Thursday, May 27, 2010

Back to the Grindstone

I am so glad Monday is a holiday. Not only that, but in a rare moment of grace, I don't have any rehearsals or performances that day. So, not only am I off work, but I'm off everything.

My fervent hope is that I'll actually be able to pick up my guitar and finish the track that's been on the 8-track recorder for weeks now. Honestly, since before Sun, Stand Thou Still opened. I've wanted to work on it, but setting everything up, getting the chord progression back in my head, working over it until I figure out what to play, not to mention play it fluidly, just takes more time than I've had available.

That's frustrating.

Rehearsals for The Meaning of Lunch, however, have been a dream.

I love this script very, very much. I have since the very first time I read it. It's exactly the kind of play I, personally, feel Stage Left should always be looking for. It's got a larger issue to deal with, but playwright Dan Aibel is gifted enough to allow it to be subtext. It's not a story about THE END OF AN ERA OF AMERICAN BUSINESS, it's a story about a family, a father and son. Like I've said in previous blogs, I, very strongly, feel that sort of this is what engages an audience. We can talk about "art" and "ideas," but the thing that makes a story powerful, what gives it meaning, is how we FEEL about it. The best way to do that, in my opinion, will always be to show the audience an honest, simple reflection of people they can relate to.

Our Director, Jason Fleece, and cast, Sandy Elias, Melissa DiLeonardo, and Gabe Estrada, have brought all kinds of great energy to the project. Lorenzo Blackett's been supporting Jason, too. It's just a really fun environment.

Sun, Stand Thou Still also returns to the stage tonight. I'm hoping some more of you will be coming out to see us. Playwright Steven Gridley will be on hand for the May 29th show, for a discussion. I get to be way over the top! I mean, come on, don't you want to see that? Long story short, the show's a good time, and very different from a lot of what I normally do.

My post-Leapfest projects are already lining up, as well. A writing/directing gig for Strangeloop Theatre's Loopshop festival that's very low time-commitment, wise, but also wearing on me. The script is one of my old Brown Couch Theatre Company (yup, the site is till there) ten-minute play festival scripts, called Protected. I'm excited to do it, very much so, but Director-Mark is seriously giving Playwright-Mark the evil eye about the stuff I have to find for this script.

I also have my August-September pretty much set, now. I feel like it's a little early to start talking about that show yet.

Mix in a trip to see the family in July, as well as the ever-present SDCC trip. Add a heaping helping of Stage Left Spring 2011 show auditions (which I'm REALLY excited about) sometime in July. Mix until my head spins.

I enjoy being busy, I can't deny it, but sometimes I do feel the "overbooked" thought rattling around in my head. There are definitely nights I'd rather just go home and collapse in front of the TV more than anything else.

So, come on Monday!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New Comic Day 5.26.2010

Lord, Big week. Even with a "maybe" in there, it's a big week.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #2 (of 6)

Variant cover by FRAZER IRVING

The most anticipated series of 2010 is here! Superstar writer Grant Morrison tackles his most ambitious project to date with THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE, a special six-part series that chronicles the return of the original man behind Batman's cape and cowl! Each issue spans a different era of time and features the dynamic artwork of one of today's artistic juggernauts, starting with Chris Sprouse (TOM STRONG) on the extra-sized issue #1 and Frazer Irving (SEVEN SOLDIERS: KLARION) on the 40-page issue #2!

Issue #1 was definitely interesting, and Chris Sprouse really nailed the art. Just beautiful stuff. If Morrison can keep his plotting up, this series will be a winner on all fronts, because the artist line up is without peer.

The Brave and the Bold #34

Art and cover by JESUS SAIZ

Don't miss this first chapter of a most unexpected two-parter! This wouldn't be the first instance where the Legion of Super-Heroes have gone back in time looking to add to their ranks. But the sheer craziness the Doom Patrol will bring into their lives just might make that it the last time... and the Legion's mission will lead to some rather unexpected consequences next issue!

HA! Cool team-up. There's really nothing more you can ask for from a book with the proud The Brave and the Bold title. JMS has picked two teams that are always fun to play with. He's kept the series at a pretty high level, so I expect he'll play well.

Detective Comics #865

Written by DAVID HINE
Co-feature written by GREG RUCKA
Co-feature art by CULLY HAMNER

Batman spends the night in the bowels of Arkham Asylum attempting to uncover its mysteries. Plus, the horrifying fate of Black Mask is at last revealed! In the co-feature, The Question discovers the shocking true identity of the man responsible for the human trafficking and gunrunning.

Well, Batwoman is gone from this title, but Rucka's still working the Question back-up feature.

That kinda makes me sad.

Green Lantern #54

Written by GEOFF JOHNS

BRIGHTEST DAY shines its light on the "New Guardians" who have been forced to make Earth their new home! Why? You'll have to read it to believe it. While Hal is forced to deal with Larfleeze and his newfound appreciation for Earth culture, Sinestro uncovers the mystery behind Parallax's disappearance.

I'm only reading this book, not the sister Green Lantern Corps. I wonder if that's why it feels a little disjointed and random. I can only assume it's my fault, as Johns usually has things under control.

But I'm also a tiny bit pissed I gotta read another book for this to make sense.

Justice League; Generation Lost #2

Variant cover by KEVIN MAGUIRE

Spinning out of BRIGHTEST DAY, DC's new biweekly event begins here! Someone is targeting the old members of the defunct Justice League International. Now, surviving members Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Fire and Ice have to figure out what unseen mastermind is threatening to destroy the entire Super Hero community! There are no gray areas here – it's black and white and red with blood all over for this lost generation of Super Heroes as original JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL writer Keith Giffen is joined by superstar scribe Judd Winick (BATMAN, GREEN ARROW) for a new era in excitement! And don't miss the monumental reteaming of Giffen and his former JLI writing partner J.M. DeMatteis on this month's BOOSTER GOLD #32!

This is a "maybe" leaning more to "probably not."


Because this series was promoted as the return of the Justice League International, in all it's silly, gooftastic glory. It's not. This is a very serious story, which is fine, but JLI managed to tell serious-as-a-heart-attack tales, and still make time for goofy antics between the cast. That makes this series feel like a bait-and-switch. I'm sure Giffen has no interest in just repeating himself, but that doesn't wash because he and DeMatteis ARE repeating themselves over in Booster Gold.

So,I'm likely back on the bus with Booster, but this generation will remain lost.

Power Girl #12

Art and cover by AMANDA CONNER

All the pieces of the puzzle come together as Power Girl faces friend and foe in the no-holds-barred climax of the Ultra-Humanite's mad grab for control of Earth!

Holy crap! A one-sentence comic blurb?!?! No crossovers? No continuity to try to explain?

This book will go on, but I'm not going with it. This creative team made this book for me, and, as this is their last issue, it unmade it for me as well. I wish the new team well, but I KNOW they won't pull off what Palmiott, Gray and Conner did with a smile. I'll miss you Karen Starr, but I have a feeling it won't really be you anymore, anyway.

Ultimate Comics Enemy #4 (of 4)

COVER BY: Ed McGuinness
WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILS: Rafa Sandoval
INKS: Paul Tutrone
COLORED BY: Alberto Saichann

The heroes and Nick Fury make an uneasy alliance to hunt the mysterious enemy that has ruined their lives and murdered their friends. It’s a team-up like you’ve never seen before as Spider-Man and his truly amazing friends must go undercover to try to do what the U.S. government refuses to do. All this plus Ben Grimm makes an amazing transformation unlike anything you can imagine! Comic book sensations BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS and RAFA SANDOVAL bring you the shocking conclusion to part one of the Ultimate Enemy trilogy!

I bought the other 3 issues. Might as well finish it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

In Praise of Jim Parsons

I resisted The Big Bang Theory for a while. I'm not a fan of the traditional sitcom format in most cases, and frankly, a show about geeky/smart/nerdy/scientists struck me as a recipe for God-awful, easy-target humor. Y'know what I'm talking about, the folks that made up about 50% of the features in those Trekkies documentaries. The other half was great, with real people who just like the show and concept, but then you couldn't pass up the "Space Station Dental" or the kid in the Christopher Pike wheelchair replica. I'm not at all saying there's no humor to be found in geekdom, but must we always go right for the most obvious targets?

Example; when I'd visit conventions in Denver while I was in High School, the local news would always send a crew. That crew would always hang around for a while, but then find that one guy in the letter-perfect Captain Kirk uniform, with all the gear, who seemed to really believe he was Kirk. They'd get him to do all the famous lines, stand around in a "Kirk pose," which would only highlight the gut pushing against the uniform tunic. I'd always watch the report, and just be kind of mortified.

To be clear...THAT GUY EXISTS. You can't deny it, and we shouldn't hide from it. He's part an parcel of the geek sub-culture that's erupted in America. However, to the world at large, that guy represents ALL OF US, and whenever the mainstream media needs to create a geek character, that's what they aim for. No need to really worry about actual human qualities, or an inner life, when you can hit that HUGE target and get easy laughs.

So, when a new show about geeks, created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady (who gave us the "I want to kill myself this is so awful" Two and a Half Men), I just girded myself for the snide, easy jokes (apparent in Two and a Half Men), and vowed to avoid it when I could. Time passed, and eventually I found myself watching an episode in passing.

Watching, and finding myself completely taken with the show.

The cast and writers have managed to walk a fine line between finding the honest humor in geek obsessions, while still taking great care to make the characters genuine and universal, so that anyone can relate to them. Our lead character Leonard (Johnny Galecki), is never portrayed as less than a genius, but where other shows would just use that as an excuse to make his a bumbling social misfit, here he's given a true "everyman" status. On top of that, the "hot girl" from across the hall, Penny (Kaley Cuoco), who could have been an excuse for dusting off Three's Company dumb-blonde jokes, is only "dumb" in that she lacks the vast intellect of the other characters. Generally, it's just a tight ensemble, with Simon Helberg (Howard) and Kunal Nayyar (Rajesh) providing solid support. There's a palpable sense of teamwork, and allowing the characters to breathe and react naturally to each other. Everyone gets the space to play within their characters.

As with every good cast, there is one "power player," the actor about whom the others rotate, and who really keeps the concept, in all facets, sharply in focus. In The Big Bang Theory, the power player is Jim Parsons as Sheldon.

As an actor, I can really only marvel at what Parsons pulls off week after week. It's almost a textbook example of great television comedy acting. He makes precise, connected choices, that fit his character (arguably the broadest on the show), but never allows them to boil over into a parody. Sheldon feels like an extreme individual, but he also, always, feels real.

On the page, I can see that this character could've been an open invitation for overacting and attempting to upstage the rest of the cast. It's that kind of playing for the cheap seats acting that would've turned the show into what I originally feared it would be. However, Parsons' restraint and commitment to craft have allowed him, and the writers, to mold a character that I feel will live a long time as a classic of TV comedy.

I really feel the same about the entire cast, it's the sense of ensemble and the humanity of the characters that makes the show great. It's just so clear how easily Sheldon could've become a grating and utterly false sub-cartoon character, and I'm thankful that's not the case.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday, Monday....

Tired today.

Extra performance of Sun, Stand Thou Still tonight. Industry night.

And I am tired.

This was one of those weekends that doesn't even seem to exist. Rehearsals all day, shows at night, and generally a "gotta run" vibe to the whole thing. Not very relaxing, as you might guess. I was really, really happy to see that, along with having next Monday off work, I'm not scheduled to be ANYWHERE that day. Which is great, I'm dying to work on some music.

Generally speaking, after a period of about a year where I had very little going on, theatre-wise, I've suddenly found myself up to my ears in work. Totally committed, probably over-committed. Completely one of those "damned if you do, damned if you don't" things. I've been really upset about my lack of work, so, when opportunities present themselves, I want to grab them and run. that puts me in this situation, where I've probably said yes to a few too many things.

When it rains, it pours. I can't complain too much.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Comic Book Project Revealed

Ok, I know it's not as exciting as the massive production of Cherrywood that David Cromer is directing, but I got permission from the fantastic artist I've partnered with, Zach Bosteel, to share with my readers the cover of our comic book project, Steel City Serenade.

It's a .jpeg copy of the original .pdf, so forgive the slight blurriness.

I really love what Zach did here. It's a great cover image.

This will be a 12-page "zero" issue. At this point, Zach has finished the pencils and inks, and the pages look good. He's planning to make up some ashcan editions to take to Kids Read Comics, a free event in Dearborn, Michigan on June 12th and 13th. I can't attend due to theatre commitments, but if you go, look for Zach, and ask him for a copy.

The plan is to have a short, professional printing run for Zach and I to take to the San Diego Comic Con in July. We won't have a booth, or anything, but I plan to hand out every last copy I take, free of charge. So, if you happen to run into us, (y'know, if we stand out in the crowds of 125,000) just ask, and he, or I, will drop one on you.

As for the future. The plan is to explore digital distribution, and also having reasonable print runs. Zach is really big on digital comics, I know he's right about that, but I'm pretty much a Luddite, I like the paper in my hands. I just finished a first draft for issue #1 last night, so, pending re-writes, things are proceeding really quite well.

I'm really excited, to tell you the truth. I've always wanted to try my hand at scripting comics, and I almost can't believe I'll be able to hold a comic book, with my name on it, in my hands.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Them Crooked Vultures 5.18.2010

Aragon Ballroom - Chicago, IL

I dearly wanted to see this band. I am a huge fan of the album. It was my favorite from last year.

I almost missed out, as Tuesday night's show was their last US appearance. The band made mention of this, as their first gig was at Metro, here in Chicago, on the Sunday night that ended last year's Lollapalooza festival. They made a point to call Chicago their home town. It was a figurative statement, of course, but the sentiment was nice, and the crowd responded.

Blurry cell phone picture:

The opening act was Alberta Cross, and they had a nice, kinda Stones-y vibe. Interesting presence on stage, and some decent tunes. I may download the disk.

I got to the Aragon

Aside from some seriously jagbaggy kids in the crowd that apparently thought being a dick could get you up front (buddy, try pulling that at a Slayer show, which you seemed to think was the vibe, as Dr. Ezvian would say "you'll be dead!"), it was an amazing experience.

I've always felt Them Crooked Vultures had a explicit Cream-like vibe. Heavy, but rooted in groove and blues. Three guys who had notoriety from previous groups. Never moreso than on the track "Scumbag Blues," which, to me, sounds exactly like a modern Cream track. (Granted, Josh Homme is no Clapton.)

I made it to about 3 people back from the rail, directly in front of Homme and utility player Alain Johannes. I had a great view of both of them, and living legend John Paul Jones on the other side of the stage. I could see Dave Grohl behind the drums, but one of my gripes about the Aragon is that the stage is extremely high for as close as you can get to it. My view to the drums was not clear.

They began the show with "No One Loves Me, and Neither Do I," same as the CD. It's a great opening track, and establishes the Vultures sound pretty solidly. The first five numbers were a pretty powerful opening gate rush, "Gunman" (which is probably my favorite track from the CD), "Scumbag Blues," "Dead End Friends," and "Elephants." I was seriously beginning to wonder how they were going to maintain the drive opening that way.

It was a volley of powerful tracks, and with the limited material that is part and parcel of touring with only one album's worth of material, it crossed my mind that the uptempo, powerful numbers might run out before the energy did. It was a pretty silly fear, as even the most languid tracks, "Interlude with Ludes," for example, gained magnetic energy from the personalities on stage.

To whit; Josh Homme is one hell of a frontman. Loose, cool, a bit arrogant, and more than willing to push the envelope on looking little silly. For example the aforementioned "Interlude With Ludes," it's probably one of my least favorite albums tracks. However, it springs to a weird, sexual life when Homme is standing on top of the stacks grinding like a stripper as he sings. Not to mention watching John Paul Jones pull out the keytar for that number.

Yes, that's right, I saw a member of Led Zeppelin play a keytar.

It might have been my favorite number of the show.

I was also extremely excited to hear new music. Two new tracks, "Highway One" (Featuring Jones on a wicked-cool electric mandolin), and "You Can't Possibly Begin to Imagine" (Jones on electric violin), really made my night. Both were well within the Vultures sound, but also showed new directions. When you have a multi-instrumentalist like John Paul Jones, I say you use him, and those new tracks certainly did. Made me pine for a second album sooner, rather than later.

Although, it'd be nice to hear something about the new tracks, like a title, during the show. I had to look up the names on the internet when I got home. Next time, I guess.

The band is extremely tight, in general. Jones and Grohl were right in the pocket together, and clearly having a great time. Jones got extended bass jam time on "Gunman," and it was truly fantastic. He and Grohl were playing off each other, improvising, and still holding the song together. The fact that the crowd was really happy to be seeing a living legend like Jones play had to add too it, every bass lick during that jam got a huge scream.

Much wit and humor was in evidence for the entire show. Homme has many snappy lines, usually revolving on his current state of drunkenness. He was swigging from a vodka bottle the entire set. Real? Not? I didn't really care, it was part of the show, the way these three personalities (and Johannes, who got a nice guitar solo spot) merge together and play off each other. Homme as the hard-core bad-boy rocker, Grohl as the goofy, good-time guy, and Jones as the elder statesman, it was just nice to see a band that came from different places and put their strengths together to make an awesome sound. I certainly find it cooler than a band who seems to have chosen a "style" that they all stick to.

Oh, and Dave...Josh is right. The picture on this shirt;

Makes you look like a child molester.


No One Loves Me, and Neither Do I
Scumbag Blues
Dead End Friends
Highway One
New Fang
Interlude With Ludes
Mind Eraser, No Chaser
You Can't Possibly Begin to Imagine
Spinning in Daffodils
Warsaw or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up

New Comic Day 5.19.2010 (one day late)

So, this week has been a very lazy one for your friendly neighborhood blogger. Things have been busy, but I have a lot to write about.

Let's start with this week's books. Most are at the $3.99 price point this week...**sigh** As a twist for this week, the cover art will be part of my comments.

Batman: Streets of Gotham #12

Written by PAUL DINI
Co-feature written by MARC ANDREYKO
Co-feature art by JEREMY HAUN

Batman deals with the aftermath of Zsasz's crime wave when a new threat walks upon Gotham City's stage! And in the co-feature, an enemy Kate made in both the courtroom and on the streets of Gotham has decided to make his fight a little more personal…

That is a Badass cover, no doubt. Hats off to Mr. Nguyen. More solid bat-tales from Dini. I can't say I await new issues of this series with anticipation, but I'm usually not disappointed.

Brightest Day #2

Variant cover by IVAN REIS and OCLAIR ALBERT

BRIGHTEST DAY continues, but in ways you can't possibly expect! What does BRIGHTEST DAY mean to the DC Universe? Is everything from here on out going to be bright and shiny? No, BRIGHTEST DAY means something else entirely, something we can't tell you...yet. But we can tell you our heroes will need to rise up more than ever to combat the forces of evil, and a select few will uncover a secret that binds them ALL.

In the grand tradition of modern comic book storytelling...nothing much has happened so far in this series. I'm still hopeful, but y'know...I'm counting on you Geoff. Cover: Meh.

Justice League of America #45

Art and cover by MARK BAGLEY and ROB HUNTER

A BRIGHTEST DAY tie-in! Supergirl rejoins the JLA as incredible, ancient forces of chaos are unleashed. What could posses her and Power Girl to battle to the death? And what horrors await the rest of the Justice League and Justice Society in this prologue to "The Ghosts of Earth and Space"?!

I like how Mark Bagley draws women. So, this cover works for me. However, I've grown so disillusioned with this series, I'm actually entertaining the idea of dropping a Mark Bagley drawn series. I'm hanging on until issue #50, but, if things don't turn around...It may be over.

The Spirit #2

Co-feature written by HARLAN ELLISON
Co-feature art by KYLE BAKER
Cover by LADRĂ–NN

In this second gripping issue, Angel Smerti is a lady who gets what she wants – and she wants The Spirit dead! The Spirit's first encounter with the Golden Tree crime organization will show him that the threat extends far beyond Central City! And in the co-feature, THE SPIRIT: BLACK and WHITE, modern fiction master Harlan Ellison teams with the brilliant Kyle Baker (WEDNESDAY COMICS) to bring an adventure right to the Spirit's backyard — Wildwood Cemetery!

OK, first, what a fantastic cover. Very classic Spirit image, as femme fatales were a bread and butter mainstay of Will Eisner's creation. I don't know who "Ladronn" is, but this is a really sharp image. Also very excited by the Harlan Ellison/Kyle Baker "Spirit:Black and White" back up feature. DC promised big-time creators for that feature, and they've delivered so far. Love me some Uncle Harlan, and Baker is a genius. The "First Wave" line has been pretty much a let-down for me, the Doc Savage book may be the worst thing published by the "big two" in the last few years, but the first issue of this series was pretty sharp. Better than the last Spirit series, at least after Darwyn Cooke left.

Ultimate Comics Avengers 2 #2

COVER BY: Leinil Francis Yu
WRITER: Mark Millar
PENCILS: Leinil Francis Yu
INKS: Gerry Alanguilan
COLORED BY: Laura Martin
LETTERED BY: VC - Cory Petit

The Avengers have their first mission: track and neutralize the Ghost Rider for good. But they need one more recruit to help them do the job…and he’s not so cooperative. How do you put down a HULK? Chuck a few tons of metal at him! War Machine and the newest HULK go head-to-head and it gets explosive. Hotshot creators MARK MILLAR and LEINIL YU bring you the next blazing chapter of ULTIMATE COMICS AVENGERS: CRIME AND PUNISHMENT!

Cover; Bleech. I don't know if I'm going to get all the way through this series. The splash page, and costume change, that ended the last issue was a really bright spot, and spoke of many character possibilities, but....Mark Millar, I just don't trust you.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Selfish Promotion

I have a show opening tonight.

I tweeted a couple of times, I invited people to the event on Facebook, and I'll most likely do so again before closing weekend. I definitely want people to come, and I want Ka-Tet to have a successful run. The folks I'm working with have put a lot of time and effort into the show, and they deserve to have it seen by many people.

I did a little work, too. Not much, but some.

Thing is, it's always been readily apparent to me that my biggest weakness as an actor isn't on stage, it's out here in the real world. The gladhanding and the hustling and the getting yourself in front of people. I'm just not that into "the wonder of me."

I work, I try to do the best I can at every moment. I have this silly, silly notion that good work will move you forward. Well, of course it does, but selling yourself is what makes people care.

I can't do it. I never could. I am who I am, I work hard and I bring a modicum of skill to the table. I am fiercely loyal to those who are loyal to me, those who I respect, and somehow, my naive mind thinks that ought to be enough.

Which is probably why, at 38 years old, I have not one Equity point.

Intellectually, I know this attitude is idiotic bordering on brain-dead. Frankly, I wonder if that's not my problem, anyway. I can't remember the names of 30% (at least), of the people I've actually worked with, let alone the assistant casting director I meet in the lobby, so maybe I have a problem....What was I talking about?

I've been through it, "oh, you should meet...." I'm introduced to some big-wig from somewhere, and I say hello, and try to make polite conversation. I can see the dull-eyed glow of someone who's been through this little process about a billion times, and sees me as processed cheese-spread. Which, of course is just a jump-start for my less-than-meager conversation skills. So I blather something nice about the production, we stand around awkwardly, and I finally beg off.

They don't really want to meet me, and I'm just there because someone (with more of my interests in heart than myself) pushed the issue. I'm a basically shy person (really, it's true!) It's all awkward, and nobody comes out looking good. As Neil Peart said, "I can't pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend."

That's me, other people FLY in those situations, and they're remembered.

I've always been a story guy, a teamwork guy. I don't really care if I look good, I want to know if the show looks good. I do what I do because I like to tell stories. I like to be on a stage with a lot of great actors and just, flat out, go for it. My first true acting teacher, Jeff Green (to whom I'll always owe a debt), used to call it "taking flight." That's where I want to fly.

After a show, I get really introverted. I've got to take, at least, five minutes to berate myself for the crap I screwed up. I tend to take a long time in the dressing room so more people will leave. I hate the "storefront walk" from the dressing room, through the lobby, to the front door. There's always the folks hanging out, talking shop. Families waiting for their son/daughter/sister/brother/nephew/niece to come out and accept their congratulations. Folks who, when they see you were in the show, always give you that "good job."

Every actor knows that "good job."

"I can't pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend."

Of course, I am happy to see my friends at a show. There's no theatre without an audience. (Although, as I've said many times, the fact that we just accept that our audience is our friends and other theatre people is, really, an extremely sad comment on where we are as a craft.) Don't any of you think this means I don't want you to come.

It also never has anything to do with how I feel about the show. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Dashiell Hamlet were probably the two greatest acting experiences of my life, and, if anything, I got even MORE introverted in the lobby.

Maybe it's ego. I've certainly never claimed to be ego-free, even slightly. Maybe I feel like I'm giving on stage, and I don't need to give any more when I walk off. I suppose that's possible, maybe it's wrong, but isn't that better than the opposite?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It's tech week and I feel random...

In comics:

Ryan Choi Was killed off this week in a Titans Comic

Who's Ryan Choi? I'm even a DC fan!!


In Music:

YOSO Headquarters

So, I'm just gonna quote the press release...

The term “Super-Group” can only describe the formation of two of the most creative and musical legendary bands of the past 30 years into the new band YOSO. Formed out of TOTO’s brilliant vocalist Bobby Kimball and the creative force of YES members, Tony Kaye and Billy Sherwood, it does indeed equal the magic of YES with the voice of TOTO. However, YOSO is much more than a combination of two classic rock groups. YOSO has combined their musical talents to produce an album of new music.

My favorite thing in this release? "the creative force of YES members..." Which is this great press release line that you can kinda read as saying that Kaye and Sherwood were the creative force of yes, but really just says that they, themselves, have creative force to apply. Clever, that.

Also...Jesus, really? You, former members of YES and TOTO, actually decided to form a band and name it "YOSO?" On what level is that a good idea? I mean, I'll be honest, this could be a good album. It really could. Toto and Yes were both highly talented bands, and I wouldn't talk crap about anybody who could work at that level.

But come on...

That name is just a naked "ride on past glories" move, and, worse than that...It's stupid! It's not even an obvious naked cash grab. I mean, if I saw a CD with "YOSO" on the front cover, the first thing I'd think is that's it's some world-music thing. I certainly wouldn't think, "hey, that's Yes and Toto pushed together like some sort of word find!"

Oh well...To each his own.

Ahh...Ryan Choi was the "new" Atom.

I guess that goes to show you how successful THAT reboot was. Well, God bless ya, gave us 25 months of superhero entertainment. Well, not me, but I guess you gave somebody 25 months of superhero entertainment. Not even John Byrne art could generate interest...I mean, save you.

God bless you, Ryan Choi, you did all the ill-fated replacement heroes proud. Perhaps, like Bart Allen, they'll de-age you back to a teenager and make you a sidekick again....or, for the first time, I guess.

Electron? Proton? Ion? (no...that one's taken) Oh...never mind.

Ryan Choi, WE SALUTE YOU!!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New Comic Day - May 12, 2010

Middling week, volume-wise. One thing I do know, I will NOT be picking up Doc Savage #2. The first issue was simply awful, and not in a "first issue, finding the way" sense, but in a "this is not good" sense. I was pretty happy with The Spirit, however.

Here we go.

Batman #699

Written by TONY DANIEL

Only one month until BATMAN #700! As the anniversary issue nears, Dick Grayson's life as the Dark Knight inches dangerously closer to the edge! With the Falcone crime family and The Riddler creating havoc in Gotham City, Batman is completely occupied with no idea what shocking surprise awaits him in the near future!

Sometimes it sneaks up on me how close we are to anniversary issues. Only one more month to Batman #700. As I've said on previous issues of this title, I'm generally happy with Daniel's storytelling, and, while it's not the best Batman book on the market, it's a solid read month-in, month-out.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1 (of 6)

Variant cover by CHRIS SPROUSE
Sketch Variant cover by ANDY KUBERT

The most anticipated series of 2010 is here! Superstar writer Grant Morrison tackles his most ambitious project to date with THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE, a special six-part series that chronicles the return of the original man behind Batman's cape and cowl! Each issue spans a different era of time and features the dynamic artwork of one of today's artistic juggernauts, starting with Chris Sprouse (TOM STRONG) on the extra-sized issue #1 and Frazer Irving (SEVEN SOLDIERS: KLARION) on the 40-page issue #2!

OK, so here we go....Grant Morrison "killed" him, now he's bringing him back. I have a confession, prior to the Final Crisis/R.I.P. removal of Bruce Wayne/handing the cowl to Dick Grayson, I had been less than impressed with Morrison's Batman work. His spacey, stream-of-consciousness work never really gibed with the gritty underbelly of Gotham City. Me, I like Batman (at least when Bruce Wayne is under the cowl) in gritty, neo-noir tales of crime, corruption and insanity.

By switching to Dick Grayson, I felt open to more light-hearted, wacky storytelling. Morrison's writing felt more right, and Batman and Robin has been a terrific series. With Bruce returning (although at least 6 months away), I fear when Wayne returns, the disconnect between creator and property will re-emerge.

Booster Gold #32


Just when things couldn't get any worse for our golden hero, fan-favorite JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis take over the ongoing writing chores of BOOSTER GOLD starting here! When someone from Booster's past resurfaces, Booster's life is turned upside down and inside out, and only a trip through the timestream can possibly set things straight.

I dropped this book with #12, mainly for financial reasons, but I have to give it another shot. The Giffen/DeMatteis team is responsible for one of the greatest series DC ever put out, Justice League International. Maybe I won't jump fully on board again, but I enjoyed that series so much (in which Booster was a regular), they deserve an issue to draw me in.

Flash #2

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by FRANCIS MANAPUL
Variant cover by RYAN SOOK

BRIGHTEST DAY shines its light on the continuing saga of Barry Allen – The Fastest Man Alive! The Flash continues his investigation into the "Dastardly Death of the Rogues" as the case takes a dramatic turn and Barry corners a suspect...and can't believe who it is!

I was so excited about the launch of this book. I gotta be honest, the sub-par Flash:Rebirth may have sucked the excitement out of me. However, I am a die-hard Flash and Geoff Johns fan...I need to give them a lotta room before I give up.

Justice League: Generation Lost #1

Variant cover by KEVIN MAGUIRE

Spinning out of BRIGHTEST DAY, DC's new biweekly event begins here! Someone is targeting the old members of the defunct Justice League International. Now, surviving members Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Fire and Ice have to figure out what unseen mastermind is threatening to destroy the entire Super Hero community! There are no gray areas here – it's black and white and red with blood all over for this lost generation of Super Heroes as original JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL writer Keith Giffen is joined by superstar scribe Judd Winick (BATMAN, GREEN ARROW) for a new era in excitement! And don't miss the monumental reteaming of Giffen and his former JLI writing partner J.M. DeMatteis on this month's BOOSTER GOLD #32!

As mentioned Justice League International was a gold-star series.

These bozos better not screw this up. Also....*psst!* We know who the "unseen mastermind" is, you showed is in Brightest Day #1.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #10

WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis

It’s the end of the road for Miss Kitty Pryde as the law comes to Midtown High School to take her away. Will she go quietly into the night or will Peter Parker and his amazing friends come to her rescue? The answer will surprise you. Plus: the return of the Daily Bugle and J. Jonah Jameson, and the debut of an Ultimate villain that will take over Peter Parker’s life in every way, shape and form. Don’t miss the action as this fan favorite series kicks into high gear!

I could just tell you again that this is a really top-notch series, perhaps the best thing Marvel's publishing. I could, but why be a broken record?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Iron Man 2 (Spoilers - Ye be warned)

So, being a good little fanboy, I managed to see Iron Man 2 twice this weekend. I went on my lonesome Saturday morning, and then again for "date night" (last one before tech hell) with CByrd on Sunday.

Generally speaking, this is a highly entertaining popcorn flick. I'd say it's about on par, quality -wise, with the first one. It's a slam-bang comic book action flick anchored by an unendingly charismatic lead performance.

Of course, that kind of worries me, but I'll get to that in a bit.

Sticking to the film itself, I'm sure to let slip some spoilers. It's kind of unavoidable if I want to talk about the things that bothered me here. This is not to say I didn't have a good time, because I did. The movie keeps the pacing up, and never fails to be entertaining. The new characters are interesting, if underused, and the final battle sequence is arguably better than in the first film. It's more than worth seeing on the big screen, as you will not walk out feeling like you got less than your money's worth.

The film is entertaining, but problematic is that, especially in the second act, it's sort of in spite of itself. The plot fairly grinds to a halt in order to trot in Samuel L. Jackson so he can shovel exposition and lay groundwork for The Avengers. It only stays aloft because of the sheer star power of Robert Downey Jr. Literally, this movie, and probably the last, would be really poor if not for Downey.

Specific gripes, on a technical side, would be that the action sequence connected to Tony Stark's birthday party is just horrid-looking. Worst CGI I've seen in a film of this scale in a long while. Especially troubling when the sequence could've been done with a couple of stuntmen in the real suits Marvel made such a big deal about building. The CGI models simply lack heft and weight, to my eye. Totally threw me out of the story for the entire sequence.

Also very, very underwhelmed by the ultimate confrontation between Iron Man, War Machine and Mickey Rourke's Ivan Vanko (who uses elements of Iron Man villains Whiplash and The Crimson Dynamo, but is never actually called either). The sequence follows and amazing action set piece in and around the Stark Expo pavilions, which is paced quite ingeniously and manages to keep raising the stakes and the "wow" factor.

Then Vanko shows up again, in another, larger suit of armor. Which is...exactly how the last film ended. Truly, as a visual, Rourke's appearance in the Monaco Gran Prix sequence (which is where all the publicity stills come from) is far more compelling and interesting than how he looks at the climax. Like I said, the sequence itself probably works better than the one in the last film, but I really felt a "been here, done that" response.

Director John Favreau has talked a lot about how Iron Man's more "magical" villains, like The Mandarian and Fin Fang Foom, don't fit in the vaguely realistic, "high-tech" world he's created. Well, in a film that includes a direct reference to what's probably Marvel's most magical and otherworldly hero...I felt myself yearning for Tony Stark to confront something that really took him out of his comfort zone. However, the whole film has an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" feel. Which isn't all bad, because this is no sophomore slump that a third film will have to "apologize" for, but it also doesn't take many risks.

I may seem like I've got a lot of gripes. I want to be clear as a bell here. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. My problems are on technical levels, be it with special effects, or storytelling techniques. I work as a storyteller, I think about this stuff, and I probably know way too much about special effects for my own good. I am wholeheartedly recommending it as a great time at the movies, but it's not perfect.

Now, there's another area to critique. This movie is where the hard-core build-up to The Avengers starts, and, frankly, I have to kinda look at that on it's own. I mean, the film stops dead to bring in Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D., and remind us that The Avengers is in the offing...

...And that's kind of the problem.

The Avengers stuff never feels organic or connected to the story we're trying to tell right now. Oh, the script give Jackson's Nick Fury some exposition and a Deux Ex Machina moment to try to connect this stuff to what's going on, but it just feels weak. When this whole "master plan" to take us from Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, through Iron Man 2, next year's Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, ultimately dropping us on 2012's The Avengers, was first announced...I was skeptical. The work they do to progress the "Marvel Movie Universe" here doesn't really help my skepticism.

First and foremost...the only franchise Marvel's really gotten off the ground is 100% dependent on it's star. The scripts for both Iron Man films have been serviceable, or even less than serviceable, but it's only via Downey that any magic happens. I'll give Favreau credit too, he's putting this package together, and it's clear he understands how important letting Downey play is. Likewise, much of my enjoyment of The Incredible Hulk was tied to Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, and they managed to burn that bridge to the ground with the ugly post-production.

In essence, it feels like Marvel Productions has gotten really damn lucky, and that's great, good on them. I want these films to be entertaining and good. However, I think they're also missing something very, very important when you're working with superhero characters.

Where's the inspiration? A huge part of comic books for me were the moments of inspiration, the moments when these characters showed me what heroism meant, how we can transcend our own fears and weaknesses to rise to the occasion and strive for greatness. That, like the great tales of Hercules or any other folk hero, are part and parcel of the superhero iconography. That's, to me, the social role of these characters.

It's also been largely absent from Marvel's films, so far. Especially when you compare these movies to films like Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie, or Sam Raimi's first two Spider-Man films, or especially Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. Yes, it's cool to think of the building of a unified Marvel Universe on film, but it's nowhere near as emotional as watching Batman allow himself to be branded a murderer to preserve the reputation of a heroic man twisted by fate. Seeing Nick Fury show up and talk about The Avengers garnered a "heh, cool," but the final moments of The Dark Knight simply took my breath away.

I wish Marvel Productions would take some of that screen time they're burning to interconnect everything and really make me feel something. These characters deserve that. (In the case of Captain America, the film simply won't work unless they find it.) The reason Spider-Man, Superman, even Iron Man have wormed their way into our hearts has a lot to do with being drop-dead cool, no doubt, but, even more so, I think, with making the kid inside of me wonder just what he's capable of accomplishing, too.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tech week begins....

So, here we are with tech week, which, for the uninitiated out there, is when we move rehearsals into the actual theatre space where we'll be performing, and start putting all of the technical elements in place. These are traditionally long, somewhat tedious nights. Lots and lots of sitting around. Lots and lots of trial and error.

Very little sleep. The schedule for the next three nights is 6:00 to midnight. Then up as early as possible, so I can get to work early, thus facilitating my ability to leave work early to make it to rehearsal.

Hi-diddley-dee, as that damn puppet said.

Usually this is fine, I soldier on, and that's, that. I'll be pretty groggy by Thursday, which is our preview, and, God willing, our first guinea pigs...err, audience. My problem at the moment, however, is this...

I already feel like I need to crash.

This is not good. Yet, nobody has the time or energy to listen to me bitch, so...

Saturday night was our first read-thru and table work for the show I'm doing for Stage Left's Leapfest. I'm working on The Meaning of Lunch by Dan Aibel, with fellow Stage Left Ensemble member Jason Fleece directing. Reading through the script with the cast was great fun. I've loved this play since I first read it, months and months ago. It's so great to hear the dialogue out loud, and see the life coming to it.

I think we're gonna have a couple of really solid shows here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

It's a collaborative art, right?

I'm going to broach a subject that has triggered many a *ahem* "heated debate" with myself and my writer friends. (Hi, Ken!) I write myself, but I can't really bring myself to call myself a "writer." It seems presumptuous.

Although, with a 10-minute play going up this Summer, and a comic book in production as I type, I guess maybe I might be earning that right.

But I digress...

Let me start by saying I have nothing but the highest respect for playwrights, and the craft of writing. I believe the script must be honored, and that, while changes always happen (I doubt any performance of any play has ever been without at least a bit of paraphrasing), no director or actor should ever take it upon themselves to "improve" dialogue. The script is the script.

However, a key skill every playwright should learn is to let go of their work. A script, by it's very nature, is an incomplete work. Now, I know my writer friends are bristling at that, but really...

Think about it.

Why are you writing a play, as opposed to a novel, or, God help us, a "reading play?" (I have no idea how anybody ever thought that was a good idea..."I want to write a novel, but I don't want to get into heavy descriptions...hey!") You're writing something that, inherently, is to be interpreted by others. You may have all sorts of ideas about how a scene might play out, but, at the end of the day, the director and the actors are going to make their choices, choices that may, or may not, be different from what you envisioned.

That's not wrong. In fact, I'd argue it's the whole point of doing any drama, theatre, film, whathaveyou. It's multiple ideas becoming one.

Hell, even my comic book script. I hand it over to Zach B, the artist I'm working with, and he can come up with things that are quite different from the layout I had in my head while scripting. So far, it's always been better. I accept that, that's the process.

I have to be honest. I'm torn about the value of having a playwright in rehearsals on a regular basis. I love working on new plays, and I love working with playwrights, but there also comes a point when the script becomes a blueprint for the show the director and actors are trying to build. The script is always important, always, but, the show, as the audience sees it, the script, as interpreted by others, is the finished work. Some playwrights can roll very well in that situation, and some can't.

I put it this way...

When you're toiling away on the computer, or typewriter, or legal pads, or whatever you use, you're alone. You are left to your own devices to create your story and your dialogue. There's no director or actor hovering over you commenting or questioning the choices you make. That's your time to work your material to what you want it to be. Choose the words and events to try to make your story, and the emotions you are trying to reach, clear.

Director, designers and actors, rightly, have no place in that process. It's a place from which a writer can create without having to answer to anyone. Vastly important, and it's all within our writer's control.

On the opposite end, when you enter rehearsals, especially later rehearsals, that's the production team's time to play with the material you've given them. It's their time to make that story, and those emotions, clear. Yet, I have seen playwrights repeatedly intrude into that process, and attempt to extend their control of the final product in such a way that has lessened, or even negated, the views of the production team.

I can also wholeheartedly say I've also worked with playwrights who have been completely comfortable, even excited, when productions have moved in directions they never imagined. I like to call it the excitement of the human element, the electricity of collaboration, the merging of ideas that takes words on a page and transforms them into "real" people and situations.

Between these two is the development process, when the entire team sits in a room together and talks about, and works, the script, the story, the intent, the ideas, and how all of those elements can be most clearly, and dramatically, presented. It's probably the most important part of the process of working on any new play, but damn, if it doesn't get the short end of the stick a lot of the time. I don't know how many times I've watched plays that were nowhere near ready (including my own) left in a state of "good enough," because development wasn't made a priority from day one.

You need to take time in development, you need to be open in development, and you need to be patient in development. Honesty is hard, especially when your creation, your baby, on the playwright's side, and your emotional investment in the characters and situations, on the production side, are in play. No one likes to hear that something they're invested in might not work the way they think it will, or how they think it does. No one likes to hear that.

But it's those honest discussions that make a good, or even great, play. It all comes back to collaboration, choosing the people to be in the room who can and will provide good, honest feedback, and listening to what they have to say. Sometimes you don't want to hear that scene doesn't work, or that the second act meanders and lacks dramatic thrust. Likewise, and actor doesn't want to hear that the choices they are putting forth, the (sometimes deeply) personal things they are lending to this creation, aren't working. No director wants to hear that the staging they've brought into play has just muddled the concept.

Looking back over what I've written, I'm probably coming off very harsh on the playwright end, here. Not really my intention, it's just on my mind lately. I know, from experience, there are many directors, actors, designers, whathaveyou, equally guilty of being oblivious, or even intruding, into the work of other members of their team. Collaboration has to mean everybody.

Risk is the cornerstone of our business, and the entire team has to be willing to make strong choices, and be absolutely wrong. The collaboration is how we all come together to help each other, and that means challenging each other, to find the choices that are absolutely right.

Then, of course, previews, and the public....

However, if your development process is strong, the team can handle anything that comes out of that stressful process with aplomb. If you make a core of honesty, teamwork, and a healthy respect for the things that everyone brings to the table, the norm, then bringing the team back into the room together after that first preview can be very powerful. Last-minute changes are going to be obvious and can be about the audience experience, rather than wrestling with problems that have been festering since day one.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New Comic Day 5.5.2010

Here we are with another edition of the day when my wife doesn't read my blog.

Decent-sized week, but not too bad overall, only 1 $3.99 book (thanks, Marvel.)

Batman and Robin #12

Variant cover by ANDY CLARKE

All is revealed in this final installment of "Batman vs. Robin" – the identity of the Domino Killer, the terrifying secret of the dominoes, and the shocking truth behind El Penitente! All of this, plus the surprising return of a fanfavorite character!

Return of a fanfavorite character?!?! Who could that be? WHO COULD THAT BE!?!!?

P.S. - This series is fantastic.

Brightest Day #1

Variant cover by IVAN REIS and OCLAIR ALBERT

BRIGHTEST DAY continues, but in ways you can't possibly expect! What does BRIGHTEST DAY mean to the DC Universe? Is everything from here on out going to be bright and shiny? No, BRIGHTEST DAY means something else entirely, something we can't tell you...yet. But we can tell you our heroes will need to rise up more than ever to combat the forces of evil, and a select few will uncover a secret that binds them ALL.

Brightest Day begins...

Two comments: Holy moley, an event series for only $2.99 and issue?! I'm in love with DC right now. Second, I thought David Finch was the artist on this series, not just the cover artist?...I feel just slightly ripped off. Maybe he's just already behind, and they brought in 5 other artists to finish the book on time, when he only got the cover done...

Ah, I am so bitchy about artists from the 90's, aren't I?

Jonah Hex #55


When you've lived the kind of life that Jonah Hex has, there isn't much that can unnerve you. So what is it about a kid named Billy Dynamite that has him so shook up? A tale of epic violence, fisticuffs, tragedy and, yes, dynamite, as illustrated by classic JONAH HEX artist Vicente Alcazar!

So, apparently the Josh Brolin-starring movie isn't impressing the preview audiences, and the movie's opening opposite Toy Story 3, so box office triumph isn't in the cards. (Although, I'm hearing Brolin is very good.) That said, I don't look to movie versions to justify the existence of a comic **cough*anythingwrittenbyMarkMillar*cough**, and this series is, flat out, one of the best on the market. Pick it up, you won't be disappointed.

Red Robin #12

Art and cover by MARCUS TO and RAY MCCARTHY

Every single moment of the last year has led to this fight between Red Robin and Ra's al Ghul. Who has Ra's been talking to all this time in the shadows? Why was Lucius Fox so desperate to find Tim Drake? And why was Tim so certain that Bruce Wayne is alive in issue #1? All questions are answered.

This is gonna be good. Red Robin has been the little series that could, it started out feeling a little odd, but then got right on the tracks, and now that tight plotting is gonna pay off. Good series, but very continuity-driven, so not for newbies.

Ultimate Comics New Ultimates #2

COVER BY: Frank Cho
WRITER: Jeph Loeb
PENCILS: Frank Cho

THE NEW ULTIMATES are here -- and just in time to take on LOKI and the hordes of ASGARD. But when Amora the Enchantress goes to work on the team, who will betray them? And what terrifying pact will Thor make with Hela to be reborn? All this and the superstar team of Jeph Loeb and Frank Cho (who is doing the work of his career!).

OK, so another alternate take on The Avengers, and once again...Let's fight Loki!! There are, literally, dozens of epic-level threats you could have a team like this deal with, and I'm really tired of them always going to the Norse Gods thing. Yes, I know Thor's on the team, but there's no need to center every story on him. It's only been two issues, so I'll give this a bit of breathing room, but both this series and Ultimate Comics Avengers just feel like they're slogging now. Brian Michael Bendis keeps popping home runs over in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, why not order what he's drinking for a month or two?

Also on my mind with this issue...All 4 DC books this week are $2.99, and the Marvel book is $3.99. Yet, I hear tons of fanboy bitching about "DC jacking up prices." I don't get it, I don't. Every $3.99 DC book I've picked up has had an 8-page back-up feature, which, at least, gives me something for my extra buck. I can't say the same about Marvel.

All the Ultimate line books are $3.99, with standard 22-page stories. They also happen to be popular. In fact, it seems like all of Marvel's big sellers went up to that $3.99 price point.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

International STAR WARS Status Day

In honor of this "really ought to be" Holiday, I represent a blog post from way back in the MySpace days. (It's also over on my Flixter page.)

The impact this movie had on me is impossible to really explain. I was five years old, at the time living in a tiny town in Nebraska. The word about this movie had been trickling to us, heck my mother and my aunt even saw it on a trip to Kansas City.

The waiting was killing me.

Finally, it arrived in our one-screen local theatre. Nothing more than an old vaudeville house, with a screen and projector installed. My father agreed to take me, and away we went. The line was enormous for the town, literally around two blocks, unheard of for a movie. I was in full five-year-old with too much candy mode.

Honestly, I had no idea what I was going to see. My mother had described a few things, and thought I would like it. I knew it had something to do with outer space. I'm always amused by the experience, frankly, because the things that would've occupied my mind now, (Would we get in? Would the seats be good?) I had zero frame of reference on. In fact, I couldn't tell you if I'd seen a movie before that day.

When we got inside, the only word for it is "madhouse." People were literally sitting in the aisles, in the front under the screen. There was little room to move, one you were in your seat, you were in your seat. I doubt I'll ever see anything like that again.

Then the movie started. From the opening crawl, the star destroyer roaring over our heads (in a mono theatre to boot!) the lightsaber duel, to the battle over the Death Star, I was no longer in that room. I was inside the screen, soaring along with Luke, Han and Leia. The images flashed past, some burning their way into my brain. (From the moment I walked out of the theatre, the shot of the alien called "hammerhead" by the toy line was pristine and clearly imprinted on my imagination. To this day, when I see the film, that shot gives me a little jolt, how clearly I know what it's going to look like.)

I just sat there, stunned. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, how cool it was, how amazing and exciting. I just had one thought in my head for weeks afterward...that is what I wanted to do. I didn't know what that was, or how you would do it, but I saw my future. First, I thought I'd need to become an astronaut, (my early desire to be a fireman was flushed away quickly) then, as I read more and grew older, I realized that what was really exciting was filmmaking.

I went through the next twelve years of my life convinced I would be a film director. It was the most certain thing I knew about myself.

...Alas, it didn't work out that way.

I regret it, from time to time, and I still think there's a film in the back of my head that's waiting to spring forth...

But enough about that.

Star Wars started me down the path I'm on. Led me into the entertainment business, and more than anything else, that's what I thank George Lucas for. If I hadn't seen Star Wars at that moment, in those conditions, the spark of curiosity that led me to explore film, theatre, writing, directing, etc, would never have been lit. I'd be a stockbroker or banker somewhere, and I'd probably be happy, but the joys I've had in my life wouldn't have come about.

The movies, all six, have flaws, but it never fails that when I sit in a mighty Dolby Digital theatre and that 20th Century Fox fanfare rolls over us, the Lucasfilm logo sparkles on the screen, then those now-immortal words;

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

The chills start creeping up my back, the screen is dark, the room is silent. Then BAM! The Star Wars logo, falling back into the starfield with the blast of John Williams wonderful score. It's a Pavlovian response for me, I feel waves of joy, a feeling a well-being...

In short, I'm a five-year-old kid again.

How could it not be my favorite movie(s)?

PS - I even love the prequels, so sue me.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I think I've seen this before....

That, my friends is a picture of Hank Azaria, as he will appear in a movie version of The Smurfs, as Gargamel.

I have a friend who likes to complain a lot about the "Hollywood recyclery," and the lack of new ideas. I admit, that picture above is hard to defend, because the film just smells of consumer marketing run amuck. I mean, it's the same director as Home Alone 3. Y'know, the one you didn't see. This is a production made to trade on a marketable name for a large opening weekend, and who cares after that?

Sorta like what they did with A Nightmare on Elm Street this past weekend.

At the end of the day it's so easy to complain about things like the announcement of a Magic 8-Ball movie, or a "re-imagining" of Commando. It's lazy, shallow, and doesn't engage the creativity of the writers and directors out there who want to do something new, but it just won't sell. Sell to the studio, or sell to the public.

Look at an amazing film like Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang. One of, if not the best "entertainment" films of the new millennium. Highly witty, and highly original, playing within the "neo noir" style. Nobody bothered to see it upon initial release. Shane Black, as a writer, had been behind huge hits like Lethal Weapon, and was directing...bomb.

Yet, that same year....The top ten grossing films included 4 remakes, War of the Worlds, King Kong, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Batman Begins. One of those movies was terrific, one was awful, and two were just...pointless. Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang was vastly better than 3 of them, and at least as good as the other.

Yet...I am a devout fan of Batman Begins, and Christopher Nolan's actual re-imagining of the Batman mythos. Those films would not exist if it wasn't for Hollywood's desire to exploit a marketable name. That sort of thing is what puts me on the fence.

A good movie can come from anywhere. I loved the first Pirates of the Caribbean unabashedly, despite the fact I spent 4 months leading up to it's release thinking, "a movie based on a theme park ride?" Knowing the conventional wisdom would send things the other way.

But why not? I mean, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio found something within that ride to spark their imagination and created a fun script. Gore Verbinski took it and whipped up a really entertaining swashbuckler.

Maybe I'm easy, but I've come to the point where I remove myself from the source material. I take each film on it's own merits, and judge it as such. I mean, remakes are nothing new in Hollywood, and they can be as good as anything else, or as bad. I, personally, prefer the Pierce Brosnan The Thomas Crown Affair to the Steve McQueen version, but, in both cases, the movie works on it's own.

The new Nightmare on Elm Street might be horrible, but I also feel like if those same filmmakers tried to make an original movie, horror or otherwise, that film would be just as horrible. I think the relative awfulness of that movie has little to do with the source material, and to break it down to, "it's a re-make, or based on an old TV show, or a toy, or's gonna suck," is surrendering to the lack of creativity we're bitching about.

I just think it's worthwhile to take every creative enterprise as a new opportunity, and praise or damn it based on it's own merits.