Category: Movies

Super Bowl LVIII Reaction – Commercials and Trailers

Super Bowl LVIII Reaction – Commercials and Trailers

Well, the latest season of NFL football is over. It has been quite the spectacle and veered closer into the Pop Culture atmosphere than it has in recent years. With the Kansas City Chiefs defeating the San Francisco 49ers 25-22 in overtime, there is no way you can say this season was not filled with drama.

Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift. PHOTO: EZRA SHAW/GETTY

Much of the added attention had to do with the intersection of music and sports with the very public romantic relationship between Kansas City Chiefs tight-end Travis Kelce and mega pop star Taylor Swift. Swift’s presence anywhere generates buzz, and this season, her travels to support her boyfriend and the camera time that she received on NFL broadcasts were the cause of a buzz that rivaled the rumble of a 747 on takeoff. A lot of the noise was generated by those same folks who were upset that a quarterback had an opinion and kneeled to protesting police brutality. For many of us, the apoplectic reaction to a woman attending a football game to support her romantic partner was gloriously rewarding karma.

The Super Bowl is the ultimate showcase for new advertisements and film trailer releases, and this year despite prices around seven million dollars for thirty second ads, plenty of companies and organizations plunked down their cash to try to ride the Taylor wave of football viewership. Let’s breakdown what we saw.

PSAs – Hit or Miss

There were a bunch of spots during the game that were not trying to sell anything at all. Some Public Service Announcements were well done, and some were head scratching to say the least. On the positive side, there was a body positivity ad sponsored by Dove and a couple of anti-bullying promos staring NFL players as well as a PSA calling attention to homelessness and another calling for people to stand up to hate. Continue reading “Super Bowl LVIII Reaction – Commercials and Trailers”

With Further Ado #283: Calling a Spade a Spade…, or Bonjour, Monsieur Spade

With Further Ado #283: Calling a Spade a Spade…, or Bonjour, Monsieur Spade

The Maltese Falcon (1941) is one of my favorite movies and, in some ways, it led the way for an entire genre. Or two. Film noir and hard-boiled detective novels owe a lot to this picture’s enduring charm.

It is, if I were to oversimply, private eye Sam Spade’s greatest adventure. So much so that the public has been enthralled with similar characters and mystery stories for 80 plus years. Hollywood had tried to make this movie, based on the 1930 pulp novel, twice before, but the third time was a charm. John Houston was the director and Humphrey Bogart, as Spade, was surrounded by top-notch actors.

(The villain was played by Sidney Greenstreet – in his very first film role at age 61!)

Spade was one of those early wisecracking detectives who were clever, relentless and followed his own moral compass.

Here’s how creator/author Dashiell Hammett described the enduring character:

Spade has no original. He is a dream man in the sense that he is what most of the private detectives I worked with would like to have been and in their cockier moments thought they approached. For your private detective does not — or did not ten years ago when he was my colleague — want to be an erudite solver of riddles in the Sherlock Holmes manner; he wants to be a hard and shifty fellow, able to take care of himself in any situation, able to get the best of anybody he comes in contact with, whether criminal, innocent by-stander or client.

Continue reading “With Further Ado #283: Calling a Spade a Spade…, or Bonjour, Monsieur Spade”

As Is by Mike Gold #017: Make Room?? Good Luck!

As Is by Mike Gold #017: Make Room?? Good Luck!

I think I’m sophisticated ’cause I’m living my life like a good homo sapien, but all around me everybody’s multiplying and they’re walking round like flies, man. So I’m no better than the animals sitting in the cages in the zoo, man. ‘Cause compared to the flowers and the birds and the trees, I am an apeman. — “Apeman,” written by Ray Davies.

For me, the scariest event of the past year (a.k.a. “yesterday”) was seeing the above headline in the Chicago Sun-Times. Mind you, 2023 was the scariest year of my life since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, and 2024 is shaping up to make that look like a walk in the park on a nice spring day. The fact is, eight billion people on a marble built to warehouse maybe 1.5 billion at best is cause for a Pepto-Bismol transfusion.

Eight BILLION people! I apologize for shouting, but that’s The Naked City times one thousand!

We can argue our actual global occupancy limit number — I rounded it off at 1,500,000,000 breathing bodies, but if you feel any need to reality test our actual limit then you should get out more often. People can’t stop recklessly pounding out more people, often because their invisible friend ordered them to. Eventually, most all of those new people will want cars of their own and maybe even a place to live. We’re rapidly running out of the latter, and in much of Europe and North America there are damn few places to build new roads and to maintain fueling stations, be they fossil or EV. And Americans despise public transportation.

So where do we put all the new bodies? In 2015, Habitat reported 1.6 billion people lacked adequate housing. In 2021, the World Economic Forum said 150 million people were homeless worldwide. That, to state the obvious, is lot of people. Continue reading “As Is by Mike Gold #017: Make Room?? Good Luck!”

Brainiac On Banjo: The Rodney Dangerfield of Super-Heroes!

Brainiac On Banjo: The Rodney Dangerfield of Super-Heroes!

I tip-toe down the street, smile at everyone I meet. But suddenly a scream smashes through my dream. Fee fie foe fum, I smell the blood of an asylum. – “How Sweet To Be An Idiot,” written by Neil Innes

I think there are few, if any, major heroic fantasy characters that have received less respect over the past eight decades than Aquaman. Well, this ain’t gonna win me any friends, but to me that makes perfect sense.

This is not to say that the fish man didn’t have a lot of great stories. With artists like Ramona Fradon, Nick Cardy, and Jim Aparo, some swell writers, and an uninterrupted run (more or less) of 82 years, there’s a reason he’s still in the water. But let’s face it: Aquaman was created as just another bland rip-off of the Sub-Mariner, and at that one of many. In fact, Subby’s creator Bill Everett also created two other water-bound heroes, Hydroman and The Fin, as well as a third with the Sub-Mariner spin-off Namora.

Aquaman was no Sub-Mariner. For one thing, he was a nice guy. For another, he talked to fish and ordered them to do his bidding. His enemies were largely lame, and his costume looked like he escaped from an undersea disco.

For all these efforts, DC’s fishy super-friend has been severely and continuously mocked. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim created a series of really funny bumpers featuring the guy, and any number of folks have had their photos taken while engaging in deep mockery. Aquaman has been the butt of much teevee humor ever since the Boomers started getting work in the writers’ rooms. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: The Rodney Dangerfield of Super-Heroes!”

Brainiac On Banjo: It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s… the Mayor?

Brainiac On Banjo: It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s… the Mayor?

Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December, but the days grow short when you reach September. When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame, one hasn’t got time for the waiting game. “September Song” written by Teemu Brunila, Ben Hudson, Jon Cobbe Hume, and John Paul Cooper.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the peoples of steel, well, I understand. It’s hard to find DC books that aren’t about Batman. It might come as a surprise that DC Comics still publishes Bat-less books. And now that DC’s daddy has licensed their Looney Tunes characters out to Dynamite Entertainment, it’s even harder.

But if you search the racks a bit you’ll see that there are quite a few DC titles that feature the many various Supermans flying around the ever-morphing DCU comics that do not have Batman grabbing the staples, at least not in every issue. In fact, you might be confused with all the different Super men, women, children and pets. If you’re in Metropolis, and you look up at the sky, if you don’t see a fast moving red blur, you’re probably visiting an Earth with four digits.

The fact that all these Supers, with the arguable exception of Krypto, keep trying on new costumes does not help lesson the mob mentality one bit.

So it might come as a surprise that some major changes have been going on and, even more shocking, these charges are evolutionary and not the result of typical obsessive-compulsive rebooting.

As we have seen in last week’s Superman #850 (an up-priced anniversary issue because it ends in “50”), Daily Planet E-I-C Perry White, on leave of absence, has decided to run for mayor of the City of Tomorrow. Before he took leave prior to his announcement, he put the Planet in the hands of his star reporter, Lois Lane.

Now, that would be unlikely to happen on whichever Earth we happen to be living on. Lane has won more Pulitzers than the next ten winners combined. She is worth far more to the paper as a reporter. But this isn’t our Earth, and on hers she deserves the appointment, if she wants it.

In 2023, the existence of a women editor-in-chief of a great metropolitan newspaper is no longer rare. In fact, as print papers have dwindled down to a precious few, women editors are doing better than the medium for which they toil. Yeah, that isn’t much, and if this were British opera you might take that as a sign of their end times.

Should Perry win, should Lois become permanent E-I-C — and either can happen without the other — all kinds of interesting plot paths come into being. How would the job affect her marriage to Clark? How would the job accept her marriage to Kal-El? To their kid, to their family, to the other Supers and to the Justice League members she knows so well? And… what about Lex Luthor? Besides, if she’s running the Planet, she is unlikely to have time to fall out of helicopters.

What kind of mayor would Perry be? Does he have sufficient political skills to get anything accomplished? What sort of enemies will he make, and how will they act out? Will Perry have any sort of relationship with the Planet and his old friends? Will Mayor White’s work place those friends in jeopardy? Hoe long will he be mayor — and what happens after that ends? Senator White? President White?

In fact, Perry White had been mayor of Metropolis on one of the best known infinite Earths. It was revealed that Perry had been mayor before he went to the Daily Planet in the hit television show The Adventures of Superman, a program whose exposure and longevity is among the highest in history — it’s in the I Love Lucy class. Which is vaguely funny as Superman crossed over into Lucy.

Of course, there’s a 500 pound gorilla with Kryptonite ray vision sulking in the corner waiting for a big-ass strike to be resolved. What will happen to all of this as James Gunn’s Superman Legacy comes out — July 11, 2025, as time currently is reckoned in Hollywood? Does that establish another “sell-by” date for the masters of seat-of-your-pants circumlocution at Warner Bros Discovery? Hell, given the past ten years or so, will Warner Bros Discovery still be a thing? I wouldn’t bet either way.

There could be some interesting and fairly original stories coming out of all this. Then again, it all could wind up looking like a 30-car pileup in a blizzard on I-80 in Pennsylvania. We can and need to pay attention to history, but be careful about taking odds on the endgame.

But I like the sound of a kick-ass Mayor Perry White.

With Further Ado #268: Screams, Screens and the Planet of the Apes!

With Further Ado #268: Screams, Screens and the Planet of the Apes!

Fifty years ago this month, my brain exploded. So did the brains just about all my friends. And it was all because of what CBS did one Friday night.

In those days, when a movie was shown in the theater, there was a sense of urgency to see it. You never knew when you’d get the chance to see it again. Our ability to watch movies was at the whim of networks for when, and if, they’d re-broadcast a movie.

I’ve always thought this book, Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes by Andrew Gaska, was spectacular, especially with its Steranko cover and a bunch of wonderful interior illustrations.

Through the mid and late 60s, 20th Century Fox worked hard to develop a movie called Planet of the Apes. Rod Serling was called to help with early drafts of the movie. Much of his work morphed into something different, but his innovative twist ending, a commentary on the then-current world, made it to the final version which debuted on movie screens in 1968.

Later, Fox packaged this movie together with the sequels for CBS. The network broadcast it on conventional TV during an autumn Friday fifty years ago. I was too young to see this one in the theaters, but I was the perfect age to see it on TV.

Apes riding horse! A spaceship! A beach that looked a lot like Lake Ontario (where we’d spend time every summer)! Linda Harrison in a dried spinach swimsuit! “What could be better?” said my ten-year-old self. Continue reading “With Further Ado #268: Screams, Screens and the Planet of the Apes!”

Brainiac On Banjo: No… Doctor No

Brainiac On Banjo: No… Doctor No

Have no fear, look who’s here…James Bond…They’ve got us on the run…With guns…And knives…We’re fighting for our lives…Have no fear, Bond is here…He’s gonna to save the world at Casino Royale! – “Casino Royale” (1967) written by Burt Bacharach.

I’ve long had a curious relationship with Doctor No, and it started with a comic book whose publication was truly weird.

It started in early 1963 — January 31st, if you’re setting your WABAC machine. That was a Thursday, new comics day at my friendly neighborhood drug store, and DC Comics’ Showcase was one of my favorites. Not that it mattered: my 12 year-old paws would claw through each and every comic on the rack. At the time the Doctor No adaptation interrupted their Tommy Tomorrow try-out series which offered some great Lee Elias art and some rather thin writing from Arnold Drake. I wasn’t disappointed about the interruption, but I still have a fondness for that Elias work.

I had not heard of Doctor No, nor James Bond, nor Ian Fleming. I was curious as to why the story looked like it should have appeared in Classics Illustrated. DC’s comics had a house style — more of a house attitude — and this did not fit in. But I enjoyed the book and was disappointed Bond did not return in the following issue. Showcase was a try-out book that usually introduced new series in three-issue increments. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: No… Doctor No”

Brainiac On Banjo: A.I’s Just A Photocopier.

Brainiac On Banjo: A.I’s Just A Photocopier.

I’m all alone, so are we all. We destroyed the government. We’re destroying time. No more problems on the way — Clones (We’re All), written by Alice Cooper.

According to last Friday’s Hollywood Reporter, “A federal judge on Friday upheld a finding from the U.S. Copyright Office that a piece of art created by AI [artificial intelligence] is not open to protection. The ruling was delivered in an order turning down Stephen Thaler’s bid challenging the government’s position refusing to register works made by AI. Copyright law has “never stretched so far” to “protect works generated by new forms of technology operating absent any guiding human hand,” U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell found.”

That certainly is good news to creators of all sorts — not just artists, but writers and other producers of copyrightable or patentable products. However, I suspect the majority of such gifted people will not waste carbon dioxide emitting a deep sigh of relief. Damn near all of them have been to this rodeo dozens of times; more likely hundreds. The longer you stay in the business, the more you slip on corporate dogshit.

Do not think the producers and corporate princes reading about this ruling will say “well, jeez, maybe we should start acting in a morally acceptable manner.” Hell, no. The vast majority of media moguls who possess an “annual compensation package” in excess of ten million dollars per annum confuse having their package reduced by as a direct kick to their… package. Whereas that seems fair to me, my WGA and AFTRA memberships expired a while ago. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: A.I’s Just A Photocopier.”

With Further Ado #259: A Beach Book and a Movie (promotion)

With Further Ado #259: A Beach Book and a Movie (promotion)

I’ve been swimming, I’ve partied at the water’s edge, I’ve watched some gorgeous sunsets, but I haven’t read a book on the beach yet. I shouldn’t moan and whine, it’s been an outrageously fantastic summer so far. But still… there’s something about reading a book with your toes in the sand, copious amounts of sunscreen on your nose with summer stretched out in front of you.

After really enjoying a short story collection, Jess Thompson’s The Angel of Rome and Other Stories, I’m resolved to reach more short stories.

Before I get to solving this book-on-the-beach conundrum, I want to discuss a trend and genre. Continue reading “With Further Ado #259: A Beach Book and a Movie (promotion)”

With Further Ado #248: Ithaca College Guest Column Winner – A Look at Toxic Star Wars Fandom

With Further Ado #248: Ithaca College Guest Column Winner – A Look at Toxic Star Wars Fandom

It’s the big finish for that class I teach at Ithaca College that focuses on pop culture, running conventions and entrepreneurism.  Classes have ended and the final is this week.

Here’s our third and winning entry for this year’s column contest. Nina Singh is an impressive student, and a good writer too. I think her column will give you something to think about!

Congrats on a great year, Nina.

***

Star Wars Toxicity: A Look at Lizzo’s Backlash and Beyond

By: Nina Singh

Lizzo as Duchess Bombardier

It is a sad reality that many Star Wars fans have devolved into a toxic and intolerant community. This became apparent yet again when Lizzo, a popular musician and actress, appeared in an episode of The Mandalorian. The backlash against her casting is a prime example of how some fans have lost sight of what it means to be a true fan of the franchise.

For those who are unfamiliar with The Mandalorian, it is a popular Disney+ show set in the Star Wars universe. It follows the adventures of a bounty hunter named Din Djarin, who is also known as the Mandalorian. In one of the recent episodes, Lizzo made a brief appearance as Duchess Bombardier, one of the glamorous and wealthy rulers of Plazir-15, an independent planet. Continue reading “With Further Ado #248: Ithaca College Guest Column Winner – A Look at Toxic Star Wars Fandom”