There’s a great article in this week’s New York Times Magazine about the brilliant Paul Feig. Check it out here.
Mr. Feig is the creator of the phenomenal (and phenomenally mistreated) show Freaks and Geeks. (As only 12 of 18 episodes were ever actually aired by NBC — and out of order, at that — when the complete series was released on DVD it was a cause for much rejoicing in my household.) Mr. Feig has also directed episodes of Arrested Development, 30 Rock, Mad Men, and he is one of the key creative forces behind the American version of The Office.
If you like comedy and you don’t know his name, you should read this piece! And if you DO know his name, then you DEFINITELY should read this piece!… [continued]
There’s a new, longer trailer out for Frank Miller’s The Spirit, the movie-version of comics pioneer Will Eisner’s comic book. And, well, I have no friggin’ idea what to make of this. Looks like it’ll either be brilliant of completely unwatchable. Guess we’ll all find out together on December 25th.
Interested in some more fun trailers?
Here’s a new one for Bryan Singer’s film, Valkyrie. Mr. Singer has taken a lot of hits recently, as rumors are swirling that Warners’ next Superman film won’t be a follow-up to his Superman Returns but rather another reinvention of the franchise. (I am VERY disappointed by that idea, as I’m one of the people who loved Superman Returns and I’m intrigued to know where Singer would have taken his story.) His latest film, Valkyrie, has been bouncing around the release schedule for the past year, which many saw as a lack of confidence in its quality by the studio. It was initially scheduled for release in October, then pushed back to February 2009, then back to Decmber 26th. Will it be as good as this trailer?
Here’s one for Oliver Stone’s W. Josh Brolin is George W. Bush, Elizabeth Banks is Laura Bush, Richard Dreyfuss is Dick Cheney, James Cromwell is George Herbert Walker Bush, Scott Glenn is Donald Rumsfeld, and Jeffrey Wright is Colin Powell. At the very least, I am intrigued.
For a look at another sure-to-be controversial film, take a gander at this trailer for Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous. This could be the film that I am most looking forward to this fall.
Have you seen this peak at Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman Begins & The Dark Knight) as John Connor? That’s great casting, although I have every confidence that I will ultimately be bitterly disappointed by this movie…
Finally, here’s something to get your blood pumping for the next Bond film, the oddly-named Quantum of Solace. It gives a way a good chunk of the film’s plot, so beware of that. But damn does it look good! Can’t wait.… [continued]
I love sci-fi. Movies, TV shows, novels, comics, whatever. If its sci-fi, I’m interested.
I’m also a big fan of J.J. Abrams. Not of everything he’s done, mind you. (I certainly was never interested in Felicity, and despite sampling episodes during each of the five seasons of its run I just could never get into Alias.) But I adore Lost, and I also really enjoyed Mission Impossible III (which Abrams directed) and Cloverfield (which he produced).
And so it was that I tuned in to the first two hours of J.J. Abrams’ new series, Fringe.
Its been getting a lot of hype, so most of you probably know what its about, but just in case: the series features an FBI agent named Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) who, during the circumstances of the pilot, finds herself paired up with sort-of-sketchy Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) and his kooky-but-brilliant father, Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble, who played Denethor in The Return of The King). Together, they investigate all sorts of strange and paranormal events, which have been nicknamed “the pattern.”
Abrams, along with writers & executive producers Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (who together wrote Transformers and the script for the upcoming Star Trek re-launch, which is being directed by Abrams), have stated that, in creating this show, they were inspired by Robin Cook’s Coma, Twin Peaks, Real Genius, and Croenberg’s The Fly among other things…but if you think the description (a male and a female investigate paranormal phenomenal) sounds a lot like The X-Files, you’re not alone. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The X-Files was great, so more television like that would be OK in my book. But for Fringe to be enjoyable it would need to re-create some of what made the X-Files so enjoyable, while at the same time being new and different enough that viewers won’t feel “been there, done that.”
So does Fringe succeed in that?
While I really wanted to like it, I must say that, so far (I’ve seen the first two episodes that have aired), it doesn’t. The lead actors are all likeable, and there’s an interesting dynamic between them. But so far they don’t have a lot of life — they’re more vehicles for the weird, paranormal stories than they are interesting, three-dimensional characters in their own right. Which is fine — but I can’t help but think back to our first glimpses of Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in the pilot of The X-Files (it helps that I’ve recently re-watched the first season of the show, as I wrote about here a few weeks back). They both seemed so REAL, … [continued]
The various X-Men comic books have been a sales juggernaut for Marvel Comics for almost forty years now, and the success of the three X-Men films has certainly furthered the spread of this franchise. There have been a heck of a lot of talented writers and artists involved in the X-Men over that long stretch of time, but one man really deserves the lion’s share of the credit: Chris Claremont, who wrote The Uncanny X-Men comic book from 1975-1991.
Over the course of that incredibly lengthy run, Clarement shaped the characters, the stories, and the world of the X-Men, so much of which is known and loved world-wide today.
I started reading Uncanny X-Men towards the late-middle of Claremont’s run, in the mid/late 80’s. I’d been reading comics for a few years (my enjoyment of Marvel’s Transformers comic book series lead me to various super-hero titles such as the Fantastic Four and the Avengers), and people kept telling me “you can’t be a comic fan and not be reading X-Men.” I finally took the plunge, and I was immediately sucked into the series. Claremont was incredibly skilled at crafting interesting, really three-dimensional and human characters, and his stories were dense and sophisticated. (Claremont was the master of the “sub-plot,” in which various story-lines would weave in and out of the comic, sometimes for YEARS, before finally dovetailing with the main story being told.)
After Claremont left the X-Men comic in 1991, I continued to follow the series for many years, but it was never able to recapture for me the greatness of the Claremont era. Various writers and artists would rotate through the book, and some entertaining stories were told… but after a while I finally began to get bored, and I ultimately stopped reading. Once or twice a year I’d pick up an issue or a mini-series, but nothing ever held my interest enough to warrant my reading the title again on a monthly basis.
Then, in 2001, the British writer-artist team of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely took over one of the X-Men comics. (By this point, there were several!) I purchased their first issue, titled “E for Extinction,” and was blown away. Suddenly, the characters were interesting again, and the world those characters inhabited seemed dangerous again. I was hooked, and with no small amount of disbelief I started reading an X-Men comic every month again.
Maybe I’ll return to this topic at a later date to write a lengthier review of Morrison’s run, but ultimately I was disappointed by what had begun so promisingly. From the beginning, Quitely wasn’t able to keep up a regular schedule, and without his magnificent art the stories … [continued]
There’s a great, in-depth interview with Jon Favreau on his plans for Iron Man 2 (and 3!) to be found here. Some really interesting tid-bits to be had. I have a lot of faith in Favreau and am really excited to see what he and his team cook up over the next two years.
I love movie posters, and here’s one I think you might enjoy as well: Kevin Smith has posted the new poster for Zach and Miri Make a Porno, his upcoming movie starring Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks. If you follow that link, be sure to also scroll down a bit to see the poster design that the MPAA rejected. Pretty funny, the both of them!
This is old news, but I’ve mean meaning to mention it: Don LaFontaine passed away earlier this month. Don’t recognize his name? Well I guarantee you’d recognize his voice. He’s the famed “trailer guy,” whose deep tones graced the narration of so many movie trailers over the years. A fascinating trip-down-memory-lane sampling of his work can be found here.
Hope to see everyone back here tomorrow!… [continued]
Since I decided to write an in-depth dissertation on Season 1 of Terminator: The Sarah Chronicles a couple of weeks ago (back on August 29th), it seems like I also should weigh in on the season premiere that aired this past Monday.
Over-all, it was a lot of fun — although since so much of the episode was SO good, the few parts of the show that were dumb were VERY annoying.
What did I enjoy? The episode was INTENSE — right from the terrific opening sequence, picking up seconds after the end of season one’s finale, the show never stopped until the final moments. Cameron, the Terminator protector played by Summer Glau, has had her control chip damaged, and she reverts to her primary programming: kill John Connor. That was a great twist, turning the dynamic of the show on its ear. There was some great action — several sequences with various cars and trucks getting mangled really were exciting. Most of all, I really liked the DESPERATION of Sarah and John in this episode. They were alone, injured, and on the run from an unstoppable Terminator for almost the entire hour. I liked how everything they tried, until the end, failed to work. About half-way through the show they’re able to knock Cameron out with an electrical surge, and John tries to pry open the panel in her head to remove her chip which, as we saw in other first season episodes (and in the extended version of T2), would shut her down. Watching that, I thought — oh, so that’s how they’ll make Cameron a good guy again, that’s sort of lame — but IT DIDN’T WORK, and Cameron gets right back up and begins chasing John again. That was a nice surprise.
Props to Summer Glau. In some respects, as enjoyable as I’ve always found her to be, she has sort of played variations on the same not-quite-human character in Firefly, The 4400, and now in Terminator. But her protrayal of the now-evil, damaged Terminator in this episode was really impressive. Watch the way she moves — so different from the stealthy, lithe model she had been portraying in season one. She really created a different character. And she was scary. Very impressive.
I should also add that I was really excited to see a new, somewhat familiar character be introduced in the closing moments of the show. A GREAT introductory scene. I really can’t wait to see where that goes.
So what didn’t I like? Well, I mentioned above that I enjoyed Sarah and John’s desperation in this episode — alone and on the run. Part of what contributed … [continued]
I love movies, and I love watching movies on DVD in the comfort of my own home. Here are some of the great DVDs I’ve watched recently:
Heist and State and Main — I’m in the midst of a sort of David Mamet retrospective, tearing through a number of his earlier works, many of which I haven’t seen in years! I’ll be writing a more detailed piece about my journey into Mamet-world in a few weeks, so keep your eyes open for that. Next up, I’ll be watching Spartan (which I’ve only seen once and am eager to revisit) and The Spanish Prisoner (possibly my favorite Mamet film after the incomparable Glengarry Glenn Ross. ”Will you go to lunch?!!”)
Wonder Boys — What a masterpiece. Having just completed the summer of Robert Downey Jr. (in Iron Man and Tropic Thunder), it was a lot of fun to re-watch his magnificent turn in this film. Tobey Maquire is also great, as a talented but rather messed-up youngster. (Its sort of bizarre to watch Maguire and Downey Jr. in this film, having seen them together in one of the fake trailers that preceded Tropic Thunder. If you’ve seen it, you know exactly which one I mean!) The always terrific Frances McDormand is quietly touching as the university chancellor torn between two men. But this film belongs to Michael Douglas. He plays college professor Grady Tripp, a man who once wrote an extraordinarily successful first novel and has seen his life slowly crumble as he has struggled, over many many years, to write a follow-up. Wonder Boys is a coming-of-age story — for Maguire’s character, and also for Douglas’ Grady. Its a rare movie that can balance deep laughs and powerful poignancy, and Wonder Boys just nails it. I give director Curtis Hanson a lot of credit for that, as well as Steve Kloves for the sharp screenplay. This movie sits next to Igby Goes Down on my DVD shelf. The two films have a lot of similarities, both in terms of tone as well as the themes explored. If you’ve seen and enjoyed Wonder Boys but have never seen Igby, I encourage you to check it out.
City Slickers — Boy, I haven’t seen this movie in YEARS! I remember going to see the sequel, The Legend of Curly’s Gold, in theatres when it came out and being so disappointed that I don’t think I ever watched the original again. The film is a bit dated — its not quite as timeless as When Harry Met Sally — but it was a lot of fun to return to Billy Crystal’s little ode to suburban men looking … [continued]
OK, this is my last posting having to do with Star Trek for a while — I promise!
But yesterday — believe it or not — marked the 42nd anniversary of the airing of the first episode of the original Star Trek series. On September 8th, 1966, NBC aired “The Man Trap.”
Its a shame there’s no new Star Trek on TV these days to mark the anniversary. But last week I spent a while talking about all the great Star Trek fiction that’s out there to be enjoyed. Today I must add a post-script that novels haven’t been the only source of great new Star Trek recently. The past few years have seen an explosion of Star Trek fan films across the web. Now, a great many of these are very, very amateurish. But there’s one that rises above the rest, and its called Star Trek: Phase II. (The series began life as Star Trek: New Voyages).
This series is an attempt at creating a fourth season of the original Star Trek. (The original series famously only lasted for three seasons — 79 episodes — before being cancelled.) This is a very serious effort to produce complete, one hour (really approx. 45 minute) episodes that try to capture as close as possible the feel of 1960′s Star Trek. (So far they have produced four episodes.) And I must say, they get very close! There is an extraordinary attention to detail in these productions — in the sets, the costumes, the make-up, and the visual effects. You can tell that this is a true labor of love for everyone involved in its creation.
What also sets this fan-film series apart from other efforts is that it has attracted the participation of a lot of industry professionals, as well as people who have been involved with official Star Trek work in the past. Most notably, Walter Koenig (Checkov) and George Takei (Sulu) have each appeared in the series! And not just in little wink-wink cameo roles — both have had major starring roles. Mr. Koenig appeared in the series’ second episode, “To Serve All My Days,” an episode scripted with D.C. Fontana (who was one of the key writers for the original series). That appearance was followed by Mr. Takei’s role in the third episode, “World Enough and Time.”
Is the series something that looks like it could air on television? Well, not quite. But there is so much love on display here that its impossible to fault the series for an occasional shot or moment that seems off. The writing is terrific and the visual effects are a LOT of fun. (I particularly enjoyed the … [continued]
In addition to the great series of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novels that I discussed yesterday, Pocket Books has really stepped up their game across the board. They have released a number of marvelous novels in the past few years dealing with ALL the different series in the Star Trek franchise. With few exceptions, they all have the same great things going for them that the DS9 books do — tight continuity from novel to novel, strong character arcs, and terrific attention to detail in terms of picking up old plotlines from long-ago episodes of the different Trek shows, or in taking minor characters from old episodes and bringing them back in unexpected and fun ways. I have never seen the Trek UNIVERSE treated so much like a cohesive universe before — where things that happen in one novel, or that happened in older episodes of the series, aren’t just forgotten about. Rather, the consequences and repercussions of those actions are explored… and characters that might have been one-dimensional in the past are fleshed-out and deepened.
For example, Ensign Ro was a well-loved character introduced in season five of the Next Generation. And yet, after her initial introduction we never learned a whole heck of a lot about her, other than that she was tough and didn’t much like authority figures. But she has been magnificently fleshed out in the DS9 books, where she has had to struggle to figure out where she belongs as Bajor begins the process of becoming a member world of the Federation. Will she return to Starfleet, an organization in which she has failed twice? Will she remain on Bajor, a planet and cultural heritage she rejected and fled from in her youth? There’s a lot of interesting drama to be had there. Here’s another interesting example: In the second season of Deep Space Nine, there was an episode in which it looked like Bajor was going to renounce its partnership with the Federation, and a team of Bajoran officers attempted to capture the station. The leader of those officers was a Bajoran general named Krim. He only appeared in that one episode, but I always thought the actor made a great impression — he was a memorable character, one who was tough and extraordinarily loyal to his home planet of Bajor, but also calm, rational, and open-minded. Well, I guess I wasn’t the only one who thought he was a great character, because the Trek novel writers have brought back Krim in the role of Bajor’s first representative to the Federation Council. The character has played a major role in the “Bajor” novella from the Worlds of Deep Space Nine series, … [continued]
The other day I mentioned here that there hasn’t been any truly great Star Trek around since Deep Space Nine went off the air back in 1999.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Believe it or not, in the past few years, Pocket Book has put together a terrific line of Star Trek fiction. You heard me right!
I have found most novels based on sci-fi TV shows or movies to be, as a rule, disappointing. Most are saddled with the restrictions of having to adhere to the continuity of the show or movie being written about. In other words, nothing of great significance can happen to any of the characters, because they need to be in the exact same place at the end of the book as they were in the beginning. Well, that takes a lot of the fun out of the story! I’ve been reading Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels since I was a kid. Even though I got a lot of enjoyment out of the books back in the day, I quickly recognized that most of the books followed the same basic framework: the Enterprise (either Kirk’s or Picard’s) visits a new planet, has an adventure, and then our heroes head on their merry way. There were several authors who spun some terrific Star Trek tales within that framework (Peter David being one of my favorites), but after a number of years of reading those novels I eventually drifted away.
But over the past few years, with no new Star Trek TV series or movies on the horizon (and the more recent development of J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie looking like its going to be some sort of reboot in its own continuity), Pocket Books’ editors and authors have been free to move the 24th century Star Trek characters forward in exciting and unexpected ways. Suddenly, characters from the different series can interact… old familiar characters head in dramatically different directions (some are even — gasp! — killed off!)… new characters are introduced and developed… in short, lots of exciting things happen, and the over-all Star Trek story is moved forward. Even more exciting to me is the CONTINUITY that now exists between the Star Trek novels! As I have written about before on this site, I LOVE continuity in my entertainment (be it in TV shows, comics, etc.) This continuity in the Star Trek novels is delightful, as each book now has significance — with one leading into the next — and with plot twists now having weight and repercussions. Of something happens in one novel, that is reflected in the storyline of the next novel! And all the novels begin with a … [continued]
Its always fun to be watching an old episode of a favorite TV show and spot a great guest star actor you’d never realized was there before. This happened twice to me recently.
I was watching an old episode from the first season of The X-Files called “Shapes.” Its about cowboys, Indians, and werewolves. Its a decent first season episode — solid, but nothing spectacular. But, even though I’d seen this episode a few times before, I was startled to notice that one of the cowboys was played by Donnelly Rhodes, none other than Doc Cottle on Battlestar Galactica! He looked totally different — in this X-Files episode he was all decked out in cowboy gear, with grey whiskers — but that gravelly voice was unmistakable.
The same thing happened only a day later. I was watching an old Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode called “Shakaar.” It’s a third season episode that introduces us to several of Kira’s old chums from the Bajoran resistance movement (including their leader, Shakaar). In the course of this episode, Kira and her old mates wind up taking up arms again, and find themselves pursued by other Bajorans — lead by a tough general named Lenaris Holem. Now, I’ve seen this episode many many times before — but not since having devoured all five seasons of The Wire last year. And so it was with delight that I realized that General Lenaris was played by John Doman — Rawls himself! (According to imdb, its one of his earliest film credits.)
Who knew?… [continued]