[[[Fifty shades of grey]]] isn’t just a runaway best-seller of debatable literary merit soon to be a major motion picture of, probably, even more debatable merit. It’s also the world we live in.
No, I don’t mean it’s a world of erotic fantasies, BDSM role-playing games, and dominance. Although if it were, can you imagine how that would change the popular Disney attraction “It’s a Small World?” (And I apologize for having put that now unwashable image into your minds.)
What I mean is that the world isn’t just “white hats” and “black hats,” good or evil. It’s a world of grey tones where everyone has some good and some evil, where everyone is grey. Some people are more good than evil, while others are more evil than good, which is why there are shades of grey; at least fifty of them if bad literature can be believed.
Otto Octavius, the former Doctor Octopus and now the controlling mentality in the body of Peter Parker, who is trying to prove he’s a “white hat” by being a superior Spider-Man is proving instead that, like Batman in [[[The Lego Movie]]], he “only work[s] in black. And sometimes, very, very dark grey.” And the world around him is trending darker too, like it’s got some sort of Goth hashtag.
I’m in an odd mood, kiddos. Maybe it’s the polar vortex that’s waging war across our country. Maybe it’s seasonal affective disorder causing a case of the blues. Or perhaps the winds of change are blowing, and the time for revolution is nigh. I’ve simply noticed as of late an upward trend of general unrest. It’s got me equally excited, and potentially depressed. Let’s jump down the rabbit hole, shall we?
Other than reading content here at ComicMix, we can stipulate that the Internet is for porn. There’s even a song confirming that fact. It’s easy access for free has transformed already sexist ideals of what sex is all about. An entire generation is being raised in the belief that women will drop their tops for beads, will perform sexual acts in the hopes of winning a Dare Dorm competition and professionals will do just about any act, in any position, for your, ahem, entertainment.
As a result, there are men out there who go to clubs, get laid and surprisingly remain unsatisfied. Multi-hyphenate Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been giving this kind of male some thought, dating back to 2008, and turned it into an interesting meditation on the matter in the entertaining Don Jon. Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed, and stars in this snapshot of the East Coast male. His Jon is a man of principals who includes taking pride in his home, his body, and in his immortal soul as witnessed by his weekly visits to the confessional. Still, he enjoys frequent one-night stands and when the women prove to be real and not the willing fantasy images on his laptop he returns there, frequently, to satisfy his needs. It’s an addiction to which he is totally blind.
He’s seemingly content with his minimum wage job in the service industry, a devoted son to his parents (Glenne Headley, Tony Danza), and lacks ambition. That begins to change when he spots the hot Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), who was raised on the romcoms of the last two decades and whose expectations of the perfect mate are equally unrealistic. But they have chemistry and he before she has sex with Jon, she begins to reshape him. First, she convinces him to go to community college and then forces him to give up porn, which he tries to do but resorts to watching on his phone, even in class, which catches the amused eye of Esther (Julianne Moore). She playfully gives him a DVD of erotica which he rejects out of hand, not understanding the difference or her interest in him.
Bit by bit, we see the stresses on Jon and Barbara’s relationship which oddly shatters at Home Depot when she refuses to let him buy Swiffer refills because men don’t do that. As they drift apart, Esther, who has been recently widowed and has a more solid grip on the world, turns out to be the one who shows Jon there are ways to be satisfied with a friend/partner/lover. Their age difference barely comes up and there’s a sweetness to their story.
Gordon-Levitt plays everything on an even keel, never overly exaggerating the actions or characters, infusing each act with its own look, feel, and sound, subtly guiding the audience through Jon’s final maturation into adulthood. The performances are uniformly strong from Johansson’s gum chewing Jersey girl to Danza’s short-tempered dad.
The film, out on a combo pack (Blu-ray, DVD, Digital) now from 20th Century Home Entertainment, looks great in high definition. There’s a satisfactory assortment of special features including the Making of Don Jon, where Gordon-Levitt nicely credits his varied collaborators; Don Jon’s Origin, a look at the writing process across the years; Joe’s Hats, writer, director, star; Objectified, a look at gender roles; Themes & Variations, a nice look at each act’s unique feel. Finally, there are four HitRECord Shorts, where Gordon-Levitt invited people to submit their creations on the same theme which occurred during the making of the film.
Everyone has secrets; lots of them. As I said in my column about the TV miniseries Broadchurch, “…what gets revealed to whom, when, and how and is that a good idea really drives narrative and character. The revelation of secrets may answer some questions but may raise more.”
Some things you can tell about a person by looking at them: what they look like, ethnicity, gender, rough age and so on, but these days of social media such as Facebook, even that may be a secret. Are those pictures really of him/her? Those can still be secrets.
There are levels of secrets and not all of them are deep and dark. Your name, for example. Unless you’re wearing a name badge, it’s not immediately apparent. If you’re asked for your name, you usually give it. Some situations may alter that – women in bars may not give their real names or phone numbers, often with good reason. If a cop asks you your name, however, you’d better be prepared to share it.
There are secrets that you share with different groups of people. Acquaintances, co-workers, teachers and so on, people on Facebook perhaps, know more of your secrets than someone just passing by. There are those who are your actual friends and even within this community there are levels, some friends being closer than others. A level of trust is involved which means that you have usually have shared some secrets with them and they have proven worthy of that trust.
Family presents a parallel and often deeper level of secrets. I’ve joked in the past that parents often know how to push your buttons because they’re the ones who installed the wiring. I’ve been in situations around a family table where the adult children are telling stories of growing up and a parent will look bewildered and say, “I never knew about any of this!” They didn’t because the siblings kept those secrets. In my family it’s been joked as I grew up that if my twin brother, Joe, did anything wrong, sooner or later you’d find out because he would just blurt it out. Of me it was said that if I did anything wrong – well, maybe a decade later I might share it if I thought you were ready to deal with it. Yeah, I have a sneaky side.
There are the few people we let in very close. Deep, long time friends or, even more, the person that we love. Even they, however, don’t know all our secrets. There are some secrets known only to ourselves, that we don’t choose to share with anyone for whatever reason. Deepest of all are the secrets that we keep from ourselves, truths we don’t choose to face.
If all this is true in our own lives, and I submit that it is, then it needs to be true in our writing. A writer must know his/her characters’ secrets, especially the ones the characters hide from themselves. How the secrets are revealed, when, to whom, under what circumstances, and whether it was a good choice or turns out to be a good thing – all drive the narrative.
Sometimes the secret will be revealed to the audience before it is revealed to any character and that’s fine as well. It creates a deeper involvement with the audience and greater suspense; the audience has a vested emotional interest in what happens with the secret.
Nor do secrets need to be told all at once. This secret can be told or shown here and maybe that one there. Maybe part of the secret it told at one point and the rest comes out later. Secrets drive motivation and motivation drives the characters and they in turn drive the story.
And who doesn’t love a good story … or a good secret?
Back in the 1960s, like most boys, I had at least G.I. Joe action figure. They were cool but maybe not as cool as Captain Action, which followed two years later. Of course, both faded away over time until the Joe concept was revised by Hasbro. Working with Larry Hama and Marvel Comics, the idea was expanded, the figures scaled down and a phenomenon was born.
Given the wild success of the toys, the animated series, and the long-running comic, I remain baffled why it took until 2009 before a live-action film was made. Here were all the kids’ favorite good guys and bad guys brought to life, looking sleek and cool and yes, sexy. The film was a smash success so of course the wait for a sequel began immediately.
It wasn’t until early 2011 that work finally began and then we were promised the movie in 20123 and despite a mammoth marketing campaign; it was pulled just weeks before release. G.I. Joe Retaliation bounced around the schedule as there was a little reshooting, some re-editing and then upgrading to 3-D. Finally, four years later, the sequel arrived this spring and is now available on home video from Paramount Home Entertainment.
This is one of those critic-proof movies so despite almost universal panning, it racked up huge bucks at the box office making a third film likely. But, given the devastation wrought to the cast this time around, the question becomes who is left to star?
Wisely picking up from where the last one ended, Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) has replaced the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce). Now he embarks on a plan to execute the Joes, frame them for mayhem, and then rescue Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) so Cobra’s latest plan to rule the world can begin.
Sure enough, most of the Joes are offed in short order with just three survivors: Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona), and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki). MIA and presumed alive is Snake Eyes (Ray Park). They’re on the run and need to regroup to save the world. Meantime, half a world away, Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) and Joe turned enemy Firefly (Ray Stevenson) free Cobra Commander with the ninja injured in the process. Alerted to this event, the Blind Master (RZA) dispatches Snake Eyes and his protégé Jinx (Elodie Yung), Shadow’s relative, to retrieve him so he can answer for the death of the Hard Master (don’t go there). One of the freshest and most visually interesting battles occurs on the snowy mountains as a result.
While that’s happening, the Prez names Cobra his new security force and Roadblock turns to the first Joe (Bruce Willis) for guidance. All the pieces are then moved around the chessboard for a while until everything climaxes during a global summit held at Fort Sumter. Things blow up real well until the world is saved.
Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland) do a passable job of keeping things moving even if they don’t always make sense and merely wave at characterization rather than truly explore what a world in which high-tech forces as Cobra exist. They open things up with a plausible breakdown of the Pakistan government and the Joes are sent in to retrieve all of their nuclear warheads lest they fall into unsavory hands. No one pauses to think about this or condemn the US for such an action. There are similar things that zip buy that beg for exploration but then again, this isn’t that kind of a movie.
The screenwriters also give use the sketchiest of characterizations and poor Lady Jaye is twice reduced to being a sex object and not once does she complain, instead talks about her daddy issues with Flint who has even less of a character. At least Jaye has the funniest exchange with Willis’s Joe so there’s that.
The movie barely acknowledges the characters from the first except for Duke (Channing Tatum) who is on screen long enough to be remembered and then is mourned.
Director John M. Chu keeps things moving and keeps the movie visually interesting even when the story falls flat. To his credit, at 1:L50, things move along and the action is not overdone compared with the action films that followed this year.
Perhaps the best thing about the film is the transfer to high definition. This is wonderful to watch with flawless colors and resolution. The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless soundtrack is a perfect complement so those owning this will be quite pleased.
The combo set offers you the Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy with all the goodies added to only the Blu-ray disc. In a nice touch, you can pick a G.I. Joe or Cobra theme for the menus. Here you get three deleted scenes with one, set at Arlington Cemetery, truly missed. In the Audio Commentary, Chu and Producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura provides some nice insights into how the film came together and the choices made. G.I. DeClassified is a complete 1:12 eight-part look at how the film was assembled from concept to special effects. It’s interesting to see Military Advisor and ex-Navy SEAL Harry Humphries turn the cast into military-grade commandoes. The emphasis is on the effects, sets, and action sequences although one does focus on Willis and the classic toy line.
While I wish for a stronger script, it’s pretty much what fans of the toys and cartoons will expect and appreciate.
Off to Gertz we went! Gertz was the department store back in the day. When we got there my mother walked right to the toy department and brought me Captain Action and the Batman and Superman costume changes.
At that point I had to wonder, who was this woman and what had she done with my mother.
This was entirely way to good to be true.
As I would find out soon it certainly was.
I found out later that, what was a great Saturday turned crappy, why my mother was so quick to buy me Captain Action, which I just knew, was the last thing I would ever want or need.
My stepdad (who at the time I thought was my real dad; long sad story) told my mother earlier in the day he would not be picking me up to spend the night with him. Those times with my father were all I lived for.
If I had to choose between having Christmas every day and spending one day with my dad, Santa would have lost out.
My mom didn’t tell me that on the bus ride back. Nor did she broach the subject when we got home. She missed the opportunity while I was introducing the good Captain to my GI Joes. Introduction may not be the best word for the Joe exchange.
It was more like an eviction.
I evicted a platoon of Joes from a few of my GI Joe footlockers. The good Captain and his costume changes could not be made to spend his down time in a ghetto toy box. The toy box was where the poor toys lived.
The toys box were the projects in the ghetto. The footlockers were the nice homes, you know, the white neighborhood. Hey, I was a child living in a world where all Black people lived in the projects and all white people lived in nice homes in safe neighborhoods. That’s what the TV told me and TV was everything to a child.
Anywho, my mom never did tell me that my father wasn’t coming over – which was most likely her plan. The toys were a distraction. A distraction that was working until my sister asked me if Robert (That’s what we called my father, not dad or daddy. It’s a black thing you wouldn’t understand) brought me the toys.
Just like that I remembered that I was supposed to spend the night with Robert and realized that he had not picked me up yet.
My mother was then forced to tell me that he was not coming and I started crying like baby.
Then something magical happened, my mortal enemy, my sister Sharon picked up my Captain Action and started taking to me about it. After a few minutes I was proudly explaining what my new toy was showing her the costume changes and schooling her on all the reasons Captain Action was just the greatest thing that ever happened to the world. I’m not sure when I stopped crying or when I forgot Robert was not coming over.
Then, I was an adult.
That what happens in life one moment you are a five-year old with the greatest toy you have ever had the next you are a grown man trying to recapture those moments by becoming a collector of the things from your childhood that brought you that wonder. My Captain Action collection features the Ideal Toy Company original. The Prying Mantis 90’s redo and the current Captain Action Enterprise’s new line.
DC Comics did Captain Action comics back in the day and the good Captain has been returned to the industry those books are in stores now and I hear big plans are planed for comics in the future.
Yes, this article and part one is my love letter to an old friend who has always been in my life. It’s sappy, I’m sappy and I know that.
This week, Earth station One podcast hosts Mike Faber, Mike Gordon, and the 2013 Pulp Ark Award-Winning Best Author Bobby Nash give the spinner rack a few turns and take a look at some of our favorite non-superhero graphic novels and collected trades – no capes allowed! Joining us for some comic chat are Doctor Q (The Rachet Retrocast), Jason De La Torre (Transmissions from Atlantis), and Josh Wilson (Mad Norwegian Press). We are also joined by New Pulp Author Mark Ellis, who discusses the very superhero-ish team, the Justice Machine. But can they save him from the dreaded fate that is The Geek Seat? Tune in for the answer, plus the usual Rants, Raves, Khan Report, and Shout Outs!
Next week, the Earth Station One crew enlists. That’s right, Mike, Mike, and Bobby report for duty as part of America’s highly trained special missions force, known as G.I. Joe. ESO takes down Cobra forces while looking back at the Joes’ history from comic books, the various cartoon series, the conventions, the toys, and the upcoming live action movie starring The Rock and Bruce Willis. Plus, the ESO Khan Report goes on the road to Joelanta, Atlanta’s premier G.I. Joe convention. And if that wasn’t enough, just wait until you see who we strap into The Geek Seat this week. Plus, we’ll have the usual rants, raves, shout outs, and ESO’s Khan Report! It’s going to be another fantastic episode next week at Earth Station One. Now you know.
And knowing is half the battle.
ESO wants to hear from you. What are your favorite G.I. Joe memories from the comics, TV show, movies, or the toys that started it all? Let us know at www.esopodcast.com, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. We just might tread yours on the show.
When I was around four, my mother took my sister and me to a toy store. She told us we could have any one thing we wanted. My sister made a quick decision and choose a Barbie. I spent some time trying to choose between a guitar and a GI Joe. I finally made the decision and went with the Joe.
I was as happy as I had ever been with a toy.
GI Joe soon became my favorite toy, best friend and constant companion. Not too long after I got a Black GI Joe which was just a white GI Joe painted brown.
I could not have been happier.
After a time I had seven or eight Joes, as I made sure all my relatives knew my fascination with the action figure. Christmas and birthdays always brought me a new Joe.
My Joes were the highlights of my young life.
One fateful Saturday morning I was watching cartoons and on came a commercial for Captain Action.
Captain Action was cool all by itself but what was this I was seeing? Did I dare believe my eyes? Did the good Captain ALSO change into OTHER SUPERHEROES???
OH YES HE DID!!
I had to have him. I had to have him, I HAD TO HAVE HIM!!!!
I waited impatiently for my mother to get out of bed. Saturday mornings were the only day she was able to sleep in. My mother worked two jobs six days a week, on Saturday she only worked one.
So I waited and waited for what seemed an eternity for her to get out of bed. When she did, I had to wait a wee bit longer (which seemed like decades) because she had to have her coffee. Facing my mother even today without her having had her coffee is a dangerous thing to do.
The second she went into the kitchen I joined her at the table with what had to be the biggest smile I’d ever had. I waited for her to brew her coffee (old school brewing, people, none of this bullshit Mr. Coffee) have that first sip but before I could start in on what I thought was going to be my best ‘I’ve GOT to have it’ plea my mother said;
“What do you want?”
“What’s Captain Action?”
“It’s this cool superhero that changes into other superheroes!’
As if on cue, I heard the commercial playing on the living room television, and I left the table screaming like a mad child.
“Come see!! Come see!!”
My mother stood behind me while I stared again at the object of desire, convinced I would never ever want anything as bad.
“See? That’s Captain Action? Can I have it? PLEASE?”
“Oh, it’s like a GI Joe,” my mother said.
“FUCK GI JOE!!!”
No, I didn’t say that but thinking back that’s how I felt.
After the commercial I resorted to speaking so fast and with so much passion prying that my mother would see how my life would be over if I did not have that toy. I figured as long as I didn’t hear “no” there was still a chance. As every kid knows if you keep talking and don’t give your parents an opportunity to chime in they can’t say “no.”
“Get your coat, you can come shopping with me and we will see about your toy.”
Off to Gertz we went! Gertz was THE department store back in the day. When we got there my mother walked right to the toy department and brought me Captain Action and the Batman and Superman costume changes.
At that point I had to wonder, who was this woman and what had she done with my mother.
Gerry Anderson, creator of Thunderbirds, Space: 1999, Supercar, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Joe 90, UFO, Fireball XL5, Stingray, and many other science fiction and fantasy shows, has died at the age of 83.
Gerry was best know for his “Supermarionation” series, featuring detailed marionettes and a science-fiction based storyline. His ex-wife Sylvia collaborated frequently with him, most famously voicing Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward in Thunderbirds. The shows were a first step for many well-known actors and creators, including Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny in the early James Bond films), character actors Shane Rimmer and Jaremy Wilkin (Blake’s 7) and special effects master Derek Meddings (Star Wars and the James Bond franchise). He made successful forays into live action as well, with the series Space: 1999 and UFO, and the feature film Journey to the Far Side of the Sun.
Gerry suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for several years, and spent much of his time as a celebrity ambassador for The Alzheimer’s Society, raising both funds and awareness for the disease. His condition worsened in the past six months, which limited his ability to both work for the organization, and to serve as consultant on a Hollywood remake of UFO.
Gerry’s son Jamie has requested, in lieu of other remembrances, that people donate to The Alzheimer’s Society via Just Giving. Our condolences to his family and friends.
Airship 27 Productions & Dynamic Ram Audio are thrilled to announced the release of the first ever Captain Hazzard adventure, “Python Men of the Lost City,” as an audio book recorded by actor Joe Stofko.
In 2006 six, writer Ron Fortier realized a personal dream when he re-wrote the original pulp classic known amongst fans because it only produced one issue. Although released under the house name of Chester Hawks, it is believed that pulp veteran Paul Chadwick was the true author of this Doc Savage want-to-be.
“Finding a facsimile reprint copy years go,” explains Fortier, “I was instantly enamored with the characters, especially Hazzard. I could also see why the book failed. Chadwick, better known for his Secret Agent X exploits, wasn’t at all comfortable with high adventure and the book is filled with plot holes galore.” Fortier sat down, re-wrote the entire book and republished it via Ron Hanna’s Wild Cat Books. It became an instant hit amongst the pulp community. “I would challenge pulp fans to read the original and then my re-write,” Fortier chuckles. “The response I received from those who did this was overwhelmingly positive. Enough so that I started writing new Captain Hazzard novels.”
Later, Fortier and his partner, Art Director Rob Davis, parted ways with Wild Cat Books to start their own publishing imprint, Airship 27 Productions and quickly produced new editions of the book. Earlier this year, Airship 27 joined forces with Dynamic Ram Audio headed by Sound Engineer Chris Barnes. One of the titles chosen to bring to audio life was of course, “Catpain Hazzard – Python Men of the Lost City.” The audio files run approximately four and a half hours. There are plans to do CD versions in the coming months and make them available at various cons.
Fortier had high praise for Joe Stofko’s reading. “Joe’s a professional actor and does a lot of theater. His reading is full of passion and drama with a hint of the fun. That’s what I loved the most while listening to the tapes. Joe brings the story to life with his reading and adds a completely different dimension to the experience. No one could have done a better job with this.”
Now available at the Airship 27 Hangar Catalog site for $9.99! Direct link to the entry. Print and Kindle Editions are available here.