Tagged: Steven Spielberg

Martha Thomases: Super-Hero Family Team-Up

Like much of the planet, I saw the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie this weekend. Like a smaller percentage of this group, I saw it with a friend who isn’t into super-heroes.

Let me be clear. She isn’t opposed to super-heroes. It’s just that they are not her genre.

Still, she had heard good things about it from people at her job, and she was visiting from out of town and wanted to be a good guest, and it was pouring rain and there weren’t a lot of other activities available to us, so we went.

She loved it. She was completely knocked out by it. The whole experience put her through an emotional wringer.

I don’t think she’s about to become a super-hero fan, but I think there are reasons that super-heroes reach us emotionally in ways that other genre fiction does not (and vice versa). In the process of explaining what I mean, there may be SPOILERS about this particular movie. I don’t think any will ruin your enjoyment, but I don’t know your tolerance. Be warned.

There have been a tremendous number of movies in the last few decades about fathers and sons. I blame Steven Spielberg, but I’m sure you can come up with a list of your own. And I get it. We imprint on our parents for every other relationship we have. With the increase in the divorce rate over the last several decades, as well as the stress on the family caused by income inequality (and loads of other reasons that we don’t have time for right now), lots of people feel estranged from their fathers.

Most movies that play with this issue, especially those by the aforementioned Mr. Spielberg, usually find a way to show that Daddy Really Loved You All The Time. And I hope that’s true, for Steven and for you.

But it isn’t for my friend. She had to leave home at 14, and over the next five decades her parents resisted every attempt she made at reconciliation. The only way they would accept her is if she gave up her own identity and lived the life they expected.

Like Ego, my friend’s father felt that she could do what he wanted or she could be dead.

At the same time, my friend was lucky enough to find a father figure. This man didn’t kidnap her from her home and use her to commit acts of piracy, but he found a place for her and made her feel worthwhile. She didn’t learn to command a spaceship, but she can play a wicked game of poker.

Because Guardians is a super-hero movie, there are epic space battles, exotic aliens, amazing special effects and fantastic scenery and costumes. I think these fantastic elements actually make it easier to find oneself in the story. Our inner infant feels parental abandonment and betrayal as world-destroying events. Watching worlds actually get destroyed is the ultimate catharsis.

After all the explosions, we are left with a new family. Unlike my friend’s birth family, these people choose to stay together, to love each other not despite their flaws but because of them. They take care of each other without even thinking about it, because that’s how real families work. Whether the threat is a blob monster, an unplanned pregnancy, divorce or unemployment, we find our real family through these crises. DNA doesn’t matter as much as commitment.

I don’t mean to suggest that Marvel Studios is a substitute for a good therapist, or that we can stop worrying about our kids as long as they can go to the movies. We still need to do the work. Still, I’ll take all the insight I can get, whatever the source.

I’m now waiting to see how well Wonder Woman deals with mothers and daughters. I doubt Hippolyta berates Diana about her weight as much as my mother did to me.

Mindy Newell: War Is Not Healthy…But It Makes For Great Movies

“There is a savage beast in every man, and when you hand that man a sword or spear and send him forth to war, the beast stirs.”

George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords

So today is Memorial Day, which is the wind-up of Memorial Day weekend, which is the unofficial start of summer. Which means that if, like me, you’re from the part of New Jersey that’s north of Exit 11 on the Garden State Parkway, you “go down the shore.” For those of you not from the Garden State, the translation of “down the shore” is “to the beach.”

This also means spending most of the weekend stuck in traffic on the aforementioned Parkway before you get to Belmar or Seaside Heights or Long Beach Island or Wildwood and places in-between, but The Boss’s Born To Run will be rocking out through your car’s speakers, so it’s cool and anyway it’s all just part of the Weekend. Capiche?

Memorial Day is also the day we as a country are supposed to remember and honor the men and women who have died while serving their country in wartime. It was started as a way to honor Union soldiers who died during the Civil War – the North “borrowed” the South’s custom of decorating the graves of dead soldiers with flowers, ribbons, and flags, and so was called Decoration Day. It was held on May 30th, regardless of which day of the week it fell. It wasn’t until after World War II that Decoration Day became Memorial Day, and it wasn’t until the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed in 1968 that it became attached to the Monday of the last weekend in May as part of the government’s desire to create three-day federal holiday weekends. However, it took another three years (1971) for all the states to universally recognize it.

War movies are a conundrum – War is hell, as General William Tecumseh Sherman said, but in telling stories of war the writers, the actors, the directors and the producers can portray great tragedy, great comedy, great conflict, and great drama. Some war movies are outright jingoistic, others are totally anti-war, but all say something about armed conflict.

Here’s a short list of some of my favorites, with dialogue and/or quotes that have stuck with me through the years:

Stalag 17 (1953): Directed by Billy Wilder. Starring William Holden, Otto Preminger, Peter Graves, Don Taylor, Harvey Lembeck, Robert Strauss, and Neville Brand. Based on the Broadway play, it is the story of American POWs in World War II Germany who start to realize that there is an informant planted within their bunk.

Memorable dialogue:

Duke: (referring to Sefton’s safe escape with Dunbar) Whadda ya know? The crud

did it.

Shapiro: I’d like to know what made him do it.

Animal: Maybe he just wanted to steal our wire cutters. You ever think of that?

The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957): Directed by David Lean. Starring William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, and Sessue Hayakawa. From the book by Pierre Boulle, it is loosely based on historical fact. British prisoners of war in a Japanese prison camp in 1943 Burma are sent to work building a bridge for the Burma-Siam railroad. The British Colonel is horrified to discover that his men are sabotaging the construction, and persuades them that bridge should be built properly as a testament to British honor, morale, and dignity under the most brutal of circumstances. Meanwhile a team of Allied commandos is planning the destruction of the bridge.

Memorable quote:

Colonel Saito: Be happy in your work.

Major Clipton: Madness! Ma, madness!

Apocalypse Now (1979): Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Starring Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, and Robert Duvall with a young Laurence Fishburne and a cameo by Harrison Ford. During the Vietnam War a special operations officer is sent on a mission to find and terminate, without prejudice, another special operations officer who has gone renegade.

Memorable quote:

Willard (voice-over): “Never get out of the boat.” Absolutely goddamn right! Unless you were goin’ all the way… Kurtz got off the boat. He split from the whole fuckin’ program.

The Great Escape (1963): Directed by John Sturges. Starring Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, James Garner, Donald Pleasance, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, David McCallum, Gordon Jackson, Angus Lennie, and others. Based on the true story of the mass escape of Allied POW’s from Stalag Luft III in Germany, and adapted from Paul Brickhill’s first-hand account. All the characters are either real or composites of several POWs.

Memorable quote:

Hilts: How many you taking out?

Bartlett: Two hundred and fifty.

Hilts: Two hundred and fifty?

Bartlett: Yeh.

Hilts: You’re crazy. You oughta be locked up. You, too. Two hundred and fifty guys just walkin’ down the road, just like that?

Sands Of Iwo Jima (1949): Directed by Alan Dwan. Starring John Wayne, John Agar, Forrest Tucker, and Adele Mara. The film follows a group of Marines from basic training to the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Memorable quote:

Sergeant Stryker: Saddle up.

Coming Home (1978): Directed by Hal Ashby. Starring Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, and Bruce Dern. The story of three people affected by the Vietnam War – a wife, her Marine career officer husband who is serving in Vietnam, and a paralyzed veteran of that war whom she meets while volunteering in a VA hospital.

Memorable quote:

Captain Bob Hyde: (Yelling at Sally after discovering her infidelity) What I’m saying is! I don’t belong in this house, and they say I don’t belong over there!

Catch-22 (1970): Directed by Mike Nichols. Starring Alan Arkin, Jon Voight, Martin Balsam, Bob Newhart, Charles Grodin, Art Garfunkel, Anthony Perkins, Paul Prentiss, Martin Sheen, and Orson Welles. Based on the book by Joseph Heller, Catch-22 is the satirical anti-war story of Captain John Yossarian, a B-25 bombardier stationed in the Mediterranean during World War II who is expecting to be sent home after completing his required number of missions until he discovers that the commanding officer is continually raising that number. Desperate to go home, Yossarian tries to get out by claiming to have gone nuts, but there’s a catch was sane and had to.”

Memorable dialogue:

Yossarian: Is Orr crazy?

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: Of course he is. He has to be crazy to keep flying after all the close calls he’s had.

Yossarian: Why can’t you ground him?

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: I can, but first he has to ask me.

Yossarian: That’s all he’s gotta do to be grounded?

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: That’s all.

Yossarian: Then you can ground him?

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: No. Then I cannot ground him.

Yossarian: Aah!

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: There’s a catch.

Yossarian: A catch?

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: Sure. Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat isn’t really crazy, so I can’t ground him.

Yossarian: OK, let me see if I’ve got this straight. In order to be grounded, I’ve got to be crazy. And I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded, that means I’m not crazy anymore, and I have to keep flying.

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: You got it, that’s Catch-22.

Yossarian: Whoo… That’s some catch, that Catch-22.

Dr. “Doc” Daneeka: It’s the best there is.

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970): The story of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Directed by Richard Fleisher. Featuring an ensemble cast including Martin Balsam, James Whitmore, So Yamamura, Joseph Cotton, E. G. Marshall, Takahiro Tamura, Tatsuya Mihashi, Jason Robards, Richard Anderson, and others.

Memorable quote:

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto: I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.

Saving Private Ryan (1998): Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Jeremy Davies, Adam Goldberg, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Edward Burns, and Giovanni Ribisi, with a cameo by Ted Dansen. After landing in Normandy on D-Day in 1944, an army squad is ordered to find and bring back the last survivor of four brothers.

Memorable dialogue:

Old James Ryan: (addressing Capt. Miller’s grave) My family is with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel coming back here. Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.

Ryan’s Wife: James?…

(looking at headstone]

Ryan’s Wife (looking at headstone): Captain John H Miller.

Old James Ryan: Tell me I have led a good life.

Ryan’s Wife: What?

Old James Ryan: Tell me I’m a good man.

Ryan’s Wife: You are.

(walks away)

Old James Ryan: (stands back and salutes)

So while you’re lazing on the beach this weekend, or in the park or in your backyard grilling up some dogs and burgers, or at a ball game or just hanging around the house, try to remember, if even for a moment, those who never returned home from those bloody fields of glory.

For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”

Elie Wiesel

REVIEW: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The-Secret-Life-of-Walter-Mitty-blu-rayGrowing up in New York meant the secondary channels – WNEW, WOR, WPIX – often ran the same features often enough you came to expect them and knew the films from their frequent advertisements. It’s where I first met Walter Mitty, as portrayed by Danny Kaye in the 1947 adaptation of the James Thurber short story which first appeared in the New Yorker on March 18, 1939. The influential tale is among the most anthologized short stories of the last century and is said to have inspired a young artist named Harvey Kurtzman. As a youngster, I loved the idea of an adult who had these amazing fantasies, meaning when I grew up I could continue to enjoy the fantasies I was imagining rather than doing schoolwork. The movie was fairly faithful to the story while allowing Kaye’s everyman to also sing and pater his way through some sequences, making the character permanently linked to the performer.

Satire and humor authors are often overlooked when examining the great writers of an era and Thurber, beloved as he was, lacked the prestige of Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald and other contemporaries. As a result, his works have been largely forgotten and are rarely taught outside of universities. It’s therefore interesting to note that it took nearly 20 years for a remake of this film and story to reach theaters. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the current edition, had a lengthy gestation period over rights agreements and a variety of high profile directors (Steven Spielberg, Gore Verbinski) coming and going. Originally conceived as a vehicle for Jim Carrey, it could have been an interesting updating. When Spielberg got to it, he instructed his writers to go back to the source material, a piece of advice I wish had been maintained by screenwriter Steve Conrad.

The remake, which opened to middling notices and so-so box office at Christmastime, is now out on Blu-ray and it’s got such incredible potential that it is ultimately a disappointment. Mitty is now an employee at Life, the venerable picture magazine that was about to go from print to digital and the vital negative needed for the ultimate cover image has gone missing. As a result, Mitty is propelled to search it out, using other negatives from photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) as a guide. Along the way, this average guy facing redundancy has a series of spectacular adventures that fuel his overactive imagination.

Thurber’s Mitty imagined the love of his life, who in the Kaye version (played by Virgina Mayo), intruded on his fantasies and took him on his first “real” adventure, winding up with her. Here, it is Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig), a fellow staffer facing unemployment who has been the object of his desire. From the get-go you know they will wind up together undercutting some of the emotional journey.

Where Kaye’s Mitty wanted to be a fighter pilot, lawyer, and surgeon, here Ben Stiller’s Mitty is now an explorer, heading for Greenland and tasting rea life rather than looking at the images in Life (get it?). He’s a likeable enough character and you do find yourself rooting for him, but this does not feel like Thurber and the social satire is entirely absent, robbing the film of its chance to be special instead of merely commercial.

The video transfer to Blu-ray is just fine as is the sound. There are a handful of superfluous Deleted, Alternate and Extended Scenes (15:45); The History of Walter Mitty (3:39), which briefly gives Thurber his due; The Look of Life (5:01); That’s a Shark! (5:57), which has Iceland standing in for Greenland; The Music of Walter Mitty (4:01); Icelandic Adventure (3:26); Nordic Casting (3:51); Titles of Walter Mitty (2:49), a look at title designer Kyle Cooper’s playful opening; Sights and Sounds of Production (5:11); Pre-Viz (4:15); “Stay Alive” by Jose Gonzales (4:22); and, Theatrical Trailer (1:55).

John Ostrander: Sequels and Prequels and Remakes, Oh My!

Fox Movies has announced the possibility of re-making the musical [[[West Side Story]]] because Steven Spielberg has evidently expressed an interest in doing so. A part of me, a large part of me, wonders if that’s a good idea. The original won ten Oscars and is considered a movie classic. So – why? Why do a remake? It might be different but will it be better? How likely is that?

It puts me in mind of Gus Van Sant’s shot by shot re-make of [[[Psycho]]]. Why did he bother other than as an artistic exercise? Why did the studio okay it? One of the justifications I heard is the younger generation won’t go to the original because it’s in black and white. Seriously? They can’t be that shallow.

At one point there was talk of doing a re-make of [[[Casablanca]]] as a film. That was fortuitously abandoned. There was a TV prequel to it in 1983 that lasted about a season. There was also a TV remake of Going My Way which starred Gene Kelly in the Bing Crosby role and Leo G. Carroll in the Barry Fitzgerald part. This one actually had a large impact on me; I was in the 8th grade at that point and it made me want to be a priest. My “vocation” lasted only a little longer than the series. But the TV series was my first experience with the material and so the TV series was always my “real” Going My Way.

Famously, there was the [[[Godfather]]] sequel that was better than the first film. Less fortunately, there was another sequel which was lesser than either of the previous two films. Likewise, the sequel to the first [[[Star Wars]]] film was, by most peoples’ account, the best film of the series while the third one was far from that. Then Lucas, in his supreme wisdom, went back and did a prequel to the original trilogy. The technology certainly was superior but the story – not so much. For myself, I wanted to know what happened next – which was the basis for the [[[Star Wars: Legacy]]] comic book series that Jan Duursema and I did. Disney, having bought the franchise, will do a bit of both – they’ll push on to Episode VII, set thirty years after [[[Return of the Jedi]]], but they’re also developing stand alone films about young Han Solo and young Boba Fett. So they’re looking forward and backwards. That could make you dizzy.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a sequel, prequel or remake. It depends on the reason you’re making it and/or the story you have to tell. Sometimes you look at your earlier work and you see the flaws and think, “Man, I’d love another shot at that.” You feel you’re better at what you do, you’ve deepened as a person, you have more to bring to the material. The danger, of course, is that you could “improve” it to death.

Perhaps the remake is an existing property that you didn’t create. Me, I’d love a shot at [[[The Shadow]]]. Love it or hate it, Howard Chaykin achieved his own vision of the character when he took it on, as did Andy Helfer with artists Bill Sienkiewicz and Kyle Baker. Not traditional and perhaps neither were MY vision of the character but they were interesting and valid and reflected its creators.

I’ve done my own fair share of prequels, sequels, and remakes. Some have worked, some haven’t but in each case I tried to get down the essential concept of the book or character. My run on DC’s [[[Suicide Squad]]] was partly a continuation but mostly it was a re-make. The big question should always be – what story do I have to tell? Is it worth telling? Is it worth the reader’s time and money?

When you get right down to it, those are the same questions for any story you tell – new or remake. The story should always be its own justification.

Photo by nickstone333

MINDY NEWELL: You Say You Want A Resolution…

Newell Art 140106Well, 2014 is six days old, and though I’m not too maudlin about it, I’m glad 2013 is over. It wasn’t my worst year ever – that was pretty much 2006, though 2009 does come close, for reasons that I’m not going into here because some things do have to stay off this page – but 2013 was the year I lost my father. No, he isn’t dead, but he is gone for good, and this is how I know.

We (Glenn, Alix, Jeff, and Meyer Manuel) were visiting my parents on New Year’s Day. I had brought my father up to an apartment from the nursing home division; my parents live in a continuous care adult community. We were having either a late lunch or an early dinner, and one thing about my dad, he hasn’t lost his appetite. He eats everything put in front of him, even eggs, which, in fact, he actively disliked. Anyway, my brother made a joke about how there’s nothing wrong with Daddy’s appetite and how, even when he was in a coma last year, somehow if we put food in his mouth he ate it. We all laughed (a sad, kinda bitter laugh, I think), and then all of a sudden my mom started coughing. She kept coughing. Hard. And all of a sudden I realized she wasn’t just coughing, she was choking.

I went to give her the Heimlich, but Glenn had realized what was going on the same time I did and got to her first. It took a couple of too many abdominal thrusts for comfort, but it worked, thank God. Mom sat down, cried just a little bit because she was really scared there for a moment (of course), drank some water… and I realized that my dad had just sat there during all this and continued to eat – no, wolf down – his french fries. He had been completely unaware of what was happening to his wife of nearly 66 years, of what had nearly happened. All he knew was his french fries. He was just staring at wherever it is that he stares at and eating his french fries. “That is not my father,” I thought. “My father is gone.”

So, so long, 2013. I hope the door hit you on the ass on the way out.

And hello, 2014.

What would I like to do this year?

Like Marc Alan Fishman, my fellow columnist here at ComixMix, I’d like to get back to the comics shop this year. Unlike Marc, I stopped going because of the financial blues I’ve been living with for the last couple of years, and I dream of the day I have real discretionary income in my checkbook register again. I’m making inroads, but sometimes the dream is overtaken by the nightmare, if you know what I mean.

I’d like to get off my procrastinating ass and talk to Editor Mike about a story idea that’s been floating in the back of my head for more than a couple of years. It could encompass all sorts of genres if I’m a good enough writer – a little bit of soap opera, a little bit of fantasy, a little bit of thriller, a little bit of romance, but not a little bit country or a little bit rock n’ roll. It can address a bunch of issues like racism and politics and evolution and love and hate and family and madness and sanity. That is, if I’m a good enough writer, which is the fear that keeps me procrastinating.

I’d like to stop thinking that my dreams are merely the flights of fancy of some crazy woman and act on them. Like, what the hell, why not work into a script the story of my father and his sharing a bottle of Scotch with Lord Mountbatten in Burma during World War II to Dreamworks and Steven Spielberg, whose father was a chief mechanic who was responsible for keeping those P-51 Mustangs flying the Hump in the C-B-I theatre during the war? The worse that could happen is that I hear nothing.

Or write it up as a short story and submit it to, oh, I don’t know, where do you submit a war story these days? The web is my best bet, but exactly what site? I’ll have to buy a current copy of Writer’s Digest.

Or maybe I can do in comic form after all, only then I have to find an artist. God, I wish I could draw and just do my own stuff; the toughest part of being a writer only (only a writer?) in a visual medium is seeing everything in your head so clearly but not being able to translate the whole picture onto the page.

Did I ever tell you that artists amaze me?

I’d like to go to San Diego this year. Yep, I’ve never been to the San Diego Comic-Con. I can hear all the groans now from those who have walked the floors of the convention center, hear all the complaints about how it’s not about comics anymore, that it’s now a marketing tool for Hollywood. But I don’t care. I’d like to experience it at least once. I’d like to go to some panels and I’d like to star gaze just a little bit (but not collect autographs because autographs have never interested me) and I’d like to see people I haven’t seen in too many years and I’d like to go to the beach and watch the sun set into the Pacific Ocean instead of rising up out of the Atlantic.

And I’d like to write Wonder Woman again, and do another Lois Lane book. I’d like to sit down over a cup of tea (I don’t drink coffee) or a glass of wine with Gail Simone and meet Kelley Sue DeConnick and hang out with Martha Thomases (I want to pick up knitting again, Martha!). I’d like to be on a panel about women in comics at a convention and talk about the harassment going on and challenge some of these jerks in person – you want me take me on, you’re welcome to try, assholes.

And I’d like to say thanks to everybody who read my column in 2013. Thanks to everybody who wrote in response here on ComicMix and on Facebook and the League of Women Bloggers. Thanks for all the different opinions and the discussions they engendered.

And thanks to Mike Gold and Glenn Hauman and Adriane Nash and everybody at ComicMix who continue to let me open my big mouth right here, every week, every Monday, for better or for worse.

Happy New Year!











All 4 Indiana Jones Films to be Individually Released on Blu-ray

IJRaiders_BRD_FrontSAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (October 17, 2013) – For the first time ever, the first three films in the Indiana Jones saga will be available individually in high definition when they arrive on Digital HD November 19, 2013 and on Blu-ray with a digital copy available through iTunes December 17, 2013 from Lucasfilm Ltd. and Paramount Home Media Distribution.  Relive all your favorite moments from the greatest adventure of all time—from the deserts of Egypt to the jungles of South America—as everyone’s favorite archaeologist travels the globe thwarting evil villains to retrieve history’s most famous artifacts.

Under the supervision of director Steven Spielberg and sound designer Ben Burtt, Raiders of the Lost Ark was painstakingly restored in 2012 with careful attention to preserving the original look, sound and feel of the iconic film.  Own this meticulously restored version of the cinematic classic that started it all, as well as previously remastered versions of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, each with pristine picture and sound in sparkling high definition.  2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will also be available on Digital HD and in a two-disc Blu-ray set with behind-the-scenes special features.

Disc Specifications:

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark is presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 2.0 Dolby Digital and English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.

The disc includes the following:

  • Teaser Trailer (HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)
  • Re-Issue Trailer (HD)
  • Digital Copy (available via iTunes)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 2.0 Dolby Digital and English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The disc includes the following:

  • Teaser Trailer (HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)
  • Digital Copy (available via iTunes)

IJLast_BRD_FrontIndiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 2.0 Dolby Digital and English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The disc includes the following:

  • Teaser Trailer (HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)
  • Digital Copy (available via iTunes)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital,  and English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The two-disc set includes the following:

  • The Return of a Legend Featurette
  • Pre-Production Featurette
  • Production Diary: Making Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  • Pre-Visualization Sequences
  • Galleries
  • Theatrical Trailer #2 (HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer #3 (HD)

Mindy Newell: Trojan Horse

Newell Art 130701I didn’t know that writer blockitis was catching, but it must be, because just like my buddy and fellow columnist John Ostrander, I seem to be suffering from the same ailment today.

Signs and symptoms include sluggishness, an inability to form ideas, a lack of imagination, a desire to smash the computer, great interest in infomercials, and reading the Sunday New York Times.

Oh. Wait. Here’s something.

It’s an article by Brooke Barnes in the Arts & Leisure section, and it’s called “Save My Blockbuster!” Considering all the words and thoughts that have gone into discussing Man Of Steel by the columnists (including me) here at ComicMix since its opening on June 14, as well as the other comics, science fiction, and pop culture cinematic adventures that have already hit the screen (Iron Man 3, Star Trek: Into Darkness, World War Z) or are still to come (The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim, R.I.P.D., The Wolverine, Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters, Elysium, and The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones) this summer of 2013 – all involved studios praying that their production will be The Blockbuster of the season – Mr. (or is it Ms?) Barnes’s article is not only interesting, but also relevant.

But just when did the summer become the season of the adventure/science fiction/fantasy/comics/pop culture Blockbuster?

The summer of 1975. Jaws.

In 1973, Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown were producers at Universal. David Brown’s wife was Helen Gurley Brown, editor of Cosmopolitan. He found a pre-publication copy Peter Benchley’s Jaws in the fiction department of the magazine. Cosmo’s book editor had written a detailed synopsis of the plot, which concluded with the comment “might make a good movie.” Zanuck and Brown both read the book overnight, decided that it was “the most exciting thing they had ever read,” and purchased the movie rights They hired the still chancy Steven Spielberg, although the 26 year-old director was starting to make a name for himself for directing Joan Crawford in the pilot of Night Gallery (“Eyes”), defining “road rage” in his adaptation of Richard Matheson’s Duel for an ABC Movie Of The Week – I clearly remember watching Duel perched on the arm of a sofa in my dorm’s packed-to-the-walls common room, every single one of us with eyes glued to the small 19” television set – and The Sugarland Express, his first theatrical film.

Jaws hit the movie screens of America in 1975. It became the archetype of the summer movie for Hollywood. It had a wide national release (“saturation booking”) and massive media buys, i.e., lots and lots and lots of television, radio, and magazine advertising. It made money, and now every studio wanted a Jaws. According to Lester D. Friedman’s book on Spielberg, Jaws “defined the Hollywood hit as a marketable commodity and cultural phenomenon.” Before Jaws, summer was the seasonal dumping ground for Hollywood studios, the home of films they were sorry they made. After Jaws, summer became “the prime season for the release of the…biggest box-office contenders, [studios’s] intended blockbusters.”

1975 was, let’s see, how many years ago?


This summer Hollywood will have released, as the New York Times relates, “13 movies costing $100 million and up (sometimes way up), 44 percent more than in the same period last year. And because these pictures need to attract the global audience possible” to see any kind of profit, “they are increasingly manufactured by committees who tug this way and pull that way: marketing needs this, international distribution need that” and “the all-too-common result is a Frankenfilm” – I love that description! – “a lumbering behemoth composed of misfit parts.”

To test this assertion, Brooks Barnes conceived a movie titled “Red, White, & Blood” with the tagline “The only thing faster than her car was his heart.” The opening of the pitch reads “Think Fast & Furious meets Nicholas Sparks meets Die Hard.” He (she?) then presented it to a producer, a marketer, a studio executive, a researcher, a global marketer, and a writer.

This is what they said:

The Producer: “We need hotter weapons. Huge, big battle weapons – maybe an end-of-the-world device.

The Marketer: “There needs to be a wisecracking set of man candy here, and those actors are shirtless at least once in a TV campaign.”

The Studio Executive: “I’m a huge believer in a good tragic ending – it worked for Titanic.”

The Researcher: “If you try to appeal to everyone, you will end up appealing to no one.”

The Global Marketer: “Just be smarter then making a nationality or a culture the bad guys.”

The Writer: “Consider adding time-traveling aliens, or if that’s unrealistic, a regular alien and a time-traveling human.”

Jaws is a great movie. I have seen it at least a hundred times.

But it was a Trojan horse.


TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Partly Cloudy, with a Chance of Davis


“Moth City” Brings Thrillbent Up To Five Days A Week

Moth City

We’ve been lax in telling you about the new stuff coming from Thrillbent, and with Tim Gibson bringing his stunning comic Moth City to Thrillbent starting today, we have our story hook.

Moth City is a compact manufacturing island given to an American tycoon, Governor McCaw, by the Chinese Nationalist government. In exchange, McCaw is to outfit the government’s vast army as it attempts to destroy the Communists and unite the world’s greatest nation. Now, after a brazen and brutal murder, McCaw must unravel the island’s secrets before everything he has built is wiped out by the warring factions. New issues will be posted on Thrillbent.com for free, every Tuesday. Here’s a video preview:


And here’s the first chapter:

Tim spent three years illustrating worlds, characters and monsters for Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, with film credits including Tintin, District 9 and Avatar to his name. Moth City is the project he’s been secretly working on along the way. Tim lives with his fiancée in Wellington, NZ.

Moth City will be joining Thrillbent’s other continuing series, including:

Arcanum, written by John Rogers with art and colors by Todd Harris:

Insufferable, written by Mark Waid with art by Peter Krause and colors by Nolan Woodard:

The Endling, written by Jonathan Larsen, illustrated by Cecilia Latella, and coloring by Paul Mounts and Jenn Manley Lee:

The Eighth Seal, written by James Tynion IV, illustrated by Jeremy Rock, and colored by Nolan Woodard

The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood, written by Christina Blanch and Chris Carr, artwork by Chee:

All strips are lettered by Troy Peteri.

REVIEW: Schindler’s List

Schindler's ListHistory is far more than facts and figures, especially since the text books tend to get watered down by committee or skew to a particular point of view. Instead, history is really the stories of mankind. Who did what, and what drove them to commit those acts? Every era has its known heroes and as historians do their work, it’s also clear there are the lesser known players whose efforts remain equally valuable and their stories worthy of being told.

Few events have spawned more tales of heroism than perhaps World War II. We know of the Axis and Allied generals who made bold moves to change the tide of the conflict and of the American scientists who raced their German counterparts to split the atom and harness their power. Since the 1970s or so, more and more stories have been discovered and told, many about those who endured the war and survived to tell their stories. There’s Elie Weisel and Night, Anne Frank and her diary, and Oskar Schindler and his list. The latter’s story didn’t really come out until Australian writer Thomas Keneally released Schindler’s Ark in 1982 (retitled List for America). Almost immediately, Steven Spielberg snapped up the rights and then spent a decade trying to find the time and approach to honor the work and the man that inspired it.

Hard to believe it’s been 20 years since we sat mesmerized for three hours and sixteen, watching this black and white drama, which won numerous accolades, earning Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards. Now Universal is releasing Schindler’s List a 20th Anniversary Limited Edition which comes in a combo slipcase with Blu-ray, DVD, Ultraviolet digital. Right up front, it should be noted that Spielberg wanted little attention drawn to the film and it’s making so the special features here are the same ones from the DVD release. But, the director oversaw the high definition transfer and did a masterful job so the film, with Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography, looks wonderful and John Williams’ score sounds even better. It’s nice to have the movie on a single disc so it can be enjoyed uninterrupted.

The story of German industrialist Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) and his efforts to rescue one thousand Jews from death in a concentration camp run by the cruel and psychotic Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes). Yes, Schindler made a profit and could be considered a war profiteer but he did use that money and influence wealth provided him to see to it that people did not die. He worked closely with accountant Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) in crafting the typewritten list of names that became the symbol of survival.

The special features that do reappear here are worthwhile, starting with Voices From the List (77 minutes) as Spielberg hosts a series of interviews with Holocaust survivors and witnesses; USC Shoah Foundation Story with Steven Spielberg (5 minutes); About IWitness (4 minutes), an online application allowing educators and students to access more than 1,000 video testimonies of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses.


Time has not diminished the film’s power nor has its message been obscured by the director and performers’ other works. Nor has the deluge of Holocaust and WW II memoirs changed that each is a piece of a tapestry telling a story of when a world teetered on the tip of a pyramid, plunging one way towards peace and another towards unspeakable horror. While the stakes were never higher, the stories of people from both sides need to be heard and understood, seeing who had the courage of their convictions to do what was right despite the odds and personal dangers. Oskar Schindler wasn’t the only one, but saving some 1200 people is an accomplishment few other German civilians could claim.

For those who saw it when they were younger should see it again. For those with children in the intervening 20 years, should show it to them to understand what it means to be a Good Person. Its important film making and a powerful testament to the global outreach of the movies.


Spielberg Helps Launch USC Shoah Foundation’s IWitness Video Challenge

Spielberg Helps Launch USC Shoah Foundation’s IWitness Video Challenge


Before Lincoln, Steven Spielberg has explored other vital periods of history, stunning the world with his adaptation of Schindler’s List. That film is coming out next month in a 20th Anniversary Limited Edition and yesterday, the director announced the launch of the  USC Shoah Foundation’s IWitness Video Challenge.

“I implore educators not to allow the Holocaust to be a footnote in history, please teach this in your schools. There are 350,000 experts who just want to be useful for the remainder of their lives.  Please listen to the words and the echoes and the ghosts and please teach this in your schools.”

– Steven Spielberg

Here’s the official release; Steven Spielberg, USC Shoah Foundation Executive Director Dr. Stephen Smith and USC Shoah Foundation Director of Education Dr. Kori Street commemorated the Schindler’s List 20th Anniversary Limited Edition Blu-ray release with the global launch of the USC Shoah Foundation’s IWitness Video Challenge on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at The Chandler School in Pasadena, CA. They were joined by middle and high school students who had participated in the program while in Beta.

IWitness Video Challenge is an online program from the USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education aimed at middle and high school students that brings thousands of taped testimonies of Holocaust survivors into the classroom for guided exploration, connecting kids with the past while engaging them in the present.  For more information, please visit http://iwitness.usc.edu

Inspired by the experience of making Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg established the USC Shoah Foundation in 1994 to videotape interviews with survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust. Since the Foundation’s inception, nearly 52,000 eyewitness testimonies have been recorded in 56 countries and in 32 languages. Today the Institute is committed to teaching with testimony, endeavoring to make the power of each story accessible to students, educators, scholars, and the general public on every continent. A powerful reminder of the heroism and humanity of those willing to stand up against intolerance, Schindler’s List will be available for the first time on Blu-ray on March 5, 2013.  Digitally restored in high-definition from the original film negative, the Blu-ray release will expose the film to a whole new generation of viewers.