ASTROWORLD is nearing completion, yet still in progress. So, in the meantime, I thought perhaps I would post something here just to gather attention. Ladies and Gentlemen, without further adieu … an interesting assortment of random crap from the Internet, which I found to be interesting, curious, entertaining, or simply prosaically mesmerizing.
So I’m now deep into research and interviews for the purpose of bringing a film to the screen about the teen and young adult employees of a theme park in Houston, Texas called AstroWorld, in the summer of 1979.
A comedy in the vein of Meatballs (1979) meets a bit of Dazed and Confused (1993,) but also a tribute to the park’s hard-working staff, the people who loved AstroWorld, and the park itself.
At this stage this is merely a screenplay with no real money behind it, and there are several hurdles yet to dealt with. The first, of course, would be getting permission from Six Flags to use the name and logo of “AstroWorld,” and portray 1970’s era employees in one of their former parks. The second would be financing, which is difficult in that several things have to be in place before you get financing for such a project. The third would be finding a defunct amusement park which could be redressed and stand in for AstroWorld. … and that’s only the beginning.
However, I’m on it. I’m writing it. And we’ll see what happens.
Wish me luck, and remember … the show must go on.
Never saw White House Down. No longer falling for Roland Emmerich’s con that he’s both a director and a movie watcher. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as interested in seeing the trailer for the Independence Day sequel, as anyone else is. I just cannot see how someone could make The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and 10,000 B.C. and actually be watching movies, as well as making them. And it is a requirement that in order to make a good movie, you have to be a movie watcher. Otherwise, you should find something else to do with your life. So I only have the experience of seeing Olympus Has Fallen to offer, without comparison to it’s similarly themed competition, White House Down. And in a 1980’s B-movie kinda way, I enjoyed Olympus Has Fallen. It definitely has its faults. The special effects are not very well rendered, it feels like a hastily made Die Hard clone. My God, how many of those have we had now. And the script seems to be pasted together from various independent drafts of the same central concept, however, the movie is entertaining. The action sequence when the White House is initially taken is much more visceral and frightening than you expect, the characters are likeable enough, and the structure of the story is predictable but enjoyable.
Jurassic Park 3D 04/06 Grade: A-
I was very happy to get the chance to see this in a theater again, and the 3D was much more fun than I expected ! A lot of fun. When I came out of the theater, I felt compelled to text the following as a post on my Facebook page: “Saw Jurassic Park 3D. Great 3D conversion. A little more respect for the movie now than in 1993. The kids kept wowwing at the dinosaurs and I know it’s not the effects they’re thrilled by — it’s the way Steven tells the story. Holds up better than expected. Well played, Steven Spielberg. Very well played.” And that comment — some seven months later — still sums up my memory of that screening.
Oblivion 04/21 Grade: B+
I remember enjoying this one in general. The tone, the music … the chick in the pool. It was an interesting science fiction story concept and had a somewhat realistic ending, when mirrored against the rest of the film. And it didn’t have the long list of lingering issues that the director’s previous film, Tron: Legacy had, either. So that was good.
Iron Man 3 05/04 Grade: D-
In the last act of this film, the movie seemed to be building to a rather clever action climax — which let’s face it, is really what most people went to see the movie for. Definitely what the kids wanted to see. In this sequence, lots and lots of robot Iron Men were coming to the original Iron Man, Tony Scott’s rescue. If this sequence had really worked, that set-piece, together with the stuff between Robert Downey Jr. and the kid, would have helped me enjoy the pic a little more, and definitely left me with a better memory of the experience of watching the film. But alas, my hopes for such a clever action set piece were dashed rather unexpectedly, and quickly at that. As the multitude of Iron Men arrived, the CGI and the editing collided in what can only be described as a cluster fuck. For those who’ve seen the film, please note that I never complained about the Mandarin situation. It seemed novel to me to twist such expectations of comic book fans, in such a way. But a clumsy action sequence cannot be forgiven. Not only is not hard to write, storyboard, plan, and execute a legitimately novel and fun action sequence — many industry pro’s have commented that it is also easier to accomplish than any other aspect of a movie’s general paradigm. I left this movie a little embarrassed and said not a word about what I thought of it for the longest time. But I should have. To date the film has grossed one billion, two-hundred and fourteen million, seven-hundred and thirteen thousand, nine-hundred and ninety four dollars, worldwide. I should’a blabbed when I had the chance. And by the way, you can always tell how much the kids like these movies by how well the toys are selling. Next time you’re in a Wal-Mart or Target, take a look down the action figure toy isle and note the dense confabulation of Iron Man 3 toys still sitting on the shelf.
Alien (1979) 05/08 Grade: A+
It’s always nice to revisit a tried-and-true classic from your childhood. And it definitely helped me get rid of my disappointment over Prometheus, which was lingering from the preceding summer. And that was the principal reason I wanted to watch the original on the big screen again, when I saw it was being screened mid-week. It was a hasty departure for the local Cinemark, and I got there just in time to relive something really cool, and really well crafted. Actually, the more I think about Prometheus, the more I don’t ever want to think about Prometheus again.
The Great Gatsby 05/12 Grade C-
This one was not my choice, I was with a group. But I wasn’t entirely disappointed. The modern urban music concocted to play during the party sequences was really a nice touch. But I had seen the Jack Clayton version before, from the 1970’s, and the story is essentially the same. Rich, well-to-do individuals expostulating on their status in life. Utter nonsense and total bullshit, if you ask me. But like I said, the music was nice enough to warrant the letter grade I grant the film and the experience of watching it. Never did like that book. And to be fair, I’m not really a Baz Luhrmann fan, anyway.
Star Trek Into Darkness Imax 3D 05/15 Grade: A-
I enjoyed this one. Now a little background on my point-of-view going in.
There’s only so much these movies can be, given the way J.J. Abrams constructed his new alternate Star Trek universe. And I didn’t really feel impressed by the first one, although I did enjoy the music and the new dynamic given to the crew. My first issue with Abrams’ initial 2009 film, was the stuff with Kirk as a small child. It seemed like it was a waste of time, and the meat of it could have been covered in dialogue — and personally, I don’t even see that as being necessary. And I hated the bad wig they put on that kid. The only scene which I did enjoy was in the bar, where Kirk gets his ass kicked and Pike comes in and says a variation of, “I couldn’t believe it when the bartender told me who you are. You’re father was Captain of a Starship for 12 minutes. He saved 800 lives. I dare you to do better. Enlist in Starfleet.” But we already knew this from the trailer, and the rest of the film deteriorated into very basic sci-fi contrivance and exposition; none of it with any real merit. Not “science fiction” mind you, not premium ideas, novel concepts, and the appropriate level of writing to accompany all of that, but rather fodder for the Syfy Channel, overproduced on a massive scale in order to compensate for the lack of quality on the page. (What they should have done was start the film with Tyler Perry’s character in front of a full audience of cadets stating what Starfleet is, what Starfleet stands for, and what their principal duties and responsibilities are as representatives of Starfleet, before revealing that all of them have been accepted into Starfleet. Gasps, followed by Thunderous applause, then cut to a brief opening title and then straight to the sequence in the bar. They could’ve saved the prologue involving the death of Kirk’s father for later, somehow.)
In the 2009 Star Trek film, they even sucked Spock’s home planet Vulcan into a black hole and killed his mother. A terrible plot point which only reminds me of The Core mentality. That sloppy 2003 sci-fi film about people having to tunnel to the Earth’s core in order to save the planet and humanity. You remember, the one where once they all get into the craft that drills them down, every time the screenwriter’s needed another plot point, they simply killed another character, because they weren’t good enough writers to envision any other way of moving the story forward. It’s a ‘let’s destroy something or someone, because we can’t think of what should come next at this point in the fucking movie’ mentality. And please notice that when I mentioned “Spock,” I didn’t say “Mr.” Spock. Yea, the Quinto guy isn’t bad, actually he’s quite good, but he doesn’t have that stone, solemn, withered-by-life face that Nimoy had back in the mid 1960’s. Mainly because Nimoy had been through much more in his life and career than Quinto has. And Nimoy was a bit older, as well, if memory serves.
Paramount originally intended the 2009 Star Trek film to be Starfleet Academy, a proposed story Producer Harve Bennett had pitched to Paramount following the regretfully bad Star Trek V: The Final Frontier in 1989. Unfortunately, the only aspect of it the Studio liked was bringing in a new, younger cast to replace the old guard. And the age range for recasting the crew apparently remained constant over the 20-year stretch before the reboot finally got greenlit after the turn of the Century. (For the record Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which in 1991 followed The Final Frontier, and ended the original casts 25 year run, was an exceptional film.) Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, and Simon Pegg are all over thirty. But the two most important actors on the show are just a tad too young to be taken seriously in their roles. Too bad, really. Pine and Quinto, are solid actors, but they’re just kids, really, and it’s hard to believe that anyone under thirty would have the maturity to handle the kinds of situations that a Starfleet Captain and his First Officer would be dealing with. And Starfleet would know that, right ? (I think this is what Abrams and his writers were trying to accomplish by establishing that Kirk and Spock had each lived through a tough childhood, thereby establishing that each would have what it takes to handle the events of the 2009 film. It didn’t work.) Oh well, perhaps as these actors grow, they will mature into their characters, and these new Star Trek films will get better and better. Nothing wrong with more Star Trek movies. Nothing at all.
So, onward. At the end of the 2009 film, Kirk is back at Starfleet Academy — but wait a second, now Kirk is back on the Enterprise — and then the ship shoots off into space. So inevitably the next film should have taken place at the beginning of that five year mission, right ? Well, either A) that’s not what J.J. wanted, because he’s selfish, or B) neither J.J. nor his writers knew how to write science fiction without soap opera. Because guess what ? That’s right, we’re back in Earth’s orbit for about three-quarters of the story of Star Trek Into Darkness. And although I expected to not really enjoy the film, mainly due to all the reported homages to the original television series, and the films that followed it, I nonetheless enjoyed the story of Into Darkness much, much better than Abrams’ original 2009 outing. And that completely took me by surprise.
I don’t want to spoil too much, but I will advise you that I was personally disappointed that Benedict Cumberbatch turned out to be … well, Abrams’ reinterpretation of a classic villain. Why couldn’t they have made him “Q”? I mean they’ve reinvented everything else in this alternate universe, why couldn’t Q have showed up much sooner in the timeline. Anyway, between the story and the scale of the film and the action and the general sci-fi mashup, I cannot lie and say that it wasn’t a fun Saturday matinee. Although for the record, I actually saw an IMAX 3D sneak preview of the film. And it was actually worth waiting in line for. When was the last time anyone said that about one of these big budget summer tent-pole craptastic extravaganza movies ? They even gave us a limited edition free poster on the way out. Nice.
Man of Steel 06/14 & 06/15 Grade: A-
The issue I had was not the damage done in Metropolis during the climactic fight scene. The issue I had was not with the billions of people who reportedly would have died during that whole sequence. The issue I had was that the effects during the fight were sped up so fast, that I could not tell who was hitting who. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the movie. Loved the music, too. Even thought Costner was really spot-on as Jonathan Kent. But the filmmakers seemed to feel in the end that in order to really “effect” the audience, they needed every punch, shove, hit, and skybound flying squirrel to just be really, really fast, and too blurry for audiences to actually see what was happening. Clearly, they didn’t want audiences to discern to much, or criticize the fight moves. At least I guess that’s why they sped it up that way. I mean that’s the only explanation I could come up with. Rest of the movie was really great, easily holds up to Snyder’s work on Watchmen. But he’s got to do something about his fight scenes in the next film, Superman Vs. Batman. I still can’t tell you that I saw that fight, because I didn’t. It was moving so fast, and there was so much digital blurring, I have no idea what I was looking at. I did love the last line when Kent starts his job at the Daily Planet. “Welcome to the Planet.” As a huge fan of the original Superman: The Movie, the hairs on both my arms stood straight up.
The Heat 06/30 Grade: C+
Disgusting but funny. The plot was a bit too thin, but there is talk of a sequel and hopefully they will rectify that issue next time. Very much enjoyed the dynamic between the two characters, and the vulgarity was hysterical. Again, this is one I saw with others, so it wasn’t really my choice. But nonetheless, I laughed a lot. That’s enough for me to recommend someone watch it on cable for free.
Disney’s The Lone Ranger 07/04 Grade: D+
To begin with, Lone Ranger was too long. With more film snippets and elements, and access to Avid editing software, even I could make Disney’s Lone Ranger into a better film. Mainly by removing around half an hour of its running time.
On another note, one of the critics complained that, “…there is a limit to what can be accomplished with Johnny Depp and a bucket of makeup.” Although a funny quip, this was not an accurate assessment of the film’s issues at all. Depp did a very good job, even with the script that he had. Some who followed the film’s development commented that they should have left in the Werewolves. Perhaps that would have helped, I dunno. But if you intend to make a fantasy of it, you might as well go for it. And I saw none of the things the Lone Ranger stands for really evidenced in this film. Lots of obvious mistakes on that front. Then there was an issue with some wrong casting (or merely a bad choice of how to take the lead character, you decide,) a script that needed another pass, the overbloated running time, as I mentioned … and don’t think I ever heard a single character state that Barry Pepper’s character was supposed to be Custer — not even once. Then there’s that shot at the end where Tonto just walks into Monument Valley for no apparent reason. This could possibly be intended to imply something in connection with a statement on the tragic slaughter of the American Indian, but it’s so vague, most of the audience won’t even pick up on it.
Then there’s Helena Bonham Carter’s character — who’s name I don’t even care to recall. She seems not to have much of a purpose other than to add a spot of colorful character. If so, they generally failed in that respect. Which in my opinion, applies to every ancillary character in the damn movie. And then, there’s the kid at the sideshow. An idea which partially works, and partially doesn’t, mainly because several times you’re left with the general impression that Tonto was simply lying to the kid about a lot. As though the story he tells is how he wished it had happened. Especially since he leaves the sideshow wearing the lawyer brother’s suit, and these clothes appear to be A) the clothes Armie Hammer was wearing during the ambush in the canyon, and B) appear to still be covered in some of the same dirt Tonto buried him in — and that was before he was brought back to life. Which, just perhaps, never really happened. Frustrating. How nice to reach the end of the film and be left with the possibility that the filmmakers are laughing at you, because they conned you into buying into a story that never happened. Gee, I love it when they do that, don’t you.
If point of fact, the only thing I really enjoyed was the train sequence at the end. Reportedly, the filmmakers really fought hard for this action set piece. And now I realize why. Without it, they don’t have much of a movie. Guess you can tell, I didn’t really like it all that much. I did, however like the white horse. Although it was a little on the fat side. And I really appreciate the fact that a major studio spent the kind of dough on a western that they did on this film. Perhaps they’ll try again and get it right next time. The LEGO sets seem to have sold really well, maybe someday we’ll find out the kids liked it.
Initially, it took me years to arrive at a point where I thought I had the complicated timeline of the James-Younger Gang’s attempted robbery in Northfield, Minnesota, accurate.
Imagine my horror when the Minnesota Historical Society revealed and released freshly archived documents on-line, scanned by the Northfield Historical Society, many of which give greater depth and detail to this event — but all of which, whilst doing so, also completely revise the finer details of the incident.
I’m sure more documentation will eventually become available to the public. And I will probably end up revising and updating this sequence of events, yet again.
But for now, this is a much better timeline of what eye-witnesses report actually took place. A revised timeline, which, day-job permitting, took several months to properly integrate into my text.
**The following has been taken from the novel Western Legend by the author, revised for future publication.
Eight men mounted eight horses and fell into formation in three separate detachments. The first comprised of three men, then two, then three again. After spacing these detachments apart by roughly forty yards, the first five men nonchalantly rode forward to where they could see much of Mill Square beneath them. A horseshoe shaped blending of two dirt streets, Division and 4th; also known as Bridge Square due to its approximation to the 4th Street Bridge. And all of it covered in a mixture of dirt and mud.
(The James-Younger Gang at the time of their raid on the First National Bank of Northfield)