Thursday, December 18, 2014

Farewell to The Colbert Report

I'm going to miss Stephen Colbert.

I know, I know, he's not disappearing, he'll be the new host of The Late Show, replacing David Letterman; but that's the real Stephen Colbert, not the Stephen Colbert character who hosts The Colbert Report.

Who knows what the real Colbert is like?  He's been so brilliant depicting the ultra-Conservative pundit that it has become hard to differentiate the comedic role from the true persona. I'm convinced that he will succeed at CBS just as he did on Comedy Central, but I'll be honest, I have no idea what to expect or what he has planned for us.

I do know that he has perfect comic timing and excellent improvisational skills. He's a masterful, intelligent interviewer.

I hope he shakes up the format of The Late Show and carries over some of the current-events-skewering that has made his faux newscast so popular.

I'll miss The Colbert Report, but look forward to finally meeting and getting to know the real Stephen Colbert.

P.S.  I hope he lands an interview with Pope Francis when His Eminence visits America!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Films Too Dangerous to Screen?

The Sony hack attack continues to cause mayhem, leading to the studio decision not to release the movie The Interview in the face of threats of violence toward any theaters that screened it.  I vehemently oppose censorship, but I understand the need to protect the public. I just hope that this doesn't motivate other extremists to try similar tactics when they disagree with the expression of others.  Threats of violence should never be tolerated, but at the same time we live in a world in which not every culture shares the same ideals of freedom of speech.

We've seen governments ban certain motion pictures in the past when their subject matter was deemed inappropriate.  We've seen artists withdraw their movies after controversy, such as Stanley Kubrick did with A Clockwork Orange in the United Kingdom after crimes allegedly inspired by the film.

We've seen protests demanding that certain flicks not be seen, such as Last Temptation of Christ. Often such outcry creates greater demand.  I've always argued that people should see a movie, read a book, watch a play, listen to a song, and judge for themselves.  I believe in the free marketplace of ideas in which people debate topics and learn from different points of view.

When I first heard of the Sony hack a few weeks ago, I thought it might possibly be a prank by star James Franco to draw attention to the film, but then it became serious when the hackers threatened Sony employees and their families. With recent developments, it became clear that this was no joke.

I hope those responsible are identified and such security breaches do not happen again.  I also pray that, beyond the embarrassment and stress this has caused to Sony, no one is hurt further.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ascension Continues the Syfy Renaissance

The Syfy network continues trying to be taken seriously again. Even though it does still have schlocky content like Sharknado (hey, the ratings were stellar), it seems committed to airing quality original programming in science fiction and fantasy.  The limited series Ascension is the latest success.

It's a "Hard SF" premise (with twists, twists, twists) about a generation spacecraft that was launched during the Kennedy administration to send Earth's elite to a new planet, just in case the Cold War ends in nuclear annihilation.  The story picks up in our present time, halfway through the journey.  It's interesting to see the retro-60s style in a space opera setting, but it was a bit of a distracting pet peeve, since I kept thinking, "Even if it didn't match our current present designs, wouldn't the styles have evolved beyond the early 1960s fashions after half a century?  Wouldn't the world's best minds aboard this spaceship have created new books instead of just rereading the same old novels from 50 years ago?"

Those nitpicks aside, the show attempts to be edgy with scenes of sex and violence (and did I mention twists, twists, twist?) I'll keep watching to see where it goes, but overall I'm thrilled to see Syfy produce real speculative fiction for a change, finally living up to its old "Sci-Fi" name.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Serial Makes Podcasts Relevant Again

Just when you thought podcasts were old news, along comes Serial to revitalize the medium.  Although it has only been around since October, it has already amassed a following in the millions.

It has strong pedigree, coming from the popular radio program This American Life (which itself is a podcast hit). It's a non-fiction examination of a murder, investigating if the young man accused of the crime actually did the deed. Audiences love a mystery and the storytelling presentation is top quality.

Where will the detective work take us?  Listen at serialpodcast.org and find out.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Recommended Anthology Series: Black Mirror

I've started watching the British anthology series Black Mirror, which is available on Netflix. It's haunting, thought-provoking, disturbing, thrilling, and completely addictive.  It's been compared to The Twilight Zone with each episode serving as a morality tale about how technology impacts our lives.  With wry humor, shocks galore, and very good production values, it delves into many contemporary issues about media, our connections to our electronic devices, politics, consumer culture, and more.  The show is worth binge-watching, since it only has a few episodes (three from season one, and another three from season two, with more promised on the way.)  Here's a brief run-down:

The National Anthem
The Prime Minister is challenged to do a controversial act to be broadcast live or risk the death of a young lady from the royal family who has been kidnapped.

Fifteen Million Merits
In the future, a young man falls in love and tries to escape his routine life through an entertainment reality competition.

The Entire History of You
Again in the future, everyone has access to a memory implant that records all of their sensory experiences.

Be Right Back
A young couple move to a remote cottage to start a new life together.

White Bear
An amnesiac tries to make sense of her predicament, but everyone she encounters refuses to communicate with her, and only records her reaction on their mobile devices.

The Waldo Moment
An animated blue bear from a children's show is entered in a political race.

Tune in an judge for yourself.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

New Movie Trailers - December 2014


I love movie trailers, those coming attractions for motion pictures which haven't been released yet. Some are glorious, maybe even better than the actual films will be. Others are horrendous, making us dread what is to come.  Here's a look at some recent ones.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2



The original was a surprisingly entertaining sleeper hit.  Let's hope the sequel will be just as funny.

Insurgent



The dystopian Divergent series continues with what looks like an action-packed part two.

Mad Max: Fury Road



I enjoyed the original Mad Max series starring Mel Gibson (especially Road Warrior), but this reboot looks like they've taken it up a notch.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens



The buzz is strong with this one.  I'm hoping it lives up to the hype.

Terminator: Genisys



I actually like this one, despite some backlash. It has to be better than the last two Terminator films. If they're going to reboot the franchise, this seems like an interesting attempt to do so.

Do any of them whet your appetite, making you crave to see the movies they are teasing?


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Crazy Crossovers

Is it true that Sony is considering a crossover of its 21 Jump Street franchise with Men in Black? Stranger mash-ups have happened.

We've seen Freddy vs. Jason, Aliens vs. Predator, Godzilla vs. King Kong (I wrote a post about the best crossovers back in August if you missed it), but the most bizarre was probably when Bud Abbott and Lou Costello shared the screen with the classic Universal monsters as part of a series of wacky crossover movies:

Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man
Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops
Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff
Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy


Sony might be considering taking the comedic approach to the shared universe trend that Disney and Marvel seem to have perfected.  Maybe Schmidt and Jenko (played by Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) could team up with other Sony properties beyond the alien-policing Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.  How about Spider-man or the Fantastic Four?  What about James Bond?  Maybe RoboCop?  It could enter super-silly territory with Grown Ups or (shudder) The Smurfs?

As I said, stranger movies have happened.