New On Patreon: BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES As Metaphor For Trump’s America

As you may know there’s a Patreon for this site. Patreon is a service that allows you to become a ‘patron’ of artists and creators you like, helping to support their efforts to continue creating the work you enjoy. Folks who support this site at the $5 or higher level get a weekly recommendation from me; this week it’s a look at Beneath the Planet of the Apes through the lens of living in Trump’s America. It turns out the anger and frustration present at the end of the 60s is really similar to what we’re experiencing today.

Here’s an excerpt. To read the whole thing, become a patron at Patreon.

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About The New BUFFY…

Word broke last week that there will be a new Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show, with Joss Whedon producing and longtime TV writer/producer Monica Owusu-Breen showrunning. The initial reports were that it was a reboot, specifically an ‘inclusive’ reboot, which made it sound like a remake but with Buffy herself being non-white.

This was disappointing to me. Not the non-white stuff, but the reboot stuff. I think that the universe of Buffy/Angel is strong and big enough to sustain a Buffy: The Next Generation; there’s no need to go back to the drawing board. Just make a sequel.

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TWISTED PAIR Trailer – The Latest From Auteur Neil Breen

I reject the idea that movies can be so bad they’re good. Are there pleasures to be found in movies that are rough around the edges, made by inexperienced craftspeople, devoid of the kind of slickness we take for granted in the big films? Of course. There is a magic in a movie that is just a little bit handmade, that is filled with imperfections… but also personality. These films aren’t so bad they’re good, they’re just good on their own terms, and they’re charming as hell.

It’s the difference between a piece of art that is mass produced and a piece of art that is hand-crafted and that you buy on the side of the road. The technique may be primitive, the artist may not have the hours of experience, the materials may even be technically subpar, but the art is free of artifice, and you’re getting closer to the experience and understanding of another human being.

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You’re Not Allowed To Change

There was an extraordinary confluence in space-time this week. Zadie Smith, brilliant author of White Teeth, published a short story about James Gunn being fired from Guardians of the Galaxy 3 days before the event happened. Smith, like all geniuses, must be tapped into the workings of the universe, and as such her story “Now More Than Ever” foretold what happened to Gunn.

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A Tale Of Two Fucks

In the trailer for Titansthe upcoming superhero show on the streaming DC Universe service, a frankly murderous 20something Robin, when asked where Batman is, growls “Fuck Batman.”

If you’ve ever wanted to hear the Boy Wonder drop the f-bomb, promises Titans, we got you covered. The moment has already stirred up some controversy and some fun on Twitter, which is saying something since the trailer also includes Dove – a character who represents peace and non-violence – inflicting gruesome violence on someone. And, as mentioned above, Robin the Boy Wonder going all Punisher on some street thugs.

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Why I’m Sitting Out The DC Universe Service

Today DC announced the main details for its new streaming movies/TV/comic service, DC Universe.  The anchor of the service will be four new TV series, and they’ll also have all your favorite old DC shows, movies and cartoons. The new shows are Titansan incongruously R-rated version of Teen TitansDoom PatrolSwamp Thing and a fourth, to be announced this week, show.

I won’t be getting the service, despite its reasonable price ($7.99 a month, $75 paid yearly). It’s not because the trailer for Titans is a try-hard grim n’ gritty embarrassment (“Fuck Batman,” Robin intones into the camera before SHOOTING a bunch of alleyway thugs to death). It’s not because I don’t actually need a service that has Legends of the Super Friends on demand 24/7. It isn’t even because I’m unemployed and shouldn’t be spending my limited dollars on something like this.

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Retro Review: THE DARK KNIGHT

In honor of the 10th anniversary of the release of The Dark Knighthere’s my original review, unedited. This review was seen as so negative at the time that I received death threats serious enough to report them to the police.

Someone get the Batman a lozenge.

Of all the improvements that Christopher Nolan has made from Batman Begins
(and there are many), Batman himself (and his stupid, stupid raspy voice) seems to have gone unfixed. If anything, Batman has taken a step back from his center stage role in
the first film and allowed much more interesting characters like The Joker, Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon to claim the spotlight. And in many ways, that’s an improvement in itself.

Nolan’s second Batfilm almost doesn’t even feel like a sequel – it feels like a reboot. Gotham City, presented in Begins as the only major American city ever founded on a soundstage, now has an outdoors. It feels like… a real city, which makes sense, since it was all filmed in Chicago. And that realness extends beyond the exteriors; for the first time in a Batman movie I felt like I understood what being a Gothamite was like, and I felt that the city was a once glorious place in a bad time, as opposed to the almost Boschian depiction in previous films, including Nolan’s first. This is Gotham City by way of The Wire.

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Call Me By Muad’Dib

I’m a huge fan of DuneI think Frank Herbert’s book is the greatest scifi novel ever written, and every time I dive back in I am transported to a wholly alien yet wholly understandable world. It has a depth of emotion and politics and spirituality that is unmatched in any other work of the fantastic. Even though it has been adapted into a bad movie and a mediocre TV series, even though there are a zillion bad sequels written by Herbert’s son, even though Dune was strip-mined for Star Warseach reading of the book opens new avenues of understanding for me. This story never gets old.

Hell, I have a Dune tattoo, a huge one, featuring the Litany Against Fear (that’s a little hack, but the design is really extraordinary, incorporating a hand doing the karana mudra (a Hindu and Buddhist hand gesture intended to dispel negative emotions), surrounded by Tibetan-style flames, representing the trial of the Gom Jabbar.

So for me any Dune news is so exciting that I will break my usual ‘this isn’t a news blog’ rule to write about it. Maybe you’re gonna see a bunch of Dune shit on this blog going forward.

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THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS: Nature, Nurture, Neither, Both

What makes you you? What are the things that create the person you are? Are you created by the sum of your genes? Is there a genetic destiny that exists beyond our control, that will send you down a path no matter the circumstance?

Or are you created by your circumstances? Does the environment in which you were raised have a greater impact? The question, when boiled down, is the familiar head-to-head battle: nature vs. nurture.

A trio of triplets offer a unique look at this question, as each of them was adopted out at six months, and they spent the first 19 years of their lives not knowing they had a sibling, let alone two who were identical at the DNA level. In 1980 two of these three met through strange coincidence; when they appeared in the newspapers their third brother had the shock of seeing himself – twice! – on the front page. Then they were three, and there was an automatic bond. These three identical strangers took to each other, filling gaps in one another they didn’t even realize had been there. You might think that discovering there are two other yous in the world would make you feel less unique, less special, crowded in. But for these three it seemed to be the moment that set them free, that allowed them to be who they should have always been. They soon discovered remarkable similarities about their lives – they were all wrestlers! They all smoked Marlboros! They all liked older women! – and basked in the glow of pre-internet viral fame.

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ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: Come On, Get Happy

We used to have record albums (the old man yelled at the cloud). LPs, they were called, for long play. When bands made LPs they did something called sequencing, which was putting their songs in a specific order intended to bring the listener for a journey. You weren’t supposed to skip around the LP, and there was no way to shuffle the songs, so you would drop the needle at the beginning and listen through until the end. It feels archaic today, the idea of sitting down and listening to an album in full (and getting up to flip it over in the middle!), so archaic that it has become retrohip, and even Hot Topic sells vinyl LPs. But I think that with the heyday of the LP and the heyday of albums behind us, we have also lost the heyday of sequencing.

Good sequencing would build over the course of an album side, getting up to a crescendo of intensity and pace, and then perhaps pulling it back for a sonic palate cleanser. Think about Rubber Soul, by The Beatles (UK version) – side one ends with Michelle, with its French cabaret feel, and side two opens with a blast of zany country as Ringo sings What Goes On. That creates the space needed for the band to go in a totally different direction with Girl, which has a Greek folk sound. By putting the Ringo country song in between these two European love songs The Beatles create an experience for us that transcends the individual songs.

In 2018 Marvel Studios has accomplished a major feat of cinematic sequencing. Opening the year with Black Panther they got us revved up, excited, triumphant. Then came Avengers: Infinity War, which ends on one of the all-time down notes (for post-Beneath the Planet of the Apes blockbusters, anyway). But that isn’t the finale – the album isn’t over – and so they’ve wisely programmed Ant-Man and the Wasp right afterwards, giving us a small breather, a little bit of space before leaping back into the fray next year.

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