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Linkspam defies Hollywood physics, and other reboot fun!

Oh we got trouble, right here on the Frontier... Look, I am trying to remain optimistic about The Last Starfighter reboot, folks. But can it fly without Professor Harold Hill?

The fact that this movie has never had a sequel defies Hollywood physics, since the Nick Castle sci-fi adventure attained cult status and was a seminal film for many of us nerds who grew up in the 1980s. It was Cretaceous-era CGI, it had snarky dialogue and teenagers who weren’t spoiled rich suburban kids dealing with such trials as prom - many of us could relate to Alex Rogan’s frustration at being unable to afford college and fears of being trapped in the trailer park forever.

But what really made Last Starfighter fly, pardon the expression, was Robert Preston as a cosmic Music Man, shamelessly riffing off his own iconic performance as the lovable con man with a smartass grin and terrific patter.

It didn’t precisely lose money - it cost $14 million and made $28 million. Reviews were tepidly warm, but the fondness we ‘80s kids have for it has grown over the years. There was a novelization, comic, and briefly, an off-Broadway musical (shudder). There was not a video game, which also defies Hollywood physics - one was developed, but never released.

A sequel was promised in 2008, and fell into development hell. Lorimar Pictures’ demise in 1992 complicated the rights, with Universal and Warner Bros. at odds on who has the right to remakes vs. sequels. A TV reboot was promised in 2015, which also disappeared unseen.

Now Rogue One’s screenwriter is working with the original Last Starfighter screenwriter on a reboot. Concept art only, but this one seems to have some groundwork laid.

But… Seth Rogen as Centauri? I’m not sold on that. Lance Guest is still working, though he’s never had a role as big as Alex since. (I’d love to see Wil Wheaton as a human bad guy; he was an extra as a kid in the trailer park, and I’ve seen him do villain on Criminal Minds.)

Look. We try to stay sanguine about reboots and remakes and sequels to beloved icons because they can’t change the good stuff. As Stephen King says, “The book is there on the shelf. They can’t change a word.” I can enjoy the hell out of the first two Mummy movies and still maintain the third does not exist.

But when you wait this long for something… you want it to be awesome. You want it to hit out of the park, because otherwise it feels like empty nostalgia: this sequel/remake was created solely to suck money out of your pockets because all we did was slap the title of your favorite on it with a Roman numeral. We waited many years for Independence Day - another one whose lack of a sequel defied Hollywood physics - and look what we got: a mishmash of a script and a yawner of an alien invasion, which takes some doing.

We know there are more reboots coming - the latest is a “modern take” on A League of Their Own, which is still set during WWII so I’m not sure how modern it can be - and some might actually be good updates, like the pending Fahrenheit 451 starring Black Panther’s Michael B. Jordan (see Trailer Park, below).

So I’m hoping that the writers remember what made Last Starfighter one of our favorites. And while we sadly cannot bring back Robert Preston, we will need something or someone that iconic to bring life to the new one, and defend the Frontier from Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada.

• Ouch. The premise, script, and even the details of the crime and investigation from a 2009 episode of Bones appear to have been lifted and used in the third episode of Instinct, a CBS crime show that just barely got started. The episode’s writer is Christopher Ambrose, who worked on Bones for three years.. but did not write the episode he’s accused of plagiarizing. Stay tuned...

• Writers: Please note that Amazon is apparently removing erotic novels from rankings because… well, reasons. Maybe because sex sells better than anything else, and Amazon doesn’t mind making gazillions off those sales but doesn’t want to look like it’s selling sex. Or maybe because they don’t actually know the difference between erotica and romance and love stories. Or, if you believe them, it was “inadvertent.” No word yet on whether the authors who were de-listed into the “no-rank dungeon” have been restored. As the Vice piece points out, there is almost literally no way to make a living as a romance or erotica novelist without Amazon, so what they do affects the livelihoods of thousands of writers.

Black Panther is now the top-grossing superhero movie of all time in the U.S., so rock on Wakanda! It’s also the top-grossing film of 2018 by far at $656.9 million (second is Peter Rabbit, way in the distance with $112 million, and Fifty Shades Freed with $100 million, and can we fix that, please?). It did not bust the record for weeks at the top - that’s still Titanic in the modern era with 17 weeks. That’s just domestic gross, of course, because Hollywood seems to think only American dollars are worth anything. Worldwide gross going into its seventh week is $1.28 billion-with-a-B.

For all-time domestic gross, it’s No. 4; for all-time worldwide, it’s No. 10. Now those latter numbers don’t mean as much because they’re not adjusted for inflation; but when you adjust for inflation, it’s at No. 34 and climbing. It’s passed Ghostbusters, Independence Day, Cleopatra and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. But it has a long way to go to catch the all-time top-five champs of adjusted gross: Titanic, E.T., The Sound of Music, Star Wars and Gone With the Wind. (I love Box Office Mojo.)

 

RIP

• David Bischoff, science fiction and television writer who authored more than 80 books, including tie-ins for Aliens, Farscape, Star Trek: The Next Generation and WarGames. He wrote several episodes of TNG as well, and taught creative writing at Seton Hill University.

Chicago Fire actress DuShon Monique Brown, at age 49. Before becoming an actress, she was a crisis counselor at high school, and had a masters degree in counseling and a backround in social work. She was a Chicago native who grew up on the South Side, and worked for a long time on the Chicago stage before her TV breaks. The cause of death was not released.

Steven Bochco, 74, creator of Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, NYPD Blue and a few other shows you might have heard of. Known as the writer who redefined the television drama, he opened doors for realistic portrayals of law enforcement and arc storytelling with a visual style and language that resonated with viewers. “Police detectives did not solve crimes in a single episode, and they had flaws just like the bad guys,” wrote the New York Times. “They drank, swore and had messy personal lives- provocative portrayals that caused some episodes to carry ‘explicit warnings,’ scared off some advertisers and led some network affiliates to refuse to broadcast episodes.” He had lawyers wrestling with issues like capital punishment and AIDS, nudity and racist language among cops, the first R-rated show on network television, and gave us thoughtful, serious entertainment that also made us think. Remember what that was like?

 

Trailer Park

Fahrenheit 451, with Michael B. Jordan as the lead “firefighter” in Ray Bradbury’s dystopic terror. (I wonder how they’re going to address the ebook issue?) “Knowledge is a dangerous thing…”

• I don’t often share trailers for TV shows, but ABC’s The Crossing intrigues me. The “people from another time/space/dimension show up in a small town” has been done a lot, but this one looks nifty. Also: the sheriff does yoga. Hee.

• I have issues with the sociological basis of the Purge movies, but setting that aside, the latest round is about The First Purge. It delves into how this came about in the first place - and stars Marisa Tomei. While some of the Purge movies have descended into nothing but violence-porn, this one actually seems to address some of the more serious issues behind the concept, such as income disparity (the poor have no protection while the rich hide behind million-dollar security systems) and hopefully the ludicrousness of the idea that human violence just needs an outlet to be eliminated. We’ll see…

 

Coming This Weekend

A Quiet Place, the one about the family that has to stay in total silence or be hunted by big nasty beasties. Starring Emily Blunt, among others.

Blockers, to which you’re not supposed to add “cock” despite the obviousness of the poster. Premise: “Three parents try to stop their daughters from having sex on prom night.” Hilarious. (Note: sarcasm font enabled.)

The Miracle Season, quasi-fact-based sports feel-good about a girls’ volleyball team striving for a championship after one of them dies.

Chappaquiddick is supposedly in limited release, but it’s playing now in local theaters, so I guess we’re “limited.” I was somewhat skeptical of this, but then the Boston Globe wrote this review - and they’re very familiar with the Kennedy mystique, so I’d trust them over some others.

 

Continuing:

Ready Player One, Acrimony, I Can Only Imagine, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Sherlock Gnomes, Love Simon, Tomb Raider, A Wrinkle in Time, Paul: Apostle of Christ. And, of course, BLACK PANTHER.

 

We’ll be seeing A Quiet Place, so look for reviews next week - along with Ready Player One, if life doesn’t intervene. Have a nice one!


Linkspam: Barnes & Noble's 'Red Wedding,' the latest sexist rats, and BLACK PANTHER!

In what blogger Audrey II (great name) called the Red Wedding of corporate moves, Barnes & Noble appears to have committed slow-moving suicide, and I don’t think she’s exaggerating.

Bloodless business news squibs buried under a mountain of awful in this news cycle reported that B&N launched a round of layoffs that would save $40 million from the company. Exact numbers weren’t available, but its SEC filing reported the cuts as “a new labor model… that has resulted in the elimination of certain store positions.”

Yeah, if that corporate-speak didn’t strike fear in your heart, try reading Audrey II’s take on it, which seems much more comprehensive. (I tried to determine her real identity, but she’s pretty well locked down. Too bad, I wanted to give her credit for her analysis, which beats the hell out of Publisher’s Weekly’s recounting of the SEC filing.)

Basically, Barnes & Noble laid off every full-time employee. Every lead cashier, every receiving manager, every Nook problem-solver, every newsstand lead. That “new labor model” seems to be “cheap part-time minimum-wage labor for the death knell of the company.”

Worse, allegations abound that the full-timers were told their jobs were safe, that the positions would be eliminated through attrition. As leads left, they would not be replaced, but no one would be laid off. That ended Monday when they were fired anyway - lifetime employees. No notice. When, exactly, did companies decide that it’s better not to give workers a chance to start their job hunt while still employed and give them whatever notice they can so they can plan their major life decisions with all the facts?

Read more about how B&N cut staffing during the holidays, which drove annoyed customers online; and how ship from store meant stripping the shelves, which further annoyed the customers who did come in for a real-live bookstore experience. That probably affected sales somewhat.

Audrey II makes a strong argument that this is the behavior of corporate pirates looking to strip the company’s bones bare before the inevitable bankruptcy, not a company trying to rebuild and save the store. It’s hard to argue that she’s overreacting, when B&N paid $14.5 million in bonuses to two CEOs (not two categories; two guys, one of whom had been CEO less than a year) while cutting 1,800 employees for $40 million.

You won’t find astute analysis in the business pages this week. The closest you’ll come is a single line at the end of Fortune, speculating that B&N’s top investor is urging a sale of the company. Everyone else basically reprinted the SEC filing and no-comment from B&N corporate. Instead, I’d say read the anonymous Audrey for a better look at what the slow suicide of Barnes & Noble means for all of us in the book biz. Spoiler: It’s not great.

For the record: I wrote this in a Barnes & Noble, and I’ll buy something besides coffee on my way out. Corporate or indie, no one benefits from closing the doors of a bookstore. In this world of ignorance and foolishness, functional illiteracy and TV-deadened imaginations, we need every book.

• This week on (Alleged) Sexual Predators R Us: It’s Scott Baio, Jay Asher (author of Thirteen Reasons Why), Guess co-founder Paul Marciano, and Olympian Shaun White, who decided to distract everyone from his sexual harassment allegations by avoiding female reporters and accidentally stepping on the U.S. flag. Oops. Do yourself a favor: Don’t read any comments. EVER. In the meantime, SAG-AFTRA has established a code of conduct regarding sexual harassment. Let’s see how that goes…

• Speaking of stupid comments, NBC commentator Bode Miller put his foot in it with what he calls a joke, and I’d call a rotten, sexist comment that he later backtracked to call it a joke in the hopes of not looking like a rotten sexist. Basically, according to Bode, women who get married crash and burn because they have husbands to distract them. He’s very sorry.

• I love it when something really awful comes out that gives all the critics a chance to crack open the thesaurus for colorful metaphors on how bad it really, really is. Like 50 Shades Freed is an ignorant, poisonous anti-feminist hate anthem. Funniest take: Fifty Shades Freed: A Spoilereview. “They have sex on the table. Ana giggles. Look, I’m all for having fun during sex, but if I were Christian I’d be concerned about the fact that Ana giggles every time he drops trou.”

• Female and female-identifying horror screenwriters: check out an open call for a filmmaking residency in Bruges, Belgium! And speaking of #WomeninHorrorMonth, here’s nine short horror films by women you can watch online. And as a bonus: Mary Shelley’s handwritten manuscripts of Frankenstein can now be viewed online.

Bill Paxton’s family is filing a wrongful death suit against his hospital and surgeon, alleging that the surgeon concealed information from them and was unqualified for Paxton’s heart surgery. He died days later of complications from the surgery, at age 61.

• Tyquan Vonricco Washington, nephew of singer Fantasia Barrino, was shot and killed Tuesday in North Carolina. A suspect is in custody, charged with first-degree murder. Barrino is the Season 3 winner of American Idol.

• If you were wondering why they canceled Sex and the City 3, here you go.

 

RIP

• Science fiction author - and my friend - Victor Milan, dammit. Vic died Tuesday of pneumonia as a complication of myeloma, and fuck cancer. Sorry, folks, ye olde blogger cannot be objective as we continue to lose our mentors. Here is my personal obituary of Vic, with all his many accomplishments, and may he walk with the dinosaurs.

John Gavin, actor in Psycho and Spartacus, age 86. He was this close to playing Bond until Sean Connery decided to come back, and served as SAG president. You know him best as Julius Caesar in Spartacus and Sam Loomis, boyfriend of Janet Leigh’s doomed Marion, in Psycho. Later in life, he served as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

 

Trailer Park

Sneak peek footage of Incredibles 2 aired during the Olympics!

Yet another preview of Ready Player Onewith even more Easter eggs and the theme from Willy Wonka. 

 

Coming This Weekend

Panther

BLACK PANTHER. What, you think I can talk about this one in anything but all caps? Warning: review contains spoilers. CNN gets it: “More than a movie, ‘Black Panther’ is a movement.” Meanwhile, Octavia Spencer will buy out a theater in Mississippi to help low-income people see the movie. Needless to say, your friendly neighborhood CultureGeek will be in attendance.

Then I Knew, a news-vid documentary produced by the News-Democrat’s Cara Anthony on the moment people of color realized the impact their race would have on their lives. Soft release a couple of weeks ago; go check it out.

Early Man. The Chicken Run crew aims for prehistoric shenanigans. Currently running 84 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which frankly surprised me.

Samson, starring the werewolf from Twilight as a variation on Conan. Any resemblance to the actual Biblical story is entirely coincidental. (At least from the trailers; no critics have reviewed it yet, which generally is not a good sign.)

Continuing: Winchester (which I’ve reviewed here), The Greatest Showman, Fifty Shades Freed, Peter Rabbit, The 15:17 to Paris, Jumanji, Maze Runner #47, Hostiles, The Post and The Shape of Water.

 

Happy Wakanda-Weekend! 


Thursday-ish Linkspam

In the category of Hollywood is Still Run By Idiots, we have the brilliant plan by Paramount to release Annihilation domestically and sell the international release rights to… Netflix. The Atlantic notes that Arrival, a similar science fiction thriller, grossed $203 million and got eight Oscar nominations including best picture.

And yet, Annihilation, based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer, is being treated to zero fanfare at all, with no theatrical rollout outside of the U.S., Canada and China. Why? “Too intellectual.” 

Or, as Vellum and Vinyl quotes, “That sure is a lot of words that don’t mention how it’s a scifi epic-horror movie headed by female characters. Ya know, the ones assumed to be doomed before they release.”

Seriously, how many times do we have to go through this before Hollywood remembers that a) women are half the population, b) women have money and go to the movies, and c) men can watch women just like women watch men. This is not difficult math.

• So… who’s profiting from the success of The Handmaid’s Tale? Not author Margaret Atwood. It seems that in 1990, she sold the rights to MGM to make a movie. When the TV rights were sold to Hulu, the money went to MGM. Anyone else wanna backhand her agent? Atwood was an executive consultant on the show, but that was it.

She seems fairly sanguine about it in her interview with Entertainment Weekly, and says while the uptick in book sales is nice, she wishes her book were not so… relevant. “I would prefer this not to be happening. It’s like that sign that someone was holding up during the Women’s March. ‘I can’t believe I’m still holding up this f—ing sign.”

• Want to know what was really wrong with Michael Jackson, who complained the most about “We Are the World,” the unexpected guitarist who plays just like Hendrix and who killed JFK? Apparently Quincy Jones has the answers. “Be a Pisces. Jam.” (Everyone seems shocked that Richard Pryor and Marlon Brando were lovers. Come on, people. It was the '70s.)

• In local news, fans of Batman will get to fly backwards. No, not the DC hero; Batman: the Ride! Six Flags will let you ride backwards during the spring (or ride forwards as you choose), but is discontinuing the trial run when the summer season begins.

Now here was my question: there’s still going to be one line. Which means if you are among 10 percent who want to ride it forward, you still have to wait in line behind the gazillions planning to go backwards. It’s no skin off mine, of course; I am a woman of curves, so I haven’t been able to ride Batman for a few years. But you can bet CultureGeek Jr. will be on board!

• Did you know that one of the first black writers to work on Black Panther comics was from right here in East St. Louis? But Reginald Hudlin did a whole lot more than Black Panther, which believe it or not was written solely by white writers for his first 32 years. Hudlin also was nominated for an Oscor for producing Django Unchained and was a producer or director on many other movies, including Marshall, House Party, Serving Sara and The Great White Hype. He’s currently working on the film Shadowman and a TV series, Showtime at the Apollo.

• Greenlit: J.J. Abrams and HBO are working on Demimonde, a sci-fi fantasy drama described as “epic and intimate” by the network. Uh huh. And it’s about….? We’ll see.

• Yikes: Robert Wagner is now considered a person of interest in Natalie Wood’s drowning death nearly 40 years ago. (That’s cop-speak for “suspect.”) I could have seen that coming, since Wagner has refused to talk with police since they reopened the case six years ago. It was 1981, Wagner and Wood were in a troubled marriage, and the only people on the boat were the two of them, Christopher Walken, and the captain. Now it seems there were bruises indicating an assault, not an accident. Stay tuned...

Waiting for the Oscars? Yeah, me neither. But relive the glories of years past with Entertainment Weekly’s Oscar Bracket Battle. Except it makes you choose between Godfather and Godfather Part II, and On the Waterfront vs. Rebecca.

 

RIP

• Author and historian Kathryn Fernquist Hinds, a writer and poet who died this past week of complications following heart surgery. Hinds’ works include The Healer’s Choice, a feminist fantasy novel published by Dark Oak Press; the six-book Creatures of Fantasy series and a prolific series of middle- and high-school history books. She was also a professor at the University of North Georgia Explore her work via her website.

Glee star Mark Salling completed an apparent suicide at age 35 just before his sentencing on charges of more than 25,000 images and 600 videos containing child pornography. He pleaded guilty and would have served 4-7 years in prison, registered as a sex offender and remain under extensive restrictions after release.*

Broadway documentarian Rick McKay died at age 62. Beginning as a cabaret singer, McKay moved into documenting the world of the theater, interviewing hundreds of theatrical legends for Broadway: The Golden Age including Carol Channing, Robert Goulet, Shirley MacLaine, Gena Rowlands, Fay Wray, Jerry Orbach, Dick Van Dyke, Liza Minelli, Robert Redford, Stephen Sondheim, Carol Burnett and many others.

Chicago folk singer Jo Mapes, 86, influential bohemian of Greenwich Village to the Playboy Club to Carnegie Hall.

Mickey Jones, 76, of MASH, Tin Cup, Bones, Total Recall, Sling Blade and many more. As a drummer, he played with Bob Dylan and Kenny Rogers.

Reg Cathey, baritone-voiced guest star of The Wire and House of Cards, too young at 59. He won an Emmy for his work on House of Cards and had been nominated twice before. You’ve also seen him in The Mask, Seven and the Fantastic Four reboot.

 

Trailer Park (except the Superb Bowl spots)

“Keep telling me who I am. I dare you.” Oh my, I am so there for Jessica Jones season 2. Then again, I’ve been there for Jessica since Alias Vol.1, because I’m an early adopter and even suffered through The Pulse.

Disobedience follows a shunned Orthodox Jewish woman (Rachel Weisz) returning home for her father’s funeral for shiva and falls in love with a woman hiding her sexuality. Based on the novel by Naomi Alderman.

 

Coming This Weekend (and last)

Winchester, which is not about the fine boys of Supernatural but stars Helen Mirren as the firearm heiress who believed she was haunted by the souls of all those killed by the Winchester repeating rifle. Based on a true story, but from the looks of the trailer, very loosely based. (Actually last weekend, but we missed an issue.)

Fifty Shades Freed, because the best way to overcome your abuser is to marry him.

The 15:17 to Paris, which gives every impression of being a rah-rah depiction of the three U.S. servicemen who foiled a terrorist attack on a Paris train, which the dubious choice of casting the actual men as themselves. No one denigrates their heroism, but being a hero and acting are two different things.

Peter Rabbit, the travesty. Okay, SFGate says the trailers were “an atrocious affront” but that the actual movie is unexpectedly charming, while not at all Beatrix Potter’s work. Okay, still not going to a movie where Peter considers sticking a carrot up Mr. McGregor’s butt.

Continuing in wide release: Jumanji, 12 Strong, Den of Thieves, The Post, The Greatest Showman, Paddington 2, The Commuter and the last trailing ends of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Insidious: The Last Key, and Forever My Girl. I recommend The Post wholeheartedly and will try to see it again this weekend.

 

* If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

 


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.

 


Linkspam

Confession: I hate Heathers. Its popularity baffles me.

Even pre-Columbine, I couldn’t find any humor in a psychotic teenager who kills his classmates and fakes suicides. Or the hilarity of heartbroken, grieving parents, using sexuality as blackmail, bullying and fatshaming, suicide contagion and other delightfully raucous fun. With bonus terrorism and mass murder!

Now we have a remake-as-series, which flips it so the vicious bitchery ruling the school belongs to people whom the 80s Heathers would have considered the freaks: plus-size, genderqeer, black, gay. But it’s the white slim heterosexuals to the rescue! Wait, what? OnstageBlog called it “The Alt-Right’s Glee.”

(Of course, OnstageBlog also called the original film “a driving force in the birth of third-wave feminism,” as well as praising its look at body positivity and sexuality, so I can only assume they were watching a different movie than I was.)

So… we’re going to get a TV series where the conventional cisgender kids systematically kill, harass, torment and frame the LGBTQ and minority kids? And this is… funny?

OnstageBlog made a good point, that while the showrunner insists these marginalized groups may be the popular kids today - and the horrifying rate of LGBT teen suicide and homicide belies that - they might have chosen to make a show about THAT and not one where the “normal” kids mix up a Drano cocktail for them.

Because that’s… funny?

Oscars were announced, and Wonder Woman was snubbed. Visually impactful, well-acted, socially relevant themes, groundbreaking in many ways… but not as Oscar-worthy as yet another World War II drama starring white men. (Which one do I mean? Take your pick; two of them are nominated and several slots left open.)

The Mary Sue nailed it: “At this point, we all know what an Oscar-bait film looks like: a historical drama helmed by a white man, filmed with self-conscious gravitas.”  Let’s discuss diversity for Latinx while we’re at it.

If not best picture, how about best director? Patty Jenkins overturned every expectation on Wonder Woman, a movie even the studio thought would flop and instead changed the entire subgenre. There’s been a lot of discussion on this, with mostly men saying, “Yeah, it was good and all, but Oscar?”

And a lot of women shouting, “Do you understand what that movie MEANS to us?” We are half the human population, and the movies speaking to us are damn few.

Mary Sue pointed out that Wonder Woman was a profoundly female film with a heroine who fights because she believes in the essential goodness of humanity, while Logan is a “hyper-violent film about a disillusioned man in a Western-inspired dystopia.” Guess which one got a nomination.

Meanwhile, progress is made, however slow. Greta Gerwig is nominated for Lady Bird, and Jordan Peele for Get Out. They are the fifth woman and fifth African-American to be nominated for best director in 90 years. Also breaking barriers: Rachel Morrison is the first woman EVER nominated for cinematography (Mudbound). Daniel Kaluuya nominated for best actor for Get Out, and if you want to see his face at the announcement, click the meme roundup from Time.

(Seriously, check out the memes. Love it. As I also love this ad for the Oscars where poor Jimmy Kimmel is haunted by last year’s best-picture error.)

Meanwhile, The Shape of Water is leading the nominations. I will reserve judgment until I finally see it, but frankly, the promos didn’t interest me until everyone I know started singing its praises. Logan is nominated for adapted screenplay, the first comic book movie to gain that recognition. The Post got best picture and of course Meryl Streep, but no best director for Steven Spielberg and nothing for Tom Hanks.

Also snubbed: We saw only a few tech noms for Beauty and the Beast. I wasn’t about to put it up for best picture, but the cinematography was amazing and I frankly expected a best song nom, if only because the pickings were slim this year and Alan Menken knows what he’s doing. Still, “Evermore” just isn’t in the same category as “If I Can’t Love Her.” Which couldn’t have been nominated. Dammit.

Mudbound got a few noms for acting, screenplay and song, but fell short of best picture. Scuttlebut is that the Academy thinks it belongs in the Emmys because it’s produced by Netflix, even though it was released in theaters. Did we need further evidence that the Academy is stuffy and slow to adapt to the changing world? Nah.

Also… The Boss Baby? Really?

• It may be exceedingly local, but I think it’s nifty that poet Tiana Clark is joining the SIUE MFA program for creative writing. Clark is a Gwendolyn Brooks Award winner, among other awards and honors, and a graduate of Tennessee State and Vanderbilt. The new MFA program at the university is growing by leaps and bounds.

Early reviews of The Alienist are mixed. I fought my way through the novel, which was very interesting but a bit draggy in the middle of its 600 pages. It’s basically Criminal Minds: Victorian-Era New York, if I recall correctly, and a number of somewhat-interesting secondary characters involved in an intriguing mystery. Of course, I thought it should be a movie, but apparently all movies are now TV shows or miniseries and I’m old.

• The Producers Guild of America has a code of anti-harassment rules. Somehow, nobody has ever actually used them on the set of a major motion picture. Until now: Wonder Woman 2 will be adopting the anti-harassment code, after the departure of Brett Ratner as producer following allegations of sexual harassment including involuntary outing of Ellen Page during production of X-Men: The Last Stand. WW star Gal Godot apparently stated she would not return unless Ratner was out.

• Speaking of harassment, MPR News completed a long-running investigation into Garrison Keillor that ought to put rest to the ongoing belief that he lost his job just for accidentally touching a woman’s bare back.

Neil Diamond is retiring from touring after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. At age 76, Diamond was in the middle of his 50th anniversary tour when diagnosed. Dozens of gold and platinum records, 56 singles on the top 100 Billboard, nominated for 13 Grammys (only winning once, not including this year’s upcoming lifetime achievement award).

• I’m sure we’re all saddened that Holmes & Watson is being delayed from summer to December for release. Wait, you never heard of it? Me neither, and after seeing that it is written and directed by Etan Cohen and stars Will Farrell as Holmes and John C. Reilly as Watson, I think I’m out. Guys, there was a good bit of humor to RDJ’s take on Sherlock, but that doesn’t mean Holmes is slapstick-stupid. I don’t mind parody and love well-written satire - see Clue or Galaxy Quest for examples - but dumbing Holmes down to Farrell-Reilly level is not in my wheelhouse.

Speaking of bad ideas: among the movies now slated for 2018 releases is Slender Man, attempting to exploit a real-life horrifying attempted murder of a teenage girl by two mentally ill classmates for cheap slasher thrills. I’m not even linking to the film.

 

RIP

Ursula K. LeGuin, 88, whose works “plucked truth from fantasy,” so sayeth NPR. More than 20 novels and piles of short stories, delving into class divisions and feminist theory through science fiction and fantasy. Here, read her National Book Award speech about the importance of books - of art - as more than a financial commodity.

“Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom - poets, visionaries - realists of a larger reality.”

Jack Ketchum, 71, dark horror writer mentored by Robert Bloch. His work was not for the faint of heart - try Off Season and see if you can make it through - but the man born as Dallas Mayr was one of the best at scaring the bejesus out of you. As one commenter put it, “Off Season makes the clown from It cry for its mommy.” Or as author Jeff Strand put it, “RIP to one of the very best, Jack Ketchum. Now at peace, which is more than you can say for any of his characters.”

Jeremy Inkel, 34, musician with Front Line Assembly since 2005. Complications of asthma, according to his father. Previously played for Left Spine Down.

• Jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela, 78, activist against apartheid and the “father of south African jazz.” His “Soweto Blues” became synonymous with the anti-apartheid movement.

Naomi Parker Fraley, 96, but you know her as Rosie the Riveter from the famous poster. Read the link for a long history of this image, which became much more than a war promotion. Fraley worked at the Naval Air Station in Alameda in the machine shop. After the war, she was a waitress, later married and had a family, and her identity as the inspiration for Rosie the Riveter was unknown for decades due to a mis-captioned photo until 2011.

Connie Sawyer, 105, the oldest working actress in Hollywood. Her credits range from The Mary Tyler Moore Show to Murder She Wrote to Seinfeld to NCIS: Los Angeles. She was one of the documentary-couple women in When Harry Met Sally, among her 144 credits, where she often played the snarky old lady in show after show after show.

 

Trailer Park

Deep sigh. The next trailer has dropped for Pacific Rim Uprising, which does nothing to tell me I won’t have exactly the same issues with the sequel as I did with the original. Yet, since I am married to the biggest kaiju fan in the western hemisphere, I shall be dragged to it, kicking and screaming.

• Netflix dropped the trailer for its new crime anthology Seven Seconds, which apparently looks for human stories behind the headlines of modern-day crime. It appears to be a single case per season, I think? And it’s starting off with a doozy.

 

Opening this weekend:

The Maze Runner: The Death Cure - 43 percent on Rotten Tomatoes

• Hostiles - 72 percent on Rotten Tomatoes


Linkspam

I could keep listing the latest people revealed to be sexist, harassing assholes in the arts - or at least accused of such - or I could just keep repeating, “Tom Hanks is still a nice guy.”

So, apparently, is Robert Redford, as he spoke at Sundance Film Festival this week and said “the role for men right now is to listen.” Sundance is hitting the controversies hard this year, including Monsters and Men, a racially charged police killing drama; Tyrel, about a man who panics when he realizes he’s the only person of color on a weekend trip; the dystopian science-fiction comedy Sorry to Bother You; a reimagining of Hamlet from Ophelia’s perspective starring Daisy Ridley; and a documentary titled Half the Picture about the systemic discrimination of female filmmakers. Plus Our New President, which is about.. exactly what you think.

• Oh boy! I can’t come up with a better headline than the one AV Club did for this piece: “Some absolute maniac made an interactive map tracing all the jumps from Quantum Leap. Now I want to go watch me some Scott Bakula good deeds.

• The richest man on earth is raising the rates for Amazon Prime, but it only affects those who pay month to month. If you pay for Prime on a monthly basis, it’s going up from $10.99 to $12.99, or $156 a year. Ouch. That’s an 18-percent increase for folks who pay monthly, which is largely lower-income consumers. Annual memberships are still $99 a year (which used to be $79 a year, and don’t think we’ve forgotten, Mr. Bezos.) Meanwhile, low-budget content such as One Mississippi is out, as is indie film development, in favor of big splashy blockbusters.

• For those of you who still can’t get over it, Rian Johnson tells us exactly how Leia did what she did in The Last Jedi. I’m not getting into this again, because I can explain it perfectly fine myself a hundred times and the screaming is going to continue. Sigh. By the way, one asshole created a self-described “chauvinist cut” that edits out all the women in the movie. Is it me, or is this crap getting worse?

• But… but… Chris Hemsworth’s contract with Thor is done, and said that as far as he’s concerned, he won’t be playing the god of thunder again. io9 seems to think he’s putting out feelers about coming back, but we should wait and see how Avengers does…

• We try to stay out of the real world here in CultureGeek Land, but The Final Year is starting to make noise as a documentary about the last year of the Obama administration. It seems they let a documentarian follow them around through the trials of 2016 and the work of Secretary of State John Kerry, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes around the world as they advised Obama - including their reactions to Trump’s win in November.

• Happy *gulp* 25th anniversary to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, arguably the best-acted, most well-written of the Trek series (and my favorite by a nose). If I could just get my mind around the idea that it’s been a quarter century since the premiere…

• Speaking of Trek, Discovery has been nominated for outstanding drama series in the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards. It faces Billions, Doubt, The Handmaid’s Tale, Nashville, Sense8, Shadowhunters, Star, This is Us and Wynonna Earp.

Star-trek-discovery-choose-your-pain-002

• Looks like Black Widow is finally getting her own movie, though the nature of that movie is still pending. Naturally speculation has already begun. As for me, I side with Keith DeCandido in his rooftop yell of “It’s about fucking time you goddamn imbeciles!”

Keira Knightley talks up her new movie Colette, while tackling #MeToo head-on. “What’s been really interesting is that it’s not just this industry - it’s in every industry… What was fascinating about the #MeToo movement was I was sitting with friends who weren’t in the industry, and there wasn’t one of us who hadn’t been assaulted at some point. We’d never had that conversation before.”

Highlights (or lowlights) of the SAG Awards include Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) beating out Daniel Kaluuya of Get Out for best lead actor. I…. might have issues with that choice. At least they didn’t classify it as a comedy?

Frances McDormand took leading actress for Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, while I would have bet my money on Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water, based on buzz alone. Three Billboards also picked up supporting actor for Sam Rockwell, even though Woody Harrelson was nominated for the same movie and that often splits the vote. Allison Janney received supporting actress for I, Tonya, surprising many who had bet on Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird.

Three Billboards also got best cast, which lends credence to the Oscar Buzz. Wonder Woman won best action performance by a stunt ensemble, which is a weirdly specific award.

In TV Land, the lead acting awards went to Alexander Skarsgard and Nicole Kidman of Big Little Lies. The interesting part of this isn’t the winners, but the lineup of nominees. For men: Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeff Daniels, Robert De Niro and Geoffrey Rush; for women: Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon, Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern. These are for TV movies, folks. All the star power is going to the small screen.

For ongoing dramas, Sterling K. Brown wins for This is Us (no surprise) and Claire Foy for The Crown - a bit of a surprise, given the buzz around Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things and Elisabeth Moss for The Handmaid’s Tale. In comedies: William H. Macy for Shameless, Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Veep. This is us won best ensemble - again, no shock; Veep best comedy and Game of Thrones defeated Homeland, The Walking Dead and Stranger Things for action ensemble.

• I cannot endorse this column in Book Riot, because you should never stop buying books! However, I can certainly relate to “hoard[ing] books like Smaug hoards gold.” My husband agrees with the sentiment as it applies to me, but disagrees with my pronunciation of “Smaug.”

 

RIP

Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhorn mystery series, died tragically one letter short of her alphabet-based series. Beginning in 1982 with “A is for Alibi,” Grafton was part of an insurgence of female-centered detective novels, which was to end next year with Z is for Zero. However, cancer took her just before New Year at age 77. Her daughter wrote, “As far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.”

Dolores O’Riordan, lead signer of the Cranberries, died suddenly Jan. 15 at age 46. No word yet on her cause of death, but she had struggled with illness and chronic pain. O’Riordan was the band’s chief lyricist and co-songwriter as well as lead singer.

Jerry Van Dyke, four-time Emmy-winning actor of Coach and many other shows, died Jan. 5 at age 88. His health had deteriorated since a 2015 traffic accident. Younger brother of Dick Van Dyke, Jerry was best known for Coach, but also performed on stage and in guest appearances on many sitcoms.

• Star Wars actor Alfie Curtis, best known for playing Dr. Evazan in the first film, died in December at age 87. Curtis also starred in The Elephant Man and other films, but you’ll remember him as the disfigured guy in the Mos Eisley bar who tells Luke he has a death sentence in 12 systems. Of course, he has a whole backstory in the novels.

• Rapper Fredo Santana, too goddamn young at 27. Born Derrick Coleman, apparently he was hospitalized for liver and kidney problems and died of a seizure.

 

Trailer Park

Red Sparrow has an interesting cast, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Irons. I liked this movie when it was called Point of No Return/La Femme Nikita, so I’d give it another shot. (Seriously, it is almost literally the same plot, but I give them credit for not immediately opting as a “reboot.” Probably because it’s based on a book…)

• Speaking of reboots, we are restarting Tomb Raider next. It looks fairly paint-by-numbers, but you should never underestimate the willingness of gamers to watch a woman in a tank top in the jungle. I’ll give her this: Alicia Vikander has actual musculature and appears to be doing plenty of fisticuffs. I’m always in favor of more women action heroes.• There’s plenty of speculation about Dundee, a trailer that dropped out of nowhere ostensibly surrounding the New York-raised American son of Crocodile Dundee in search of his dad in the outback. The teaser is goofy-stupid, leading many to believe it’s a hoax. But it came from Rimfire Films, which produced the first two Dundee films. There are thoughts that they’re warming up to a Super Bowl thing, which can only be an improvement over this teaser.

• I’m intrigued by the sneak peek at Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger. Never read the comics, but the leads have charm, and so far Marvel has done all right with TV shows not based on Iron Walking Privilege. Check it out.

• She isn’t singing with an adorable crab this time: Siren reforms the traditional mermaid into something a little more dangerous. I wouldn’t mind making it a film, but a TV series? There isn’t much to the trailer, but check it out anyway.


Thursday-ish Linkspam

Grab the popcorn, folks: the next step in the Sexual Harassment Merry-Go-Round is the sale of the artist formerly known as the Weinstein Company. Okay, it’s still called Weinstein Co., but it is selling itself and the bulk of its film and television assets to avoid bankruptcy, according to Variety. Possible bidders include Killer Content with the backing of a collection of investors gearing to steer Weinstein profits to nonprofits helping women.

In general, the other companies aren’t really interested in absorbing Weinstein whole; just sort of peeling off its assets. That includes Project RunwayThe King’s Speech, Django Unchained and others. First round of bids came today. (Meanwhile, Bill O’Reilly faces two more lawsuits from accusers alleging he violated the confidentiality agreements of their settlements.)

• Speaking of sexism and misogyny! E! News co-anchor Catt Sadler quit today when she discovered that her male co-host earned almost double her salary, even though they did the same job and had started at the network in the same year. She stated that she asked to close the pay gap and was repeatedly denied. “How can I operate with integrity and stay on at E if they’re not willing to pay me the same as him? Or at least come close?” she wrote in her personal blog. “How can I not echo the actions of my heroes and stand for what is right no matter what the cost? How can I remain silent when my rights under the law have been violated?”

Sadler, a single mother of two, said it is “scary” to quit, but that it is important to stand up for equal pay. “The unknown can be terrifying, but it can also be the most beautiful gift,” she wrote. “How can we make it better for the next generation of girls if we do not stand for what is fair and just today?”

Washington Post dug in deeper, pointing out that women currently make 81 cents for each dollar made by a man, and the gap is wider among college grads, business, finance and legal careers. The White House gender pay gap has tripled in the last year, as the administration halted an Obama policy that would require large companies to report pay broken down by race and gender, according to the Post.

• I thought the NFL was in trouble? Football is still the top-watched show on broadcast networks this fall, including NBC and CSB and Sunday and Thursday… so not that much trouble. The top scripted show is still The Big Bang Theory, in defiance of logic. Rounding out the top ten are The Good Doctor (really?), This is Us, NCIS, Young Sheldon (dammit) and Bull.

In looking at the full 75-show list, no one is ever allowed to complain to me again that there are too many police procedural shows on TV. Of the top shows, at least 17 are police procedurals. This is just like when people say they’re tired of all the violence in the news, but let me tell you what people click first and most often, folks…

Apple is being sued on allegations that it intentionally slows down older iPhones with new iOS releases in order to goad people into buying a new phone. Apple admits that older phones might slow down with later software, but only to keep them from crashing when the processor can't handle it. The suit was filed in Chicago.

Note to Ridley Scott: Shhh. When discussing your need to reshoot All the Money in the World with Christopher Plummer instead of accused rapist Kevin Spacey, maybe this comment is not the best choice: “Any form of publicity is useful.”

Oh, Ridley. You were doing so much better when you originally said that one person’s actions should not affect the good work of all these other people, telling this dramatic story. That made it seem like you were trying to preserve art and storytelling, not to mention fine acting, not just scrambling to make a buck and uncaring about the implications of the allegations against Spacey.

Out of context? Not really. Full quote: “If you forget as the director your one priority is to put bums on seats and you better entertain. So any form of publicity is useful. Need I go further?”Please don’t.

• That awful, terrible, illogical, franchise-ruining Last Jedi* is up to $536 million international take - oops, $600 million! Coming up this weekend: Jumanji and The Greatest Showman, with a couple meaningless comedies a few days later. Good luck besting the Jedi, guys.

• I really thought it was a joke, but not-the-Onion reports that they’re seriously going forward with a Quentin Tarantino Star Trek movie. Because his nihilistic ultraviolent style of reveling in blood because pain is funny is just what an optimistic, humanist view of the future needed. (Note: Not a fan.) Mark L. Smith, who wrote that utopian flick The Revenant, will be writing it. Meanwhile, Tarantino is working on a Charles Manson film, which seems much more his style of “let’s watch them squish the eyeballs.”

  

RIP

Heather North, the voice of Daphne for Scooby Doo fans, died Tuesday at age 71 of a heart attack caused by respiratory disease. North began on Days of Our Lives and started her run as Daphne in 1970 in the show’s second season and would play Daphne for 30 years in various formats. She did a lot of TV work and a few movies; her husband, Wesley Kenney directed the most famous season of All in the Family. He died in January 2015; one of her stepdaughters died a week ago.

 

Daphne

 

Trailer Park

 • I can't really tell if the upcoming Chappaquiddick is going to be worth a watch or not. It's an interesting story that is ancient history for many of us too young (or not yet born) to follow the scandal that ended any chance of Ted Kennedy following his brothers in pursuit of the presidency. The acting in the trailer is surprisingly flat; you expect to see their best work. It is not clear what side the movie takes: accident or murder, or something in between?   

• They gender-swapped Overboard, which is one of my guilty pleasures: it’s horribly problematic and yet funny as hell with a good bit of charm. There are a number of comedies like that for me: I can’t help liking them even though every good sense says “This is horrible!” (Note: You’ve Got Mail is pretty much gold-plated in this category.) I was neutral on the gender-swap, leaning positive on the “revenge of blue collar over the 1 percent” theme, but this trailer pretty much tells me this will be the most unfunny flop of the spring.

• There's a real Alice in Wonderland/Narnia vibe to Disney's teaser for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Not even I knew that the Tchaikovsky ballet was based on an 1816 short story by E.T.A. Hoffman, later adapted by The Three Musketeers' Alexandre Dumas. There's some pretty dark stuff in the original source material, and I'm interested to see what the movie does with it, as a fantasy fan and as a former ballet sugarplum. Shh, don't tell anyone. 

* Read: sarcasm.


Comic-Con Edition!

Note: This post did not run last Monday due to technical snafus. Those responsible have been sacked. 

 

There was a little shindig in San Diego last weekend, and you might’ve heard a few things from it.

Okay, you heard a lot from it. Here’s a rundown of what I heard, and it won’t include everything, because nobody could possibly contain the hugeness of SDCC in one column without boring the crap out of you. So consider this the highlights reel.

• Captain Marvel is set in the 1990s, an interesting choice as long as I don’t think about that being 27 years ago. It’s set before Iron Man, she’ll face the Skrulls, and Nick Fury will have two eyes. Note: First Marvel movie with a female lead. Seriously, it’s just embarrassing that it took this long. (Black Widow anyone??)

• We didn’t get a new Black Panther trailer (unless I missed it), but we did get a nifty poster and they showed exclusive footage I don’t have. io9 gives us a shot-by-shot recap, however. Can we get this movie already?

• Speaking of things we didn’t get, Infinity War footage was shown at D23 and at Comic-Con and they must be strip-searching the attendees, because it’s not online yet.

• Also from Marvel: Ant-Man and the Wasp is the sequel, so apparently they’ll let women do something except stomp their feet and pout this time. Michelle Pfeiffer will play Janet Van Dyne, which makes me happy, and Laurence Fishburne is Bill Foster.

• Speaking of sequels, Wonder Woman is getting one, surprising absolutely no one since it’s on track to be the highest-grossing movie of the summer and is already the third-biggest Warner Bros. movie of all time.* She’ll face off against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and somehow Chris Pine is involved, which is quite a trick if you watched the first one. They didn’t sign director Patty Jenkins to more than one film, but they’re reportedly working with her, and if they know what’s good for them, they’ll back up a Brinks truck to keep her. Give Wonder Woman to Zack Snyder and we will riot.

Note: Wonder Woman is also the second-highest gross of the year, after Beauty and the Beast - also a female protagonist. As ridiculous as it seems, we still need to wave these flags around to convince Hollywood that yes, women-centered movies and even *gasp* women-directed movies make money. DUH.

The Verge details why making the upcoming Flash movie as “Flashpoint” is probably a terrible idea.

• Speaking of bad ideas, we’re getting not one but two sequels to Suicide Squad, even though no one liked it. We get one direct sequel, and one focusing on manic-pixie Harley Quinn and Jared Leto’s Joker, because that sounds like fun. That’s not including Gotham City Sirens.

• And they’re going to let Todd McFarlane make another Spawn movie. For reasons.

• Was Decker a replicant in Blade Runner? Harrison Ford answers the question! Tee hee. Also: Have a brief history of everything that happened between the two movies. Or you could just go watch the new one and hope Ridley Scott has figured out how to make it right the first time… oooh, am I in trouble now? Sorry, I chalk Blade Runner up as overrated and problematic on many levels, though I will maintain an open mind as I approach the new one. *ducks rotten tomatoes*

• Reality collides with fantasy as U.S. Sen. John Lewis led a march through Comic-Con following his panel about his Eisner-winning autobiographical graphic novels, titled March. According to news reports, he encouraged young people (including the students in the front row) to remain optimistic and fight for change.

• DC is giving Batgirl to Joss Whedon, though no word yet on whether she’ll be Barbara or Betty or someone else. Meanwhile, that weird pre-Superman Krypton series gets more details.

• Buried in all the movie hoopla, there was actually some stuff about comics. Such as the Eisner Awards, with top honors to Black Hammer, The Vision and Saga. Here’s the full list.

Here, have the cosplay.

 

Trailer Park:

Thor: Ragnarok shows us a bit more than Thor facing down our pal the Hulk in a fighting ring for some reason, and proves that every major enemy of Thor’s will wear silly headgear. Hulk talks, Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum chew the scenery, fun will be had.

• Another Justice League trailer heavily features Wonder Woman, because DC isn’t entirely populated with idiots. It’s interesting and action-y with little snippets from each of the team members besides Bats and Diana, though the barely-seen villain is boring as hell. “This world will fall” - oh, again? I kind of miss the days when Lex Luthor was planning a nuclear land scam - at least it was creative. When it says “Superman was a beacon to the world… he made [people] see the best parts of themselves,” I had to yell, “Not the way you idiots wrote him!” Yes, I’m still bitter. Here, have a poster.

Stranger Things season 2 trailer is geektastic and nicely creepy, though I can’t really judge how it compares since I still haven’t seen the first season. Yeah, yeah, I know. CultureGeek Jr. is really on me about it…

• Sigourney Weaver gets to be the bad guy in Defenders, which reminds me that I have a second season of Daredevil to catch up (though I understand I can skip Iron Fist, and P.S. he’s getting a new showrunner plus Misty Knight, who is never not awesome.) With bonus Scott Glenn! P.S. I love Jessica Jones, and love that they don’t seem to be blunting her at all the way they did in the comics.

• I have been instructed that I am required to watch Westworld, which is a problem since it is an HBO show and I am just a poor working blogger who can’t afford to fork over $40 a season. However, big fans of the show should enjoy this funky-awesome creepy-cheerful trailer for Season 2.

• Star Trek! Star Trek! Star Trek! Since Star Trek Discovery is in the Prime universe, I can actually dare to hope this one is for real even if this new trailer seems a little grimdark for the Trek world. They’re certainly not skimping on the production values, and so far I’m not hating anyone. I still can’t figure out who’s the captain and who’s the main character, since those are apparently no longer the same person, and Burnham is actually Spock’s adoptive sister? (That guy has a lot of relatives…) I’m sincerely hoping more of an ensemble feel develops, since I think Trek works best when it doesn’t lock itself into the same three characters’ arcs. I subscribed to CBS Go for this damn thing (kicking and screaming), so it had better not suck. Panel writeup here.

• Steven Spielberg paints an unusually grim future of an overcrowded Earth where everyone escapes from reality into VR videogames as an ode to the ‘80s in Ready Player One. Or something. I think. It’s a nifty premise, if a little disturbing - shades of Talos IV, if you are nerdy enough to get my reference.

• The trailer for Supergirl Season 3 looks a touch darker, with Supergirl apparently thinking of giving up her secret identity (and have we finally spied Lex, albeit with hair?) We only get 10 seconds of Alex, but she is so awesome in it, I can’t complain.

• Someone said that the new Walking Dead trailer shows war is coming to the apocalypse. Have they been watching for the past seven seasons? I admit I gave up on it last season, but I suppose I will watch the premiere and see if story returns to my favorite zombie future, or whether it’s still mired in torture porn as horror. I would like to be scared or fascinated again - I’ll take either over “pissed off.” Please? Meanwhile, Robert Kirkman will eventually end the comic book, but hasn’t set a date yet, so get a grip, everybody. io9’s report on the Walking Dead panel is amusing, however:  for example, Andrew Lincoln doesn’t get why everyone makes fun of the way he says “Carl.” Frankly, me either, Andrew - you’re doing pretty damn well for a Brit playing a southern-fried deputy.

• Maybe it’s Bryan Singer nostalgia, but I am unreasonably interested in The Gifted. It looks like it might have returned the X-Men to their initial foundations as allegory for civil rights, with some characters I actually wouldn’t mind following. Can it be sustained through a series as opposed to a film? We shall see…

• I admit, I was not entirely sold on the idea of Bright, a weird pastiche of Alien Nation with the premise of damn near every urban fantasy of the last ten years. I am also a little put off by the opening of this new trailer, in which Will Smith dispatches a fairy with a broom and someone uses the word “nuke-u-lar.” However, it looks like high production values, a touch of grit and Netflix’s now-trademark intensity. I am intrigued enough to give it a try.

Less interesting to me, but you may want to hear from them:

Marvel’s Inhumans

Kingsman: Golden Circle

The Orville (please no)

Pacific Rim: Uprising (teaser, with bonus plot holes this time!)

 

* I always have to put an asterisk after these records, because movie ticket prices rise at an exponential rate and it’s disingenuous at best to compare Wonder Woman with Harry Potter or Dark Knight since tickets cost more now. But whatever - movie execs pay attention to these things, and it means we get more Wonder Woman.


Monday Linkspam

Polygon.com has the best analysis so far of why Wonder Woman is the best and most popular of the DCEU films, and it isn’t because Gal Gadot looks awesome in the leather swimsuit. Or even because she’s a kickass woman in a central role. (Side note: let’s quit with the damn memes arguing “Well, she wasn’t the FIRST…” Duh. We all know that. In the modern comic-film renaissance, there’s been a striking lack of female leads and you all know it, so stop undercutting it with pictures of 1990s Buffy and her lollipop.)

Instead, Polygon makes the point I’ve tried to make about the dour and ultimately head-scratching DCEU films so far: “Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman and Suicide Squad all espouse a fundamentally selfish worldview - where heroism is a test of self, not a service performed for other people.” It also details that this is the Zack Snyder viewpoint, he whose next project is rumored to be Atlas Shrugged: it is the Watchmen-like vision that distrusts selflessness, that argues coercion is more reliable than altruism.

When Christopher Reeve’s Superman is faced with General Zod hurting innocent bystanders and causing destruction on the streets of Metropolis, he fled to the Fortress of Solitude to draw Zod away from collateral damage - allowing people to think him a coward rather than risk innocents being hurt. When Snyder’s Superman faces the same situation, he doesn’t even seem to care, and the general public is seen as either hating the superheroes (out of jealousy, apparently) or worshipping him because he’s so superior to us.

That’s direct opposition to Diana, who presumes from the beginning that people are naturally good and compassionate, if only permitted the freedom to be so. Her heroism leads by example; she inspires ordinary humans to heroic acts. It’s worth noting that the best of the preceding DC films was The Dark Knight, which had the same damn premise. The Joker places his faith on human selfishness and depravity… and loses. Because in the end, humans were fundamentally decent, and his Randian nihilism fails. (Then the last Christopher Nolan movie threw that whole concept out the window, which is why I declare it doesn’t exist.)

I really don’t need to write a separate review of Wonder Woman at this point, though it will be part of my summer movie roundup. These pieces I’ve linked the past few weeks, and especially Polygon’s, say everything I wanted to say.

Star Trek Discovery sets its release date for Sept. 24! Wait, you mean I’ve subscribed to CBS Go all this time for nothing? (Not really, it still saves me buying whole seasons on iTunes for Criminal Minds and Madam Secretary. Ah, the trials of a streamer.) As announced previously, it will premiere on CBS broadcast that Sunday night, with the second episode immediately available on CBS All Access and weekly on Sundays thereafter. The 15-episode season will be separated into two chapters: the first eight episodes in the fall, seven more in the spring. Netflix will carry it, but only to countries outside U.S. and Canada. In the meantime, check out some early art and trailers. Repeat after me: Please don’t suck please don’t suck please don’t suck please don’t suck…

In other Trek news, last week was Captain Picard Day, a holiday I might have celebrated with its own special post if the Real World Job had not been kicking our butts all over the internet last week. Good lord, I miss having a captain who can help us think about the human experience with his perfect delivery (and good writing). “Starfleet was founded to seek out new life, well, there it sits!” SyFyLys comes up with the more bizarre heroics of everyone’s favorite captain, while I prefer the entirety of “Measure of a Man,” folks. Go on, go watch it.

“Jean-Luc, sometimes I think the only reason I come here is to hear these wonderful speeches of yours.”

• Jezebel amuses the hell out of me by detailing the many ways shark movies get nature and basic physics wrong. Go Bruce! We were thinking of seeing 47 Meters Down, just for giggles, but plans changed. Anyone seen it and want to report? (And no, it won’t be as good as Jaws, because nothing ever is…)

• io9 puts together a decent list of science fiction and fantasy novels that changed speculative fiction forever. Of course it’s missing plenty of important books, including 1984, The Mists of Avalon, freaking Frankenstein…. I’d definitely argue that Ms. Shelley’s masterpiece should be included in place of Dhalgren for sheer influence. There are nearly 1200 comments at press time, so I’m guessing others had a few suggestions. #geekfight

• Happy (belated) Father’s Day to the geeky dads out there! Here’s a collection of writer-dads and their offspring from the Los Angeles Times, including Stephen King and Joe Hill reading each others’ books. Hee. Hail to the Kings!

Kings

• This weekend’s movie outings were The Mummy and Cars 3. Shorthand: One is much more entertaining and charming than the other, and you can guess.

Look, Mummy is not nearly as bad as its Rotten Tomatoes score would suggest. I have suffered through much worse. I went into it expecting it to be awful, and already saddened about it because I was very excited about the Dark Universe franchise. It’s not awful, but it’s not great, either. Tom Cruise is in a role that needs to be charming to make up for the (script-required) amorality, and since he made his bones playing charming rakes, it’s odd that he utterly lacks charm here.

Other critics complained that it spent too much time setting up the Dark Universe; to me, that was the most fun. Russell Crowe as Jekyll/Hyde is pretty fun to watch, and it’s almost a disappointment when the mummy sidekicks show up, because they owe a lot more to The Walking Dead than Boris Karloff. There’s a cute shout-out to the Fraser/Weisz Mummy movies - blink and you miss it - and we had a big laugh and fistbump over it. But even that was almost a mistake, because it was simply a quick reminder that those movies were so much more fun than these.

The Mummy was a movie that could not decide whether it was a horror movie with action scenes, or an action movie with creepiness. Unfortunately, in trying to straddle the line between them, it failed at both. And yet I’d still rather watch it three times over before watching The Mummy 3, which does not exist.

On the other side, we have Cars 3, to which I was dragged kicking and screaming because CultureGeek Jr. is a huge Cars fan and was on furlough for the day. I don’t care for car racing in general, the first Cars movie was rather annoying to me, and I never saw the second for that reason.

Fortunately Cars 3 ignores the generally-disliked second installment altogether - even CultureGeek Jr. admits it was awful - and delivers a charming, entertaining film that actually had me laughing in several places. Nathan Fillion joins the cast as the new CEO of whoever owns Lightning (Owen Wilson) McQueen’s career, and there’s a good bit of nostalgia and sadness over the loss of the late Paul Newman in mourning for “Doc” Hudson.

Better yet, for the generally male-inclined Pixar films, a secondary female character takes center stage, and it’s a good bit of awesome. The “old” jokes might feel a bit weird when aimed at Wilson’s McQueen, since cars don’t exactly age and Wilson is all of 48. The ending is a nice twist, and while I saw it coming, it will be appreciated by the younger folk. Here’s a spoilery interview with Wilson; full of background but very spoilerrific, so be sure to read only after you go see it.

Which you should. Even if (like me) you are only a tepid Cars or Pixar watcher, if nothing else Cars 3 shows the massive gains made in Pixar’s animation. The visuals are striking - not just the races, but countryside scenes, backgrounds, scenic vistas… when none of the cars’ cartoon faces are talking, it’s easy to forget that this is an animated film. There's a level of detail unimagined when Pixar first started making movies, and that was my primary reservation about Pixar vs. Disney's own animated features; Pixar's visuals just weren't as interesting to me, up until Brave. Cars 3 takes it another step, folks. It's that good.

Alas, it looks like they may do a Cars 4. Unfortunately Hollywood doesn’t seem to know how to quit when they’re ahead.

Meanwhile, the previews included Pixar’s Coco, which also had a full-length trailer for a holiday Frozen short. We usually don’t get trailers for the pre-movie shorts, and yes, Frozen writes its own rules, but it hints at a bit of Pixar hedging its bets - underscores heavily that the Frozen short will only be offered at Coco screenings. This was the first Coco trailer that really made me interested in seeing it, so I hope they are wrong about its potential.

RIP to Stephen Furst, best known for Animal House, Babylon 5 and St. Elsewhere; and to John G. Avildsen, director of Rocky, Lean on Me and the original Karate Kid movies. Sadly, we finally have some answers on Carrie Fisher’s death, and it seems her sobriety had faltered, but it may not have contributed to her death from sleep apnea-induced heart attack, if I’m understanding it correctly. Rest in peace, dear; you’re still our princess.

On the local scene...

• I'm happy to report that A Winter's Tale is a terrific outing for the always-stellar Shakespeare St. Louis, despite being one of the Bard's lesser efforts. It falls victim to the two great sins of Shakespeare as viewed through modern audiences: the "Shakespearean filler," in which we get long scenes of a side character being silly to pad out the run time while the other actors are getting ready backstage; and of minor characters excitedly discussing something important that happened offstage. I'm not going to criticize the writing of William Shakespeare 500 years later, but both of those stumbling blocks occur in A Winter's Tale. And yet it doesn't drag down the show; which is not the easiest to comprehend or the most popular of Shakespeare's plays.

Best of all, however, are the performances turned in by Rachel Christopher as Paulina and Cherie Corinne Rice as Queen Hermione. Both simply burn down the stage with their intensity in what is a very off-kilter play - neither full tragedy nor full comedy, but aspects of each. Christopher in particular is amazing as she faces down a king who has gone mad with jealousy and destroyed his family, and without fear she tells him the truth while all the men are cringing and cajoling. Rice portrays the queen with dignity and grace, while standing firm against injustice. But as I look back on it, it's Christopher who shines. She's had a few minor roles in motion pictures; here's hoping we see more of her beyond Shakespeare Glen. 

A Winter's Tale is performed nightly in Forest Park through June 25, except Tuesdays. 


Thursday Linkspam

• A bunch of Disney flicks got their release dates, including a pushback for Indiana Jones 5: The Apology. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a December release this year, just as Force Awakens was, but the as-yet untitled Episode IX will be a May 2019 release, rather than sticking with the Christmas plan. That’s probably because Frozen 2 comes out that Christmas, and Disney doesn’t like to fight itself. (Please, Disney. We’re gonna go see both anyway. You have us.)

James Cameron’s Avatar 2 will come out in December 2020, with three more movies slated for 2021, 2024 and 2025. Somewhere in there he hopefully hired a screenwriter. In the meantime, Indiana 5 is moved from July 2019 to July 2020, just in time for poor Harrison Ford to turn 80. Also in 2019: the Lion King remake, Toy Story 4 and Avengers: Infinity War Part II, so just sign your soul over to Disney now. (They’ve had mine for years… crunchy.)

• Tor.com is offering a neat incentive to sign up for their eBook of the Month Club: A free ebook of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War. The club is free, and you get a free book every month. So far I see no downside!

• Tracy K. Smith is the new poet laureate of the United States, the highest honor held by poets in the nation. Smith has 30 years of poetry publications and a Pulitzer Prize. She plans to be a “literary evangelist,’ taking poetry to places “where literary festivals don’t always go.” She is also director of the creative writing program at Princeton University.

The Dining Room was one of my favorite plays back when I was a struggling actress in Memphis. The playwright, A.R. Gurney, was a finalist for the Pulitzer for that one and two others - I always wanted to see Love Letters become a movie. Yes, he wrote about upper-class WASPs, because he wrote what he knew - but he told it with truth. Sadly, Gurney passed away this week. The stage lights are a little dimmer for his loss.

• RIP to one of the more famous bookstores in the country. Berkeley science fiction bookstore Dark Carnival will close its doors soon, and has launched its going-out-of-business sale.

• Variety has some theories about The Mummy’s troubles, and they start with two words: Tom Cruise. Not that he’s a bad actor (he’s not) or that the film was a bad idea (more debatable), but that he had a personal control over nearly everything from script to marketing. “There were differences of opinions about whether Cruise’s directions were improving a picture that had been troubled from its inception or whether they were turning a horror film into a Cruise informercial.” It has not yet been viewed here at CultureGeek Towers, so I’ll let you know…

The-mummy
Wait... sorry. This is the fun one. My mistake.

• In the Cool Stuff category, a photographer picked up a 1938 camera at Goodwill that still had a roll of undeveloped film inside. She had them developed, and found images of the 1980 explosion of Mt. St. Helens.

• Trailer Park: Goodbye Christopher Robin is a biopic of A.A. Milne and his young son who inspired the books of Winnie the Pooh. Flatliners gets a remake, which will have a long way to go before it matches the creepy-dark fun of the original. A documentary titled Nobody Speak examines the attacks on the press over the last few years, and hits Netflix in a week.

• For a little silliness, check out the trash-talking Twitter battle between Sue the T.rex at the Chicago Field Museum and the Merriam-Webster dictionary. I can’t make this stuff up.

 

On the local scene…

• Dunaway Books on Grand Boulevard will host “An Evening of Wine and Poetry” featuring local writers like Grace McGinnis, Hart L’Ecuyer and RC Patterson for a series of readings beginning at 8 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.

• The Glen Carbon Public Library will host “Writing Your Breakout Book” at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 19, presented by Rod Deutschmann of Outreach SIUE. Click the link to register.

• Insight Theater Company has opened its season with Next to Normal, a powerful and intense rock musical I was lucky enough to see several years ago at the Fox. Warning: This is very intense, dealing with mental illness and its impact on the family.

• River Styx Literary Magazine will host “Books & Brews* at Urban Chestnut on Manchester at 6 p.m. July 10. Readings from the authors, first glimpse at issue 98, and the first beer is free - sorta. Admission is $15.

• The St. Louis Women’s Artisan Pop Up Shop will take place Saturday, July 29 at Lemon Gem Kitchen Goods on Manchester. It will host women-owned small businesses with dozens of nifty vendors.

• Enjoying The Handmaid’s Tale? Meet author Margaret Atwood when she accepts the 2017 St. Louis Literary Award, to be presented by the St. Louis University Library Associates at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19 at Sheldon Concert Hall on Washington Boulevard.

Have a good weekend!