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Category Archives: Popular Culture

State of Cinema

Can you recall any picture in the last 3 years that was wildly popular that didn’t include things getting smashed or blown to bits?

Have you gone to a movie or rented one that featured clever or charming dialog, let’s say in the past 24 months?

It’s OK, I can wait for your answer . . .

NO?

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Click for video

Surprise, I can think of one! La La Land which did – Worldwide: $439,020,154 (£424.7m)

That’s nothing compared to the Faster & the Even More Furious, OK, real title – The Fate of the Furious. Worldwide: $532,481,640 That’s just in the first (opening) weekend. It broke the previous record of $529m (£421.8m) taken in by Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

That kind of money gets attention, which means the type of films I might find more interesting, or have longevity, are not likely to be made in the foreseeable future. That’s kind of shame, because the independent films are constantly trying to break into a market that is walled off from the public.

Why is the Fast & Furious franchise so popular?

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BBC Entertainment & Arts

That’s a question which seems easy to answer, at least on the surface. Some may say it has universal appeal to young & old, because people like to see escape fantasies of things destroyed. The protagonists and antagonists are people over the top, escaping doom or creating disasters on a grand scale with seemingly little consequence.  Have you ever picked up a sledge-hammer to help demolish a car for charity? Imagine 100’s of times greater smash, with none of the work but all of the fun.

There are other reason(s), I believe which increase its appeal. The actors in the film, identify well with an audience. Paul Walker was one of those people who seemed universally liked. Actors, Tyrese Gibson, Nathalie Emmanuel, Vin Diesel and Ludacris, all have large followings. Dwayne Johnson has starred in four of this franchise movies, and he’s brought new energy to it. Still, they’re not adverse to bringing in other major names, and stirring the pot.

Kurt Russel has been a big action adventure star for years. This time he even has a name that most of us can relate to…  Mr. Nobody.

The Fate of the Furious won’t be a movie I will pay to see, but the next film Kurt Russell will be in, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, is going to be at the top of my screening list. If I’m not there opening day, I will be soon thereafter. The last Guardians of the Galaxy anticipated their audience, adding humor to an imaginative story that grabbed a lot of eyes. This one looks to be every bit the right follow on, in one I’m least familiar as a published graphics novel.


 

Resistance is Futile

A young Bela Lugosi photo

Bela Lugosi – Dracula

The OSCARS may be the buzz that Hollywood would like us to focus on, but only momentarily. They really want us to take them seriously. There will be many brows furrowed, scoldings issued, and appeals made.

This means we’re likely going to hear more speeches on, Donald Trump outrage, immigration, civil rights, racismhuman created environmental changes (our shame – not theirs). We may be hoping to see which cinematography, musical score, writers, actors, graphics, scripts, receive awards, but rest assured, that’s not all they have planned for us.

In many ways, they’ve become an interest group concerned with moral causes and how they continue to portray themselves as super citizens.

comedy - dramaThere are changes in the making. I’m not talking about the continuing inflation of egos, rather many ‘stars’ are getting older, their expenses are going up while box office receipts are going down. Their demands for increased salaries may actually set them back.

=-=- Biggest World Wide Box Office Releases Not From Hollywood -=-=

The news for Hollywood, just like American manufacturing, it can be done elsewhere, and often for less cost with greater profits. China & Japan are having a good year for film making and box office revenue.

Joan Fontaine Cary Grant  Suspicion 1940

Joan Fontaine & Cary Grant

La La Land is a one of the movies nominated for awards, but the title and the ending suggests a bit more reality than many might immediately recognize about the traditional film industry.

A couple of last-minute notes… Greg P. Russell had his Oscar nomination rescinded on Saturday, for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.

Bill Paxton has died from complications from heart surgery. He was 61.

 
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Posted by on 26/02/2017 in Academy Awards, Actors, Attitude, Awards, Box Office, Entertainment, Finance, Hollywood, Movies, Popular Culture

 

The News Isn’t Good…

silver-streakThere’s a lot of communication on the InterWebs today about the passing of Gene Wilder. We lose good people all the time, but this is one that strikes me.

When I think of these movies;

  • The Producers
  • Willy Wonka
  • Young Frankenstein
  • Blazing Saddles
  • Silver Streak
  • Stir Crazy

I smile and think of how entertaining these movies were, because he was in them. His used car salesman face, while saying an outrageously humorous line, combined with his curly wild hair, added to his comedic delivery. When he starred in a Mel Brooks movie, you knew it was going to be memorable. The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, come to mind.

If you’ve seen any of his 4 movies with Richard Pryor, you watched one of the great movie comedy pairings. Even when there were serious moments, it was movie magic, with them in it.

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Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory – Variety Online

For more information, click on this image ->

RIP Jerome Silberman / Gene Wilder
June 11, 1933 – August 29, 2016

 


 
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Posted by on 29/08/2016 in Actors, Comedy, Deaths, Entertainment, Movies, Popular Culture

 

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Silly Things I Think About..

Roswell UFO crash 1947

Roswell UFO crash 1947 (alleged photo)

Star Trek Beyond is no longer beyond, at least not beyond us going to see it in theaters. The franchise, Star Trek, has been with us for over 50 years. Several of the original cast are still on Terra Firma. Sadly, a few of them are no longer with us. If there’s life after this one, then perhaps it can be said, they’re exploring strange new worlds. This one is certainly strange, all on its own.

I’ve thought about Start Trek tech since the series started. I always questioned things like, how can they be seeing things on their large flat screen viewer while traveling faster than the speed of light? Aren’t they outrunning any light reflected images? Does the ship anticipate where it must go to travel around planets, asteroids, suns, and debris? No computer system would be able to communicate to the helm faster than light speed.

There are others, but nothing fascinates me more than their short-range transport systems. It was said the idea for teleportation came about due to severe budget limitations of the original series. In order to arrive on a planet, they would have to create transportation that would look good enough on camera. They came up later with some small transport vehicles, which looked like boxes in space. The Transporter idea was sheer genius and harks back to the days when we as kids, could imagine ourselves transporting once we entered a large cardboard box. I suspect Gene Roddenberry recalled those kinds of child play experiences when he came up with the idea.

This does bring into question other ideas I had on the topic of using a device that could disassemble your molecules including DNA sequences, and successfully re-image them somewhere else. The whole process on the surface, sounds slightly possible, but deconstructing molecules, then assembling them, without being in a vacuum, appears to be fraught with potential disasters, such as seen in the movie, “The Fly“.

Then there’s another aspect, which Roddenberry and company left to our imagination, what about the soul? If there’s an ethereal component to humans, as some assert when they say we have a soul, spirit, anything other than our corporeal presence. If any of that is true, and that’s what really animates us as a person, then how do you teleport something which isn’t supposed to be physically definable?

I know this is all too much about too little, but it’s sort of fun. Now, where can I buy a hand phaser? That seems to be very practical device to carry around. We already have tele-communicators and electronic writing tablets.

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Posted by on 01/08/2016 in Aliens, Entertainment, Fantasy, Hollywood, Movies, Popular Culture, Science Fiction, Space travel, Technology

 

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No More Bond – Well Maybe?

the word is BondWe’ve heard this before from Daniel Craig. He said he wouldn’t want to do another movie, after his success in portraying, Bond – James – Bond in Skyfall. He came back swinging and blowing things up in Spectre. Now, according to the Daily Mail, he’s turning down a two picture reprise of the role for somewhere in the vicinity of $100 million. That’s a very nice vicinity to be in.

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Daniel Craig – Spectre

Daniel Craig may be tired of playing the part, but as good as he is as an actor, it’s difficult to get the roles which allow you continuing success or anywhere near the perks.

He might want to look back to the first Bond, played by Sean Connery. He too was dissatisfied with the roles he was given, even more than playing Bond, and came back to play him one last time in, Never Say Never Again. That unofficial Bond, was a less than stellar outing, it didn’t have near the behind the scenes support or the authorization to use the theme music or opening of the Eon Productions films.

As a reminder, how many went to see the film Cowboys and Aliens with the two big A listers of Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford? How many viewers want their money back?

For some unexplainable reason IGN gave this movie 3.5 stars out of 5. That’ being generous.

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Idris Elba

There’s always a flurry of guesses of the next actor, when someone has brought this much success to a movie role. It’s an interesting idea to speculate who might land the role. Idris Elba might be a good choice, if you’ve seen his acting in film and television, especially Luther, the crime drama TV series, you will know he has to be considered.

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Tom Hiddleston – Jaguar Ad

 

 

 

Tom Hiddleston is also under consideration, and for those who have seen him play Loki, in the Thor and Avengers movies, you realize, this is someone with screen presence.

 

 

 

 

So what do you think? Is it time for Daniel Craig to hang up those tuxedo’s or as many may remember, his swim trunks? He’s certainly given a huge boost to ticket sales of a movie franchise more than 50 years old.

Daniel-Craig-Bond-With-Car

Daniel Craig as James Bond with Aston Martin DB5


 
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Posted by on 22/05/2016 in Actors, Box Office, Entertainment, Hollywood, James Bond, Movies, Popular Culture

 

How to End a Long Running Series

Well, here we are. The next to the last episode of Castle EPISODE 8×21 HELL TO PAY was broadcast in the U.S. last night.

Beckett_Castle_on_swings_discussing_futureMany fans have already given up on the series when it was announced on April 18th, Stana Katic as Captain Kate Beckett, and Tamala Jones as Medical examiner, Lanie Parish, will not be coming back, should there be a season 9. The official announcement stated it was for budgetary reasons. There have been numerous unofficial rumors which claim co-stars, Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic, have an acrimonious relationship off-screen, making it difficult for them to be on set together.

Whether this is true or not doesn’t take away from the most significant point of the series. Castle was always a fantasy show. The idea that a crime/ mystery fiction writer would have a long-term professional relationship with the NYPD, as a consultant, is in itself a work of fiction. It’s not Jessica Fletcher, in Murder She Wrote, or Sherlock Holmes, but has become more like Hart to Hart or Remington Steele. Each of these comparisons, have their limits, but from the beginning, the Monday night drama, comedy, crime procedural, has and is about the initial meeting, opposites attract, relationship development, and eventual marriage between a female detective and a novelist.

Castle_looking_disgruntledSince it’s public knowledge the Kate Beckett story ends in the last episode of season 8, fans are left to speculate what the ending episode might be. How will they write the story to which millions of devoted fans have been tuning in each week to see, ending their on-screen relationship? Will there be a post-Beckett season 9? Many fans, myself included have looked at season 8 as a less than stellar collection of stories which initially separated Richard Castle from his wife, Captain Beckett, due to some evil drug & murder cartel, called LokSat. The other stories in season 8 have less on-screen together time of the superb ensemble cast, a couple of new roles with new people, with little interaction between Castle and Beckett.

If Nathan Fillion wanted more screen time and less of Stana Katic, according to rumors, his wishes were granted, however at a price. His role has been more of a dolt, an immature simpleton who manages to arrive at reasonable crime solutions, mostly through dumb luck or the able-bodied assistance of his new assistant, Toks Olagundoye as Haley Shipton. Both Toks Olagundoye and Molly Quinn (Alexis), have been taking a lot of heat as fans have taken to Twitter, using it as a platform to vent their anger toward any of the possible season 9 survivors.

The Season 8 finale airing this May 16, is entitled Crossfire in which a twist in Rick and Kate’s final pursuit of LokSat, accordingly “puts their case, and their lives, in jeopardy.”

Now that the hook has been baited, we’ll wait to see what kind of closure they can bring to this much beloved series. No official announcements from ABC indicate their commitment to a season 9, even though some contracts have been signed by the cast. The latest numbers for season 8 episode 21 are up slightly from previous weeks, and I suspect, despite all of the clamor to end the series at 8, and the requests by some to quit watching it, so there won’t be a season 9, the ending season 8 episode will probably be watched by more viewers.

All we can hope, is the last episode of Kate Beckett, will end in dignity. The premise of the show hasn’t been based on one person, it’s been about relationships, the strongest of which was that between NYPD officer Kate Beckett and writer Richard Castle. It’s difficult to conceive how this relationship can end without serious repercussions in the real world. There has been a large informal collective of fans disgruntled with the dismissal of Katic after a disappointingly written season 8. The viewership has declined, many fans attributed that to less screen time between these two actors and the “bogey-man in the corner, LokSat”, which is supposed to bring every season plot point to a dramatic end.

Show runners, Terence Paul Winter and Alexi Hawley haven’t speculated on the renewal or cancellation of Castle for Season 9. According to interviews, they have shot two different endings for season 8 depending on whether ABC renews or cancels the show, determines which of them is broadcast.

Castle_Beckett_posedWill it end with the death of Captain Beckett? Will it end with both Castle & Beckett deciding to take a lengthy vacation, postponed honeymoon together? We shall see, however if there’s a sad ending to this series, I suspect the viewership will drastically fall off and DVD sales of season 8 to be abysmal.

The Castle finale airs Monday, May 16 at 10/9c on ABC.

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Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice – review

Kal-El-symbolI’m going to start this by explaining about any review you read of a film, don’t take anyone’s word for it. There’s only going to be the slightest hint of spoilage in this review. I’m going to try and explain my opinion without revealing too much detail.

The critics of this latest DC film have been all over it, like vultures on a carcass. Well, I’m not a vulture, and the latest film directed by Zack Snyder, isn’t an old dead carcass. It’s far from that, and if you insist these iconic comic characters must conform to an older style of behavior, you’re going to be disappointed. They may resemble and look vaguely like what you remember from comics or older movies, but as suggested in this movie, this isn’t 1938.

From the moment this film starts, you’re shown images, ever so briefly of a familiar Batman childhood traumatic experience. If you saw the others, dating back to Tim Burton’s film, you know the story. This is there for a reason, and if you’re quick to criticize why it’s included, then you’re missing a larger point. I’ll explain that later. Just know this about this particular film, it’s not your Tim Burton or Christopher Nolan version of Batman. It’s also not your Richard Donner or Bryan Singer Superman movie. This is a movie that stands on it’s own, whether you like it or not, this is a solid story with bold themes and excellent cinematography. What Zack Snyder does with this movie is eschew the chains of past actors and authors. As good as Christopher Reeve was, Henry Cavill has crafted an image which he now owns. He’s not just the red – white – blue boyscout set out for truth, justice, yada-yada-yada.

After those brief introductory moments of a childhood Bruce Wayne, there’s a lot going to happen and you better set down the popcorn, and strap yourself in, because this is not only a fast journey, it’s also intense. Here’s where I really have to give credit to Zack Snyder, because he’s taken a big risk in telling a set of stories, condensed, modified, and brought together to create highly developed imagery backed by an equally intense musical score from Hans Zimmer. I’ve read the criticism, which I shouldn’t have before I saw the film; they say he combined too many story elements. This could also be viewed as part of its strength. Each of the film’s participants contributed in a meaningful way.  It’s not  a Sean Connery 007, it’s more like a Daniel Craig film.

BVS_confrontation_smallZack Snyder wants you to understand this film on several levels. Sure, there’s the obvious titled physical confrontation between Batman and Superman, but he’s introducing us to the idea there’s a lot more to this world than just one or two exceptional people. Batman being the least among equals, possessing no super powers, his role is a subset of the entire movie. An excellent subset I might add, because Ben Affleck nails his dual role.

The introduction of Wonder Woman in this movie, isn’t news to the audience, or a way just to introduce another meta-human. She’s integral to the plot, and if you look at these players, as individuals, not just a timed screen presence, you can see the most interesting aspects of this drama.

Allow me to step back for a writers moment. Just accept this as a way of explaining how well crafted this film is when you look at it in the context of graphic novels (comics). I was one of those youth who read and possessed many of the 1st Marvel Comics dating back to the early 60’s. They were imaginative and drawn in colorful action poses for the era. What attracted myself and many other young people to Marvel at that time, was the introduction of the characters having real personal problems. I’m not talking about acne or dating, they had serious character flaws, and these imperfections showed frailties and a sense of reality for the reader. DC Comics, continued to turn out strong characters, but they were barely two-dimensional. For this reason alone, I think that explains the success of the Batman TV show of the 1960’s. Even young people saw this show as stupid, cartoon characters. I think the creators saw comics as serial nonsense and decided to make fun of it through campy behavior.

For a number of decades afterwards, it seemed no created TV or film could adapt the comics essential fantasy, drama, and core plot lines, without looking plain stupid. Hats off to Richard Donner and Tim Burton for making a strong popular showing, but aside from a lack of today’s technology, they failed to transcend simple child like stories. I think the big break came when Sam Raimi introduced us to his version of Spiderman (2002). That was soon followed by Jon Favreau directing Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man (2008). Audiences went to these films in vast numbers, and for the most part, the follow up films were successful. Then, almost everyone explained frustration with the 2007 release of Spiderman 3. No longer was there a story with singular continuity of a villain. Now there were several villains, and the biggest faux pas, the brief but silly Peter Parker dance moves. Sony dropped Raimi and after a pause, rebooted that franchise. Frankly I’m more exhausted from the reboots.

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Zack Snyder and company have developed a complex drama, and taking a page out the early Marvel handbook, given us extraordinary insight on how these main characters think. Unlike simpler, earlier, graphic novels brought to film, he’s assuming there’s enough for younger people and the older comic book fan. He’s allowed the writing and fast pace imaging to weave an intelligent story. All people, no matter if they’re “super heroes” or villains have a background story. There’s recognition of the emotional complexity and the trauma of former conflicts for both protagonists. The casualties are real, not brushed away or watered down as if they don’t matter. Any active combat military veteran recognizes they don’t know all the reasons why they’re in the conflict. Each one has their own purpose for their presence in the confrontation. Even their reactions afterwards, aren’t the same. The film helps the viewer see some of that inner turmoil from each persons perspective.

Two people can share the same experience but have an entirely different reaction and memory of the events. Examining the individuals past experience, especially in their formative years, coupled with present time, gives each person a unique perspective. When you know Bruce Wayne suffers from a traumatic & turbulent childhood, Clark Kent comes from a stable Midwestern background, and Diana Prince is a much older and perhaps wiser soul, then the multiple stories coming together shared through each person’s eyes, becomes much more flavorful and interesting.

Speaking of flavorful, I’ve seen a lot of criticism of Lex Luthor as portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, and frankly I went in with the idea this is going to be another Jim Carey (Ridler) act. Wrong! Why? Once again we’re reminded of Zack Snyders revision of a very well known and established villain. This is somlex_corp_logo_signeone who is intelligent, willing to use that intelligence to intimidate and be disarming. We see the beginning of a young psychopath, with all of the money to back up his quest to humble those he feels have too much power. Oddly enough, in his own twisted mind, he can never acquire too much for himself.  If people insist on wanting a young person to play the same role the way it’s been done before, get over it, this isn’t your grandfather’s Buick.

The final confrontation is through a creation of Lex Luthor, in a last ditch effort to gain the upper hand over Superman and anyone else bold enough to get in his way. This not only creates another conflict, it opens the door to what each of these super heroes begin to realize, there are many battles which lay ahead. This is where we see Wonder Woman in her full regalia, and the theater audience cheered when she joined in. Her back story is of someone much older than either Batman & Superman, and we see snippets of how her experience has taught her to remain in the background, avoid conflict when possible, find a way to cooperate. This is another example of the sophisticated underpinnings infused throughout this film.

I give this film a 9 out of 10 stars, because of it’s sophisticated, multiple complex stories woven well together and a critical examination into the psyche of each of the main players. This isn’t your casual, short attention span film. Watch carefully and enjoy! I know I will have to go back a second time just to see how much more I can pick up from the various things hinted, as well as the main story. wonder_woman_icon.jpg

 
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Posted by on 27/03/2016 in Action, Actors, Aliens, Box Office, Director, Emotional Awareness, Entertainment, Fantasy, Hollywood, Icons, Movies, Plot, Popular Culture, Soundtrack, Stories, Writing

 
 
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