

The Force WILL Be With Us…Always!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Dissecting Prometheus, Part 12: Nietzsche

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I am planning on this being my last Prometheus article in this series, but you never know.  This movie keeps unfolding new things in our laps for us to look at.

During the end credits of Prometheus, it tells us to go to http://weylandindustries.com/timeline.  A video was posted there over the summer  of 2012 that showed Weyland drinking and prepping himself for his TED speech in the year 2023.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDjk68_MLNI  Notice the words he is saying.

“I am a law only for my kind, I am no law for all.” That’s what Weyland is whispering to himself in that clip, and that leads us to the main image from the page: a book cover for Thus Spake Zarathustra by Nietzsche, a book that the website claims “deals with ideas such as the “eternal recurrence of the same”, the parable on the “death of God”, and the “prophecy” of the Übermensch

The book by Nietzsche is so filled with heavy themes and riddles, it goes without saying to try to conquer even one of those themes in a few pages would be futile at best.  But there are things to consider, and the Prometheus film and viral marketing campaign, revolving around the crassness and pride of a young Weyland reference this book, telling us to look at it.  It is clear it’s another key.

Remember the Straight VS Curved lines article?  This is an excerpt from that book:

“All that is straight lies,” the dwarf murmured contemptuously. “All truth is crooked; time itself is a circle.”

Interesting, eh?  This philosophy that everything repeats is based on his theory that God is dead, and that life is meaningless.  Note that I did not say that it doesn’t say that God doesn’t exist.  If you’ve seen the viral marketing, think back to the TED talk.  “We are the gods now.”  Weyland sees himself as a kind of Zarathustra:  a superman because of his creations and advances in technology.   He is Illuminati- illuminated.  This mission will be his journey to the dwarf.  He’s going to meet God.   If he’s alive and ask for more life.  He doesn’t accept that his mortality is part of the circle.  After all, Nietzsche’s philosophy is that the meaning of life is to live life to the fullest.  That has become the sum of all what he believes are man’s pursuits.  To live!  Contrast that with the theme of sacrifice on display throughout the film.  It contrasts with the philosophy that God is alive- and that selfish ambition is meaningless – to die is to live.

Another failing by audiences around the world to understand Prometheus is why they are able to just find the temples on the planet within minutes of arrival without scans, as if miraculously for the sake  of moving the plot forward.  The key is that it is miraculous, and that these scientists and ship mates don’t see it as miraculous.  You are meant to question why they just happened to find things.  That’s because there is another character in Prometheus at work.  God.  Why didn’t the engineers carry out their mission?  God.  Why did the engineer not try to kill Elizabeth the first time?  God.  How did Elizabeth survive such physical torture?  God.  Why does she still believe?  To her, she sees Him.  God is with her.  She is intended to go on the next phase of this journey.  She is being carried there.  It doesn’t matter whether you like or agree with it.  Remember, Scott basically said this was a bible story.  It maybe portentous, but it works.

Nietzsche obviously was an inspiration to 2001: A Space Odyssey, a film that Scott is playing homage to here.  The main orchestral theme is even a classical piece based on this treatise composed in 1896 by Richard Strauss that has become synonymous with the film- a film which questions the recurrence theory and is all about transcendence.

In fact, Weyland seems to speak in epigrams in the viral adds, but then through David, his creation in the movie.  David is constantly quoting films and applying their deeper meanings and wit to his findings throughout the movie.

The Illuminati part of Weyland – this “survival of the fittest” – others don’t matter in the scheme of things – is his view that he is transcending – “evolving” in the way the space baby evolved from Bowman in 2001. He believes his accomplishments have made him a god, and that the rest of the human race is expendable if they cannot keep up… this is what guided his selection of the crew for the Prometheus… they are lab rats… it’s not their intellect or technical achievements that matter to him, it’s how they can be manipulated into achieving his goals, which he views as important to the human race.

This book was given to Nazi soldiers during WWII.  With it’s ideas on heroism and the rise of the supermen, the book was misinterpreted by the Germans as a cook book for how to create a Nazi race of supermen, and how to justify the thought process that creates it.  While I’m not speculating that Weyland was a Nazi, I am trying to say that he misinterprets things to have only relevance to him:  That he is this Übermensch.

Weyland’s philosophy is what will become the blueprint for his company: “crew expendable”.  His company will continue to contest with the engineers for their technology – the fire of Prometheus … the alien itself.   It’s as if he believes, even post-mortem, this Nietzsche ideology must be integrated into his company’s philosophy.   His company will be the illuminated, because to control this “alien” biotech is how to evolve into the next phase of godhood, and they are willing to compete with their creators to become the new Gods; the Übermensch.  If God isn’t dead, they will try to make it happen.  As David said, “ Doesn’t everyone want to see their parents dead?”  Weyland is no different.

It’s with great dismay that when he meets his creators, they react not according to his philosophy, but with what he most likely interprets as a primordial religious one.  He is not worthy to stand before them for the exact reasons he thinks he is worthy to.

In the quote I mentioned above, Zarathustra is arguing about time itself as he stands before a gateway labeled “Moment.”  The notion that everything that has happened before will happen again is not new to science fiction, it was utilized just a few years ago in the “Battlestar Galactica” television series. What is different? Because the circle has spiritual significance in Prometheus, and straight lines are not spiritual, this gives way to the idea that time and everything that is real is spirit; everything that is not spiritual is a lie.

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Dissecting Prometheus, Part 11: Faust

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The story of Faust:

Despite his scholarly eminence, Faust is bored and disappointed. He decides to call on the Devil for further knowledge and magic powers with which to indulge all the pleasure and knowledge of the world. In response, the Devil’s representative,Mephistopheles, appears. He makes a bargain with Faust: Mephistopheles will serve Faust with his magic powers for a term of years, but at the end of the term, the Devil will claim Faust’s soul and Faust will be eternally damned. The term usually stipulated in the early tales is 24 years.

During the term of the bargain, Faust makes use of Mephistopheles in various ways. In many versions of the story, particularly Goethe’s drama, Mephistopheles helps him to seduce a beautiful and innocent girl, usually named Gretchen, whose life is ultimately destroyed. However, Gretchen’s innocence saves her in the end, and she enters Heaven. In Goethe’s rendition, Faust is saved by God’s grace via his constant striving—in combination with Gretchen’s pleadings with God in the form of the Eternal Feminine. However, in the early tales, Faust is irrevocably corrupted and believes his sins cannot be forgiven; when the term ends, the Devil carries him off to Hell.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faust

There have been many comparisons made between the story of Faust and the myth of Prometheus, so many that there has even been a book written on the subject . (http://www.questia.com/library/1407263/prometheus-and-faust-the-promethean-revolt-in-drama)

 

Goethe, a 19th century author,  wrote two plays before settling on Faust, based on the actual Johann Georg Faust, a 16th century  doctor who practiced alchemy and died in an experimental explosion.    Thus, the identity of Faust became fused with elements of Prometheus.

I would imagine that Faust is an inspiration for many of the scenes in Prometheus, with David being a type of Faust; Weyland a kind of Mephistopheles; Elizabeth a kind of Gretchen.

You might ask why Weyland, with his pursuit for power and intellect would not be the Faust, and David, a type of technology, would not be the Mephistopheles?  Those are valid comparisons, but for the sake of this study, the answer lies in the Gretchen character.  In Goethe’s version of Faust, her mother is given a narcotic by Faust which Faust did not realize would kill her, at the behest of Mephistopheles.  This is played out as David gives the weaponized fluid to Holloway at the behest of Weyland.  Faust is infatuated with Gretchen in the same way that David is infatuated with Elizabeth.  Elizabeth has a child that is a result of David’s tampering and tries to destroy it, the same way that Gretchen killed Faust’s child and ended up in Jail.

Faust is not interested merely in power, pleasure, and knowledge, but longs to take part in the divine secrets of life. He conjures up an Earth-Spirit, but it refuses to help him slake his insatiable thirst for knowledge. Faust becomes depressed and wants to kill himself. But it is Easter and the church bells tell of the resurrection. He is overcome by childhood memories: “Die Botschaft hör’ ich wohl, / allein mir fehlt der Glaube” (I hear the message clearly, / but I alone lack the faith). He does not commit suicide, but his inner tensions heighten. He is both sick of life and unbearably hungry to know and experience its deepest offerings. He hunts ravenously for knowledge but he also yearns to satisfy his bodily desires for action. In this situation, Mephistopheles makes an appearance and offers to fulfill Faust’s every desire—for the price of his soul.

http://www.bookrags.com/research/faust-este-0001_0002_0/

David wants to find life and is no longer satisfied with technology.  This is what separates him from Weyland.  David wants to be more than he is, while Weyland wants to continue just being.  I suppose that in a way, an argument could be made that Weyland could be a type of Faust, and that David is his technological Mephistopheles, his own daughter being the Gretchen life he destroyed.  In that way, there could be two representations of this tale within the film.  However, Vickers was not a religious person as Elizabeth was – and she did not seem to have the innocence that the Gretchen character has in the play.

Another key component is the end of Goethe’s version, which has Faust being forgiven, Gretchen’s intercession for him, and both of them entering Paradise.  This seems to parallel Elizabeth’s reclaimed faith, going to get David and in a way forgiving him, and both of them leaving to greet their creator.

Our current technological world that is criticized in Scott’s Prometheus adheres to the theory of the limitations of what is also categorized in sociology as Faustian Society, originally conceptualized in the writings of Marshall Berman.  Author Ken Sanes sums up those theories:

…Faustian societies are characterized by the pervasive use of deceptive simulations to manipulate large numbers of people.

Put in terms that were first referred to on an earlier page, Faustian society is using the powers of rationality and the ego – of logic, science and technology — to build a perfect world that answers to our desires. The goal is to create a new kind of person: a sovereign self, in control of its environment, including its own biology and mind…

We can begin this effort at self-knowledge by recognizing that we are ascending a ladder of invention and discovery that has always been there, waiting to be climbed. This ladder of progress is built in to the universe. It is an element of the world, of which we are only a part.

The ladder has two arms. One is made up of our growing power to use science and technology to control the physical world. The other is made up our ability to grow as people. We will need both if we want to make our great ascent.

http://www.transparencynow.com/faustian.htm

Indeed, it seems that both the story of Faust and the themes underneath that story seem to drive some of the story of Prometheus, showing us that science should not replace faith, but instead accompany it.  There is a struggle by both the protagonists and antagonists to be more than they are, with vastly different philosophies on how to get there.


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