Chewie … We’re All Home

If you somehow missed it last week …

In my mind, any concerns about Star Wars: The Force Awakens are now officially put to rest.  I shamelessly hereby abandon all cynicism and firmly place my fan boy hat atop my head.  The above trailer hit all the right chords with me.  This looks like Star Wars.  This sounds like Star Wars.  This is Star Wars.

Who can deny the Darth Vader helmet, the X-Wing and TIE Fighters, the fallen Star Destroyers, and the Stormtrooopers?  Who didn’t rejoice at the roar of the Millennium Falcon, the reverberation of the lightsaber, and the hiss of the TIE Fighters?

Who felt chills at the sound of Luke Skywalker’s voice?

Who flat out teared up at the sight of Han Solo with Chewbacca.

Thank you, J.J. Abrams.  Finally, we are all home.

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My First Thoughts Concerning the Batman v. Superman Trailer

First of all, if you haven’t yet seen it …

This was a very good couple of days for me, and the premature arrival of this trailer played no small role in that fact!  I am very excited for this film and all it portends, but that doesn’t mean I can’t remain objective about it.  There are some things to gush over, there are some concerns.  Humor me as I expound …

1.  The Tone – I like the tone.  Batman appears menacing, society seems both enamored with and distrustful of Superman, and everything looks cinematic.  The music is brooding yet epic.  I’m sure the movie will be as well.  If nothing else, visually speaking, it’s beautiful.

2.  False God – As stated above, I very much think our present day society would have a field day with Superman if he truly existed. We love our larger-than-life figures, and you can’t get bigger than Superman.  I have no doubt our celebrity culture would deify him, and this looks to be the case according to the statue.  However, as is so often the case, we always tear down our celebrity heroes, it’s only a matter of time.  Again, the graffiti scrolled across the statue would suggest as such.  Superman appears to be no exception to our base behavior.

3.  Kneel Before Superman – But what if he’s more than just a celebrity?  I’ll be honest, Superman looks pretty malicious in this trailer, and when the soldiers dropped to a knee before him, I saw shades of the book and video game called Injustice.  Could this be a world where Superman has sworn something awful like Zod can never happen again?  Has he lost his sense of justice and become a world enforcer? I can’t imagine that’s the Superman they want to build a franchise around.  I’m still troubled by the role he played in the decimation of Metropolis a few years ago.  To be fair, though, it could make him psychologically more interesting …

4.  The Voice – I like the armored Batman voice.  It’s gravely, yet metallic.  It effectively hides Bruce Wayne’s real voice, as one would expect in the real world.  Is it the same voice even when Batman isn’t armored up?  Only time will tell.

5.  Dark Knight Returns Returns – The armored Batman calling out Superman on the street … straight out of The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller.  This is a good thing.  I can’t imagine the movie will end as did the book, but the mere fact they are paying homage to such an iconic moment … it’s thrilling.

Prophet: Joining (Volume 4) – A Book Review

Joining is gloriously indecipherable.  I’ve followed this series since the beginning, and its utter disregard for the audience’s sensibilities and needs are refreshing.

This is science fiction at its frustratingly best.  When you open a volume of Prophet, you are doing so on the narrator’s terms.  You are entering a universe you do not recognize, and, such as with the real world, life goes on and has always done so despite your opinions on the matter.

Prophet has some of the most detailed technology, alien life forms, and religion I’ve ever read in a book, yet the narrator delivers only the surface level of these things.  Most of it confuses the reader, yet, at my core, I believe there is great depth to everything the reader encounters – we simply don’t understand.  In Prophet, we are the true aliens.

In the hands of different writers or artists, Joining could be an absolute mess.  But it’s not.  There is something beautiful about it, something otherworldly and transcendent.  However, if you asked me to tell you what it’s actually about, I wouldn’t have a clue.

Take heart, though, there is a little guide at the back of this volume that offers accounts of things we’ve previously wondered.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say it explains anything clearly, but it does offer a new perspective.

I’m afraid I am not completely happy with Joining, though.  The characters from Youngblood continue to make appearances in this title.  And while I know they all originate from the same place, Prophet has entered a world all its own and it’s jarring to see characters like “Shaft” and “Badrock” in such an otherwise original work.  Keep in mind, I said the same thing about “Diehard” when he first appeared, but he has now won me over.

I don’t know where this title is going, nor do I particularly care.  I’m simply glad to experience it.

Whiplash – A Movie Review

Music is a strange world to me.  I have virtually no understanding, talent, or insight into the art.  However, like with movies, I know what I like.

I like Whiplash.  Very much.

The movie is about a young man named Andrew Neiman who attends one of the best music schools in the nation.  He is eventually discovered by Terence Fletcher. Terence leads a studio band, and he graciously invites Andrew to come audition to be an alternate for the drummer.  Andrew is very good, but Fletcher quickly becomes a monster when Andrew can’t satisfy his demands.  Fletcher demoralizes not just Andrew but his entire band; he verbally and physically abuses them; he spouts obscenities at them and calls them derogatory names.  Yet, Fletcher’s studio band is among the best.  Because of this, Andrew refuses to quit.

In fact, Andrew grows resolute with each passing day, enduring Fletcher’s brutal methods and, sadly, even adopting some of them.  The two men aspire to greatness.  One of them wants to inspire such greatness, the other want to be the greatest.

But as you can imagine such, a toxic relationship quickly sours.  The question is, will Andrew allow Terence to subdue his passion, or will Andrew overcome the vile conductor and achieve his ambitions?

I enjoyed three things in particular about his film.  First, J.K. Simmons plays Terence Fletcher in such a charismatic, terrifying way that I couldn’t hate him, but I also couldn’t like him.  He was like a force of nature, a man who knows what he wants and is willing to destroy anything to get it.  There is something both horrifying and admirable about such a man.

Secondly, the music sounded amazing.  Terence’s studio band is all horns, piano, and percussion – nothing electronic – and it simply astounded.  Of course, Andrew plays the drums, and so we get to hear lots of him pounding away.  I’m always amazed how a talented drummer can make beautiful music.  As stated earlier, I’m no music expert, but what I saw and heard impressed me to no end.

Finally, the film’s tone resonated the most with me.  There exists in this movie a mostly unstated drive to achieve supremacy.  Sure, it is directly declared, at times, by both Terence and Andrew, but so much of this movie conveys the men’s hunger through their eyes, their face, their physical actions, and their (to be frank) outbursts, that it inspired me to try harder.  It reminded me that to stand out and to rise above takes blood, sweat, uncompromising time, and an unbreakable will.  I’m not sure I have it in me to reach their mania, nor am I sure I want to, but Whiplash certainly helped me remember that preeminence doesn’t just happen.

Whiplash delivers a captivating story, provides breathtaking music, displays a master in J.K. Simmons, and, in the end, plucks a primal chord within us all.

Foxcatcher by Mark Schultz – A Book Review

Of course, after seeing the mesmerizing film of the same name, I had to go directly to the source material. I’m happy to report that Mark Schultz’s account of his time with John du Pont is a fascinating read that puts a lot of the movie in the proper context.

Let’s be clear, Foxcatcher the film took some artistic liberties as you would expect any movie to do.  However, according to Schultz’s nonfiction writing, most of the movie’s high notes were accurate.  Things were embellished a bit, and the timeline was condensed heavily, but it seems as though the movie truly captured du Pont’s oddity and, to be fair, even Schultz’s.

The first half of the book recounts Schultz’s early life, how he came to wrestle, his life victories, his missteps, and he seems to do so honestly and with humility.  He is the first to admit his intensity made him aloof during competition and practice, and that people often misunderstood his brooding silence.  The film really played up this aspect of the man.  Schultz practically deifies his older brother, and who can blame him?  It sounds like David was every bit as likable and charismatic as the film depicted him, and after meeting such a horrendous end, how can we speak poorly of a surviving brother praising his lost loved one?

The second half of the book is when I became acutely interested.  Of course, this is when du Pont enters the scene.  Schultz clearly hates du Pont, but even so, he did not spout only nasty things about the man.  In fact, I was actually surprised that Schultz remained far more objective concerning du Pont than I would have expected.  He confesses his own errors with du Pont, he laments putting up with as much as he did, and he regrets ever playing a role in David and du Pont meeting.  However, his role was not as great as the movie would suggest, and he certainly wasn’t quite the victim the movie made him out to be.  Schultz in fact did stand up to du Pont and left on his own terms more so than the movie stated.

If you were captivated by the film, I urge you to read the book.  It is a sobering recollection of an already disturbing story, and it offers insight into the only surviving member of the trinity, a man we really did not get to know all that well beyond the surface – Mark Schultz.

About Arrested Development Season 4

My wife and I loved Arrested Development when it aired on Fox.  Sure, it took some getting used to, but we came to adore its weird, quirky stories with such flawed, lovably dysfunctional characters.  From week to week, I’d have a new favorite Bluth, which says a lot about the show’s magic.

When we heard it was coming to Netflix to continue with a fourth season, we were elated.  Unfortunately, I’m enormously cheap and refused to open a Netflix account when we already paid for cable and Amazon Prime.  I guess my love for Arrested Development was a conditional one.

However, we recently picked it up on DVD, and though it took a few episodes to get back in the swing of things, it once again won us over and proved itself a worthy addition.

In fact, I would argue it’s the most ambitious season yet in terms of pure story execution.  If you haven’t seen it, the fourth season basically occurs over a few days.  However, each episode focuses upon one character and their perspective pertaining to the overall story.  At first it’s very confusing, to be sure, but as the episodes unfold, the audience begins to realize what’s happening.  I can’t imagine the editing process for this season, but I’m sure it was a herculean task!  Each character has a subplot, yet they all intertwine with one another.

I wouldn’t say it’s the funniest season, but it’s certainly funny and highly entertaining.  A lot of the jokes were standbys from previous seasons, but still executed creatively.  I especially enjoyed the “meta” commentary throughout.

The final episode took me aback though, because it felt a little anticlimactic and ended abruptly.  However, that could very well be by design.  After all, this news arrived just today.