Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Super 8

Recently finished watching Super 8 on Netflix. It was pretty impressive in many ways and disappointing in very few. The film was written and directed by the accomplished J. J. Abrams who has been on a serious hot streak the last few years. The main and most important producer of the film was none other than the insanely awesome Steven Spielberg. Even if you aren't a fan of movies and film you should know who Steven is.

Short synopsis spoiler:
Super 8, set in 1979, is about a group of kids trying to make a horror film and they unfortunately witness the wrecking of a military train by one of their teachers. In the rush to avoid being killed they leave the camera running and record some interesting footage of the crash. Long story short, the teacher was once a military scientist on a team studying a crashed alien. He and the alien came to an understanding and the scientist tried to get the alien freed. The military dick in charge naturally decided to keep the alien a captive and torture it. The teacher crashed the train transporting the alien so it could be like E.T. and go home. The crash happens near a small town, where the aforementioned kids are from, and of course the alien holes up there to rebuild its ship and so the military, specifically the Air Force playing villain this time, evacuate the town by any means necessary. Naturally, one of the kids gets taken by the alien and the rest of her friends ignore the military evacuation and go back to town to save her.  Which of course they do and also help convince the alien to go home. Which was easy to do 'cause the alien had already gotten its revenge on the military dick in charge.

The child actors they used were very good. Particularly Elle Fanning. Wow. This young lady can ACT! I believe this is the only film I've seen her in but I look forward to seeing her more in film. Her older sister, Dakota, is more well known but Elle is a better actor. Glynn Turman did an excellent job as the ex-military scientist that frees the alien. The special effects were top notch of course.

Now on to a little story diving. I know the setting is 1979 but when electronic and mechanical things start disappearing around the town, because the alien is rebuilding his ship you know, and the townspeople have a town meeting and all agree the Soviets are preparing to attack, I was cracking up. That shit was hilarious! White people were really shook over the propaganda of a Soviet invasion back then. (I know 'cause I remember having to do bomb drills in elementary school. Yes, I said bomb drills. Just like a fire drill, except, you know, you might get buried in rubble or blown up instead of burned up. Yeah, I go back that far. I'm not old either.) The kids were all pretty believable as friends. There wasn't as tight a bond as the kids in Stand By Me, but it was still done well.  The handling of the connection and growing relationship between Elle's character, Alice, and Joel Courtney's character, Joe, was done very well.  When Joe found out that Alice had been taken and he decided to go find her, I believed it.

I found it immensely satisfying to see a few Black faces considering the setting, time and location wise. I found it a bit disappointing that Mr. Turman's character had to be a super-duper magical negro. (Click the link and read the essay if you don't understand the term. Also, I have since had a different thought process regarding this, however,  the disappointment still remains. I will expound on it another time.) And using  another Black actor in the film, Richard T. Jones, to kill the scientist was just another twist of the knife. The fact that he was the right hand man of the military dick in charge was no real problem for me but it was just a bit much to have him do the killing in my view.

All in all a pretty good earth set sci-fi movie. You can obviously see the influence of Steven's original E.T., which is what J. J. was going for, yet he still made it his own. I enjoyed watching it and one day I'll let Talea watch it as well.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My daughter Talea and films/movies

It's weird being a parent. I've been wanting to be one for quite some time now and yet I feel so strange actually being one. I wanted to have a daughter, too, so I am quite happy. I had her name picked out a long long time ago. Talea was a character in one of my favorite fantasy novels when I was young, a book titled "Spellsinger" written by the excellent Alan Dean Foster. She was a  strong character, no frilly prissy girl, but a strong woman who could kick your butt or cut you down with her sword. And she was written like a real person not a caricature so I took a strong liking to her. I found out some years later that the name Talea was a Native American name and meant wolf. I was hooked and knew that one day I would have my very own Talea.

Now that she is here, how do I make sure she grows strong. Not necessarily like the character from the book but close. Physically she is already very strong. The doctors all said how exceptionally strong she was when she was first born. Before she was a month old she was already extending her legs to stand under her own strength. No balance of course but she can stand and continues to push herself for longer periods of time the older she gets. She just passed two months and just loves to stand in my lap, as I balance her, and yell with exertion and triumph the longer she lasts. This kid truly amazes me. Her neck is about as strong as her legs and arms as she can hold her own head straight and has for a while now.  It's like she cannot wait to grow up and run and jump and play.

Her mother and I like to come up with future scenarios of her life and what it might be like. I suppose all parents do that when they have a new child. There are some definite things that will happen. She will take some form of martial art. She will be well read. She will learn a musical instrument. One thing that is not definite but I really really hope is that she likes Speculative Fiction as much as I do. I have to be careful about what I introduce her to and when I introduce it to her. Books and movies. They must be age appropriate, though I read and watched many things that many would have considered not age appropriate when I was growing up.

This leads me to Disney films. The classic Disney fantasies are great. Wonderful. I have some issues with them but those are adult issues. I did not have these issues as a child and so feel I will let her enjoy them as I did. I feel I will be able to have her mind and sense of self strong enough to withstand any negative impacts of those films, no matter how subconscious. I used to have this conversation with my best friend David, about not letting my daughter (when I had her) watch the Disney princess films because I didn't want to instill in her the need for a man to save her. I always viewed Snow White and Cinderella as weak and poor examples for young girls. I no longer believe that they will have such an impact. Besides, they're cartoons, and they tell a story and as long as she has me to explain the story and guide her mind in the most positive direction she'll be fine.

Above all things, I wish to accomplish in raising Talea is that she knows how to think and has a strong sense of self. These are the things my parents instilled in me. I was exposed to many things I probably shouldn't have at an early age but I turned out fine. At least I think so. And besides, in this new century there will be new tales for her to love and identify with. I see some of the new things coming out, even from Disney, and I think her future of fantastical tales will benefit her just fine. But I'm still gonna expose her to what her Dad is gaga over and hopefully when she gets older she'll appreciate it. I can't wait but I'm in no hurry.

Interview of David Batista

I decided to interview my friend David Batista. He is an aspiring writer and has already published some short stories. I've known him a long time and figured I would let you get to know him a little as well. He has a blog, The Bimillennial Man, which is an excellent introduction to his writing, his ideas, and himself. But's David!

I know you are a writer. What kinds of things do you write?

I write mostly Speculative Fiction, the umbrella term which includes the genres of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My writing tends to lean more heavily toward the sci-fi end of that spectrum, but I’ve been known to shamelessly blend all three on occasion.

Have you published anything?

I’ve published 3 short stories in various token and semi-pro online magazines, or “e-zines.” I also publish a blog,The Bimillennial Man, since 2008. It covers a range of topics and personal interests, with a majority of the focus on popular SF literature, film, television, and gaming.

What did you study in college? Why?

I majored in Chinese Studies, which in addition to learning how to read, write, and speak Mandarin Chinese fluently, also included the study of Chinese literature, art, and history. I chose this area of focus due to a childhood affinity with East Asia, and my natural sociological interest in the culture of China specifically.

What are some of your favorite movies? Books? T.V. Shows?

Naturally, there are simply too many to narrow down. It’s safe to say, however, that anything with a strong story, excellent characterization, and a dynamic speculative fiction base has a great chance of attracting my attention.Star Trek: The Next Generation and the more recent reboot of the Battlestar Galactica series are two perfect examples of television shows which fit this bill.

How do you like blogging?

It’s great! I’ve met so many wonderful people through my blogging ventures: folks sharing my interests, and a few who are excellent writers and bloggers in their own right. Blogging also helps facilitate the writing process. I’ve actually seen an improvement in my professional writing simply by virtue of having a public venue in which to free write my daily musings.

What do you think about writing online?

It’s the wave of the future. In fact, it’s the wave of the present! I know very few professional freelancers today who are still employed to write for print publications. Most of the opportunities in the freelance writing market are increasingly online now. And with the advent and popularization of wi-fi enabled e-readers and smart phones, pretty soon all our reading needs will be supplied via online or digital publications.

Are you working on any projects now?

I’m currently researching and writing my fist novel, based on a 1990 video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System called Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. The novel has taken me to the far corners of medieval Romania, where I have learned many interesting things about the history of the Ottoman Empire and Europe’s dread of an impending Muslim takeover. Not unlike today, I’m afraid. Oh, and I’ve also learned about that Dracula fellow--who was much more than just “the vulgar fictions of a demented Irishman.”

I know from reading your blog you have traveled quite extensively around the world. Where would you like to go next? Where is your dream destination? Why?

I would love to travel to Romania next, to put to first-hand experience all the research I’ve expended into my current novel. It’s such a fascinating place, when you avoid all the tourist trap destinations. But my dream destination would be China, simply because I’ve never been there. For all the studying I’ve done of its language and culture, you’d think I would’ve gone there by now!

If you've been following my blog you should be able to see why we're friends! Thanks a lot for the interview David! Good luck on your future writing endeavors and travels!

Mission Impossible

I've been an admire of Mission Impossible since the original series. Of course I caught the original series in syndication because it aired before I was born. The storyline follows a super covert special mission force who operates in complete secrecy and if anyone on the team is caught they're on their own. In 1988 they did an updated version of the show which I loved but unfortunately it didn't last long. The original series lasted 7 seasons and the re-vamped series only lasted two. Then along comes Tom Cruise and makes the Mission Impossible series into a film franchise. And he did an awesome job!

In this first film Tom Cruise establishes the character Ethan Hunt as the best operative that the IMF, Impossible Mission Force, has. The story has him setup as a traitor and he has to go on the run to prove his innocence. It was an awesome movie that was more story driven than action driven, though there was plenty of on-the-edge of your seat action to be had. It was well acted by all the actors and the story flowed at a decent pace, though slow for others. I was especially happy with Ving Rhames being cast as expert computer hacker, Luther Stickell. This is still my favorite of the four but it is not the best. Ethan Hunt is basically an modern American version of James Bond.

Doesn't that just look exciting?!

This second installment of Ethan Hunt's exploits was much more action driven than story driven. Though there was a strong cohesive story, the action was the focus. Tom went full old school 80's action hero in this one. Thandie Newton's character as the semi-love interest and partial motivation for Ethan completing his mission was an excellent choice. Ving shows up again and is still just cool on screen. Overall though this was my least favorite of the films.

Ethan finds himself back on the outside of the IMF and having to find the traitor he is accused of being. Man, this happens to him a little too much. If you can't trust your super duper covert super duper agents who can you trust, huh? Anyway, this third film got the balance of story and action almost flawlessly. The first was a little too much story and the second was too much action. One of my favorite actors ever, Laurence Fishburne showed up as one of the IMF decision makers. He, of course, more than held his own when on screen with Tom. Philip Seymour Hoffman did an excellent job as the villian. And Ving was here reprising his role of Luther Stickell once again. This one was very good.

THIS movie was just pure AWESOME SAUCE!!!! This fourth and latest installment of the Mission Impossible franchise was edge of your seat awesome from beginning to end. Ethan was put through the ringer, and this time we really get to see the rest of the agents on his IMF team shine. Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, and Simon Pegg were excellent agents and complimented Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt well. Especially Paula. Whooooooooweee that woman is fine. And she can act. And she can fight. She did very well. I truly hope she is in the next one. Ving showed up at the very end. Me thinks he'll be in the next one more actively. The story was good and executed very well. It was tight and concise. The action was excellent, above and beyond what was done in the previous films but not over the top. They went into the gadget territory a little bit but it was done well. Ethan used the gadgets but was quite capable without them, unlike the old version of that other agent dude whose initials are J.B. This is the best film in the franchise so far. I've seen it twice and cannot wait for the Blu-Ray!

Bonus pics:

Paula Patton as agent Jane Carter. Damn!

Jane Carter in action. Gotta love it! That look says, "I WILL kill you."

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Future flicks I can't wait to see

These are the most highly anticipated movies I am looking forward to this super movie summer! Forewarning: There will be an great overuse of the word awesome in this post. Just so you know.

Batman: The Dark Knight Rises
After two awesome films Christopher Nolan is looking to end his tenure as director for this newest iteration of Batman.

Doesn't that look awesome?!

Ridley Scott returns to the storyline he began over 30 years ago with the Sci-Fi classic Alien. Seems this is a kind of prequel.

Beyond awesome! If such a thing is possible!

Expendables 2
I really liked the first Expendables. Sly Stallone took us back to the straight action hero 80's style in modern times. I felt there were a few people missing but he got them in for this second installment. I can't wait. This is pure popcorn here.

The Amazing Spiderman
It is rare to do a remake of a film character so soon after the last run ended. The last series of Spiderman movies ran from 2002-2007 and though they weren't bad I guess the people who make the decisions for such things thought it could be done better. Judging from the trailer it looks like the right decision was made because THIS Spiderman looks AWESOME!!! (I know, I keep using that word. I TOLD you I would.)


Men In Black III
I've been a fan of these movies since the very first one. The second was nice but I think this third one will be much better. (Thought I was gonna say that word again didn'tcha? Aren't you glad I didn't say awesome? DOH! I just said it again.)

The Bourne Legacy
Now, for really real, the whole entire Bourne series is tremendously awesome. Matt Damon acted the hell out of the role of Jason Bourne but he seems to be done. Now Jeremy Renner is the main character but he is thankfully not playing Jason Bourne because that would just be stupid. Matt OWNS that character. Jeremy will be a different agent that follows the same kind of path of Jason Bourne, hence the movie title.

I'm not gonna say it.

Rock of Ages
There is only one reason I want to see this movie. TOM CRUISE as an 80's ROCK STAR. This will be...I'm done with the word okay? No more awesome. HAH! Gotcha!

Total Recall
I'm a fan of the original movie that was done back in 1990 with Arnold Schwarzenegger as the lead so I was too thrilled at the announcement of a remake. However, from the trailer this looks like it might be kind of good. They don't go to Mars though like the first one so I'm still skeptical. I like Mars.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation
The first G.I. Joe they did in 2009 was not the best movie in the world. I liked it but it was kind of disappointing. Yet, I am still looking forward to this second installment.

Hard to miss with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Bruce Willis

Here we have another remake but this one has a 36 year distance from the original. The original Sparkle is a classic. Judging from the trailer this new update might be classic too. This one is bittersweet though as it was going to be the return of the great Whitney Houston to the spotlight and she unfortunately had passed away recently. This will be her swan song and I hope it is a great one. It looks like it.

What do you think?

All in all this is going to be an awesome summer for movies!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Like minded

Links to other blogs about Blacks in media.

If you have been following this blog you may have noticed that much of the post deal with or are focused on films, movies, and television shows which either star Black actors or are some way told from the perspective of the Black experience. I would say about Black people but that would imply that the show or film would only be for Black people, and I would not exclude anyone from my interests based on ethnicity. All films and shows have a perspective through which they are told but are not exclusive to people who share that perspective. This is good because that is how people learn about each other a learn to deal in truth with one another rather than rumors and ignorant stereotypes. For instance, The Cosby Show, which I previously blogged about here, is the story of an american family who happen to be Black. People of ALL ethnicities could identify with the characters of that show, not just Black people, which is why it was the number 1 show for most of its eight seasons.

Historically the majority of films and television shows in american history, I'd guesstimate about 98-99%, are told through the perspective of  and designed for white american males. Now, does this mean that women and people of other ethnicities cannot enjoy and identify with these stories? Of course not. I love the Godfather films. Conan the Barbarian is one of my favorites, as I blogged about here. I even liked The Dukes of Hazard when I was a kid. Not one Black person in any of those or many other films and movies that I completely enjoy. As a child and young man I did notice the disparity and as an adult I understand how detrimental it can be to a person's identity of self to see images that do not represent you your entire life. I was lucky to have a father that made sure I was exposed to movies and shows with people who looked like us.

With the advent of the internet and blogs and social networking sites I have found that I am not alone in my drive to seek out and support projects in film and television that tell things from a perspective other than white american males. The field of film and television entertainment in america has made some progress in producing and supporting projects from the perspective of other peoples but we still have a long way to go.

Here are some blogs and websites that I follow that are aligned with my views in entertainment:

Shadow and Act: This blog used to be run on its own but is now part of the indiewire network website which hosts many other blogs. Shadow and Act is a collaborative blog which has several contributors all making post related to projects in hollywood and television in which Black people are involved: actors, directors, producers, etc. Also projects that are told through the perspective of Black people of which there are many perspectives as all Black people are not the same.

Black World Cinema, BWC:

40acres: The online home of Spike Lee's 40 Acres and a Mule film company. Self Explanatory

Black House: Not too much here. I recently found this one.

Invisible Woman: Black Cinema At Large: I followed this one until the blogger stopped and moved on to other things. The site is still up however and there is a lot of good information there.

There are a few other blogs I follow that are focused on the perspective of life through Black folks' and folks of African descent's eyes but are not geared toward film.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Buck Rogers

I've always had cool memories of the television show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. It is actually one of my first memories of Sci-Fi on TV. I don't remember too much as I was three when the show first came out in 1979 and lasted only 2 seasons. But I do have fond memories of the show. I recently rediscovered it on Netflix and was instantly transported back to those young days of wonder (I love Netflix).

Doesn't that look cool?

Quick synopsis: Buck Rogers is a modern day astronaut on a mission in space. Something goes wrong and his life support keeps him in stasis. He is discovered and woken up 500 years in his future. Things are very different and Buck has to come to grips with the fact that all he knew is dead and gone and find a way to live in this strange new earth and universe.

Great premise for a show and actually carried out very well for its time. It's obviously filmed in the disco era. It is funny how the future looks like a bad trip at a seventies house party much of the time. Especially since Buck is supposed to be from 1987 and wakes 500 in the future. In comparison to today the robots and computers are positively archaic looking, but back then must have been so cutting edge. However, aside from the cheese factor of viewing it with modern eyes, it was actually a well acted and plotted show for its time. I was pleasantly surprised that story wise, the show has held up still today, at least for the few episodes I've watched so far. I look forward to watching the rest of the series. I actually want to purchase this for my collection!

Watching the first episode I immediately understood why I liked this show so much as a very young child and why memories of it stuck with me so long. This show is obviously set in the future and it had people that looked like me and my family. Of course all of the main characters were white but the black characters that were on the show weren't all just in the background. Some of the black characters that were on the show were actually important secondary characters in various episodes. Actually there were quite a few characters of many ethnicities that showed up throughout the show not just black and white. Back in 1979-1980 this was quite progressive for american television. I suppose the idea of those who greenlit the show was Sci-Fi wasn't important anyway so let them have all different kinds of people in it because no one would watch this silliness. I figure the show was allowed to be made because of the huge success of Star Wars, another underestimated Sci-Fi phenomenon. Well "their" ignorance was my gain because here is where my admiration and infatuation with Science Fiction began. And I could actually, truly identify with this show, more than Star Wars, because *I* was included in this future! (This was before Lando Calrissian showed up in the next Star Wars movie.) Even as a young child somewhere in my psyche this resonated and I know this because it still resonates today. The young me deep inside is jumping up and down with glee at rediscovering  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. If you are so inclined check it out.