I’ve spent more words blogging about why I didn’t/haven’t/don’t blog than I have writing blogs. The excuses can all be found in previous blogs, and still work.
However, we’re in the final weeks of prep before we begin shooting Diminuendo, and I’ve been asked by the producers to begin blogging again so there’s something to hang early PR on.
“Diminuendo,” you say. “What’s that?” It’s a feature film I’m directing which I co-wrote with Sarah Goldberger. It’s stars Richard Hatch, Chloe Dykstra, Leah Cairns, James Deen, Gigi Edgley, Dia Frampton and Walter Koenig. It’s a science-fiction romance that starts shooting on August 14 and it’s gonna be awesome.
It’s also the only thing I’ll be able to talk about soon, so I’m going to leave it for another day. It’s the middle of Comic-Con, so let’s talk pop culture. Here’s a very brief update since my last blog…
- Zero Theorem. Was super-excited for this, but missed it. Still haven’t watched the disc.
- Men, Women & Children. Fantastic, which bears some relevance later.
- Gone Girl. Fine. Not Fincher’s best.
- Whiplash. Script-by-rote with one standout performance.
- Fury. So very ALMOST a good and interesting film, but… not.
- Birdman. Fucking AMAZING, and, yes, if you missed it, he’s dead.
- Nightcrawler. Interesting take on the creep-as-photographer.
- Horns. Stop. Don’t. You’ll regret it.
- Interstellar. I really should have done a full review on this guy, but overall, I loved it.
- Big Hero 6. Some Disney tropes I didn’t care for, but overall, a blast.
- Theory of Everything. Difficult and wonderful.
- Rosewater. Meh.
- The Imitation Game. An even more impressive and heartbreaking Breaking the Code.
- Exodus. The final plague was this film.
- Inherent Vice. Wait. Maybe the final plague was THIS film. Ugh.
- American Sniper. Absented from its various propaganda, this is a mostly entertaining film about a basket case with good aim.
- Blackhat. I’m one of the ten people who saw it, and I still don’t care.
- Jupiter Ascending. WTF did I just watch? Is this movie a joke? Makes Fifth Element seems gritty and real.
- SpongeBob: Sponge Out of Water. Don’t ask why, just know that seeing this movie while not on drugs is apparently a mistake.
- Kingsman. Hated it. Thought the action sequences were over-the-top and silly. Cared about no one.
- Chappie. Neil Blomkamp is now 1 for 3.
- Ex Machina. The Unicorn & I seem to be the only people on Earth who thought this film was obvious and dull.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron. Liked it better than the first Avengers, but needed to be half an hour longer.
- Mad Max: Fury Road. The. Best. Movie. Of. The. Year.
- Tomorrowland. Not the worst, but close. Damn, Brad Bird, really?
- Inside Out. Stunning. The first Pixar movie in years that feels like Pixar.
- The Overnight. This was way better when it was Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice.
- Tangerine. I hate this movie so goddamned much. If I could drag this into an alley and kick it until it died from internal bleeding, I would do it.
- Ant-Man. Thank Bob not every Marvel movie has to be about saving the world. Friggin’ awesome, and also, Giant Thomas!!!
- Mr. Holmes. A little too saccharine around the edges, but still a fine performance.
- The Fantastic Four. Every bit as bad as you heard. Every. Bit.
- The Diary of a Teenage Girl. This movie is fantastic. Tiny and warm-hearted and real.
- The Man From UNCLE. The Kingsman in the 60s. All style, ZERO substance.
- A Walk in the Woods. I love this book so much I almost made myself like the film. Almost.
- Black Mass. Between Johnny Depp’s hairpiece and his teeth, I forgot to watch the movie. Totally underwhelmed.
- Sicario. Well, it’s gorgeous to look at.
- The Martian. Loved it. This generation’s Apollo 13. Best Ridley Scott film in decades.
- Steve Jobs. Seriously, was there a story here and I missed it? I know nothing about Jobs at the end I didn’t know going in. He starts and ends as an aesthetics-obsessed difficult dick. That’s not a movie.
- Bridge of Spies. Feels like one of Frank Capra’s lesser efforts. This movie needed to be made in the 60s.
- Rock the Kasbah. God, I wanted to like this… but, alas.
- Brooklyn. Beatiful, simple, and delicate.
- Spectre. This movie proves that even people you respect can make a monumental, expensive turd when they just don’t care.
- The Big Short. Good overall, but feels a bit gimmicky.
- Where to Invade Next. It’s a shame this got such lousy distribution because I think a lot of the Michael Moore-averse would have liked it. Really more about solutions to problems than pointing out the massive bullshit we put up with in this country.
- The Revenant. Fucking gorgeous, but utterly without story. Two-plus hours of lovingly-photographed torture porn and a stunning achievement, but not a movie.
- The Hateful Eight. Saw the roadshow engagement and loved it. Classic Tarantino. Not sure what the hate was about.
- Hail, Caesar! The Coens doing golden age Hollywood and it was magical.
- Deadpool. Dumb as a box of rocks, but what a blast. Should put the nail in the coffin of all other superhero movies at Fox, since they seem clueless.
- Batman v Superman. Calling this giant disaster out as the pile of shit it is kind of feels like gut-punching a toddler with progeria at this point, but holy fuck is this a bad film.
- Captain America: Civil War. Epic. Amazing. The best superhero film ever made. More than a great Marvel universe installment, this is just a great film.
- X-Men: Apocalypse. Mentioning this because normally I would have been there opening night. Instead, I just couldn’t muster the interest to go. Still haven’t seen it, and have heard nothing compelling to make me want to fix that.
- Finding Dory. Yeah, it’s pretty goddamned great.
There. We’re all caught up. Let me wrap up by listing the big summer blockbusters I have skipped or plan to skip. Once upon a time, I would have been at every one of these. Now…? Movies have become such a shitshow I just don’t have the patience. Not seeing: The Nice Guys, WarCraft, Independence Day Resurgence, Legend of Tarzan, Ghostbusters or Star Trek Beyond.
Must be getting old.
I’m going to try to blog four times a week, even if it’s a short blast. For next time, it’s no secret I’m a big fan of Jason Reitman. I love his films, and think he’s a gifted director, so I want to talk about his Hulu series Casual, and how it made me want to put my fist through the screen.
In a bad way.
More than a few people have pointed out that a status report is long overdue, so I’m posting this EVERYWHERE. The status of Cowboys & Engines is it’s freakin’ AWESOME! I know it isn’t fair to gloat when I’ve seen the film and you haven’t, but I’m excited!
Before a film goes off for its final sound design, scoring and audio mix, it’s necessary to “Lock the picture.” As a director, this means stepping back and committing to no more tweaking of the cut, no more editorial changes. From the standpoint of flow and shot-by-shot juxtaposition, the movie is done.
I spent the last few days making little tucks and adjustments, and putting in temporary versions of some of our big establishing shots for timing purposes. So, even though I’ve seen the film (500 times? More?), I got to spend a lot of time seeing it as a whole, rather than focusing on its individual parts. And I’m so incredibly proud of what we accomplished, I want to shout. The impulse to share C&E, even though it isn’t done, is SO STRONG, that I feel more certain than ever that we have a winner.
You have to recognize that every director has largely gone cold on a film by the time you see it. It’s new for you, but for the creator, you’re sick to the teeth of it by the time you release it into the wild. You know every crease, line, wrinkle & wart on the old girl. The most you can reasonably hope for is comfortable affection.
But… once in a great while, you get a film so special that you rediscover it again on the other side. The blemishes fade, and what’s left is a magical piece of art that gives you chills and you think, “I helped create this.” This weekend, I learned that Cowboys & Engines is one of those projects.
So, there will be no apologies that we’re so late in delivering, or that we’ve taken so long to finish. The decision not to rush was the right one. What we’ve made has simply taken time. Because it’s special.
Enough ephemera. I know you’re hoping for some nuts and bolts information. On our current schedule, the film should be completed around the first week in October. Once it’s completely done, we’ll release a new trailer online, and schedule the premiere screening (which some of you may well be attending).
Post-premiere, password-protected download links will be emailed out to everyone. That will, hopefully, keep ya’all sated while we prep the physical packages. Discs have to be authored, artwork printed, t-shirts made, there’s the matter of a small book I have to write… etc.
Realistically, expect all the physical goodies to go out very early in the new year. I’d promise sooner, but, y’know, I’d be lying.
Yeah, this has all taken a lot longer than any of us imagined. And you know, I’m so very glad that it has.
I swear to Bob, the powers that be at Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment will just never fucking get it. After years of utterly clueless adaptations (the Fantastic Four films, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, et. al.,) it seemed as if we were finally seeing the beginnings of an era when the big studios would do comic book properties that appealed to the core audience as well as the “flyover states.”
With its slate of films, Marvel has done something that was previously seen only with Star Trek: create one huge, planned, inter-connected universe for all its characters to play in. From Iron Man to Agents of SHIELD to the four upcoming Netflix series that will culminate in a Defenders line-up, everything Marvel has done since they had the power to do it is all the same mythology. There are even rumblings of letting Pixar do an animated Marvel film that would be canon… Hell, even the miserable Incredible Hulk, the first film to be a part of this universe, gets a, Easter egg in Ant Man to remind us that, “yes, it’s a terrible film, but it’s still ours, and we love it anyway.”
And it’s working. It’s working really, really well.
Naturally, the studios that (sadly, oh so sadly) own several of Marvel’s tentpole properties are trying to build their own interconnected worlds; Sony is giving Venom his own films to lead into Sinister Six. Shame it’s all based on those shitty Marc Webb movies.
Fox, capable of turning any windfall into an embarrassment, is blowing the X-Men universe completely out of proportion, and possibly adding Josh Trank’s DOOMED Fantastic Four reboot into the same continuity.
And then there’s Warner Bros., owners of DC Entertainment. Holy fuck, do these people NOT know what to do with comic book properties. They say those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, so let’s take a quick jaunt down memory lane…
- Superman: The Movie thru Superman IV
- One great movie, a mediocre sequel (made watchable in the Director’s Cut), an embarrassment and one of the worst films ever made.
- Nominally, part of the same universe, though it isn’t sure itself. Hey! That’s five movies in the same mythology!
- Wonder Woman
- First, two TV movies with Cathy Lee Crosby… then, a TV series with Lynda Carter that has NOTHING to do with either them or the DC universe in general.
- Batman thru Batman and Robin
- Again, a solid first entry (though I’m not a fan at all), a silly, camp sequel (more suited to the Batman ’66 series than the big screen), and two execrable follow-ups. A new world for Bruce Wayne, devoid of any other super-heroes to play with.
- Swamp Thing
- Let’s make a crappy movie! And a crappy sequel! Then, let’s follow them with a crappy TV series! Let’s set them each in their own unique worlds!
- It’s Superman as teen, because teenaged girls love teenage Superman! But not when he’s part of a bigger universe, apparently.
- The Flash
- It’s cheese! And even though it’s on at the same time as Superboy, let’s keep them separated, for their own good.
- Lois & Clark
- Superman reimagined as a shitty, half-assed, badly acted romance! Yes! And another Superman universe! Score!
- Shaq, as a character from Superman, only… without… Superman…
- It’s Dawson’s Creek, but with super-heroes! No! It’s Superman without Superman! And badly written and acted! And… not… connected to …anything…
- Birds of Prey
- It’s a bunch of Batman characters we’ve really never seen before, but in New Gotham, and, uh… Batman has retired…
- Well, we’ve learned our lesson! If we’re going to make a terrible spin-off with a different actress, let’s set it in a different universe with no Batman at all!
- Superman Returns
- It’s a reboot! It’s a sequel! It’s… a mess, really. It references the Donner films, but is set in modern day, and everyone is suddenly twelve years old… who knows what universe this is part of?
Which more or less brings us to the modern era. That was just the way studios treated comic book properties then, so where do we stand now?
Well, let’s begin with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, which stands alone as it’s own work. We have Green Lantern, which lives in its own retarded bubble. We have Man of Steel, which isn’t part of Nolan’s world, (despite being produced by him) because his was “too real, and too dark.” I guess a patricidal, sociopathic, mass-murdeing Superman just isn’t dark enough for The Dark Knight, so… another new continuity.
Of course, the courtroom drama sequel, Batman v. Superman takes place in the same universe, with a different Batman, and if they ever get that far, the Justice League film will be part of this continuity after a Green Lantern reboot, and a few other solo films. Personally, I’ll believe it when I see it.
On TV, you’ve got Arrow and The Flash, both connected. However, they won’t be part of the Justice League film continuity because, well, frankly, neither of those bozos can carry a lead on the big screen, especially child-bride, West Hollywood heartthrob Grant Gustin (seriously, is Barry Allen in fucking high school?) Also on the small screen, you’ve goth Gotham, the Batman version of Smallville, i.e., Batman with no Batman! So, er, just a crime drama, I guess? Stupid, AND NOT CONNECTED TO ANYTHING ELSE!
Let’s not forget the Constantine film, and the new Constantine series, which are related neither to each other, nor the rest of any ongoing DC continuity.
Coming up, we’ll be getting Guillermo del Toro’s Justice League Dark, which features a team of DC’s magic heroes, (including another John Constantine with no ties to either existing one), and which will also NOT be set in the Justice League universe. I mean, WTF?!? Why are they even called the Justice League then?!?
A few days ago, DC Entertainment announced that Shazam (you guessed it), will not be connected to any of the other DC films. Even though they had just figured out how to make him fit into the comics (Shazam, for those in the know, is really the only guy who can routinely kick the crap out of Superman, so he’s a little bit of a problem.)
Lastly, and this was really the cherry on the sundae, a new Supergirl series was just announced, and odds are really high that, since it isn’t on the CW, and since there’s no Superman (that we know of) in the world of Arrow and The Flash, that it, too, will exist in it’s own little bubble. It’s fucking maddening.
Someone needs to stage an intervention. This is just absurd. I’ve never been a huge DC fan; I’m a Marvel guy to the core. But, seriously, don’t Batman, Superman and the rest deserve better treatment than this?
I’ve decided I need to set up a camcorder in one corner of our house so that The Unicorn & I, either separately or together, can just wander in, turn it on, post a video rant, and then upload it. I’m too persnickety about what I write to be a modern blogger, but that means you guys miss out on some great stuff.
No, I’m not going to attempt to catch you up on all of it. So, the bullet points:
- Cowboys & Engines is coming together nicely. Not going to promise a delivery date, but soon. I will promise to deliver a lot of awesome.
- I already know what my next project is going to be. A full-length feature film. Somewhat science-fiction, but more straight drama. That’s all you get for now.
- Delivered Wetwork to Vivid, and I’m extraordinarily proud of it. I think it’s every bit the equal of Corruption and Upload.
- The documentary I shot & directed for Showtime is consuming most of my waking hours. This next week is going to be a long, delirious one, but the final product will be excellent.
- Might be going off to shoot a Food Network show for 10-12 weeks. Dunno yet. Details elude my best attempts to capture the little fuckers.
- Just delivered the script for Batman vs. Superman XXX to Axel Braun, so look for him to announce that soonish.
- Ghost Adventures: Aftershocks looks like it’s coming back for a second season, so I imagine I’ll be off shooting that as well.
- The Unicorn & I celebrated our one year anniversary. Poor girl.
- Thought Guardians was pretty great, but wish we hadn’t seen it in 3D.
That’s enough for now. I’ll try to rant & rave about something soon. Y’know, like I do.
I finally broke down and watched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If I wanted to be kind, I would say it was fairly mediocre, but the fact is, it pretty much sucks, and it sucks in a way only Disney can deliver. We got the Wonder Bread version of the Marvel Universe. A bland, boring slog through re-tread stories of double-cross and triple-cross filled with new bad guys, and a handful of… Jesus, D-List villains? E-List, maybe? I mean we’re talking about guys like Scorch (surely you remember him from the Night Thrasher comic?) and Blackout for fuck’s sake.
In fact, it doesn’t matter, because they’re so removed from their forgotten comic-book counterparts, they might as well be all-new creations anyway. Then, of course, there’s Garrett, who’s also from the comics, and also completely forgotten, the origin of Iron Man villain Blizzard, and Deathlok, the only thing close to a “marquee” character introduced in the show, although he got a name change and a complete makeover to allow him to pass in public. We also get the setup for Franklin Hall to one day become a very boring Graviton…
All of which begs the question why? Why bother dredging up meaningless characters if you aren’t going to make them something interesting? In AoS, they’re just a bunch of soldiers and spies and agents and extremely tedious people. I realize I’m a bit out of touch, but things do still happen in comic books, don’t they?
Picking on the obscurity and mismanagement of the supporting characters is really the wrong place to start. There’s so much else wrong with this show that’s even more damaging.
The main problem is that AoS starts off not know what it wants to be when it grows up. A team of plucky outsiders led by gruff-but-caring commander who doesn’t play by the rules? How original. Is it The X-Files? Torchwood? CSI? Mission: Impossible? The answer is yes. It’s all of these. The setup of the show is so derivative and so familiar, it’s like a reboot of a show you remember watching, but can’t recall the title of.
The cast of Abercrombie & Fitch models they’ve surrounded poor Clark Gregg with certainly don’t help. Are we really supposed to give a shit about these people, because if we are, fail. Apart from Ming-Na Wen, who’s fine as Melinda May, the rest all taste like Shredded Wheat. The pretty boy badass traitor, the other pretty boy badass not traitor, the attractive-in-a-family-friendly-sexless-way hacker, and the idiotic, socially-retarded Beaker twins. Not only is it a mess, it’s a very familiar mess.
The chaos is partly due to the fact that the show’s first half is plainly marking time until it can get to the events in Winter Soldier, at which point it becomes a different series altogether. The split is plainly delineated by when they stop using the “Icers” (is this ABC Family, for chrissakes?) and start actually shooting people. Frankly, the changeover is clunky, mismanaged, and unforgivable.
It’s obvious that Joss Whedon’s little brother was given too much authority riding on his bro’s over-inflated coattails. Someone at Disney should have cracked some skulls. Or maybe the problem is equally over-inflated film hack Jeph Loeb, the guy who single-handedly destroyed Marvel’s “Ultimate Comics” line (which was previously awesome) after giving us the finale to Lost. Yeah. HIM. Regardless, what we actually got is shameful. How many McGuffins, red herrings and false flags do you have to fill one season with before you admit the writers were running on empty?
Let’s have a quick tally; Coulson’s on a personal quest to learn how he was revived, and why, and boy is he pissed about it. Skye is on a personal quest to find her parents, and then everyone isn’t on a quest to find out who and what the fuck she actually is after they learn she was once classified as an “Object of Unknown Origin.” (Haven’t they read the comics? She’s Mantis. The Celestial Madonna. Duh.) Everyone is on a quest to find the Clairvoyant, who watched Saw, and uses people to control other people controlling other people.
So first, the Clairvoyant is this fat guy coming out of a building, then it’s Brad Dourif, in the most WTF piece of wasted stunt-casting I’ve ever seen, then it’s scenery-chewing good guy Bill Paxton turned into scenery-chewing bad guy Bill Paxton… except he’s also Hydra, which means he’s really just a cog in Robert Redford’s big machine… except he’s also been working his own thing to get to Coulson’s life-regenerating serum for his own purposes, and to make a ton of money with Centipede… or something.
And, of course, Agent May is a traitor… except she’s not. And Hand is a traitor… except she’s not. And Ward definitely isn’t a traitor, until he is. And Deathlok? Well, he’s a guy with powers who goes nuts and gets shot and becomes a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent then double-crosses Coulson then double-crosses Garrett. It’s just flat-out bad scripting. If they’d had the sack to kill one of the muppets in the final story arc, I could have cut them some slack, but alas.
Mainly, though, the show just feels cheap. When characters fight, they smash through a lot of drywall… when they “trash” Coulson’s plane, they never trash it too badly… And no matter what far-flung part of the world they have to visit, it always looks and feels a lot like L.A. Streets of Hong Kong? No, that’s Broadway in Chinatown. Forest in Norway? Try Griffith Park. Portland? Pasadena. It reminds me of the old I Spy series… You can go anywhere you like, as long as it’s in L.A. County.
And can I take a moment to address something the really bugs the fanboy in me? Are WhedonCo really setting up a Marvel Universe with NO mutants, and NO actual metahumans? Apparently, they never plan on getting the X-Men back because their absolute certainty that no one in the world has psychic powers means there are NO mutants. (Let’s forget that grunge-rock Scarlet Witch and burner Quicksilver are in Avengers 2.) Apparently, there are aliens with astonishing abilities, and altered humans (like Cap, and as Spider-Man would be if they ever got him back, or the Fantastic Four), but no one born on Earth has inherent powers. I find this approach disturbing, but I guess we’ll see.
Supposedly, season 2 will be darker, have higher production values, and be more akin to modern television series with a solid continuous plot rather than 10 fractured ones. I’m skeptical. Frankly, S.H.I.E.L.D. has more to answer for than just Operation Insight.