Sunday, May 21, 2017

SECOND "ALIEN" PREQUEL STELLAR



          Like George Miller with Mad Max, Ridley Scott isn't just mining his own franchise from nearly forty years ago, he's legitimately expanding it.
          The 2012 film Prometheus sets the sci-fi stage for Covenant, which in turn does the same for Alien (1979).
          Strong on character, visually compelling, and boasting an epic feel, Covenant gives us all of the gross-out "chest-bursting" moments we expect, while further exploring the disturbing implications and possibilities of artificial life.
          When ship crew members awaken prematurely on a journey to a new planet for the 2,000 passengers aboard sleeping in hibernation pods to colonize, they find their captain has died, and their new captain is unsure of himself.
          After receiving a mysterious transmission, the new captain deviates from the original mission and charts a course for a planet which looks like the natural world on Earth. The crew soon find a huge crescent-shaped vessel that crashed against a mountain, and are exposed to spores that use humans as fast-acting incubators for an extremely vicious, violent species.
          The compelling result is polished sci-fi gold.
          Fans of the 1979 original, a film resplendent with the dark art of H. R. Giger, will appreciate the visually consistent look and ominous appeal from the director of Blade Runner (1982). In keeping with that film, Covenant features artificial life. Michael Fassbender, in a dual role, plays a "synth" named David, and the newer, updated version, Walter.
          Those new to the franchise won't be required to see the other films, but they'll want to.




ALIEN: COVENANT
Starring Michael Fassbender,
Katherine Waterson,
Billy Crudup,
Danny McBride,
Carmen Ejogo,
Jussie Smollett,
Callie Hernandez
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett,
Jack Paglen, Michael Green, John Logan, Dante Harper
Runtime 122 minutes
Rated R


Stewart Kirby writes for



Friday, May 19, 2017

EL OBRERO



Part of my writing process is sharing it here. Sometimes the stories finish fast, and sometimes they take awhile. I've found if I share at least an idea, I tend to come back to it and contribute more. To wit, the current ongoing story, KRAZY KARTOONZ, which began here as a post consisting of notes and impressions.


So what I'm seeing here so far is a story about some lone individual who, disguised, does daring deeds on behalf of worker's rights. He appears at night in a sort of quasi-costume consisting of overalls, boots, gloves, an N-Ferno hood, long-sleeved solid color shirt, and shades, sometimes with a tool belt, a big sledge-like hammer, a big sharp knife, an axe, a maul. Whether he named himself or not, I'm not sure, but he's known as El Obrero--the Worker.


Here's the pissed-off developer who wants to put up a giant wall.




His name: Wally.

Wally likes shot guns and hires goons. A belligerent man, Wally favors a bull horn and loves his larger-than -life tougher-than-nails persona in the media.


Because of this coverage, which quickly goes global, in Germany, sightings of Der Arbeiter arise. In Russia, Rabotnik. Other pro-worker's rights individuals around the world dedicate themselves to amazing moments of bravery, causing no violence to people, and rather only disabling machinery destructive to human dignity and rights. NOTE: Need a few more particulars there.






Not living in a perfect world, he might have to go ahead and teach lots of goons important lessons with hedge clippers, nail guns, a couple of picks and a Maddox.


And there might be an alien ninja.




Not sure.


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Monday, May 15, 2017

"GUARDIANS 2" RE-CAPTURES MAGIC

          Almost every bit as good as the first. It's basically about like the other one, except not totally fresh and unexpected.
          Admittedly, the story is fairly scant. Though it amounts to yet another father quest, the style of the characters and sheer presentation suffice to enthrall.
          Whereas the first one allows us to meet the disparate characters and see the formation of the unlikely group, this sequel focuses on Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, meeting his dad (excellently played by Kurt Russell).
          Among the sub-plots, Gamora (Saldana) has a part-robot sister named Nebula (Gillan) who's ticked off that their dad, Thanos, had part of Nebula's flesh removed and replaced artificially every time she lost a contest to Gamora.
          Whereas last time Rocket (voice of Cooper) rode on the shoulder of the big plant-man Groot, this time Baby Groot (voice of Diesel)--a tiny plant-guy who rocks out to Star-Lord's mix tapes with cuteness levels exceeding baskets of kittens--rides on the shoulder of the genetically-engineered weapons specialist raccoon...or monkey, or rat, or garbage panda. No one can quite tell.
          Some of the movie's scenes are tainted by inclusion in the trailer for months. A better way to draw in viewers is to not spoil scenes, but rather create an entirely separate trailer product which provides a sense of the film and enhances excitement without giving anything away. Suffice to say, there's still romantic tension between Star-Lord and Gamora as noticed by Mantis (Klementieff), whose antennae detect people's emotions and allow her to innocently reveal deep secrets.
          Meanwhile, we learn of the Sovereigns, gold-colored people of an advanced species who control human affairs from afar. Or at least try to, blissfully ignorant that their machinery produces noises sounding like Atari arcade games.
          Like Deadpool, Guardians is a post-modern twist on the Marvel superhero movie. Laid-back and irreverent, the sequel revels in the same edgy humor and ethos of coolness that sets the franchise apart from the crowd.
          Well worth settling back for more galactic action and the best easy listening soundtrack in the multiverse.


GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
Starring Chris Pratt,
Zoe Saldana,
Dave Bautista,
Bradley Cooper,
Vin Diesel,
Pom Klementieff,
Michael Rooker,
Karen Gillan,
Kurt Russell
Directed by James Gunn
Written by James Gunn, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning
Runtime 136 minutes
Rated PG-13




Stewart Kirby writes for



Friday, May 12, 2017

KRAZY KARTOONZ



THE OLD MAN powered the BMW smoothly up the steep winding slope still effusive, still grateful.


"It was just a reflex, sir," the easygoing passenger repeated yet again, looking out the window at the town receding below. The rolling golden hills were dotted with trees that the young man thought looked like giant bunches of overcooked broccoli.


"Why, it was...just a reflex!" The old man gave another dead-on Randy Rabbit impression.


The passenger turned his attention from the relaxing vibe of the scenic charms and began to scrutinize the old man behind the wheel more closely. The old man didn't seem to notice he was being watched. The young man said nothing, and eventually turned his attention back outside to the hills rolling all around.


"D-don't quit now, Ch-Ch-Chief!" The words came from the old man driving, but it sounded exactly like Guzzy Goose. Finally, the young man realized.


"Hey, you're Lem Weiss, aren't you?"


"What's your name, son?" Graciously the old man shot out a hand for the shaking without taking his eyes off the road.


"Casey Evans. Man, I love Krazy Kartoonz!"


"And I love not getting hit by that damn car, Casey! You saved my life, kid. At least what's left of it. Tell me, how long have you been homeless?"


"I'm not homeless, I just travel around."


"How long?"


"About six years."


"How old are you?"


"Twenty-four." He almost added, while the old man shook his head disapprovingly, "How old are you?" but didn't want to be rude.


The BMW eased up a side road and a hundred yards up that swerved into a driveway barred by a large wrought iron gate. A remote was attached with a clip to the driver's side sun visor. Lem clearly enjoyed hitting the button that made the imposing gate roll to the side.


"I never knew you lived out here," Casey said.


"Not many people do. That's the way I want it, too. I moved up here, let's see, almost three years ago now, shortly after my wife passed away. For years and years we lived near Morro Bay. But I just can't be there anymore."


"How did your wife die?" Casey hoped that was a polite way to respond.


"Freak explosion," Lem said as he parked the car. "Come on inside. When was the last time you had a decent meal?"


Casey gave an absent-minded reply, vaguely trailing off as he got out and beheld Lem Weiss's home. "Wow, it looks like a castle! Whoa, you even have a moat!"


"I stock it with piranha," Lem said, smiling. "Tell me, young man, I'm frankly curious. What on earth possessed you to hitchhike out here?"


Casey detected a rebuke. Somehow this put him at ease. "I've been on the road for years traveling around the whole Pac Northwest. I work on fishing boats, I work construction."


"You work clipping pot?"


"Why, you got any?"


Lem laughed. He still kept that tiny mustache. Old school. Still dressed casual conservative, still loved his Scotch, just like he did in the 1940s and 50s when Krazy Kartoonz was at its height.


"Go ahead, kid, reach into the moat. Piranha love to be petted."


At the right angle, Casey could see the glitter of fish chilling in the murk. "Yeah, that moat doesn't look too clean."


"Oh, they clean what goes in it. Come on, let's get a m-m-meal in ya Ch-Ch-Chief!"


At the touch of a button, a drawbridge slowly lowered, behind which simultaneously a large wrought iron portcullis slowly rose.


Casey wandered in wide-eyed. A profusion of wisteria complemented stone walls and a flowery scent permeated the air. Lem led the way to a heavy door which opened to a dark hall. Though the day was warm, inside the house Casey felt cold.


At the end of the hall was a door to the kitchen, the biggest kitchen in a home that Casey had ever seen, with multiple stoves and refrigerators, and great big pots, butcher knives and meat cleavers. Lem selected a temperature on an oven, pulled a foil-wrapped tray from a fridge and asked Casey if he wanted two enchiladas or three.


"Enchiladas? Seriously? I can have three?"


"Of course! Let's just give these a few minutes in the oven. They're worth it that way. What can I get you to drink? Scotch?"


"Scotch? Kind of early, but, okay."


On the opposite side of the kitchen was the door to the dining room, which in turn opened to a family room beyond. Casey got the feeling that Lem didn't have much family around. He spotted the mini-bar as he perused the d├ęcor. In the time it took him to take in what seemed cursory glances at surroundings which evoked imagery from the classic cartoons, Lem had turned on some classical music, poured a couple of drinks, and retrieved a handsome box from which produced a rich man's stogie.


"Cigar?" said Lem, proffering the open box.


"Sure," Casey said, selecting one, "thanks!"


In a gentlemanly manner, Lem produced a light. Gratefully Casey inhaled. Lem put his lighter in his pocket and took a step back as he watched Casey take a couple drags.


BOOM!


The cigar exploded.


Casey's screams of pain were stifled by the splits at the corners of his mouth. All around his mouth, from the tip of his chin to his cheekbones, the skin was blackened by the small blast.


"I'm so sorry," Lem eventually said. "I don't know how that gag cigar wound up in the box! Here, take my handkerchief. You'll want to wipe off your face, kid."


Casey took the cloth, wincing as he wiped.


"I feel just terrible about that," Lem kept saying. Lem felt so badly about Casey's cuts, he offered him a rare gift by way of compensation: a pair of actual jet-shoes inspired by an old episode from Krazy Kartoonz.


Casey looked up. "No way," he said, "really?"


"Actual jet-shoes. Try 'em on, kid!"


The shoes were an amazing achievement. Even if they didn't work, they were cool to look at.


At Lem's friendly behest, Casey went ahead and put the jet-shoes on without a trace of self-awareness regarding the pungent stench released from his feet. And for a moment his mind was taken off the pain from the exploding cigar. Then Lem showed him the switches at the heels. Assuming the requisite crouch, Casey readied himself as the jet-shoes powered up. He could feel the shoes shaking as they emitted a sound that started out low and slowly increased its pitch to a high intimidating whine. Just as Casey turned his cigar-blackened face to Lem with the intention of saying, "I don't think I want to do this," flames burst from a small box at the back of each heel and Casey was propelled forward faster than he could maintain his crouch, so that his feet shot ahead and his back slammed against the stone flagging of the small courtyard. It nearly cracked his head open, but he managed to keep his chin tucked in.


Though the power of the shoes was spent in seconds, in that time Casey was dragged around like a chew toy in the mouth of an excited dog. To Casey it felt like the shoes had chains attached to a Hummer that tore off at top speed. Only when it was over did he realize the screams still ringing in his ears were his own.


The smell which lingered in the air reminded him of the 4th of July. He couldn't quite remember who he was, initially. Where he was or why. He was bleeding, he noticed. Hands, shoulder. His back stung terribly. Holding up his right elbow, Casey saw a thick flap of skin about as big as a credit card flop over and bob on a wet grimy hinge. Lem was there, looking. Leaning down, he saw.


The old man laughed as the wound gushed blood...














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SOON

TOP STEW TUNES

In about a half dozen years I've had the privilege to write and sing songs for a couple-plus bands. I say plus because one musical incarnation consisted of just me and a guitarist.


CrowMag, my first band, has several excellent tunes. I include in my primo list what I think are our four top numbers:


Surfboard Cindy
We Went to Town (On a Bigfoot We Found)
Wotan
Ultimate Poem


Howlin' Stew and Muddy Ross have a couple songs that merit inclusion:


Release
Mothers Without Masters


Mothers Without Masters is story title, a song title, and a band name (which by the way I want to return to with a new lineup). MWM at some point became Stew and the Sleazebags. A few months of jamming once or twice a week resulted in eight songs that I like best:


MWM - No Good Reason
MWM - One More Night
MWM - Dirty Energy
Stew and the Sleazebags - Overqualified
Stew and the Sleazebags - Hear About You
Stew and the Sleazebags - Lumber by the Train
Stew and the Sleazebags - Went to Town
Stew and the Sleazebags - Lotion in the Basket


Check out my profile on SoundCloud. When you're there, just scroll on down. Some tunes have multiple versions. I'll take down the lesser ones as new material demands.









Sunday, April 30, 2017

"SUPER HIGH" STILL SOARING

          After learning of the McDonald's diet documentary Super Size Me (2004), comedian Doug Benson said, if eating McDonald's for thirty days is a movie, and people are willing to pay to see it, I've got a movie..."
          What started out as a joke in Benson's act actually happened. (Instead of a movie poster featuring the star's mouth stuffed with French fries, Benson's is jammed with joints.)
          For a third to half of Super High Me we see Benson undergoing the first 30 days of the experiment pot- and alcohol-free. This is entertaining in and of itself. Laments Benson, "Everything reminds me of pot now that I can't have it."
          We see Benson hanging out with other comics talking about the experiment being filmed, we see him interviewed by a medical practitioner and a psychologist, and we see him undergoing a battery of tests, including the SAT.
          Packed with hilarity, science has never been so funny.
          The filmmakers also touch base throughout with a North Hollywood dispensary, and a rogue cop who keeps shutting dispensaries down.
          At one point Benson takes a trip to Canada to interview a pot guru. What he finds is that the guy blabs...and blabs...non-stop.
          "Holy crap," Benson says leaving, "I feel like I went through some sort of marijuana gauntlet."
          Once named by High Times the Number Two pot comic in the country, Benson's material often focuses on observations concerning exactly what you'd expect. Episodes of his show "Getting High with Doug", featuring celebrities getting high with Doug, abound on YouTube.
          In the recent The Lego Batman Movie, Benson voices Batman baddie Bane, and he's appeared as himself in about a hundred productions, including the series "Trailer Park Boys".
          Loaded with celebrity cameos, the film focuses on recreational users and medical patients avowing the benefits of use.
          To find out how his physical and cognitive test results with and without pot compare, and have a darn good time watching one man's quest to determine the effects of pot on the body, avail access to the hilarious and informative 2007 documentary online.


SUPER HIGH ME
Starring Doug Benson,
Brian Unger,
Bob Odenkirk,
Rob Riggle,
Patton Oswalt,
Sarah Silverman
Directed by Michael Blieden
Runtime 94 minutes
Rated R





Sunday, April 23, 2017

"HARRY" HITS 30

          Thirty years ago, the Hendersons hit a Bigfoot.
          How the dad, played by John Lithgow, managed to lift the stunned but not dead body off the road and pack it on top of the station wagon remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of cinema.
          Perhaps because the special effects are state-of-the-art for 1987, too much emphasis went into the costume, and not enough into the story and the characters.
          The subject matter fits the Pac Northwest like a giant hairy glove, but inexplicably the filmmakers target an audience of the very young.
          To keep things light, the Bigfoot (Hall) whom the Hendersons hide at their house, is a primarily simpering, sheepish creature, not all that gigantic, and looking very much like a guy in a suit.
          For major conflict we have a hardcore Bigfoot-hunter (Suchet). Lesser conflict appears in the form of a nosy neighbor (Kazan) who barges into the house and starts sniffing around, never realizing how close Harry stands by watching her the whole time.
          The filmmakers repeat that bit with Don Ameche as a Bigfoot-denier at the Hendersons' dinner table, denying the possibility of Bigfeet and unaware of the one inches away.
          Which would be impossible.
          The overall presentation is fluffier than the subject matter's hide. Consequently, after the movie, there was the TV sitcom. Different actors in the roles, but every bit as fluffy, plus the same guy in the same costume.
          Much of the movie relies on see-sawing displays of power. When Harry eats the teenage daughter's birthday corsage, she angrily tells the Bigfoot off...until he stops backing out the door and shows it's his turn to roar. All the while with generic cutesy-wutesy flute music.
          It's interesting that the filmmakers chose to make their Bigfoot male, because the famous Big-footage from Bluff Creek in the '60s shows a striding female Gigantopithecus. The pendulous breasts on the creature in Roger Patterson's film are always removed in chainsaw carvings, commercials, movies. Common sense would therefore seem to tell us that Patterson, former rodeo rider, was no different from anyone else, that he didn't make a female Bigfoot suit, but that it's actually real.


HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS
Starring John Lithgow,
Melinda Dillon,
Margaret Langrick,
Joshua Rudoy,
Kevin Peter Hall,
David Suchet,
Lainie Kazan,
Don Ameche
Directed by William Dear
Written by William Dear, Bill Martin, Ezra Rappaport
Runtime 110 minutes
Rated PG


Stewart Kirby writes for