Tagged: movie

Mindy Newell: Historical Fiction

Newell Art 130812History is important. Understanding the history of a subject leads to the understanding and interpretation of current events. Knowing where you were can help you in comprehending where you are now. For instance, want to understand the current Mideast conundrum? Learn about World War I and the break-up of the Ottoman Empire by the British Empire and its allies because that’s where our modern Middle East troubles really started.

“But history is so boring!” you say?

Then pick up a good book. I don’t mean a “bustier and boudoir” romance novel – I mean a novel that explores, through its characters and situations, the mores and creeds and ethos of its time. War And Peace, To Kill A Mockingbird, Marjorie Morningstar, Tales Of The South Pacific – well, okay, James Michener’s book is a collection of short stories – The Grapes Of Wrath; even Gone With The Wind will help you understand the South of today.

I bring this up because I’m currently reading Watergate: A Novel by Thomas Mallon, a noted historical novelist who is also a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Times Book Review.

Yes, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post wrote a wonderful non-fiction book about the botched break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex, and All The President’s Men was a brilliant movie starring Robert Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein and Jason Robards as Washington Post Editor-in-Chief Ben Bradlee. I thought the book and the movie were the last words on the scandal, too.

But Mallon does a brilliant job in imagining the emotions, thoughts, and personal ambitions of those involved in what Vanity Fair called, in its review of the book, “the operatic drama of Watergate.”  The scandal was truly a Greek tragedy, a tale of moral bankruptcy and the corruption of leadership that still echoes in the hall of the United States government today, and not to the good.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, the Tea Party, the obstructionists, the corporatists, the Mitch McConnells, the Eric Kantors, the John Boehners, the Koch Brothers, the Dick Cheneys and their ilk took away from the Watergate scandal the wrong lessons.

As in: Be cleverer as you undermine the Constitution of the United States.

On July 21st, John Boehner sat with Bob Schieffer of Face The Nation and actually said that Congress passes too many laws and that it “ought to be judged on how many laws it repeals.” And what laws would those be, Mr. Speaker of the House? You mean Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act?

As in: Lie until people believe it.


As in: Don’t fight the media. Use the media.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Fox News.

As in: The right to work without a union.

Yes. The right to work for less pay, worse benefits, more hours, and less environmental protection.

As in: Corporations are people.

Citizens United.

The Washington Post, home to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the paper that took down a President and his cabal of co-conspirators, was sold this past week to Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com. Bezos hasn’t said anything about his plans for the Graham-owned icon.

But we all know how great Amazon has been for Barnes and Noble and Borders and the great publishing houses like Random House and Penguin and Farrar, Straus & Giroux.


That was a great story, wasn’t it?




Martha Thomases: The Hotel… Library?

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Do you have to do much business travel? I tend to go for long periods without it, and then have to do a whole bunch. It can be fun, but it’s also, you know, business. I’m staying in a strange place, seeing people I don’t see at home, eating foods I don’t usually eat at hours when I’m not usually eating. And, unlike when I’m working at home, I have to keep my pants on when I do it.

And then there is staying in hotels. The good parts: I don’t have to clean up after myself, I can try new shampoos, and if I get a king-size bed, it’s so big it’s like sleeping on the ocean. The bad parts: no kitty, the towels aren’t big enough, and there is nothing to read that I haven’t brought myself. Also, even with a big bed and a gigantic bathroom, I can feel closed in after a while.

So I was delighted to read in The New York Times that a variety of hotels, from highfalutin’ boutique inns to affordable chains, have added libraries to their list of amenities.

It would be nice to say that the hospitality industry has decided to encourage reading for the sake of the public good, to improve the literacy of the American traveling class. However, as the article states, the purpose of the library is to encourage customers to spend more time in the hotel’s lobby and bars, buying food and drink. At the same time, some of the hotels are making deals directly with publishers to promote their titles, even allowing customers to take the books home and return them during their next stay.

This is an incredible opportunity for comics. And by comics, I mean graphic novels.

If I’m in the lobby of a hotel looking for something to read, the most likely reason is that I’m tired, and I want something to occupy my attention while I’m eating or having a drink. I travel with my Kindle, but maybe I don’t have the attention span to stare at words (usually because I’ve been staring at words for hours already). A self-contained graphic novel, with a whole story, can engage my imagination without causing eye-strain.

In general, I don’t want to start up a conversation with strangers when I go to a hotel bar or restaurant. However, if I was so inclined, a graphic novel is a much better ice-breaker than a prose book. It’s easier to point to an image in a conversation than to read a narrative description. And it’s easier to share a book with a spline than a pamphlet.

It’s also easier to find an audience for books with spines. A businessman (or woman) enjoying some downtime might not want to read about a guy in spandex, but might get a kick out of the source of that new movie he’s heard so much about.

To my mind, the best publisher with whom to make a deal is Abrams Comic Arts. A bar where people are talking about Mars Attacks, My Friend Dahmer and The Carter Family is a fun place to be.

If I was managing a hotel near the Baltimore Convention Center, I would be checking this out.

SATURDAY MORNING: Marc Alan Fishman’s Main Woman

SUNDAY MORNING: John Ostrander


Martin Pasko: The Age of Michael Jackson Comics

Pasko Art 130801Before I Do This Thang for the week: I’ve been getting messages from readers. Apparently, I do have them. Or, as Bob Hope might have said, “I know you’re out there, because why else would Dolores be propping me up in that direction?”

These messages I’m talking about are all “Why do you use so many links?” Clearly, if you’re asking this, you’re not clicking on them. Hint: Some – not all, or even most, but some – of them don’t lead where you might assume they do. They are instead meant to be weird, “disconnective,” hit-or-miss jokes in and of themselves. So, as the most celebrated member of The Hair Club For Men once put it, “’Nuff said.”

Now, on to That Thang. Meaning I have to stop vamping with jokes about what I didn’t learn in San Diego the weekend before last, and, God help me, actually come up with a third and final part of my highly speculative and putatively uninformed rant to go with the first and second parts. [I say “putatively” because Richard Feder of Fort Lee, New Jersey, writes, “Aren’t the comics selling better than ever? What should I do?” (And, no; no link this time. Get off your fat ass and Google it.)]

If you’re just joining me here for the first time, please feel free – unless your ass really is too fat to allow you to lean over and reach your mouse or trackpad – to check out those previous parts. And maybe click on some on those links you’ve been skipping over. Go ahead. I’ll wait. It’s not like I have anything better to do.

Back now? Good.

One thing Iwasn’t joking about last week: SDCC really didn’t shed much light on whether the Big Two might be incrementally but profoundly changing how they think about creating and marketing comics. Specifically, that they might have to take back total creative control from the freelance talent, to better justify their claim that comics help generate new, original movie and TV properties – titles and characters that aren’t mere spin-offs from the oldest, best-known super hero “brands.”

But I remained in the dark not, as I facetiously suggested, because of the conditions endemic to the con itself, but, rather, because the Big Two’s massive “booths” at least appear to still be doing their dog-and-pony shows in much the samo-samo way as they have been since the beginning of The Gastrotrich Super-Star era and the annual “continuity stunt.” You know – the age of what I like to call Michael Jackson Comics. As in, “We’re going to keep rearranging our face because it gets us publicity even though we don’t entertain anybody anymore. (But we do have a few pet chimps who clap for us when we do it.)”

At first, superficial glance, little seems to have changed this year. There were the same long lines of people waiting for something, but you couldn’t quite be sure what because the crowds were too dense. And there were the same old book signings by the Flavors Of The Week – those comic book “creators” who have been rocketing out of obscurity and vanishing back into it just as fast, ever since Hollywood’s “‘bankable’ star” mentality was first applied to four-color pamphlets by, if memory serves, Jenette Kahn. She was the first Big Two publisher to wonder, for example, whether Superman might not sell better if it were John Byrne’s Superman.

And it did.

For a while.

Thirty years ago.

But this year at SDCC, when I took a closer look at those exhibits, and let my eye follow carefully where that long line was snaking to, it seemed as if more and more of those people were queueing up for a chance to glimpse some “teaser” footage from an upcoming movie or TV show, and the lines to buy signed copies of Flavor of the Week’s Superman or Smokin’ Hot Newcomer’s Spider-Man were shorter. The “brand” – the property – was what was making the loudest ka-ching, ka-ching.

But the people who decide what will be presented in these exhibits seem not to notice, and persist in announcing new comic book titles whose selling point is presumably the name of the creative talent rather than the super hero brand. Meanwhile, superhero feature films continue to succeed without being dependent on major stars in their casts, a phenomenon that is a reflection of a larger, industry-wide paradigm shift.

The early warning signs might be barely noticeable, but I really think they’re there. And it’s getting harder not to wonder whether someday – maybe sooner than even cynical me suspects – Disney and Warners will have convinced themselves that they can endlessly exploit their existing brands, through reboots not unlike those in the old annual face-changing stunts, without any help from their four-color pamphleteers. And if their comic book divisions will have ceased to yield new brands they can add to the product mix as break-out hits, they might start to wonder whether all those Flavors of the Week and their pamphlets are any use to them at all.

LATER TODAY: Emily S. Whitten Returns!

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases




Emily S. Whitten: SDCC Part 2 – I Know That Voice!

Emily S. Whitten: SDCC Part 2 – I Know That Voice!

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Hey ComicMixers! It’s time for more news from SDCC. W00t!

While at the San Diego Comic-Con, I was happy to get to see the panel for I Know That Voice, the new documentary about voice actors that is slated to come out this fall (and don’t forget to visit that link and sign up for DVD pre-order news!). The panel was moderated by executive producer John DiMaggio, voice of Bender Bending Rodriguez on Futurama and Jake on Adventure Time (and many other voices as well!). It featured IKTV producer Tommy Reid; co-producer and director Lawrence (Larry) Shapiro; voice actors Rob Paulsen, Dee Bradley Baker, Fred Tatasciore, James Arnold Taylor, and Tom Kenny; casting director Andrea Romano; and Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward. And it was a blast!

I’ve talked about how excited I am for this documentary before, and this panel definitely highlighted the reasons I am looking forward to it. Not only do I find the whole process of voice acting for animation fascinating, but I also think voiceover actors and those who work with them are, from my experiences so far, not only some of the most talented creators out there, but also uniformly very nice, warm, funny people who love what they do and are just as enthused about it as the fans are. And who wouldn’t want to watch a video consisting of awesomely talented and nice people talking enthusiastically about their work in a fascinating industry? I know I can’t wait to see it.

I was also really interested in what led to the making of the documentary, and the process of putting this piece of (I predict now) fried gold together. To that end, after the panel I chatted with John DiMaggio, Tommy Reid, and Larry Shapiro about all of that and what we can expect. Here’s the interview (and you can also watch it on YouTube)!

What was the genesis of the documentary, and how did you start working on it together?

John: Larry and I were in Amsterdam, working on a music festival that we’ve done a bunch of times called Jam in the ‘Dam. I was MCing it, and he was filming it; and we were just talking, and came up with the idea, and we were like, “Well let’s try something.” We worked on it for a little bit, tossed some ideas around, shot some stuff, and then we were like, “Well, you know, it’s not really coming together.” And I’ve worked with Tommy on a bunch of projects – a bunch of documentaries; and I said, “Dude, we need to bring in Tommy.” And Tommy was like, “I’m all over this, this sounds like a great project.” So that’s pretty much how it started.

Awesome. And how did you three know each other?

Larry: We’re all 15 year-old friends.

John: We all lived in the same building in Hollywood; and so that’s how we know each other.

Larry: I will add that I was doing this music festival, and then John got on board to do the MCing of it; and then one night, in Amsterdam, Johnny started doing the voice of Bender and these German tourists heard him – and they don’t even speak English, and they still recognized John’s voice, and fluttered over and couldn’t believe it was him. And I’d never seen someone get star-struck over a voice in a language they didn’t even understand. That kind of gave me a clue as to how important something like this is to cover.

What was the process for making the film, and what did you all find the most interesting or challenging about making it?

Tommy: Our process began with the genesis of the idea; then it taking shape and us saying, ‘Well how do we actually get into the system?” and setting up interviews; and then having an end date where we knew we were going to capture enough interviews of every section of the voiceover industry that we were happy with. To go after the top and the best of that part of it. And then once we compiled all the interviews together it was just literally chiseling, getting it down from three hours to two hours, and then constant notes and notes and notes, where you’re constantly figuring out what’s the best story to tell in 90 minutes or less. And that’s where the final product came about. But it’s a very long process, when you’re making a documentary, and here we are 20 months later [at Comic-Con], and we had a packed room with over 3,000 people in it.

John: It’s pretty exciting. I think the biggest problem was the logistics of the project. Just getting everybody gathered; and having that done.

How many people are featured in this documentary?

Larry: Over 150. I will say that each person was at least an hour-long interview. And we had 150 people. So if you just give one minute to each person; just one great minute, you still have an extremely long movie. So it was pretty much like trying to choose between your children, what to use and what not to use. Because these people are brilliant people, and it was basically like trying to use the best stuff that we could get to make the best movie possible.

There are a lot of people in the industry; so how did you choose your focus of which voice actors to include, and which areas, e.g. TV animation, and movies, and the like?

John: I think basically it was just like, “Alright, well we need to get talent. We need to interview people.” And I just said, “Okay, well who am I working with today?” And I just asked them: “Hey man, I’m doing this documentary about voiceover. Do you want to be involved?” And we would get them on film. And once we got the ball rolling, once we got people interested in it-

Tommy: -the floodgates opened.

John: Yeah, people started talking about it, and then we had agents calling us.

Larry: The community really helped.

John: Yeah, the community definitely helped us out.

Tommy: It was like wildfire.

John: And that’s the thing about the people I work with. They’re just the most giving, the most wonderful people. The camaraderie involved in my industry is bar none…it’s unbelievable how generous of time and talent folks are. That’s one of the reasons why we made the film, too – just to showcase that.

Larry: And that’s an actual part of it. We talk about how we’re used to, in Hollywood, how people will backstab someone for a part or whatnot. And we noticed in this industry, people actually say, “You know what? I could do this, but do you know who would be better? John. You should give the job to John.” Or someone else.

John: Or I’ll be like, “Dee Bradley Baker, he needs to do this; you need to bring him in.”

Larry: They’ll really refer them other people.

John: Yeah, and it’s for real, you know?

That’s great! Now, with the rise of the internet, and fan conventions being more commonplace, do more people know your face? Has the experience of celebrity as a voice actor changed since, say, Mel Blanc’s time, and do you think that’s helped with getting interest for this film?

John: I don’t know, it’s kind of funny, because with voiceover – only down here do you get mobbed. Only at a convention do you get mobbed, where people know specifically what you do. Anywhere else…

Larry: And in Amsterdam.

John: Yeah, in Amsterdam, with German tourists; which freaked me out. But, well, anything will freak you out in Amsterdam, really, so; you know.

Larry: It’s like a living cartoon.

John: But it doesn’t really bother me [when I’m not recognized]. I didn’t get into it to have people go, “Oh my God, it’s him!” I just love to work. This is a perk, having people be a fan of your work. I love it; I mean it’s great, and I’m honored, you know – 3,000 people in a room freaking out, it’s incredible. But all I wanted to do was just showcase everybody; and I think we did that.

Larry: I would say also that we wanted to make the point that you might think it’s gimmicky being a voice of something and all that, but I really think our film kind of shows that these people aren’t so much ‘voice actors’ as much as they’re the best character actors you’ve ever seen in your life. And it just happens to be you’ve only heard them through their voices.

John: (in character) Thanks, Larry.

Larry: No problem, buddy! Promooootion!

So obviously people who are already fans are going to want to watch this; do you think you’re going to draw in a new crowd of people as well?

John: I think word of mouth will get around, I think people will be excited about it, and I think, like I said before: people love cartoons. People love cartoons. And I think that something will happen from that.

Tommy: Well I’m like the perfect example of the audience member. So basically, I liked cartoons, growing up as a kid, and then took a hiatus from them; and then the Simpsons kind of brought me back in there, but not knowing what goes on behind the scenes. Now after actually making this movie, now I know everything that goes on behind the scenes.

So do you think the documentary is also going to be a great resource for people who want to be voice actors?

John: It’s going to be a video bible for them.

Tommy: It’s very educational and very entertaining at the same time. A lot of laughs.

Did you learn something new while making this documentary?

Tommy: Don’t move John’s furniture.

John: Yeah – don’t move my furniture. Larry came into my house and started moving my furniture around during my interview.

Larry: It looked so much better, let me tell you.

John: Don’t move my goddamn furniture! Larry, get off my furniture! Goddammit!

Larry: The scratches are going to come out.

Okay, so now we know, don’t ever touch John DiMaggio’s furniture. He’s tall; he will hurt you…

John: Don’t ever touch my furniture! That shit is there for a reason. Dammit.

Can you say that like Tracy Morgan?

John: (in character) I’m tellin’ you that shit is there for a reason! You came in and moved my sculptures around, shiiiit. I’m tellin’ you right now.

What was the coolest experience each of you had making the documentary?

Tommy: Probably going to Big Bear Lake and going into Mel Blanc’s house, and interviewing his son Noel Blanc about Mel and listening to how Mel came out of a coma talking like Bugs Bunny.

John: Seeing the finished product. That was thrilling. And being here [at SDCC] and seeing everybody here for it.

Larry: Honestly I’d say all the interviews. With so many people I wouldn’t want to single anyone out; but I will say that actually going in to certain Futurama sessions, and getting to see John actually perform with some of the cast members; just getting to see that happen organically for me was probably one of the biggest treats.

That’s awesome; and thank you guys so much for your time.

Well, I hope you all enjoyed reading that as much as I enjoyed the interview! Not only were the guys awesome to talk to, but at the veeeery end, Bender even made an appearance. Shockingly, he wants everyone to read ComicMix.

And so I say unto all of you: listen to Bender and Servo Lectio!





Shailene Woodley’s First Kiss

Shailene Woodley’s First Kiss

Since Shailene Woodley got trimmed out of next year’s Amazing Spider-Man 2, we thought you might want to take a peek at her current work, next month’s The Spectacular Now. The clip features the first kiss between Aimee (Shailene Woodley) and Sutter (Miles Teller), highlighting the end of a sequence filmed in one long take. Below, director James Ponsoldt provides a quote about shooting one of his favorite scenes in the film.


“This is one of my favorite scenes in the entire movie. I always knew I wanted to film in it one long, continuous, unedited take, walking and talking with Aimee and Sutter, feeling like we — the audience — are part of a natural conversation that ebbs and flows from goofy and awkward to serious to emotional to flirtatious and nervous to…a first kiss. I wanted the scene to feel as natural as life. Of course, it meant that the burden was on Shailene and Miles to nail the scene (in a long take, everything has to come together perfectly — or else the shot is useless) — and our camera operator had to back-pedal for 5 minutes on a muddy, slippery path,” explained director James Ponsoldt.

“What Shailene and Miles ultimately did in this scene is so casual and unguarded and spontaneous that some people think the scene was improvised. It wasn’t. Shailene and Miles are just that great as actors — so present, so connected to their roles, and so willing to embrace whatever happens in the moment (bumping into a tree branch or swatting a pesky mosquito, hearing rumbling storm clouds, etc.).

“To put it simply, here’s why this scene is one of my favorites: it actually feels like two people falling for each other.

“I’ve seen this scene over a thousand times and I still get chills when Miles and Shailene kiss. I’m so, so inspired by their beautiful work.”

SYNOPSIS: With sly humor and an intensity of feeling, THE SPECTACULAR NOW (directed by James Ponsoldt) creates a vivid, three-dimensional portrait of youth confronting the funny, thrilling and perilous business of modern love and adulthood. This is the tale of Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), a high school senior and effortless charmer, and of how he unexpectedly falls in love with “the good girl” Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley). What starts as an unlikely romance becomes a sharp-eyed, straight-up snapshot of the heady confusion and haunting passion of youth – one that doesn’t look for tidy truths. The film was written by Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber (500) DAYS OF SUMMER and also features wonderful supporting turns from Brie Larson, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

Distributor: A24

Release Date: August 2nd (NY/LA), August 9 (Expands), August 23 (Nationwide)

Director: James Ponsoldt

Writers: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

Starring: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kyle Chandler

Runtime: 95 minutes

Rating: R

Genre: Comedy, Drama


twixtb_packagingblurayToday, Francis Ford Coppola is celebrated, and justly so, for his work on The Godfather Trilogy, and being one of the 1970s wunderkinds who helped change the look of movies. But he’s also the same guy who cut his teeth on Roger Corman low budget genre offerings and he seems to have come full circle with Twixt.

Once more Coppola does it all: writing, directing, producing. Unfortunately, the results are visually stylish and emotionally empty. If the lead character is a bargain basement Stephen King, this is Coppola’s shoestring budget The Shining and neither looks particularly good.

Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer) was a once-promising author reduced to writing occult novels with declining sales and readership, causing him to go wherever he can to personally sell his books. As a result, he winds up in a creepy small town, tucked in a corner of the hardware/bookstore when he is told of a serial killer by the local sheriff (Bruce Dern). Desperate for cash and reinvigorating his deteriorating career, he agrees to stick around and help the sheriff investigate, offering to share the sales, but secretly pocketing the advance from the hardnosed editor (David Paymer).

twixt_bildgrossOne reason he agrees is that he encounters an ethereal girl named Virginia (Elle Fanning) who claims to be a vampire and no one else can see. Audiences realize something’s up because the color palette is totally washed out except for Virginia in glowing white and red. Coppola cleverly plays with reality via color filters and digital trickery that gives the movie an interesting atmosphere and look.

Before long, though, the story spirals into lengthy expositions with flashbacks within flashbacks as we pick up the pieces about what really happened to the thirteen girls who mysteriously were killed in a now abandoned hotel. Baltimore’s investigations are helped along by the spirit of Edgar Allen Poe (Ben Chaplin) who once stayed at the hotel. Their conversations about the craft of writing and storytelling is among the freshest and most interesting parts of the film.

Coppola neglected to give the characters any real personality. Baltimore’s unhappy wife (Joanne Whalley) is a desperate shrew; Paymer’s editor is tough, the sheriff desperate for fame, and Baltimore a stereotypical alcoholic writer, mourning the loss of his daughter. In the commentary and documentary accompanying the 1:28 film, now on disc from 20th Century Home Entertainment, Coppola explains he dreamed about Virginia and woke up in 2009 and dictated his thoughts into a still-preserved recording. Clearly he decided the script should be as ephemeral so no character, alive or dead, is made three dimensional.

Kilmer and PoeKilmer’s distraught writer sleepwalks through the investigation, getting everyone around him to help with the investigation without a hint of gratitude. Whatever writing talent he had was many cases of whiskey back and he struggles to even begin his new manuscript without resorting to the very clichés his editor warns him against. The rest of the cast is never given much to work with and as playful and interesting as Fanning’s V promises to be, even she can’t make you care enough.

The film was shot in California and subsequently screened at numerous film festivals but could not secure a domestic distributor so audiences only now have a chance to see this thin, not terribly frightening misfire from a once great visionary. The movie has a so-so commentary from his grandson Gio or also shot the 37 minute Making Of featurette which is the sole extra accompanying the disc. The combo pack comes with Blu-ray and digital copy.

REVIEW: G.I. Joe: Retaliation

GIJ2_BD_CMBO_OSLV_3D_EXTRASKW_JM_01Back 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.

Cobra Commander_Firefly

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.

Lady JayeWhile 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.

GR-13182RV2The 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.

Storm ShadowThe 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.

Dennis O’Neil and Punishment

O'Neil Art 130718You’ve watched the newscasts? Read the papers? You’re aware of what’s been happening in the courts and Congress? It is a time, perhaps, to consider wickedness.

Outside, our patch of the Lower Hudson Valley is again suffering brutal heat and if your life has given you certain prompts – if someone much taller than you once convinced you that you were a bad, bad, bad little child and you were going to be punished! – you might step outside, feel the heat and remember what you were taught about hell. Which is where evil sons of bitches like you go to roast for all eternity and that will teach you to disobey Sister Henrietta! In case you’ve forgotten.

We believe in a retributional afterlife because, among other reasons, we have a need for the world to be ordered and rational, and that means that the wicked should have to answer for their misdeeds. Obviously, not all of them do, not while they’re alive, but later…well, Christians might go to the aforementioned hell and Hindus might be reincarnated as an intestinal parasite. Hell, parasite… Something unpleasant, anyway.

We deal in villainy, we fabricators of heroic melodrama.We give our protagonists fierce, cruel, determined and formidable adversaries, mostly because our heroes need them.No need to wait for retribution after death, not in our tales, thank you. Our miscreants get retribution right here, right now. We witness their fall and cheer – okay, mostly cheer silently – because justice has been served, hot and fresh – served by our hero, who has thus demonstrated his bona fides and justified our admiration for him. Without the adversary, our hero wouldn’t have the opportunity to be super.We probably wouldn’t want to buy tickets to watch a pillar of virtue sit around being virtuous.

The craftier of our fiction writing bretheren give the bad guy a reason to be bad so there’s a excuse for him or her to be in the story. One of our greatest popular entertainers, Alfred Hitchcock, seemed to regard the villain’s motive as an afterthought.He called such motives “mcguffins” and gave this explanation of them: “The only thing that matters is that the plans, documents, secrets must seem to be of vital importance to the characters…to the narrator, they’re of no importance whatever.”

Far be it from me to quarrel with the master, but allow me to express a gentle demurrer, in the form of advice to beginning writers: Give some thought to your mcguffin. If it’s out-and-out dumb, it will make your bad guy look dumb and a good guy who beats a dummy might not be all that impressive.

General Zod, Superman’s antagonist in the current movie, has a terrific mcguffin, one that confers nobility. And he does not consider himself to be evil.

Do the denizens of our courts and Congress consider themselves evil? Almost certainly not. Have you ever committed an evil act? Hey, there’s a gnarly question to end on.







Dennis O’Neil: The Obese Lone Ranger

O'Neil Art 130711I’m hungry. Gimme a plate. No, a bigger one. Bigger. Bigger! Big as a house, a stadium. Now, lemme eat. Eggs and cheese and pork chops and ice cream and popsicles and pickles and brownies and doughnuts and cake and candy and pies and french fries and hot dogs and hamburgers and cinnamon rolls and marshmallows jelly beans and and and…whatever else you got. Gimme!


…don’t feel so good…

And there he goes galloping off into financial ignominy. We, of course, refer to The Lone Ranger and our first paragraph was what we English majors call a “metaphor” – a very bloated metaphor – for what we think is mainly wrong with the much maligned entertainment of the same name.

It got greedy. It wanted too much.

It wanted to be an action blockbuster and a cowboy picture and a kiddie picture and a comedy and a tale of mythic heroism and a satire and, by making the title character a well-meaning doofus with a cruel streak and his Comanche sidekick the real hero, it wanted to acknowledge the shabby treatment Native Americans have often gotten from our popular culture. Go ahead – try to get all that into one movie, even a long one,

Pertinent digression: Back in the sixties, I read work by a journalist named Gene Marine who used the term “engineering mentality,” by which he meant the conviction that if we can build something, we should build it and piffle on the consequences. So we can put up this dam and let’s not bother ourselves with the fact that there may be other, cheaper ways to accomplish whatever this dam is supposed to accomplish without disrupting the environment for miles in every direction. Give a fella a huge budget and by golly he’ll do something with it.

The Lone Ranger had a huge budget.

It might have benefitted from a smaller one. With less money to spend, the film makers might have been forced to decide on exactly which movie they wanted to make and focused plot and action accordingly. Less might have been more.


A final item for all you conspiracy mavens out there: in the embryonic continuity that The Lone Ranger’s creators were devising way back in the 1930s and 40s, probably with no idea that they were doing so, the Lone Ranger had a descendant, Britt Reid, who rode a big car (instead of a big horse) and had an Asian sidekick (instead of Comanche sidekick) and wore a mask and, yes, fought crime. Now: a couple of years ago there was a Green Hornet movie in which the white dude is the klutz and his non-white partner is the real ass-kicker.

One of the Hornet movie’s production team said there wouldn’t be a sequel because of a disappointing ticket sales and the news media are full of the woeful information that The Lone Ranger bombed big time at the box office. Coincidence? You decide.

And one other thing: urp


FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases


Star Trek Into Darkness hits Digital August 20, Disc September 10

Star Trek Into Darkness: Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Chris PineLove it or hate it, there’s no denying that Star Trek Into Darkness was a box office smash, ensuring a third installment in time for the franchise’s 50th anniversary in 2016. As it winds down its theatrical run, Paramount Home Video has announced that the movie will be available digitally on August 20, three weeks prior to the home video release. This is an increasing trend among movie releases and slightly alters the release windows for a film’s natural life.

Here are the details:

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.  –  Lauded by critics as “a sleek, thrilling epic” (Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly), “a clever, exhilarating action adventure” (Claudia Puig, USA Today) and “stratospherically entertaining” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone), director J.J. Abrams’ phenomenal global sensation STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS makes its highly-anticipated debut on Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD and On Demand on September 10, 2013 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.  Fans can be the first to own the film on Digital when it arrives three weeks early on August 20th.  Boasting “spectacular visual effects” (Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer) and “one of the best villains in recent memory” (Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News) STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS delighted audiences around the world, earning a coveted A CinemaScore.

“I’m excited for viewers at home to check out Star Trek Into Darkness on Blu-ray and DVD,” said J.J. Abrams.  “They did a great job and I’m thrilled with how everything looks and sounds.  We also have some really fun behind-the-scenes special features that we shot on the Red and created entirely in-house at Bad Robot.  They really look amazing and unlike anything I’ve seen on DVD or Blu-ray before.”  Abrams added “I hope fans enjoy seeing the process that went into making the movie and the truly amazing work of our most spectacular cast and crew.”

Star Trek Into Darkness poster-xlargeThe STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS Blu-ray/DVD and Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD combo packs with UltraViolet™ are bursting with behind-the-scenes material detailing how the filmmakers delivered a rousing epic filled with both spectacle and soul.  For the first time, the special features included in the combo packs were produced entirely by Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions and captured in spectacular high quality on Red Epic cameras for a uniquely intimate perspective of the filmmakers’ process.

Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, the film follows the crew of the Enterprise as a shocking act of terror on Earth sends them on a manhunt to capture an unstoppable force of destruction and bring those responsible to justice.  STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS features an outstanding ensemble cast including John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Peter Weller and Anton Yelchin.


The STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS Blu-ray is presented in 1080p high definition with English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Audio Description and English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.  The DVD in the combo pack is presented in widescreen enhanced for 16:9 TVs with English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Audio Description and English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.  The combo pack includes access to a digital copy of the film as well as the following:


  • Feature film in high definition
  • Creating the Red Planet – Experience the creation of a never-before-seen alien world, as featured in the action-packed opening sequence of the film.
  • Attack on Starfleet – Go behind the scenes with the cast and filmmakers and witness the creation of the shocking attack on Starfleet Headquarters.
  • The Klingon Home World – Discover the stunning world of Kronos, and see how the filmmakers reinvented the Klingons for a new generation.
  • The Enemy of My Enemy – Find out how, and why, the identity of the film’s true villain was kept a mystery to the very end.
  • Ship to Ship – An in-depth and thrilling look at the filming of the iconic space jump sequence, which both defied the laws of physics and pushed the limits of visual effects.
  • Brawl by the Bay – Sit in with Zachary Quinto and Benedict Cumberbatch as they revisit their intense preparation for the film’s breathtaking climax.
  • Continuing the Mission – An inspiring look at the partnership between the film’s crew and the organization that assists returning veterans to find meaningful ways to contribute on the home front.


  • Feature film in standard definition

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack

The STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS Blu-ray 3D combo pack includes all of the above, as well as the film in high definition and 3D on a disc presented in 1080p high definition with English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Audio Description and English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.


The single-disc DVD is presented in widescreen enhanced for 16:9 TVs with English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Audio Description and English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.  The disc includes the feature film in standard definition.

The Blu-ray releases available for purchase will be enabled with UltraViolet, a new way to collect, access and enjoy movies.  With UltraViolet, consumers can add movies to their digital collection in the cloud, and then stream or download them – reliably and securely – to a variety of devices.