#WatchingAllMyBluRaysAtoZ

Truth be told, I don’t have any idea how many movies I own.  The first movie I ever bought with my own money was Tim Burton’s “Batman” way back in 1989 – on VHS – when I was about ten years-old.  That same year I also saved up and bought “Lethal Weapon 2”.  For a while, it was just those two.  I ran those tapes into the ground, watching each of them over and over – sometimes multiple times per day.  My family didn’t have cable television or any movie channels back then, and when you’re 10, 11, and 12 years-old, there isn’t much more to do when you get to stay up late on weekends than watch TV.  But if you’re a night owl kid who only has five or six channels to choose from, you gravitate towards movies – many of them repeatedly.

The late ‘80s and early ‘90s were the height of the video store era – and video store culture.  They came in many different shapes and sizes.  Almost everybody remembers – or is aware of – Blockbuster, but how many recall when smaller video stores could be found in strip malls, supermarkets and even liquor stores?  And in addition to Blockbuster there were other rental superstores such as Planet Video and Hollywood Video (no matter how short-lived both were compared to granddaddy Blockbuster).  Sure, most people just rushed in, grabbed a movie as quickly as possible, and ran out; but for kids like me, video stores were a place to hang out, talk about films with other regulars and the employees, learn about films we’d never heard of, and acquire whatever movies and movie posters we could get our hands on in that pre-internet era.  I would browse the isles of Blockbuster and the various neighborhood mom and pop video stores for endless hours each week.  I would study the VHS boxes (searing the cover art into my brain), discover actors’ entire filmographies, talk with the video store clerks (I even became one myself at about16 years-old), and learn everything I could about movies and the movie rental business.  Then I would take whatever treasure I settled on for the evening home, watch it (perhaps multiple times), and return the next day and do the same thing over again.

My buddy Nick and I "working" after hours at North Shore Video (R.I.P.), circa 1997.

My buddy Nick and I “working” after hours at North Shore Video (R.I.P.), circa 1997.

One thing I could not usually do that I desperately wished I could in the case of many films was own a copy of my very own. I’m not sure how many of you remember (or even ever knew) this but, in the VHS days you generally couldn’t buy a movie brand new from Blockbuster – or even Best Buy or Target – until about six months after its initial video release date.  And if you wanted to special order a movie to own it immediately upon release (or, God forbid, had to replace a video store copy of one you lost or damaged), it would cost you anywhere from 75 to 100-plus bucks for those first six months or so.  The idea of a massive home video collection had yet to take off.  Sure you had your “E.T.’s”, “Batman’s”, “Jurassic Park’s” and the like – huge movies that studios knew families would gobble up at the “low, low “sell-through” price of $24.99” (every once in a while there would be a more fringe-level, genre hit like the aforementioned “Lethal Weapon 2” or an adult comedy smash like “Pretty Woman” that studios would test the waters of demand with), but for the most part, sell-through titles were limited to cartoons, family hits, and massive blockbuster tentpoles.

But there was one blessed way a kid like me could build a home video collection in the video store era:  PVT, or Previously-Viewed Tapes.  After a title had been on the shelf for a month or so and there was no longer a high rental demand for the 10, 20, 50 or 100 copies a store initially ordered (the number depended on the popularity of the movie and the size/profitability of the store; so Blockbuster and the like had entire walls full of some new releases, while the smaller stores has maybe five to ten copies of even the biggest films), they would put all but a few copies up for sale.  PVTs usually started at $19.99.  After they had been sitting around a while, they would go down to $14.99, and then $9.99.  Some titles that had been out for several years could be had for $6.99, $4.99 or even around 3 bucks in some cases.  Paying $19.99 (or even $14.99 or $9.99) for a used VHS tape might seem insane in an era where you can buy Blu-rays released in the last few years for as low as $5.99 at Best Buy.  But compared to $80 or $100, or even $24.99 new six months down the road, 15 or 20 bucks seemed like a great bargain.

After “Batman” & “Lethal Weapon 2”, I loaded up on the likes of “Die Hard”, “Predator”, “RoboCop”, the other “Lethal Weapon’s”, “Tango & Cash”; the 90s brought the likes of “The Last Boy Scout”, “New Jack City”, “Point Break”, a new Steven Seagal must-have every year, “Total Recall”, “Terminator 2”, “Batman Returns”, “Cliffhanger”, “Reservoir Dogs”, two more “Die Hard’s”.  I owned every “Dirty Harry” by the time I was 12 (and most other Clint Eastwood classics – “In the Line of Fire” and “Unforgiven” became my go-to answer to “what’s your favorite movie?”).

The collector and completest in me really emerged in the PVT era.  How many people do you know who remember or have even heard of, much less owned a copy of, say, “Amos & Andrew”, “Threesome”, or “Dream Lover” (use Google, my friends) – and never mind at 12 or 13 years-old?  Even infamous flops and critical pariahs like “Hudson Hawk”, “Harley Davidson & the Marlboro Man”, “Graffiti Bridge”, and “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane” I would giddily wait for the day they would turn up on the PVT shelf and I could add them to my collection (I don’t regret buying any of those, by the way; in fact, I upgraded each of them to DVD (and then Blu-ray where available) and still love watching all of them).  I suddenly wanted to own every movie I liked to even a minor degree (which is why I still have VHS copies of “If Looks Could Kill” and “Eve of Destruction” sitting on my shelf – yep, I paid hard-earned 13-year-old money for those!). And it wasn’t just about collecting.  I would watch all of these over and over again.  It was a true passion.

[I SO WISH I HAD A PHOTO OF MY VHS COLLECTION CIRCA 1997 TO INSERT HERE.]

As the ‘90s wore on, video collections became more of a cultural norm.  VHS tapes still cost upwards of $80 throughout the decade, but when the advent of DVD hit and every movie was available affordably immediately upon release (albeit for around $40 initially) – not to mention the promise of optimal sound and picture quality, the ability to skip “chapters” VS rewinding and fast forwarding (Hey, and no rewind fees!), special features, and widescreen formatting – movie buffs like me, while elated with all that stuff, faced a difficult choice:  What about the hundreds of VHS tapes I had amassed? Some of the movies I owned on VHS I had already bought multiple times, because of different cover art, an upgraded edition, or in a box set collection.  It would be a lot – and a lot of expense – to replace.  And what if DVD was just some flashy trend that would go the way of Laserdisc?

Well, we all know what happened.  Within two years of hitting the mainstream, I was quickly gobbling up DVDs the same way I did VHS tapes a decade earlier; slowly replacing a VHS here and there when I could, while now buying every new film strictly on DVD.

The problem with DVD – certainly the first generation ones (and a large amount beyond those as well) – is that for all their focus on upgraded picture and sound, most of them still looked pretty shoddy.  The bigger issue may be that TVs capable of maximizing DVD’s upgraded specs were still too damn expensive back around the turn of the millennium.  Anyone watching a DVD on the same 19-inch (or even 35-inch) tube TV they watched VHS tapes on wasn’t going to gain much benefit from the new technology.  I remember buying my first widescreen HD TV in 2002 or 2003.  It was 50-inches or so, but a projection set with a huge back to house the projection components and a massive speaker underneath that the screen sat on.  It cost about two grand, but was one of the cheapest HD flat screens available at the time (Plasma screens were going for as much as $10,000 then).  And then you needed a decent sound system.  Still, when I got that first widescreen TV, coupled with my ever-growing DVD collection – which in about 4 or 5 short years had already greatly eclipsed the VHS collection I spent a decade building – I thought I had reached the pinnacle of home entertainment and film collecting.

My DVD collection circa 2009

My DVD collection circa 2009

But TVs kept improving and dropping in price.  So did DVDs.  I was buying new and previously viewed DVDs for under $10 on a regular basis.  I replaced my projection TV with a DLP, and then LCD (now I think I’m up to an LED, though I’ve lost track and I’m not even sure it matters any more – they’re all good at this point – I guess 4K is the latest-greatest, but I think my interest in improving picture and sound has plateaued for the time being).  Of course, as HD quality and HD quality televisions improved, so did home video technology.

Enter Blu-ray, which I resisted for three or four years.  In 2005 – 2006 when Blu-ray came on the scene (some of you might recall it was released at the same time as HD DVD and the two had a brief face-off – we all know which won) I didn’t have a HD television, I didn’t want to rebuild my collection yet again, and I also had the usual “will the new fad last?” concerns.  Again, we all know what happened.  Around 2009, I bought my first Blu-ray player, and my first Blu-ray:  “2012”, a movie I ironically didn’t really care for, but I bought because I thought it would be the perfect type of flick to test the sound and picture of this new technology.  However, even more ironically, 7 years later, I have yet to even unwrap “2012”.

I think the first movie I watched on Blu-ray was actually the first rated-R film my mom allowed me to see in a theater (I was like 9) and the one I credit with beginning my love for, not just action cinema (though certainly that – you saw my list of my earliest-purchased movies and what they all had in common), but film in general as an art form and creative process:  “Lethal Weapon”.  To this day, that film remains something of a standard for me.  When a new and improved technology comes along, it’s generally the first film that pops into my head that I want to experience in a newfound technical glory.  It did not disappoint (though imagine my surprise when I looked at some reviews of the first generation “Lethal Weapon” Blu-ray and the general consensus seems to be that it is a crappy transfer).  I was convinced. Within a few years Blu-ray prices dropped from what seems to be the usual starting price of all new home video media of around $40 (that’s where DVDs started and now it’s what 4K Blu-rays have come out at) to a new-release norm of $20-ish, to sale prices around $10 or $12, and bargain bin prices if you wait even just a year or two (in many cases) of five to eight bucks (I always kick myself when I buy a title I want right away at 20-plus dollars, and now I see it just thrown into a $5.99 bin).  Also importantly again, TVs have not just caught up to the Blu-ray technology, but 1080p televisions (what you need to get optimal picture from a Blu-ray disc) can often be found dirt cheap (I saw  a 50-inch at Best Buy the other day for well under $300 – I paid like $1800 for my first one seven years ago).

So, my Blu-ray collection is now beginning to rival my massive DVD collection.  I went about buying Blu-rays with the same philosophy I did when replacing my VHS’s with DVDs:  Buy any new titles or films I don’t already own on Blu-ray, slowly replace the ones I already own on DVD, only when I find them cheap.  I have a general “No More Than $10 rule” when it comes to rebuying movies on Blu-ray that I already own on DVD.  The problem is, these days, $10 or less BRs aren’t hard to find.  I’m buying them faster than I can watch them.  Part of it is I’m older now and I have a full-time job and a family.  I’m lucky if I get to see all the new movies I want to see, never mind re-watch older films for an umpteenth time.  Another issue is that TV has really stepped up its game in the last decade.  When I do have time to sit down at home and watch something, I have a DVR full of stellar dramas I’m usually excited watch – or in many cases, shows I simply feel compelled to get through/finish.

I was looking at my film collection a while back and thinking about all of this.  I catch myself looking at all those shelves lined with films sometimes, just staring at them in admiration, or remembering where I was when I first saw a specific film, or thinking about when I first bought it on VHS when I was barely a teenager and how long I had to wait or save-up to get a PVT copy.  Some of them I have yet to even unwrap.  Some of them I haven’t watched in years.  Some of them I haven’t yet seen with adult eyes. I thought, “Man, I should sit down and watch all of these someday”.  So, you know what?  That’s exactly what I’m going to do.  And I’m going to chronical the experience.

Starting next week I am going to watch every movie in my Blu-ray collection and write a short (hopefully) review/post about it:  What I thought of the movie when I first saw it, what I think of it now, what I like about it, what I don’t, if it is special to me for some reason and why, did they fuck up the classic artwork for the Blu-ray cover (a horrible phenomenon of the Blu-ray era – and one of the best things (still) about VHS)?  I’m limiting this experiment, if that’s the right term (it may prove to be just that in the sense of ‘can I actually accomplish this given my schedule?’ – finding time to watch them all will be hard enough, never mind writing about each film –  or ‘will I actually make it through them all?’; and ‘how long will this take?’ I estimate I have around 300 BR titles – with more that will be added while this is going on), just to Blu-rays.  Adding in VHS & DVD would simply be too mammoth an undertaking.  And only films; no TV series or music Blu-rays.  I could watch and discuss “24”, “Arrested Development”, “Archer” and “South Park” forever, but, again, that would simply be far too much; and I really want the focus here to be on my first love: movies.

I hope I can pull this off.  I’m excited.  I think this will be a fun adventure and hopefully lead to some fruitful wring and interesting blog posts and discussions.  I hope you all will follow me on this little adventure.

Please follow my progress on Twitter @RDavidOnTheWire.  #WatchingAllMyBluRaysAtoZ.  I may even finally start a Letterboxd account for this.  I’ll update here and on Twitter if I do.

The Challenge.

Thanks For Everything, Dave.

david_letterman_retirement_announcement

By R. David

This was intended to be a mere brief Facebook status.  One, as you’ll immediately see, I wasn’t even going to bother posting to begin with.  I should have known I could never sum up everything David Letterman has meant to me in a few token sentences.  I quickly found myself on a role and a legitimate appreciation column spewed out  As always, David Letterman has inspired me to do better.

I wasn’t going to bother with this because there has been plenty of media saturation – both today and over the last few weeks – but I would be remiss if David Letterman signed off tonight and I didn’t say something about the man I grew up watching every night as a night-owl kid in the late 80s, then steadily throughout high school, my 20s and to this day.

As much as any of my heroes, Letterman has been my barometer for quality, integrity, originality, and individuality. He was never particularly concerned with popularity, amongst audiences or celebrity guests. He did his show his way, ratings be damned. He was always candid and honest, peoples’ opinions of him be damned. And he never let his guests get off with easy with schmoozing, softball interviews like most of his counterparts (you should all YouTube his post-scandal Paris Hilton & Janet Jackson interviews immediately).

But more than Stupid Pet/Human Tricks, Top Ten Lists, the simple, giddy thrill of throwing things off high-rise buildings, or his surreal man-on-the-street bits (Dave Works the McDonald’s Drive-Thru, Mujibur and Sirijul, Chris Elliot “living” under the stage, Dave’s mom live from the Winter Olympics), it was always Letterman’s serious side that made for captivating, cathartic, and unforgettable television. His first show after 9/11 is one the greatest TV moments in any genre, late night or otherwise. His candid, on-air addressing of his workplace sexual exploits – rather than allow himself to be blackmailed in order to keep it quiet – is surely one of the bravest, most compelling moments in late-night talk show history. And his appreciation of the doctors who performed his quintuple bypass surgery, tearfully bringing them all on the show, speaks to the kind of classy, uncorrupted-by-celebrity guy Dave is and has managed to remain after all these years.

David Letterman is our last link to Johnny Carson and ‘classic’ Late Night television, even though he also single handedly transformed Late Night from the Carson model into a more brazen, exciting, and anything-goes affair. Letterman is the bridge between classic Late Night and the Conans and Kimmels of today.  He has been a constant for an entire generation of TV viewers.  Our Johnny Carson.  When Letterman waves his last giddy, gap-toothed goodbye from behind his desk tonight, he will take with him everything that Late Night TV once was.  It is now a much more fragmented and viral-based beast.  Flavors may one day circle back to the appeal of a slightly dorky, but absurdly unpredictable, often edgy and surprisingly honest comedian that people almost unwittingly turn to in our nation’s most profound moments.

But don’t bet on it.

Cocky, yet genial. Sarcastic, yet heartfelt. Dave is a true original. The format will never be the same again. Fitting, since it hasn’t been the same since he debuted 33 years ago. My 10-year-old self and my 36-year-old self will miss him dearly.

‪#‎ThanksDave‬

IN WHICH I BEMOAN THE DEATH OF BLOCKBUSTER VIDEO AND THE LOSS OF THE ONION

1383766658000-AP-Dish-Blockbuster-Store-Closings

“It’s not necessarily Blockbuster specifically that I’ll miss so much as video stores and video store culture in general.  The fact that there were still a few
Blockbusters standing gave me some hope that this piece of our culture was not
yet dead and buried and may one day be capable of resurgence.” 

By R. David

The world – or perhaps more accurately, the world of pop culture nostalgia – was dealt a double-whammy blow last week when Blockbuster Video announced on November 6th they would (finally) be shuttering the remaining operating locations of the once-dominant mega-rental chain.

If that wasn’t enough to make people in their late 20s/early 30s die a little inside, two days later The Onion, the iconic satire rag, said it would (also finally) cease production of its physical newspaper in the paper’s remaining markets.

Admittedly, both announcements have been a long time coming; and depending where you live, you may have been without either property for several years now (maybe even close to a decade in the case of Blockbuster).  But hearing such definitive news – the finality of these announcements – means having to finally acknowledge and accept what many of us have long known but tried to optimistically ignore: The entertainment world as we once knew it is indeed dead.

It happens to every generation, of course. Out with the old modes of entertainment, in with the new. I guess we shouldn’t be afraid of – or try to discourage – progress. But is further removing our physical means of shopping for and enjoying entertainment necessarily “progress”?  Is an all-computerized, all-online-based model really where we want to end up as a society.

Sure, the dissolve of these once-omnipresent entities will actually have very minimal impact on our lives, as other (and some would argue better and easier) ways of enjoying the product provided by these outlets still exist. And complaining about how we rent movies and read our humorous news stories is practically the definition of a First World Problem. It really doesn’t matter.

Except for those of us it does matter to, of course.

Count me as one.  Why, you ask?  Call it nostalgia, call it resistance to change, or call it being anal and snobbish about how I choose to consume my entertainment; but there are several reasons seeing these staples of my generation fold as physical entities – and in the grander scheme of things, what it says about the future of how we will be limited in our options and selection of entertainment choices – that I feel is cause for alarm.

As much as I dislike watching these staples of my youth fade away because it feels like, well, my youth is fading away – an era is ending – I can accept it as the natural course of things. Things change, eras end, and I am getting older (as we all are). Fair enough, I’ll embrace my mortality. But beyond making me feel old or as if I’m losing a chunk of my youth, watching these two iconic giants surrender – admitting defeat to an increasingly internet-driven culture – and give in to the increasingly accepted notion that online everything is OK is a disheartening glimpse into the future.  Online everything licks my balls.  (He said in a blog post he shared with people via Twitter.)

the-onion-front-page-001

I get it.  This all smacks of the old man shaking his fist at random passersby and complaining that things aren’t the way they used to be in the good old days.  Well, to quote Billy Joel, “The good old days weren’t always good.”  Like everyone else, I bitched and moaned about Blockbuster – or any video store – being out of the title I was looking for, having to run across town or to multiple stores to find specific flicks, late fees, long lines, membership cards, etc.  And of course I use online services for their general ease and convince; whether it’s to buy products, stream content, or download an article in seconds.  It used to be that if my local Walgreens was out of the week’s edition of The Onion, I’d have to schlep across town to find another, or I simply missed it altogether that week, because the locations that stocked the paper were so few and far between (depending on which part of town you lived and how mobile you were).  I love having the online option (and all the options online services provide).

But I don’t want online to be the only option.  I don’t want the selection of what I am able to stream to be determined by which movie studios Netflix or Amazon or Hulu were able to strike a deal with, or have to wait two months after a movie’s DVD release for it to become rentable from Netflix or Red Box.  I don’t want streaming glitches, loading errors, cropped aspect ratios, e-mail-based customer service. I don’t want lack of internet access or “Smart” devices to determine whether or not I can watch a movie tonight.  I don’t want to watch the first movie in a series of films only to find none of the sequels are available.  I don’t want to start a film and then come back to complete it or revisit it only to find it is no longer streaming.

Whatever my complaints about Blockbuster back in the day, there was rarely a title I couldn’t find there and I can’t recall an incident where they carried the first entry in film series but were missing random sequels.  And if these issues did come up, another Blockbuster, or any number of smaller video stores in the area, likely would come to the rescue.  My biggest complaint about Netflix is their poor and inconsistent streaming selection.  Sure, you can opt to also pay for their physical DVD plan (they’d love you too!), but as of right now, my queue lists no less than “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2”, “White Lightening”, “Gator”, and “Sorority House Massacre” and its sequel – in other words, 5 of the 10 movies in my entire queue – as “Very Long Wait” or “Availability Date Is Unknown”; both of which are code for “We don’t have them and don’t hold your fucking breath.”  (I’ve had those first 3 titles in my queue for over a year and they still are listed as “Very Long Wait” – I’ll say.)  Now, granted, none of those films are exactly “Avatar” in terms of customer demand or notoriety in the public consciousness.  But, Netflix has every other movie with “Chainsaw Massacre” somehow in its title; you’d think the series’ first sequel would rate at least as high as any of the others in terms of stocking priority.  “White Lightening” and its sequel, “Gator,” are “classic” Burt Reynolds vehicles.  They are repeatedly referenced in the FX series “Archer”, supposedly one of Netflix’s most-streamed TV titles.  I can’t be the only one who caught the references while watching the series on Netflix, became curious about the real thing, and then tried to dial them up on the very service essentially promoting them, only to still be “waiting” on their availably over a year later.  According to Amazon, the movies retail for about six bucks (in other words, less than I pay for one month of my Netflix DVD subscription), so come on, Netflix; get a copy already, you cheap bastards.  The same goes for the “Sorority House Massacre” movies, by the way.  And those I can guarantee you Blockbuster would have had back in the day.  Shit like that is 90% of what I used Blockbuster for when I was about 14 years-old.

The whole notion of a queue and waiting for DVDs to be mailed, while undeniably convenient, is also irksome.  If I get it in my head I want to see a specific movie because I have just heard about it or was recently reminded of it, I want to be able to go get it right now.  I don’t want to go online, put it in my queue and get it in a few days.  This entire process promotes the phenomenon of Netflix envelopes sitting on the coffee table for two months at a time.  I wanted the movie when I put it my queue.  I had the interest in it and the time to watch it then.  Three days later when it finally shows up, maybe not so much.  Granted, my disorganized life or fickle interests are not Netflix’s problem, but neither of us would have a problem if I could have just driven down the street when I decided I was in the mood for said film, got it, watched it, and been done with it.

netflix-logo1-590x360

And actually, what is simpler than that?  The whole notion that Netflix and its contemporaries are making our lives easier and saving our precious time is something of a misnomer.  Yeah, I don’t have to drive anywhere, but how much time am I going to waste browsing through what’s available to stream after I discover they don’t have the movie I actually wanted to watch, only to throw my hands up and ultimately not watch anything at all (again, see: Netflix’s shitty and limited streaming selection)?

That is the practical side of my argument.  The personal side comes down to the fact that it just ain’t right, I tells ya, to deprive people of the experience of going to a video store, browsing the isles and narrowing down your selection from the five boxes you have in your hand.  I will never forget being barely 13 years-old and riding my bike from my house on the 4400 block of N. Woodburn St. in Shorewood, WI, across the bridge, over the Milwaukee river to the Blockbuster and Pick ‘N Save video stores (“Pick ‘N View”) on E. Capitol Dr.; and spending hours studying the artwork and plot summaries on the VHS boxes I had already looked at a thousand times before, shooting the shit with the video store clerks (probably annoying the hell out of them), silently judging other customers for their selections, killing time waiting for someone to Please, for the love of God, just return one copy of “Harley Davidson and the Marlborough Man” before I have to get home!, digging through the bin of old promo posters they were always trying to get rid of by selling for a few bucks, and waiting with bated breath for “Lethal Weapon 3” to finally be placed on the Previously Viewed sale rack so I could add it to my ever-expanding home video collection for a bargain price (back when a used VHS tape for 15 or 20 bucks could be considered a bargain).  Blockbuster and the surrounding neighborhood video stores have at least 80% of the money I made as kid from chores and my earliest jobs.  The video store experience and dynamic were as responsible for my love of film today as movies themselves.

The irony here – I know – is that the behemoth that was Blockbuster Video quickly forced a lot of smaller video stores out of business, depriving many people of the alternative selection and location that those mom and pop neighborhood outlets often provided (not to mention those jobs).  Blockbuster was essentially the Netflix of their day.  But, with all due respect to the under-severed Foreign, Indie and other niche film fan communities at the time, Blockbuster largely had the goods to compensate for and justify being the only game in town.

And there was a time – a short, but glorious and wonderful time – where a ton of different size, shape and style video stores were all able to coexist.  I would delight in bouncing from one to the other, each providing their own flavor and ambience so distinct that when I think back to those specific stores I can still smell the air in each one of them.  If Blockbuster was out of a certain title or didn’t stock it, no matter, I had five other options.  Sure, some of them were quite the bike ride for a kid barely in his teens – and much further than he should have been riding as far as safety (and his mom) was concerned – but that was part of the fun.  The thrill of the hunt.  The variety of people, locations, selection, and products throughout all these distinct rental store locales.  Blockbuster was polished, shiny, and attractive.  Some of these other places were in the basements of malls that had no business promoting themselves as a mall; and in addition to renting videos, they sold used books and vinyl records, bootleg concert tapes, and of course more than a few places had that, ahem, “special” section I was trying to always steal a peek into.

And it was amazing.  If you never experienced this, it’s hard to properly convey the allure of it all.

Of course convenience will always trump nostalgia, so it’s hardly a surprise something came along that streamlined and simplified the home video experience.  I guess I should just be glad that I lived in a town where so many different video store options were able to survive as long as they did; several of them well into the back half of the aughts.  Certainly now one of the last stores standing after last week’s news, the Shorewood Blockbuster on N. Oakland Ave. is still operational.  But the general reaction to Blockbuster’s closing this month is mostly of the “who cares?” or “I thought they went out of business years ago” variety. I’m sure I’m in the minority of folks who think this is big news.

It’s not so much that it’s news as what this news means.  As you can probably tell, it’s not necessarily Blockbuster specifically that I’ll miss so much as video stores and the video store culture in general.  The fact that there were still a few Blockbusters standing gave me some hope that this piece of our culture was not yet dead and buried and may one day be capable of resurgence.  And it indeed may be.  Everything is cyclical, and what was cool then and not cool now is often cool again tomorrow.  A generation from now, perhaps video stores will be all the rage once more.  I’m hardly the only person who bemoans the Netflix experience, but with the internet being so omnipresent in our society, even in our individual everyday lives, it’s unlikely that people will go against the on-demand grain any time soon.  Hopefully there will come a time when the novelty of getting our entertainment exclusively in this fashion wears off, and a move back to physical mediums of entertainment will once again share equal shelf space, as it were, with streaming services and online retailers.

After all, if I can grow up with 5 different video stores in my town, all finding room to coexist with Blockbuster, surely the video rental business pie is big enough for Netflix and the traditional video store to each get a slice.

In the case of The Onion, things are not quite as dire.  People seem to be just fine with making the move to reading newspapers on computers, tablets and other mobile devices.  If nothing else, going paperless saves trees and lowers publishing costs.  Ever the traditionalist, however, I still subscribe to a daily paper (though, admittedly, even I have come to a point where I can no longer justify the several hundred dollars per year it costs me and will regretfully be dumping it when my subscription expires) and I still look forward every week to seeing the latest edition of The Onion waiting for me at my local Walgreens or Subway.  Why?  It’s simple, really.  In this case nostalgia doesn’t play nearly the role for me as in the demise of Blockbuster.  While The Onion was a constant of my teenage years and has remained a weekly staple ever since, frankly, I have enough clutter in my home, car and office without tripping over 3 month-old issues of The Onion that seem to enjoy multiplying like Gremlins around my person.  I’d be fine to see the paper go all-digital if it weren’t for the fact that everything is going digital.  Just as video rentals, retail and host of other industries are becoming online-only commodities, so too is print.  Again, ostensibly not a terrible thing from a logical perspective; but rather more for the fact that I follow so damn many news and entertainment sites which all report on the same stories and say essentially the same thing, none of them really stand out from the pack.  A newspaper that still prints a physical paper gains (or maintains) a certain weight, stature, validity, and distinction (yay for superlatives!).

627

Now, you’re probably thinking, “The Onion?  But that’s just a free, fake, humorous paper.”  Perhaps.  But as important to me as The Onion itself is the inclusion of The A.V. Club that comes bundled with each week’s installment.  The A.V. Club offers smart analysis on a wide spectrum of arts and entertainment and is loaded with movie and music reviews, interesting nostalgia and trivia pieces, as well as previews of and commentary on local entertainment events (and it hosts a print source for Dan Savage’s “Savage Love” column, which justifies the section’s existence all by itself).  The A.V. Club features some of the best writers in the business whose pieces are always gloriously detailed (yet somehow also amazingly succinct) and fervently relevant.  When you are forced to wait for the issue to arrive and have time to anticipate what the writers will tackle each week, and look forward to picking it up and reading it front to back, the trade ensures a certain loyal excitement.

The A.V. Club only dolling out its reviews on their website or to Twitter followers just makes them another dust mite in the blogosphere vacuum (that’s not a knock against the talented writers and staff of the A.V. Club; they deserve to not simply have their voices lost in the shuffle of so many similarly snarky pop culture sites).  Getting everything at once in a nice weekly package the reader can pore over rather than having to keep up with or search for piecemeal updates throughout the day and week is far more appealing.  The same thing goes for The Onion proper.  As pure entertainment, the paper is a fabulous tool to take with you into the john or keep handy for slow patches at work.  Now granted, most people will opt to peruse the internet during these moments as much as any physical time-killing accessory, but there are times and places where it’s just not convenient or allowed to whip out your iPad or Kindle.  And if you do jump on your mobile device, chances are there are far too many app options, Facebook notifications, or sites you’re following on Twitter to readily focus on any single one of them.  I am willing to wager nobody reads any online site as intently and inclusively as they would read a newspaper, magazine or any site’s physical counterpart.  Making The Onion and The A.V. Club nothing more than part of all that background noise cheapens its existence and dulls its impact, practically guaranteeing their audience won’t discover half the content they produce.

We’ve actually reached the point where having a physical, print edition of your paper is what sets you apart.  You’d think The Onion would see that very fact as a positive and move to capitalize on it.  Any organization as savvy, cynical and sarcastic as The Onion/The A.V. Club has to see the great irony in all this (they’ve ran more stories and headlines chastising the internet age than any reader could count); and you’d also think they would be the one organization that would hold out – even if simply for nostalgia’s sake or to appeal to the hipster in its core demographic – and refuse to succumb to the demise of print media.  I’d also argue that it’s loyal fan base wouldn’t be opposed to plunking down a quarter or 50 cents each week if that’s what it took to keep for the powers that be to justify the physical paper’s continued existence.  Maybe not, but if money’s an issue, it’s worth a try, right?.

Well, apparently not.  I get it.  Business is business and if The Onion has indeed reached a point where it simply doesn’t make economic sense to continue its print edition in the lone market of Milwaukee (I guess Milwaukeeans should take some pride in the fact that they outlasted every other market that The Onion used to print in), I can accept that.  But, again, it is simply another ugly reminder that everything is making the move away from the physical and to the digital.

Look, guys; it’s not just Blockbuster and The Onion.  I could bemoan how Best Buy’s CD and DVD aisles and inventory shrink dramatically with each passing year as the push to shop online becomes more and more ubiquitous (their music and film selections are truly pathetically limited at this point – I don’t know who these people are who are content to house their entire music an movie collections on a hard drive, but I hope I never meet any of the sick fuckers).  And when Best Buy announces it will become an exclusively online entity or that it’s shuttering its stores altogether, I’ll likely write another longwinded, pissy diatribe about how our society is going to hell in hand basket (because old man phrases!), and blame Amazon or some other online retailer of the day, while fully acknowledging the irony that I also patronize the competition.

I see the value and convenience in online retailers, video rental services, and print publications.  But I also value the experience in their – unfortunately increasingly scarce – physical counterparts.  There has to be room out there for both.  I simply can’t accept that we are on the brink of a generation that will not know what a video store or newspaper (or perhaps any physical media at all) is.

028

Me (right) and @MichalskiNick hard at work at North Shore Video (R.I.P.) In Milwaukee, WI circa 1997. Livin’ the dream…

(Blockbuster Image: Courtesy USA Today, Onion and AV Club Image: Courtesy theonion.com)

A WORD OR TWO ABOUT ‘BATFLECK’

affleck-4296984463d6281c925c6461fe7c560ba45ea3c5-s6-c30

photo credit: npr.org

By R. David

On August 22, 2013 – a date that will live in internet infamy – Warner Bros. announced that Ben Affleck will be the new Batman in director Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” sequel.  And immediately, as is now universal custom whenever a major pop culture casting decision is revealed, the Twitterverse and blogospheres lost their collective shit.

Frankly, no matter who was named the new Batman, things likely would have gone down pretty much the same way.  After all, what else is social media for if not to bitch about pop culture news?  Well, okay; that and shit like Grumpy Cat.

Actually, for once, I’m not sure the Internet had come together in agreement on the perfect choice for the new Dark Knight.  I don’t think there was even a fanboy Top 5 that formed something resembling a general consensus.  I heard Ryan Gosling’s name floated a bit (which would have been a terrible pick) and there was some (apparently premature or flat-out false) indication that Josh Brolin was the front-runner (I can see that).  Beyond that, there was a lot of talk about virtual unknowns and guys that you’d only want to be Batman because you watch “True Blood” getting the part.

Ultimately, Warner Bros. decided to go with a big name star and someone who’s career is on a critical and commercial hot streak at the moment (if you’ve forgotten, the last movie Affleck was in – which he also directed – just won the Best Picture Oscar).  If nothing else, from a business standpoint, I can’t fault their logic.

Oh, but the all-knowing fanboy masses apparently can.

Early internet chatter on the casting news has been overwhelmingly negative; with comic book fans, movie buffs, and even people who clearly don’t really give a shit who plays Batman caught in some weird Twitter competition to determine who can deliver the zaniest pun.  The real crazies went so far as to say things like “I’ll never see another Warner Bros. movie again,” and wishing harm to Affleck so the role would have to be recast.  Hell, within 24 hours there was already a change.org petition protesting Affleck’s casting.  Petitions, fer cryin’ out loud, people!

Most of the outrage comes from people who, ten years later, still feel burned by Affleck’s turn in “Daredevil”.  I’ll grant you guys, he wasn’t exactly an acting powerhouse in that one, but it was a shitty movie all around; a Marvel Comics’ movie before Marvel started making decent movies about their second-tier characters.

daredevil

image credit: tasteofcinema.com

Also, Affleck was a much different actor – and all-around person, some would argue – 10 years ago.  So this also goes for the people bringing up “Gigli”, “Reindeer Games”, or “Pearl Harbor”:  Whatever work the guy did at the height of his “Next Big Thing”, paycheck(no pun intended)-cashing, “Beniffer” days is probably not the greatest barometer with which to judge his acting skills – never mind his ability to portray Batman/Bruce Wayne.

I used to be as big an Affleck-hater as the next guy.  He seemed incapable of giving a performance without projecting an irksome air of bland smugness into every role (because, I figured, he probably was an irksome, bland and smug dude and just too shitty an actor to hide it on screen).  And nearly all of his film choices in the first two-thirds of the 2000s were utter crap (except for the time – ironically – when he portrayed “Superman” actor George Reeves in “Hollywoodland“).  But he has made a career turnaround in the last 6 years or so that is right out of a classic Hollywood comeback tale.  “Gone Baby Gone”, “The Town” and “Argo” is as impressive a trilogy as any current director has delivered, never mind as their first three films out of the gate.  Granted, his directorial chops say nothing about his ability to play Batman, but it’s worth noting that he also starred in “The Town” and “Argo” – both brooding character dramas, not unlike Batman thematically– and to great dramatic effect.

image credit: film.com

image credit: film.com

Also, Superhero movies have a way of chewing up and spitting out the guys who seem perfect for the job, while proving those initially thought to be miscast as revelations.  Michael Keaton, generally a comedian and in no way physically imposing, as the first cinematic Batman; Heath Ledger, untested in anything resembling dark, psychological drama, as The Joker in “The Dark Knight”; relative unknown Hugh Jackman as Wolverine; and to one generation Robert Downey Jr. was a Hollywood punch line and to another he was, “who?”, when cast as Tony Stark/Iron Man – all were met with the same sort of venom-spewing indignation from obsessive comic book fans as Affleck is receiving at the moment .

Conversely; George Clooney, an up-and-coming Hollywood A-lister, was seen as the perfect choice to carry on the  Batman torch; Eric Bana was supposed to bring a certain gravitas to the role of the Hulk that often proved unattainable in big, Hollywood blockbusters; Nicolas Cage – still doing better-than-average box office numbers on his name alone at the time – in “Ghost Rider”; and Ray Stevenson (here’s your argument for – or against, depending on how you want to look at it – casting a relatively unknown TV actor as the titular hero in a comic book movie) was supposed to be the guy that saved “The Punisher” movie franchise.

Obviously, how those supposed bone-headed casting decisions worked out VS the supposed sure-things says a mouthful about trying to predict what type of actor will make a great superhero.

michael-keaton-batman-returns

image credit: nerdacy.com

christianbaleinthe_2278122b

image credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

But choosing a quality Batman doesn’t simply boil down to bold, eyebrow-raising casting decisions. Michael Keaton and Christian Bale were the only Batmen to make an impression because they shared one simple but generally overlooked trait that Val Kilmer and George Clooney lacked: the ability to give two separate and distinguishable performances – one as Batman, one as Bruce Wayne.  Keaton was (surprisingly) effectively stoic and heroic as The Caped Crusader, but had a completely different attitude and demeanor as Bruce Wayne; convincing as both the shrewd business man and cocky playboy of Wayne’s public persona, but also as the tormented recluse of the character’s true self.  So successfully inhabiting both sides of the Batman/Bruce Wayne character is what made Keaton arguably the best Caped Crusader yet.  It’s a shame Tim Burton’s two Goth-deco epics with Keaton never truly mined the depths of the Wayne psyche the way Christopher Nolan’s films and – to an even greater and darker extent – Frank Miller’s comic adaptions of the character did. I would have loved to see Keaton dig even deeper into the Batman/Bruce-public/private divide.

Christian Bale pulled off a similar feat in Nolan’s Batpics, though I was never as convinced of his fun-loving playboy persona, of course that was no doubt an intentional choice on his and Nolan’s part to portray and explore a much darker Bruce Wayne. That makes Bale’s Wayne less removed from his titular alter ego, however he was no less convincing in drawing a line of distinction between the two.

The two Joel Schumacher Batman films of the mid-90s had many problems beyond the choice of actors to play Batman. Perhaps if they had been in films less cartoonish, poorly written and overstuffed with supporting characters; and that were less of a gaudy, fetishistic visual nightmare – maybe in completely different movies – Val Kilmer or George Clooney could have been a quality Batman/Bruce Wayne. As it is, their portrayals offer no distinction between the two personalities and no exploration into the mind and motivations of the two alter egos.  They give the same performance out of the Batsuit as in, and mistake both characters for fun-loving, gadget-obsessed thrill-seekers.  James Bond in a rubber suit (and this time with nipples and a codpiece, everybody!)

image credit: www.avclub.com

image credit: www.avclub.com

image credit: comicbookresources.com

image credit: comicbookresources.com

I have no reason to assume Ben Affleck – or Zack Snyder for that matter; he is the guy giving Affleck his direction after all – understands this distinction and will not make the same mistakes that Schumacher, Kilmer and Clooney did.  However, I have no reason to assume he will make the same mistakes either. Christopher Nolan (you know, the guy who gave the world what is overwhelmingly considered the most complex and narratively ambitious rendering of the Batman universe on screen so far) is producing Affleck’s first stab at the character; Warner Bros. would never allow another debacle the likes of the Schumacher Batflicks; and Affleck has grown by leaps and bounds as not just an actor but as a true filmmaker who, by that very definition, should understand the necessity of character development and giving an in-depth, multilayered performance.

As much as I’ve come around to accepting The New Ben Affleck, I too admittedly have some concerns about him being the right guy for the cowl. Something about his demeanor just doesn’t scream Batman to me. And even though I think he’s been good in several dramas, I have yet to see Affleck go really dark, or tackle any psychologically complex characters. And I fear as Bruce Wayne, he will simply pull out the same smirky, smug, smart-alecky posturing he coasted on for so much of his early career, before donning the Batsuit and then simply grimacing his way through the action sequences.

benaffleck2

But honestly, those are concerns I would have of nearly any actor set to take this role.  But that’s why they call it acting.  Ben Affleck may not have a lot of the necessary cred under his belt to justify him landing this gig; but then again, neither did Michael Keaton or Christian Bale or Heath Ledger. Producers and directors have to be trusted to know which performers embody what they are looking for in their characters and give them the part based on how they fit into that mold – and hopefully how capable they are of breaking it. My hope is that Warner Bros., Snyder and Nolan genuinely see that in Affleck, and not simply a big name to potentially beef-up grosses when a lesser-known actor may have brought a more complex performance to the table.

Only time will tell and I may eat my words (and I will gladly admit fault if that time indeed comes), but I say Ben Affleck will end up surprising us all, and his Batman will be the next step in his impressive career evolution.

Frankly, I’m more concerned that Snyder and Co. botch the whole ‘Superman VS Batman’ concept and set Affleck up to fail by sticking him in movie that treats Batman as an afterthought or stunt-casting coupe simply to get people to pay for another bombastic-yet-empty “Man of Steel” flick.  We’re assuming Snyder’s take on Batman will even want to be as dark and morally complex as Nolan and Burton’s renderings. They could be shooting for a much more family-friendly, Marvel-like take on the character(s) simply to set-up the inevitable “Justice League” behemoth and position it as an “Avengers”-style, easily accessible crowd-pleaser.

Christ, I hope not.

There too, though:  deep breath, remain calm, positive thoughts.

AN OPEN LETTER TO SYLVESTER STALLONE AND BRUCE WILLIS

Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis

“An Open Letter To Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis”

August 7, 2013

Dear Mr. Stallone and Mr. Willis,

Speaking on behalf of millions of Americans, I am writing to let you know just how troubling I (we) found today’s news of a growing rift between the two of you which has resulted in Mr. Willis dropping out of “The Expendables 3″.

Gentlemen, this is no good.

Two of America’s few remaining legitimate action heroes – nay, ICONS – should not be feuding at a time when the action movie landscape is so bleak.  Today’s kids are being brought up to believe that the term “action movie” means a bunch CGI robots and “action hero” means Shia LaBouf running around screaming like a little girl.  It’s a shitshow out here, fellas.  We need you.

I know.  Business and money and egos are important.  Really, I understand.  Movies are a business, your careers and images are a business, and when two people don’t see eye to eye on what is best or fair in a business relationship shit gets sticky.  I get it.  As much as we true believers like to romanticize movies as purely an art form – a means of escape and place where dreams can come true – I understand that at the end of the day getting a movie made boils down to lots of complicated decisions and negotiations.  It’s hard to imagine now, but there was I time – when I was kid – where my friends and I would all sit around and say things like, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger where in the SAME MOVIE?!”, or, “Who would win in a fight:  Stallone or Schwarzenegger?”  Adults would always inform me that it would never happen because it would be too expensive, or the stars’ egos would clash, or neither one would want to be the loser, etc.

Well, it might have taken a while, but thanks to “The Expendables” franchise, all of us ’70s and ’80s kids finally got to see that cinematic dream come true.  And I thank you for finally making it happen, Mr. Stallone – sincerely and wholeheartedly.  But you didn’t just stop there.  Oh no.  You brought along Mr. Yippi-Ki-Yay himself.  If there was ever a crazier dream for young action movie fans in the 1980s than putting Stallone and Schwarzenegger in the same movie, it was adding Bruce Fucking Willis too.  Two big-time action movie stars in one movie was too much for anyone to realistically hope for; three was something only crackheads and SNL writers could envision.

I hope you both will indulge me in a girly little story here for a moment:  When I was in 8th grade, circa 1993, I had to design a poster for an art class.  I chose to design a movie poster.  All I did was write the names of all my favorite action heroes in big, black magic marker, and then slap a title and a tagline at the bottom (Title: “No Man’s Land”.  Tagline:  “Don’t Cross”.  Rated R.).  My homemade one-sheet looked something like this:

CLINT EASTWOOD

SYLVESTER STALLONE

MEL GIBSON

BRUCE WILLIS

STEVEN SEAGAL

WESLEY SNIPES

and   ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER

a RICHARD DONNER film

I scribbled the title of my fantasy movie on there in a smaller font than any of the names, almost like it was an afterthought (because it was).  I just wanted to see all those names I so adored come together on the same movie poster, even if it was one I was making myself at my kitchen table.  The fact that I would be handing it in to be graded somehow made it seem less like a fantasy and more like something that might actually happen.  And be honest, guys; you’d go see that fucking movie!  You wouldn’t even have to look past those names for a title.  Nope.  Doesn’t matter.  What’s it about?  Shut the fuck up, that’s what.  It’s about Eastwood, Stallone, Gibson, Willis, Seagal, Snipes and Schwarzenegger IN THE SAME MOVIE!!!  BOOM!  No explanation necessary.

I don’t remember the grade I ended up with for that assignment, not that it mattered.  I made that thing for me, not for some silly grade.  So imagine how excited I was – and how brilliantly prophetic I felt – when I saw the first poster for the original “Expendables”.  What did it look like?  That’s right, a long list of names with the title squeezed in at the bottom!  Wow.  Just wow.  Great minds, Stallone.  Great minds.

The Expendables poster

So, now I’m 34 and it only took a little over the same number of years later from the age I was when I made that poster (got that?) to see my dream (basically) realized.  Now I know what you’re thinking:  “34?  Pfft.  I’m not making movies to please 34 year-olds.  I’m done reading this.”  I can totally relate.  It’s like when I try to reminisce about the cool shit I grew up with like Rambo and He-Man and “Predator” and “Born In the USA” and “Die Hard” and “Purple Rain” and “The A-Team” and “Lethal Weapon” with some Millennial kid and they have no idea what I’m talking about – but The Spice Girls, “Titanic”, Pokemon, and “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” were, “like, totally the shit, bro”…  God, these kids today are the fucking worst, you guys.  To be clear though, fellas; I’m not just sitting here saying, “Yeah, I love Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis!  Rambo and “Die Hard” 4EVA!!!!”  Oh no.

Sly.  Can I call you Sly?  Thanks.  The Rambo movies aren’t even close to my favorite of your films.  “Rocky” either.  I love ‘em – naturally – but I’m not one of these dumbasses who say stupid shit like, “Well “Rocky” and Rambo were good, but that’s it”.  Nope.  Are you aware that I love “Oscar”?  (Of course you’re not – how could you be?  Stupid question – but now you know.)  And I don’t mean in some sort of guilty-pleasure or ironic sort of way.  No.  I fucking love “Oscar”.  You’re amazing in that movie.  Go watch yourself it that movie right now.  Go on.  I’ll wait.  See?  You’re hilarious in that!  A comic genius.  I’m not kissing your ass; I actually believe that.  Anyone being honest with themselves and not all, “Stallone can’t act” and “What’s an action guy doing staring in a comedy”, knows this.  What’s Stallone doing in a comedy?  Fucking WINNING, that’s what.  “Rhinestone” was kind of a piece of shit, but I can watch you sing “Drinkenstein” for hours!  “Demolition Man”?  Epic.  “Cliffhanger”?  Epic.  “Tango & Cash”?  Epic.  Remember “Assassins”?  Sly, I fucking remember “Assassins”.  I watch that gem all the time.  I thought “Cop Land” was the best movie of 1997.  Fuck “Titanic”.  It was “Cop Land”.  And I have gone to the mat several times in defense of “Get Carter” which, if nothing else, has one of the best movie posters ever.  I’ve had that thing on my wall for 13 years now – through college, girlfriends, marriage and kids – “Get Carter” saw it all.

And Bruno.  Can I call you Bruno? Oh, sorry.  Look man, I know it sounds like I’m really just jerking Sly off here and you’re probably thinking, “What does this have to do with me?”  Just between you and me, bud (and Sly and everyone reading this, I guess), you are one of the most consistently great actors around.  People, I’m not just trying to butter Bruce up here.  I mean that.  I’m not necessarily talking about ‘great’ in an Oscar-winning sense (though I can think of plenty of movies where you should have had them hurled at you), but great in that you never, EVER let me down with a performance.  The only way I can properly explain this is to compare you to Clint Eastwood.  Clint is always Clint, but he’s always perfect.  That’s you, Bruce.  You get most of your kudos for “Die Hard”, “Pulp Fiction”, and “The Sixth Sense”; and deservedly so.  “Die Hard” is maybe the best pure action movie all time.  But you know what else is fucking amazing?  “Hudson Hawk”.  Look at me, Bruce.  I’m saying that shit with a straight face.  That movie is so insanely infectious that I just feel sorry for people who don’t like it.  They must just hate joy or something.  I don’t know how much fun you were having making that movie, but from the looks of things, it was a lot.  That movie is insane.  How about “The Last Boy Scout”?  The only thing that big tumor of awesome cancer is lacking is a sequel.  Why was there no sequel, Bruce?  I really want to know.  “Unbreakable”?  You should make more movies with M. Night Shyamalan; that guy could use the help.  Remember when you were a bunny in that fucking “North” movie?  Let’s put it this way, Champ; thank God you were a bunny in that fucking “North” movie.  Also, I’ve seen “Striking Distance” more times than probably anybody on the face of this planet simply because it came out when I was about 14, you were in it and you had a gun.  That’s all it takes, Bruce.  Still.

I’m just scratching the tip of the iceberg here with both of your filmographies.  I could go on all night.  The point is, I love you guys.  Not just as some sort of fair-weather fan or when I need a nostalgia trip, but still.  I’ll see any movie either of you make, and await their releases impatiently.  Bruce, you working with directors like Terry Gilliam, Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino has been one of the joys of my movie-going life.  And Sly, you directing again has resulted in a couple of my favorite movies of the last half decade or so (“Rambo” and “Rocky Balboa” were both such perfect epilogs for those characters).

Guys, the bottom line here is we can’t have you fighting.  Jesus Christ Almighty, we can’t.  The world can’t bear it.  We’re already at a point where people are actually considering Channing Tatum as an action star.  Channing fucking Tatum!  Bruce, I remember when “Live Free or Die Hard” was set to come out and you implored everyone to have faith; that you wouldn’t let them tarnish the reputation of John McClane with a subpar entry in the series.  And you were right.  That movie was great (especially the unrated version which should have been the theatrical cut, but we don’t have to get into all that again – although a blu-ray release of that version would be nice already…).  You obviously care (so I’ll give you mulligan for “A Good Day To Die Hard” and assume the studio fucked it all up in post).  Sly just wants to deliver the best movie possible for fans like me.  And not just the best movie, but the best package possible.  That means you, and Arnold, and Seagal, and Cage, and Gibson, and (please, God) Eastwood, and whomever else he can enlist to keep making the dreams of my (and my generation’s) youth come true.  You have to be in it, Bruce.  You just have to.  Forget money.  This isn’t about money.  These dumbass Millennial kids need to see what real action heros look like, not some flavor-of-the-day jackass poppin’ and lockin’ on the hood of a car in one movie and shooting a gun in the next.

I’m not going to pick sides, or say who is worth what amount of money, or what amount of money is unreasonable.  That’s not my place as a fan – frankly, it’s for you guys to figure out.  But please, do figure it out.  This shit is like “Alien VS Predator”, guys:  Whoever Wins, We All Lose.  So please – for the kid who made the original “Expendables” poster at his kitchen table nearly 20 years ago – be men, and kiss and make up.

images

Love,

Ron

“WHERE’S WALDO” FILM ON THE HORRIZON. HOLLYWOOD IS OFFICIALLY LAUGHING IN OUR FUCKING FACES!

Yup, that's right. This thing a movie.

 

By R. David

No further explanation beyond that headline should be necessary as to why news that a “Where’s Waldo” script has been completed has landed in our FU Hollywood page.  The announcement of a Lego movie a few weeks ago seemed to reach a new low in how far studios will go to rape and pillage anything – anything! – they make money off of from the public’s nostalgia for or simple name recognition of.  I can accept that there are times where I may go overboard in my Hollywood bashing, letting every little remake set me off on a rant about protecting my beloved childhood properties that only I and a handful of other nutjobs care about.  But if news that there is about to be a film version of a book about a guy who hides out in mass crowds of people does not make you want to take a pilgrimage to L.A., burn down the Hollywood sign and piss on its ashes in protest, you have no soul.  In fact, doing any less will set a dangerous president.  We throw around phrases like, “Man, people will pay for anything.”  The studio that produces a fucking “Where’s Waldo” movie literally thinks/hopes/knows we will pay for anything.  So, who’s got the torches and pitchforks?  I’m driving.

FU HOLLYWOOD!

A Battleship movie - based on the board game - will feature pop star Rhianna. And may God have mercy on our souls.

Today “Out on the Wire” adds a new feature that is, quite frankly, well past due.  We all know the powers that be in Hollywood make some baffling decisions; from remaking classic films seemingly only to dumb them down for mass consumption, to greenlighting abominations like “Jack & Jill” in the first place, to allowing soul-sucking, talentless hacks like Snookie, Ke$ha, and Kim Kardashian to run way past their 15 minutes.

It’s no secret that Hollywood “jumped the shark” long ago in terms of the sort of awful ideas they will push into development in the name of the almighty dollar; but on the heels of word that Warner Bros. is currently developing a Lego movie (you didn’t misread that:  a friggin’ Lego movie!) – in addition to the Battleship, Ouija, and Monopoly movies all currently in the pipeline – Out on the Wire can no longer sit idly by and not create a forum to complain about each of these mind-boggling awful ideas as they are occur.

We are fully aware that the audiences who make terrible movies, TV shows and music into mega-hits are just as much to blame for the onslaught of insipid, uninspired and downright awful product that Hollywood sharts into the marketplace on a regular basis (perhaps more so since audiences voting with their wallets determines what sort of projects these studios will continue to produce – and then proceed to immediately run into the ground), and we are also prepared for the fact that some of these ideas may just prove crazy enough to work and we may be eating our words down the road.

Still, there is much to rail against in the entertainment world, here is the place to do it.  Please send any articles devoted to Hollywood’s crimes against humanity to editoroutonthewire@gmail.com, att:  Eff You, Hollywood!

Go Nuts!