|One Nation, Under God...||
"The real democratic American ideal is, not that every man shall be on a level with every other man, but |
that every man shall have liberty to be what God made him, without hindrance." --Henry Ward Beecher
Check this cat out:
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Posted 7:16 AM by WiN
On movie screenings, reserve seats, and more Serenity
Since attending the screening of Serenity, the Big Damn Movie (BDM) Tuesday night as part of a blog promotional scheme, I've been poking around trying to get a handle on how well the promotional aspect went off. As one indication, pinging Google Blog Search for "Serenity movie" returns almost 14,000 hits, so I'd say that's pretty good response. Without exception, all of the reviews I've clicked on were positive, and most of them were positively glowing (not to say orgasmic). But another common thread is the dissatisfaction of bloggers with the way the screening invitations were handled by the promoter.
Everyone that signed up to attend the screening received an email confirmation that began "Congratulations! You are one of the lucky bloggers to be chosen and confirmed for the screening of SERENITY for the time, date and the number of guests that you have requested. Please note, this confirmation DOES NOT guarantee you a seat at the screening." Now this didn't bother me because I've been to a ton of screenings in the last year thanks to a guy I work with who has a hook-up through his daughter to get passes for anything Sony is involved with. There are always a few rows right in the center of the theater roped off for reviewers and VIPs. I have never seen those rows fill up before the show starts. The rest of the seats are open, however, and allocated on a first come, first served basis to other pass holders (like myself) who are there through the good graces of a local radio station promotion or whatever, so usually there's a line beginning about 90 minutes or so before show time. No big deal, trade an hour or so of your time for a free movie, right? But if you don't know what's going on and get there late (as I have done), you risk sitting on the front row or not getting in at all.
Well, when I saw the email, I knew that I would have to get there in time to get one of those 'press row' seats, but since they usually don't fill up anyway I figured no problemo. Sure enough, I got there about 45 minutes before showtime and there were still plenty of seats, not only in the press section but also on the floor with the hoi polloi. There was, however, one very large African American gentleman who had a little problem with the concept of 'first come, first served'. As is typical in a crowded theater, those who get there first tend to sit either right in the center of the row or on the aisle. As the upper section had filled quickly, there were only a few scattered seats left, and the ones he wanted were on a row anchored by an enormous African-American girl, who was not budging. After a minute or two of unsuccessfully trying to convince her to move over so that he and his (also large) buddy could sit down, he began yelling, cursing and threatening her and everyone around her. The mostly white audience was getting pretty darned nervous by the time the manager came to try to calm him down. He was not convinced to give up in his quest for the seats until two rather nervous-looking private security guards appeared to back the manager up. Meanwhile, all the seats on the floor filled up, so he had no choice but to leave and come back Friday.
Anyway, the moral of the story is get there early and don't sweat it. I was glad to be able to sit in the press section, which did actually fill up, probably due to the bloggers, but I doubt anyone who had signed up to review the movie got turned away unless they waited until the last 10 minutes or so to arrive. So even though there were no "guaranteed" seats, anyone who wanted to review it could have. From what I've seen, there were at least some controls to prevent overbooking of blog reviewers.
A little bit more on the movie itself. I said yesterday that "The Operative" seemed to supersede the "Blue Hands" guys from the series, and that it seemed to be something of a discontinuity. Well, last night I finally got around to seeing the final show, "Objects in Space", which also adds a bounty hunter into the mix of ruthless characters after River. The bounty hunter, Early, happens to be black, as is also The Operative from the movie. The only other black male who is prominent in the series, though not in the movie, is the enigmatic Shepard Book. Book is the subject of much speculation amongst fans due to the fact that his background is mostly unexplained and he has a penchant for inexplicably displaying talents that a holy man would not ordinarily posses, such as gun marksmanship and decking a guy with a single punch. Early, the bounty hunter, also makes the comment "That's no Shepard" when he sees Book, but we aren't given any indication on what basis that assessment is made. It's just one of the little mysterious sidelines that make the characters and the series so interesting, but one which now appears may never be resolved (it isn't in the movie). But it does appear that, whatever Book's transgressions may have been in a previous life, his quiet faith and timely wisdom, along with his willingness to help the crew out of tight spots, is serving to draw Mal back to his faith (as evidenced during the battle scenes from the pilot "Serenity"). Just one of the many facets of this little world that Whedon has so successfully sucked us into.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Posted 11:35 AM by WiN
Serenity Flies Again
What happens when a TV show goes beyond the banal, the kitschy, the trendy and the formulaic and goes for high-quality and high-concept with non-trivial characterization and a great story line?. Well, in the case of Firefly, Joss Whedon's late, much-lamented sci-fi show originally produced for FOX, you can garner a rabidly fanatical fan base in a short production run, and keep the dream alive by producing a high quality action-adventure movie that could very well become another cult classic.
Although the TV series was cancelled in late 2002 after only 11 episodes aired (14 total episodes were shot), Whedon fans along with fans of the new show continued to push as first UPN then the SciFi channel considered continuing the series. It was never picked up, however, and the sets were struck for the final time in February of 2003. (info from Browncoats.com)
But evidence of a solid fan base for the show continued to grow, so much so that the decision was made to release the series in its entirety to DVD later that year. Brisk sales of the set, egged on by internet word-of-mouth, convinced studio executives to pick up the option in March of 2004 to produce a full-length film featuring the original characters, much as the similarly-fated 'Star Trek' series had years earlier. The film is set for wide release this Friday, September 30th.
I heard about Firefly a few weeks back while chasing some rabbit trail on the internet and was intrigued by what I read about character development and well-rounded story lines. Although not a huge fan of sci-fi in general, I decided to ping NetFlix and found that the DVD's were available. On a lark, I added them to my list thinking I would try a few shows to see if it lived up to the hype. After watching 'Serenity', the original pilot, I was hooked. In fact, after watching the first two disks I ordered a set for myself. My timing could not have been better, as I then found out that the long-awaited movie would soon be forthcoming. Last Friday I saw on Townhall.com a chance to join the 'Serenity Blogger Bonanza' and get a pass for an early screening of the show, which was last night. Oh, happy day!
For non-fans of the series, the movie starts out with a few minutes of back-story about the evacuation from 'Earth that was' and the seeding of a new solar system with inhabitable planets for the evacuees to settle. Human nature being what it is, even 500 years in the future, some folks decided that running just their own planet wasn't enough and that those on the 'outer' planets would need to be coerced, or forced, to join an 'Alliance' of evacuee-inhabited planets. The independent human spirit being what it is, some folks disagreed, especially the 'pioneers' on the outer planets furthest from 'civilization', and a civil war ensued. Our story picks up in a 'post-reconstruction' era similar to that of our own society, with the conquered itching to put some distance between themselves and the conquerors by eking out a living on the furthest frontier. Our heroes are members of this misfit society of rebels who make their way in the brave new world of the Alliance as futuristic rum-runners in a small but elusive 'Firefly' cargo vessel dubbed the Serenity by its captain and owner, Malcolm 'Mal' Reynolds (Nathan Fillion). He is joined on his crew by his former cohort in the 'Resistance', Zoe (Gina Torres), her husband Wash, the pilot of the ship (Alan Tudyk), mercenary Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin), and mechanic Kaylee (Jewel Staite). The ship also hosts a 'companion' (consort) named Inara (Morena Baccarin), who provides something of a love interest for Mal and an entree for the operation onto many an otherwise unwelcoming planet.
This tightly-knit, though not always affable, group takes on a couple of 'fares' in the pilot show, a doctor from one of the inner (civilized) planets, Simon(Sean Maher), who carries some highly secret and valuable cargo, and a 'Shepard' (holy man) who has an itch to wander after spending years in a spiritual enclave (Ron Glass). Simon's cargo turns out to be his sister River (Summer Glau), a super-intellect with psychic powers whom he has rescued from an Alliance laboratory (the movie also fills in the back-story on the rescue).
Serenity begins with the initial stages of an Alliance investigation into River's abduction, and introduces us to a super-assassin, known in the movie only as 'The Operative' (Chiwetel Ejiofor). This operative differs slightly from the series, where a pair of mysterious blue-gloved agents are seen to be shadowing River and the crew, seeking her return (or demise). Perhaps in the movie, the 'Blue Hands' have failed and been replaced by the uber-agent 'Operative'.
As in the series, River is obviously a very dangerous person for the Alliance to have roaming around on the loose, whether due to her super-human abilities, the fact that she 'knows too much', or both. She is number one on the Alliance's 'Most Wanted' list with a bullet, and that creates problems for Mal and his crew whose business thrives on keeping a low profile (except for Inara). He threatens to leave River and her brother behind (once in the movie, multiple times in the series), but somehow never seems to follow through, and Simon's skills as a doctor often come in handy as gunfights and fisticuffs are a regular occurrence, lending to the show's 'Old West' flair. In his spare time, when not mending bullet holes and broken limbs, Simon strives to unravel the mysteries behind River's violent dreams and psychotic episodes, brought on by the hinted-at atrocities of the Alliance lab. In the movie, we find that River holds the key to a horrendous secret that threatens to bring down the Alliance should it ever be revealed, which explains their dogged determination and utter malevolence in hunting her down.
And speaking of malevolence, we also get a little better idea of why the otherwise manly Jayne always appears on the verge of losing bladder control every time someone mentions the presence of 'Reavers'. As sketched in the series, Reavers are a tribe of utterly depraved, cannibalistic former humans, with both zombie and Borg-like characteristics. As with the Borg in the Star Trek series, the terror of Reaver encounters punctuates a number of 'Firefly' story lines, and the movie is no exception. The movie 'fleshes out' the Reavers, both literally and figuratively, and they are even more terrifying for it.
I would characterize this film as an 'action-adventure' movie, and it doesn't disappoint on either count. Unlike the most successful Sci-Fi films of the recent past, vast 'space battle' scenes are surprisingly sparse. The emphasis, as in the series, is on people, not technology. The fight scenes are numerous and well-choreographed, but with none of the Matrix-like cinematography so popular lately. Be warned, there is a little more blood and gore than Star Trek and Star Wars fans might be used to, thus the PG-13 rating for 'sequences of intense violence and action', but it's no Kill Bill. Like their captain, Serenity's crew is always ready to mix it up (even some you wouldn't expect to).
My main concern going into the theater was whether the film could succeed as a stand-alone effort for those not familiar with the series. I think I can give a qualified yes to that question. Although some of the characters that we know much better from, and add much to, the series are almost reduced to bit players, there is enough development of the core group to make a 'non-Browncoat' care about their fate, and root for the success of their mission. Familiar cues from similar genres helps, such as the Han Solo/Chewbacca-like relationship of Mal and Zoe, Jayne's slow-witted gunsel and Kaylee's Gilligan-like cheerfulness to Mal's gruff 'Skipper'. Even Serenity herself, seemingly held together through Kaylee's genius and a little spit-n-bailin'-wire, harkens back to the Millennium Falcon. I doubt any even semi-open-minded SciFi or action-adventure fan will be disappointed. Whether that is enough to garner the kind of box-office that will provide the needed bounce to re-instate the series, which is Whedon and the die-hard Firefly fan's fondest wish, remains to be seen, but once it is released to video it will no doubt join a select and fairly short list of films that will be enjoyed by fans over and over again for years to come.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Posted 2:50 PM by WiN
Serenity screening tonight
I've garnered passes to a screening of the new Serenity movie, based on the television series Firefly, thanks to the good folks at Townhall.com. Here is a synopsis of the movie:
Joss Whedon, the Oscar® - and Emmy - nominated writer/director responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE, ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature film directorial debut, Serenity. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family –squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.I'll be blogging on it tomorrow sometime, until then here is the official website.
My Bloginality is INFP
AN OPEN LETTER IN SUPPORT OF THE PEOPLE OF IRAN FROM THE WEBLOGGING COMMUNITY
We are not politicians, nor are we generals. We hold no power to dispatch diplomats to negotiate; we can send no troops to defend those who choose to risk their lives in the cause of freedom.
What power we have is in our words, and in our thoughts. And it is that strength which we offer to the people of Iran on this day.
Across the diverse and often contentious world of weblogs, each of us has chosen to put aside our differences and come together today to declare our unanimity on the following simple principles:
- That the people of Iran are allies of free men and women everywhere in the world, and deserve to live under a government of their own choosing, which respects their own personal liberties
- That the current Iranian regime has failed to create a free and prosperous society, and attempts to mask its own failures by repression and tyranny
We do not presume to know what is best for the people of Iran; but we are firm in our conviction that the policies of the current government stand in the way of the Iranians ability to make those choices for themselves.
And so we urge our own governments to turn their attention to Iran. The leaders and diplomats of the world's democracies must be clear in their opposition to the repressive actions of the current Iranian regime, but even more importantly, must be clear in their support for the aspirations of the Iranian people.
And to the people of Iran, we say: You are not alone. We see your demonstrations in the streets; we hear of your newspapers falling to censorship; and we watch with anticipation as you join the community of the Internet in greater and greater numbers. Our hopes are with you in your struggle for freedom. We cannot and will not presume to tell you the correct path to freedom; that is for you to choose. But we look forward to the day when we can welcome your nation into the community of free societies of the world, for we know with deepest certainty that such a day will come
A personal note: I have only had one Iranian acquaintance in my life, but I definitely considered him a friend. While I was in college (second time round) I had a part-time job as a self-serve gas station attendant. The senior employee was an engineering student named Rahim. The school I attended had (and probably still has) a significant middle-eastern student population, a lot of them in engineering. This was also during a period (mid-eighties) when Iran was not a popular place to be from (Iatolla Khomeini era). Since he was obviously middle-eastern, people would sometimes ask him, "Where are you from?" to which he would reply, with a sly grin "Persia".
He was not very political, so the topic of Iranian politics rarely came up. Occasionally he would show me some propaganda sheet he had picked up on campus, written in Farsi, and translate some of it for me. He also delighted in the ridiculous political cartoons showing Uncle Sam in various uncomplimentary poses. He seemed to regard the whole thing as humorous, but he got very serious when he spoke on rare occasion about the danger his relations back home faced from the oppressive regime. He had married an American and intended to stay here, at least until things got better back home.
I can't count the number of times he helped me out with work-related situations like swapping shifts and taking over for me in emergency situations. I gladly did the same for him. He was especially enamored with a nice "fuzzbuster" I had that I used for my many trips to Dallas. He borrowed it for a couple of trips he had to make to El Paso, where a former professor was holding a term paper of his "hostage" and he was negotiating to have the paper approved in order to get credit for the course, which was holding up his degree. He returned from his trips singing the praises of the magical device.
I lost track of him, of course, after I quit the job but to this day he is the face of Iran to me - friendly, helpful and a little mischievous, with a heart of gold. I wish him and all the people of Iran good will and the blessings of freedom.