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 first...here'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.

Iloveblackmovies.com: 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.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Busy, busy, busy

I haven't been able to keep up with my blog recently for one very important reason.

Talea about 20 minutes on the outside.

My daughter was born on March 17, 2012. My wife and I went to the hospital on the 16th for an induction as our daughter's due date was on the 7th and she obviously did not want to come out. Neither of us was crazy about forcing her out, but as my wife had difficulties throughout the entire pregnancy and she is in the age range where having a baby is increasingly difficult, we reluctantly followed the doctor's suggestions. Unfortunately, my wife was expertly maneuvered into having a cesarean section by the doctors at the hospital. (They would never admit that , of course, but that's why I said expertly. Oh yeah, if you live in New York City do NOT go to Roosevelt hospital to have a baby. Those people are ridiculous and I have not heard a single woman say they had a good birthing experience there. Not one.) Again, my wife had difficulties with her pregnancy and some of them carried over into post-partum. She had to stay an extra day and I brought Talea home by my self that day. A week after being released from the hospital my wife had to go back and stayed another 2 and half days. So far, she is doing much better but it is still difficult for her, so nearly all of my focus is on her and the baby. I've fallen behind on everything and am only now slowly trying to catch up

The entire experience was not pleasant for my wife. The doctors and the majority of the nurses were all cold and impersonal or just down right insensitive and inattentive. The term "patient centered care" seems foreign in today's medical system, which is completely disheartening when speaking about women giving birth and the post-partum period, a time when women are completely vulnerable, sensitive, and nearly completely dependent on others for help. Women and their health and health needs are truly not respected as they should be in our society, for I quickly noticed the same negative, and sometimes biased, care with other women in the maternity ward and post-partum ward, as well as spoke to numerous women since. It is truly appalling. I will refrain from further musings on the failings of our medical system. I would call it a health care system but it is obvious they care nothing for health, just medicine.

Moving right along, despite the horrendous care, I  am completely overjoyed at the birth of my baby girl and so is my wife. She is beautiful and strong and I look forward to being her father and guide on her journey of life here.

A few days old. She is growing strong.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Game of Thrones

A good friend of mine, David, has taken it upon himself to keep the masses on the internet informed on the details of the new HBO series "Game of Thrones", which is based on a book series entitled "A Song of Ice and Fire", on his blog "The Bimillennial Man". Last year, the first season of the show, he wrote up a recap of each episode after it aired as well as his thoughts and a grade. His posts were rather popular. As David is an excellent and intelligent writer I was not surprised by this. The recaps were great but took a lot of time and energy for him to write which caused David to consider not doing them again this season. He was quite honest about his concerns but his rabid fans, myself among them, practically begged him to continue during this second season. His recaps were insightful, informative, professional, and highly entertaining. Especially to those who had not read the books as we have. Well, I am proud to say that David has capitulated to his avid fans and admirers and decided to continue his recaps for "Game of Thrones" for the second season.

The "A Song of Ice and Fire" series is written by George R.R. Martin. It is a fantasy epic full of knights, kings, swords, fights, a bit of magic, and of course DRAGONS! (Here is an excellent resource of information for the books.) But what truly sets this series apart from most other fantasy stories is it is light on the fantastical and heavy on the political intrigue and family and house alliances, hence the title of the first book, "A Game of Thrones", where the show gets its title. Also what sets it apart from other tales, is the author plays no favorites with his characters. Characters who would normally be the "hero" and live will actually die and others you loathe and wish would die will live. Just like in the real world, being good and honorable does not always yield good consequences, and being bad and dishonorable doesn't always yield punishment. This is the true appeal of the series, and the transfer to the physical, visual medium of film has been beyond wonderful.

Mr. Martin has remained closely tied to the show as a producer. Contributing writing duties for some episodes himself, as he is also an experienced TV writer, he is truly devoted to the story he has created and that closeness shows. This is truly the finest transfer from book to screen I have ever seen. Usually so much is lost or changed in the book to screen transfer that the film/show is nearly unrecognizable to the readers. Not so with "Game of Thrones". Naturally there will be changes and all the changes so far have not only been necessary but enhanced the story experience, again, very uncommon but a huge bonus.

I've linked David's first season recaps above, and here is the recap of the first episode of the second, which aired on my Bornday, April 1! Go check out David's excellent musings on "Game of Thrones" and I promise you'll enjoy yourself

Bonus: Here is an excellent article on Salon.com about the women of the series.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Films that I love that should not work but actually do.

Conan the Barbarian
I love this movie. I'm talking about the 1982 "masterpiece" that made Arnold 'Ahnuld' Schwarzenegger an american movie star and not the 2011 reboot. Now, it is filmed poorly and most of the actors are not very good, yet I love this movie. Why?

Well, how cool does that look?! Pretty cool, I think. What makes this movie work is the story is great, Arnold looked great as Conan, and the music score by Basil Poledouris was awesome!

Conan the Barbarian was the creation of Robert E. Howard, an american author who wrote in many genres and with the creation of Conan also birthed the sword and sorcery genre of Speculative Fiction. Conan was an ancient warrior who lived during the Hyborian Age. Since his creation he's gone from the straight written word, to comics, to film, and online.

This movie and the character were the perfect vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger to make his big break into american movies. Arnold was pretty well known as a world class bodybuilder and so had a built in fan base in his career change.Though Arnold became a very famous movie star, no one would really call him a good actor. Unfortunately Arnold was not the only novice actor in this movie and it shows. Of all the principle characters only three were real, trained, and experienced actors: James Earl Jones, Max Von Sydow, and Mako. James Earl Jones as the main villain was a great casting choice as was Mako as one of Conan's devoted companions. These two actors alone really elevated this movie beyond the cheese it could have been.

The story of Conan is a great story. The execution of the story in this movie is a bit rushed and the liberties taken with the beginning of Conan's life left fans of the original tales very upset. His transition from child to adult was handled in a ridiculous way. In the stories Conan had a full childhood with his people, the Cimmerians, but in the movie his village and people are destroyed, he's taken as a slave and we watch his growth in a montage of cutscenes as he pushes a wheel. Yeah, very weird. In establishing the character as a skilled and intelligent warrior, the movie took some seriously questionable shortcuts and though it stretched the suspension of belief, which is necessary for most movies, to the breaking point it did flow. It didn't flow well but it did flow.

What really makes this movie the joy it is and one of my favorites is the score by Basil Poledouris. The music for this movie is the best score written for a movie, ever! The music is so perfect that it is almost a character itself. Every single scene has a memorable piece of music brilliantly composed for it. Take a listen:

Tell me that is not awesome! And that's just the opening scene! I love it.

Poor transition of story to film, bad editing, bad and poorly delivered dialogue, and bad acting should have made Conan the Barbarian an unwatchable piece of crap, however, the mythos of the original tales, three experienced actors, and music that perfectly embodied the spirit of the story make it not only watchable but, to me, a classic.
He did look cool as Conan


Next up is the movie Belly. Another movie that was filmed badly, had some questionable to atrocious acting, a semi-decent story, but pretty good music. Again I love this movie. Why?

Pretty cool movie poster, right?

 A large reason I like this movie is DMX. DMX is a musical artist, a rapper, who surprisingly has a real talent for acting. He was a hugely successful music artist at the time he made this movie and I was an avid admirer of his music. He was the lead actor and he pulled it off very well. The same cannot be said of his co-star, fellow rapper, Nas. Nas CANNOT ACT!!! Every time Nas was on screen nearly caused, and still does, physical pain. He's really that bad.

 Belly was directed by Hype Williams. It was his debut feature film. Hype had made a name for himself directing music videos, mostly for rap artists. He was highly in demand. Unfortunately, the music video format does not translate very well to a full length feature film. Belly nearly plays out like a very long music video, when it should play out like a serious crime and redemption drama.

Which brings me to the story. The story is basically a generic version of Malcolm X's life updated to modern times. DMX's character, Tommy, is a criminal. Robbing people and selling drugs is what he does and he is good at it. He eventually gets caught, makes a deal to kill someone to get out of jail, but refuses to carry out his mission in the end thus redeeming himself. The end is kind of rushed and rather heavy handed on the redemption of Tommy. It's not done too badly but it could have been done much better.

Belly did not have a traditional score. With the principle actors being rappers, and the director being primarily a rap video director, the soundtrack was basically the score. So, no orchestral magnificence here, which is really not a loss as the songs put together for this movie worked perfectly well within it, though no where near as well as Conan above. I dare say that the soundtrack was better than the movie.

Novice filming, simple story, a rushed ending, and abominable acting by Nas should have ruined Belly. Especially Nas' dreadful acting. I found it personally offensive. Seriously. However, DMX's surprising skills as an actor, as well as a few of the other actors in the film, really made Belly watchable. The positive ending was as redeeming to the movie itself as Tommy's redemption within it. Oh yeah, and the music was well matched to the film. Here is a sample, D'Angelo's "Devils's Pie".

Actually a good actor

A horrendously atrocious "actor"

The separate technical parts of these films make them seem like unwatchable wastes of film but the wholes they create far exceed the parts. Conan the Barbarian and Belly: Two films that should not work but do and I love them both. Check them out if you have never seen them. You might surprise yourself and love them too.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Saw the movie Chronicle a couple of weeks ago with my best friend David. It was a pretty decent SF movie. The story is about three teenagers that come across an artifact that gifts/curses them with telekinetic or psychokinetic, whichever you prefer, abilities. We experience them learning to control their power and become stronger. One of them goes bad and must be stopped. That is the simple bare-bones synopsis. If you haven't seen Chronicle yet and would like to I suggest you stop reading now. This is your spoiler alert alert.

First let's start with the trailer:

Now the very first time I saw this trailer I was excited. The SF geek in me was jumping around with glee. It looked like some director in hollywood finally understood the superhero genre and was willing to explore it from a very basic level point of view. It is not unlike M. Night Shyamalan's excellent film "Unbreakable", also about the genesis of a person that develops extra-normal powers, albeit "Chronicle" is on a slightly grander scale. But there was something in the back of my mind that was strongly whispering, "I hope they don't... I hope they don't..." while I watched the trailer.

That voice persisted as I watched the movie and about 20-25 minutes in the thing I was hoping against happened. The Black character, Steve, gets killed. It never fails. Don't get me wrong, I know exactly why Steve had to be eliminated from the story, however, did they have to go with the standard hollywood cliche of, kill the Black character? In a movie that takes great pains to bring the superhero story form to realistic perspective they have the one Black character be the stereotypical hollywood "Super Duper Magical Negro": He's good, tries his best to help his white friend, and dies/gets killed for his efforts. After a lifetime of seeing and reading this in films/movies and stories, it has become more of an annoyance than something to truly become angered by. But by the end of the film I found myself becoming angry. I wanted to like this film. I do like this film. BUT I have a huge problem with it simply for this one reason.

It is obvious that the director and screenwriter(s) for this film completely get film and the history of superhero stories. They even get the ridiculousness of ethnic stereotypes, and you can see that in the trailer when Steve uses his power to move the lady's car, and when she comes out looking for it he says, "Yes, it was the Black guy this time." That very scene brings up and shows the movies creators are completely aware of the negative stereotypes used against Black people, and they are making fun of it, as Steve is a popular, honor student in High School and not a criminal out to hurt white people. And yet in making fun of this very well known and harmful stereotype, they default to using the most well known hollywood film/movie stereotype, and kill this great character Steve, who just happens to be Black. Again, I know why he had to go but did they have to kill him? For a film that takes such effort to show an old story type, the superhero, in a new way, it is highly disappointing to see them fall back on such a classic and offensive trope, no matter how justified it is by story: Kill the Black Guy.

As a Sci-Fi geek this movie gets two thumbs up. As a man that is Black, I'm severely disappointed and offended.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

5 Most Influential Television Shows

So finally I get to television shows. I'm not going to just expound on the shows that I like or are my favorites, though they are, but the ones that have impacted my life. Shows that have influenced the person that I am. First, I will announce them and then break down their influence.

1. Soul Train

2. The Cosby Show

3. Highlander: The Series

4. New York Undercover

5. Shaka Zulu

Soul Train is on this list because it is my first memory of television. It's not an episodic story driven show. It was a music/dance show that featured Black musical artists who could not get spots to perform on equivalent shows like American Bandstand. It was started and run by Don Cornelius, who recently passed away. Soul Train stands as the perfect example of 'if they won't let us in with them then we'll do our own thing without them'. Every Saturday morning in my earliest years I sat in front of the television and watched proud and beautiful people that looked like my family and the people in my life dancing and having fun to wonderfully beautiful music. I've always attributed my strong sense of self to learning the history of Black people in america at a very young age but this very simple yet highly important show was the genesis of instilling that in me. It also introduced me to my favorite song and music video of all time, The Jacksons' "Can You Feel It".

The Cosby Show is THE best sitcom ever produced for television. Here you have the wonderful Huxtable family: Father and husband Heathcliff is a doctor, Mother and wife Clair is a lawyer, eldest child Sondra is away at college, and Denise, Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy all live at home and are in school. The brainchild of the brilliant comedian and actor, Bill Cosby, this family show ran for 8 seasons, 1984-1992. It was the #1 television program for 5 consecutive seasons, '85-'90. What was most significant about the show at the time it first aired, was many people had never seen an affluent, professional and well adjusted Black family on television before. Many people thought is was the most ridiculous fiction ever conceived, though there were many families across the country that identified with this fictional family and the life they portrayed. Claire and Cliff Huxtable became america's Mom and Dad and made television history doing it.

Highlander: The Series is my favorite TV show. It is a spin-off from the 1986 film "Highlander", one of my favorite movies. The storyline of the show is about the life of Duncan MacLeod, an almost 400 year old man, who is essentially immortal and must keep this knowledge secret. The only way he can die is if he is decapitated. There are other immortals as well, and they battle one-on-one until, ultimately, only one is left. Yes I like the sword fights but that is not the reason the show is my favorite and so good. The character Duncan MacLeod, portrayed excellently by Adrian Paul, is one of the most fully fleshed out characters ever on television. With nearly 400 years of living among normal humans, there are ample opportunities to explore the human condition. This show in it's 6 seasons have explored the gamut of human emotions and motivations. Friendship, love, honor, hatred, anger, promises, loss, and all other emotions you can think of were explored in the experience of Duncan MacLeod.

New York Undercover was one of my favorite shows because it was one of the first times I saw a show based in New York, my home, that showed New York as I saw it everyday, with people who looked like myself and people I knew. It was truly the only multi-ethnic and multi-cultural show at the time of its run, from 1994-1998. I could completely identify with Detectives J. C. Williams and Eddie Torres, played wonderfully by Malik Yoba and Michael DeLorenzo respectively. I wasn't just watching a show when I sat down to watch New York Undercover, I was watching my life as it could possibly be. Nothing on televsion has existed like New York Undercover before it or since it went off the air, with the exception of The Wire.

Shaka Zulu is my favorite made for TV epic mini-series. I remember being captivated by the story of Shaka Zulu as it played out on the screen when I was 10 years old. The fictionalized biography of this great Zulu king was mesmerizing to my young mind. It chronicled his life from before he was born until his death over 10 50 minute episodes. You fully got to see Shaka's motivation to power, how he changed the way in which war was fought, and how he built the mighty Zulu Empire.

I love good stories and great characters and all of these shows have that in abundance, with the exception of Soul Train, which was great as a music and dance show and one of a kind.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Making of a WWII Fighter Pilot Film

A few weeks ago the film "Red Tails" was released in theaters amidst quite a bit of controversy and drama. Much of the hullabaloo had to do with how the film was made or more accurately how difficult it was to get it made. George Lucas, of Star Wars fame, had been working on this film for a little over twenty years. In the last few months leading up to the release of "Red Tails" some interesting facts about the making of the film and the process to get it made came to light, like George was turned down by every single hollywood studio to make this film. Then when he decided to finance it himself, to the tune of $58 million, he was turned down by every single film distributor in the business. He had to make a deal with 20th Century Fox to pay for part of the distribution for them to help distribute the movie.

I know exactly why hollywood would not support Mr. Lucas in making this film but was still baffled at the decision. The reason given for not backing Lucas on "Red Tails" was that they didn't know how to market it. I find this a completely unacceptable excuse. How hard is it to market a WWII fighter pilot action movie? That's easy. I could do that and I'm not in the movie or advertising business! So, what was the real reason. Well, it just so happened that the fighter pilots the story is about happened to be Black men. In particular the famous Tuskegee Airman, the first Black fighter pilots in the U.S. military. Their story is known the world over, and has been told in film form before but never on the scale that Mr. Lucas wanted to tell it. The color of the main characters is the only factor the decision was based on, not business or possible demographics for marketing. There are scores of war films out there, particularly about WWII, and the only obvious difference between all of them and "Red Tails" is the color of the main characters.

It's sad really that in 2012, with so many proven bankable Black actors and an African American U.S. president in office, that hollywood is still so obviously racist. I know hollywood is a huge movie making business machine and that business is mostly what drives decisions there, but in this instance it is obvious money/business wasn't the motivation for basically blacklisting George Lucas in making this film. And to add insult to injury, once the film had a successful opening it seems hollywood ran a campaign to have all of the "professional critics" slam the film. I cannot prove this of course but that's how it seems to me because they all had the same exact negative criticisms, ie.: "The dialogue was simplisitic," "The fight sequences were too cluttered with effects," "The story was too simple," etc.

Personally I think the movie was great. I saw it opening weekend and couldn't wait to see it again. Here is a quote from an excellent NY Times article about George and his journey in making "Red Tails":

Last October, Lucas slipped incognito into the first “Red Tails” test screening in Atlanta. He and McCallum huddled together nervously among throngs of teenage boys. When the lights went down, Lucas muttered, “Let the games begin. . . .”

Lucas got one report from the early “Red Tails” test screenings that struck him. Three or four white kids had been spotted yelling, “I’m Easy!” “No, I’m Easy. You’re Lightning!” They’d become “Red Tails” heroes: Easy and Lightning, Malcolm and Martin. “The ultimate line was to have a bunch of 10-year-old white boys say, ‘I want to be like those guys,’ ” Lucas says. “Which is what you get with sports. Which is what you get with music. I wanted to do it just with being an American citizen. Again, that’s corny.”

Lucas was ecstatic. He had minted a new collection of heroes. “It plays,” he excitedly told his friends. “It plays.”

This wasn't a Black film, it was an american war film that happened to have a true historical storyline that dealt with Black pilots in the military. The pilots being Black does not negate or overshadow the fact that at the core this is a WWII fighter pilot action film. I think George did a great job and accomplished something very grand for all americans. I thank him a great deal for this film. If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend it. Here's the trailer:

Now don't you want to go see that?!

Monday, February 6, 2012

I love movies

I chose films and television as my subject for this blog because I get a great deal out of them. The goal of any creative endeavor is to impart something of value to another, whether it's knowledge, a different way of understanding, or just pure entertainment and I usually get more than just entertainment from the films and shows I watch. Though I do not regard myself as a serious know every detail cinephile I have a great love, admiration, and curiosity for films/movies, television shows and the processes and efforts it takes to make them. I am a collector as well and, though in recent times my purchasing has diminished, my collection is quite extensive. You can take a gander at it here. I am a storyteller myself and so naturally I greatly appreciate any film that has a strong story line. If it has a good story and good characters, I'm there. I am not limited by genre or country or language when it comes to films. Some of my favorite films are non-american. Though I like all types of films and shows I do have a huge love for speculative fiction, specifically good Sci-Fi. If you click the link to my collection above you'll see just how extensive my likes are. I will explore some of them on the blog as well as new ones. Stay tuned until next time. Same Bat time. Same Bat channel. Same Bat blog! ;-)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Beverly Hills Cop

First and foremost I love this movie.

In Beverly Hills Cop Eddie Murphy is Axel Foley, a street smart
detective in Detroit. A violent attack leaves him unconscious and
a friend dead. Deciding to unofficially investigate his friend's
murder, Foley lands himself in the estranged foreign culture of
Beverly Hills, CA. Despite the assistance of local police Axel is
unquestionably the sole driver of the investigation.

The brief synopsis reads nothing like a comedy because it is not a
true comedy. It is an action police drama infused with the
comedic brilliance of Eddie Murphy, a comedian at the pinnacle of
his career at that time. Given the racial, ethnic and cultural issues
in america, for marketing purposes, this action film is clothed in
comedy. What really stands out about the film is that much of it
makes fun of and exposes the ridiculousness of racial, ethnic and
cultural issues in america. A Black cop from Detroit stirring up
trouble in predominately white Beverly Hills in 1984 was a grand
and risky undertaking. It turned out to be a worthwhile risk as the
movie catapulted Eddie Murphy into hollywood stardom. The
success of Beverley Hill's Cop was the onset of today's Will
Smiths, Denzels, and Sam Jacksons. The film single-handedly
proved that a black actor as the lead could produce a
commercially successful big budget hollywood film.

While the audience is easily indulged in the on screen aplomb of
comedic genius Eddie Murphy, and the adrenaline rush of a story
filled with action and drama, there is still more being
communicated to the viewer. Several aspects of this film were
socially relevant at the time of its release in 1984; Friendship and
loyalty, intelligence, honor, strength, tenacity and redemption.
These are the traits we find in main characters in varying genres
of film. None are remarkable in and of themselves, but they were
the traits that had never been all combined in a black character in
a film produced and promoted by hollywood. Eddie Murphy
portrayed a fully developed human being on screen which is
something that had not been done before, with a Black actor in
hollywood, except by Eddie himself in 48 Hours and Trading
Places. The difference with Beverly Hills Cop and those two films
is Eddie was the lead of the film, not the co-lead.

I ask you to imagine being a child that loves movies who never
sees someone who looks like you as the hero and someone that
looks like you as only the servant, helper, buffoon or criminal.
Then one day, on the big screen appears a hero. And he/she looks
like you! How do you think you would feel? It isn't that a person,
child or adult, cannot identify with others that don't physically
resemble themselves, but it becomes harder and harder to identify
with a person that does not look like you when they are always
identified as the hero and you are always the supporter or nemesis
of the hero. To a generation of young Black people, and everyone else,
Beverly Hills Cop was the first big hollywood movie that portrayed a
Black male as the hero without a grand suspension of belief.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


This blog will serve as a repository of my thoughts on various films, movies, and television shows. When I view shows I find that I usually look beyond the surface of the entertainment value regardless of the subject. Whether it is a popcorn action flick, a deeply emotional indie film, a silly rom-com, a thought provoking sci-fi film, a stupid comedy, or a simple drama there is always more than just the acting and dialogue being presented.

When I was very young my father would watch shows with my brother and I and afterwards would ask us questions about what we had watched. I believe he did this to not only make sure that we understood the information we were taking in but also to ensure that we would never be blindly led into anything. He also would have us watch specific shows to help facilitate growth of our selves and our thought processing capabilities. As I grew older I've found that though I can and do watch shows to be entertained there is a part of my mind, sometimes conscious and sometimes not, that is processing deeply all that is being projected at it. My mother has also contributed to my deeper thought processing of films and television shows, which is why to this very day, she is still my favorite viewing partner!

Basically, I was taught to think and as I've grown and experienced more of the world and the people in it I realize most people don't really think. At least not like I do. Most conversations I have, specifically about entertainment being that is the focus of this blog, I usually find I experienced a lot more from a particular show than the person I'm conversing with. I usually get a strange look and/or comments along the line of: "You really got all of that out of that," or "I never thought about all that," or "You think a lot," etc.

That is enough explaining of myself for now. I'll let you experience for yourself over the next few months the workings of my mind.