Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Captain Marvel: A Feminist Film Looking For A Cause

Captain Marvel is built for one particular demographic, people who don’t know the Marvel source material. If you fall into this group, and know nothing about Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, and only have a passing interest in the MCU movies, then this film is right up your alley.

However, if you happen to fall into the other camp, people who know the original source material, or love the 20 movies that comprise the MCU, then you might leave the theater with a bad taste in your mouth, or, at the very least, shaking your head, wondering how Marvel Studios got it so wrong.

To briefly recap and keeping the spoilers down to minimum.

Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is assigned to a mission for Starforce, an elite group of space bad-asses like the Green Lantern Corp in DCEU. Captain Marvel and her fellow Starforce buddies are tasked with helping to rescue a Kree spy, who has infiltrated a group of Skrulls (shape-shifting aliens), the Kree’s sworn enemy. However, the mission doesn’t go as planned, resulting in her crashing an escape pod on Earth in the 1990’s, which immediately gets the attention of SHIELD agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).The two team up and fun, mayhem and product placements (90’s pop songs like Just A Girl by No Doubt) ensue.

Considering that Marvel Studios has twenty plus movies under its belt, one would think that a movie like Captain Marvel would be polished and ambitious, but sadly that is not the case. Despite its huge budget and extravagant action set pieces, Captain Marvel feels like a MCU phase one movie, i.e., Ironman, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger. The 2 hour plus movie is an uninspired origin story that doesn’t break any new ground, and suffers from a fair amount of glaring plot holes that contradict established events in previous MCU movies.

Moreover, like most phase one movies, Captain Marvel suffers from uneven tonal shifts, pacing issues and poorly written and underdeveloped characters. However, unlike past entries in the MCU, Captain Marvel manages to introduce a villain into the narrative, Talos (Ben Menedelsohn), the leader of the Skrulls, that is both, more interesting and relatable than any other character in the movie. Unfortunately, the character of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel is bland, boring and very uninteresting. 

Unlike Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Zoe Saldana, etc, Brie Larson has no gravitas and comes across as a stiff and unlikeable character in her own origin story. She spends most of the movie walking around, fist clenched, beating bad guys down, and blowing things up, but her character is strictly a one dimensional superhero trope that isn’t developed in any meaningful way. Oscar statuette not withstanding, Brie Larson is clearly not the right actor for the role, and no amount of 90’s pop songs accompanying expensive action scenes can't  hide that fact. 

Last but certainly not least, Brie Larson has boldly proclaimed that Captain Marvel is an unabashed feminist movie, and truth be told … she is telling the truth in all its shiny, and CGI glory. 
In the movie, Carol Danvers is constantly being held back by men who tell her she is not good enough, strong enough, capable enough, etc. Girl empowerment is front and center throughout the movie, and it becomes rather annoying and distracting from start to finish. 

Obviously, Kevin Feige (President of Marvel Studios) thought it would be a good idea to embrace and endorse a “wokeness” agenda rather than just deliver a good piece of cinematic entertainment. It doesn’t happen too often but even Marvel Studios goes off the reservation and gets it wrong. Captain Marvel, the first MCU movie of 2019, is essentially Marvel Studios answer to the DCEU Wonder Woman movie (2017).  

And for the most part, Captain Marvel gets everything wrong that Wonder Woman got right. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was strong and powerful, and yet she was a character that was flawed, and vulnerable. By journeys end, she accepted some hard truths about humanity, good vs. evil, the futility of war and overcame them. In other words, she had a story arch.

Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel has a case of amnesia, and ultimately recovers her memories, but she doesn’t overcome any real human failings or weakness, she doesn’t learn anything other than she is a major bad-ass and not much else. Unlike, Ironman, Captain America, or Thor, her character is completely devoid of growth and remains unlikeable throughout the story.

With the exception of a terrible third act, Wonder Woman was a good DCEU movie that anyone could easily enjoy multiple times. Captain Marvel on the other hand, is a feminist movie looking for a cause, it’s a MCU movie that should be so much bigger and better than Wonder Woman … but its not.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Doctor Who: Resolution – A Classic Villain Revisit

After 13 years, Chris Chibnall, the new show runner for Doctor Who, and the BBC decided to give up to coveted Christmas Day time slot, and instead, opted to go with a New Years Day special.

Season 11 of Doctor Who (which I reviewed on 12/15/18) decided to focus on new monsters throughout its 10 episode run. And despite all the positive reviews and testimonials about the greatness of the stories and ensemble cast, the series as a whole felt like a huge missed opportunity punctuated by a lack of memorable monsters and time shattering threats.

Doctor Who, like any long running sci-fi series, is only as good as the monsters and threats that populate its universe, and it was only a matter of time before the new series would revisit an old arch nemesis. Therefore, the New Years Day special entitled “Resolution,” and written by Chris Chibnall, is an attempt to embrace the show’s 55-year history by re-introducing a fan favorite … the Daleks.

The episode itself is a run-of-the-mill story that doesn’t break any new ground: a dormant Dalek infiltration unit, is inadvertently revived by two archeologist on New Years day, the Dalek captures one of the archeologists and uses them to craft a new body, and call the rest of his Dalek army to invade Earth, the Doctor along with her “friends/family” (the term "companion" is frowned upon and is no longer used by the new show runner and the cast) runs in with sonic screw driver in hand and saves the day. 

Truthfully, the episode is a plot hole filled mess, that relies on predictable sci-fi horror tropes and Brexit gags to move its narrative along. But in the interest of fairness, it must be noted that the 2019 special is also light-years ahead of any episodes that comprises season 11. However, I suspect much of that has to do with fact that we are getting a classic Doctor Who villain, running around and menacing us lowly humans rather than Chris Chibnall stepping up his writing game.

Nostalgia makes suckers of us all.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the New Years Day Special didn’t distinguish itself in terms of ratings, and drew in 5.15 million overnight viewers in the U.K., a 22.4 percent share, the lowest rating for the annual Doctor Who event since 2005. In retrospect, giving up the Christmas Day timeslot, and by default, ending a long standing Doctor Who tradition is a move that, like so many other decisions made by Chris Chibnall and the BBC, makes very little sense. 

Beyond the overnight ratings, the BBC must also contend with the embarrassingly low audience score on Rotten Tomatoes that stands at a dismal 15%, whereas, the critic score ranks at a whopping 94%. Admittedly, the critics’ score on RT can be taken with a very skeptical grain of salt, but the audience score represents a snap shot of a very frustrated and highly unhappy fandom. 

From a writer’s prospective, the long-running format of a show like Doctor Who is not easy to change in any significant way, and usually, any attempt to do so is a risky idea that ultimately hurts the brand and draws the ire of the fan base. Moreover, new stories and villains are supposed to test and confound the hero of the adventure, make them face their inner demons and shortcomings. If executed correctly, the villain forces the hero to confront their own morality and the limits of their determination. In most cases, defeating the villains or monsters, is merely an exercise in self-discovery that shapes and defines the protagonist by forcing them to accept hard truths that they would rather ignore.

In that respect, Doctor Who needs its classic villains like the Daleks, Cybermen and the Master. And Chris Chibnall has failed in making his iteration of the Doctor have any memorable moments because this version lacks gravitas and any real inner turmoil. Unlike the previous iterations of the Doctor, the Jodi Whittaker version is devoid of moral conflict and by extension; there is no character growth because there are no inner demons to be confronted or questions about the real nature of the embattled Time Lord.  

Chris Chibnall’s version of the Doctor and her “fam” amounts to a racially diverse group of plucky “white hats,” and they don’t need to waste time asking themselves hard questions, i.e., is the Time Lord really a good person … is the greater good being served by showing mercy … can evil be defeated with a moral-speech-of-the week? Long gone are the days or moral angst and heartfelt pleas for forgiveness because a darker path was chosen or a big red button was pushed. Chibnall’s, “Team-Tardis” are essentially always right and that should be enough …  but it’s not, and it feels rather disappointing. 

Moreover, despite Chris Chibnall’s vow to shake things up and make Doctor Who must-watch TV again, the villains and monsters of season 11 have all been bland and uninteresting, and sadly, the re-introduction of a classic Doctor Who villain in this episode is rather pointless, because it too, is rather bland. Truth be told, after 55 years and countless of plots involving the subjugation or destruction of Earth, the Daleks have grown a little long in the tooth and are mostly running on autopilot. Outside of nostalgia, there is nothing new in this classic villain revisit that adds to the established canon or the wow factor.

In the closing moments of series 7, Matt Smith spoke about the existential elements that comprise any personal change, specifically, he said, “you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you use to be.” Truer words were never spoken, but sadly, Chris Chibnall and the BBC have forgotten the people the Doctor use to be, and instead, they rather tell themselves that the daft old man that stole a magic blue box, is not relevant or sufficiently progressive enough for the new direction the series is moving towards. Gone are the days of the angst driven Time Lord trying to make amends for past transgressions and breaking the hearts of the fans each time he came up short. The most we can now hope for, is an occasional revisit of a classic villain to remind us of past glories … 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Star Trek 4: Trekking Nowhere Fast

Star Trek was given a fresh coat of paint and came roaring back into theaters in 2009. J.J Abrams directed the sci-fi reboot with a new cast of actors, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, and Karl Urban. According to Box Office Mojo, Star Trek was a box office success, grossing worldwide $385 million. It was followed by two sequels, Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Star Trek Beyond (2016).

Star Trek is a very old IP (52 years) and a beloved cult phenomenon, but it’s never been a huge blockbuster-type action-adventure franchise. To be sure, it has enjoyed moderate box office success, but nothing approximating the levels of franchises like Star Wars or Transformers. And therein lies the crux of the problem.

Star Trek is not a huge moneymaker and worst yet, Paramount Pictures does not have the financial means to fully fund a new movie without investors. Star Trek Beyond, which coincided with the 50thanniversary of the series, stalled at the box office, making $158 million at the domestic box office. Despite the fact that Paramount Pictures announced a fourth movie in the series, starring Chris Hemsworth (reprising the role of Captain Kirks father), the project is up in the air. 

As I have already note, Paramount Pictures cannot fund a new Trek film without financial backers, and in order to get any investors to put up money, the studio needs to bring down the production cost of the next movie. In laymen’s terms, the budget and salaries of the actors need to be cut. Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth, have stated that they want to be involved in the upcoming sequel but they are unwilling to accept pay cuts in order to reprise their roles.

So at this point the future of the Star Trek franchise is very much in doubt. Without Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth, Paramount Pictures cannot attract investors, but if both actors refuse to accept a reduction in their salaries, the studio cannot reduce the budget enough to make the film financially viable to investors. Ironically, this situation is literally playing out like the no-win scenario that Captain Kirk faced in the Kobayashi Maru test.

If nothing dramatically changes, the next installment of Star Trek is probably not going to happen. I have to admit, I would like to see one more film with the Abrams cast. All things considered they were the best part of the reboot and I will definitely miss Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy.

Sadly, the voyages of the U.S.S Enterprise seem to be over for the foreseeable future. Unless Paramount Pictures decides to sell their Kelvin-timeline/Trek reboot to another studio or media company, or a mega-rich Trekkie comes along and foots the bill for another cinematic adventure, I seriously doubt Star Trek will be in theaters for the 60thanniversary of the series. 

The final frontier without Star Trek on the big screen is hardly worth contemplating … but here we are.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Doctor Who Season 11 Review

Doctor Who season 11 was conceived and built for success. Brand-new show runner (Chris Chibnall), new music composer (Segun Akinola), new VFX company (Double Negative), new group of writers & actors, and the first woman (Jodi Whittaker) playing the role of the Doctor ... there was no way it could fail. 

The series had a lot of good will and supporters. As to be expected, the premier episode, “The Women Who Fell to Earth,” did very well in the ratings. Moreover, according to the Nielsen Company, the overall ratings in the UK fluctuated throughout the 10-episode season but they remained consistent. However, the viewership in 18-49 demographic in the US dropped by 1 million viewers. According to a statement released by the BBC, Doctor Who has been renewed for a 12th season and will return in the spring of 2020.  

The question that begs to be answered … was season 11 any good?

The simple answer is … the season was a huge missed opportunity that should have been a great new direction for the series, but instead, wound up becoming a boring slog of mediocrity.

Doctor Who season 11 is a mixed bag. Right from the outset, the casual observer will notice that the BBC reduced the episode count and overall budget for the series. For instance, the out door locations and the cinematography were gorgeous and impressive. However, the interior set designs and special effects run the gamut from sleek and sci-fi functional to low budget plywood and unconvincing CGI effects. Steven Moffat, the show runner for series 5 to 10, complained that the BBC needed to put more money into Doctor Who, in order to make it more competitive with other shows that have movie quality production values. He was completely right. 

The next thing that will jump out at the casual viewer is the musical score by composer Segun Akinola, is very distracting and annoying. Long time Doctor Who composer Murray Gold perhaps overstayed his welcome, but there is no doubt that his music has been a vital part of the show in its modern-day format and his absence in season 11 is keenly felt. 

Other things that become apparent: 

The scripts were poorly written and disjointed and the Doctor’s companions were not developed beyond the initial premier episode. Of particular concern is the acting. 

With the exception of Bradley Walsh (Graham), Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Mandip Gill (Yaz), and Tosin Cole (Ryan) lack screen presence and charisma, and very seldom strike up enough energy to make any of their scenes memorable or credible. However, in the interest of fairness, it must be noted, that the actors were really hampered by terrible scripts … so there is some room for considerable growth if better writers are brought in.

The editing and directing was erratic, leaving glaring plots holes that killed the pacing of the episodes. 

The villains: Classic Doctor Who villains (Daleks, Cyberman, and the Master) were sidelined this season. Instead, show runner and head writer Chris Chibnall opted to introduce new protagonists that fall into two categories 

1. Run-of-the-mill sci-fi baddies that consisted of tooth-collecting bounty hunters, giant spiders, mud-monsters that were actually elite alien soldiers imprisoned on Earth, and pocket universes that desperately need a friend. 

2. Bland and one-dimensional human baddies that are poorly written tropes meant to showcase the worst of human impulses, hate, bigotry, greed, religious intolerance, colonialism, paranoia and superstition. 

Overall, season 11 was a dysfunctional mess that felt like Doctor Who in name only. What was once a great science fiction series has been turned into terribly boring, agenda-driven after-school special.   

Can the series be fixed and made better?

The optimist in me would say yes. 

Doctor Who as a concept is a hard sell. The main character is basically space-Jesus, flying around in a magic box, getting into all sorts of wacky adventures with his/her friends. But despite all that, the series has stood the test of time and the fan base still supports it even after 55 years of time-traveling shenanigans. To be sure, like any long running franchise, Doctor Who has fallen out of favor and receded into the background, only to come roaring back with a fresh coat of blue-paint. 

Case in point, after years of declining ratings, the series was quietly cancelled in 1986, and triumphantly returned in 2005 with Russell T. Davies as show runner and Chris Eccelston taking on the role of the Doctor. Nu-Who has been on the air for 13 years and the fan base still supports it. So, it can be safely assumed that the series can falter and stumble and it can still be brought back from the brink. 

Will it be fixed? 

That depends …

Former show runners Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat had their fair share of red herrings and nonsensical conclusions to convoluted story arcs, but at the very least, they understood the character of the Doctor and wrote stories that kept the fans engaged. Current show runner Chris Chibnall, clearly has no long-term vision for Doctor Who, and season 11 feels like he ran out of ideas and just made stuff up as he went along.  Moreover, the stories that he has penned in the past, and now in season 11, are horribly conceived, painfully disjointed, and just bland and boring. Chibnall’s milquetoast version of the Doctor is woefully inconsistent from episode to episode and not very interesting.

Of particular concern, the BBC and its rabid supporters on social media has shown very little interest in listening to the valid concerns and criticisms of long time fans, and instead have opted to silence them by claiming that they are a bunch of hateful, misogynist malcontents. This type of strategy didn’t work for Columbia Pictures/Paul Feig (Ghostbusters 2016) and Disney/Kathleen Kennedy (Star Wars The Last Jedi 2017).

And if history repeats itself … it won’t work for Chris Chibnall and the BBC. 

Ultimately, Doctor Who fans could take a page from the Star Wars fandom and stop supporting or boycott the series until their concerns have been addressed and corrected. Doctor Who is a beloved series that has been around for over fifty years. However, success is never guaranteed, and the BBC, just like Disney and Lucasfilms might find themselves with a product that the fan base doesn’t want to support. 

Doctor Who is at a crossroads, and the long-term viability of the series is dependent on the decisions the BBC makes going forward. The viewership in BBC America has declined this season, but the ratings in the UK are still good enough to justify a delayed season 12.   

Whatever road the BBC takes is clearly up to them, but one thing is for certain … the fan base that have supported the series throughout its 55 year history deserve better.

Certainly much better than the cheap knock-off that the BBC is trying to pass off as Doctor Who. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Force is Not Strong with Disney

Unless you have been living in a cave somewhere on the planet Dagobah, there is no way you have not felt a major disturbance in the force.

To recap: Star Wars The Last Jedi (2017) had a worldwide gross of  $1.3 billion.  According to Box Office Mojo, the film was the highest-grossing film of 2017, the second highest-grossing film in the franchise (behind The Force Awakens). 

The critical response ran the gamut from positive reviews:

BBC News, “a blockbuster movie packed with invention, wit, and action galore." 

To more subdued reviews:

Movie Nation, “Intentions and inspiration aside, “Last Jedi” doesn’t add up to an “Empire Strikes Back” for this trilogy. There’s no romance, little pathos and no real punch-in-the-gut moment.”

However, the audience review section of Rotten Tomatoes and Media Critic contained reviews that lambasted Disney and director Rian Johnson for destroying the Star Wars brand and their childhoods. 

Needless to say, the negative storm of fan criticism took Disney and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy by surprise. Instead of a victory lap, the studio had a major PR disaster to address and it went from bad to worse very quickly. 

In a move that is eerily similar to the strategy employed by Columbia Pictures and Paul Feig to silence fan criticism of the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot, Disney and Kathleen Kennedy opted to launch a PR war aimed at quelling fan dissatisfaction by labeling all negative reviewers as misogynist racist. And thus began the Great War for the heart and soul of a beloved franchise. 

Not to be outdone, the fans co-opted the phrase “Get Woke or Go Broke” and they brought out their ultimate weapon and unleashed it at Disney in 2018 … they boycotted  Solo: A Star Wars Story. And as can be expected, the assault on the Magic Kingdom was devastating … the Ron Howard-directed sci-fi prequel became a box office bomb. According to Box Office Mojo, the film had a worldwide gross of $392 million, making it the lowest-grossing Star Wars film of all time. 

As can be expected the folks at Disney are in full panic mode, and in a desperate bid to try to appease the fans they decided to bring back director J.J Abram’s to try to auto correct the franchise, and hopefully make episode IX a commercial success. However, the fan base doesn’t appear to be ready to forgive and forget and there seems to be no great interest in seeing the next film installment.

Adding fuel to the fire some Disney supporters, and actors like John Boyega have taken to social media to address the “Star Wars Haters.” Which in turn has led to more fans calling to #BoycottStarWars and bring an end to the Kathleen Kennedy reign at Lucasfilm. Obviously, hurt feelings abound, and reconciliation, while being a laudable goal, seems highly unlikely under the current circumstances. 

At this particular moment, there is no evidence to suggest that Disney will eat crow, and issue a heart-felt apology to the fandom for trying to silence them by insisting that they are a bunch of cruel, sexist, misogynists.

IMHO, Star Wars episode IX might already be a box office failure … a victim of the ‘Get Woke or Go Broke’ Great War. 

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Fandom Strikes Back

Ghostbusters 2016 (Columbia Pictures), Star Wars The Last Jedi (Disney/ Lucasfilms), Doctor Who Season 11 (BBC), Star Trek Discovery (CBS Television), all have one thing in common… they have all gone to war with their customers.

In the last few years, through the use of social media, fans have become a unified force that will waste no time in making their displeasure known to the television and movie studios that produce their favorite content. In some cases the criticism has been a real attempt to help the producers and directors to stay true to the established canon, and in other cases it is has been brutal public floggings for perceived transgressions.

Producers, directors, and actors have been praised and vilified. Some have taken the criticism with a grain of salt and others have gotten into social media shouting matches with overzealous fans. To be completely honest, television and movie studios have always insulated themselves from the general public, and the vocal fandom. Companies like Disney and Warner Bros. have firewalls in the form of PR departments that handle the day-to-day vagaries of unhappy fans and harsh critics.

However, the fandom is now equipped with the power of the internet and social media, and the firewalls that were in place have been breached. The unruly fans can literally make or break a movie by word of mouth, and a keyboard stroke. And for better or worse, the fans are flexing their collective muscles, making their voices heard, and telling the creators of their favorite content that they work for them.

Instead of trying to embrace this new paradigm shift, the television and movie studios have decided to stamp out any honest debate and criticism. The strategy that they have decided to use is equal parts shameful and dangerous… any vocal group of fans are quickly labeled as a bunch of xenophobic, sexist, misogynist, misfits. And therefore, their concerns have no merit, and should be ignored as racist ramblings.

Columbia Pictures and Paul Feig, used this strategy to silence the fandom over the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot. End result … the movie bombed at the box office.

Disney used a similar strategy when the fan base voiced dissatisfaction over Star Wars The Last Jedi. End result … Disney and Lucasflims were publically humiliated when the fandom boycotted the Ron Howard-directed Solo: A Star Wars Story.  

Lastly, the BBC employed a similar strategy when Doctor Who fans expressed their concerns over the direction the series was going with the new show runner and actress picked to play the titular role. End result.  The UK consoldiated ratings have remained steady, but the US viewership has dropped by 2 million. 

Ironically, the slogan that has become the battle-cry for the Star Wars fandom is "Get Woke or Go Broke."

Yes  … fans can be rough and unruly. They can hurt your feelings, and make you see red. They also can be loyal and forgiving, and appreciative of quality art and entertainment. They don’t like to be ignored or labeled as racist knuckle draggers. Last but not least, they pay the bills … and the customer is supposedly always right. 

Any media company or executive that forgets that is going to get a harsh reminder.

**Disclaimer: there have been a few instances were some people have behaved in a manner that is equal parts sexist, cruel, and morally reprehensible. This article does not condone such behavior nor does it attempt to gloss over vulgar and mean spirited bullying. ** 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Open Letter to George Lucas

Dear George Lucas: I sincerely apologize for every stupid and mean-spirited thing I ever said about you. 

The original Star Wars film came out in 1977 and I saw it the second week that it was in theaters.  At the time, it was just a little b-grade movie that was fun and entertaining. It was a movie that kids like me could relate to because it was an unapologetic kids movie. I fell in love with it because at the time, there was nothing else like it. 

In retrospect, Star Wars was a clunky space western that should have come and gone without much fanfare. George Lucas has admitted that the original cut of the film was horrible, and 20thCentury Fox expected it to be a box office failure. Fortunately, Lucas had the film re-edited by Paul Hirsh, Richard Chew and Marcia Lucas. Also James Earl Jones was hired to redub the voice of Darth Vader. Despite all its technical difficulties and artistic compromises, George Lucas got his little movie into theaters and it slowly became a huge worldwide phenomena.

The Star Wars trilogy, which includes, Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back (preserved by the US Library of Congress as part of its National Film Registry) and Star Wars Return of the Jedi are pretty much the heart and soul of the franchise. The prequels that came out a decade later were finically successful, but ultimately panned by the fandom as a huge missed opportunity. 

In 2012 George Lucas sold his beloved IP to Disney, a new trilogy was put into production and many fans rejoiced because Star Wars was going to get a fresh coat of paint and become cool again. Star Wars The Force Awakens (directed by J.J Abrams) came out in 2015, made a lot of money, but divided the fandom because it was literally a rehash of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. 

The next installment, Star Wars The Last Jedi (directed by Rian Johnson) came out in 2017 and despite the fact that it was finically successful, the movie incurred the wrath of the fandom for the narrative liberties that were taken with the character of Luke Skywalker (reprised by actor Mark Hamill), and its refusal to stick to established cannon. Disney and Kathleen Kennedy (President of Lucasfilms) dismissed the criticisms as nothing more than the grumblings of a bunch of racist, woman-hating malcontents. Obviously, the fandom was enraged by said comments and ultimately responded by boycotting the Ron Howard-directed prequel Solo A Star Wars Story. The final installment in the new trilogy is currently being directed by J.J Abrams and it could very well be another box office disaster if the fandom continues its Star Wars boycott. 

Many people, myself included, lambasted George Lucas when he made the Star Wars prequels. I said a lot of mean-spirited and hurtful things and for my part, I admit I was wrong and I apologize. As so often is the case, we hurt the ones that we claim to love. I grew up on Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and Doctor Who. Science fiction was and still is one of my favorite genre’s …

In my case, I loved Star Wars because it was my Star Wars. I grew up with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Darth Vader … they were, alongside Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr McCoy, my extended family. So I didn’t appreciate George Lucas putting his prequel vision up on the screen because it wasn’t my childhood Star Wars.

In retrospect, the prequels weren’t terrible movies, but they were a huge missed opportunity. George Lucas made his movies his way … but at least they were legitimate Star Wars stories crafted out of his artistic vision. For all intents and purposes, George Lucas is a modern day Wizard of OZ or Walt Disney. And if you pull back the curtain, Star Wars is a children’s fable made out of smoke and mirrors, ply wood, and lots of CGI effects.

I was mad at George Lucas because he committed, in my mind, the greatest crime a wizard can commit … he couldn’t catch lightning in a bottle a second time. He couldn’t transport me back to yesterday, back to my childhood. Star Wars was a one-ticket ride … and you can never really go home again.

So yet again … to Mr. Lucas, I apologize for my past behavior. And for whatever it’s worth … thanks for all the memories.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Doctor Who … Needs a Time Out

The casting of Jodi Whittaker has led to an all out war in the whovian universe. Some love the casting of the first female actor to play the iconic role, while others are upset and vowing that the BBC will rue day that they ruined their beloved series.

This blog is not about the casting of Jodi Whittaker. She is an accomplished and talented actor hired to play a role … and a few years down the road will leave and a new actor will be hired to replace her. And the cycle of regeneration will continue.

The point of my short blog is about the fact that sooner or later, the BBC will need to put the series on a 10 to 15 year hiatus.

Yes, you heard right. The series will have to go bye-bye for a short while.

Just like Star Trek, the Doctor Who series is over 50 years old, and it’s run out of fresh ideas and storylines. And just like Star Trek went off the air for over a decade (2005 to 2017), Doctor Who needs to go away for a while and recharge its creative batteries.

Let’s be honest, Doctor Who is a hard sell. In a nutshell, the series is about a time traveler, aka, Space Jesus, who runs around in a blue box, fighting monsters and stopping alien invasions. And whenever the lead actor that plays the role exits the series, a new actor takes their place via a “regeneration” scene.

The BBC has made this gimmick work for over 50 years. And as a fan of the series, I have been there supporting every new Doctor.

But gimmicks can only take you so far. The casting of Matt Smith as the “young Doctor,” the casting of John Hurt as the “war Doctor,” the casting of Peter Capaldi as the “old Doctor,” the casting of Jodi Whittaker as the “woman Doctor,” all have one thing in common … they are creative gimmicks designed to get people to tune in and watch the series. 

The BBC has no fresh ideas. The ratings for series 10, starring Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie and Matt Lucas have been lackluster to say the least. And there is no reason to assume that the casting of Jodi Whittaker, no matter how great of an actress she may be, will fix the inherent problems the series has… old age.

Much to their credit, the BBC usually picks very talented and accomplished actors for the iconic role of Doctor Who, and Jodi Whittaker is no exception. Given time, she will make the part her own and she will win over the fans like every other actor that has played the role since 1963. However, fighting monsters, and stopping alien invasions will only take you so far.

The series is old and tired. The Doctor along with the Daleks, Cybermen, and the Master have logged a lot of space miles. And no amount of “ wibbly wobbly, timey whimey” gimmicks is going to make the creaking sound go away.  

Yes, the whovian universe is awesome. However, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

And a 10 to 15 year hiatus will make the fandom miss it, and rejoice once it resurfaces again.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

An Inconvenient Truth for Trump and the GOP

In the movie “A Few Good Men,” Tom Cruise demands, “I want the Truth!”

And Jack Nicolson replies,” You can’t handle the Truth!”

That fictional scene is playing out in real life as we speak. But the American people are playing the role of Tom Cruise and the part of Jack Nicolson is being played by the GOP.

In a rare show of political cowardice, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and the Republican controlled Senate are drafting a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and they don’t want the American people to know the details. I suppose they are of the opinion that the voters can’t handle the truth.

In the world of politics, “truth” is a subjective matter, and politicians are very leery of speaking in plain terms, with actual facts to back up their claims. However, even skilled politicians like Mitch McConnell can’t get away from the dreaded science of math. Unlike political talking points, numbers mean something and they don’t lie.

The so-called GOP “healthcare bill” by the numbers is a work of deviant art. Unfortunately, it’s also (to quote Donald Trump) “mean.”

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the two biggest numbers to consider:

The GOP bill would slash federal healthcare assistance to low and moderate income Americans by nearly $1 trillion.

The repeal of the ACA will increase the number of uninsured by 23 million over the next decade.

You want the Truth! Here it is.

The GOP bill takes federal assistance away from low and moderate income Americans and funnels that money into tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.

Want more Truth? Here you go.

More people with pre-existing conditions will lose their healthcare coverage.

Strangely enough, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and the rest of the GOP are correct. The American people can’t handle “the Truth” of being robbed of healthcare in order to pay for tax cuts for the rich.

Robin Hood in reverse … robbing from the poor to give to the rich is a hard sell.

Unfortunately for the GOP, they can run but they can’t hide from their constituents. Like it or not, they will have to explain to the American people why “less is more” and why healthcare is being stolen from them to offset tax cuts.

Here is an inconvenient truth for Donald Trump and the GOP to consider.

The Democrats got thrown out of power because they had the moral backbone to give the American people more access to affordable healthcare.

That being the case, what is going to happen to the Republican Party when they manage to take away that healthcare?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Art of the Implosion

In the span of 50 plus days we have seen Donald Trump “Making America Great Again” up close and personal.

To be completely fair, the NY dealmaker has tried to make good on  some of his campaign promises.

A few highlights: the “Muslim” travel ban, the stepped up deportation of undocumented immigrants, the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the repeal and replace plan for the ACA, and last but not least, proposing a budget that cut taxes, increases military spending, and guts domestic programs like Planned Parenthood and Meals on Wheels.

To be sure, Trump is pretty good at making promises to his supporters at campaign rallies, but his list of legislative victories is dismal.

Case in point: Michael Flinn fired after 25 days as National Security Advisor, false claims that “millions” of unregistered and illegal voters affected the election of 2016, the 9th District court striking down the travel ban as unconstitutional, the revised ban has also been halted by a Federal Judge in Hawaii, debunked claim’s that President Obama committed a felony and ordered a wire-tap of Trump Tower, and the implosion of the Paul Ryan plan to repeal and replace the ACA.

Donald Trumps big selling point when he was campaigning was that he was a successful businessman that was great at making “big deals.” He could do anything because he was the smartest guy in the room, and if elected he would “drain the swamp” and whip Washington into shape.

Well, 50 odds days into the new regime and the NY dealmaker has been bitch-slapped by reality and the stench of failure clings to him like cheap cologne.

Can he turn it around? The easy answer is no.

The Gropenfuhrer in Chief has the lowest approval rating of any new POTUS in history; he has no mandate, and therefore has no political capital to spend. His relationship with the GOP is on life support, and the mid-term elections of 2018 are right around the corner. The Russiagate scandal and the Ryan-care debacle looms like a huge unyielding shadow, sucking up valuable time that Trump could be spending talking about how great he is. And worst of all, Donald Trump has disgraced himself and the office of the Presidency by his repeated tweets, lies and insults.

The 45th POTUS has been exposed as an “emperor with no clothes,” and that is a pretty horrifying image.

Disturbing imagery notwithstanding, the GOP have a much more terrifying reality staring them down. For all intents and purposes, the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, has become the Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer white nationalist party.

Exhibit A:  Presidential adviser Steve Bannon’s political ideology is to “dismantle the administrative state.”

Translation: he wants to destroy the Federal government. However far fetched his white nationalist dreams may seem, it is worth noting that he is a sincere zealot, and as such, he represents a clear and present danger to our nations democratic institutions.

Exhibit B:  Robert Mercer, a billionaire right wing extremist, has funded the Trump/Bannon white nationalist train with millions of dollars in donations.

Mercer is the moneyman behind Breibart News and CNSnews, which is owned by the Media Research Center, with its mission of correcting “liberal bias.” Moreover, Mercer is connected to Cambridge Analytica. 

According to a article published in The Guardian:

It specializes in “election management strategies” and “messaging and information operations,” refined over 25 years in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. In military circles this known as “psyops” – Psychology operations. (Mass propaganda that works by acting on people’s emotions.)

Of particular interest, when Robert Mercer started to support Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, the campaign hired Cambridge Analytica to run its day-to-day propaganda operations.

Needless to say, the party of Lincoln is in deep trouble.

The Trump Train has become a disaster unfolding in real time and the GOP is the defacto power in charge of Washington. And whether they like it or not, they get all the credit and more importantly, all the blame.

And adding insult to injury, the American people like winners that can keep their promises and get results.

And at this point in time, for good or ill, Trump, Ryan and the rest of the shell-shocked GOP, look and sound like a bunch of incompetent, whiny, LOSERS!

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Art of The Resistance

Love or hate him, Donald Trump has turned the body politick of the United States upside down.

In the span of three short weeks he has managed to alienate, insult, offend, attack, lie, and disrupt the status quo like no POTUS in history. 

Here are some quick highlights: scrubbing the White House website of any mention of climate change, declaring war against the media, nominating unqualified ideologues for senior cabinets positions, issuing gag orders on the EPA, claiming without any evidence, that there was massive voter fraud in the 2016 Presidential election, reportedly hanging up on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during a recent phone call, issuing executive orders to gut the ACA and banning immigration from predominately Muslim countries.

If nothing else, the Trump administration has managed to piss off a lot of people in a very short time, and there is no reason to believe that they will take their foot of the gas peddle. However, in the process, the new regime has faced fierce pushback, and from all indications, they are starting to realize that signing executive orders and claiming that alternative facts exists, doesn’t cut it with the American people, the federal courts and our allies in the global community. 

The ebb and flow of political discourse in our country is such, that the govern, or “We The People” will peacefully assemble and demand redress from elected officials, when government oversteps its constitutional authority or attempts to trample the inalienable rights of its citizens. In other words, the American people will lay the smack down on any politician that dares to get out of line. And Trump and his merry band of robber barons are squarely in the cross hairs.

It’s a very sad thing to admit, but Donald Trump has confirmed my worst fears, he is a pathological liar that is ill equipped, emotionally and intellectually to be POTUS. And worst still, despite many warning by conservatives and liberals alike, he has refused to divest himself from his business holdings, which will invariably led to some sort of political scandal that in turn will led to a constitutional crisis. The recent twitter attack on Nordstrom department stores for treating his daughter Ivanka Trump "so unfairly" for discontinuing  her fashion line  is a pretty good indication of where all this is headed. 

On a much brighter note, the resistance against the new regime is growing and becoming more vocal with each passing day. The events of the last three weeks have been dramatic, and the response by men and women across our nation has been equally dramatic. The women’s march, the protest at airports in response to the travel ban, the lawsuits filed by four U.S. states regarding said travel ban, protest rallies against repealing ACA, the boycotts of companies that endorse the Trump brand, directly challenge the “alternative fact” and executive orders of the POTUS. For all intents and purposes, Trump and GOP are witnessing the birth of the Tea Party from the left.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the pendulum is always in motion in politics. The feeling of despair that many felt with the defeat of Hillary Clinton has grown into anger, which in turn has reinvigorated the democratic and independent base.  A populist movement, from the center left is coming to the forefront and the energy is clearly surging. And if the liberals and independents stay engaged, the GOP is looking at a loss in the 2018 mid-term elections. If that turn out to be the case, Trump and his agenda are done.

Yup … the pendulum is always in motion.