supersize squad

The Fast Food Mascot Re-Boot

Off of the tease announcements from McDonald’s that the Hamburgerler is coming out of hiding,  filmmaker Leigh Scott debuts this re-imagining of our favorite fast food mascots. From Wendy to Col. Sanders to the King and the Clown , in all honesty, this works great on so many levels.  My particular favorite appearance is from the purple guy himself, Grimace.  It’s the Supersize Squad.

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Trailer of the Year Awards – Cop Car

Our third nominee for the Trailer of the Year Award is definitely going to be a long shot in taking the top prize, but it’s a fun trailer full of all the right camera shots, a campy tone, with accelerating soundtrack all topped with Kevin Bacon as the bad guy with a mustache that might win ‘Stache of the Year.

Two young boys come across an abandoned police cruiser with the keys still inside, they decide to leave well enough alone, walk to the nearest adult and tell them what they found.  Oh no, wait… that’s the boring version.  These kids take that sucker for joyride.  Sirens, lights and high speed, it’s all fun and games until the cop (Bacon) who left it behind comes looking for it.

Film opens August 7, I hope it’s as campy-fun as the trailer.

Jerry

College Campuses are too PC, Even for Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld, who’s most famous stand-up comedy bits usually revolve around socks, pajamas and clothing in general, spoke to ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd on the state of doing stand-up comedy on college campuses around America.  Seinfeld admits he doesn’t perform at colleges, but offers an insight into what college students today consider to be sexist, racist, bigoted or any number of the other SIXHIRB words that are bandied about without any rational thought.

shelter

Shelter Star, Clea Duval Interviewed at Dances With Films

cleaClea Duval, star of writer/director RJ Daniel Hanna’s short film drama Shelter (produced as part of the 2014 Liberty Lab for Film project through Taliesin Nexus) was interviewed just prior to the short’s premier this past Monday, June 1st at the Dances with Films festival in Hollywood, CA.

To find out more about the film check out the Facebook page.

From her early turn as the tough high school outcast in Robert Rodriguez’s “The Faculty” to most recently as one of the six American diplomats detained in Ben Affleck’s Oscar winning film “Argo,” DuVall has been hitting all the right performance notes and shows no sign of stopping.  Her latest work is in a moody new short titled “Shelter” (making its way to the big screen via the Dances With Films Festival 2015 on Monday, June 1st at 5pm at the Chinese 6 Theaters on Hollywood and Highland in LA) that sees DuVall playing a prisoner on parole who becomes affected by her job working at an animal shelter.  The short is a precursor to a proposed feature length film and if anything like the impressive sixteen minute movie it’s gonna be a movie to watch for.

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Dick Van Dyke and The Dustbowl Revival

I still watch The Dick Van Dyke Show nightly on Netflix. The wife and I have followed The Dustbowl Revival around Los Angeles for years now.  When these two worlds collide, the outcome is all fun.  Watching 89 year old  Van Dyke dancing like he did 50 years ago, to the pure, Americana sounds of a band made up of 30 somethings and under is pure gold.  And who said there is no culture in Los Angeles?

mad max boom

Raw Behind the Scenes Footage of Mad Max: Fury Road

Reminder as you are watching this footage, director George Miller was 69 years old and cinematographer John Seale was 70.  These two and their production team just schooled every action film made in the past 15 years.  Green screen should used to enhance the story, not be the story.  Mad Max used green screen, but you will notice it only for certain camera angles and shots that required it for the safety of the actors and stunt performers.

Any wonder why the actors in the Star Wars prequels felt like they couldn’t act their way out of a cardboard box? They couldn’t because they were acting to nothing except the chroma green box they were placed in. Never underestimate the power of doing it real.

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Mad Max: Fury Road – The Action and The State

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Furiosa’s War Rig

Mad Max: Fury Road opened last weekend and I finally made it out to see it this weekend. Not only am I thrilled it lived up to my expectations when I first saw the trailer, I am relieved to know that when it comes to making action pictures, there is someone out there willing to work hard, putting in the time and effort to convey their vision to a production team, who all then execute it flawlessly.  In the current golden age of Marvel action films and other CGI driven movies, writer-director George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road destroys this kiddy-field of action films (no offense to the hard working computer animators) much the same way Furiosa’s War Rig plows through the desert destroying everything in its path to liberate its cargo. (Furiosa being portrayed by Charlize Theron in a role that should now forever be the model for what an actual Lady Liberty would like in a world that needed her most,)

The heavy use of practical effects, stunt work and careful, deliberate directing and camera work are key in connecting audiences with the emotional state of the story and characters – and with Mad Max: Fury Road, that emotional state is jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, heart-pounding ecstasy.  It’s the first time in a long while, that I actually sat in a theater and marveled at the stunt work and choreography – all of which you could completely follow with ease – and couldn’t wait to find out how they achieved it all.  I eagerly the Blu-ray special features menu.

When it comes to the plot of the film and the world that is depicted, I’d like to defer to author, publisher and all around  liberty geek Jeffrey A. Tucker of FEE.

“… The setting is usually described as “post-apocalyptic.”

Who destroyed the world (a question one character in the new version asks)? We don’t know for sure, but it’s a good bet that it is the same crew that, in the 20th century, blew up whole cities, dropped bombs on millions of innocents, slaughtered whole peoples in famines, gulags, work camps, death marches, and gas chambers.

I’m speaking of the state. That’s the only institution with means and the will to destroy civilization. So if I had to guess the answer to the question, I would guess: politicians and bureaucrats destroyed the world.”

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Periscope

Periscope – The New Way to AMA and Connect

As I write this, screenwriter David H. Steinberg (Slackers, American Pie 2) is broadcasting from his own smartphone, answering questions from followers via the app Periscope.

While AMA (ask me anything) sessions are very popular on Reddit for users when someone interesting pops on to answer questions about their career, life or any other topic, it’s limited in that it’s all done via a keyboard. With Periscope, all Steinberg had to do was bring up the app, connected through his twitter, and start broadcasting video and take questions via text on the app from his followers. A tweet went out and notified his fans that he was on and ready to talk screenwriting and the movie business or anything that comes up.

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Simon Pegg

Simon Pegg Opened His Big Mouth and Made Nerd Nation Upset

Pegg at CCApparently actor Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz, Star Trek, Mission:Impossible) made some controversial comment regarding the current “nerd culture” being used to infantilize our society in order to keep it under control. The preoccupation in popular culture today of entertainment originally targeted to teenagers and their juniors.  Specifically comic books & video games and their film adaptations, cosplay and their conventions, and the more recent explosion of re-makes, re-boots and re-imaginings of favorite childhood memories is all keeping current social national-global conversation fixated on fantasy rather than reality.

Here is Pegg in his own words:

Recent developments in popular culture were arguably predicted by the French philosopher and cultural theorist, Jean Baudrillard in his book, ‘America’, in which he talks about the infantilzation of society. Put simply, this is the idea that as a society, we are kept in a state of arrested development by dominant forces in order to keep us more pliant. We are made passionate about the things that occupied us as children as a means of drawing our attentions away from the things we really should be invested in, inequality, corruption, economic injustice etc. It makes sense that when faced with the awfulness of the world, the harsh realities that surround us, our instinct is to seek comfort, and where else were the majority of us most comfortable than our youth? A time when we were shielded from painful truths by our recreational passions, the toys we played with, the games we played, the comics we read. There was probably more discussion on Twitter about the The Force Awakens and the Batman vs Superman trailers than there was about the Nepalese earthquake or the British general election.

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Film Review – The Connection (the French one)

2-la-french-film-2015-habituallychicReleased in US this past weekend, the French-Belgian production, The Connection (La French in Europe) is based on the infamous French Connection heroin drug scheme of the 1960s and 70s.  This plot brought the opiate from Turkey into the US by way of France, thus the name, the French Connection.  The story was first popularly dramatized in the 1971 American film, The French Connection starring Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider and directed by William Friedkin.  While both films only claim to be loosely based on the actual drug trade, this latest incarnation is focused solely on the French investigation (versus the NYPD investigation focused on in the Friedkin film) and is set a number of years later.

The film points out early on the devastating impact that the drug was having on western cultures in the seventies and into the eighties and even uses archive footage of then US president, Richard Nixon first declaring the “war on drugs,” to set the stage.  What of course followed in the US has been written about, fictionalized on film, studied in academia and debated on endlessly for over four decades. The creation and rise of SWAT raids and the over-militarization of police, the highest incarceration rate in the world, and a blackmarket that has lead to tens of thousands of deaths due to gang violence and innocents fleeing their homeland for better living conditions.  While the film doesn’t address the lasting impact this war on drugs has had over the years, it certainly gives us a familiar look into the underground world, the power struggles and the dangers associated with trying to combat it all. From warrant-less (or at least bending the rules) wiretaps, crooked cops and judges, and politicians who turn a blind eye in order to secure their political futures, The Connection brings home the fact that corruption throughout the system and questionable law enforcement tactics in the war on drugs isn’t just an American problem.

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Screenshot taken from film

Short Film – Jujitsu-ing Reality

If you’ve ever succumbed to the pressures of writer’s block or other type of artistic stagnation, give over 16 minutes of your day to watch this award winning short about a screenwriter with ALS.  In Jujitsu-ing Reality, writer Scott Lew’s words come alive on screen by some notable Hollywood actors in his film Sexy Evil Genius,  of which scenes from the film are highlighted throughout.  We witness the lengths he, his family and assistants go to, to fulfill his creative desires.  Not only does the film display the remarkable perseverance of the individual human spirit, it compliments the advancements of technology, medicine and attitudes towards the invalid.

Photo: Fondazione Prada

Wes Anderson Designed a Cafe in Milan and It Looks Exactly Like What You Think It Would

Photo: RushmoreAcademy
Photo: RushmoreAcademy

In the event you just can’t get enough of the worlds of The Royal Tenebaums, Grand Budapest Hotel or other Wes Anderson films, now you can spend your afternoons sipping an espresso and nibbling on cake immersed in the decor and interior design of a cafe designed by the acclaimed director and prince of hipsters.

Anderson’s design was carried out by design firm Fondazione Prada.  The cafe sits opposite a train station in Milan, Italy and, as explained on the site, is intended to be a hotspot for the general public and a regular hangout for locals.  My, how niche.

Anderson’s love of European architecture and design is heavily prevalent in his films and he didn’t stray at all when approaching this project. According to the cafe’s website, Anderson explains his approach:

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The Isolation of Van Halen and Freddie Mercury

This may be one of the coolest live radio segments I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to.  Audio engineer Christian Hand joined Mark Thompson on his morning radio show on LA’s 100.3 The Sound to dissect the Van Halen classic from their 1984 album “Hot For Teacher.”  Hand brought in isolated tracks of the guitar, drums and vocal to share and reveal the pure raw talent and skill these musicians possess.  After hearing this and other iconic rock songs for over the past 30-50 years, we sometimes take for granted the pure artistry, skill and genius it took for these individuals to collaborate and then present to the world something that millions upon millions have since enjoyed for decades.

While this segment would have stood on it’s own with just the Van Halen portion, Hand also brought in another isolated track which is the reason why I wanted to share it.  This track literally, and I do mean literally, had my skin covered in goosebumps and tears welling up in my eyes while I listened for the first time.  It is Freddie Mercury and David Bowie’s isolated vocal track from the song  “Under Pressure” by Queen and Bowie.  While Bowie is undeniably talented with his vocals, Mercury had arguably the greatest voice in not just rock n’ roll history, but in all of popular music.  And when you listen to it here, the debate may be over.  I may be hyping it up too much, but if I ever had to bet money, I’d lay it all on Mercury every time.  Mercury’s voice, coupled with the emotional connection he brings to the lyric, is what I imagine angels to sound like when they laugh or cry.

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Trailer of the Year Awards – Black Mass

I may have used my “Trailer of Year” card a wee bit early this year on Mad Max Fury Road back in January as I gushed over the pure enjoyment it brought me, because the latest trailer to drop on the scene is for the true crime film Black Mass starring Johnny Depp as notorious Boston mafia hitman Whitey Bulger.  This one sent chills down the spine, courtesy of the great chameleon that is Johnny Depp.  So I’m going to keep track of the trailers that stand out for me this year and declare a “Trailer of the Year” award at 2015’s end.  Consider Mad Max Fury Road as entry number one and Black Mass as entry number two.

Two observations: 1) It’s clear to me that Leonardo DiCaprio has been attempting to emulate Johnny Depp for the past 20 years.  2) The scene anchoring the trailer is a direct homage to the most famous scene in modern mafia film history – Joe Peschi and Ray Liotta’s “whatta mean I’m funny?” scene from Goodfellas.  The difference in scene depicted here is, the stakes are higher because it’s not personal, it’s about business and survival.  This is not a rip-off, this is a great example of being influenced by the greats and improving on it. We’ll see how it plays out in the feature.

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Spectator-less Baseball

SmashCut Talk thumbnailIf a home run is hit and there is no one around to cheer, did it really happen? We’ll soon find out. The Baltimore Orioles will host the Chicago White Sox in riot-torn Baltimore at Camden Yards sans fans in the seats. Because, even though the streets are on fire, people are getting hurt, and the police department continues to investigate another death-while-in-custody case, the game must go on!  I’d be interested in hearing from those that support this decision to play ball, and from those who would prefer a cancellation or change of venue during this time.

Exit question:  Will the call to keep out the public incite those with violence on their mind to target the Camden Yards?

GoodFellas25

Goodfellas at 25

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Martin Scorcese’s New York mafia masterpiece Goodfellas. Film critic Sonny Bunch over at the Free Beacon writes about the iconic film and points out, rightly so, the obsession with the shot. 

The tracking shots have been discussed to death—I defy you to find a listicle celebrating the “long shot” that doesn’t include Goodfellas’ Copacabana entrance, along with Touch of Evil’s first crane shot and Altman’s work on The Player—but Scorsese isn’t just showing off. These shots serve a purpose. My favorite is early on, when we track through a restaurant and are introduced to the guys in the crew, Jimmy Two Times and the rest. These new characters, several of whom we never see again, make eye contact with the camera (that is, the viewer), welcoming you into their world, insinuating you into their scams.

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Film Review – Cut Bank (2015)

cut_bank_ver2_xlgCut Bank is an original story made up of equal parts FargoA Simple Plan and Psycho.  Long time television director Matt Shakman  (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) takes his first jab at feature film directing with a small-town murder mystery titled Cut Bank, set in the poetically named real-life town of Cut Bank, Montana.  The town boasts a large display at it’s border declaring it as the coldest place  in the lower 48, however the film takes place during a not-unusual summer heat wave.  That my friends, is real honest to goodness nature-made climate change.  I imagine one of the reasons why the filmmakers chose to film in the summer is to remain as far removed from the look and feel of the classic Cohen Brothers’ film Fargo, which this almost certainly is inspired by.

While the film starts off as a murder mystery of whodunnits, after about 15 min, we quickly know who did done it, and more importantly why.  The why in this case is about what it usually always is, money.  And the who seems to be more about, who isn’t involved.  So then why even bother watching?  Well, this is one of those rare stories in film nowadays, where the audience is allowed to know everything and is left to simply watch and relish as these characters play catch-up.  (Gone Girl was another recent example of this, although for me, the ending ruined the entire experience.)  With a terrific veteran cast, as an audience member, all I want to do is watch these actors do their thing.

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dictionary

20 Words That Once Meant Something Different

This is an pretty silly list. And by silly I of course mean worthy. Check it out the first five here from Anne Curzan.

  1. Nice: This word used to mean “silly, foolish, simple.” Far from the compliment it is today!

  2. Silly: Meanwhile, silly went in the opposite direction: in its earliest uses, it referred to things worthy or blessed; from there it came to refer to the weak and vulnerable, and more recently to those who are foolish.

  3. Awful: Awful things used to be “worthy of awe” for a variety of reasons, which is how we get expressions like “the awful majesty of God.”

  4. Fizzle: The verb fizzle once referred to the act of producing quiet flatulence (think “SBD”); American college slang flipped the word’s meaning to refer to failing at things.

  5. Wench: A shortened form of the Old English word wenchel (which referred to children of either sex), the word wench used to mean “female child” before it came to be used to refer to female servants — and more pejoratively to wanton women.

  6. Fathom: It can be hard to fathom how this verb moved from meaning “to encircle with one’s arms” to meaning “to understand after much thought.” Here’s the scoop: One’s outstretched arms can be used as a measurement (a fathom), and once you have fathoms, you can use a fathom line to measure the depth of water. Think metaphorically and fathoming becomes about getting to the bottom of things.

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A New Vessel for Video on the Web

SmashCut Talk thumbnailLast week the video hosting website Vessel.com opened it’s doors to the world, for $2.99 a month.  It’s a bold move, charging a monthly fee for access to videos that will usually end up on YouTube after 72 hours.  Some of YouTube’s most successful content creators were invited to be a part of this new video venture and provide Vessel viewers exclusive early viewing rights to their latest video on Vessel before anyone else can see them for free on YouTube three days later.

One of those YouTubers, Derek Muller of Veritasium, describes it as paying a premium to see the latest film in theater before it hits DVD and then your television months or years later.  While I understand the comparison, it’s not entirly correct. Vessel is using the same medium as YouTube – my computer or smartphone screen.  So if Vessel wants me to pay $2.99 a month, their “venue” has to exceed YouTube’s much like a movie theater exceeds my living room.  So, after signing up for a 30 day trial I can report back that the player appears to run smoother than YouTube, there are no pop-up annotations, ads you have to X out of, or any of the other annoying distractions you find on YouTube.  In fact, it’s almost exactly like Vimeo – which, last I checked, costs zero a month.  So, I’ll stick it out for the 30 days and have a more detailed report for you then. If you want to check it out yourself, watch Veritasium’s video to find out how to get your 30 day trial.

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How to Manage Your Binge Watching Problem

yall-got-anymore-of-them-episodesWelcome to Binge Watchers Anonymous (BWA).

I promise, if you follow this simple schedule you can change your life for the better.  If you are like most binge watchers, when season three of House of Cards premiered Friday, Feb 27th on Netflix you were probably done with the 13 episode season by late Sunday night.  After waiting an entire year for the season to debut, you immediately consumed it in less time it took the series editors to edit one episode.  I understand, I’ve been there.  I cut the cord a long time ago.  No cable, no satellite.  My Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions were my only link to the “good” part of television.  I have rabbit ears for the occasional sporting event, local morning news, or American Idol (don’t judge me.)

Both Netflix and Amazon have been developing original series for a few years now, and unlike traditional television, they dump the entire season online at once for audiences to consume at their leisure or as fiendishly as possible.  Most people I know, make it a habit to binge watch all 13 or so episodes all at once because, well they can.  As one who’s engaged in the habit, I began to feel disappointed after it was all done.  Because it’s over too quickly.  Sure, I had control and got to maintain the momentum of the series at my own pace, but it was my weakness for cliffhangers that did me in. I began to miss the anticipation you get when having to wait a week to find out what happens next and to digest and savor that one great episode.  Game of Thrones is a great example.  I enjoy watching it week to week because it’s so good and I get months of enjoyment out of it instead of 13 hours over one weekend.

So, if you’ve ever considered trying to maintain a regular schedule of Netflix or Amazon Prime programming, then I have the solution for you.  It’s the BWA 13 Week Program.

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most wanted pilots

7 Most Wanted Pilot Scripts

blacklistStephanie Palmer over at Studio System News has compiled the seven most wanted tv pilot scripts for writers to download.  One of the best, easiest, and most fun ways to refine your own writing is to read other scripts, especially if they have been produced and as well received by critics and audiences alike.

Last year, Palmer assembled a similar list of 10, which included scripts from Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The Office. With Mad Men about to join the other two in television’s retirement home, she has compiled a brand new list of seven current television hits.  Among the collection are pilot scripts for House of Cards, Masters of Sex and The Blacklist… 

… As for how The Blacklist came about, Bokenkamp said, “I was kicking around ideas with John Fox, a friend who’s also a producer on the show. He brought up an idea. Whitey Bulger (Boston organized-crime kingpin) was in the news then. What if a Whitey Bulger-type criminal was captured? What if you had a TV show that flashed back on where Hoffa was buried, who shot Kennedy? A bad guy who knew all the secrets, hopping around in time and place. I spent about three months developing it, coming up with a pitch.” Everybody passed on the show but NBC.

At the upfronts, Bob Greenblatt of NBC said Blacklist testing results were, “better than all other 125 NBC drama pilots in the past decade.”

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rory pga

Rory McIlroy Finally Crowned in Time for St. Patrick’s Day

rory pga tour xboxOn March 16, one day before St. Patrick’s Day, EA Sports announced that the number 1 ranked golfer in the world, will not only grace the cover of the brand’s latest incarnation of it’s legendary video game, but that the Irishman’s name will also get top billing.  That’s right, the game that revolutionized playing golf from your couch, Tiger Woods PGA Tour will now be called Rory McIlory PGA Tour.  Make no mistake, this is actually huge in terms of how far Tiger Woods’ fall from grace has plummeted.  This isn’t just losing the cover, it’s losing the whole franchise. It would be as if EA Sports decided to replace John Madden’s name from Madden NFL.  Cowher NFL anyone?

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MPI Founder and Robert A. Heinlein

MoonisharshThor Halvorssen, founder of Moving Picture Institute (MPI), has just been named as a producer for Twentieth Century Fox production of Robert A. Heilein’s novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  Bryan Singer (Usual Suspects, X-Men) is attached to direct as well.  Halvorssen’s work on human rights by airdropping films and educational materials into heavily censored North Korea, through his Human Rights Foundation have made headlines in world wide news outlets.

Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) was the recipient of the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel in 1967 and is often cited as one the best novels to promote individual liberty and a free society. An early democrat activist who worked for Upton Sinclair’s Democratic bid for California Governor in 1934, Heinlein later considered himself a libertarian with a strong belief in the importance of self-reliance and human freedom.

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