Disney and Fox

A few days back it was announced that Disney and Fox shareholders approved a deal in which Disney would essentially buy up Fox.  (You can read the New York Times article about this here).

For those into movies like I am, this means that Disney now owns pretty much ALL the Marvel Movie properties.  For those unaware, Marvel Comics was in trouble in the 1970’s and going into the 1980’s and wound up selling the rights to many of their then biggest properties (Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, X-Men) to keep afloat.

When Marvel’s magical movie win streak started, they had the rights to what were considered “ancillary” characters but not the “big” ones like those I mentioned above.  Yet the movies were good and audiences loved them and they made a ton of money and, quite suddenly, “ancillary” characters like Iron Man, Thor, Black Panther, etc. became BIG characters.

And yet there was, I strongly suspect, a desire to have all the major characters and their various rights (film, TV, etc.) to be under one house.

Understand, I’m not saying the only reason Disney bought up Fox was to get their hands on the Marvel movie properties they own (X-Men, Fantastic Four, and the characters tied in to them.  Spider-Man’s film rights are owned by Sony and they have come into an agreement with Disney to allow them to make movies with the character).

But it certainly must have been at least one reason they were interested in this purchase.

Some comic book fans are elated at the prospect of seeing all the Marvel characters interact on film, especially if the quality of the films are on the level of the current Marvel works.


I guess it could be fun and all, but…

We have another massive media company becoming all the more massive.  Recently, AT&T bought Warner Brothers.  Now Disney buys Fox.

I’m going to be blunt about this: It makes me uncomfortable.

Success is wonderful.  Monopolies, less so.

As a consumer, one should welcome competition among companies.  Competition makes companies innovate, effectively try to “one up” their competition.  The result is better product often at lower prices.  A win-win for consumers.

But with monopolies, there are far less competitors.  Further, do you want to live in a world where all your entertainment is provided by only a select few companies?  I can’t help but think it will mean less variety.  And will a “wholesome” company like Disney continue to release R-Rated Deadpool type films, or will they shut that down?

As I said, it bothers me, though given the era we’re living in and unless we have a serious look by politicians into the current monopolistic business practices we’re seeing, it likely won’t change.

Corrosive Knights, a 7/30/18 update

The start of another week so let’s get to it: This week I will be done with the latest draft, #7, of the 7th Book in the Corrosive Knights series…

The work has been to date more involved than I thought it would be, particularly the second half of the novel -and I still have some 50 pages to go!

But the work has been productive and the end result, in my opinion, has been quite good.  This draft of the novel will be that much closer to the final draft.

As I mentioned before, I’m getting to the point where I can look at the series as a whole now, seeing as how I already have Book #8 -the Epilogue- in a rough form, already written but only needing some revisions.

Back to work!

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) a (right on time!) review

As I’ve mentioned too many times before, I don’t get much of a chance to go out and see films when they’re first released.  I wish I did, but that’s the way it goes.

But I do try to make time to do so and, once in a while, actually manage to see a film while it is in theaters.  So it was with the latest Mission: Impossible film, Fallout, released last Friday.  Here’s the movie’s trailer:

I’m a fan of the Mission: Impossible films, though I would quickly state that they haven’t all been winners.  Starting with film #4 in the series (Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol) the last three of the six so far released have have developed a certain style and have been successful following that style, and this extends to the latest film in this series.

Having said that…

Sometimes I feel like I’m “that guy”, the one who reacts negatively to things when everyone else views them as positive.  Likewise, there are times I’m positive about things when everyone else is negative.  I am that fool that really liked Batman v Superman when  so many dismissed the film as dark and dull.  I’m the guy who didn’t like Guardians of the Galaxy when everyone seemed to go ape… uh… crap over it.

And here I am telling you Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a very well made action/adventure film… that in the end left me wanting more.

Let me explain:

The movie presents us with nothing we haven’t seen before.  Yes, the movie moves and most of the stunt work is extremely well done.  And you once again have to give credit to Mr. Cruise for pushing the boundaries and doing some really crazy stuff on his own.

But the film offers a muddy story which doesn’t really surprise you all that much (if you can’t figure out who the bad guy is, you simply haven’t seen many films).  We have ancillary characters doing odd things to keep the story going, and the bad guys are presented as being unbelievably knowledgeable about everything going on and manipulate everyone so well yet of course manage to fail in the end.

Look, this is a good film.  A pretty great, in fact, summer popcorn film.  You will be entertained and there isn’t anything presented here that will make you groan of feel like the movie’s makers really screwed up.

However, this is not “game changer”.  Rather, it is the third film in a row of well done Mission: Impossible films and, alas, not much more than that.

And that, to me, is a shame.  Perhaps I was hoping the movie’s makers would push the envelope more than they did.

Still, don’t get me wrong: It’s a good film and worth seeing.  Just don’t go into this expecting anything vastly superior to the two MI films that came before it.

The Annotated Big Sleep (2018) redux

A couple of days ago I noted the release of The Annotated Big Sleep, a new printing of Raymond Chandler’s masterful noir crime tale originally released in 1939 which is presented here with a multitude of footnotes explaining the ins and outs of this novel.

I’ve read the novel at least three or maybe more times before and re-reading it with the footnotes proved a great delight.  There was one thing, however, more than any other thing that really stuck with me, and has stuck with me, since finishing reading this Annotated edition a few days before, and its worth pointing out.

The footnote in question involves an overview of the novel itself and the novel’s place in comparison to  other similar novels.  It involves the novel’s end and, therefore, involves elements which are clear SPOILERS.

Still, I want to write about this but, if you haven’t read the novel and want to give it a read, look away from here and get the book and read it.  It’s worth it.








Still there?

After the novel’s conclusion and in the second to last footnote presented in the Annotated Edition of this novel, we’re presented with this summary of The Big Sleep’s story:

“What Happened?” Carmen asks (protagonist private detective) Marlowe after trying to kill him.  “Nothing,” he responds.  Raising the question: What actually has happened in The Big Sleep?

There follows a description of the various story elements and characters presented in the novel.  What is astonishing is that you come to realize in this notation that so many things happened before Marlowe but could well have happened with Marlowe there as well as not there!

Characters are killed before Marlowe can “save” them… indeed, other than the one person Marlowe himself kills toward the end of the book, every one of these deaths would have happened whether Marlowe was around or not.  There’s even one notable killing, the chauffeur’s, which is famously never satisfactorily resolved at all!

Further, Marlowe never really “helps” anyone and, despite the book’s opening hinting at Marlowe being a Knight who will perhaps save a damsel in distress -we are presented a painting depicting such a thing- ultimately Marlowe becomes, at the book’s climax, the tied up “damsel in distress” who is saved by a woman!

And if you think even more about it, the mystery presented in The Big Sleep is not such a big mystery to just about all the major ancillary characters in the book.  In the end, the people who don’t know what’s going on are Marlowe, the man who hires him, and the reader.  By the end of the story the reader and Marlowe finally know what’s happening.  However, the man who hired him, the man who desperately wants to know what happened to another person, is left in the dark as Marlowe decides the truth would be too much for him to know.

As the footnote concludes:

Even the dead body, the traditional beginning point of so many murder mysteries, is only located at the end.  The genre has been turned -not so much upside down as inside out.

That last bit really hits home: The genre has been turned -not so much upside down as inside out.

A number of years ago I first saw the Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds.  Considered by many to be a stone cold classic, I didn’t like the film.  In fact, though a huge fan of Mr. Hitchcock’s films, I thought it was a bust.  Then, a few years later, I saw the film again and it hit me: The Birds was Mr. Hitchcock taking on the very popular 1950’s monsters-on-the-loose genre… but inverting every cliche there was in it.  Instead of “giant” insects or animals, we have a common bird as the threat.  Instead of an army coming in to fight them off, we see no sign of any armed forces.  Instead of a dashing lead man and woman who live to triumph, we get barely alive survivors and a leading woman who is near catatonic.

So it is with The Big Sleep.  The main mystery involves the disappearance of a person yet our protagonist, for much of the novel, isn’t really looking for him.  As mentioned above, the dead body is located at the novel’s very end.  The protagonist, as mentioned above as well, is in the dark and, like the novel’s readers, trying to figure out what many/most of the other people within the novel already know.  Though he discovers the truth of the matter, he doesn’t reveal it to the person who hired him.

Coming away from this latest reading of The Big Sleep leaves me even more in wonder of the novel.

It bears mentioning again: Get your hands on this book.  Read it.

You’ll thank me later.

Sketchin’ 85

Released in 1954, the movie Them! (with or without the exclamation point) was a very effective giant-monsters-on-the-loose feature of the type that was all the rage in the 1950’s.

This one, of course, involved giant ants and was played remarkably straight and, despite some by today’s standards not all that great effects, it built up a decent amount of suspense and thrills. A few years later Alfred Hitchcock would turn the creatures on the loose formula around and inside out with The Birds.

The Annotated Big Sleep (2018)

There are writers and there are writers.

Raymond Chandler, to me, is one of the best writers there ever was: A man who could make his noir mystery novels absolutely sing.  Almost every line in every one of his books, of which he wrote a mere 7 if them (an eighth novel was in the works when he passed away in 1959), were fascinating, hilarious, and eminently interesting.

Mr. Chandler turned to writing relatively late in life and his first stories appearing in “pulp” magazines such as Black Mask.  When he made his jump to novels with The Big Sleep (his first novel) he took elements from these stories and reworking them.

The Big Sleep, which was originally released in 1939, is one of my all time favorite Chandler novels (though Farewell, My Lovely and The Long Goodbye are nothing to sneeze at!) and anyone with any interest in great mystery novels should check it out.

Now, I’m not pointing out this novel just for the heck of it.  I’m pointing it out because a few days ago The Annotated Big Sleep was released both in Paperback and Kindle and I’m not going to beat around the bush: You should get it.

Here’s my Amazon review of the novel:

Love Raymond Chandler’s novels -he is one of my all time favorite authors- and love The Big Sleep in particular and the Annotated Big Sleep is a truly wonderful peek behind the curtain at what makes this novel tick. We get a wealth of information regarding the creation of this book, particularly interesting being the short stories -and samples offered- of how Chandler “cannibalized” some of his short stories in the creation of this book.

We also get some wonderful history of L.A. back in the 1930’s, a guide to the slang Chandler used (much of this, of course, has become well known through books and films), as well as some very interesting insight into Chandler himself.

Having read the novel a few times before, this Annotated Edition was truly eye-opening, especially when it comes to some of the novel’s sexuality. I was always aware of it, but when pointed out in the Annotations it became clear to me that Mr. Chandler had some serious hang ups regarding sexuality, whether “straight” or otherwise. Still, after all this time one must be cautious to draw too many conclusions, though the inference of the author’s possible sexuality presented in one of the notations is certainly intriguing.

I have the Kindle edition of the book and it is incredibly easy to read the book and switch to the voluminous amount of footnotes. You read along and when you find a footnote you simply tap on it and are instantly transported to the information presented. Sometimes its offered with beautiful illustrations, often with very informative explanations, and once you’re done reading the footnote, you just tap the footnote number again and you’re back to where you were reading. Couldn’t be easier!

So if you’re a fan of Raymond Chandler’s works as I am and, as I said before, want to get a damn good peek behind the curtain regarding this novel, you absolutely must have The Annotated Big Sleep.

More music…

…though I’m going to avoid David Bowie!

First up, as I’ve been reviewing my latest Corrosive Knights novel (the concluding Book #7!), I’ve been listening to some mood music.

Nothing better than John Carpenter movie scores…  Among my all time favorites are these two, from Escape From New York and Assault on Precinct 13:

There is something so gripping about this music and so appropriate to the movies they come from.  This is something that makes John Carpenter’s movies (many of them) so unique: The director is also the writer (or co-writer) and also created some of the music!

Before I go, and apropos of nothing at all, the Talking Head’s music video to their song Road To Nowhere.  While I’m not a big fan of the video (it does, IMHO, get pretty silly), the lyrics and message behind the song is incredibly touching and sobering…

Here are the full lyrics to the song:

Well we know where we’re going
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowing
But we can’t say what we’ve seen
And we’re not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out
We’re on a road to nowhere
Come on inside
Taking that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride
I’m feeling okay this morning
And you know
We’re on the road to paradise
Here we go, here we go
We’re on a ride to nowhere
Come on inside
Taking that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride
Maybe you wonder where you are
I don’t care
Here is where time is on our side
Take you there, take you there
We’re on a road to nowhere
We’re on a road to nowhere
We’re on a road to nowhere
There’s a city in my mind
Come along and take that ride
And it’s alright, baby, it’s all right
And it’s very far away
But it’s growing day by day and it’s all right
Baby, it’s all right
Would you like to come along
You can help me sing the song
And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right
They can tell you what to do
But they’ll make a fool of you
And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right
There’s a city in my mind
Come along and take that ride
And it’s alright, baby, it’s all right
And it’s very far away
But it’s growing day by day and it’s all right
Baby, it’s all right, yeah
Would you like to come along
You can help me sing the song
And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right
They can tell you what to do
But they’ll make a fool of you and it’s all right
Baby, it’s all right
We’re on a road to nowhere
We’re on a road to nowhere
We’re on a road to nowhere
We’re on a road to nowhere


As with everyone else, I imagine, I experience days that are sunny and bright.  There are days that are frustrating/annoying.  There are days that are rainy and sad.  Sometimes, you have days which are a combination of all of the above.

To me this song encapsulates those emotions and life in general.  Time flows and ultimately the end will come to all of us.  In two hundred years, will anyone remember you or I and the gamut of emotions we experience in our lifetimes and, most importantly, will they matter all that much?

They probably won’t, so make the best of your day and, in turn, life.  This is not a dry run and this is not a rehearsal.  This is the real deal.

You need to make the most of the time you have while you can.

David Bowie’s Never Let Me Down remake, redux redux

Ok, third time I’m (over) dwelling on this topic that likely few care about outside of myself, but I stumbled upon this interesting article by Kory Grow and Andy Greene on RollingStone.com concerning…

How David Bowie’s biggest “disappointment” became a posthumous, reworked album

To those (1 or two out there, at least?!) curious, the article offers a history of Never Let Me Down, David Bowie’s 1987 album which he, and many fans out there, feel was his “worst” album, yet one that he also felt could be reworked/saved.  This was done with the album, albeit posthumously, and the reworked album, along with a remastered version of the original, will be released in October along with plenty of other stuff in David Bowie’s mid-1980’s Loving The Alien box-set.

What I found most fascinating about the article is they go into what exactly was done to “rework” the album, essentially stripping down everything until all they had was Bowie’s singing and then adding things to it to create these new versions of the songs.

Equally fascinating is the fact that, inevitably, there would be those who are not happy with the fact that the album is as badmouthed as it is and, further, that it “needed” any fixing.

And in this case that individual would be… multi-instrumentalist Erdal Kızılçay, who in the article offers this nugget, found in the above article:

“(Never Let Me Down, the original release, is) like 80 percent me.  I’m playing bass. I’m singing background vocals. I’m playing guitar. I’m playing acoustic guitar, keyboards, viola, trombone, trumpet, everything. And I had to arrange them and put some harmonies and (David Bowie) loved it. He really loved it. He was so proud of that album. That’s why he called me his ‘Invincible Turk.’ He praised it until the minute the reviews came in. Then he said, ‘It wasn’t me. It was the other people on the record.’”


I’ve noted before my love for David Bowie’s albums and further the fact that I would consider him my all time favorite musician… but as a person, I’ve read bits and pieces here and there about him which paints a picture of David Bowie -the person- as this: An almost otherworldly talented musician but something of a cutthroat when it came to relationships and projects.

Niles Rodgers, who was called in by David Bowie to produce Let’s Dance, polished the work and helped create what was David Bowie’s biggest selling album which launched him into what was his most successful era.  Yet when it came time to produce the album’s follow up, I recall an interview (hope my memory isn’t faulty!) with Mr. Rodgers where he said he was willing and eager to get back into the studio with Mr. Bowie on his next album… but Bowie snubbed him and never called.  He felt he was essentially dumped despite working so well with him.

Similarly, David Bowie famously dumped the “Spiders of Mars,” the band he had his first big hits with, and retired the “Ziggy Stardust” character while in a concert and to the shock of not only his fans but most of his band mates.  This was their bread and butter and he didn’t feel the need to inform several of his band mates this would be it until announcing it for all in concert!

Further, when he grew bored with a style of music and/or it didn’t succeed as well as he hoped (and the above quote certainly hints to that), he was quick to dump it and move on to other things.  This served him well at times, when he transitioned from the Glam Rock era to Soul to the “Berlin” trilogy but, again, it often involved cutting people he worked with -and who were making money/earning a living doing these projects- out.

He famously worked with Iggy Pop for a long time in the mid to later 1970’s, producing albums for him and, later on, doing cover songs of several of his (and Bowie) compositions, the most famous of which was China Girl.  To be clear, he did this for the nicest of reasons: To help Iggy Pop get some residuals for his works.

And yet I recall an interview given by Iggy Pop a few years ago (and well before Mr. Bowie’s passing) where he was asked about his current relationship with David Bowie and he noted there essentially was none: that they hadn’t spoken in a number of years.  I got the impression (again, if my memory isn’t faded/wrong) that Iggy Pop felt like Bowie dropped him and that was that.

The album 1. Outside, my favorite Bowie album from the later part of his career, was intended to be the first of at least two, perhaps three albums dealing with the turn of the Century.  While the album has come to be looked upon as one of Bowie’s best by some such as me, the fact is it didn’t do too well when it was originally released, both critically and commercially, and Bowie dropped the project and any possible future albums involving this subject.  For his next album, he moved right along to the electronica heavy Earthling (also quite a great album).  1. Outside was in the rear view mirror.

What does this all mean?

In the end, I suppose it is a source of curiosity if little else.

Erdal Kızılçay, in that same article, feels the remake of Time Will Crawl is awful -I don’t share that opinion- and I strongly suspect he’ll not like the remake album at all.  He’s understandably proud of the work he did on the album even if many don’t like it all that much.  Further, he states that if he doesn’t receive the proper credit for his work, even on the remade version of the album, he intends to sue.

Clearly, the man is angry about the whole thing and who am I to tell him he shouldn’t be.  I wasn’t there during the recordings and I take his words at face value.

Still, it is a fascinating look behind the curtain and, if you’re as interested in these type of things as I am, you may want to give the article a read.

About the upcoming David Bowie Box set, redux

A few days ago (you can read it here), I noted the latest David Bowie Box Set (#4) to be released in October covers his mid-1980’s work, focusing in particular on Let’s Dance, Tonight, and the album many -including Mr. Bowie himself- considered his worst album, Never Let Me Down.

But, as I noted, Never Let Me Down’s main problem, at least to me, was the fact that it was waaaaay overproduced.  It seemed too many songs had too much going on in them and noted that Mr. Bowie felt there was still a good album underneath the clutter of the production.  This was proven, at least in one respect, by the reworking of the song Time Will Crawl in 2008, which to me was a BIG improvement over the original found on the album.

Anyway, to make a long story short, this upcoming box set will not only include a remastered version of the original Never Let Me Down, but also a complete REWORKING of that album, something I’m salivating over.

Welp, the first reworked song has appeared online for people to check out and, once again, it represents to me an improvement over the version presented on the original album release.

The song is Zeroes and here’s the original version of the song…

And now, the reworked version of the same song which will be found on the upcoming Box Set release…

Once again and as with Time Will Crawl, I’m pleased with the reworking of the song, which seems to be based on the “less is more” philosophy.

Good stuff and I can’t wait to hear the rest!

Star Trek: City on the Edge of Forever (2015) a (mildly) belated review

Of late and, at least to some extent, due in part to the San Diego ComiCon, there have been a number of sales on graphic novels/comic books via Amazon or its sister-company Comixology.

One of the books on sale is one I didn’t know existed: The graphic novel adaptation of the late (RIP) Harlan Ellison’s famous original Star Trek screenplay The City on the Edge of Forever. (I’ll abbreviate the title to CEF from here on)

For those unfamiliar with the episode, CEF is considered by many to be one of the -if not THE- best Star Trek episode ever created, and with good reason.  The episode was the penultimate which aired in the show’s first season (it would air in April 6, 1967) and here’s it’s promotional trailer:

Consider me among the ones who feel CEF is easily among my top 2 favorite episodes ever aired from that series (#1 on the list is tough… I feel CEF is on par with the wonderful season two episode The Doomsday Machine, which to this day I feel is easily the most suspenseful episode of the original -and any subsequent- series).

So here’s the thing: Harlan Ellison created the story and wrote the initial screenplay but changes were made to it and, the episode that eventually aired, had plenty of the Ellison story in it as well as plenty of deviations.  If you’re at all familiar with Mr. Ellison, you’ll know this didn’t sit well with the author.

A number of years ago Mr. Ellison released a book which included his original screenplay:

Image result for city on the edge of forever original teleplay

I have this book and have read the screenplay but found it difficult to envision/compare in my mind the actual episode and Mr. Ellison’s screenplay.  One simply outshone the other because the aired episode was so familiar to me and it was tough to get that same “visual” experience out of reading a screenplay.

What I didn’t know, until a few days ago, was that in 2015 IDW published a 5 issue comic book adaptation of this screenplay.  It was collected into a single graphic novel and, as of today, is available via Kindle for a mere $1.99 if you’re interested.  Here’s the book’s cover:

Star Trek: Harlan Ellison's City on the Edge of Forever by [Ellison, Harlan, Tipton, Scott, Tipton, David]The original teleplay was adapted by writers Scott and David Tipton and illustrated -quite well!- by J. K. Woodward and, finally, I had a way to compare, almost one-on-one, the Star Trek episode with Mr. Ellison’s original screenplay.

And it was a curious thing!

To begin with, and with all due respect to Mr. Ellison, I still feel the original episode as aired is better.  The differences between screenplay and aired episode include the participation of Dr. McCoy (he plays a big part in the episode and doesn’t appear at all in the screenplay), the climax involves action taken by Kirk in the episode versus Spock in the screenplay, the appearance of a crippled WWI veteran (one thing I would have really liked to see in the episode but was cut out entirely), and a more cerebral conversation between Kirk and Spock in the screenplay’s conclusion.

Without going into too many spoilers, I feel the inclusion of McCoy in the episode was a stroke of genius and made us more engaged in what was to happen versus the character Mr. Ellison introduced, a drug dealer/murderer, who sets the actions in motion.  Further, I feel the climactic resolution resonates more in the episode by having Kirk act versus Spock.  It delivered an emotional gut punch that no other episode in the series was able to deliver.

And yet, as Spock would say, it is fascinating to see the original screenplay presented in graphic form.  It offered this reader the closest approximation to what the episode might have looked like had the producers used Mr. Ellison’s script more faithfully.

Would it have made for a better CEF?  To this reader, not quite.  But having said that, if you’re a fan of Star Trek and CEF in particular, do yourself a favor and give the graphic novel a look.  Recommended.