Category: Movies

Brainiac On Banjo #100: Wonder Woman Saves Lives! Really!

Brainiac On Banjo #100: Wonder Woman Saves Lives! Really!

Make a hawk a dove, Stop a war with love, Make a liar tell the truth. Wonder Woman, Get us out from under, Wonder Woman. All our hopes are pinned upon you. And the magic that you do.– Theme from the Wonder Woman television show, written by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox

Yesterday (Wednesday, to the calendar-challenged), the folks on the Left Coast at WarnerMedia — those who still have jobs — announced that on Christmas Day they will be releasing Wonder Woman 1984 to those American theaters that may be open. This wasn’t a shock — it’s been in the can for about half of this year, and they’re probably tired of paying out all that interest. I don’t blame them one bit.

Surprisingly, they also announced they’ll be running the movie on their HBO Max streaming operation starting that very same day. They didn’t mention how long it will be available to pluck from the Cloud, but the media wonks feel that will be a month. Well, that’s damn cool. Happy New Year!

Shockingly, WarnerMedia also announced they will not be charging $30.00 for the privilege of watching the sequel to a movie that made almost nine-tenths of a billion dollars by putting people’s butts in theater seats. That’s how much Disney charged when they diverted their live-action Mulan to their Disney+ streamer, and they seem to have done pretty well with that.

So… get this! HBO Max will be charging absolutely nothing extra. They’re hoping they sell a lot of new subscriptions and renewals. I’ll bet right before Wonder Woman 1984 we’ll see a new trailer or three for their mostly-new five-hour “Snyder Cut” of the Justice League silver screen train wreck. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a trailer for their new Wonder Girl teevee series as well.

Like many others (including Pop Culture Squad’s HBIC), I would prefer to see Wonder Woman 1984 on a big screen. I loved the first one — it inspired a lot of little girls in the audience, and it gave me hope. Well, in that case it was hope that Warner Bros can make another superhero movie that’s at least half as good as those made by Marvel. But, hey, times suck and we’ve got to adjust. Personally, I’d also like to drive from Connecticut to Kansas for some barbecue, and right now that ain’t gonna happen either.

A lot of people will be driving during Christmas and New Years, assuming those mathematics-denying flat-earthers don’t kill themselves or others at their huge, indoor family-infested Thanksgiving dinners, believing there is some unstated provision in the Constitution that allows them to murder their friends and relatives while keeping the Covid-19 virus fat and healthy.

But, now, there’s an out for some of the more intelligent and reasonable folks in those families. They just might buy some holiday candy and stay home to watch Wonder Woman 1984. After all, not everybody is willing to risk their lives for the honor of watching a bunch of football games with people they really don’t like and dare not speak with. This will not only prevent or delay some spread of Covid, it will also reduce the number of family manslaughter arrests and, if we’re lucky, some DUI issues as well.

WarnerMedia might be taking a bath on the movie, but it’s quite likely their decision will lives.

Besides… those people who were planning on seeing Wonder Woman 1984 by gawking at their computer screens at a shaky camera-copy bootleg? Hey, Warners, you just did them a solid!

Seriously. AT&T, owners of WarnerMedia which, in turn, owns Warner Bros which, in turn, owns DC Comics deserves serious appreciation. They might be thinking they’re doing the only thing they can given the situation, but they should be aware they’re also doing the right thing.

Saving lives… in the spirit of Wonder Woman.

With Further Ado #121: The Beauty and the King

With Further Ado #121: The Beauty and the King

Well, it’s taken long enough, even if it’s not quite right.

I finally saw the recent movie Seberg staring the miscast Kristen Stewart.  Jean Seberg’s life was tragic.  There is no denying that fact. In true Icarian fashion, she flew too close the sun, but it wasn’t her pride that did her in. It’s clear she was the victim of the harsh realities of the old Hollywood system (suffering abuse from director Otto Preminger) and the cruelties of a misguided FBI driven by the obsessive J. Edgar Hoover.

I know a little of her story.  I’m no expert and everything I learned about actress Jean Seberg came from two sources:

  • Way back when, I listened to a professor’s lecture before Breathless in a Cornell film studies course. I couldn’t officially fit that course into my college schedule, but my buddy Paul Haskell snuck me in. (Thanks again, Paul.)
  • Karina Longworth’s excellent You Must Remember This podcast. Longworth took a deep dive last year with a multi-part series examining the intertwined careers of Jane Fonda and Jean Seberg. As always, her meticulously researched podcast was, as it usually is, very educational and addictively entertaining.

Continue reading “With Further Ado #121: The Beauty and the King”

Brainiac On Banjo #99: A Master Leaves The Stage

Brainiac On Banjo #99: A Master Leaves The Stage

If Sean Connery had never made Dr. No, he would still be remembered as one of our most impressive actors. Except…

… Except if Sean Connery had never made Dr. No, it’s very doubtful that he ever would have been given the chance to make such movies as The Man Who Would Be King, Time Bandits, Robin and Marian, and The Wind and the Lion. Great actors are like great guitar players: for every Eric Clapton or Buddy Guy on stage, there are a thousand equally gifted musicians who never get out of the garage. It takes commitment, determination, and a very thick skin in combination with off-the-scale talent that brings about the possibility of success. Even then, the odds are against you.

Well, that’s show biz.

Prior to taking the James Bond gig, Connery had done a handful of appearances in movies and television shows, none that are well known. In 1957 he made his American media debut in a very brief appearance on The Jack Benny Program – “Jack Hires Opera Singer in Rome,” where he played a hotel porter. It’s in the rerun package and continues to be aired on one or more of those nostalgia decimal channels. It was Dr. No that brought him to the attention of the masses, to the surprise of the producers, to the studio, and to Bond creator Ian Fleming, who saw his master action hero as more of a Hoagy Carmichael type. After seeing the finished film, Fleming changed his mind… after counting his change.

(Note: In my opinion, singer/songwriter/actor Carmichael would have made an excellent James Bond, but he would have been a bit too old for the part in Dr. No and most certainly too old by the time United Artists made Thunderball. “What if” is the dross of all fandom.)

Cleverly, Connery parlayed his success as 007 into a career that proved he deserved to be in a paragraph that contained Humphrey Bogart, Robert De Niro, and Steve McQueen. He was courageous enough to take on roles that many found confounding – Zardoz, for example – and others where the “hero” proved to be less-than-heroic (my favorite Connery flick, The Man Who Would Be King). He showed his gentle side in Time Bandits, another of my favorites, and his age – something rarely seen from big movie stars – in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He had no problem performing with actors who were equally gifted such as Michael Caine and Harrison Ford, and he never squeezed their screen presence.

Contrary to the position held by many otherwise reasonable people, James Bond is not an ideal. He’s a hero only because he takes his job seriously, thereby saving us from extinction. Bond is a killer; it is in his job description. His attitudes towards women, which mirrored those of his creator, were obnoxious from the very outset and ugly even in its time. Yet Bond is not a conflicted character. He knows who he is and how he’s supposed to execute his responsibilities to his employer and to his nation.

It took a very secure performer to make James Bond work on the screen, to get the point across where so many other talented actors in similar roles could not. Damn near each and every actor who succeeded Sean Connery in the role echoed the studio’s advertising claim – “Sean Connery IS James Bond.”

In Connery’s hands, 007 was the effective artifact the world needed to get through growingly conflicted times. It is very difficult to evaluate our past through contemporary standards, although it is vital we do so.

At the end of the day, Sean Connery’s varied roles were mostly strong, well-centered men who were slightly out of their time but, at that very instant, desperately needed. It’s heroic fantasy, folks, and heroic fantasy is very tough to make believable.

Sean Connery did just that.

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind  #110: Conspiracy? 2 Years In 2 Hours…

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #110: Conspiracy? 2 Years In 2 Hours…

Part One!

Over the past week or so, I’ve been inundated with emails, texts, Facebook messages, and the like asking for my reaction to Aaron Sorkin’s movie The Trial of the Chicago 7. It’s nice to get that attention, but I have yet to comment in public. Well, Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind allows me the opportunity to prattle to my friends without having to engage in redundant or even repetitive keyboard tapping.

For those who came in late, the Conspiracy trial (a.k.a. the Chicago 8 trial, a.k.a. the Chicago 7 trial) was a heavy-handed attempt by President Richard Nixon and Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley in 1969 to intimidate, incarcerate, and obliviate the still-surging protest movement which, at that time, mostly was focused on opposition to the Vietnam War and on civil rights.

We believed the choice of the Democrat’s smoke-filled room, Hubert Humphrey, was a criminal warmonger. He was the vice-president who stood beside President Johnson and cheered him on knowing, as L.B.J. knew beyond a doubt, that the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that turned the Vietnam conflict into a full-blown war was complete and utter bullshit. My source on that is Johnson’s Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, who later copped to it in his memoir. This was confirmed by the NSA, among others. It’s a fact.

Combined, the Civil Rights and the anti-Vietnam war movements quickly led to a major reinauguration of the feminist movement, to the establishment of gay rights movement, as well as many other such programs that encouraged Americans to stand up for themselves.

It was a heady time to say the least. Those invested in the status quo do not like having their oxen gored. Yet they do not like to be revealed as the right-wing self-absorbed bigoted assholes they are. As Lenny Bruce said, “I’ve got to do business with” the common people.

So Nixon, Daley and their coconspirators hand-picked eight people they decided were leaders of the Democratic National Convention protests held in Chicago. The one where the whole world was watching the cops gas and beat lawful protestors, as well as the media, Women for Peace, Teachers for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, unaffiliated hippies and aging beatniks, and gawking bystanders alike. Not to mention Jules Feiffer and Hugh Hefner.

A special commission was appointed to investigate what happened. Their Walker Report stated “The nature of the response was unrestrained and indiscriminate police violence on many occasions, particularly at night. That violence was made all the more shocking by the fact that it was often inflicted upon persons who had broken no law, disobeyed no order, made no threat. These included peaceful demonstrators, onlookers, and large numbers of residents who were simply passing through, or happened to live in, the areas where confrontations were occurring.”

This greatly upset ÜberDemocrat Mayor Daley. During the riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr four months earlier, Daley gave his police the authority “to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand … and … to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting any stores in our city.” This, too, upset him and he was not about to just ignore the Walker Report.

In the presidential election held shortly thereafter, ÜberRepublican Nixon squeezed out a victory beating Humphrey by seven-tenths of one percentage point. With that overwhelming mandate, Nixon decided to keep Daley’s Democratic hack federal attorney Tom Foran in office and they had eight radical “conspirators” prosecuted for conspiracy. In the words of defendant Abbie Hoffman, these eight, who had never met together previously, “couldn’t even agree on where to have lunch.”

(Full disclosure: I worked with and for Abbie during the trial and for a couple years thereafter. He personally financed the first comic book I ever published, Conspiracy Capers, edited by Skip Williamson as a fundraiser for the Trial. It’s a small world, ain’t it?)

I was on the staff of the Conspiracy Trial. I was one of the first four hired, and I focused on working with what was then referred to as the underground or alternative media, which was akin to the social media of today. I had a background in this stuff as I was on work-release from the journalism program at my college, at the time of the police riot I was a precocious and obnoxious lad of 18, and I had been on the staff of the Chicago Seed for, oh, several months. I also had been on the staff of the Chicago Defense Fund, an effort by a bunch of lawyers to deal with all the legal poo that happened in the wake of said police riot.

One of the things I did for the CDF when we heard these indictments were going to come down was research the backgrounds of that district’s federal court judges. I noted that one of them, Julius J. Hoffman (who looked like Mr. Magoo’s great uncle) was so right-wing, so paranoid and so asinine that, given the immutable laws of dialectics, he would be a great boom to the protest movement — although not-such-great news for whomever got indicted. For example, Julie Magoo had found the last 27 people (give or take) who came before him for avoiding the draft guilty as charged and sentenced most of them to the full term.

Judges are supposed to be selected by lottery so, as fate would have it, Julie Magoo was selected to run the trial in his Mies Van Der Rohe sculpted courtroom. The one Abbie referred to as “the neon oven.”

I was a participant in the Democratic Convention demonstrations and, as a reward for my effort, I enjoyed a ham-fisted police truncation across my left hip; I still suffer from the consequences 52 years later. But it helped me get myself ready for the year (start to finish) I spent on the Conspiracy Trial staff.

All this is why I’ve been asked by so many decent people what I thought of the Sorkin movie. To this, I respond:

I have yet see it.

I’ll tell you why tomorrow.

With Further Ado #110: Lest We Forget…

With Further Ado #110: Lest We Forget…

When we were in college years ago, my pal Paul Barresi overheard two girls talking about music as they listened to a Wings song.  One girl was astonished when she learned that Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings.

That’s the way it often goes. The new generation is oblivious to that which is dear to the previous one.  But a wonderful thing that’s really different about Geek Culture is that it’s so accessible.  I always use the example that if you like rock music, it’s unlikely you’d be able to spend time with the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger. But if you like comics, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll be able to spend a little time with Neal Adams at one point or another.  It’s almost magical how the world of comics, especially when combined with conventions, provides robust opportunities for fans to meet, and spend time with their artistic heroes.

And with all that, it’s always debilitating when creators are not acknowledged. There’s been a bit of it lately. Continue reading “With Further Ado #110: Lest We Forget…”

With Further Ado #102: Interview with F.J. DeSanto about Bleed Them Dry

With Further Ado #102: Interview with F.J. DeSanto about Bleed Them Dry

Bleed Them Dry is a new comic series created by Hiroshi Koizumi, written by Eliot Rahal and illustrated by Dike Ruan, with colors and letters by Miguel Muerto and AndWorld Design, respectively . It’s published by one of those industrious “upstart” publishers, Vault Comics. This one looks like fun, and I appreciated the new twists and turns the creators brought to the party.

It turns out my old buddy F.J. DeSanto is involved with this one. Recently, as an invited guest speaker (via ZOOM) he enthralled my Ithaca College students  (and me!) with insights into his work developing comics (Vagrant Queen) and big properties (Transformers, Shazam) and bringing them to the screen. After enjoying the first issue of Bleed Them Dry, I was eager to catch-up with him and learn more about it.

Ed Catto:  How do you describe Bleed Them Dry to folks who ask, “What is this is about?”

F.J. DeSanto: I can usually hook someone with two simple words: Ninja Vampire.

EC: What makes Bleed Them Dry different from other vampire or sci-fi, or even cop stories? Continue reading “With Further Ado #102: Interview with F.J. DeSanto about Bleed Them Dry”

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind  #95: Gee, They Were So Young

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #95: Gee, They Were So Young

Whatever gets you through your life ‘salright, ‘salright / Do it wrong or do it right ‘salright, ‘salright / Don’t need a watch to waste your time oh no, oh no — “Whatever Gets You Through The Night,” written by John Lennon, 1974.

When it comes to sorting Americans into tribes based upon political beliefs — and we are so desperate to divide up into tribes — if you are thinking along the lines of “well, those [whatever] usually tend to be [whichever tribe you like, such as young conservatives, young progressives, young Libertarians, or jocks]…, you are most certainly full of two things, one of which is yourself.

We hear a lot about Gen-Z being very politically active and very progressive. Of course that’s not completely so. Like all previous generations, the largest subgroup are those who just don’t give a damn. These kids are much more politically active than the previous two, but they seem to be motivated not as much by some old fart’s progressive agenda as they are by the philosophy “You are destroying my planet, and I’m the one who is supposed to live here in the future. Not you.” And… that’s fair.

The younger you are the more cynical you might be, but I am living proof that cynicism is most likely to be a permanent lifestyle. For one thing, it’s more fun. This is a good thing: it’s easier to fight the good fights if you allow yourself to appreciate your victories, keep a sense of humor about absolutely everything, and never think about Sisyphus. It’s good to remember the words of some Joker: “Why so serious? Let’s put a smile on that face!”

So it came as no surprise that when I watched Donald Trump’s two pep rallies earlier this week, I saw a whole lot of kids. Almost entirely White kids, but there always are a few non-White people are there, some of whom were hired just like the large group of cheering fans at Trump Tower when the Donald floated down his escalator-from-heaven back in 2015.

Granted, the second of these sessions was held at a college, so it’s not a great an indication of teen-age lack of death-perception as the first. But both had this in common with our recruitment policies for our military: the younger you are, the less likely you are to be aware and protective of your longevity. By and large, if you were, say, a 45-year-old carrying a bayonet, and you were ordered to assault that well-protected Hill 59, you might hesitate. Then your problem becomes getting out of the way of the 19-year-olds who are much less concerned about maintaining their personal franchise.

It is at the core of military training: your master says jump and do not think, you jump without a thought as to your own mortality. 19-year-olds, by and large, have yet to fully develop that sense. I did all kinds of dangerous shit back when I was 19. And 18, and 20. I look back and smile, but I’m not smiling about those stupid risks. I smile because I’m still around to look back at all that dangerous shit. My actions were, and still are, quite serious. My cause is quite serious. My attitude is more “Why so serious.” Whatever gets you through the night.

So we’ve got several thousand southwestern young’uns shoulder-to-shoulder, in weather-appropriate dress (the southwest in late June demands less clothing), jumping up and down and shouting and screaming and cheering and carrying on, maskless, as though they were at the Titanic of high school pep rallies. As the Jefferson Airplane said back in my day, “bless their pointed little heads.”

Many of them think Covid-19 does not affect them because they are not old. Well, dig this kids: when all this plague stuff started, some Black people believed they couldn’t get it either. It was a big deal — a very big deal, until some of them folks started dying. Well, die and learn. Now we know that younger people are merely less likely to come down with Covid-19 than us old people who have little to lose but our memories.

Well, that’s America for you. This nation of ours is your go-to place if you want to age out of your own tribe.

Besides, our planet was overcrowded about five billion live-births ago. Soylent Green does not have to be made out of old dead bodies. I’ll bet the young dead bodies taste better.

Brainiac On Banjo #089: Riddle Me This, Keaton!

Brainiac On Banjo #089: Riddle Me This, Keaton!

“I’ve seen the future and it will be / I’ve seen the future and it will be / BATMAN, BATMAN / I’ve seen the future and it will be / BATMAN / And where, and where … is the BATMAN?” – Batdance, written by Prince, 1989.

I enjoy going to comic book convention trivia panels when Mark Waid is on the dais. Not just because Mark knows almost everything, no matter how obscure, but because he is actually embarrassed that his knows minutiae as well as he knows trivia.

But this question might blow his brainpan right out his neck. Therefore, this Spoiler Warning is just for Mark Waid.

Question: Name all the different actors who have played the part of Bruce Wayne.

Follow-up questions: If he signs the new multi-picture deal, should Michael Keaton be counted twice? And will Bruce Wayne meet Adrian Toomes?  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #089: Riddle Me This, Keaton!”

Joel Schumacher Dies at 80 [Variety]

Joel Schumacher, costume designer-turned-director of films including “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “The Lost Boys” and “Falling Down,” as well as two “Batman” films, died in New York City on Monday morning after a year-long battle with cancer. He was 80.

Source: Joel Schumacher Dead: Batman Films Director Dies at 80 – Variety

Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Writer Joe Harris

Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Writer Joe Harris

Welcome back to another spotlight interview. In this session, we spoke with award-winning comics creator and screenwriter Joe Harris.

Joe has a written a new comic, Disaster, Inc., debuting this week from AfterShock Comics. It is drawn and colored by Sebastián Piriz and lettered by Carlos Mangual.

He has written for Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, and Storm King Comics, among others. He is well known for shepherding the return of The X-Files to comics at IDW beginning in 2013. Some of his other titles include: Great Pacific, Snowfall, Rockstars, Slingers, and Surviving Nuclear Attack.

Harris also wrote the screenplay to Sony Pictures’ Darkness Falls. His style is very character centered and his creator owned work tends to cling to the horror or speculative fiction genres.

We were excited to get a chance to talk to him about his writing process and also how he is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic while living in New York City.

You can find the audio recording of our discussion below, and we transcribed a big portion of it for you as well.

We hope you enjoy the conversation.

DOWNLOAD

Pop Culture Squad: So, thanks for doing this. Before we get into anything, how are you feeling?

Joe Harris: I feel good. I’m looking into getting an antibody test soon. So, I can know, one way or another, if I have had COVID-19 or not. I was symptomatic a few weeks ago. I think you remember. So, who knows.

PCS: Well, I am pretty confident that you had it based on the symptoms you were describing. You documented the illness while you were in isolation, and then you sort of disappeared for a day. It’s scary, and it is a scary time for everyone. For all those people who are down playing the seriousness of it, people are dying. You live in the center of the worst of it.
What’s that like being in New York right now?

JH: Um, Kind of surreal. I mean, at this point, it’s kind of shocking at how normal everything has become… There are things you’ll probably get angry about this stuff no matter where you go. You probably see somebody not wearing masks. You’ll see people that aren’t keeping adequate distance, but for the most part New York, I think, by and large, considering how big it is, has done a decent job.

I don’t know how that comes out in the wash when you think about the amount of dead and the number of infected, but it seems like at least for a stretch the city was doing what it could. It is a little less desolate now though. I can hear more people out on the street. I don’t hear as many ambulances.

Which makes sense considering, that the emergency rooms aren’t has overrun as they apparently were. I don’t know when we come out of this. It’s been a little surreal. So, it’s hard to imagine how everything goes right back to normal. That much I don’t see; I don’t know what would looks like or what that will feel like. The city just kind of adapts. I haven’t been down in the subway in months, and I expect it will be sometime before I am again.

PCS: Let’s get into some comic stuff. We know that Disaster, Inc. is the first book that Aftershock is going to be shipping through Diamond when the restart happens on May 20th. So, what do you want to tell people about the book? Continue reading “Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Writer Joe Harris”