Monday, September 21, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

No, not Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, just "The Force Awakens."

Once again, I find myself in the minority of Star Wars fans.  I'm super stoked about a new movie coming out, but I find Disney's marketing campaign to be really tacky.  (Although on a sub-conscious level, maybe I'm just pissed at them for cancelling Tron 3.)

As I've stated many times before, I don't hate the prequels at all.  No, they didn't recapture what it felt like to see Star Wars as a 5 year old boy, but I thought they stood just fine on their own.  In fact, I like some of the stuff in the prequels better than the some of the stuff in the originals (blasphemy!!)

In case you were wondering, here is MY ranking of all 6 currently available Star Wars movies:

  1. Revenge of the Sith
  2. Empire Strikes Back
  3. A New Hope
  4. Attack of the Clones
  5. Return of the Jedi
  6. Phantom Menace
Feel free to flame me for this in the comments.  No I don't hate Return of the Jedi, I just like the other ones more.  Personal preference.  And, even though I know Phantom Menace has a ton of problems, I love Qui Gon and Darth Maul, so I'll still watch it just to see those two awesome characters go at it.

The Force Awakens is projected to earn 2 BILLION dollars!  That's really incredible that in 2015 a franchise started in the 70s is still so relevant.  Yes, Disney is really pouring it on with the promotional material and the toys.  They definitely know what they're doing.  But the thing that I find annoying is how they're not-so-subtly distancing themselves from the prequels.  If you don't know what I mean, check out this video:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Comic-Con 2015 Reel

"Real Sets. Practical Effects"  Blah Blah Blah.  To my overly sensitive ears, this is a blatant attack on the prequels.  The more I hear about this movie, the more I get aggravated by this theme.


So I read somewhere that this black wearing, red lightsaber wielding guy, Kylo Ren, isn't a sith in this movie.  Why not?  Because Sith is a prequel word.

JJ Abrams said no mention of midichlorians will be made.  Because midichlorian is a prequel word.

Even the lack of an episode number shows the blatant distancing of this movie from the Lucas movies.  It just annoys me. 

There are several other fans that feel the same way as me.  I've read several other blog posts echoing my sentiments.

Even though this weird marketing tactic is irritating me I'm still excited for the Force Awakens.  I guess there is some validity to Disney's pandering to the cry-baby prequel haters.  They're trying to win back the incredibly small percentage of people who actually will consider skipping The Force Awakens because of their prequel hatred.  All of the prequel lovers will go see The Force Awakens regardless of how much Disney insults our taste.

On December 18th, I will going into the theater to see The Force Awakens with an open mind.

With that being said, here are my list of demands:

1. Luke MUST be the main character of this film.

2. We MUST see Luke do awesome "prequel-worthy" Jedi feats and not the lame original trilogy stunts.

3. Yoda MUST appear as a blue glowie to advise Luke,

4. Liam Neesons MUST appear as a blue glowie to advise Yoda.

5. George Lucas MUST appear as a blue glowie to advise JJ Abrams.

6. We MUST see 58 year old Carrie Fisher in a metal bikini.

7.  Leia MUST use the force.

8. JJ MUST explain why having those incredibly dumb looking crossguards on that dumb looking lightsaber is neccessary

9. Han Solo MUST survive through this movie.  

10. Boba Fett is dead and will remain that way,

11.  Lando

Like I said, I'm going into this movie with an open mind.  But if all of my simple demands are not met, this will go below Phantom Menace on my list.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Grant Morrison's Wonder Woman comments

Nerd Post:

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Grant Morrison.  I don't always love everything he does, but there's no denying his genius.  He has a way of presenting classic characters in new and interesting perspectives.  Some of these characters are over 70 years old, so evolution is a necessity. However, his recent comments about Zack Snyder version of Wonder Woman really annoyed me.

According to Mr. Morrison, the warrior princess iteration of the Wonder Woman character is not what the original creator, William Moulton Marston envisioned for his character. This may be true, but who cares?!?  This character is 73 years old.  Of course it's going to go through several interpretations.  If Wonder Woman stayed exactly the same this whole time, people would lose interest.

Based on a nearly 4 minute trailer in which Gal Gadot appears as Wonder Woman for a total of 1 and a half seconds, Grant Morrison has decided that this version of the character is going to be too much of a stretch from the original creator's vision.  If you don't believe me, go back and watch the trailer again:

She appears in the costume for less than 2 seconds!

Now, I don't know if Mr. Morrison has access to more info than the general public, but if this is the basis for his hypothesis, then it's pretty silly.

But even if he is correct in assuming that this version of the character will be all about busting skulls and kicking ass, is that so bad?  Wonder Woman was sucking wind for a very long time until New 52 creators, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang made a few tweaks and saved her from obscurity.  Their interpretation is probably the best thing to happen to the character since the animated Justice League series.  If you like Wonder Woman, and haven't read their run, I highly recommend it.


In this New 52 Version, they play up the Greek Mythology end of things with Wonder Woman being a demigod.  It's revealed that the whole "you were formed from clay" story is a lie.  Her mother, Hippolyta, was impregnated by Zeus, and desperately wanted to keep it a secret, so she concocted this clay story.  When Diana (Wonder Woman) finds out about this, she is forced to deal with her half brothers and sisters on mount Olympus as she is drawn into their petty power plays. This is a particularly bloody and violent interpretation of the character, and I think that played no small part in the series' success.  At one point she even becomes the God of War, and it's awesome!

So, Grant Morrison, who's made a career of looking at characters from different angles, thinks this version is too far from the original creation.  Again, I love Grant Morrison.  I've bought a lot of his work, but I 'm calling shenanigans on this.

Grant Morrison is coming out with his own Wonder Woman book.  I'm very excited to read it and I'm sure it will be awesome.  His version of the character is supposed to be in line with the original version.  I think that his comments about the Zack Snyder version of the character (of which we've only seen 1.5 seconds) are nothing more than a promotional tactic.  Every comics blog posted about him, and here I am writing about them, so obviously the guy knows what he's doing.  So even though Grant Morrison may be the greatest comics genius of our time, he's not above using cheap promotional tactics to sell books.  In fact, this was my big problem with his recent Multiversity series.  It felt like a sales pitch to me.

Things that don't evolve eventually become extinct.  Look at how many different interpretations of Batman there are.  This constant re-interpretation is what makes the character relevant year after year. Because we live in a time where everything is preserved, you can stick with your favorite version!  If you hate Christian Bale, you can pull up the Michael Keaton version on Netflix!  Think Keaton is too dark?  Well, the Adam West episodes have all been digitally restored!  Is Adam West too corny?  Well, then pickup the animated series and experience Kevin Conroy's performance.  We have options!

Zach Snyder is carrying the torch on this characters.  He is re-imagining them for new generation.  As anazing as the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman was, you can't have that kind of character in a serious comic book movie in 2015.  The character has to evolve.  Look what happened when Bryan Singer tried to re-do the Christopher Reeves Superman in 2006.  It was a horrible bomb.  The character has to evolve.

If you prefer Lynda Carter to Gal Gadot, or Christopher Reeves to Henry Cavil or Michael Keaton to Ben Affleck, then guess what?  All of those videos are easily accessible.  Knock yourself out. They're all great.  There's also a possibility that we will see more traditional interpretations of these characters on the big screen in the future.  But for now, Zack Snyder's version is what these characters need to keep them alive in 2016 and beyond.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What A Great Time To Be A Fanboy

Last week was a great geek-week.  We got a new Star Wars trailer, a Batman V Superman Teaser, and a Battlefront 3 Trailer.  I'm super excited about all of the comic book, sci fi and fantasy games and movies on the horizon.  I'm even excited to go see Fantastic Four, which doesn't look promising based on the trailers, but it's a comic book movie and I'll happily pay my $15 to go enjoy it.

I'm also eagerly awaiting Avengers 2 which comes out soon.  I really like all those Marvel Studios movies.  The movie I'm most excited about, though, is Batman V Superman.  I'm a big fan of Zack Snyder's style and I definitely lean toward DC in my fanboy tendencies.  I think seeing the 3 biggest superheroes of all time share the screen will be an epic event.  If Snyder puts the same love into BvS as he did in making a panel by panel recreation of Watchmen, this will be truly incredible.

I know some people didn't care for Man of Steel, but I loved it.  I also though Bryan Singer painted Superman films into a corner with his sub-par take on the character.  Zack Snyder played the only hand he could, which was to distance himself from Christopher Reeves and Bryan Singer as much as possible.  The result was a dark, violent and sort of tragic movie with heaping portions of Superman whoop-ass.  I absolutely loved the Russel Crowe sequences on Krypton.  I thought Michael Shannon's off-beat Zod was great, and the epic battle at the end was incredible.  To the people who complain about the collateral damage in that movie, I say this....It's a movie!!!  I want to see stuff get blown up!   And I have a feeling that there will be repercussions for Superman's recklessness in the movies to follow, so don't get your panties in a bunch just yet. 

I'm also hearing a lot of people say that BvS is going to suck...after only seeing a teaser.  This is really silly.  Why would you want a movie to suck when you know you're going to pay to see it? From what I've seen so far, I'm very satisfied.  It looks like Snyder is really bringing Frank Miller's Dark Knight into the real world.  Affleck looks totally jacked in that batsuit.  And his anti-Superman suit looks like it walked right off the pages of Miller's Dark Knight Returns.  I even went to that special IMAX trailer screening just to see 4 seconds of extra footage....and it was awesome.

On the TV end of things, Arrow and Flash continue to crush.  I'm really enjoying their shared universe.  Gotham is still finding its footing.  I'm not 100% in yet, but I'm finding more things to like about it.  I'm even enjoying some Marvel shows.  Agent Carter was an excellent mini-series which I highly recommend.  I'm also a few episodes into Daredevil which is also really good.

Basically, were at the point where you can watch new superhero content every night of the week.  How cool is that?

I haven't had much time for gaming lately with my work/podcast schedule, but I continue to sneak in Artemis sessions with my friends.  That game is really amazing and if you're a Star Trek fan, you owe it to yourself to get 5 friends together and try it.  It's cheap, fun and excellent.   It can be a little glitchy at times since it's  designed to work on many different devices, but the occasional restarts are a small price to pay for the amount of joy this game creates.

My wife is back into Diablo III.  She's playing with my friends and I maintain that that's the best multiplayer console game ever.  It's so easy to jump in and out of games with your friends which is so important.  I think every game should be like that.

I'm looking forward to Arkham Knight and Battlefront 3 as I mentioned earlier. I'm really hoping Battlefront 3 offers that persistent ground to space transition that was rumored in the early development stages.  We'll see.

Meanwhile there are a couple of crowd-funded games that have caught my attention.  Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen both look like tons of fun.  I haven't had the chance to play them yet, but I have been watching other people play on twitch.  Twitch is a great streaming service for spectating video games.  It sounds like a silly concept, but I really like it.  It's a great way to really see what a game is like before spending any money on it.

So now that the geek stuff is out of the way, I have a busy musical schedule coming.  After a month off, Blue Oyster Cult is back on the road with plenty of shows coming up.  I'm also doing a solo show opening for Eddie Money on May 31st at the St. George Theater in Staten Island. NY.  I'm very excited about that.

We also have some great stuff coming up on my Band Geek podcast.  If you haven't seen our ridiculous Michael McDonald video, please check that out here:

To subscribe to Band Geek, go to www.riotcast,com/bandgeek


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Copyright Thoughts

Here are my thoughts on the Robin Thicke thing.

The way I was taught copyright law, you're only violating copyright if you use the same words or melody.  That's really all you can own in a song.  In the case of Sam Smith and Tom Petty, it's clear cut copyright infringement.  This example is not, because the melodies of the Robin Thicke song and the Marvin Gaye song are totally different.

However, I think this case goes beyond a simple copyright dispute.  From my understanding, you are also allowed to own the contents of a recording.  This is why it is illegal to use samples of other people's records in your music without their permission.

But again, this is not the case here. Blurred Lines doesn't use any samples from Got To Give It Up.

So what is the deal here?  If according to copyright law, you can only own words and melody, then that leaves all the other musical contributions in a song up for grabs.  This is because the copyright law is an outdated law written at the birth of published music. Since sheet music only contained words and melody, the right to copy that sheet music only protected words and melody.

So even though Blurred Lines doesn't copy melody or lyrics, when many people hear it, they immediately think "this sounds like Got To Give It Up."  This poses an interesting problem. Should production, arrangement and accompaniment ideas be something you can own?  As someone who does both these things for a living, I'd say yes.  But this is a tough thing to judge.

For example, Stacy's Mom copies a production genre.  So should that be illegal?  I don't think so.  In that case, Stacey's Mom sounds like a Cars song, but not a specific cars song.  It's not overtly using the same groove, or chord progressions, but it's definitely trying to sound like a song the Cars would record.

Blurred Lines, copies a specific song so I think they're asking for trouble.

I don't think Robin Thicke did anything wrong under the Copyright laws as I understand them.  But I do think it's time to revisit these laws and create more specific language regarding what artists, writers and producers can own.

Pop and R&B have become the wild west of rip off artists, and I think it's time to start dropping the hammer on some of the more blatant offenses.