Neil Armstrong: 1930 – 2012

Neil Alden Armstrong, the first human being to set foot on another world, a human achievement which has not yet been equaled (think about that for a minute – NO human being has done anything as monumental as that since) has died at the age of 82.

I’m having a little trouble processing that today, so instead I think I’ll repost THIS:

Thinkers and Believers

Below, Bill Nye handily explaining WHY it’s important not to simply “let them be” regarding creationists, flat-earthers, etc.

There are two kinds of people in the world: Thinkers and Believers. The distinction has nothing to do with religion or “atheism” or even intelligence – it’s about how you approach life on a day-to-day basis. Do you think for yourself, or do you let someone (or someTHING) else decide for you? Do you put your trust in “traditions” or do you apply logic? Do you “feel” or do you reason?

"Butter" Trailer Plays It Coy

A big conversation-piece last year on the festival circuit, “Butter” is a political satire – supposedly in the vein of “Election” – that uses a yearly butter-carving competition (yes, we are firmly in “Little Miss Sunshine” middle-america-as-quirktastic-museum-piece land) as a metaphor for “modern politics” (read: the 2008 presidential election.) Jennifer Garner is the deliberately Palin/Bachman-esque wife of the reigning champ who enters the contest herself in order to maintain her family’s prestige after her husband is disgraced by being caught with a stripper/hooker (Olivia Wilde;) only to find her victory imperiled by the arrival of an adopted African-American girl (standing in for, well, GUESS) who turns out to be a natural prodigy at the “sport.”

The first trailer, of course, is mostly downplaying that particular angle; which feels like a missed opportunity.


The film has had a good deal of ink already, mostly because Conservatives are getting better and better at mobilizing against stuff like this as though they were an ACTUAL persecuted minority, but the word from the critical press was pretty mixed otherwise: Heavy-handed, overly-broad/cute, etc.

Looks pretty funny to me, though, and naturally my interest perked up at the notion that Wilde’s character (apparently) turns her romantic intentions on Ashley Greene – who I think is playing Garner’s daughter. So… that ought to be something, at least. Though, it must be said, it’s a little weird that Garner seems to still be playing every role with the same “13 year-old grownup” affect from “13 Goin On 30.”

Enough is Enough

I was just talking with a friend about remakes tonight, too…

I’m not “against” remakes. You can make a good movie out of anything, “anything” includes other movies, and so on. But there’s a point where this just becomes nonsense. At this point the “remake cycle” is just that – a self-perpetuating corporate organism: You produce a remake of a known-quantity not only to hold on to any IP no matter what, but also to re-sell the original on Blu-Ray and because you know the outrage/intrigue generated by potentially desecrating a sacred cow will translate into massive coverage by a film press now dominated by I-watched-that-a-million-times VHS-generation movie geeks.

I get that, and I get why someone would want to remake “Total Recall” (wasn’t good, but could’ve been) or even “Robocop” (DOOMED) from a business and even an artistic standpoint. But… remaking “VIDEODROME!?”

Okay, here’s the problem with this:

A property like “Videodrome” neatly divides the entire spectrum of audiences into two camps: A relatively small number of people who adore it and will be immediately hostile to the idea of anyone touching it… and the vast majority of folks who have either never heard of it, never saw it or saw it and hated it. It’s not “Robocop” where you’re talking about a ‘brand.’ There is zero point in making this film – as opposed to an original film that “modernizes” the now-somewhat-dated “Videodrome” ideas – other than to feed The Cycle.

The original David Cronenberg film is technically a scifi mystery in which James Woods plays the boss of a UHF TV station (ask your parents) who starts broadcasting pirated signals of what he believes to be staged snuff-film footage originating in Malaysia but may actually be part of a government/corporate/mad-science experiment to alter the minds and bodies of viewers via TV signals; but the actual plot plays out almost like it’s being invented by the film (or hallucinated by the characters) on the fly. The real focus is on the elaborate nightmare sequences, bio-mechanical transformation FX and weirdly-prescient philosophizing about real life being supplanted by video life – the film essentially pre-figured the logical extreme of, say, “Second Life” despite The Internet having not been invented yet.

The remake (which I’m going to assume will likely port the focus from television to The Web) is angling to be a “large scale sci-fi action thriller” (gag!) possibly involving “nanobots;” which sounds to me like they’re going to try and explain the body-morph stuff whose surreal ambiguity was the point of the original film.

So… looks like we have this to look forward to – though, if recent trends are any indication folks will be lining up to tell me how wrong/biased/fanboy I am and how much better the original would be if only David Cronenberg had the foresight to make it as shitty as the new one. The director currently attached is Adam Berg, who has apparently been awarded a film career based wholly on a commercial for a now-defunct model of Philips TVs which was best described as a “Dark Knight”/Joker fan-film done in bullet-time.

Yeah, this totally has a chance in hell of being good…

The End

It’s been a long time coming, but now it’s here: Nintendo Power Magazine is shutting down after 24 years. If nothing else, a lot of people’s magazine collections are about to become really valuable.

I am feeling about as rotten about this as I did when Dr. Seuss and Jim Henson died. Yes, Nintendo Power was a nakedly commercial corporate thing – a singularly genius bit of marketing by Nintendo of America in realizing that there was going to be a “gamer culture” and getting in front of it with a big, glossy fan magazine of their own. (You can read the first issue in PDF format HERE.)

But it was a HUGE deal, legitimately, as well: Pre-internet, I don’t think a lot of gamers (myself included) would’ve become gamers without NP to show them that there were others and that codes, strategies, maps, fan-art etc was meant to be shared. Having this magazine showing up at my house every month for a decade or so did more to make me a better reader than almost any book did, and I can say for a fact that there were a lot of NES/SNES games now considered benchmark classics that I don’t think a lot of people would’ve connected with without NP “covering” them. A whole generation of (American) gamers were introduced to JRPGs when Nintendo Power gave away a free copy of DragonQuest (as “Dragon Warrior”) as a re-subscription bonus. I myself got my first internet connection – and first exposure to the “medium” where I now make my living – in order to use the Nintendo Power AOL site. The AVGN once summed up the memories thusly:

I hadn’t subscribed in years – like everyone else, The Internet replaced magazines for things like that for me – but it’s still pretty sad to see it go. This is real end-of-an-era stuff – another huge part of the Golden Age of Gaming is gone. In my mind, this is as quietly-devastating a loss as when Sega abandoned consoles.

Rest in peace, old friend.


Tony Scott, younger brother of Ridley and easily one of the most important and influential action movie directors of the last several decades (an “of all time” case could absolutely be made,) is dead from an apparent suicide. Witnesses say he jumped to his death from the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro, California, his body being later retrieved from the water by LAPD officers. What may have led to this fate is, at this time, unknown. Awful, awful news.

Like his brother, Scott had a quixotic career. Originally schooled as a painter, he became a sought-after director of commercials, documentary shorts and music-videos for Ridley’s video production studio in England. He was in his forties before transitioning to features with the cult-fave modern-vampire piece “The Hunger;” but subsequently became known primarily for his action movies via collaborations with Jerry Bruckheimer. The best of these came out in an impressive run between 1986 and 1995: “Top Gun,” “Beverly Hills Cop II,” “Revenge,” “Days of Thunder,” “The Last Boy Scout,” “True Romance” and “Crimson Tide.”

Scott’s filmography can be found HERE. If there’s anything on there you’ve never seen, now would be the time.

More Like It

What frustrates me most about “The Expendables” franchise (Part 2 is worse than Part 1, incidentally) – and mystifies me about people who’re still furious at me for not liking the first one – is that I WANT stuff like that to be good. I’m as big a fan of the bloated 70s/80s action aesthetic as anyone; and I don’t understand how this franchise built around the guys who invented that stuff gets it so profoundly wrong while the likes of “Hobo With a Shotgun” or “Machete” can make it work.

Case in point: This trailer for “Bullet In The Head” – Stallone’s “other” action movie this year – looks more like what I was hoping for from “Expendables:” Hardcore macho bullshit with a clear sense of it’s own genre and an emphasis on pumped-up style. The director is Walter Hill, a living legend of oldschool action (“The Warriors,” “48 Hours,” “Streets of Fire” and “Hard Times” among others,) and apart from the tiresome “LOL Rambo got OLD!” gags looks pretty choice: