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Linkspam wishes Captain America a happy birthday

Happy 100th birthday to Captain America! Otherwise known as Superman, until the real Superman comes back to the movies, Cap currently carries the banner for truth, justice and the American way.

How did we come up with this “birthday”? Someone zoomed in on Cap’s initial 4-F card for the Army and his birthdate is listed as July 4, 1918. Of course he was born on the Fourth of July.

Happy birthday, Captain.

And since there’s not been as perfect a match between actor and role since Christopher Reeve donned the red cape as the Man of Steel, Chris Evans had this to say on Independence Day:

 

 

• I try not to delve into politics on this blog. But I cannot let the #SecondCivilWarLetters go unmentioned… hee hee hee, sorry, I just read another one. The hashtag went wild after Alex Jones of InfoWars declared that Democrats (or liberals, I’m not sure which, he seems to think they’re interchangeable) planned a civil war launch on the Fourth of July. Thus began a cavalcade of internet snark unmatched in my experience - and, actually, very well written in most cases. It takes some skill to match the tone and language of an actual Civil War letter. And… tee hee hee… Sorry, I got distracted again. Go to Twitter and hit the hashtag, but only if you have several hours free, and try not to drink anything near your keyboard.

• A plus-size superhero? I’m casting the side-eye at all my comic-nerd pals, because not one of you has ever mentioned Faith to me. A superhero who actually looks like me (but with cuter hair)? And they’re making her into a movie. I’m braced for the Asshat Brigade that drove Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran off social media for being female in Star Wars, and I hope the actress who lands the role is as well. In the meantime, I’d best go look up some Faith comics!

• Wait, I thought movie theaters were suffering oh so much because awful MoviePass was letting people of limited means actually see movies on a budget. Those poor movie theaters with their box office up 29 percent over this time last year, a five-year high…

• My friend Kelly Chandler found the most awesome ad display for Luke Cagein Paris. No, I haven’t seen the second season yet; I’m still soldiering my way through Handmaid’s Tale, and then I’m up for Luke again.

• Ghost fans: Riverfront Times has a roundup of St. Louis ghost stories, which they call urban legends. Lemp Mansion and the Collinsville Seven Gates of Hell are prominently featured.

 • Have you wondered what Nicolas Cage was up to these days? If you guessed Spider-Man, you’d be right! And not as the villain - as Spidey! Wait, what?

Best Buy stops selling CDs. But no one is weeping, because we all buy our music on iTunes anyway and we haven’t bought them at Best Buy since Amazon showed us Best Buy was soaking us for 20 percent more.

• Hollywood Reporter has all the details of the live-action Aladdin, starring Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott and Will Smith as the Genie. Alan Menken has made up some new tunes, there’s a new character (Jasmine’s handmaiden), the Middle Eastern roles are actually played by Middle Eastern actors because Disney eventually learns, and Sherlock Holmes director Guy Ritchie is directing. Release is set for Memorial Day 2019.

Dumbo-tim-burton-socialWhat else is coming for live-action Disney? The Tim Burton Dumbo, which sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but the trailer didn’t horrify us and that’s about all I can ask of Tim Burton getting his hands on yet more of my childhood. Of course we know Christopher Robin is pending, as well as a second Maleficent movie following the fairytales of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book (again) and Pete’s Dragon.

Live-action The Lion King is slated for July 2019, with James Earl Jones returning along with Donald Glover as Simba, John Oliver as Zazu (perfect), Alfre Woodard, Beyonce and a few other people you might’ve heard of.

Mulan drops in March 2020, and following that will be Pinocchio, Oliver Twist (starring Ice Cube?), James and the Giant Peach (again), Cruella, Tink, Peter Pan (again), Lady and the Tramp, The Sword in the Stone (oooo), Snow White, The Little Mermaid (with new songs co-written by Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is co-producing)…

And Prince Charming, stealing a concept from Fables comics that the prince is actually ONE prince who romances Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, but telling it through the eyes of his brother, who never quite lived up to expectations. Directed by Stephen Chbosky of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the live-action Beauty and the Beast, it’s pending.

This Week in Sexual Harassment News: Kevin Spacey faces new allegations of sexual misconduct, which are being reviewed by London police.

 

RIP

• I said at the time that I didn’t have words for the death of Harlan Ellison, the flawed genius of speculative fiction (please don’t call it sci-fi) who passed away the same day as the Annapolis shooting. Much has been written about Ellison, both positive and negative - everyone who ever met him has a Harlan Ellison story, and I am no exception. To understand Ellison, watch a documentary titled Dreams With Sharp Teeth. It is a well-directed, entertaining look at the man and the work, while unflinching at his controversies, legal battles, and the varying reputation he held in the craft.

Dame Gillian Lynne, 92, Tony-nominated choreographer of Cats and Phantom of the Opera. Beginning as a ballerina in 1946, she worked on seven Broadway shows, including three with Andrew Lloyd Webber and the 2004 Phantom film. Lloyd Webber renamed the West End’s New London Theater as the Gillian Lynne Theatre, the first non-royal woman to receive the honor. Married for 40 years, her husband announced her passing on July 1.

 

Trailer Park

Skyscraper finally gets a new trailer, and we stopped making fun of it and arguing whether it was a ripoff of Die Hard or The Towering Inferno. Instead, it actually looks like a movie we might want to see, since we like Dwayne Johnson and I adore Neve Campbell (why the hell wasn’t she in any of the previous trailers that looked so lame?)

Summer of ’84, yet another bounce on Stranger Things but with more satire for both the 80s and silly slashers. Though honestly, I think they get the 80s better than Stranger Things, but I haven’t seen Season 2 yet.

 

Coming This Weekend  

Ant-Man and the Wasp, because it’s summer and superheroes are required. 

The First Purge, whose trailers actually give this absurd premise for a franchise enough of a hint at social commentary that I’m actually interested in it.

Whitney, a documentary about the late Whitney Houston and her transcendent voice.

  

Continuing:

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; Incredibles 2; Sicario 2; Uncle Drew; Ocean’s Eight; Deadpool 2; Tag; Hereditary; Superfly; Gotti; Avengers: Infinity War; Solo; Adrift; Book Club; Won’t You Be My Neighbor.


CultureGeek ventures near the Murder House

Oh, American Horror Story. I’ve quit you. And then you do this.

Next season will be a crossover between Murder House and Coven, which were two seasons I actually managed to watch. Look, I stuck with it a long ways, but my taste for horror is of the creepy, chilling Twilight Zone variety, not “let’s count the ways we can rape” and eyeball-gouging with grapefruit spoons.

So AHS is trying to go back to its roots after last year’s politically-themed Cult dropped down from Roanoake’s levels set in 2016. Hilariously, the lowest-ranked premiere was the first season for Murder House in 2012, before anyone had the slightest idea what the hell American Horror Story was about.

I might be dragged kicking and screaming to try yet another season. But I’m honestly losing my patience with shows that only seem to exist in order to drag me from gory death to gory death (Walking Dead, I'm looking at you)

• Locals: The 18th annual Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase will screen 20 films at Washington University on July 13-15 and 20-22, hosted by nonprofit Cinema St. Louis. Closing night awards will be presented at a free celebration at Blueberry Hill. Showcawe films will be chosen for inclusion in the St. Louis International Film Festival. Tickets are $13; $10 for students and Cinema St. Louis members and can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com.

Uncancelled! Lucifer has been picked up by Netflix for a fourth season after it was cancelled by (wait for it) Fox. This comes after Brooklyn Nine-Nine was rescued by NBC after it was cancelled by… Fox. Not so lucky: Designated Survivor got the ax from not-Fox (NBC) and Netflix was thinking about it, but so far nothing.

• If you can bear it, scan through Newsweek’s recounting of the 50 best-selling singles in U.S. history, and the oldest one is from 1997. Oh, my youth hurts.

• Locals: SIUE’s Beauty and the Beast opens tonight and runs through June 24. I am in no way objective; it’s my son’s collegiate theatrical debut and he was co-designer on the project, helping to build and design the sets and some of the special effects. So if you go, watch for the Lonely Villager/Wolf/Spoon, and enjoy the show!

This Week in Sexual Harassment: Not long after Star Wars actresses Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran left Instagram due to constant harassment and abuse, 14-year-old Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things has left Twitter. It seems some idiot Photoshopped her into awful homophobic memes with a hashtag #TakeDownMillieBobbyBrown, which just goes to show that the internet is entirely populated with cretins. She’s fourteen, you dipshits.

Also, follow this Twitter thread from Anne Wheaton on the horrific harassment she endured at BookExpo America, where apparently an attractive female writer cannot be taken seriously unless she’s willing to sleep with middle-aged buyers.

• Cue the fanwank! A released photo from Wonder Woman 2 appears to show a confused Steve Trevor in 1984, the setting for the sequel. Did Steve somehow survive the cataclysm of Wonder Woman’s finale? Is it Steve’s great-grandson, like in the comics? (Which is kinda squicky, but remember Captain America and Carter’s great-granddaughter? On second thought, don’t.) If it’s Steve, how come Diana still seems to be mourning him into the 21st century? Though I rather like the idea that this time, it's Steve who's the fish out of the cultural water. Filming has begun with Kristen Wiig as Cheetah and - we hope - a cameo for Lynda Carter.

Stevetrevor

• Ordinarily I’d be really happy that Ewan McGregor will play Danny Torrance in Doctor Sleep, based on Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining. Unfortunately, I was deeply disappointed in Doctor Sleep, which had an uneven plot structure and serious retcons - if you’re going to do a sequel or prequel, continuity is king. Still, Danny has had some serious demons to fight all these years, and McGregor has the ability to … shine in the role. (Hee.)

• Happy 81st birthday to my family’s namesake, Donald Duck! I do a fair Donald-quack, but it doesn’t translate well in print. So here’s a picture instead.

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Tony Awards went to The Band’s Visit, Laurie Metcalf of Edwardsville for Three Tall Women, and several other people who weren’t in Mean Girls. Details here.

• There will not be a Defenders Season 2. I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad about this; I was fairly neutral on Defenders and thought it could have been a lot of fun if not for the storyline drawn from Iron Fist, which we all hated. Oh well, at least we’ll get more time with Jessica Jones and Luke Cage - the latter’s second season hits June 22 and reviews say it’s one of the rare ones that outshines the original.

• Apex Books is helping to raise funds for author Brian Keene, who was badly burned in an accident and does not have health insurance. All proceeds of direct ebook sales of Keene’s solo novels with Apex will be donated directly to him. The GoFundMe continues and is within a few hundred of its $55,000 goal, but early estimates now put Keene’s medical costs as $300,000.

Firefly. Still bitter. You can’t take the sky from me.

 

RIP

• Jackson Odell, 20, best known for The Goldbergs and iCarly. An actor and singer/songwriter since the age of twelve, he was found unresponsive last Friday in a sober living facility.

Alan O’Neill, 47, best known as an Irish gun-runner on Sons of Anarchy, apparently of a heart attack. O’Neill was born in Ireland - so yes, the accent was real - and worked on the Irish TV series Fair City as well.

Jerry Maren, 98, last of the original 124 Wizard of Oz Munchkins who sang as part of the Lollipop Guild in the 1939 classic, presenting an oversized candy to Judy Garland. Maren also appeared in The Twilight Zone, Bewitched and Seinfeld, among many others.

Anthony Bourdain, 61, chef and travel journalist, of apparent suicide. I hardly need to expound on this, since it was extensively covered by everyone, but the repercussions on his death continue days later (and the idiotic conspiracy theories).

If you are in crisis, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255; or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

 

Trailer Park

Halloween. Again. For the last time. Again. #pleasedontsuck

Funny. Sometimes a trailer keeps you all the way to the end, then loses you at the title. Unfriended: Dark Web was probably trying to draw on audience from the first one, but in this case, a truly creepy trailer gravely disappointed me by being connected to that lameness.

I usually stick to feature films for the trailers because these days everything from books to TV episodes to Shakespeare in the Park gets a trailer. But this Netflixer of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects is particularly choice.

• Here’s my question about Serenity, which has nothing to do with Firefly, alas. Matthew McConoughey’s ex-wife, Anne Hathaway, asks him to help her do away with her current husband, who’s an abusive monster. Um. Is there any reason she can’t just call the police? Amazing cast includes Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong, Diane Lane… very high-end for a potboiler. So hopefully there’s more to it than just the tagline.

• If you haven’t had enough Conjuring jump scares, The Nun is now pending. The trailer is nicely creepy, though I have serious misgivings about the admittedly entertaining Conjuring series.

• I’m still dumb-founded about giving Disney’s Dumbo to Tim Burton. (See what I did there?) Longtime Disney fans are curled into fetal positions remembering Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The teaser is out, and so far we don’t hate it. It looks like there are big story changes - Colin Farrell has two kids who help take care of Dumbo, Michael Keaton is an entnrepreneur who recruits Dumbo (separate from ringmaster Danny Devito); and we don’t see Timothy the Mouse or wisecracking punster crows anywhere. 

 

Coming This Weekend

Incredibles 2, the movie we’ve all been waiting for seemingly forever. Reviews are strong, but it’s not like it matters: It’s Disney/Pixar, and we’re all going to see it because the first was… Incredible.

Tag, in which grown men disrupt each other’s lives in an annual dick-measuring contest to see who’s the best. Or something. Unimpressed.

Superfly, a remake of the blaxploitation original starring Trevor Jackson as Youngblood Priest. So far it’s not resonating with critics; 54 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Gotti, with John Travolta aiming for serious as the notorious crime boss of New York City. Someone pointed out that there are 44 credited producers on the movie, for which the reviewers rolled out their best terms: derivative, borderline nonsensical, connect-the-dots disaster, dismal mess… It has a zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Ouch.

 

Continuing:

Ocean’s 8, Solo, Deadpool 2, Hereditary, Avengers: Infinity War, Adrift, Book Club, Hotel Artemis, Upgrade, Life of the Party.

 

Finally: I made a big announcement this week, one that might affect this blog and definitely affects the rest of my work. Click here to find out what shenanigans are pending.

 

Happy Father’s Day!


Linkspam stands with artists in need

Mother Nature was one cranky lady two weeks ago, when a micro-cell storm hit the Art Outside festival at Schlafly Bottleworks. More than 60 local artists sustained terrible losses, both to their artwork and to their infrastructure - festival tents and display cases are not cheap, folks.

And speaking as a traveling artist myself, I am pretty sure my meager renter’s insurance doesn’t cover acts of God outside my home. I was not there, but if I had been, the loss of my stock and my  new tent would have been devastating. Some artists suffered a total loss; some tents were found hundreds of feet away on the other side of the brewery. Storm

A GoFundMe has been set up to support the artists, and EZ-UP has offered a discounted rate for artists who need to replace their tents. As of this writing they’ve raised $15,000 of a $25,000 goal, but remember that’s only $378 per artist divided equally. That barely covers the tent, much less fixtures and the lost art. Raising more would probably be greatly appreciated.

Not a fan of crowdfunding? The site also has a list and links to all the artists, so you can peruse their work - buying their stuff helps them too! Good luck to all the artists, and may Mother Nature stick to quiet browsing next time.

• Speaking of GoFundMe: horror author Brian Keene was badly burned in an accident Tuesday. He has first- and second-degree burns on his face and body, and is in a lot of pain. Like many freelancers, he does not have health insurance, so a GoFundMe has been started to help with his medical bills and lost wages. Best wishes to Brian, who has been a strong philanthropist and mentor to many beginning writers, and to his partner Mary San Giovanni.

• Locals: The St. Louis Symphony goes psychedelic on Friday with “Music of Pink Floyd,” including a full rock band, lights and lasers.

Pride. Mickey. Ears. They’re already selling out, even though they’re only available in the parks, not online. Naturally, there’s backlash, because being one of the first companies to offer benefits to same-sex partners, standing up to a national boycott in defense of Pride Days, and paying a salary 1.5 times that of the industry standard isn’t enough. (Am I the only one who remembers the ‘90s?) Hell with it. PRIDE MICKEY EARS, people.

(Not going to a park anytime soon? Neither am I, more’s the pity. You can get a Mickey rainbow pin online.)

• A really smart and thoughtful roundtable about women authors choosing to use pseudonyms and why. And then I spoke, and ruined the curve. Okay, okay, so I’m in the roundtable. It’s still an interesting piece from Sean Taylor’s blog. Did you catch the first roundtable, about challenges women authors face that aren’t usually faced by male authors? Here it is.

Beauty-Beast• Full disclosure: I am in no way objective about the upcoming performance of Beauty and the Beast at SIUE’s Summer Showbiz Theater. Why? It’s my son’s collegiate theatrical debut. Look for a sadly unmarried villager; the head of the wolfpack; and a really tall spoon. (Hint: He’s all three.) And you can watch the rest of it, too.

Director Kate Slovinski said when she first saw the animated film, she was delighted to see a heroine who was an active participant in resisting the forces opposing her. ““In addition to a relatable and admirable heroine, I found great comfort in the tale of the Beast as well,” continued Slovinski. “As a young lady contemplating a new life ahead of her, I was terrified of the consequences that could come from making a bad decision. The Beast suffers a curse for a terrible choice he made, with seemingly irrevocable consequences. Still, somehow, he finds redemption and a life better than he dared imagine.”

Opening night is nearing sold-out, so catch your tickets in advance! Beauty runs June 15-24 at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. For more info, email theater-tickets@siue.edu.

• Many thanks to the Authors Guild and RWA for fighting back against #CockyGate. I hate the trend of tagging -gate on every controversy, but anything that keeps us aware of this kind of nonsense helps - especially since someone already tried to follow suit with “Forever.” Authors Guild and RWA joined forces to fight the “cocky” trademark in court and won. It’s not immediately apparent what will happen to authors whose books were pulled down or otherwise damaged during this utter nonsense, but other cocky books will go forward.

• In other crazy publishing news, Jim C. Hines has the smartest take yet on the agent-crook debacle. In short: a highly respected and prestigious literary agency is flailing after finding out its one and only money-man was embezzling, from the agency and from the authors. The fallout is still descending, but it doesn’t look good for the future of the company or for the authors who are now broke and owed more than $3 million. In the ensuing crazy, there’s been a call for better controls and/or eliminating agents entirely, which struck me as a bridge too far, especially considering how many publishers won’t deal with unagented authors.

SOLO is now at $148 million domestic, $264 million worldwide. Somehow this is still being termed as a terrible failure, a flop…. I really hate that, because I enjoyed it much more than I expected, and it left off with wide possibilities of a sequel or three and I was really looking forward to that. It’s still the highest-grossing Memorial Day release in four years, and not far below the all-time highest release for that time.

The TLJ-haters are insisting that it’s “payback” for having Star Wars movies about icky girls, but I’m betting the “soft” numbers are because it’s only five months since the last movie, and they really should avoid flooding the market. There are two other Geek Films still in the theaters and Black Panther just came out of Blu-ray. We only have so much money, guys - and this production got a lot of bad press when they originally put it in the hands of dudebros looking for a cheap laugh.

Alternative analysis pointed out, wisely, that “if the franchise was able to survive Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, we have a hard time believing Last Jedi could do that much damage.” Instead, they note “uncharacteristically (for Disney) poor marketing." The teaser had only 10 seconds of the lead actor’s face, which didn’t do enough to sell him as Han or as hero, he said.

After the first weekend, I was protesting tagging it as a flop altogether, because it really was strong for Memorial Day. However, it’s lost 65 percent in its second weekend, which doesn’t look good. Folks, see the movie. It was fun, worthy of inclusion in the franchise, and beats the hell out of a lot of the other stuff out there.

• A smart analysis of the next phases of the MCU by ScreenRant’s awesome Lauren Wethers. I’ve already argued against killing a Black Widow solo film, but otherwise she’s very much on target, especially advocacy for a Ms. Marvel film and mixing in the X-Men. (Also, I will fight anyone who says we don’t need more Captain America. Cap is my Superman while Superman is hibernating.)

• Muahahahaha. The Heathers reboot TV show is canceled without even airing. I think someone might actually have watched it. It was already delayed since it “didn’t feel right” to premiere a “hilarious” series about bullying and murder in a school after the Parkland shooting (and all the other shootings). I already made my opinion clear.

• Sequel alert: Maleficent is up next, with Angelina Jolie returning as Maleficent, Ellie Fanning as Aurora, Michelle Pfeiffer as a new Queen Ingrith, and Chiwetel Ejiofor showing up as an as-yet unknown character.

• In today’s Asshole Damage Report, Kelly Marie Tran had to delete her Instagram after months of horrifying sexist, racist harassment and threats against her life. She’s been abused on Twitter, and some asshat edited her Wookieepedia entry to fill it with racial slurs.

You have to wonder what actually passes for thought in the mind of a man who thinks an actress’s portrayal in a science fiction movie deserves threats of rape and murder. How does that seem rational to him? Daisy Ridley, by the way, also jumped off Instagram after she posted about gun control while attending a tribute to the victims of the Orlando Pulse shooting. Gasp! She had an opinion, and they were off to the races.

Yahoo U.K. points out that people were horrible to Jake Lloyd after Phantom Menace too, but that was before the internet became what it is now - and, frankly, the viciousness shown to women has always been especially ugly. As Chuck Wendig pointed out on Twitter, “Their names change - MRA, incel, gamer-gate, comics-gate, sad puppies, Real Star Wars Fans — but at the heart of it is the same fragile rage born of the poisonous chemical combination of white supremacy and toxic masculinity.” Naturally, Wendig is now facing nasty harassment online.

Brian De Palma is joining with two other producers for a movie allegedly inspired by Harvey Weinstein, using the Toronto Film Festival as backdrop, starring Rachel McAdams and titled Predator. All I’ve heard about it so far is complaints that the producers are all men - you know, like 95 percent of the movies made in Hollywood. I will reserve further judgment until I hear more.

You know, I should really just create a separate category for #MeToo and "Today in Sexual Harassment News," because sadly, I never run out of material.

• James Cameron will shoot the Avatar sequels using Sony Venice cameras with 3-D stereoscopic rigs with high dynamic range and incorporating high frame rates. If you know what all that means, you’re smarter than me. Fortunately, Hollywood Reporter translated that it’s a fancy 3-D native method of shooting, allowing the film to be basically the next step forward in 3-D.

Here’s my problem: if you can’t watch 3-D without a horrific headache, will you be able to watch the film? Cameron says the movie will be 3-D without the need for glasses — oookay — and I don’t know if that makes a difference to the small percentage who, like me, become terribly ill watching 3-D.

Also, might he remember to have a story this time? One that he didn’t crib from Dances With Wolves? The four sequels start hitting theaters in 2020, which explains why Disney created a whole new land in its Florida Animal Kingdom park around Avatar. (It’s pretty.)

• Locals: The St. Louis Public Library will serve free lunches to children Monday-Friday all summer. Partnered with Operation Food Search, six SLPL locations are participating: Carpenter, Carondolet, Divoli, Kingshighway, Julia Davis and the Central Library. According to Operation Food Search, one in four kids in the St. Louis bi-state area goes to bed hungry each night, and many only received a full daily meal at school. Details are here.

 

RIP

Gardner Dozois, 70, longtime science fiction editor and co-founder of Asimov’s Science Fiction. He was editor-in-chief from 1985 until retiring in 2004, won 15 Hugos and arguably helped shape the science fiction genre in the latter half of the 20th century. He was also an author in his own right, columnist, journalist, editor of more than 150 anthologies, critic… His wife, Susan Casper, predeceased him in February 2017. In his final year, he published five books, two of them works completed but not yet published by his wife before her death.

Kate Spade, 55, fashion designer and corporate leader, died by apparent suicide in her New York City apartment. The designer started her company in 1993 and has more than 140 retail shops domestic and 175 internationally, but she stepped away in 2007 a year after it was acquired by Neiman Marcus Group for $125 million. Coach Inc. announced plans last year to buy the brand for $2.4 billion. Spade had started a new handbag company, and changed her name to Katherine Noel Frances Valentine Brosnahan Spade.

If you are in crisis, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255; or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

 

Trailer Park

It’s Star Trek 11: The Real One! Wait, no it’s not. It stars Doug Jones, Tim Russ, Marina Sirtis and Armin Shimerman. Fake-out. 5th Passenger is a sci-fi thriller with a pregnant officer trying to survive with her surviving crew in an escape pod when a mysterious life form attacks. Alien? I don’t care, it’s good enough to steal. Crowdfunded to life, this film caught attention at the Artemis Women in Action Film Festival, and sadly will be released on demand instead of in theaters, because we can’t have nice things.

 

Coming This Weekend

Ocean’s 8, where we’re remaking the remaking of a caper film but with all women. I’m kind of iffy on the trailers, and Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t have a score yet.

Hotel Artemis. This is that weird near-future thriller with Jodie Foster as the cranky doctor who runs a private hospital for criminals that depends on strict rules, and then someone breaks the rules. Wackiness ensues, if by wackiness you mean grim-faced criminals and a chain-smoking Foster. This might be too nihilistic even for me. Cast includes Jeff Goldblum, Zachary Quinto and Sterling K. Brown.

Hereditary. Grandma was bonkers, Mom is barely holding it together after Grandma’s death and Daughter is… possessed? Are we talking ghosts? Demons? Madness passed down from generation to generation? Rotten Tomatoes gives it 93 percent.

 

Continuing:

I’m not going to give it a full review, but I was dragged kicking and screaming to Upgrade and it was not nearly as bad as I was anticipating. I expected a bloody, awful, wish-fulfillment revenge-fantasy mess, and I only got part of that. The lead actor was surprisingly nuanced in his portrayal, and while I saw the twist coming a mile and a half away and there were few surprises, it was significantly more entertaining than I expected. Honestly, if it had tamed down some of the gore-for-gore’s-sake and delved a little further into the issues around bioengineering that it briefly raises, it might have been a truly good sci-fi thriller.

Also continuing: Deadpool 2, Adrift, Avengers: Infinity War, Book Club, SOLO, Life of the Party, Breaking In, Overboard.


Linkspam watches the bloodbath

Watch as so many of your favorite characters fade away to dust... 

No, I am not reviewing Infinity War. Ha ha. Gotcha. It should be apparent to those of you who read this column regularly (all six of you) that I don't often review the giant blockbusters. The fact is, the incessant yammering and Monday-morning quarterbacking on Avengers and The Last Jedi and other giant tentpole pictures pretty much renders my opinion moot. 

Besides, I'm not up for y'all screaming at me. I get enough of that at Ye Olde Day Job.

No, I'm talking about the mass bloodlettings that were the show cancellations this week. Yowsa, hope you hadn't gotten too attached to some (many?) of the shows floating around the networks, because it's the freaking Red Wedding here. 

Among the cancelled:

• Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Mourned by many, including a protest thread by Samwise Gangee - I mean, Sean Astin.

Marvel's Inhumans.

• Designated Survivor. I wanted to love this show, as a post-apocalyptic West Wing. But it was so unrelentingly dour, and the end of the world shouldn't be a delight, but every once in a while Our Heroes need to win something. They always lost, and the bad guys always won, and it just got to be too dull and disheartening. The key to "ordinary man accidentally ends up in charge" is that his inherent honesty and integrity eventually wins out, from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to Dave to President Josiah Bartlet (though he wasn't exactly ordinary). The plot of "ordinary man becomes president, everyone hates him and he gets nothing done" was a little too depressing. Apparently the viewers agreed.

The Exorcist.

• Lucifer. (Unrelated to the prior cancellation, we presume.)

• Once Upon a Time. I mean, that's not really fair; they're heading to their big series finale, it's not like they got the rug pulled out from under them. It's that show everyone loves that I never got around to watching, and once it's done, I guess I'll take a poll on whether it's worth catching the reruns?

• QuanticoSadly, I am unsurprised; I loved the first season, but the second season played like Heroes with a swift dive in quality, and apparently the third season has reached new lows in the ratings.

• The X-Files - again. (Then again, it will probably rise again, like its characters.)

• The Night Shift. Or is it? I heard it was cancelled in the fall, then someone said it got picked up after all, now they're saying cancelled again. I actually rather liked this show, but lost track of it a few years ago.

And yet Tim Allen's annoying Last Man Standing, AP Bio, and the Santa Clarita Diet live to fight. Still waiting to hear: Criminal Minds and other fine shows from CBS, which currently houses several of my favorites (don't let me down, Madam Secretary!) 

The Nobel Prize in Literature will not be awarded this year for only the second time since 1901. The reason? A powerful asshole harassed and assaulted women, and the organization allegedly did nothing. Organizers believe they need to get their gold-plated house in order before returning to awarding two prizes next year. The L.A. Times goes into detail why this is the wrong approach; the Washington Post disagrees

• Speaking of awards: The Tony nominations are here! Wait a minute... three of the four musical nominees began as movies. Now, I loved Frozen (Mean Girls and Spongebob not so much, and yet they are tied for the most nominations), but really, Broadway? There are actual playwrights doing actual writing, maybe we don't need to rely so heavily on Hollywood. Let's look at the non-musicals, surely... Harry Potter. Okay fine. Here's the list!

• Also in the category awards, the Locus Award finalists have been announced. They include John Scalzi, Jeff Vandermeer, Elizabeth Bear, N.K. Jemisin, Kit Reed, Peter S. Beagle, Seanan McGuire, Mary Robinette Kowal, Tobias Buckell, Ellen Datlow, Gardner Dozois, Joe Hill, Neil Gaiman, Catherynne Valente, and many others. 

Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski have been expelled from the Academy. Cosby, at least, has bigger problems right now. Polanski plans to sue. Planning to appear in court, Roman? 

• Cinema St. Louis is now accepting submissions for the 2018 Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase. The Showcase screens works that were written, directed, edited, or produced by St. Louis natives, or films with strong local ties. The 16 film programs that will screen from July 13-22 serve as the Showcase’s centerpiece, ranging from full-length fiction features and documentaries to multi-film compilations of fiction and documentary shorts. The 2018 event will take place over 2 consecutive weekends in mid-July at Washington University

• Speaking of film… can you make a movie in 48 hours? Filmmakers from all over the St. Louis area will compete to see who can make the best short film June 1-3. The winning film will go up against films from around the world at Filmapalooza 2019 for a chance at the grand prize and an opportunity to screen at the Cannes Film Festival 2019 Short Film Corner. Early Bird discounted registration ends May 7.

• Also speaking of film… the 23rd Annual St. Louis Jewish Film Festival opens Sunday, June 3. Offerings include Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel which follows Israel’s underdog national baseball team competing in the World Baseball Classic for the first time; Maktub, an Israeli comedy about criminals who survive a terrorist attack and vow to change their ways; a documentary about Sammy Davis Jr. titled I’ve Gotta Be Me; and much more. All films will screen at Frontenac Cinema, with varying prices. Find out more at the festival’s website.

 

Trailer Park

• Predator, another reboot. Will it be the surprisingly-effective Predators, sans movie boyfriend Adrien Brody, or will it be AvP II, which I am sorry to say I paid actual American dollars to see in the theater?

• I usually stick to film trailers in this section, but the Luke Cage trailer is so awesome it needs a link.

• I'm all for another Robin Hood movie - I watch them all like a sad fangirl - but this one looks to have all the brains of a Michael Bay fan film and all the heart of ... I honestly can't think of anything as humorless and dull as this trailer. Please be better.

 

Coming This Weekend

• Life of the Party. You know, an empowering female comedy about a divorced, overweight woman finding herself in college would have been terrific. Instead we get this. Melissa McCarthy, we know you can do better.

• Breaking In. Again, with actresses who can do better... Gabrielle Union graduates to the Mom Level, with what looks to be an utterly pedestrian thriller plot fighting against bad guys threatening her kids, cynically released for Mother's Day. 

 

Continuing:

Avengers: Infinity War; Overboard; A Quiet Place; Rampage; Tully; Black Panther; I Feel Pretty; Truth or Dare; Super Troopers 2; Blockers.

And Bad Samaritan, which I caught last weekend and surprised me by not sucking. Of course, I could watch David Tennant read the phone books - and he's done such marvelous villains since graduating from Doctor School. Most of these stock thrillers depend on the main character doing horribly stupid things that make you want to slap him, but in this case, the lead was charming and likable, not overly dumb, and the mistakes he makes are understandable mistakes. The movie also takes an extra step to build realistic backgrounds for tertiary characters, with personalities approaching three dimensions. It was tense enough that I didn't want to miss a moment to go for a soda, and I'd definitely watch it again.

 

Happy Mother's Day!


Linkspam hears the verdict

Unless you were living under a rock this week, you know that Bill Cosby was convicted on three counts of sexual assault Thursday.

Ever since this began, it seems my entire generation has struggled to reconcile our memory of the friendly, sweater-wearing Cliff Huxtable and the funnyman who voiced Fat Albert and sold pudding pops with the predator described in court. The impact seems to be twice as harsh for African-Americans who grew up watching The Cosby Show and A Different World, who saw positive reflections of middle- and upper-class black America presented on a national stage for the first time.

Some lamented that this seminal work is now tainted forever with Cosby's sins. And I am never going to be That Person and tell the black community what to think or how to feel. It’s not my place.

But I do think this is going to be one of the great struggles for us as a society, as social media now puts us in closer contact with the people we have previously idolized: how to separate art from artist. One nasty tweet can reveal that an artist we loved is actually a racist, or misogynist, or simply clueless and rude. We’ve gone through it many times, with allegations against Woody Allen and Kevin Spacey and so, so many others, going back to Orson Scott Card and before. How can we separate the person from the work? And is it fair to do so?

I know the choice I make: to try to separate art from artist up to the point that the artist’s malfeasance or problematic beliefs infects the art. But I also try to pay attention to the financial impact of my consumption of art, to ensure that little to none of my money goes to support causes I would stand against. That means, for example, if I simply must read a book from an author who espouses hateful homophobia, I can always get it from the library without giving him my money.

Can we really say that we should throw out The Cosby Show and A Different World because Cosby was a criminal? (Good luck finding either on streaming services, by the way.) There were so many artists who worked on those shows, writers and actors who did good work that deserves to be remembered. It wasn’t just cheap laughs that entertained us; it made us think, in ways that the modern sitcom often avoids, and busted stereotypes that go back decades.

It would be a sad thing for our collective culture if the fine work of so many people disappeared or was disparaged and dismissed because the lead actor was a criminal. The legacy of those shows does not belong to Cosby alone.

EDIT: A little birdie has informed me that you can find A Different World streaming on Amazon Prime.

• Speaking of artists doing very bad things… Smallville actress Allison Mack has been charged in the ongoing NXIVM sex cult weirdness. Mack is accused of assisting group leader Keith Raniere with coercing and enslaving unwilling women into the cult and forcing them to have sex with Raniere. As many as 50 women are alleged to be victims of the cult.

• Winter is not coming…. George R.R. Martin says The Winds of Winter will not be published in 2018. There hasn’t been a new Ice and Fire novel since 2011. Instead, there will be a 1,000-page history of the kings of Westeros, coming out in November. The fictional history has been compared by some as Martin’s Simarillion. Meanwhile, HBO is considering three to five possible spinoffs. Yikes.

• The first St. Louis Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival will take place at First Friday in May at the St. Louis Science Center. Attendees will be able to learn about cinematography, special effects, editing, directing, lighting, costuming and set design as well as screening the various short films. As it will be May the Fourth (be with you), the Planetarium will celebrate Star Wars Day. Finishing up with a screening of Ed Wood in the Planetarium, I’m really wishing I were off work.

• Ever since I saw this sillyMarvel Bunch” video, this song has been stuck in my head, so I gift it to you and you can have it stuck in your head. (Chris Evans, we gotta talk about the 'stache.) I think those guys have a movie coming out, have you heard anything?

Hamilton may be gone (don’t worry, it’ll be back) but there’s still theater in St. Louis! Highlights this week include The Dresser by Gaslight Theater, Falling by Bankside Reperatory Theater Company, The Fantasticks by the Hawthorne Players, and Jesus Christ Superstar by Stray Dog Theater.

• In case you were worried that you weren’t giving enough money to Amazon, they’re now raising the price of Amazon Prime from $99 to $119. The change goes into effect May 11 and will apply to renewals beginning June 16. Amazon has had cost increases, they say. Sign on the dotted line if you feel sorry for them.

• Locals: Afterwords Books in Edwardsville celebrates its ninth anniversary on Saturday, May 12! Drop by for baked goodies, a 20-percentn discount, storytime and a drawing for a $50 gift card. Congrats to one of the hidden jewels of Edwardsville!

• Is Thursday really Alien Day? Is that a real thing? Twitter thinks so.

• A recent study in the journal PLOS One found that authors with female names were paid 9 percent less than authors with male names; female-dominated genres such as romand are thought of with less value; and there are gender differences in the prices of books within the same genre. Who’s surprised?

• You could fill a whole column with the latest in WTF is Next for Star Trek, but this latest one is interesting. S.J Clarkson has been tapped for the next movie, which makes her the first female director in the franchise. Side-eye that it took that long, but if you’re hoping to find out what movie they’re doing… is it the flashback movie with Chris Hemsworth as George Kirk? Is it that weird-ass idea of letting Quentin Tarantino direct a Star Trek movie? Is it Prime Universe or Abramsverse? Stay tuned.

• You know what Hollywood thinks needs a sequel? If you answered A Quiet Place, you’re right. Not sure if Paramount is right, since the movie was one of those experiences that really works and would be hard to recapture. But that isn’t stopping them

 

RIP

• Bob Dorough, creator of Schoolhouse Rock, age 94. Sing along with “Conjunction Junction” and “I’m Just a Bill,” songs by Dorough the jazz pianist and vocalist. He was first hired by an ad exec to write a song to help his kids learn their times tables. The rest is television history.

Arthur Rubenstein, 80, movie composer who worked on more than 300 films and television programs. His music direction could be heard on Broadway in A Chorus Line, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and more. You’ve heard his scores in Wargames, Lost in America, Blue Thunder, Nick of Time and many other movies, frequently working with John Badham. He founded a symphony that presented more than 60 free classical concerts to 80,000 families and children. His composition “Observations” was performed at the Griffith Observatory in honor of the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s achievements.

 

Trailer Park

Jurassic World, which doesn’t look any less sexist or annoying, but I applaud Chris Pratt for his multi-tasking this year (although his Star-Lord and Owen the Raptor Whisperer appear to be roughly the same guy).

Kin, with Dennis Quaid and a young kid in a dystopian future, whose older brother just got back out of prison and is already getting back in trouble. Enter an alien body, funky ray guns, and wackiness ensues. It’s an interesting setup, but could someone turn on the lights? You can be grimdark and still light the set.

Deadpool 2, and I couldn’t get the silly thing to run, but given how I usually feel about Deadpool humor, it’s probably best. (In all fairness, I didn’t see the first one. But the menfolk did, and assured me that they found it hilarious and I would absolutely hate it. I trust their judgement.)

• In a completely different vein…. The Tale, pending from HBO and starring Laura Dern as a documentarian whose mother finds a short story she had written as a child that exposes long-buried secrets. Also starring Ellen Burstyn, John Heard (RIP), Jason Ritter and Isabelle Nelisse.

• Curious about the new Venom movie? Have a trailer that actually shows some plot! Tom Hardy plays a reporter who gets infected with the Venom symbiote, and who may or may not be an unethical turd. Can Marvel manage to produce one journalist who is competent, dedicated and ethical? We’ll see, but I’m not holding out hope.

 

Coming This Weekend

Avengers: Infinity War. You might heard a little something about it.

• Foolish enough to actually premiere the same weekend: Kings, about a foster family in South Central Los Angeles right before the Rodney King riots; and Disobedience, a starcrossed love story between two women in a conservative Jewish society. (Technically it premiered last year, starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams; this is its wide U.S. release.)

 

Continuing:

I Feel Pretty, Super Troopers 2, Traffik, Rampage, Truth or Dare, Isle of Dogs, Blockers, A Quiet Place, Ready Player One, A Wrinkle in Time, Pacific Rim Uprising, Acrimony, I Can Only Imagine, Love Simon, Sherlock Gnomes, Chappaquiddick, and The Miracle Season. And probably BLACK PANTHER.

 

Avengers assemble! 


Linkspam wins the awards (not really)

The Pulitzer Prizes are out - in case you’re wondering, your Friendly Neighborhood CultureGeek did not win one. Next year!

However, there were some really amazing choices, and Poynter has a great summary analysis. Here are some of the highlights:

The New York Times and New Yorker shared t he prize for public service for exposing Harvey Weinstein and kicking off the #metoo movement, changing the national conversation about sexual harassment and abuse. The Washington Post won for investigative reporting in the Alabama Senate race. The Arizona Republic and USA Today network won for explanatory reporting of the “unintended consequences” of building a wall on the Mexican border. The New York Times and Washington Post shared an award for “deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage” of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Note: This was the first Pulitzer for USA Today, after 35 years of reporting.

That’s the short version of the journalism awards, which will be detailed to a much greater extent on my other blogs. This is a blog about pop culture, and so we should take a closer look at the artistic awards than my “day job.”

The fiction Pulitzer went to Less by Andrew Sean Greer (Little Brown), described as a book of fine prose and structure about growing older and the essential nature of love. Finalists were In the Distance by Hernan Diaz (Coffee House Press) and The Idiot by Elif Batuman (Penguin Press).

The drama Pulitzer went to Cost of Living by Martyna Majok, examining perceptions of privilege through a former trucker and his recently paralyzed ex-wife, and an arrogant young man with cerebral palsy and his caregiver. Fiinalists were Everybody by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and The Minutes by Tracy Letts.

The poetry Pulitzer went to Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 by Frank Bidart, with finalists Incendiary Art by Patricia Smith and semiautomatic by Evie Shockley.

The history Pulitzer went to The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea by Jack E. Davis; nonfiction went to Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America; and biography went to Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser. Music went to DAMN by Kendrick Lamar.

Netflix is picking up a vampire series based on the V-Wars novel/anthology/comic series by Jonathan Maberry. The series will star Ian Somerhalder as the doctor trying to solve the vampire plague while society is ripped apart by its spread. I will now shamelessly name-drop that Jonathan is a friend of mine, and he’s killed me in one of his novels. I couldn’t be happier for Jonathan on his success, and not just because he’s a terrific writer. He’s also a really good guy, and his success story gives hope to the rest of us toiling in the vineyards that good work finds a home.

AMC is picking up NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, who is not a personal friend, but a pretty nifty writer. Hill is famously the son of Stephen King, who launched his own horror-writer career under a pseudonym to try to “make it” without his father’s fame. The series follows an artist who discovers she can track an immortal creature who steals the souls of children and deposits them in a twisted version of a Christmas village…  Is anyone else excited about how much creepy-supernatural programming is getting picked up by the non-network systems, including possible Dark Tower at Amazon? NOS4A2 launches in 2019.

• Speaking of Stephen King, part II of IT will film in July. The only character cast yet is Jessica Chastain as Beverly, and I wait to see if they sugar-coat Beverly’s life as much as the TV series did - one of my few complaints about it. I have more complaints about the new adaptation, primarily the utter travesty inflicted on Mike’s character, but I wait to see what the final product will be in developing my favorite novel of all time to the screen.

• Amid criticisms that review conglomerate Rotten Tomatoes is a) needlessly black-and-white with movies rated fresh or rotten, and b) overwhelmingly male among its certified critics, a new site is being launched. CherryPicks will offer a tiered rating system and feature opinions from women, which the Mary Sue says should counterbalance RT’s tendency to rate male-led movies dramatically higher. I find the concept intriguing, though the name annoys me. The site launches in the fall.

• For your little burst of nostalgia today: watch Angela Lansbury and the late great Jerry Orbach record “Be Our Guest” for the original Beauty and the Beast. Trivia note: Orbach is probably best known as the world-weary detective Lenny Briscoe on Law & Order, and for a long time his partner was played by Jesse L. Williams. Both Orbach and Williams were song-and-dance Broadway stars before they donned the trenchcoats, and rumor has it that when they were out and about filming in New York City, they would entertain the passers-by and extras with song and dance routines. It is criminal that in the age of the selfie and street video, no YouTube clips have survived of this (at least none that I have found.)

Huey Lewis has canceled all his 2018 performances, including the one in Alton. Seems Huey lost most of his hearing a couple of months ago, possibly due to Meniere’s disease, and cannot hear music well enough to sing. Huey later posted that the response from fans and colleagues is “truly overwhelming,” and he he is focusing on improving and finding a way to sing again.

Blockers is a nuanced and sex-positive teen comedy - wait, what? And it’s the Mary Sue saying this, but wow, was that NOT what I expected to hear about this movie. Three girls plan to lose their virginity on prom night, their parents do their best to derail this plan, wackiness ensues… but the girls are allowed their own agency and owning their (not entirely hetero) sexuality? Am I in Bizarro World? (Don’t worry, there’s still stupidity and vomit.)

Strange Horizons has a verrrrrrry long and extensive exploration of why everything we know about James T. Kirk is wrong. They’re not the first to point out that Kirk was a) not a womanizer and b) not a lightweight charmer who never took anything seriously, despite how the idiot AbramsTrek movies have portrayed him. I recall Keith DeCandido expounding on this to a great extent, your humble CultureGeek has said much the same. I don’t expect the writers of the current Trek to actually notice, mind you. It’s too much fun to remember him as a blithe horndog.

• Locals: international violin superstar Rachel Barton Pine will perform at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 23 in Dunham Hall at SIUE, with the combined orchestras of SIUE and SIUC. Pine first performed with the Chicago Symphony at age 10, and has been a virtuoso performer around the world, including winning a gold medal at the J.S. Bach International Violin Competition in Germany. Order tickets at artandissues.com.

• Also local: Gift of Voice needs to sell 41 more tickets to Suicide: The Ripple Effect in order to screen the film in Edwardsville on May 1. The documentary follows a man who tried to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge at age 19, and the “ripple effect” his attempt had on his family, friends and first responders who saved him, as well as his advocacy of a suicide prevention net on the bridge. Order your tickets here. The screening accompanies a suicide prevention program at SIUE on April 27, targeted at high school and college students.

• Also also local: SIUE will host the world premiere of a thought-provoking new play titled The Great Divide by E.M. Lewis. It's a political play, according to the playwright. "This is the story of the longest, angriest, strangest presidential election this country has ever seen,” said Lewis. “This is a story about America, in this divided moment.” The play runs Thursday-Sunday; click here for full details.

 

RIP

• Harry Anderson, 65, best known to you as Judge Harry Stone of Night Court and to me as the grownup Richie Tozier in the original IT miniseries, a role he was born to play. A longtime standup and stage magician, Anderson left Hollywood in 2000 to live in New Orleans and run a nightclub. They managed to make it through Katrina, and according to this piece in the New York Times, Anderson reopened his club as the French Quarter Town Hall to evolve a de facto government in the storm-paralyzed city. But in 2006, unable to make the bills in the post-Katrina mess, Anderson and his wife shut down and left for Asheville. His cause of death was not immediately known.

R. Lee Ermey, 74, best known as the shouting drill sergeant of Full Metal Jacket. He was actually a drill instructor and staff sergeant in the Marines and served 14 months in Vietnam, retiring after 11 years in the military before he became an actor. He also appeared in movies such as Mississippi Burning, Se7en, Prefontaine, and was the voice of the Army Men in the Toy Story series. Semper Fi.

Milos Forman, 86, inexplicably remembered as the director of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest instead of the intense, epic masterpiece that was Amadeus. Forman was born in Czechoslovakia, orphaned when his parents died in Nazi concentration camps and was raised in foster homes. He was in Paris in 1968 when Russia took over Czechoslovakia, placing the artistic world under Soviet control, and he fled to New York to continue working there. Other films included Hair, The People Vs. Larry Flynt and Ragtime.

Art Bell, 72, host of Coast to Coast AM on more than 400 radio stations. He took calls unscreened, with a separate line just for the Area 51 folk, according to the Washington Post. No matter how crazy, he put them on the air, beginning in 1984 as a political talk show.

Jean Marzollo, 75, author of the I Spy books - a total of 150 children’s books, from I’m a Seed to Ten Little Christmas Presents. A teacher first, she wrote books for adults on learning through play and baby-care for dads, before branching into children’s books on a variety of topics from learning to count to the life of Martin Luther King Jr. to the eight I Spy puzzle books.

 

Trailer Park

• The only thing I don’t love about The Incredibles 2 trailer is that they kept the off-screen Nagging Wife of Frozone. I know a lot of people find her funny; I find her an annoying, borderline-stereotype trope that is actually subverted IN The Incredibles, as Elastigirl gets whapped upside the head by Edna Mode and reminded of her own identity, which is not dependent on her husband’s behavior and doesn’t have to be limited to the wet-blanket wife who doesn’t understand. Everything else about this trailer is pure gold, mind you.

• The Verge says almost everything I would say about The Meg, which apparently added “the” so that people wouldn’t think it was a Meg Ryan comedy? No one can figure out of they’re trying to be serious. And I’m usually all about the sharks - Jaws is a personal favorite - but given author Steve Alten’s horrific author-scam attempt a few years ago, I’m reticent about giving him more money.

Hotel Artemis has a ridiculously stellar cast with Jodie Foster, Jeff Goldblum, Dave Bautista, Sterling K. brown, Zachary Quinto and others, on an underground hospital for criminals in a dystopian future with lots of dark lighting.

 

Coming This Weekend

I Feel Pretty, Amy Schumer’s latest comedy about an insecure woman who gets hit on the head and suddenly lives confidently and fearlessly. Um, I’m hoping it’s not nearly as bad as its promos.

• Traffik. Vacationing couples vs. vicious bikers. Looks to be a bright spot in a lousy batch this weekend. How long until the summer blockbusters? (But seriously, I'd watch Omar Epps read the phone book, so I might give this a try.)

• Ghost Stories. In limited release, British take on "skeptic debunker meets real ghosts." Promo is vaguely creepy, also co-stars our favorite hobbit, Martin Freeman. 

• Super Troopers 2. No

 

Continuing:

Rampage (unfortunately), Truth or Dare, A Quiet Place, Blockers, Ready Player One, Acrimony, BLACK PANTHER, I Can Only Imagine, Chappaquiddick, The Miracle Season, Love Simon, Midnight Sun, and Sherlock Gnomes.


Linkspam

There will be a separate review pending for BLACK PANTHER, which I don’t seem to be able to discuss without all-caps, once I see it for a second time.

For now, the shorthand is: a) amazing movie, even if you don’t follow the MCU; b) while having seen Avengers: Age of Ultron would be helpful, it is not vitally necessary to understand the plot; and c) it might be the most feminist movie of the last ten years, and I only say “might” because Wonder Woman’s protagonist is actually a woman. Go see this movie - hey, catch a flight to Wakanda.

Lucianovecchio
This amazing piece of art is from Luciano Vecchio. https://www.facebook.com/artoflucianovecchio/

In spoilerland…. Here’s an interesting take on what didn’t work in BLACK PANTHER (hint: it wasn’t much) from The Verge. Smart analysis is abounding as long as you stay out of the Idiot Corners of the Internet.

Meanwhile…. before you get all het up about the headline, understand what Variety is talking about with “After ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Wonder Woman,’ It’s Time for the Myth of the Fanboy to Fade.” It’s about Hollywood still pretending that young white males are the only ones with money who go to the movies. And before you insist, “Money talks!” read the article. Or, y’know, check out BLACK PANTHER’s current box office.

Likewise, you might know Danai Gurira as Michonne of The Walking Dead or now as the fearsome and amazing Okoye. But she’s also a Broadway playwright. She wrote Eclipsed, an intense drama set during the Liberian civil war starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o; and Familiar, the story of a family of Zimbabwean immigrants preparing for a wedding, which was performed at Yale Repertory and Off-Broadway.

When you see it? Stay all the way through the credits. I mean, you know that, because you’re geeks. But I saw people getting up to leave after the first post-credits scene. Rookie mistake.

• Speaking of the Panther crew, Avengers: Infinity War is premiering a week earlier than planned, on April 27. Check out io9’s report for the hilarious, cheeky Twitter exchange between Robert Downey Jr. and Marvel in announcing the move. (Likely this is to give more space to Solo.)

• Writers of color: the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation is hosting workshops for travel writers, particularly black women. Check out VONA’s applications here.

Calling all Disney Nerds! If you’re like me and your house is basically a tribute temple to the Mouse, you have a new destination in Downtown Disney at Disneyland. Disney Home is a a home-decor store entirely focused on Disney home goods. Beauty and the Beast plates and cups, Neverland kitchen towels, Minnie-bow canisters, Mickey teapots… wait, where is the online component, because WANT. What do you mean, there isn’t one??

• A very rare 1820s copy of the Declaration of Independence was found… no, not with Nicolas Cage. Behind wallpaper. Okay, technically it was behind wallpaper for a while, then later sat in a broken frame behind a cabinet in a dusty office. And it’s in better condition than the original. Everything bad that could have happened to the original has happened, according to the article, which explains why it was practically unreadable when CultureGeek Jr. and I saw it. Still, he describes it as an incredibly moving experience.

Dolly Parton donates her 100 millionth book, deemed by Mashable as the last good person left in America. Parton’s Imagination Library sends free books to children from birth to starting school; she says she was inspired by her father’s illiteracy. She has also donated more than $8 million to the people left homeless by Tennessee wildfires in 2016.

• Here’s a Washington Post profile of actress Laurie Metcalf, native of Edwardsville, Ill. and a working actress for 40 years before she’s suddenly a finalist for the Oscar. She won a trio of Emmys for Roseanne and is inexplicably returning for the misbegotten revival, as she claims her Tony for Nora in A Doll’s House Part 2 and awaits Oscar night for Ladybird.

Meanwhile, Barbra Streisand gives a rare interview, two hours discussing what it was like to battle sexism in Hollywood before it was trendy. She was the first woman to star, direct, produce and co-write a major studio film, and also the first woman composer to win best song at the Oscars in addition to her collection of Emmys, Grammys and acting Oscars. She was overlooked as director over and over even when her Prince of Tides was nominated for best picture, so it was a bit of “sweet justice” to present Kathryn Bigelow with the director Oscar for The Hurt Locker, still the only woman director so honored. There is exactly one paragraph in Variety’s long spiel about her dogs, but guess what part of it is trending? *headdesk* There are more trails left to blaze.

Netflix will have 700 original series online in 2018 - that’s not a typo - and spend $8 billion on content. In addition, they’ve greenlit 80 original movies. Variety details their strategy for world domination.

• On Friday the 13th, you may be allowed to tour and camp at the filming location of Friday the 13th. It’s usually a Boy Scout campground - try not to think too hard about that - and has only opened to the public five times. You’ll also get to meet original Final Girl Adrienne King. Victims must be at least 15 to visit and 21 to stay overnight.

Freelancers owed collectively $80,000 by Ebony Magazine will be paid in full under a settlement announced this week by the National Writers Union, representing 45 freelancers who were not paid by the new owners of the iconic African-American magazine. In short: freelancers actually win against a major corporation. Really?

Hogwarts fans, here’s something to empty your bank account. I want!

 

RIP

Bud Luckey, writer, animator and composer best known for classic animations on Sesame Street in which he wrote the songs, drew the animation and provided the vocals. Outside Sesame Street, he did design work for Pixar on Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo and more, and wrote (and performed) the Pixar short Boundin. He voiced Chuckles the Clown in Toy Story 3 and Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh.

• Actress Emma Chambers, 53, best known for The Vicar of Dibley and Notting Hill.

 

Trailer Park

Chappaquiddick released its final trailer “based on the untold true story.” I’m not sure any part of that story remains untold after all these years, but I’m interested nonetheless.

• If you liked Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger, think about catching him in his next role: HBO’s remake of Fahrenheit 451. The trailer is far more disturbing and intriguing than the original film, in my opinion, and quite relevant.

 

Coming This Weekend

• The wildly irresponsible Death Wish, because what we need in America is a pissed-off shaved-bald white guy loaded down with weapons shooting at people who may or may not be criminals. I could expound further on how I feel about the trailers for this movie, but my blood pressure can’t take it.

Red Sparrow, which intrigues me since I liked it pretty well when it was titled La Femme Nikita or Point of No Return. Also Jennifer Lawrence, who is pretty much awesome in everything she does.

They Remain. Two scientists look for biological samples in the former site of a Manson-style campground, which may or may not be haunted, which may or may not cause insanity in our heroes. Wackiness ensues. Interesting visuals, but it has gotten zero buzz.

 

Continuing:

BLACK PANTHER (duh), Game Night, Peter Rabbit, Annihilation, Jumanji, Fifty Shades Freed, Every Day, The Post (limited), The Shape of Water (limited), Early Man, I, Tonya (limited), Den of Thieves, Star Wars: The Last Jedi (limited).

 

Next weekend is Midsouthcon, so if you're in the Memphis area, stop by and visit with your Friendly Neighborhood CultureGeek! I'll be on several panels regarding the horror genre with uber-editor Ellen Datlow, attempting not to fangirl too much. There may not be a Linkspam until I get back, so lay chilly! 

 


Monday Linkspam

The closest most women got to the Grammys Sunday night was when Hillary Clinton read from Fire and Fury during a comic skit. Click here to see what has the political side foaming at the mouth.

The Grammys are my annual reminder that I’m too old to be cool. I look at the list of people who are nominated, and I’m lucky to recognize one out of ten. Fortunately I have a coolness-to-old-person translator in my house: CultureGeek Jr., who looked at the list and said, “Eh. I’ll watch when they nominate Twenty-One Pilots again.”

I might add that every song nominated has a gazillion songwriters - one has eight. EIGHT. I can’t get eight writers in a room to agree on what to order for lunch.

But I wasn’t the only one who noticed that only one woman won a major Grammy this year, as Bruno Mars swept best song, album and artist. #GrammysSoMale began to trend, and Recording Academy President told Variety that, basically, “women need to step up.”

No, really. “I think they would be welcome,” he says. Oh, I’m sure they’re just not applying for the jobs, that must be it. Hopefully we’ll see Taylor Swift next year - no, that’s not me being snarky, that’s an actual quote. If you really care about the snubs and surprises, here’s some analysis, and a list of winners, plus the “best and worst” according to Variety (and really, U2’s prerecorded piece was the only rock performance? What?)

Well, I guess that explains why Ed Sheeran’s annoying “Shape of You” beat out four women singing about surviving sexual abuse, religious faith, depression, women’s empowerment… Even lame old me has heard “Shape of You,” and it’s all about some guy lusting after a woman’s hot bod. Wow, Grammys, way to pick something “edgy.” Meanwhile, best-album nominee Lorde was not given a chance to perform, but the nominated men were. Nice.

In the meantime, the telecast had the smallest audience in the history of the Grammys. So maybe it’s not just me being old.

• It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood! Tom Hanks is set to play Fred Rogers in a biopic titled You Are My Friend. A stamp and a movie in the same year - good year for the late children’s TV host. The film is inspired by the real-life friendship between Mr. Rogers and journalist Tom Junod, in which a cynical journalist (what??) finds his outlook on life transformed by the gentle-voiced host. Note that Hanks played Walt Disney last year, Ben Bradlee this year… now Mr. Rogers. Who should Hanks play next? (Don’t say Woody in Toy Story 4; that’s already underway.)

Thor rogers

• I missed the film adaptation of Gerald’s Game, part circumstance and part hesitation to subject myself to a film version of a book very difficult to read. It’s a good book, smart and tense, and also extremely unsettling. I’m not sure how well film could adapt a story that takes place almost entirely in a character’s head while she’s alone in a room, too.

But the director who tackled that is now getting his hands on Doctor Sleep, a book about which I have serious mixed feelings. It’s interesting, but includes such a giant (and, in my mind, unnecessary) retcon to the original novel that it really distracts from what could have been a compelling story on its own. Another major issue: Stephen King, whom I usually adore, spent a good portion of the book working out his issues around addiction. Those are important issues, but they didn’t make for particularly compelling reading. We shall see if the movie can trim things up a bit.

• It’s no secret that the late lamented Prince recorded a gazillion songs he never released, because reasons. (Seriously, if you got something good, don’t you want people to hear it?) Of course his six heirs are squabbling over the estate, but apparently they can all agree on making money, so we’re going to get some new Prince music soon. That includes an expanded edition of Purple Rain including unreleased material.

• If you want historical realism, don’t go to the movies. I, Tonya apparently has only a skating acquaintance with the truth, according to an Oregonian journalist who actually covered the scandal.

• As previously stated, I’m not a huge fan of the current trend in resuscitating shows from the 80s to new quasi-life. See last week’s response to the revamp of Heathers. I’d rather the dunderheads in Hollywood comprehended that what made those shows awesome was good writing, not corporate-designed pablum, and authorize some NEW ideas. On the other hand, I truly believe that the 21st century needs Murphy Brown, with all the snark that 71-year-old Candice Bergen can level at us. (Not so sure about Magnum P.I., but I may give Cagney & Lacey a shot.)

Just to recap: others being revived this year include The Greatest American Hero, Charmed and Roseanne (and don’t get me started) to join ongoing reboots Will & Grace, Hawaii Five-O, One Day at a Time and Fuller House, which is inexplicably coming back. Not so much Dynasty.

Casey Affleck, who is in the Dishonorable Mention Club for accusations of sexual harassment, will not present the best actress award at the Oscars even though he won best actor last year, and it’s tradition. It’s not clear whether he dropped out on his own or was asked to do so.

• What. WHAT. If it were anyone but Steven Spielberg, I would be sharpening the pitchforks and lighting the torches about a remake of West Side Story. But writer is Tony Kushner of Angels in America and Fences, and Spielberg is unparalleled. Some things should not be remade, because they were perfect the first time, but I'm trying to keep an open mind. (Okay, almost perfect. Natalie Wood is about as Latina as I am.) Seriously, would you want to be the actress who stepped into Rita Moreno’s shoes as Anita? Read this piece that interviews Moreno last year about “brownface” and how they darkened her skin even though she IS Puerto Rican.

Still, the casting call makes it clear they intend to cast Latinos in the Latino roles (shocker), but I’m a tad concerned at “must be able to sing, dance experience a plus.” Um. Steven, you do get how much "dance experience" is necessary to pull off West Side Story?

Fire and Fury is the top book in the country for the third week in a row with 1.7 million copies sold. Four more books debuted this month critical of current politics and all are on the top-ten list. Meanwhile 12 Strong, a movie about U.S. Special Forces on horseback in Afghanistan, is now in theaters, adapted from the novel Horse Soldiers. Top fiction this week is The Woman in the Window by A J Finn.

• Speaking of books, a “glitch” in KDP Publishing (run by Amazon) indicated a possible future 50-percent royalty level. No one actually believes it’s a glitch, so if you do self-pub on KDP, best check this out.

• You need this: Check out the 30th anniversary celebration of Phantom of the Opera at the Empire State Building

 

RIP

Mort Walker, cartoonist of Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois for more than 80 freaking years. He sold his first cartoon at age 12 and published more than 100 cartoons while still a teenager. Beetle Bailey was syndicated after his World War II service, personally approved by William Randolph Hearst. 

 

Trailer Park

Black Panther dropped a new TV spot during the Grammys; no new plot points, but it’s not like it matters - we can’t wait.

• Saw the new Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again trailer, which did something none of the previous ones managed to do: made me vaguely interested in watching the first one.

• “Anybody want a peanut?” The late Andre the Giant (born Andre Rene Roussimoff) is the subject of a new documentary, covering his entire life from wrestling to The Princess Bride. Honestly, I’m not a fan of professional wrestling, but everything I’ve heard about Andre as a man and a person is quite impressive.

 


Monday-ish Linkspam

No, I’m not getting into The Last Jedi. Nope, not at all.

Why should I, when everyone else has done so already? And better than I could.

So I’m not going to talk about it. Yet.

Joeheller1
Cartoon by Joe Heller

• It’s Golden Globes time! The 75th Golden Globe Awards have an interesting lineup, including movies that haven’t come out yet. Drama nominees include Call Me By Your Name, Dunkirk, The Post, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The musical/comedy nominees include The Disaster Artist, Get Out, The Greatest Showman, Lady Bird and I, Tonya.

Yeah, notice that? Get Out is a comedy now. Um, did they watch it? Horror, maybe. Biting social commentary disguised as a thriller? Definitely. Comedy? They were not watching the same movie as I. At least Daniel Kaluuya is nominated for his performance, although he’s up against Steve Carell, James Franco and Hugh Jackman, who are all better known and in actual comedies/musicals. I’ve rarely seen such a genre/film mismatch, and it’s well-known that director Jordan Peele (who was NOT nominated) has made his opinion clear.

Ridley Scott is nominated for All the Money in The World, which hasn’t come out yet and is controversial since Kevin Spacey was replaced at the last minute by Christopher Plummer due to accusations of sexual assault. House of Cards is notably absent from the nomination list for television.

Guillermo del Toro is nominated for The Shape of Water, which just came out. Martin McDonaugh is nominated for Three Billboards, which just came out. Steven Spielberg is nominated for The Post, which we won’t see here until Jan. 12. Christopher Nolan is nominated for Dunkirk, which is the sole not-December movie on the list.

On the TV side: no surprises. Dramas include The Crown, The Handmaid’s Tale, This is Us, Stranger Things and Game of Thrones. Comedies include black-ish, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Master of None, SMILF and Will & Grace.

If you’re keeping count, The Shape of Water has the most nominations with seven, while The Post and Three Billboards have six. Read the full list here.

• Stephen Sondheim will receive the 2017 St. Louis Literary Award, the first musical lyricist to be named since the award’s inception in 1967. The West Side Story lyricist and composer won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1985 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. He is currently working on a new play titled Bunuel.

• Nominations for the Dragon Award are now open! Deadline is July 20, 2018; publication date is July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018. (Sadly, that knocks out my Moonlight Sonata, because nobody loves me… SNIFF.) Go nominate the best book you’ve read this year. Awards make authors happy and tell readers to buy our shit. These are good things.

• Proving once again that Chris Evans actually IS Captain America, the actor invited the Tennessee boy whose tearful anti-bullying vid has gone viral to attend the Avengers premiere with his mom. If you haven’t seen it, the kid from Knoxville has milk poured on his head and called ugly because he has head scars - from a tumor operation. Among the heroes - which apparently does not include the school staff ignoring such vicious cruelty - is Mark Hammill, who reached out to the boy along with Mark Ruffalo, Millie Bobby Brown, Greg Grunberg and others. Everyone from Donna Murphy to Ed Asner to Idina Menzel.

(And then it went wide that the kid’s mom is a screaming racist based on her Instagram account, only THEN it turned out that Instagram was a fake account operated by a teenager who thought it would be hilarious to paint the kid’s mom as a horrible racist and people who ran with that are now having to retract it except it’s too late and this is why we can’t have nice things.)

• You thought it was just internet trolling when you heard about the Disney World gondolas, didn’t you? Nope! It’s true. The Disney Skyliner will connect theme parks and hotels through the skies of Orlando, with Caribbean Beach Resort as the hub. There will be stations at Pop Century, Art of Animation and Hollywood Studios, as well as the much-preferred International Gateway at Epcot. Launch date is as yet unknown. I personally can’t wait, although the height-phobic may have concerns…

 

Trailer Park

• Certainly the new trailer for Ready Player One has people in a tizzy. I will confess some reservations about this film: while The Matrix showed us that a fantasy life taken to extremes leads to the degradation of human intellect and evolution, Ready Player One’s first trailer seemed to posit that when real life sucks, just escape into videogames and everything will be cool because it has a lot of nifty 80s nostalgia. This trailer shows a bit more Hunger Games-style rebellion - bread and circuses is as old as the Roman Empire, after all, with the Oasis standing in for the part of the circuses, of course. Is this movie about people tired of being mistreated and living in squalor, pacified only by a fantasy life? Or is it about a nifty videogame that is their only escape and their efforts to save it? Um.

• Natalie Portman stars in the SF action film Annihilation, which seems to create a Del Toro-like world inside our world and she must science it to save her husband. I think. Looks nifty, with bonus points for multiple women characters who actually speak to each other. When a movie passes Bechdel in the freaking trailer, I pay attention. 

Jessica Jones is back! Look, I was a fan from Alias days, and even suffered through The Pulse until it died a merciful death. Now the queen of snark is back, with apparently a new fella, all new bad habits, and smashing people into glass. As one does.

• Hoo boy. The 15:17 to Paris is a Clint Eastwood film about the three Americans who stopped a terrorist attack on a French train in 2015. Starring those actual three guys. Um. Look, heroes and soldiers don’t necessarily make good actors. Take it from one who went through years of theatrical training to discover that not everyone has the gift. Also: Eastwood is not exactly the lightest touch with controversial topics, so I’m not expecting a nuanced vision here.


RIP: Robert Guillaume, a voice from another era

I sometimes wonder how the obit writers choose what to put in the headline when an actor or other artist dies.

Sure, you could say that Robert Guillaume was the star of Benson or Soap, and those things are true. Most of his obituaries led with that, though he's said he was initially hesitant to take the role of a black servant to a white family.

Or they led with with his turn as the voice of Rafiki in The Lion King, which won him a rare Grammy for spoken-word performance.

But he was more than those things that lead his obituaries. Guillaume

He was Nathan Detroit in an all-black revival of Guys and Dolls, which earned him a Tony nomination.

He was Isaac Jaffe, the hard-edged executive producer on Sports Night.

He used that magnificent voice to play the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera (replacing original Michael Crawford, and assholes boycotted because he was black), and in the lead role in Cyrano. 

His voice belonged to a different era, one that we may never see again

He was the first black actor to win an Emmy for best lead and supporting actor in a comedy. At least as of this year, he is the only black actor to win both, and only one other has won lead actor in a comedy - this year.

And yet when I think of him, I think of the harried school superintendent in Lean on Me. Morgan Giullame 2Freeman gets a lot of attention for his performance as the arguably genius, arguably bastard Joe Clark, but Guillaume centers the movie as the man behind the curtain, one of only two who have the spine to stand up to Clark’s flailing. Click that link, because you’re seeing two brilliant skilled actors maneuver a difficult scene with a dozen different emotions.

He was from here. Born Robert Peter Williams in St. Louis, survived child abuse to be raised by his grandmother, worked menial jobs in the early 1950s while attending college at night at St. Louis University and Washington University. Unlike many in his era, changed a demonstrably ordinary name to something far more unusual. Guillaume came from the French translation of William.

He lost a son to AIDS.

He dreamed of being the first black tenor to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, but never did.

He has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame and Hollywood Walk of Fame.

He died of prostate cancer yesterday.