Thursday, August 30, 2012

Something Wrong With This Picture

Some gray haired guy named Taylor Hicks, in a suit, is singing a Doobie (Doobie, as in "doobie") Brothers song called "Taking It To The Streets"(really? That's where you're taking it?  To the streets?) to the folks at the Republican National Convention.  

Perhaps he'll follow up with a rollicking country version of Ice-T's "Cop Killer."...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I'm So Impressed

From tonight's speech during the Republican National Convention: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie "took on the teacher's unions" and won. 

Wow.  What a hero. 

WTF? Todd Akin edition

"Legitimate rape" was despicable, but this new claim by happy go lucky Republican Rep Todd Akin is just friggin' weird...

Remind yourself that this fine fellow is on a House Science committee...

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Oops.  This was satire.  Excellent satire, in that I was totally fooled. Damn you Daily Currant!  I would apologize to Rep. Akin but he really DID say the nonsense about legitimate rape, so... correction, yes. Apology, nahhh....

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Springsteen Under The Tower

Okay, it doesn't get much better than this.  A pre-show meet and greet with Little Steven courtesy of my friends at Netflix (Lilyhammer, Netflix, Hemlock Grove, Netflix -- thanks again Peter!).  A great time talking with a couple of new/old biz friends (hi Karen and Lucia!).  And finally enjoying a 3hr 45min. Bruce Springsteen concert with my pal Aaron Douglas in an outdoor stadium under the stars, with Toronto's CN Tower looming overhead.

Bruce was in good spirits and the show was, no surprise, incredible.  Highlights for me included a rare acoustic piano version of Incident on 57th St., a killer version of Murder Incorporated, and a fiery Badlands than ripped the joint apart.  But that's like pulling slightly larger nuggets of gold out of a sack full of the yellow stuff.

There is of course the obligatory "how the hell does he do it at 62!?" remark, but frankly the stamina of the entire band is pretty astounding.  Watching drummer Max Weinberg pound away for nearly four hours made ME tired, and I was just standing there.

This really isn't much of a review... sometimes its just about acknowledging that this guy is a treasure.  And keeping my fingers crossed he keeps hitting the stair-master and returns to the stage for years to come...  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Expendables 2, The Raid: Redemption! (Minor Spoilers)

Caught EXPENDABLES 2 and THE RAID: REDEMPTION and the sound of grunts and gunfire are still echoing in my brain...

Squint your eyes and you could almost mistake EXPENDABLES 2 for one of Charlie Sheen's HOT SHOT movies.  But you'd have to squint pretty hard, since between the absurdist macho posturing and out-sized action sequences, EXPENDABLES (unlike HOT SHOT) features an copious amount of (often CG) blood and flying body parts.

But that's okay.  You have to be in the right mood for this kind of movie, and I sometimes I'm in that mood.  Enough apologies -- it is what it is.  Truly brainless action sequences and gunfight scenes interspersed with cocky jokes and a story so paper-thin (Jean-Claude Van Damme is stealing plutonium!  Yikes!) you could write it on a napkin and have room left for a lengthy grocery list.   

But you've got be ready to suspend your disbelief.  Big time.  Our heroes are rescued from certain death three times (three!) by other heroes who just happen to be in the right place at the right time.  Equipped with insane amounts of weaponry.  One of the White Knights we haven't even met before he comes out of nowhere, in the middle of nowhere, to rescue our guys. These last minute saves are probably the toughest narrative nut to swallow. At one point early on, stars Stallone and Stathem are sliding down a cable to escape various bad guys when the cable is hit by gunfire.  Our heroes drop in the jungle and are surrounded by evil soldiers.  Fortunately they have a sniper positioned right there,  you know, over the spot where our guys couldn't possibly have expected the cable to snap, to shoot all the bad guys.

The coolest guy in the movie is Jean Claude Van-Damme, who is making a bit of a comeback after too many years of too many bad movies (TIMECOP, *ahem*, exempted).  He's not exactly a revelation here, but he does add some dark swagger to his villain character (named Vilain), even if he does a couple of incredibly stupid bad guy things.  Note to future "Vilains": if you're stealing tons of plutonium and killing literally hundreds of civilians in the process, deciding NOT to kill the ridiculously armed mercenaries who've come to lay waste to your plan out of some left-field sense of soldier-honor is probably a mistake.

THE RAID: REDEMPTION has just as thin a story, but done with dead-serious intent.  The set-up is simple: a gang-lord lives on the top floor of a crappy apartment building somewhere in Indonesia. A truck-load of cops are sent in to get him.  But virtually the entire building is occupied by armed, murderous thugs who have an incentive to take the cops down, so -- mayhem ensues.  Copious mayhem, only instead of extended gun violence we get extended martial arts violence, which frankly I find inherently more interesting.  The athleticism of the actors and inventiveness of the fights takes on a brutal balletic quality... so I liked it.

But jeez, it's time for something a little less violent... where's my blu-ray of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE... 


Today's Useless Political Observation

Note to CNN:  there are few things less funny than watching a comedian no one has never heard of expound "humorously" on the sorry state of political comedy....

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Catching Up...

It is clear I will never be a world class blogger... I allow small things like life and 16 hour workdays to interfere with my blog regimen.  Anyhow, just to catch up on things:

Work continues at a feverish pace on HEMLOCK GROVE, the episodic project I'm currently doing for Netflix, Gaumont Studio and a hopefully eager public.  Details are mostly under wraps for the time being, but I suspect you'll start seeing some peeks and hints soon.   But here's a super-duper spoiler for you: one of our locations has a lot of mosquitoes.   Yes. flying creatures have bitten me repeatedly in the name of art, but THAT'S the sacrifice I'm willing to make to bring you folks some fabulous entertainment.   You're welcome.   

Season two of FALLING SKIES concludes this weekend.  My scribin' swan song was last week with the episode called "The Price Of Greatness" and I can't wait to see the finished version of the finale. Ha ha, I know what happens and you don't (until Sunday night in the U.S. anyhow).  I love Canada and the Canadian people (where I'm currently based for Hemlock) but spit ugly Romanian curses that F.S. isn't available on non-"Super Channel" television here. 

Sad news that comics legend Joe Kubert passed away at age 85.  I've always been a great fan of Kubert's work, most notably his Sgt. Rock stories.  And I have a real affection for his early work, especially golden age Hawkman and some gorgeous love/movie star comics he did for St. Johns in the early 50's.  These feature layouts as bold and inventive as Will Eisner, combined with Kubert's incredibly powerful style.  By the way, a couple of friends felt compelled to inform me that they were never into Kubert's work, but they (hi J. and S.) are hopeless neanderthals. 

The Springsteen channel on Sirius Radio has been playing many concerts from his current 2012 tour, and I think the eventual question is going to be, great tour?  Or greatest tour ever?  Somehow at 62 this guy is at the top of his game, doing 3 1/2 hour to insane 4+ hour shows (!) without intermission.  I couldn't do his intermission without an intermission.  Anyway, I could use a Bruce injection and so I guess it's good timing that he's coming to Toronto Aug. 24 (see you there!), then nearby Hamilton Ontario in October (maybe see you there!).

There you go... all the news that's fit to print...

Monday, August 06, 2012

How To Write Gooder...

I was clearing out backed-up e-mails and came across dozens from various sources offering a wide assortment of screenwriting courses.  There were ads for seminars, classes on how to write outlines, how to write for TV, how to find an exciting career in copy-writing while pursuing screenwriting, on and on.  Anyhow, they got me to thinking (never a good thing)...

I am occasionally asked what classes I took to prepare for my so-called career writing comics, movies and TV shows.  Truth is, my educational CV is rather slim.  I took exactly one creative writing class in college, and my only memory of it remains the student on first day of class who announced that his only concern, in terms of his future as a world class writer, was how he could maintain his vision in the face of untold wealth and fame.  Oh, and he was also worried about the tax liability.  No, I'm not kidding, and boy was that Stephen King prescient!  (Okay, THAT part's a joke.  I have no idea if the actual ultra-confident would-be novelist took the world by storm.)

Pause for an aside.  I recall a lengthy message board conversation, many years ago, with a Midwestern fellow who was convinced he could write better television scripts than anyone in Hollywood.  Being a practical sort, he had worked out a regimen for big money success.  Since he was not only a great writer but really fast, he figured he could churn out one television script a week.  It's only ten-ish pages a day, and that's taking Sunday off!  Allowing himself two weeks vacation a year (to recharge the old batteries), that meant he could write 50 episodes a year and make 50 times whatever the guild minimum was back in those days.  And boy was that Aaron Sorkin right!  (Okay, sorry, THAT part's a joke too -- but the rest is true.)  The best thing about this conversation is what I learned from it: stop wasting time contributing to message boards.  But I digress...

Post-college, I took one screenwriting course at an Oregon art institute, taught by a very nice fellow whose credits were having one screenplay optioned by someone.  From him I basically learned that I could write stuff he liked (he was over the moon after my first short writing project) and I could write stuff he didn't like (my second effort left him believing my first had been a fluke).  Not unlike the yin/yang of an actual writing career! 

I am not anti-education, and I'm sure some of the many courses being offered have some good information.  The best thing about the big seminars, especially if they're L.A. based, is being able to network with like-minded folks and (fingers crossed) actual producers.  But I also can't help thinking that some of these very optimistic advertisements, promising to show struggling writers how to sell that big spec, are more about removing dollars from wallets than educating folks on the very challenging realities of making a living in this crazy racket.

Bottom line, I think some folks are too focused on taking classes, learning the secrets, absorbing the tips and writing in their blogs (oops!), and not spending enough time just writing.  It's difficult to have perspective about your own work, but I've been around long enough to watch other writers grow and mature and it's pretty clear that "practice" really does help.   That, and going through the experience called "life," which for better or worse comes at no additional charge...

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Very Very Sad

Comics writer and lunch friend Roger Slifer was horribly injured in a hit and run in Santa Monica and has been in a medically induced coma for a few weeks now.  Roger's the sweetest guy and because we live in a country where some folks don't necessarily get their medical bills fully covered, he could use some help.  I just gave some $$ to the Hero Initiative, which helps comic book writers and artists going through difficulties.  The url for the H.I is in the article below, along with the unfortunate details of Roger's condition.