Have an iPhone…?

Are you using iOS 9?  Are you suddenly getting messages from your phone provider that you’re using up your data at an alarmingly high rate?

The problem might well be in a new feature found in iOS 9 called “WiFi Assist”.  What this item does is whenever you’re using WiFi and that signal becomes weak, this unasked for handy dandy “WiFi Assist” automatically switches over to your cellular carrier to “boost” the signal and therefore your reception.  Of course, this is at the cost of your monthly data quota.

I happened to notice this the past couple of months even though I don’t use the internet all that much on my phone and had never reached my data limits before.

Anyway, for more information, including how to turn off this annoying “assistant” no one asked for, check out the article below:

Is iOS 9 Sucking Up All Your Data?  Turn Off This New iPhone Setting Right Now

This is rather…stunning…

According to the makers of the upcoming James Bond film Spectre

New James Bond Film Destroyed Estimated $36 Million in Cars

Thirty six…million?!

Just how many cars did they destroy in the making of this film?

Granted, they used some specially designed cars, but I seriously doubt those vehicles were involved in the actual stunts.  I imagine they used the shell of said uber-expensive cars over some other far less expensive vehicle.

So maybe they’re exaggerating.  Still, if they feel bold enough to make that kind of estimate, it makes me wonder just how much vehicular carnage we’re going to see in this film.

Who knows, maybe the folks behind Spectre were secretly re-making Ron Howard’s directorial debut, the (not at all related to the video game) movie Grand Theft Auto

Furious 7 (2015) a (mildly) belated review

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say if you’ve enjoyed the previous Fast & Furious films, chances are you’ll like Furious 7.

For me, watching the film turned into a strange case of deja vu… but not because this movie was too similar to the past couple (though it was, of course).

Rather, watching Furious 7 felt like watching a hot-rod variation of The Avengers: Age of Ultron.  They both feature a group of (super) heroic individuals coming together to go after a big bad.  In both cases, they deal with some kind of computerized problem.  And of course, the characters are colorful and varied and do all kinds of superheroic stuff.  Plus, you get another bunch of characters from previous films appearing here and there which gives the audience a sense of a larger shared universe.

Granted, what I’ve just written above applies to other films but given how recently I saw AOU and then Furious 7, I couldn’t help but feel I was watching the same type of film.

Which of course leads me to match them up and, in this case, I’d rank Furious 7 over AOU.  Sure, I enjoyed AOU, but the film had plenty of problems and one got the feeling that director/writer Joss Whedon was hamstrung by Disney’s higher ups.  There were moments when AOU felt disjointed, as story material was cut out either in the script stage or snipped from the film itself.  Though the actors appeared to have great fun and there were some really good action sequences, the apparent flaws killed many people’s enjoyment of AOU, though these flaws weren’t big enough to kill mine.  Still, I would acknowledge it was far from one of the best of the Marvel films.

Getting back to Furious 7, you would think that this film might have even more continuity problems given the tragic death of actor/co-star Paul Walker.  His role in this film would wind up being his last one as he died in a horrific car accident only a couple of weeks before his filming ended.

For a while, there was concern the film would be scrapped but enough of it was already “in the can” that whatever extra scenes were left for Mr. Walker to fill could be done via the magic of previous cut footage from other F&F films and computer effects.  Further, because of Mr. Walker’s death the focus of the film had to be changed as well to pay tribute to his character and acknowledge that this would be his last round with the F&F crew.

Given all this, its amazing that Furious 7 feels very much like a complete film.  Yes, there are times, especially during the final shots of Mr. Walker’s character riding off, that look like they were created in a computer, but nonetheless the film feels very much like what was intended and, by its end, pays a very heartfelt respect to Mr. Walker.

Furious 7’s plot is rather standard but not uninteresting: The bigger, badder brother of one of the previous villains our cast faced (Jason Statham basically delivering his Transporter character to the F&F universe…but he’s a bad guy this time around!) goes after them.  To get to him, they have to get their hands on the “God’s Eye”, a computer program that simultaneously looks though and analyzes information from ALL cameras and computer devices in the world.

And it would appear the villain -while he isn’t trying to kill the F&F cast- is after the device as well…

Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw proves a very nice addition to the F&F universe.  These films, while entertaining, never had a truly recognizable big bad to match the good guys up against (No disrespect to the previous actors involved, but I’m having a hard time remembering the villains from the past films, other than the “surprise” villain in F6).  With Jason Statham, we have a very recognizable star as your menace, doubly so as he’s somewhat cast against type: He’s played good guys in so many features but can do bad guys quite well (check out his turn in Cellular if you don’t believe me).

A few more familar faces show up to liven things, including the always welcome Kurt Russell in a smallish role as an amiable government spook and MMA superstar Ronda Rousey in a cameo appearance as a security guard who goes toe to toe against Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty.

In conclusion, I enjoyed Furious 7.  The movie moved quickly (no pun intended) and featured enough humor and action to sate your appetite.  Is the film a classic?  No.

But it is a pretty damn entertaining popcorn action film that pays a very respectful tribute to its real life fallen star.

Bring on Furious 8.

What We Do In The Shadows (2014) a (very mildly) belated review

Released last year, What We Do In The Shadows is a comedy which imagines what would happen if a reality show crew decided to follow a group of four vampires around and see how they live (they share an apartment) and interact with their environment.

Cleverly, these four vampires run the gamut of movie vampire tropes, from a Nosferatu-like ghoul to a Vlad the Impaler to a Anne Rice-ian dandy to a “newer” Twilight-like Vampire.  This later vampire, though the youngest of the group (at first), is nonetheless 100+ years old and imagines himself a good looking “bad boy”…though he amusingly clearly isn’t.  Later on we have -MILD SPOILERS!- a really new vampire appear, and I suspect that one was based on (perhaps) The Lost Boys.

While the movie starts rather slowly, it features a solid, well conceived plot that builds a healthy backstory and cast to our main vampires and subsequently leads to a nice, even sweet, climax/resolution that ties all the various threads into a nice bun.

For obvious reasons, I won’t get into specific details here!

On the minus side, the film is a “slow burn”.  It takes a bit to get to know the characters and what they’re about and, therefore, for the audience to start caring for the story presented.  While the pace didn’t bother me to the point of where I wanted to shut the whole thing off, I can imagine there are less patient people out there who will.  Too bad for them because the film does deliver some hearty laughs.

I could go on but I don’t want to get into more spoilery material.  Suffice to say if you like your humor subtle as well as in your face and enjoy comedies that explore decidedly odd directions, you will enjoy What We Do In The Shadows.

19 Worst Movies Mystery Science Theater 3000 Ever Riffed

Once again over at io9 you’ll find an article by Rob Bricken listing the above, the 19 Worst Movies the hilarious Mystery Science Theater 3000 ever riffed:


Bear in mind, what this list shows are the worst movies that the author felt appeared on the show.  Of course, Mystery Science Theater 3000 was devoted to showing terrible films while a crew of three (one guy and two robots) skewering the films as they watched them.

I tend to agree with the list.  The interesting thing is that the worst the film, the better the riffing and the better, therefore, the overall episode of MST3K.  Check out the films and see if you agree.  I really liked Mr. Bricken’s description of The Creeping Terror (#9 on the list):

The Creeping Terror is a movie only in the most technical sense. Things have been filmed, and that film has been stuck together to produce what is generally termed a motion picture, but that’s it.

Moving aside for a moment on the notion of which film they showed was the worst, for those who haven’t seen any MST3K fare, I highly recommend they check these film “treatments” out: MitchellManos: The Hands of FateTeenagers From Outer Space, Attack of the Giant Leeches, and The Killer Shrews.

A good time will be had by all!

This ‘n that…

Couple of interesting articles worth reading, both found on io9:

First up, Remembering the Mysterious “Vela Incident” 36 Years Later.

I must have missed this intriguing news when it originally came out, but the “Vela Incident” involves a U.S. satellite back in 1979 detecting an explosion in the southern Indian Ocean which may have been a secret test of a nuclear weapon.  If this was the case, which nation tested the nuclear device?  Was it a nuclear device?

The mystery continues!

Next up, Appeals Court Rules the Batmobile is Copyright Protected.

The article linked to above, written by James Whitbrook, concerns DC Comic’s lawsuit against Mark Towle, a man who ran the “Gotham Garage” and specialized in making replicas of cars from movies and TV but who specialty, according to the article, were replicas of the 1966 Batman TV show Batmobile…

…as well as the 1989 Tim Burton directed Batman movie Batmobile…

In a decision that didn’t surprise me all that much, the court asserted that DC Comics does indeed have a copyright over the Batmobile and Mr. Towle was violating that copyright by producing -and making money off of- these vehicles.

I urge you to read the article if only to read the legal wording justifying why DC Comics is entitled to claim the copyright on the vehicle despite the fact that there have been many varieties of Batmobiles over the years.

Interesting stuff!

Spartan (2004) a (very) belated review

As I’ve been transferring more and more of my films to digital and in doing so I’ve stumbled upon some movies I hadn’t seen since first purchasing them sometimes many years before.

One such work is the acclaimed playwright David Mamet’s 2004 directed/written film Spartan.  Other than the fact that the film featured Val Kilmer as a secret service (or somesuch) agent searching for the President of the United State’s missing daughter (an early screen appearance by Kristen Bell) I recalled next to nothing else about this film.

After watching it, I can see why.

Now, before you assume I’m going to slam this film hard, don’t.  Even with the considerable problems the films has (I’ll get into them after the trailer below), I’d probably give this film two to two and a half stars out of four.  It was entertaining enough (especially in the early going) to interest me but the film’s later half had many problems…all of them related to the screenplay.

Since I’ll be getting into considerable spoilers here, let me say this: If you’re a fan of David Mamet’s work, you may want to give Spartan a look.  It may not be up there with some of his best written work especially considering how much of the plot revolves around at times extremely hard to swallow coincidences (again, I’ll get into them in a moment), but the film isn’t a complete disaster.

Faint praise, I know, but I can’t deny watching the film to its end and therefore it did, at the very least, keep my attention.

Anyway, here’s Spartan’s trailer and afterwards we’ll get into some heavy story spoilers.  However, in watching this trailer, it occurs to me this is yet another case where the trailer gives away too much, so watch at your own peril.  What follows from this point on are…



Still here?

Don’t say you haven’t been warned!

All right so the first part of Spartan introduces us to Scott (Val Kilmer) a no-nonsense “I do anything I’m ordered” soldier.  He’s resourceful, he’s deadly, and effective.

Scott is brought in from a training mission due to a critical emergency: The Daughter of the President of the United States has disappeared.  After a bit of investigating, the Secret Service team comes to believe she has been kidnapped.  The kidnappers, it is also believed, don’t know who they have.  These kidnappers are sex slavers.  They kidnap women from the United States and force them work in a brothel in Dubai.

With a very tight deadline (the worry being that the kidnappers will discover who they have kidnapped), the Secret Service is on red alert, tracking leads and getting closer and closer to the ones that run the brothel.  There is Mission: Impossible-style chicanery and misdirection, especially when Scott acts as if he’s a common thug to try to worm his way closer to one of the higher ups in the prostitution/kidnapping organization.  Though they are operating without 100% certainty that they’re following the trail of the President’s Daughter, they forge ahead.


Shortly after the infiltration plan fizzles, news agencies report that the President’s Daughter’s body was found.  She had apparently drowned with her teacher/lover and, the Secret Service group assumes, they were chasing another similar looking woman (again, they were never 100% certain the kidnapped woman was the President’s Daughter).  The mission, it appears, is over.

But all is not what it seems.

Scott’s new partner, Curtis (Derek Luke), realizes that the media is being fed a pile of bull and it is here that those pesky (and truly hard to swallow) coincidences start to rear their heads.

A little earlier in the film and while staking out a beach house Scott and Curtis suspect might have the kidnapped President’s Daughter in it, three whooper coincidences occur:

1) Curtis sees squiggled in a window’s dust a sign attributed to the President’s Daughter (oh yeah, when kidnapped by sex slavers everyone leaves weird personal marks known only to the person making them and her boyfriend instead of “Please help me” messages!)

2) For no reason I could see other than to help Scott a little later on, a scarecrow is left on a seat behind a shack by the beach house.  Said scarecrow is also conveniently facing away from the beach (I’ll explain why that’s important in a moment), and…

3) Curtis, when stationing himself to cover Scott while he enters the house just happens to lay his tarp on the ground where it picks up the President’s Daughter’s earring.  The earring, a veeeery tiny little thing, just happens to have been dropped there for him to pick up and, also coincidentally, Curtis subsequently finds a nice photograph of the President’s Daughter in a newspaper that just absolutely beautifully displays her wearing this very earring.  Think hard about this: Of all the family pictures I have with my wife and daughters (and there are many of them) I can all but guarantee you there probably isn’t a single one that I could identify an earring they’re wearing in it, yet Curtis finds a beautiful newspaper picture that is clear enough in showing a tiny earring on the President’s Daughter.


The very hard to swallow coincidences #1 and 3 are needed later on when Curtis convinces Scott’s “I’m a soldier and follow orders” protagonist to realize that his superiors are bamboozling the media and the world and that the President’s Daughter was indeed kidnapped and did not drown with her supposed teacher/lover.

The two return to the beach house to investigate but as they begin their search for the “sign” left behind Curtis is shot dead and Scott is forced to hide behind the (you guessed it) shack with that curiously placed scarecrow.  He’s pinned down by the sniper who took out Curtis, so what will he do?  How oh how will he ever escape?  If only he had a means of diverting the sniper, of making him think he’s been shot…

Good thing there’s a damn convenient scarecrow within arm’s reach, eh?

Yup, Scott dresses the scarecrow in his clothing and the sniper takes the scarecrow out.  Instead of then coming ashore (the sniper and his crew are on a boat just offshore) and making sure of the kills, they go away which in turn gives Scott time to escape.

Now, you would think this would end the preposterous coincidences, right?


We get a few more, including an elderly Secret Service (female) Agent that has Scott dead to rights and should have shot him the moment she suspected he wasn’t who he said he was (and while he was standing, by the way, just a few feet of the first lady!).  Turns out she (coincidentally!) knows the First Daughter very well and has a stronger emotional attachment to her than her actual parents.

And then, later on, Scott heads out to Dubai and manages to get a hold of the First Daughter only to find that he’s been bugged.  All appears doomed except, MEGA-COINCIDENCE a Swedish news group happens to be in the hanger where the final shootout occurs and they get footage of the very much alive First Daughter and are also able to flee the airport with her in tow.

The lie of the First Daughter’s death is therefore revealed though the principals behind it, we find, are clever enough to hide their devious deeds.

And so our movie ends.  As someone who fancies himself a writer, pointing out all these outrageous coincidences is giving me a headache.

I don’t know the history behind the making of this film and it is very possible Mr. Mamet was in a rush to complete the screenplay and had to do what he could to make the story make some kind of sense.  But in this case, the glue that holds the plot together is held by some very hard to swallow coincidences.

If the above bugs you, then steer clear of Spartan.

On Creation…

A couple of days ago in the blog post Crediting Bill Finger I stated Mr. Finger, while very much deserving of finally being acknowledged as a co-creator of Batman, isn’t the only one that should be credited.  I pointed out that Shadow author extraordinaire Walter B. Gibson also might deserve some credit as Mr. Finger and company, when they wrote the very first Batman story which appeared in Detective Comics #27 essentially made a comic book adaptation of one of Mr. Gibson’s Shadow stories.  While this was one (and the most obvious) of the Gibson written Shadow stories that clearly influenced Mr. Finger, I nonetheless feel I came off waaaay too glib in my posting and for that I apologize.

The fact is that while the very early Batman stories may have cribbed certain ideas (and even complete stories) from The Shadow works by Mr. Gibson, the Batman character and his world quickly moved off into other very fascinating and often unique directions.  While Mr. Gibson and some of his Shadow novels were an inspiration at the start of the Batman series, so too were other works and, again, Batman would go off into its own unique direction and for that Mr. Finger richly deserves the lion’s share of the credit for what he did.

I suppose the above should clue you in on the fact that I’m incredibly fascinated with artistic creation(s) and the credit deserved for them.

Perhaps one of the most interesting of the “creator” issues, to me, is that regarding author Alan Moore and arguably his most recognized creation, Watchmen.

Back in the 1980’s author Alan Moore became a superstar writer, and deservedly so, for his work on Marvel (later Miracle) Man, V for Vendetta, and Swamp Thing.  Watchmen would come at the tail end of his association with DC Comics in the form of the 12 issue limited series.  Watchmen explored the dark side of what the world would be like with Superheroes.  It was subsequently made into a film…

It was because of what followed after the release of this series that Mr. Moore had a major falling out with DC Comics and left the publisher never to return.  My understanding of the situation, based on interviews Mr. Moore gave after the fact, was when he and DC Comics came to an agreement about publishing Watchmen the contract specified that once the series was out of print, something which Mr. Moore expected to happen rather quickly, the rights of this series would revert to Mr. Moore and artist Dave Gibbons.  However, Watchmen proved an incredible success and DC has been able to keep reprinting it since its first publication in 1986.  I’ve read there were other issues which caused Mr. Moore’s ire as well regarding royalties, but I don’t know enough about them to comment.  Suffice to say Mr. Moore’s anger toward DC stemmed to a large degree over the fact that he lost control of Watchmen when he thought it would come to him soon after the initial publication.

When Mr. Moore left DC Comics in 1989 it was with considerable rancor and, as an author I could sympathize with his desire to control his own works.

But we’re talking about creative credits here and this is where certain facts rear their heads.

To begin, Mr. Moore originally conceived Watchmen as a story which would feature the various Charlton superheroes that DC Comics had at that time acquired.  Below is an image of those various Charlton Characters.  From upper left and moving clockwise you’ve got The Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Nightshade, The Question, The Peacemaker, and Peter Cannon/Thunderbolt.

And here we have the principle cast of Watchmen.  From left and moving clockwise, you have Ozymandias (Peter Cannon), Silk Specter (Nightshade), Doctor Manhattan (Captain Atom), Nite Owl (The Blue Beetle), Rorschach (The Question), and The Comedian (Peacemaker).

Mr. Moore’s concept for a Charlton based Watchmen proved difficult for DC Comics to accept as the story was self-contained and ended in such a way it would be difficult to re-use the recently bought characters in any other way.

Therefore Mr. Moore modified the established Charlton characters into these “new” characters and the series was greenlighted and published.

Mr. Moore’s story, unquestionably, was “his” concept, a darker take on what would happen in the real world if Superheroes existed.  He had already begun that process with Marvel (Miracle) Man and Watchmen was the culmination of that theme (I’ll ignore the climax of the book and its too-striking resemblance to the Outer Limits episode The Architects of Fear because it is my suspicion this might have been nothing more than an innocent coincidence).

The facts tell us that while Mr. Moore is clearly the creator and writer of the Watchmen story, every one of the characters he used within them were thinly veiled versions of other authors/artists creations.  Which makes me wonder: Should the creators of the various Charlton heroes which were the basis of the Watchmen characters not be entitled to some kind of recognition -and perhaps even monetary compensation- for the characters they created and Mr. Moore essentially appropriated?

Further, because the project was initiated because DC Comics purchased the Charlton characters and those were the ones that provided the impetus to Mr. Moore’s story, don’t the people behind that purchase also deserve some credit for bringing these characters to Mr. Moore’s attention and use?

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that sometimes –sometimes– creative credit is a harder thing to assign than it at first seems.


10 Movie Bloopers That Made It To The Final Cut

Interesting video displaying movie “screw ups” that, as mentioned in the title, wound up being in the film itself:

The last one mentioned, that from Back To The Future II, is one of those stunts that went very wrong and wound up being used in the film.

One of the more spectacular stunts featured on Mad Max 2 aka The Road Warrior, featured a motorcycle driving punk hitting a car and then being spun around into the air.  This was not intended (the stuntman was supposed to release the motorcycle earlier to have a more controlled flight) yet made the film’s final cut:

Crediting Bill Finger…

This fascinating bit of news appeared over the weekend:

DC Will Finally Credit Bill Finger As Co-Creator of Batman

For those who don’t know about this, since Batman’s first appearance way back in Detective Comics #27 released in 1939 and until today the “sole” creator of Batman has been listed as Bob Kane but most people who followed the character/creation knew that many, if not most, of Batman’s concepts were created by the series’ writer, Bill Finger.

To be fair, Bob Kane was the artist and person who thought up the idea of a “Bat-Man”.  But the concept he originally conceived of was radically changed to what we are more familiar with in the hands of the series’ writer, Mr. Finger.

Ty Templeton offered an amusing take on the Bob Kane Batman which gives you an idea where it went from his initial concept:

People have blasted the late Mr. Kane for taking credit for everything Batman related and snubbing all others.  It wasn’t until well after Mr. Finger died in 1974 that Mr. Kane finally copped to the fact that Mr. Finger should have been given a lot more credit for the creation/concepts behind the Batman character.

So, I’m happy to hear that Mr. Finger is getting credit where it is due…


I’m not trying to be a smart-ass here, but the character of Batman also owes a considerable debt to the works of Walter B. Gibson.  Mr. Gibson was an insanely proficient writer (it was said he could write up to 10,000 words a day) who wrote most of The Shadow pulp novels released from 1931 to 1949.

He was also the man who came up with many concepts which were subsequently cribbed (for those who don’t want to play nice, “stolen”) by Bill Finger and re-used in the Batman comics.  In fact, the very first Batman story, the one published in that 27th issue of Detective Comics mentioned above, was pretty much a scene for scene comic book adaptation of the Shadow story “Partners in Peril”, only with Batman sub-ing for The Shadow.

But don’t take my word for it.  Check it out for yourself:


I believe the reprint book is still available for a reasonable price via Amazon.  Happy hunting!