You’ve probably heard that over the weekend, Peyton Reed has taken over directing chores for Marvel’s Ant-Man after Edgar Wright left the project over “creative differences.”
While I’m glad to see that Marvel is stampeding forward to avoid blowing any release dates (because Disney runs on a very tight schedule) I admit that when I think of the Marvel movie Peyton Reed should be making, Ant-Man isn’t what comes to mind.
I think the Marvel movie he should be making is the movie of the making of Marvel.
Nadezhda is a stranger in a strange land; recruited young, she was extensively trained by the KGB and then partnered with a slightly older Mischa. Both are brought to America in the 1970s where they pretend to be a happily married couple running their own travel agency. The reality is that they are embedded espionage agents working near the nation’s capital, endangering our peace and prosperity.
Sleeper agents are nothing new to spy fiction or reality but what FX’s The Americans has done is humanize them so you’re actually rooting for the bad guys. By making it as much about the marriage as it is about spy craft, the show makers for arresting viewing. The Americans: The Complete First Season is now out on Blu-ray from 210th Century Home Entertainment and if you missed this last winter, now is a good time to check it out with the second season due to kick off on the 26th.
America fell in love with Keri Russell and her curly hair when J.J. Abrams introduced us to her on Felicity, where she was a shy and awkward ingénue and as she has aged, she has grown more beautiful and deeper in range as a performer. Her steely cool Elizabeth Jennings is the calculating, logical agent, making the tough decisions for the pair. She is now only now coming to love Mischa, having previously only allowed herself to be emotionally involved with Gregory Thomas, (Derek Luke), a black militant who has remain her key asset.
Mischa, played with verve by Matthew Rhys, an Aussie best known for his work on Brothers & Sisters, has come to enjoy the creature comforts offered by the enemy state. His Philip Jennings has longed for Elizabeth but is now forced to turn an FBI secretary Martha Hanson (Alison Wright) by romancing and marrying her. Meantime, he’s also developed a friendship with new neighbor Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) who just happens to be working on an FBI task force seeking Russian moles following Ronald Reagan’s Executive Order 2579.
The show is about relationships, many of which parallel and intertwine as every couple faces marital strains with adultery an expected part of the job, although in Stan’s case, it happened by chance and has become a tool he and Russian agent Nina (Annet Mahendru). By far the most riveting of these storylines is the tense connection between Elizabeth and her handler Claudia (Margo Martindale) which is exceptionally well handled, notably in “Trust Me”.
The poor children, Paige (Holly Taylor) and Henry (Keidrich Sellati), have no clue their parents are Russian spies although Paige now knows something’s amiss, a thread that will no doubt play out next season.
Weaving in and around the latter years of the Cold War, the show is a snapshot of an America at the cusp of major technological changes. In fact, the state of the art spy gear is downright laughable today although the featurette “Ingenuity Over Technology” does a good job showing what they had to work with.
The thirteen episodes look and sound great. There’s a just-right number of extras including commentary for the season finale, “The Colonel”, from former CIA agent turned executive producer Joseph Weisberg, producer Joel Fields and actor Noah Emmerich. The background leading the series’ creation is covered in “Executive Order 2579: Exposing the Americans” while the many wigs and mustaches used to disguise the agents is given a nod in “Perfecting the Art of Espionage”. There are a handful of deleted scenes for several episodes and a fun Gag Reel.
Where have you gone, Mr. Potter? Oh – I see. You’re over there with your chums Goldfinger, Scrooge and his pseudo-doppelganger, Scrooge McDuck and, oh look! It’s Uncle Pennybags, stepping away from the Monopoly board. And what’s causing that breeze?. Somebody left the portal between fiction and history open and look who’s coming through! People who at one time actually existed: John Jacob Astor, Andrew Carnegie, Jay Gould, John D. Rockefeller… on goes the list.
That last bunch, the ones who had birth certificates, are sometimes labeled “robber barons” and now you’ll allow me to quote from the invaluable Wikipedia: “In social criticism and economic literature, Robber barons became a derogatory term applied to… powerful 19th century businessmen,,, who used what were considered to be exploitative practices to amass their wealth. These practices included exerting control over national resources, accruing high levels of government influence, paying extremely low wages, squashing competition by acquiring competitors in order to create monopolies and eventually raise prices, and schemes to sell stock at inflated prices to unsuspecting investors in a manner which would eventually destroy the company for which the stock was issued and impoverish investors.”
But really. Were these guys actually so bad? Did they deserve to have writers of both fiction and non-fiction portray them as ruthless greed-heads? Is the stereotype justified?
I’m afraid so.
According research reported by psychologist Daniel Goleman “condescending or dismissive behavior… suggest, to a surprisingly accurate extent, the social distance between those with greater power and those with less — a distance that goes beyond the realm of interpersonal interactions and may exacerbate the soaring inequality in the United States… In 2008, social psychologists from the University of Amsterdam and the University of California, Berkeley, studied pairs of strangers telling one another about difficulties they had been through, like a divorce or death of a loved one. The researchers found that the differential expressed itself in the playing down of suffering. The more powerful were less compassionate toward the hardships described by the less powerful
In politics, readily dismissing inconvenient people can easily extend to dismissing inconvenient truths about them. The insistence by some House Republicans in Congress on cutting financing for food stamps and impeding the implementation of Obamacare, which would allow patients, including those with pre-existing health conditions, to obtain and pay for insurance coverage, may stem in part from the empathy gap. As political scientists have noted, redistricting and gerrymandering have led to the creation of more and more safe districts, in which elected officials don’t even have to encounter many voters from the rival party, much less empathize with them.
So ol’ Captain Leftie is doing the Mother Teresa tap dance? Not guilty. Around these parts, all morality derives from the desired survival of the race. Huggy love is fine but in the end breathing is what’s important and the Old Ones who lived long enough to pass on genes learned the value of cooperation, a value that seems to be vanishing from our 21st. century grouches.
I didn’t build the house I’m sitting in and don’t even get me started about computers.
And no, I don’t believe the poor deserve their lot, especially not the children.
Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark will end its Broadway run on January 4, with expected losses of $60 million, the biggest loss ever in Broadway history. New York Magazine has a breakdown on the show’s costs, both financial:
$1,300,000: Weekly production budget
$2,940,000: Gross for the week of December 25, 2011, the highest one-week take for any show ever
$621,960: Gross for the last week in September 2013
and human (five people with major injuries, including one person who required amputation).
Most disturbing to me: they spent more money on props and puppets for the show than Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko has ever seen from the creation of Spider-Man.
Tickets are available now, heavily discounted if you know where to look and are willing to brave Christmastime crowds in Times Square.
November will be a very busy month for Lionsgate as they launch the highly anticipated adaptation of the controversial Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game. A few weeks later they top that with the release of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the second chapter in the adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ stunning trilogy. On th eoff-chance tomorrow’s moviegoers are uncertain what the film is all about, the studio sent out the timeline you see here.
Additionally, they announced an interesting new app for the film. Here’s the formal release:
Salt Lake City, Utah, October 29, 2013 – Sandboxr, a 3D print and software development company from Utah, announced today its 3D print creation app for Summit Entertainment’s ENDER’S GAME. Sandboxr’s 3D print creation app has been in development for the past two years, and through the ENDER’S GAME-licensed version, fans will be able to create and bring home exclusive replica battleships from the film generated by cutting-edge three-dimensional printing technology. Fans will be able to check out the ENDER’S GAME 3D printing experience at Sandboxr.com before Thursday’s release of the movie in theatres and IMAX October 31 at 8pm. Summit Entertainment is a LIONSGATE® (NYSE: LGF) company.
Nancy Kirkpatrick, Summit’s President of Worldwide Marketing, said, “This is the first 3D experience of this type to coincide with a major cinematic movie release, and Summit is excited to work with Sandboxr to offer this amazing experience and great new technology to our ENDER’S GAME fans.”
At Sandboxr.com, fans of ENDER’S GAME will be able to enjoy an interactive product experience that extends their engagement with the film and that they can access from their computer. Fans can choose from a selection of CG images from the movie studio file archives and bring home their own ENDER’S GAME 3D printed spacecraft and accessories.
“With an experience as sophisticated as Sandboxr’s, the challenge is to make it easy to use by the average guy or girl. 3D experiences are typically exclusive to tech savvy makers and designers. However, we’ve worked hard to make a 3D printing experience that is accessible in a meaningful way to everyone. Bringing 3D design and print technology into the hands of the ENDER’S GAME fans is a thrilling opportunity for us at Sandboxr,” says Berkley Frei, Sandboxr CEO.
To experience the app for yourself log onto sandboxr.com and follow the links to ENDER’S GAME.
As you may have heard, singer/songwriter/occasional actor Lou Reed died last Sunday.
This didn’t come as much of a surprise. Several months ago, ComicMix’s own Martha Thomases had a swell birthday party at a wonderful-yet-foo-foo West Village Manhattan restaurant. As we left we walked through the massive line waiting to get in and I passed by a guy I thought I knew or recognized. Embarrassed, I waited until we were outside before I asked Martha if she knew who that was. She stopped, stared for a second, and said “Oh my god, that’s Lou Reed.”
Lou looked like shit – well-coiffed shit, but still… A week later we heard he was in for a liver transplant. Ultimately, it was that transplant that led to his death.
Martha and I share another Lou Reed moment, this one with fellow ComicMixer John Ostrander. You see, there is this astonishingly funny and equally hard-to-come-by movie called Get Crazy – I have it on Japanese laserdisc. Starring Malcolm McDowell, Allen Garfield, Ed Begley Jr. and a cast of thousands directed by Allan Arkush, the movie is about the last days of an ancient rock’n’roll psychedelic dungeon, and Lou had a significant role as… well, as a drop-dead-perfect parody of Bob Dylan, right down to the shot of Reed as Dylan emulating the cover to Bob’s Bringing It All Back Home. It’s close to the funniest scene in the movie, second only to the bit where Malcolm McDowell (channeling Mick Jagger) drops acid and makes his penis the manager of his band. John turned me onto the movie shortly after its 1983 release; a few years later, Martha and I tried to turn each other onto the flick at the same time.
Lou Reed was one of the most important people in the history of rock’n’roll. Generally considered the Godfather of Punk Rock, Lou was instrumental in the creation of Alternative Rock (since shortened to Alt Rock), Punk Rock and Glam Rock. Much to the chagrin of many of his older fans (read: Boomers), in his final years he also worked closely with Metallica and appeared with them at the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th Anniversary Concert.
Reed wrote and sang about subjects that many found taboo at the time of recording – addiction, S&M, religion, patriotism. He co-founded The Velvet Underground, worked with Andy Warhol, David Bowie, and Edgar Allan Poe – the latter, posthumously. Depending upon your religious predilections, he may have heard Mr. Poe’s opinion of his work in recent days.
Courage is the bedrock of creativity, and Lou had both in spades. He was a major influence on our popular culture, and he will continue to be for a great many years to come.
Vikings Season 1 delivers a visceral journey to a thrilling ancient world in this epic new series about history’s bravest and most brutally fearsome warriors.
Vikings follows the adventures of the great hero Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), a Viking chieftain seeking to fulfill his destiny as a conqueror, alongside his ambitious brother Rollo (Clive Standen) and loyal wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick). Throughout his quest, Ragnar faces a path of betrayals and temptations to protect his freedom, family, and life. When Ragnar teams up with his boat builder friend Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard) to craft a new generation of intrepid ships capable of conquering the rough northern seas, the stage is set for conflict.
Exclusively featured on the Blu-ray™ and DVD, “Birth of the Vikings” looks at the creator’s approach to, the series challenge in re-creating the period, and the wonders of shooting the series in Ireland’s beautiful, Wicklow mountains. “Birth of the Vikings,” is an all-access look at the creation of VIKINGS.
For a chance to win your copy of the Blu-ray just answer this question: Which Viking discovered North America before Columbus?
Have your answer posted by 11:59 p.m. Saturday, October 19. The decision of the ComicMix judges will be final and this contest is open only to readers in the United States and Canada.
When last we checked in, former CIA Agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) had figured out the truth regarding an attack in Washington, D.C. but no one took her seriously as events caused her bipolar self to meltdown, requiring hospitalization. Therefore, she is the only one to realize that something is serious amiss with Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis), the recently returned POW who has actually been turned by Al Qaeda bigwig Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban). Brody is poised to run for office, his wife unsuspecting, Vice President Walden (Jamey Sheridan) (the real target of all this) backing his run. Left to pick up the pieces is Saul (Mandy Patinkin), who is distracted by his wife’s departure for India, possibly taking their marriage with her.
Homeland’s inaugural season arrived with good buzz which grew in volume as audience’s glommed on to the show and Danes’ brave performance of a woman undergoing a total breakdown. It earned numerous nominations and awards at this past weekend’s Emmy awards and season three is ready to kick off. Thankfully, Season Two is now out in a handsome box set from 20th Century Home Entertainment. All dozen episodes are contained on three discs along with some bonus story material and a small number of extras.
Adapted from an Israeli series, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa took full advantage of the adless premium cable opportunities and created taut hours of storytelling with rich characters and inter-relationships, anchored with an excellent cast. They moved things along at a nice clip and positioned all the pieces so the second season would move even faster. Carrie knows Brody more intimately than even his wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin), although his daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor) is rapidly coming to realize something is seriously off about dad.
We open months later with Carrie seemingly “normal” after ending last season with electroshock therapy, which gives Saul enough confidence to send her to Beirut when her former mentee has information she will only disclose to the former agent. Brody is in Congress, now receiving orders via Washington reporter Roya Hammid (Zuleikha Robinson), and still morally tortured over helping Nazir exact vengeance or be the perfect dad and all-American boy.
Things are nicely stirred although the trajectory of Brody from POW to hero to replacement Congressman to potential Veep candidate is way too fast and lacking the suitable background checks that any politician would do before committing (especially this early in a campaign). There’s also not really enough with Brody and Jessica compared with last season. All minor quibbles though compared with enormously entertaining episodes, well-written and strongly performed. Of course, the explosive concluding moments made us wait way too long for the next installment.
As one would expect, the video transfer to disc is fine both visually and aurally. Scattered throughout the disc are episode specific Deleted Scenes and several bonus features starting with
Returning to the Homeland: Filming in Israel (7:52) showing how it doubled for Beirut and honoring its roots. On disc three there’s The Border: A Prologue to Season Three (1:40) which becomes moot in a matter of days. Of more interest is A Super 8 Film Diary by Damian Lewis (11:05) with a lighthearted look behind the camera. Wrapping things up is The Choice: The Making of the Season Finale (15:41) which is fascinating for those of us who love to understand the creation process.
Please believe me, as I conclude last week’swell-reasoned and temperate dissertation on why comics fans should care – maybe – about the future of the US Postal Service, when I say I’m trying hard to wrap up this little opus before the USPS goes out of business.
But I’m not working as fast nor concentrating as well as I’d like because I’ve just been distracted by another “gotcha” courtesy of my BMK – Bad Mail Karma. It illustrates one of the more interesting by-products of the USPS’s ongoing effort to modernize, simplify and streamline its products and serviceseven as Congress calls for a postal austerity program:
When a customer confused by the ever-changing policies (that would be moi) makes a minor mistake, the USPS’s systems will helpfully turn it into an exhausting, nerve-wracking Major Hassle by preventing it from being corrected.
In my recent move back to Southern California, I managed to outsmart myself by sending ahead of me a USPS Priority Mail box of important items that I’d need before the moving van arrived with my everyday stuff. It has yet to arrive, some eight weeks later. It seems I used Priority Mail packaging that was not a flat rate box, but to which I incorrectly affixed flat rate postage generated online. OK, my bad.
That does not explain, however, why it took the P.O. four weeks to determine that that was the problem; why its online tracking system kept giving me information that contradicted the tracking data in the main USPS computer; nor why the package has now crossed the country four times, having been shipped back and forth between my old address and the new, each time being flagged in the system as undeliverable” or sent to “no such address.”
The helpful people I’ve dealt with at my local P.O. – six of them now, because the same people don’t seem to work there for more than five days in a row – can’t seem to figure it out, either. One “Letter Carrier Supervisor” told me, “I’ve been working here 30 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.” Of course, that may be because she apparently takes 147 coffee breaks a day.
This might also explain why she can’t get her direct reports to do what the three other supervisors have told me they will: When the package ricochets back here to Pasadena, they’ll call me so I can come pay the extra postage and pick it up. When last heard from, the package was at some “claims resolution” facility in Atlanta, but was supposed to be on its way back here. That was two weeks ago.
Now, imagine that this box had been, say, a shipment of comics from a private eBay seller for which you were waiting breathlessly. (Yes, small, private sellers often make honest mistakes. I hasten to add, though, that as someone who sells on eBay, I’ve been lucky – so far – not to make this kind of mistake with a customer’s package. And you can be sure I’m doubly careful now.)
This is a microcosmic example of the kind of thing comics fans will probably be saying good-bye to soon, mournfully or otherwise, having been left to the tender mercies of those even bigger screw-ups, UPS and DHL. The macrocosmic version is what I described last week: A stamp-related custom comic project that was extraordinarily successful for DC Comics (the aggregate print run for the nine CTC books I discussed added up to over 10 million) turned out to be a dismal failure for the USPS. This, only because the agency couldn’t secure the content approval from its licensors – the owners of several of the stamp subjects’ IT – in time to get the books out, to serve as collectors’ albums for the CTC series, at the same time as the stamps themselves.
And it’s too bad, really, this suicidal ineptitude, since comics fans once had a friend in the postal service. It was tangentially responsible for the creation of letters columns which, in the earliest days of comics fanzines and well before web sites and comment forums, became the principal means by which comics fans exchanged opinions about talent and continuity developments and, from the addresses printed, gained the means to interact and organize. These “LOC” pages came about because postal regulations required comics to have at least a page of text to qualify for their mailing rate. When the previous practice of hiring writers to create original prose fillers became prohibitively expensive, the “lettercols” were born.
Soon, those who self-identified as serious fans and collectors became the only readers who were so hell-bent on getting their monthly “fix” that they’d be willing to subscribe. But they were dissuaded from doing so because they didn’t want their mint-condition comics given a permanent vertical crease by being folded lengthwise to fit into a narrow wrapper, which was the only cost-effective way to send comics through the mail. So you can thank USPS, then, for killing this in favor of what took another decade to develop, with the growth of specialty retail shops: the pull-and-hold service.
Today, the Postal Service searches for new services it can providehttp://www.informationweek.com/government/security/postal-service-pilots-next-gen-authentic/240145559, to replace the ones it has screwed up so badly that they’ve become obsolete. One of its ideas is to get itself into the “identity management business.” The fact that the average citizen can’t figure out what, in fact, “identity management” is should in no way deter the USPS from this worthy goal. It might keep them occupied so that other companies will have to deliver all the packages, and our paychecks will all be issued by Direct Deposit and have no trouble finding their way into our bank accounts.
Of course, thereafter we’ll be unable to access our funds, because our identity will have “managed” to change – to that of someone we’ve never heard of in a zip code that hasn’t been invented yet. (Remind me not to tell you about how my previous address in Pennsylvania, a rural route which was given a normal house-number in “The Monroe County Readdressing Project” … with the result that my online change-of-address form couldn’t be processed properly because the old address wasn’t in the USPS database.)
Meanwhile, I’ve decided to stop oiling my old spinner-rack and instead donate it to a nursing home. I’m going to shop for comics via ComiXology exclusively, and work on figuring out how to get my new tech for promoting pacifism and conservation of labor, to make plastic staples. Once everyone on eBay is shipping via UPS, and we have the technology to totally recreate “floppies” in our own homes, the world’s Geeks – comic book division – won’t have anything to fear from the P.O. anymore, whatsoever.
MysteriousPress.com’s Otto Penzler narrated this short history of Black Mask Magazine called The Pioneer of the Hardboiled Detective to promote the Open Road Media’s upcoming Black Mask ebook releases, set to launch August 27th. You can also view it on Youtube.
“The creation of the private eye in Black Mask magazine remains the most important development in the history of mystery fiction in America,” explains Otto Penzler of MysteriousPress.com. In this video, Penzler takes us back to the 1920s, to the creation of the now-iconic Black Mask magazine, where mystery greats including Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Carroll John Daly got their start.
With an atmosphere evoking that time and place, this video proves that the tough-guy detectives of the hard-boiled mysteries of the 1920s and ’30s are not a thing of the past.