Monday, September 27, 2010

Inktip Pitch Summit Report


This is the middle portion of the Craig Berger 2010 Pitchfest tour, which started with the Great American Pitchfest (which I didn’t write a report about, so don’t bother looking) and ends with the Creative Screenwriting Expo next month. I didn’t know what to expect, since this was Inktip’s first Pitchfest (“Pitch Summit”) but hopes were high.

Day 1:


I decided to attend the first day, which consists simply of classes designed to help you either pitch, or learn how to get an agent, or some other aspect of the business. The two classes I attended were “How to Impress Your Agent or Manager” and “How to Get Your Screenplay out of the House and into an Agent’s Hands.” The first class I attended because the teacher was my Writers Boot Camp Fellowship instructor Cameron Graham, and I wanted to show my support.

A good mood was set for me right away when I realized that most of the people surrounding me were old men. Not old like me old, but gray hair, reading glasses and endearing crankiness old. It made me feel like I’m not that far behind after all. This feeling was reinforced when, after some delay and confusion because the room was labeled as a “Writers Boot Camp” class and there was no mention of WBC in the schedule or literature, the old man sitting next to me muttered to me “Feels like Mutt and Jeff in here.” I can’t remember the last time I was too young to get a reference, so I was quite delighted. This guy beautifully continued the old man stereotype when he looked at the young woman in front of us on texting on her cell phone and muttered with contempt: “Probably checking her ‘e-mails.’”

Couple of other entertaining moments: First, at one point another WBC staffer pointed out that agents are worse than pimps because “at least pimps are able to recognize talent.” I found that amusing. Even better was when Cameron decided to do an exercise where he asked someone to come up and pitch an existing movie to him (like “Die Hard” or “Star Wars.”) In a room full of people who were planning to pitch their scripts to a bunch of strangers the next day, no one volunteered. Well, except for one person. Pavo. Pavo came all the way from Poland to pitch his script. It was not until he got up and began to attempt the exercise that we learned that Pavo did not actually speak English. It appeared that he had memorized the pitch for his own project and come to this country with little or no other English. It was unclear whether he knew today was not the pitching day, or how he planned to answer any follow up questions about his project.

The second class was led by Michelle Wallerstein, an agent with 20 years in the business. She did seem to be pretty knowledgeable about Hollywood and gave some positive encouragement (“you think this is bad, the music business would destroy you”). She was selling her book “Mind Your Business” which I probably would have bought but I didn’t bring any cash with me.

Day 2:

Was the actual Pitch day, and there were some hitches. The first, and probably worst, was that the event was two hours late in getting started. Since people usually show up early and stand on one of a number of lines in a crowded ballroom antechamber in these things, and are then expected to project exuberance and enthusiasm to a bunch of producers, this is not a good thing.



Also, I think it’s better to have the numbers designating the lines hanging from the ceiling, rather than on the floor.

One thing they did that I’m still not sure about is have three executives at each table. If you had a project that you planned to pitch to a particular executive, you were actually pitching to two others who you may or may not want to pitch to. The pro of this is that you get to pitch to three times as many executives, in theory. In practice, the Producers, who were supposed to have been grouped by common interest, weren’t always that well matched, for example the table with the guy looking for holiday themed material and the woman who hated Christmas movies, or the one with the woman looking for mainstream features and the woman who was only interested in Canadian Writers. Most annoying was late in the day, when you could wait 20 minutes for a table only to find that the two people who were looking for the type of material you are pitching had left, leaving one person who is looking for something totally different.

In the end, however, I think it worked out, and I did get a lot more people to hear about my projects that I would have in a normal, one on one pitch situation. I got the usual distribution of requests for scripts, requests for synopses, and passes, so we’ll see what happens.

One thing that interested me was people’s approach to the experience. Some people seemed to feel it was an adversarial situation: One woman came out with a smile on her face, looking for a friend to talk to. When she found one, she said “The guy asked me a question, and I was totally ready for him! I NAILED him! I totally kicked him in the balls!” Yeah. That can’t be healthy.

Many people seemed to feel it was a competition to see who could pitch to the most people in a given day. One large man came out in the afternoon looking like he was in a marathon. He was sweating heavily and had a GIANT canteen of water in his hand. He told someone, “I’ve done at least 15 already. I’m gonna hit almost everyone! That Lionsgate line that everyone was trying to get on? PFFT! I pitched them at lunch!” I hope he’ll be able to sell his project from his hospital room after the heart attack.

On the whole, it was a positive experience, and I’m looking forward to see how they iron out the kinks for next year. On to the Expo!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Congress Shall Make No Law...



According to a recent poll, 2/3rds of New Yorkers don’t want a Muslim mosque to be built as planned because it is too close to Ground Zero. Once again, I suppose we have FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, and the other fake news entities who profit off of hate mongering to thank. Then again, the ignorance of the American people also knows no bounds.

Never did I dream that half a century after the days of Martin Luther King, Jr., our country would be riddled with discrimination against homosexuals, continued bigotry directed against women and African-Americans and religious persecution. The founding fathers would be turning over in their graves. Regarding the mosque: For one, the proposed Mosque is planned as a base of worship for Sufis. Sufi Islam is about as far from Al Qaeda as one could possibly get. Fundamentalist Christianity has more in common with Al Qaeda than the Sufis. The face of Sufism, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the Timothy Leary of the Muslim faith, preaching true love, peace, understanding, and following the dictates of the heart. You know, all that stuff that the “good Christians” protesting the mosque profess to believe in.

Furthermore, what kind of religion is going to be practiced in the mosque is not an issue. Freedom of religion is our country’s most fundamental right. Not the freedom to practice Christianity. The Founders, being smarter than most people are even today, were deists, refusing to conform to any standardized religion. This country exists as a haven for people wishing to be free of religious persecution. Trying to stand in the way of that mosque is not just morally wrong; it’s un-American.

Another disturbing poll I recently saw said that the people who believe Obama is a Muslim is up 7%, to 18%. That statistic in itself doesn’t disturb me. Half of the knuckle-draggers in this country still think the Theory of Evolution is a tool of the Devil. What bothers me is that it matters. That Obama, and all the Presidents before him, should have to defend their Christianity, that going to Church every Sunday is part of the job. Growing up, I was led to believe that one of the things that makes this country great is that anyone could become President. Clearly, as groundbreaking as Obama’s election was, this is still not the case.

As a Jew, I was also taught at a very early age that bigotry against one group is a danger to us all. Some may say that the violent nature of terrorists who happen to be Muslims changes the nature of the argument. I disagree. I have no love for terrorists, particularly Islamic terrorists who are among the many groups throughout history that have special brands of atrocities set aside for my people. But all Muslims are not terrorists any more than all Jews are money-hoarding puppet-masters, any more than all Christians are drooling, witch-hunting Bible-thumpers.

Let me close by reemphasizing what I just said, because it’s important, and most people don’t realize it until it’s too late.

Bigotry against one group is a danger TO US ALL.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Check.... Checkmate!


I applaud television shows for trying to include chess in some of their stories. I really do. In the past, I couldn't stand it, because the directors took so little care in setting it up. The board would be set up wrong, or what the players were saying wouldn't correspond with the moves on the board. But worst of all was the same horrible trope that appeared in every television show which featured chess. I'm sure you've seen it. One character makes a move, and in as smarmy and satisfied a manner he can muster, announces "Check!" triumphantly, as if putting someone in check was any big deal.

The second player muses, looks over the board, then casually makes a move, smiles and responds "checkmate!" to the stunned surprise of Mr. Smug.

Such a sequence, which probably occurred in every in television show with a chess scene prior to 1990 or so, is almost completely impossible. A player in check is not permitted by the rules of chess to do anything but get out of check. Such a sequence requires a player to make a move which simultaneously gets him out of check and puts the other player in checkmate. A move that blocks the check would not be sufficient, as the player who called check could simply capture that piece to escape. It would have to be a move that simultaneously blocks the check and uncovers an unstoppable check by another piece. This is so unlikely that most amateur chessplayers could not achieve it if they were allowed to put the pieces WHEREVER THEY WANTED. (Go ahead, try it. I'll wait.)


Fortunately, modern audiences and show creators are a little more sophisticated, and now they usually follow the much more intelligent choice of stealing real games from history to allow their characters to wow us with their acumen. Unfortunately, this still does not quite work. Actors and directors may try their hardest, but unless you know chess, it's extremely difficult to get the timing down.
In the Season 3 West Wing episode, "Hartsfield's Landing," President Bartlett and Toby engage in a friendly game of chess. After three moves, Bartlett observes with interest that Toby is playing the Evans Gambit. Unfortunately, it does not become an Evans gambit until five or so moves later. The showrunners clearly found an Evans Gambit game, but any chessplayer watching would know that the actors were following a script.

Last season on the Mentalist, in the Episode "18-5-4," they took a crack at chess, and did a pretty good job of it -- if you're not a player. (I couldn't embed the video, but if you'd like to follow along, someone has captured it for YouTube here:)

Mentalist Chess Game


Simon Baker as Patrick Jane makes a convincing blindfold chess master, but he too, screws up the timing. Early in the game, Jane says, "declining the gambit, interesting." Unfortunately, the game doesn't become a Queens Gambit Declined until d4, the move FOLLOWING Jane's statement. After Be7, Jane smiles knowingly and says "mmm, your funeral," despite the fact that this is an extremely safe move. After his next move, Bg5,he says "mind your queen," despite the fact that his opponent's queen is protected by two pieces. Finally, later on, the opponent says to Jane "Q to e7, taking your bishop." Again, Simon Baker does a great job of looking intrigued by the move. Unfortunately, it's the only move that doesn't lose immediately, and is not very intriguing at all.

Again, Baker cannot be blamed. The producers could have had a chess player screen the episode and he would have found these things instantly. And again, I applaud the effort. But for those producers out there thinking about trying to seamlessly include chess in an episode, be warned: You haven't quite gotten there yet.

FYI, the game that Jane and Bunting play is Fischer Spassky Game 6 from the 1972 World Chess Championship. For chess geeks, I've included the entire game here (The moves in bold are the ones actually played on screen):

1. c4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bg5 O-O 6.e3 h6 7.Bh4 b6 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Bxe7 Qxe7 10.Nxd5 exd5 11.Rc1 Be6 12.Qa4 c5 13.Qa3 Rc8 14.Bb5 a6 15.dxc5 bxc5 16.O-O Ra7 17.Be2 Nd7 18.Nd4 Qf8 19.Nxe6 fxe6 20.e4 d4 21.f4 Qe7 22.e5 Rb8 23.Bc4 Kh8 24.Qh3 Nf8 25.b3 a5 26.f5 exf5 27.Rxf5 Nh7 28.Rcf1 Qd8 29.Qg3 Re7 30.h4 Rbb7 31.e6 Rbc7 32.Qe5 Qe8 33.a4 Qd8 34.R1f2 Qe8 35.R2f3 Qd8 36.Bd3 Qe8 37.Qe4 Nf6 38.Rxf6 gxf6 39.Rxf6 Kg8 (for some reason, here the show threw in "...f4," which is impossible and I can only assume they did it so that they could have a more convincing version of the "check...checkmate!" moment, since the game is pretty much lost by black at this point) 40.Bc4 Kh8 41.Qf4 (mate in 3 moves sounds better, but it's actually mate in seven ... 41. Qg8 42. Rf8 Re8 43. Qf6+ Rg7 44. e7 Rb8 45. Bd3 Rxf8 46. exf8(Q) Qxf8 47. Qxf8+ Rg8 48. Qxh6)

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Five Forgotten Awesome Legion of Super Heroes Characters

Here are five characters from the Legion of Super Heroes history that everyone seems to have forgotten about. For each one, I'll tell you a little bit about the character, and then tell you why they were AWESOME.

Duplicate Boy:




Duplicate Boy was Ord Quelu, one of a group of super heroes from the planet Lallor who got their powers from cosmic radiation or some such. As a result, Duplicate Boy could duplicate the powers of any super hero he saw. His superheroing ways eventually resulted in crossing paths whith the Legion, and for awhile, he was Shrinking Violet's love interest.


Why Duplicate Boy Was Awesome:


What was great about Duplicate Boy was that he was dumb as a fucking post. I mean it. The guy was a moron. At one point, he confronted Shrinking Violet for resuming a romantic relationship with Colossal Boy. When he discovered that in fact, the woman in question was someone impersonating Shrinking Violet, he left, satisfied. IT NEVER OCCURRED to him to wonder what had happened to the original Shrinking Violet (who had in fact, been kidapped).

Here's the kicker. Duplicate Boy's powers weren't that he could duplicate the powers of other super heroes at all. Duplicate Boy could have ANY POWER he could think of. He just didn't have any imagination.

Shvaughn Erin:


Shvaughn Erin was a member of the Science Police, the United Planets main law enforcement unit. She ultimately became the Legion's police liason and was extremely helpful to them on a number of occasions. Her involvement with Element Lad was one of the series' most storied romances.


Why Shvaughn Erin was Awesome:

Shvaughn was awesome because she managed to hold her own with a horde of men and women who could move worlds and do basically anything. However, what was super-weird about Shvaughn is that it eventually came out that she was a transexual, and had been using super advanced future medical technology (specifically, a drug called Pro-Fem), to make herself biologically female.

Ferro Lad:



Ferro Lad was Andrew Nolan, a mutant with a disfigured face who had the ability to transform himself entirely into iron. Andrew had a brother, Douglas, who did not become a super hero (one wonders what other avocations are available for a disfigured mutant who can turn into iron).

Why Ferro Lad was Awesome:


Ferro Lad may be the only character in comic book history to die and stay dead. Ferro Lad died when he flew a bomb into the heart of the Sun Eater, a very nasty apocalyptic super weapon that did exactly what you would expect it to. After that, Ferro Lad became the standard for super hero heroism ("Who can forget when Ferro Lad died saving us all from the Sun-Eater...").

Kid Psycho



Kid Psycho was Gnill Opral, who applied to the Legion of Super Heroes with his psychokinetic abilities, which he mostly used to create psychokinetic force fields. The Legionnaires all thought this power was super great, even though the way he used it it really wasn't any big deal.

Why Kid Psycho was Awesome:

One might wonder why someone named Gnill "Kid Psycho," suggesting he was some kind of lunatic, rather than say "Kid Psyche," or "Kid Psych." Even "Psycho Lad" doesn't sound as bad. However, the name seems a lot more appropriate when you discover that every time he used his powers, it cost Kid Psycho A YEAR OF HIS LIFE. Knowing this, the maladjusted Gnill decided to put himself in a situation where he would have to use his powers ALL THE TIME. Fortunately, the Legion had more sense then Gnill, and immediately moved him to reserve status.

Validus


Validus was Garridan Ranzz, the child of founding Legionnaires Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl. Darkseid kidnapped the child, sent him back in time, and mutated him into a horrible monster, in which form he would do battle with his parents time after time before he was even born. (One is forced to wonder about the wisdom of Darkseid's plan, If Validus was successful in defeating the Legion, wouldn't he prevent himself from ever being born?)

Why Validus Was Awesome:

Here's what was awesome about Validus. It wasn't that he was stronger than Superman or could shoot lightning bolts from his brain. It was that the Legion of Super Heroes were fucking TERRIFIED of him. Consider this. Validus was a member of the Fatal Five. Included in the Fatal Five (along with Tharok, an evil genius cyborg who could control Validus) were the following: The Emerald Empress, who controlled the Emerald Eye of Ekron, which was essentially the eye of a giant Green Lantern, chock full of Green Lantern energy which can effectively do anything the user can imagine, the Persuader, whose Atomic Axe could cut through anything (literally anything; A steel wall, a car, Superman's head, gravity {Im not making that up. It could cut through gravity}, anything), and Mano, whose black hand disintegrated anything it touched (again, anything. If Mano got to bitch slap Superman across the face, no more Superman's face). Despite all this, when the Legion heard the Fatal Five were on their way, it was VALIDUS that had them quaking. When describing a villain's supposedly awesome power levels, the phrase used would be "Tougher than Validus."

OK, there's some comic book trivia for you to enjoy. See you next month (maybe sooner).

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Finalist!



Good news! I am a finalist in the Storyboard TV Pilot competition. The winner gets $5000, and more importantly, a possible development deal. There are three contestants left, and now it's in the hands of the screenwriting community. If any readers want to help me out, they can do so by going to StoryboardTV.com, registering, and looking for my script, Jen-16. If you think it's the best of the three, please vote for it by clicking "I would watch this." You might have to sign in and sign out after verifying your registration for your vote to count.

Thanks, and I'll keep everyone updated!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Finding LOST

SPOILER ALERT! If you have not yet seen the last episode of Lost, read no further (if you care about knowing what happens)



So the last episode of LOST has come and gone, and what have we learned? Well, we learned that the surviving Losties saved the island and closed Pandora's Box and made all well with the universe, and then died and went to a place where their plane never crashed and all their dreams came true. Or something like that. I guess its better than just cutting to black?

Truthfully, as finales go, I didn't think it was a bad one, and they did answer a pretty good helping of questions, considering how many they brought up. However, they still left some unanswered, as I gather was the intent. Here are a few of mine. They fall into two categories. The first are about the show in general, and I don't know that these questions went unanswered so much as I don't know the answers, so if anyone does, please feel free to chime in. The second group are about the "resolution." Here goes.

General Questions

Why did Kate get all the best lines in the finale?

This is not really a question so much as an observation. I particularly enjoyed "I saved you a bullet," and "Christian Shepard? Really?"

If Jacob couldn't leave the island, how did he visit all of the "candidates" pre-Oceanic 815 in order to, well, make them candidates, I guess?

I'm sure there is an answer to this one out there, but I'll be damned if I know what it is. Anyone?

Why did Jacob choose those individuals in the first place? And why did he assign them those particular numbers. And what did those numbers mean anyway?

I understand that the answers to these questions may be found on the Season 6 DVD. Maybe they need a couple more months to figure it out?

If you pulled the cork out of that wine bottle, the wine would spill out, and it wouldn't spill back in if you replaced the cork. Why did the "light" come back?

and...

Jacob supposedly brought people to the island as potential candidates. Why couldn't Richard replace him? If Jacob brought Oceanic 815 down, why did we see that it was a result of Desmond failing to punch in the numbers?

Again, it may be that these things were explained along the way, I just didn't catch it if they were.

I'm sure I could come up with more, but I am MUCH more interested in exploring the "Flash Sideways" resolution. Here are my questions on that:

OK, so the Flash Sideways is some kind of Limbo, gateway to Heaven, whatever, and they can all be there at the same time because everybody dies at some point, right? SO:

Flash Sideways Questions


WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?


Are we to understand that Aaron lives a full life to a ripe old age and dies, only to have to spend his initial time in the afterlife as a newborn baby because a bunch of his mom's friends would have liked it that way?


And what about Ji Yeon? When she dies, she has to go back to being a FETUS!!!

WHAT ABOUT HURLEY?

Everybody dies, right? Not Hurley. He's immortal. We must assume that at some point, somebody killed him. Wouldn't you think that would warrant some discussion with Ben beyond just "You were a great number two, you were a great number one?"

WHAT ABOUT BEN?

And what about Ben, for that matter? He has to wait outside, I guess because he was such a pill to the Losties most of the time. But why can't he have his tearful reunion with his father? Is there an "Others" church next door that he will be heading to?

WHAT ABOUT LETTING GO?

So my understanding is that the point of the Flash Sideways was that the dead Losties had to learn to let go before they could move on. That's why, for example, Locke had to agree to the surgery before he could move on. But what did, say, Sun and Jin let go of? Or Claire? Or Charlie? He had to be knocked out and dragged to the final "venue."

WHAT ABOUT CHARLIE?

Speaking of Charlie, he had kind of a crappy Limbo experience, didn't he? Everyone else kind of got their fantasy, but Charlie's first experience is choking on a bag of heroin! How is that fair?

I'm sure there's more, but that should be enough to get y'all started...

Friday, May 07, 2010

That Which Does not Kill You...


I'm doing a lot of editing lately, and I'm seeing a great deal of confusion over when to use "that" and when to use "which." I know this is a common issue, and it never used to bother me. In fact, I used to get confused too, but now that I don't, I don't want anyone else to either. So here's a simple mnemonic to help you get this right every time:

Which one? That 2?

What does it mean? Essentially it means that if there's only one of the thing in the first clause, you use which, and if there are two or more, you use that.

For example:

Jesus loves Mary Magdalene's home, which doubles as a whorehouse.

Mary Magdalene only has one home, hence you use which. "Which one"

Jesus hates the law that says he can't marry Peter.

There are many laws, certainly more than two, that Jesus could potentially hate, he hates this particular law out of many, hence, use that. "That 2"

By way of illustration, let's flip them. Let's say Mary Magdalene runs a real estate empire, and has houses all over Rome. Jesus in particular hates the Ranch style two family home near the countryside. So:

Jesus loves the Mary Magdalene place that doubles as a whorehouse, not the home near the countryside.

See? "That 2"

Meanwhile, Pontius Pilate, who believes the Jews hate our freedom and love same sex fornication, has enacted the "Sexual Freedom Law" which states that two men cannot get married. So:


Jesus hates the Sexual Freedom Law, which states that he cannot marry Peter.

See? There's only one Sexual Freedom law. "Which one."


So there you go. It's not perfect but it's good enough that I expect you to get this right every time from now on.



Friday, April 30, 2010

I Shouldn't Even Be Writing This Right Now...

It's been a crazy week. At the beginning of the week, I was informed that I won a Fellowship to the prestigious Writers Boot Camp program, with a development deal on the line. Of course, assignments, which I'll be getting every two weeks for the next six months, start immediately.

Yesterday, I found out that I was a semifinalist in the Storyboard TV Writing Competition. This time, a potential production deal is on the line. They requested a rewrite (in addition to a bunch of paperwork) by May 1st. Yeah, THAT May 1st. Like, tomorrow. Like, yeah, I found out yesterday.

Add to this the fact that I have a weird work situation which I won't get into here, but the bottom line is I have a bunch of catching up to do in that arena as well, plus I recently hired a script consultant who gave me a bunch more work for two weeks from now, and I find myself in a ridiculous workload/deadline situation.

I read once that being a writer is like having homework for the rest of your life. Seems that the teachers are piling it on this week.

Anyway, that's why the blogging is suffering (no excuse for why it was suffering, say, three weeks ago, but then, my stated policy is not to make excuses for not blogging).

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Five Comic Book Series Where Superman is the Bad Guy

In my parents' generation, Superman was the be-all and end-all of superheroes. However, by the time I got to reading comic books, readership had gotten a little more sophisticated, and a lot of people realized that a hero who could do anything and couldn't really be hurt (except by the contrived use of Kryptonite, or a villain who was "even stronger" than Superman) was not that interesting.

Today, that generation is largely the one writing (and reading) comics, so the take on Superman has gotten a little different. In effect, a number of writers have realized that it's much more interesting if Superman is the bad guy. Not a temporary bad guy, like when Superman is under the effects of red kryptonite, but really a nearly all-powerful being of questionable morality. If you like your Superman evil, here are five guys you should definitely take a look at.

The Plutonian (Irredeemable; Mark Waid, Peter Krause)

In probably one of the best examples of the genre going today, Mark Waid explores the idea of the evil Superman with a character who didn't start out that way. That is, he was the same do-gooder Superman was, day in and day out, despite his growing umbrage at the complete lack of appreciation and feeling of being taken for granted by the citizens he protects. Until something really bad happened. After that bad thing, the Plutonian decided he might as well take the world for his own, destroying anything or anyone that got in his way, including, for example, the nation of Singapore, which he utterly destroys when they unite to resist him. What was the really bad thing? Can anyone stop the Plutonian? Check out Irredeemable.

The Homelander (The Boys; Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson)
Is the Homelander evil, or just supremely self-interested? In a world where virtually all superheroes are raging fonts of pure id, this Superman fits right in. He does lead a "Justice League" type group (The Seven) dedicated to saving humanity. On the other hand, that group is in the pocket of a mega-corporation, and he takes time out from his good deeds to, for example, force a young new female recruit to the group to perform oral sex on him, so he's pretty far from a "good" guy.

Hyperion (Supreme Power; J. Michael Straczynski, Gary Frank)


40 years ago, Roy Thomas and John Buscema created the Squadron Supreme, a group designed to be Marvel Comics' answer to the Justice League of America. Each JLA member had its Squadron alternate, with Hyperion, of course, being Superman. Ten years later, Mark Gruenwald reimagined this group with the revolutionary idea that a team of unbeatable superheroes would naturally decide it was appropriate for them to govern the world (this idea reached its apotheosis in the groundbreaking The Authority, by Warren Ellis). In the 21st century, J. Michael Stracyznski reimagined Hyperion again. In this incarnation, the U.S. government, seeing the unidentified object streaking through the sky, took the young alien away from "Jonathan and Martha" immediately, raising him from infancy to be a super weapon. Naturally, spending your life as a government tool gets grating after awhile, and as soon as Hyperion was old enough to know better, he set about using his Supreme Power to rule the world.

Ultraman (Earth-2; Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely)

While these others are merely imitations of Superman, Ultraman really IS Superman, the Superman of a parallel universe where good and evil are reversed, going back at least as far as Benedict Arnold heroically betraying the British for the cause of the United States. In Earth-2, it's a given that the supers run things, and the real conflict is between these godlike being themselves. The biggest conflict, naturally, is between Ultraman and his world's Batman counterpart, Owlman. The main point of contention? They're both sleeping with Wonder Woman (Superwoman, in this reality).

Omni-Man (Invincible; Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker)

Invincible tells the story of Mark Grayson, a seemingly charmed teenager whose father happens to be Earth's greatest hero. Things get better and better for Mark, as he develops his own nearly limitless super powers and gets a hot girlfriend to boot. Of course, this wouldn't be much of a story if things didn't go downhill, and they do in a big way, when Mark discovers that his father, Omni-Man, is no hero at all, but in fact the lead scout of an alien invasion force. Eventually, after fathering children with aliens from two different worlds he was supposed to conquer, Omni-Man seems to have a change of heart, but it may be too late.

So to repeat, if you like your Superman on the wrong side of the law, head to your local bookstore and check out one of these titles.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

5 Lesser Known DC Comics Properties That Should Be Made into Movies


According to recent buzz, DC Comics is finally planning to give in and follow Marvel onto the big screen in a more expansive way. DC is ready to compete with Marvel in the Hollywood arena, preparing big screen versions of Green Lantern and Jonah Hex. I'm hoping they decide to follow Marvel's lead in throwing in some films featuring lesser known characters (e.g. Ghost Rider, Daredevil, etc.). Here are five lesser known D.C. properties I'd like to see made into major motion pictures.


Deadman



Deadman was the story of Boston Brand, a circus aerialist who was shot by an assassin in the middle of his routine. The ancient deity Rama Kushna took pity on Boston, and gave him the ability to roam the world as a ghost, righting wrongs as he searched for the man who shot him and the reason why. Since being a ghost in itself isn't much of a power, Boston had the ability to possess other human beings, using them as tools in his crusade to do good and find out the truth about his death.

I think Deadman would make a great movie. For one, it is a story with a beginning, a middle and an ending (with a twist, which I won't reveal here). For another, it is a very human story, and even as a ghost, Brand is subject to human weaknesses (one of the best conceits of the series was Brand's frustration trying to pull his aerialist moves in bodies that clearly weren't designed for them, i.e. your average, fat, out of shape American couch potato). In fact (surprise!) I'd be very willing to write the screenplay.

Swamp Thing



Now that the seal on Alan Moore properties has been completely torn off, it's time to make a Swamp Thing movie. Moore completely revolutionized mainstream comics with his take on ST, not as a man who has become a vegetable, but as a vegetable who thinks he is a man. It sounds silly on the page, but this story of a creature who comes to accept the loss of a humanity he never actually possessed is actually quite poignant.

Hawkworld



The origin of Hawkman has been put through several wringers leading up to the modern day, but the best interpretation has to have been Tim Truman and John Ostrander's, back in the late '80s early '90s. This series relied heavily on the idea of the Hawks as a pair of alien policemen, one of noble birth and one from the streets, and the politics of the planet Thanagar figured as heavily in the plots as your basic super hero doings, an idea that I think would work well for modern audiences.

Camelot 3000



Fans of Arthurian mythology and science fiction alike could get behind this limited series, which asked the question: What would happen if the Knights of the Round Table were reincarnated in the year 3000 to thwart an ancient evil? The answer: something very entertaining.

Firestorm
The ultimate attempt to bridge the generation gap, Firestorm was two men in one, teenage rebel Ronnie Raymond and stodgy science Professor Martin Stein, who were fused together in a nuclear explosion and forced to work as one to fight evil. This would be a great opportunity to pair an old favorite star with one of the new millenium's finest: Think Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul from "Breaking Bad."

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Arrivederci, Vancouver

Where have I been? I promised myself when I started this blog that I would never have one of those "sorry I haven't been posting" posts, so I say by way of explanation, not excuse, that I have been busy watching the Olympics. (Also, it's tax season, so financial services professional and faithful CHP reader Bill Saas has had less free time and therefore less reason to harrass me about not blogging).

I love the Winter Olympics. More so than the Summer Olympics. I love the speed. I love the crashes. I love how the United States is not guaranteed to win practically every event, so it's exciting when they do. I love seeing sporting activities that I only get to see every four years, like Biathlon and Snowboard Cross racing. I especially love it now that I have TiVo to whiz past the down time and the fluff pieces.

So, since I've been gone watching the Winter Olympics, here's my analysis, as they draw to a close:

The Thrill of Victory

As always, the Winter Olympics produced (or NBC produced, depending upon how you look at it), some great stories. For me, the best ones were the following:

Bode Miller:

In Turin, Alpine Skiing great Bode Miller was the Sports Illustrated golden boy. He was a World Cup monster, and was predicted to bring home a big haul of treasure for the United States. And he knew it. He played the obnoxious rockstar athlete to the hilt, and, to my personal satisfaction, completely crapped out in Turin, failing to medal at all.

Vancouver saw a new Bode Miller. He was humble. A family man. Someone who had clearly grown up. And karma rewarded him, with medals across the board, a Gold in Super Combined, a Silver in Super G and a Bronze in downhill.


Apolo Ohno:


It's hard not to like short track speed skater Apolo Ohno. He is clearly a guy who worked hard to turn his life around and was awarded with a whole slew of medals. In this, his last Olympics, everything seemed to fall his way, literally, as in races where he looked as if he would fail to medal, last second slips or crashes by other racers paved the way for Ohno to reach the podium. Even in his final indvidual race, the 500m, Ohno made it to the final by dodging racers who obligingly crashed out to clear him a path. He even crossed the line second in that final for a potential silver, but was disqualified in a controversial ruling. He did not let this dampen his spirits, however, as he put it together one last time to help America medal in the team relay event.

The Agony of Defeat

Of course, without stories of disappointment, there are no stories of redemption and glory. Here are a couple of the most moving stories of athletes falling short in this year's games:

Sven Kramer

Probably the most tragic story of these games was that of Sven Kramer. 23 year old Kramer is a long track speed skater and a virtual rock star in the Netherlands, a country as crazy for speed skating as Canada is for hockey. He is far and away the best long track speed skater in the world and took the 5000 meters gold easily, to the apoplectic joy of Dutch fans. This would be followed by tragedy, however, as Kramer went for gold in the 10,000 meter, a race for which he has no peer. Although crossing the finish line in record time a full six seconds ahead, an eternity in racing terms, Kramer was disqualified, as his coach directed him into the WRONG LANE eight laps before the end of the race. Through no fault of his own, Kramer ended up with nothing in the race he was born to win and Kramer's feeling of disappointment and betrayal was palpable.


Women's Giant Slalom (Vonn/Mancuso)



Lindsey Vonn was to Vancouver as Bode Miller was to Turin, without the attitude. She was the great Amercan hope for skiing in these Olympics. She delivered, with the first American woman's gold in the Downhill event, and a bronze medal in another discipline to go with it. A great result, although the American public was probably set up to expect more. Julia Mancuso was the "other" American skier, constantly in Vonn's shadow. With all eyes on Vonn, Mancuso collected silver medals in the Downhill and Combined events.

Nowhere was the idea of Mancuso in Vonn's shadow more ironically and tragically played out than in the Giant Slalom event. Mancuso had been the upset winner in this event in 2006, and a win here would really cement her status as an Olympic champion in her own right. In a bizarre twist of fate, Mancuso was scheduled to ski immediately following Vonn.

A little more than halfway through her run, Vonn crashed, breaking her finger and finding herself stuck on the course. For some inexplicable reason, race officials sent Mancuso on her run while Vonn was still racing, so Mancuso found herself speeding down the mountain with Vonn still crashed on the course. While Vonn was off to the side and would not have made contact with Mancuso unless she also crashed, officials decided at the last minute to flag Mancuso down and cancel her run. Distraught, she trudged back up the hill to start over, but, no doubt distracted by the strange situation, finished 1.3 seconds behind in the first run, and failed to medal.



As I write, the games are not quite over, and there are still some stories to be written; the U.S. has a chance to win for both men and women in the relatively new Speed Skating Team Pursuit, an event in which both teams were heavy underdogs, and most notably, the U.S. Canada Men's hockey final is yet to be played. And of course, there are many stories I did not even touch on. If this all sounds interesting and you're sorry you missed it, I don't blame you. Never fear though, thanks to the wisdom of the IOC in staggering Olympics, there should be a bunch more great stories to enjoy in two years at the Summer Games in London.



Friday, January 29, 2010

Disgracing the Ace


A few months ago I wrote a blog to sing the praises of a new poker show on NBC, Face the Ace. Now, having seen several episodes of the show, I am writing to apologize.


The show appealed to me because I expected to see some everyman poker players, and some fun stories. I have seen neither. Frankly, my favorite part of the show is guessing the pro from his/her introduction, in which I'm batting 1000.


The parade of cocky 20 (and 30 and 40) somethings that I feared quickly arrived. Typically the level of cockiness varied inversely with the level of success, which was nice. However, the coversations between the pros and the amateurs is unbearable. Either it's blatant hero worship or blatant self-promotion. I found myself fast forwarding through as much of the chatter as possible.


There's little interesting about the matches. It seems the two players trade pots until the amateur decides he has a pre-flop hand good enough to go all in with, and if the pro has any ace, king or pair, he figures "what the hell, there's a big game developing at the Bellagio" and calls.


Steven Schirripa, whose "timid mouse inside a fearsome lion's body" act worked brilliantly in the Sopranos, is clearly suffering in his role as host. He is obviously not comfortable without a script to work from, and it shows. Often, his contributions are of the "So what do you think?" and "So what's gong on here?" variety. Not exactly what I'm looking for in a host. Ali Nejad's appearances to announce blind raises is a rather random intrusion as well.


Finally, way too many of the contestants are quitting after the first win. In addition to being a mathematically atrocious choice, it doesn't make for very good television.


Anyway, the public was right, I was wrong. Sorry about this one.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Human Target

There's a new series on FOX called The Human Target. I will tell you right out of the gate that I was prepared to hate this show for a number of reasons. First of all, as a kid, I was a fan of the original Human Target:

And I was quite sure that FOX was going to screw it up (the "Coming soon to ABC-TV!" banner on the above comic refers to a short-lived Human Target series on ABC back in 1992 starring Rick Springfield, which I actually kind of liked).

The original premise was that the mysterious Christopher Chance, a James Bond-type, would serve as a bodyguard, not in the conventional way, but using his disguise skills to actually take the place of the intended victim, drawing the assassin out. When I heard that Mark Valley's Human Target would instead use the intended victim as bait and put himself in harm's way, I was already skeptical.

I was also getting quite sick of this guy:



Mark Valley, who you will recognize most recently from the FOX X-Files knockoff Fringe. Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with Valley personally, or even with his acting. What I'm really tired of is the blond, square jawed, 40-something, slightly goofy sci-fi/comic book hero, who you can also see in Eureka in the form of Colin Ferugson:


and in The 4400 and V in the form of Joel Gretsch:


Am I supposed to identify with these guys?

Anyway, so I watched the premiere, all set to give a scathing review about trite reimaginings of great concepts.

Ladies and gentlemen, I LOVED it. First of all, as action-adventure pilots go, I did not find that the plot was particularly predictable or cliched, which was incredibly refreshing. Secondly, I thought Mark Valley did a fine job, and his decision to be close to his target rather than actually become the target actually made sense. Next, and perhaps more importantly, it co-starred this guy:


Whom people my age will remember as the brash Kelly Leak from the original Bad News Bears, and more recent readers will remember from his absolutely brilliant turn as Rorscach in the movie Watchmen. The character Guerrero that Jackie Earle Haley plays in the Human Target is somewhere in between, a guy who doesn't look like much, but you just know could kill you if he wanted to. You're afraid of him and you don't quite know why. This type of character is possibly my favorite in all of fiction, and Haley is perfect for him.

Finally, and equally important, is Mark Valley's Christopher Chance. To my surprise, he was neither a douchebag nor an intolerable goofball. I'm all for a good anti-hero: I love seeing House put it to his hapless team and patients every week. But it was about time for a protagonist who has his shit together (relatively speaking) and is just a good guy. That's who Christopher Chance is. Chance is a callback to old school action heroes like the A-Team's Hannibal Smith and Mission Impossible's Jim Phelps. He's cool without being an asshole, and I dig it.

Anyway, watch The Human Target. If the episodes that follow are anything like the pilot (and you like this sort of thing), it'll definitely be worth your while.