Watchmen 2…

…or should we say Watchmen -1?

According to Entertainment Weekly’s Jeff Jensen, a Watchmen prequel is in the works…

http://shelf-life.ew.com/2012/02/01/watchmen-prequels-exclusive-details/

Had I read about this a decade and a half or so ago, I would certainly have been more shocked.  Perhaps back then I may have even hoped that Watchmen series writer/co-creator, Alan Moore, might have a hand in this new series.  After all, and if memory serves, he was the one who originally thought this was a workable concept.

However, with the passage of time and further interviews with Mr. Moore, it is clear the rift between he and Watchmen publisher DC Comics is as wide as it is deep.

When Alan Moore’s first American work appeared in DC Comic’s Saga of the Swamp Thing, the book was well on its way toward cancellation.  In the store I frequented at the time, I might well have been the only person buying the book, and even I was about to give up on it when Mr. Moore showed up.

When his first issues appeared, I was stunned, shocked, delighted, amazed, and entranced.  Mr. Moore’s writing on this series, to put it bluntly, was amazing.  So much so that I had to look up his British works.  When I found out his works appeared in a magazine called Warrior, I hunted the issues down, discovering the incredible V for Vendetta and Marvelman (soon to be renamed Miracleman) and being doubly amazed by the man’s talents.  So too did others.  Swamp Thing not only wasn’t cancelled, it thrived.  While Warrior magazine was cancelled, DC Comics picked up and completed V for Vendetta while various companies picked up and completed Mr. Moore’s run of Marvel/Miracleman.

When I first heard about Watchmen, I eagerly anticipated it.  When it came out, I devoured each issue.  While the series mined the same general material as Marvelman, it was a great series…until its end.  One thing I came to realize was that as good a writer as Mr. Moore was, the conclusions to his tales, especially the longer running ones, were often anticlimactic.  In the case of Watchmen, unfortunately, the entire ending to the series wound up being a retread of and old episode of The Outer Limits entitled “Architects of Fear“.  I don’t know if this was intentional or unintentional on Mr. Moore’s part.  Regardless, toward the very end of the series, tellingly, we have a panel showing a television set.  An announcer notes that they’re about to play that episode of the series…obviously a nod by Mr. Moore to that particular show.

Regardless, I was still a big fan of the man’s works, and I was hoping to see more from Mr. Moore.  Especially his take on DC characters.

This was not to be.  The success of Watchmen, ironically, created a rift between Mr. Moore and DC Comics.  Though I don’t pretend to know all the ins and outs of the situation, Mr. Moore broke away from the company and, in subsequent interviews, repeatedly expressed the cause of the rift a desire to gain control over Watchmen.  DC Comics apparently had a clause in the Watchmen contract that ensured they retained control of the property as long as they kept it in print.  If that’s the case, it is possible the Watchmen prequel may be an attempt to continue doing just that.

As the years passed and Mr. Moore moved on, I found myself less and less interested in his subsequent works.  I tried many of them, some which received considerable positive reviews, but they just didn’t appeal to me as much as his earlier stuff.

The line up of talent involved in the Watchmen prequel books is unquestionably impressive, but even if Mr. Moore himself were somehow involved in this new book, I don’t think I’d pick it up.  While I retain fond memories of the original series despite certain flaws, the book featured a completely self contained story.  Even when I originally read it, I didn’t think there was a need for more stories set in this universe, whether before, during, or after the events presented.

I still feel that way.

But I’m just one voice.  If nothing else, I’m curious to see how this series does with modern audiences.

I watched every Steven Spielberg movie…

…and now Slate author Bill Wyman wishes he hadn’t:

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/the_completist/2012/01/steven_spielberg_movies.single.html

While I found the article an interesting read and agreed with some of the points Mr. Wyman is making, I couldn’t help but also feel this is the type of career tear-down is also rather unfair.

Let’s face it, there is no more famous/well known director of motion pictures in this world than Steven Spielberg.  His reputation is very well earned because he has delivered some truly memorable, enjoyable, and terrific films.

And in Mr. Spielberg’s defense (as if he needs me to do that!), one simply cannot remain a viable creative force for 40+ years without a) coming out with clunkers now and again and/or b) repeating yourself.

Clunkers are to be expected.  Not everything you try winds up working as well as one hoped it would.  Sometimes, the “clunker” turns out to be a career-ender. Sometimes, the creative person simply hits a “rough patch” and may find their legs again…or sometimes the clunker is an early indication of the creative person’s descent.  Subsequent projects may be good but never quite achieve the level of previous works.  Is Mr. Spielberg in one of these three areas?  A few years back he hit a “rough patch” and pulled himself up with works like Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.  Lately, it appears he was once again slipping, only to release two films this winter, War Horse and Tintin, which have garnered generally good reviews…if not box office hit status.

As for repeating oneself, that too can, and does, happen.  Ironically, we sometimes react negatively when an artist strays from their “comfort zone” and creates works that are too far removed from the works we are accustomed to them making.  Yet there are also times we may react negatively when an artist does repeat him/herself.  In the end, I’m not terribly bothered by the fact that Mr. Spielberg has used certain cinematic techniques/stories over and over again.

What I thought the author was dead right about was the fact that Mr. Spielberg does indeed have one clear difficulty, and that is in doing comedy.  Yes, there are humorous elements in many of his films, but often that humor is in the context of a film that is something else, whether it be horror, suspense, action, etc.  When his movie focus is entirely on comedy (1941, Always), he does appear to stumble.

Having said all that, to me there is no denying Mr. Spielberg has created a captivating body of work, warts and all.  The very first film I ever saw and understood as a 5 or 6 year old child was Duel when it originally premiered on TV.  It wasn’t until many years later that I realized Mr. Spielberg was the movie’s director.  If you watch Duel and his first mega-hit film, Jaws, back to back, you can see how the former was clearly an influence on the later.

Both films remain two of my all time favorites, along with a few others he’s had his hand in.  I don’t think I could sit through every Steven Spielberg movie…I have neither the time or the patience.  However, there are those I could see over and over again, and enjoy them each and every time.

Politically correct Disney

This post originally appeared in November of 2011.

When you have a company that primarily caters to younger audiences, it isn’t too terribly surprising the people behind the scenes make sure the material presented to these young people is in no way controversial.  There is added difficulty when your company also happens to have existed for many, many years, and what might have been acceptable at one time becomes unacceptable in another.

Of the many films produced by Walt Disney Studios, the one you cannot get your hands on is an official release of Song of the South.  This despite the fact that the film features one of the more recognizable Disney songs ever created (Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah) and has a ride (Splash Mountain) based on the animated segments in the film.  It is the non-animated segments, however, that are -to put it mildly- a source of controversy given the depiction of African Americans in post-Civil War times.  But the movie isn’t a unique example of Disney studios going back and changing things that may be, in these modern times, deemed at best “touchy” and at worst “offensive”.

I’ve been going to Walt Disney World near Orlando for years, and it is curious to note the subtle and not so subtle changes to some of their rides.  The 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage ride has been completely done away with.  Two others have featured some notable changes.

The first is the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  With the success of the movie franchise, audiences have witnessed the appearance of an animatronic version of Capt. Jack Sparrow.  His presence isn’t all that bad, but it does change the focus of the ride from one of amorphous idealized pirates to a focus more in line with the movies.  What I found most intriguing was the way they changed one of the ride’s more elaborate jokes.  After we pass the “women’s” market (where a pirate group is selling women off to leering pirates, the joke being that the current woman on sale, a fat one, is of no interest in the buyers.  They have their eyes on the next woman in line, who is a knockout.  The way things are going, I suspect this particular joke won’t remain in the ride much longer!), we come upon a besieged town.  Originally the joke presented here was that we see one pirate chasing a woman around her house.  Then another doing the same.  When we get to the third house, however, the woman is far larger than the pirate and, instead of him chasing her, she’s chasing him around the house, swinging her broom at his head!

This joke was completely killed off for obvious reasons.  After all, what are the pirates doing chasing the women?  Because they are hungry and want the women to make them some breakfast or lunch?  Are they cold and want the women to fetch them a warm drink?

Clearly, this is not the case.  In fact, the “joke” presented here is that these women are in the process of being assaulted.  Once the pirates “catch” them, what follows can only be one thing.  The people behind the scenes at Disney, I’m quite certain, decided this “joke” was a little too risqué and nixed it.  Now, the first house has a pair of pirates running around in circles while carrying a (no doubt pilfered) treasure chest.  The second house has (I believe) a woman chasing away a pirate, and the third has the same big woman chasing a pirate.  The joke is officially expunged.

This last time I went to Walt Disney World, I noted another change.  If you go to the Haunted Mansion ride, in the preamble, you’re “locked” in a room with your fellow park attendees and listen as the narrator talks about the mansion.  The walls seem to move, and the lower parts of painted pictures reveal humorous “hidden” bottoms containing macabre jokes.  Toward the end of this segment, the narrator notes that the audience is trapped in a room with no doors or windows.  How, he wonders, are we to find a way out?  Our narrator then states that in a room without doors or windows, there is only one way out.  Then, you hear a scream and lightning reveals a hidden attic above us, showing…not much.

At least now.

Yes, there’s the sound of crashing and you see a ragged figure above you, but the whole conclusion to the narration makes little sense.  Why?  Because the original “way out” was clipped.  For the original “way out” was…suicide.

When the narrator says there is a way out, originally when you heard the screams and the lightning flashes illuminated the room above you, the ragged figure you saw was clearly hanging from her neck on a rope.  The implication was that in a room with no exit, the only exit is to kill yourself.  Not the most ideal of “jokes” to present little kids!  Now, the ragged figure does not sway on any rope, but is immobile, making the ending of this part of the ride rather confusing (although, granted, far more politically correct than showing the ragged remains of some poor forgotten soul who has committed suicide!).

Anyway, if you’re interested in more changes (some dealing with far less controversial material within the parks), I found this pretty interesting website that details some of those people have noted:

http://www.wdwradio.com/forums/i-remember-lost-attractions-wdw-more/18772-attraction-changes-over-years.html

Apple vs. Android…

Fascinating, and brief, article by Dan Lyons for The Daily Beast regarding the Apple vs. Android patent war and the possible outcomes…

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/01/22/apple-vs-android-war-without-end.html

One of the most beautiful things about Captialism is that when companies fight head to head, the end result is usually a net benefit for consumers:  In theory, each company tries very, very hard to ensure their product is better overall (function, form, durability) than their competitors.  And if the products are comparable (or even identical), then consumers could also benefit from price wars.  After all, if the companies’ products are indeed identical, the only way to get consumers to buy one product over the other is by selling them for less.

With regards to computers and computer related products, unfortunately for Apple much of their technology -great thought it may be- was not created in a vacuum and it was only a matter of time before others would compete head to head with them.  Looking at Apple’s products, from my perspective the company has taken many common individual components (personal computers, touchscreen technology, cellular phone systems, etc.) and mixed them together to create their beautiful package.

The problem, for Apple, is that because the individual components are common, it is difficult to then turn around and say the overall package is somehow unique.  This is why I suspect Apple isn’t doing quite as well with their patent lawsuits as they probably hoped they would.

Then again, I’m far from some technological wizard and for all I know every bit of opinion presented above is dead wrong.  Regardless, I hope that Apple continues to make their beautiful products.  I also hope that the lack of success in their lawsuits against other companies encourages them to up their competition with the Android market and make even better products.

And I hope the Android makers do the same.

In the end, we the consumer will be the beneficiaries.

Top 10 David Bowie songs…

…at least according to Time magazine:

http://entertainment.time.com/2012/01/10/top-10-david-bowie-songs/?iid=ent-main-populist-widget#life-on-mars

Can’t argue with their choices.  I love what was written at the end of their description for the song “Heroes”:

When U2 went to Berlin to make Achtung Baby,they were trying to make this song. The entire Arcade Fire catalog came out of this song.

Ok, I think I’ve done enough David Bowie related posts for now.  I’ll give it a rest…until his next birthday! 😉

Lincoln assassination witness…

I couldn’t find the actual post, but as I was thinking about posts from my old blog that I wanted to re-post to this new one, there was one that simply had to appear again.  The video below is from the Feb. 9, 1956 episode of I’ve Got A Secret, a game show involving celebrities figuring out, natch, what “secret” the person appearing before them has.

In the case of one Samuel J. Seymour, it turned out his secret was something both unique and quite incredible:  As a very young child, he was present in the Ford Theater the night that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

The fact that he could still remember some of the details all those years later is incredible.  I think it’s fair to say on the night of the taping of this program Mr. Seymour was the very last living person to have been present at the Ford Theater that tragic night.

Fright Night (2011) a (mildly) belated review

Count me among those who has a pleasant memory of the original 1985 version of Fright Night.  That vampire movie may not rank up there with the original Dracula or Nosferatu, and my memories of it may be hazy with time (I haven’t seen the film in its entirety probably since around that time!), but I recall having a few chills and plenty of laughs (intentional!) regarding that horror/comedy hybrid.

When I heard that a remake of the film was being made, I wasn’t terribly perturbed.  The original was hardly one of those movie “classics” one is incredulous the studios movie studios would dare consider remaking.  When I heard Jerry the vampire would be played by Colin Farrell and would feature David Tennant in the showy role of Peter Vincent (originally played by the late -and great!- Roddy McDowall), my interest in the film spiked.  I like both actors quite a bit and thought each could take their roles and push them toward interesting directions.

The 2011 Fright Night came and disappeared from the theaters rather quickly.  The reviews were generally pretty positive (on Rottentomatoes.com, the film has a 74% approval from critics and 64% approval from audiences.  Not bad, although the original film scored a higher 93% and 71%, respectively).  I remained curious to see the film.

Yesterday, I finally got to do just that.

The remake of the film follows almost the exact same storyline.  The first half of the film, in particular, is quite effective, leading to the film’s best sequence wherein Jerry first attacks, then chases down our protagonist, his mother, and his girlfriend.  That extended chase sequence, which concluded with a hilarious -then grisly- cameo appearance from one of the main actors in the original film, was the movie’s highlight and was suspenseful as hell.

At that point, I thought the film was a complete winner and couldn’t understand why audiences weren’t drawn in much more.

Alas, immediately after that sequence it became clear why.  Quite simply, the movie ran out of gas.  Colin Farrell’s Jerry became a one dimensional threat, stalking the protagonists but not really doing this stalking all that effectively.  Given his fearsome abilities, was it really that urgent for him to hunt them down like he did?  The fact is, he had all the time in the world to wait them out, and realistically they couldn’t go to the authorities to report a vampire without getting locked up…or worse.

After that brilliant chase sequence, we’re also introduced to David Tennant’s Peter Vincent.  In this incarnation, he’s a flashy Las Vegas magician with a past history, we find, with our vampire.  The introduction to Vincent is quite vulgar and funny, but, like Colin Farrell’s Jerry, his character rapidly becomes one note and predictable.  The movie flat lines, leading to a climax that wasn’t anywhere near as suspenseful as the chase presented earlier.

In the end, the first half of the film easily earns 3 stars. The second half, unfortunately, was a very mediocre 2 stars.  Because of that flat second half, I can’t recommend the film.  A pity.

Mystery find in Baltic Sea

I first heard about this fascinating story a little while back. When exactly I can’t remember, but this video from CNN is probably the best update (to now) of that particular story, involving a very mysterious looking shape -a UFO?- discovered by sonar at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

The most fascinating thing about the story -other than the odd shape of the object!- is its size.  That combination adds to the mystery.  According to the report, we’ll have to wait until at least May, when the Baltic waters become smoother, before getting a closer look.  I’m curious to hear what they find then!

Maim that tune

Originally posted on my previous blog, May 2009…

EW.com has a pretty fun list of famous, well known songs that are subsequently covered (and, in the readers’ opinion) destroyed by other artists:

http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20219751,00.html

I have to agree with many of their choices, and my personal least favorite is the Madonna version of “American Pie”.  Just baffling.  On the other hand, I don’t have as much of a problem with No Doubt’s version of “It’s My Life” or Tori Amos’ version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  To me, the former song wasn’t all that great to begin with (nor, I hasten to add, was it terrible), so I didn’t really mind the remake.  As for Ms. Amos, it certainly was dangerous (creatively anyway) to take on such a popular song and make her version.  I felt it was a decent enough job

Not included in the list is my least favorite remake coming from someone whose original music I consider among the best ever: David Bowie.  On the otherwise incredible album Aladdin Sane, Mr. Bowie does a cover of The Rolling Stone’s “Let’s Spend the Night Together”.  Mr. Bowie’s version is…well…bizarre.  I like the way the song begins, but by the time it reaches its mid-section…ho boy.  I suppose its not the worst thing Mr. Bowie’s ever done (in a career as long as his, there were bound to be ups and downs), but still.  Judge for yourself:

Moving away from the worst, how about some of the best?  Mr. Bowie may not have hit the ball out of the park (IMHO!) with “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” but his cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Waiting For the Man” is just as good -if not better!- than the original, again IMHO:

And the original Velvet Underground version:

 

The Blog of E. R. Torre

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