Boldy Going…for 50 years. Happy Anniversary Star Trek.

star-trek-50

Some of you might say, “what’s the big deal?”.  Yeah I know.  Heard it before.  Just a show. You’re a dork or whatever the slang term of the day might be.  I get it.  But I don’t think you do.

Star Trek has a lot of meaning to me beyond the obvious  love for fantasy and imaginative story telling.  I have always been drawn to the fantastic as entertainment.  The notion of different possibilities removed from the reality of my own little world.  It isn’t even this global vision of a peaceful world untroubled by money, crime or poverty.  I find that notion even harder to believe in than Klingons.  What I found in Star Trek as a very young child, was a very real window on the world in which I was living.  Before she passed away, my grandmother introduced me to Star Trek at a very young age.  She thought the guy with the pointy ears was a cutie.  I vividly recall sitting on her living room floor while she rocked peacefully in her Laz-e-boy, smoking her Tarington cigarettes.  Every time a different alien would appear on screen I would ask “what is that?  Who is that?”.  At one point early on in this afternoon ritual, the beautiful Nichelle Nichols made an appearance on screen and at the tender age of 7 I asked “What sort of alien is that?”.  I had not had much experience with people of color at that young age.  I think it might have been an awkward moment for her, explaining that this wasn’t an alien but a human being like myself.   Even at 7 years old, I learned a lot about the world I was living in.

Like those characters on that prematurely cancelled TV show, boldly going across the galaxy exploring strange new worlds, I started at a very young age, boldly going, exploring my own life in much the same way.  Think about it, how many first contacts have each of us made, exploring our own little corner of the universe?  Those earliest memories of Star Trek spur me forward each day.  My devotion to a simple television show truly set me on the path I walk today.  Phasers, warp speed, transporters all played a role in my passionate exploration of the creative.  While in one important sense, Star Wars trumps Star Trek in my psyche – I find the dirty, “broken” Star Wars universe much easier to accept than the sanitized, hopeful and all inclusive Trek universe, just as the machines realized in the Matrix movies.  If it’s too perfect, we won’t accept it.  But where Star Trek trumps Star Wars every time, I sum up in a statement writer/director Nicholas Meyer said in an interview.  During filming, Meyer was interviewed about the release of  The Undiscovered Country, touted to be the last big screen adventure for the original cast.  When asked why Star Trek had such enduring appeal, and why it had survived for what was then 25 years (TUC released during the 25th anniversary of Star Trek) Meyer said two things about Star Trek that resonate with me strongly.  First, he said “[Star] Trek doesn’t really show us other worlds so well or so effectively as it shows us our own.”  But he also commented that it was those people;  Those actors bringing life to those characters that resonated so strongly with the fans.  They were family.  When asked what it was about them that made them so special to people, he replied.  “They have one intergalactic quality in abundance:  Charm.”  That really summed it up for me, what Star Trek meant to me.  You might not understand.  Let me explain it  like this.  Growing up, I never wanted to be Captain Kirk or Mr. Spock.  I wanted to be with them.  One of them.  That speaks volumes if you can understand it.  Happy Anniversary Star Trek.  You really have changed my life.  Also, you will always be a year older than me.  Just throwing that out there.   Oh!  One more little ditty.  In November of 1991, I went with my good friend Dave to a Star Trek convention in Indianapolis, Indiana.  It was a short two hour drive from home.  It was a fantastic event with many wonderful guest speakers.  Among those guest speakers was the lovely Nichelle Nichols.

One of the events held at this event was a dinner theater style meet and greet and mini-stage ensemble of the guest speakers.  There was an extra fee but we paid it and went to meet our heroes.  During dinner, the stars came around the room and actually engaged the fans in conversation.  Yes, she came to our table.  I stood up, shook her hand and spoke with her one on one for several minutes.  We talked about Trek and its effect on me and very briefly about other things.  She gave me the slightest hug and the warmest smile.  Dave took a photo of the two of us together using an old, first gen digital camera I had at the time.  That camera and all the photos on it are long gone.  I don’t have a copy of the photo of Nichelle and I.  That is my biggest Trek disappointment.  But it is also one of my very fondest memories.

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Are critical film reviews damaging the motion picture industry more than providing a valuable service?

independence-day-trailer-001

Another global catastrophe in Independence Day Resurgence and I don’t mean the alien invasion.  (2016)

I would love to tell you that ID4 – 2, Resurgence was a kick ass balls out sci-fi action picture in the grand tradition of other event films of recent years but I can’t.  Because I haven’t seen it.  In fact, I have only seen two movies in the theater in 2016.  Deadpool being one, Civil War the other.  both of them turned out to be first rate, action films.  Not a particularly good attendance record for the first 6 months of 2016 considering I had very high hopes of seeing no less than 10 major releases in theaters this year.  The ones on my list were:

Deadpool, Batman v. Superman, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, ID4-2, Star Trek Beyond, Suicide Squad, The Magnificent Seven, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Doctor Strange and one to grow on….Rogue One.  (That’s  I added an 11th holiday bonus.)

Lately the news out of Hollywood has been both encouraging and ultimately disappointing with news of some re-makes making me excited like the Denzel Washington lead, Magnificent Seven.  Others not so much like the Ghostbusters re-tool.  I will touch on that  again in a minute.

I was very excited about ID4-2 even without Will Smith who frankly, has not made the best decisions with his career the last five years or so.  Hopefully his turn in Suicide Squad later this summer will return him to his usual greatness.  But getting back to ID4-2, I actually did want to see this film and perhaps I still will but again, bad word of mouth has killed another film for me.  Wired, Rotten Tomatoes, Cinemablend and Entertainment Weekly just to name a few have trashed it with EW going so far as to call it, “soulless and unremarkable”.   Moviegoers around the globe rely on critics to give them a better perspective on available movie options in a glutted market of big budget epics vying for your entertainment dollar.  But the question I have is, are they doing more harm to film making than good?  I don’t have a complete picture on an opinion yet but I am considering how I personally am affected.  A great example is the aforementioned Ghostbusters reboot Kevin Feige has coming out in a few weeks.  There has been so much negative press surrounding it from die hard fans upset over the path they took bringing it to the screen, to insider critics who indicate that even after a series of painful re-shoots a few months back, the final product is still a lackluster mess.  Even the biggest Ghostbusters site online, Proton Charging – Planet Ghostbusters, has spent an inordinate amount of their time telling people to chill out on the negativity while printing article after article about why the movie will be great.  Do they protest too much?  I don’t know.  Can too much press be a bad thing after all?  Time will tell on the GB reboot.

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When I saw this in the trailer… they officially lost me –  Ghostbusters (2016)

I guess the ultimate point of this rant is to ask the question, “are critics ultimately harming the film industry by their honest and unbiased critical opinions?”  I know most of us including myself would say of course not.  But a part of me says that they will and they do.  This is the part of me that sees the studio planning and development system for what it is and believe me it is not a creative art house for out of the box film makers with fresh, wild ideas.  No, it is a profit driven industry using formulas and plot arcs driven by income potential and governed by a moneyed elite who control what films are made, how much they cost and who makes them.   Batman vs. Superman was expected to join The Force Awakens in the billion dollar club and dammit, it should have.  Bad critical reviews are not going to fix the mess director Zach Snyder made of the DC CU with Man of Steel and its follow up.  It would only have taken a matter of 48 hours for word to circulate how disappointing the movie was to average filmgoers as well as comics aficionados.  But in the  film world, opening weekend is about the most important financial indicator as to how profitable a film is going to be.  Early critical pasting of major event films like this one can serve both a positive and negative effect.  Ultimately Snyder is getting clipped for this mess and hopefully the Justice League movie will learn from previous mistakes.  But what about those inventive, creative and ultimately unique film ideas that are not sequels, remakes or reboots?  Films like Dark City, Mad Max Fury Road or even major hits like District 9?  (Fury Road is different as it was funded outside the studio system like an independent film.)  Large budget independent films like these – some financed  by studios, others not, might be less inclined to get green lit if others of their kind  don’t show profitability.  Could we be suffering a creative loss because of it?

Independence Day 2 made an estimated $41 million at the box office this weekend coming in a distant second to Finding Dora which was not in its opening weekend.  This dismal showing at the box office was no doubt at least in some small part influenced by the miserable 33% from Rotten Tomatoes and other critical drubbings.

I do not advocate the removal of critical reviews or suppressing the truth about how crappy movies are.  I only ask the question, do these reviews now flooding the internet, television and mass media weeks or even days before a film opens serve to hurt the film industry more than they help audiences make an informed decision?  Do they keep studios from taking gambles in favor of playing it safe?  Would it hurt for critical reviews and other such insider tidbits to be withheld until after opening weekend?  I don’t know.  I’m only asking the question.  It looks though like Independence Day 2 will be joining Batman vs. Superman on my Netflix que sometime later in the year.  Reviews for X-Men Apocalypse were none to flattering either.  I refuse to look at any reviews for Star Trek Beyond until after I have seen it on the big screen.  I have to draw the line someplace.

 

 

I’ve Seen Things…..

Blade Runner fly-by

Los Angeles 2019 – Blade Runner

Blade Runner 2 is happening.  And I mean it is happening right now as I type this.  Rumors have flown across the science fiction fandom community for five years claiming Ridley Scott was working on a sequel to his seminal 1982 cult classic about a detective tracking down renegade androids in dystopian 21st century Los Angeles.  Based on the novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, penned by legendary Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner is arguably one of the most important science fiction films ever made and certainly the finest of Dick’s works adapted for the big screen.

Blade Runner 2 is in pre-production right now over at Warner Brothers and most of the cast is locked down and ready to begin filming.  Principle lensing begins in July of 2016 with an expected release date of October 2017.  A couple short months before Episode VIII drops.   I had several requests for an updated “what’s happening now” on this highly anticipated movie so here you go in some detail.  What I’ve found out looks really good.

The movie is set to star Harrison Ford reprising his role of Rick Deckard, the android hunting detective from the first film and as of this moment, he is the only returning character from the first chapter.  Joining him is a stellar cast.  What I know is, Robin Wright, Ryan Gosling and Dave Bauttista of Guardians of The Galaxy fame are rounding out the cast as of this printing.  I have learned something that is extraordinarily interesting to the film just recently.  Warners has cast relatively unknown Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks in a  major leading role.

Sylvia Hoeks

Sylvia Hoeks

     As you can see she is stunning but what intrigues me is that she is Dutch, just like another legendary actor who appeared in the first film.  Is this a happy coincidence or something more?

     What became a shock to many expectant fans is that back in 2015, Ridley Scott was forced to drop out as the director of this film as he had too many project commitments and could not manage it.  The good news is that director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) has stepped in to direct with Scott assuming Executive Producing credits.  The best part of it all?   The screenplay was written by Hampton Fancher, the guy who with David Peoples, co-wrote the original script.  Again, filming is set to start in July of this year.  As the summer rolls along I hope to have more information including glimmers of a possible story.  All I can tell you about this story is that Harrison Ford was doing the rounds promoting the release of Star Wars The Force Awakens and told several interviewers who asked him that Fancher’s script for Blade Runner 2 was one of the best screenplays he had ever read.  Lets keep our fingers crossed.  By the time this film releases, 35 years will have passed since the original.  Interest is still off the charts high for a new Blade Runner film.  The indications are, fans will find it worth the wait.

He likes that seat….

 

This second trailer for Star Trek Beyond looks very cool.  I’m not sure how great the movie will be or even how much like Star Trek it will be, but i am hopeful because for all intent and purpose, when Paramount et al went in for this “reboot” of the franchise, they approached it from a point of view I could respect.  Adding Leonard Nimoy as “Spock Prime” was a pretty clever way of tying the original series into the new adventures without pretending the old show never happened, but rather celebrating what came before.  The first teaser for Star Trek Beyond let me feeling a bit meh….this second trailer does not do much to explore what the story is about but it certainly does a better job of alluding to a big story driven film,  heavy on the sci-fi action.  I’m in.  Here is the second trailer for Star Trek Beyond that just became available.  You saw it here first!  Maybe.  Possibly you did.  You might have seen it somewhere else by now but probably here.

 

 

Remembering A Legend on the sixth anniversary of his passing.

Dio

It was six years ago today that one of my music heroes passed away.  While his musical legacy was perhaps not as widely known as that of Bowie or Prince, Ronnie James Dio was to me, a legend, a talent and a gentleman of unparalleled kindness in a music world populated by self-centered egotists.  Outside of metal circles he was most often associated with the “devil horns” hand gesture pictured above and now aped by every rock musician in the hard rock world.  As he once explained in an interview, this was a gesture he learned from his grandmother, an old world Italian who when angered often threatened to put a hex on someone while making this hand gesture.  To those of us on the inside, he was the master of the art form.  Standing  barely five foot four, the man’s voice was an unequaled ten feet tall.

Born Ronald James Padavona in 1942 this diminutive giant held sway over multiple generations of hard rock fans from the early 1970s until his passing six years ago today.  His legacy of music from Elf, Rainbow (one of my personal favorite bands EVER) to Black Sabbath, The Dio solo years and to a final Sabbath reunion project called Heaven & Hell, is one kick in the pants of awesome.  What is not awesome, not one bit, is that his tragic death in 2010 from metastasized stomach cancer was most probably treatable.  Following his passing doctors who knew the truth stated that had he had the proper colonoscopy and  regular medical check-ups, this early death at 67 might have been delayed and the genteel avatar of metal might still be with us.  I urge everyone to keep tabs on their health as both men and women who reach a certain age become more susceptible to certain conditions that we may not be able to cure but early detection and treatment can certainly retard their development and perhaps stave them off.  I miss Ronnie and feel it very keenly today.  His music has been a part of my life longer than the life I knew before him.   People.  See your doctors.  Before I go I would say one thing.  People celebrate the lives of Michael Jackson, or Bowie or Prince or other pop stars when they pass…and in the popular press very little was said about Dio except a short blurb on the news.  Here is something most of you might not know about this kind hearted man.  Back in 1985 when Stevie Wonder and other pop stars were taking steps to fight hunger in Africa and staging events like Live Aid and the great “We Are The World” single that sold millions of copies and generated a tremendous amount of money for hunger relief, Dio and dozens of other hard rock artists were excluded from participating in those events.  They did not snub “We Are The World”.  They were not invited to participate.  This hurt Dio’s feelings tremendously.  Together with his friends and band mates Jimmy Bain (who also passed away earlier this year almost unnoticed by the media) and Guitarist Vivian Campbell (who now plays with Def Leppard), Dio wrote a song and invited legions of heavy metal artists popular in those days to perform with him, contribute their talents and film the subsequent music video.  They called themselves “Hear n Aid” and the song is fantastic.

I won’t list everyone who appeared on this amazing project but some of the notables include:  Neal Schon of Journey, Tommy Aldridge, Adrian Smith & Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, Don Dokken of Dokken, The Metal God, Rob Halford of Judas Priest, Mick Mars of Motley Crue, Ted Nugent and Geoff Tate of Queensryche.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.  Today, on this sad anniversary, I salute with fond memories Ronnie James Dio and all that he did for the music I love so much.  Enjoy the single from Hear n Aid.

STARS

Screenshot of The Week

Viva Les Americannes

With the chaos from our cross country move diminishing and the dust from our wagon train west settling, I can find a moment to sit back and throw up the V for victory sign like the late, great Carol O’Connor from this legendary 1970 film.  Kudos to anyone who can guess the movie.  “Viva Les Americannes!!!”  And of course Mr. OConnor’s great quote, “Degaulle??….Hell, he ain’t even in this war!”

More content coming next week.  …

What will you become?…

Fans all across a galaxy far, far away and a lot closer to home are getting themselves amped up over the very first stand-alone Star Wars feature film, Rogue One.  Aside from the basic premise of the film very little is known about  the particulars of the plot or even who most of the talented cast are portraying but some facts are known, more than are revealed in the very cool teaser trailer that dropped earlier this month.

The movie was greenlit and pre-production began back in 2013, concurrent to the production of Episode VII.  Gareth Edwards is directing the film based on a screenplay by Gary Whitta.  I can’t tell you much about Mr. Whitta’s work except that he is most famous for writing the scripts for the abortion that was Will Smith’s After Earth and on the plus side, he penned the script for Denzel’s Book of Eli which was a lot better.  Edwards on the other hand is most famous for directing the Godzilla reboot a couple of years ago (I thought it was meh…) and the Godzilla 2 sequel that will go into production sometime later this year.  Both men have some other film, television and video game writing credits that aren’t all that spectacular.  Having said that, the buzz I am getting from sources is that this is going to be a fantastic movie setting the stage for an entire series of stand-alone Star Wars films that will drop every other year or so for the foreseeable future and also possibly, heralding the advent of Star Wars as a weekly television series in some form or another.  This possibility has been discussed several times since Disney acquired the Galaxy far, far away.

Rogue one tells the Story of the small group of rebels who were tasked with discovering what the empire’s new secret weapon is and then finding a way to destroy it.  Ultimately, they stole the Death Star plans that found their way to Princess Leia in A New Hope.  It is rumored we will meet a new, dangerous imperial officer, a new class of black armored storm troopers called “death troopers” and a weapon master class character that gives gun nut a whole new meaning.  It has even been suggested that Darth Vader himself will make some type of appearance in the new film.

Rogue One stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk (yes that Alan Tudyk!), Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker.   I’m sure more information will become available as the summer rolls around. Rogue One won’t drop in theaters until December 16, 2016 but until then, here’s the first teaser trailer for what will certainly be the most in demand film of the holiday season.