It’s no secret I loved last fall’s Dredd – I felt it was one of the year’s best films, and thought it a real tragedy that it flopped in theaters, though it’s fantastic DVD sales give me hope we haven’t seen the last of Judge Dredd in the cinemas. Seriously, rent it if you haven’t seen it already.
Even if we don’t see a sequel in the multiplex, a recent fan film shows that there may be a future for Judge Dredd and Mega City One outside of Hollywood. Made entirely by fans, on a micro-budget, I am pleased to present, Judge Minty.
Judge William Minty has spent his entire adult life policing the violent streets of Mega-City One – and now he’s slowing down, getting soft in his old age. When a lapse of judgement almost costs him his life in a firefight, he knows that it’s time to quit. Rather than retire to clerk in the Hall of Justice or teach in the Academy, he chooses to take the Long Walk – a voluntary exile into the radioactive ruins of the Cursed Earth, bringing law to the lawless for the rest of his days. It’s a harsh hellish landscape inhabited by mutants, psionics and bandits, but Judge Minty will teach them the meaning of the law – or die trying.
I promised a few months ago that I would begin to introduce you to a few of my fictional projects, and have been dropping hints about some of them that a few of my more discerning regular readers may have picked up on. Seeing as today is May Day, as well as the first month of that writing challenge I’m participating in, I figured it would be the perfect time to debut one of my various fictional projects, a series of alternate history stories under the working collective banner of the Communist Confederacy.
For those who don’t know, alternate history is one of the fastest growing subgenres in science fiction, and as they name might imply, focuses on worlds where, for whatever reason, did not go as it did in our own past. As a history buff and a sci-fi fan, I’ve been a genre devotee for years – no doubt a few of you may know I’m a columnist for the Alternate History Weekly Update – yet like any fan, there are some sticking points for me.
One of the biggest genre tropes is that the Confederacy wins the American Civil War, and goes on as an independent nation. This isn’t quite so surprising, after all, discounting various religious figures, the only topic written more about than the American Civil War is World War II, so it makes sense both have formed focal points in the alternate history genre.
That said, I’ve always been somewhat annoyed that the Confederacy is almost always far more successful than it should have been, or characterized differently than history would indicate, ranging from Harry Turtledove’s TL-191 novels, where the Confederacy manages to for the most part fight the remnant United States to a standstill in two World Wars, to the online classic from the late Robert Perkins, the Black and the Grey, which has a racially diverse and vibrant CSA standing against an increasingly authoritarian USA. Though on a literary level, many of these works are fantastic and enjoyable, it perturbed me on a historical one for a couple reasons – they tend to ignore some fundamental truths about the nature of the Confederacy, and they have the Confederacy not only win the war, but long survive it. As I mentioned in both of the articles I just linked to, history is radically different from pop culture’s picture of the Confederacy we all too often confuse for the real one. So I set out to create one more to my liking, one that I felt far closer to what would have happened if the Confederacy had won the war.
It’s all anybody has been able to talk about the last few days, especially in the sports world. The most talked about basketball player in sports isn’t in the ongoing NBA playoffs, and his team was the worst in the league. Yet, the biggest name in basketball is currently Jason Collins of the Washington Wizards, not for his actions on the court, but off of the court – he is the first member of the NBA to come out of the closet, making him professional basketball’s first openly gay player.
Regardless of your personal stance on this, there is no denying he has set off a genuine media storm of positive press, having gone from a zero to hero and a has-been to an icon in the coverage that has followed since he came out in a self penned article in Sports Illustrated. For a time it seemed like this was all some commentators could talk about, in mostly favorable coverage, some even going as far as to call him the new Jackie Robinson.
It is in reaction to that I felt the need to write this, because Jason Collins is no Jackie Robinson.
Let me begin by making one thing clear, that I have nothing against Jason Collins. Kudos for coming out and being yourself Mr. Collins, give yourself a pat on the back. As a matter of fact, so should the rest of us for being a society where we celebrate or just shrug our shoulders and move on in reaction to diversity. That is cause to celebrate, certainly in regards to where we are as a society in terms of tolerance.
Back when I regularly started doing film reviews, one of the first films I covered on site was Tron Legacy, the long-awaited sequel to the 1980s cult classic which turned Tron into a franchise and a household name once more. While I maintain the film is a solidly entertaining film, and one of the best looking and sounding films I’ve reviewed, the sequel isn’t left the boardroom quite yet, unless you count the top notch TV series Tron Uprising. So when director Joseph Kosinski announced a side project by the name of Oblivion, like many others, I took notice.Though at first disappointed that it had nothing to do with the famed video game by the same name, but instead a science fiction film based on a comic by Kosinski, that is one of three films this year featuring Earth after humanity has sought greener pastures elsewhere, with this movie in particular focused on a pair of observers who stayed behind uncovering a conspiracy. Though no doubt less intriguing than Elysium, and no doubt better than M. Night Shaymalan/Jaden Smith’s last stand After Earth, the film had some intriguing trailers, a solid cast, and I liked Tron Legacy enough to give the film a matinee.
So has Kosinski given us another sci-fi world worth exploring, or is this post-Earth adventure a cinematic apocalypse? Join me as I live into the brave new world of Oblivion.
Though generations have passed, the Holocaust’s victims still suffer the consequences of the Final Solution. One such survivor is 73-year-old Menachem Bodner, a Mengele Twin whom, upon the liberation of Auschwitz, was separated from his brother, whom even today, he has yet to find again. With the aid of social media, he hopes to change that.
Born Ellias Gottesmann, along with his twin brother Jeno, he and his brother were separated from his family upon arrival at Auschwitz, taken to be a part of Dr. Mengele’s infamous twin expiriemnts, while their family, like millions of others, were taken to the gas chambers. In spite of the horrid expiriments forced upon them, both would survive until the camp was liberated. In the chaos of liberation however, he came to be separated from his brother, and instead, met a man who, having lost his wife and daughter, took him as an adopted son, giving him the name Menachem Bodner, which he bears to this day. Now an Israeli grandfather, he seeks to find his lost twin, and is rallying millions of others to help him.
Few names command such unconditional respect and adoration than Jackie Robinson. The first baseball player to break the color barrier, and a fantastic player in his own right, Robinson proved to be not only a force of change in baseball, but may well have been the first initial success of the Civil Rights movement, more than a decade before a formal movement even existed. On top of that, Jackson’s life provides one of the best tales of courage and triumph in the face of adversity to be found in the modern era – he was at once a civil rights icon, a baseball legend, and an American hero, one we rightly revere to this very day.So it’s kind of surprising there has never been a movie about such a famous man and story, not since, ironically enough, a movie starring Jackie Robinson as himself from 1950. There have been attempts, from folks ranging from Spike Lee to Robert Redford all trying and failing to get a movie about Robinson made. With the 66th Anniversary of Robinson’s first game this coming Monday, it is perhaps all-too fitting that 42 comes out today, marking the first major film about Robinson’s storied baseball career. That said, this film really did come out of left field – were it not for trailers attached to Django Unchained, I’d have never even hear about it. Even then, for such a major film, the names behind it are mostly Bush league at most, the biggest name attached being Harrison Ford, cast as Dodger’s GM Branch Rickey. It’s directed by Brian Helgeland, who also wrote the screenplay, who hasn’t directed a movie in a decade – and we all know how well that worked for Hunger Games - and whose most notable effort was A Knight’s Tale. The cast is filled with a bunch of minor league prospects, mostly first timers and TV actors, including the role of Jackie Robinson given to Chadwick Boseman in his first at bat in a title role. Still, as a long time baseball fan – as if you couldn’t tell from all the sports metaphors – and of Robinson as well, to say nothing of having been intrigued by the trailers, I figured I’d give 42 a chance to play ball.
So, does this Jackie Robinson biopic knock it out of the park, or would this film have been better left warming the bench? Pack the bleachers as I step up to the plate and take a swing at 42.
Today marks the passing of a true titan of the West, as former PM Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain has passed away at the age of 87. Having begun her life as the daughter of a grocer, by the time of her death, her force of personality, loyalty to the free-market and democratic principles and unbreakable resolve had made the co-called Iron Lady an icon the world over, scorned by many, revered by many more, an indisputably leaving an impact on Britain and the world.She began her life as the daughter of a man who owned two groceries in Lincolnshire, and after showing a habit for stern resolve and smart solutions as a student and a chemist, before getting elected to Parliament in 1959. It would be here in the House of Commons where she would be one of several vocal voices among the Conservative Party who reformed it from ‘an Old Boy’s Club’ to its modern shape of the party of the British middle-class, entrepreneurs and industrialists, as well as being a vocal voice against leftism. Under Prime Minister Edward Heath, she would be appointed head of the Ministry of Education, where she would both expand and reform the education system of the British Isles, while cutting costs throughout. Following Heath’s loss in 1974, whereupon her return to the House of Commons, she would be elected leader of the Opposition. Following a series of strikes in the late 1970s, and a vote of no confidence resulting in a conservative majority, Margaret Thatcher would be elected Prime Minister, making her the first non-royal woman to lead Britain, and with the exception of Israel’s Golda Meir, the first woman to lead a western nation.Her reign as Prime Minister would be marked domestically by her brand of ideology known as Thatcherism, which despite a rough start, would begin a number of needed reforms across Britain, dismantling the nanny state that had left Britain that had crippled to the degree that it was known as ‘The Sick Man of Europe’, as well as privatizing many nationalized industries, weakening the trade-unions, and supporting free market reforms and improvements to both infrastructure and education. Though there was much opposition, by the time she’d left office, Britain’s economy and national outlook were the best they’d been in decades, and the thriving economy the nation now hosts is largely thanks to Thatcher, whose ideology has for the most part become a keystone of British policy that Peter Mandelson, a high-ranking member of the Labour Party, would declare ‘We are all Thatcherites now’.
Today marks the return of the 1993 classic film Jurassic Park to movie theaters, the latest film to get a 3D rerelease treatment. Based off of the Michael Crichton sci-fi thriller, in addition to being a pulse-pounding adventure and one of Steven Spielberg’s finest films, the film remains best known for hosting what are to date some of the best special effects ever put to screen, serving as the first, and perhaps best use of widespread CGI effects. Needless to say, Universal likely hopes to capitalize on that legacy in bringing those effects to IMAX 3D for the scores of crowds that once again will flock to see dinosaurs brought to life before their eyes.
I am not talking about Jurassic Park here today. In part because, by this point, everyone has seen it, everyone agrees it’s fantastic, and the 3D rerelease won’t change enough to warrant a full review. Instead, I am using the attention cast on the reopening of Jurassic Park to showcase another great film from the era after Jurassic Park showed the possibilities of CGI, and before The Phantom Menace sparked the wave of CGI heavy, concept/script/acting/directing light films that cinema is still wrestling with today. You see, with the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, the film showed that CGI allowed filmmakers to give life to creatures that only stalked our imaginations before, and if wasn’t long before someone used the tech that pulled dinosaurs out of the museums for a movie that would pull dragons from the storybooks – a movie by the name of Dragonheart.A 1996 fantasy film directed by Rob Cohen, prior to his misfortunate experimentations with the extreme sports subculture, Dragonheart aimed to do what no other film had done before – bring a dragon to life on the big screen the same way that Jurassic Park put flesh back on the fossils. Given that outside of animation, what few attempts at dragons in movies were usually either laughable stop-motion efforts or men in rubber suits of varying degrees of feeble ferociousness, this would have seemed like an unachievable task had Jurassic Park not shown this was possible. Even then, many wondered if the film, under the tagline ‘You will believe’, could actually do this, let alone tell a story that would make the movie more than a very expensive special effects showcase – you know, back when studios worried about that. Needless to say, while not the cultural milestone that Jurassic Park was, it was a hit at the box office, and the movie has boasted a dedicated following of fans ever since, yours truly included.