A beautiful version of Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” featuring Simon teaming up with Rhiannon Giddens. Two of my favorite performers on stage together at the Newport Folk Festival earlier this month. Just glorious.
Monthly Archives: July 2022
4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Batman
We get another reinterpretation of ol’ Bats, this time a relative newbie played by Robert Pattinson. Better yet, we’ve got a Batman movie that remembers why he debuted in Detective Comics. The great superhero movie rewatch looks at The Batman.
The acting is stupendous here. Nobody ever went wrong casting Jeffrey Wright in anything, and he just kills it as Gordon. Zoë Kravitz is an extremely worthy addition to the pantheon of great live-action Catwomen alongside Newmar, Meriwether, Kitt, Pfeiffer, Bicondova, and Hathaway. Paul Dano is devastating as the most psychotic iteration of the Riddler yet, Colin Farrell is barely recognizable as he plays the Penguin as a goombah gangster right out of a Scorsese film, and John Turturro practically steals the movie as the sunglasses-wearing Falcone, who just oozes pure nastiness.
Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “The Seventh”
T’Pol goes on a secret mission to track down a renegade Vulcan played by Bruce Davison, and it winds up reawakening some rather unpleasant memories. The Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch looks at “The Seventh.”
One of the things these rewatches have done is make me appreciate certain aspects of the shows that I didn’t really get when watching them the first time through when they initially aired, whether good (a greater appreciation for the characters of Riker and Chakotay) or bad (liking the character of La Forge a lot less, frustrated by several choices made by DS9’s writing staff in the later seasons).
In the case of Enterprise, it’s a much greater appreciation of both the character of T’Pol and the actor playing her. Jolene Blalock does excellent work here, showing T’Pol’s anguish and confusion and anger. I particularly like a more realistic look at the downside of emotional control: when something emotional does happen, most Vulcans aren’t equipped to deal with it. And I appreciate that the act of killing someone—which is so often treated cavalierly by dramatic fiction—is sufficiently traumatic to affect T’Pol this badly, which is as it should be.
Friday fanfare: “Dragon Feeds Tonight”
Here’s another piece from the Boogie Knights 40th-anniversary concert last weekend at Shore Leave 42. This is our riff on “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” John Scheeler’s mic isn’t as loud as it should be, but I still like this for the harmonies and my percussion work…..
4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The King’s Man
The first hour of this prequel to the Kingsman movie series is a delight — especially Rhys Ifans’ gloriously over-the-top performance as Rasputin — but unfortunately, there’s another hour and ten minutes to slog through. The great superhero movie rewatch is massively disappointed by The King’s Man.
Though that leads me nicely to the even bigger problem, which is that the movie’s real climax was the glorious fight against Rasputin. First of all, Rhys Ifans’ wild-eyed, kinetic performance is gloriously over the top. He’s a magnificent antagonist, throwing himself completely into the mad monk’s hedonism, insanity, and cleverness. The fight with Orlando, Shola, Conrad, and Polly is a masterpiece of choreography, with Rasputin incorporating Russian dancing into his moves, and it’s truly brilliant.
And then it’s over and Rasputin is dead, and sadly, much of the movie dies with him. The Shepherd is a perfectly serviceable antagonist, as are Hanussen and Mata Hari and Lenin, but the latter two are practically ciphers, and while Daniel Brühl is brilliant as always as Hanussen, his subdued performance is a less apt fit for Vaughn’s general lack of subtlety and restraint.
midweek music: “Polymorph Your Mother”
The Boogie Knights were formed in 1982, a silly parody band that did fantasy, horror, or historical takes on popular songs — kind of the Weird Al of the RenFest set. I joined the group on percussion in 2006. This past weekend at Shore Leave was the band’s 40th anniversary (their first gig was Shore Leave in ’82), and in honor of the occasion, Dave Keefer wrote new verses for one of the band’s first-ever songs. Herewith, the 40th anniversary edition of “Polymorph Your Mother.”
(Click here for the entire set we did Saturday morning at SL…..)
back home from Shore Leave
We’re back from a most excellent Shore Leave 42. Shore Leave has always been one of my absolute favorite conventions, and I’ve really missed it. They went virtual for both 2020 and 2021, and it was so wonderful to be able to see the regulars there, and folks I haven’t seen in ages, or at least not as much as I’d like to have.
The drive down was blisfully uneventful, which is more than can be said for our arrival. The Hunt Valley Inn is currently privately owned but considered a Marriott hotel, which means they get to use the Marriott name but they’re way down on the totem pole when it comes to Marriott services. The hotel was in need of a facelift even before the apocalypse two years ago, and now it’s even worse. A storm earlier in the week also knocked out their computer system, so everything was incredibly slow. As a result, it took hours to check into the hotel and hours more before rooms were ready because, on top of everything else they — like every hotel — is having a hard time staffing.
Once we got checked in, everything was much better. We put out my books and Wrenn’s stuffies at the eSpec Books table, which Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Mike McPhail provided in exchange for crash space (we like rooming with them anyhow, so it works out nicely). At 4pm, I did a panel with a bunch of other authors where we pimped our upcoming work, which included Christopher D. Abbott, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Christopher L. Bennett, Russ Colchamiro, Heather E. Hutsell, David Mack, and Sherri Cook Woosley.
After the panel, our room was finally ready, so we could put stuff in the car. The good news was that it was right near a back entrance which led to a less-well-used part of the parking lot, so unpacking (and later repacking) the car was incredibly easy….
At 8pm, I did a panel on kick-ass heroes who don’t actually kick asses. Rigel Ailur moderated, and Christopher L. Bennett, Susan Stanislaw Olesen, TJ Perkins, and I all threw out all kinds of folks who were awesome without actually beating people up. Among those mentioned were The Doctor, Odo, my own Sonek Pran, and Columbo.
As always Friday at Shore Leave, Meet the Pros was at 10pm. Running from then until midnight, the authors are all set up at tables in the hallway outside the main ballroom where we autograph books (and often sell them). I sold a bunch of books, signed a bunch more books, saw lots of wonderful people, and had fun bantering with Hildy Silverman (and her kid, Winter) and Glenn Hauman, whom I was between. (The picture above was taken by Bob Greenberger at that event.)
I declined to go to the bar Friday night because Saturday was a very very very full day. It began with a 10am concert. Normally the Boogie Knights play at 11am Saturday morning, following the movie trailers, but there were too many actor guests who needed the main stage, so they moved the trailers to Salon F, and put us on at 10am. To that end, I put up a dozen or so flyers around the hotel Friday night saying that our concert was an hour early.
It seems to have worked, since we got a very good crowd for the show that was also our 40th anniversary gig. The BKs started — with Dave Keefer, John Scheeler, Lance Woods, the late great Bob Ahrens, and Barb Helfer — at Shore Leave in 1982. The band has gone through many permutations since. It’s older than one of its current members — Kate Greenberger — and it’s outlived one of its founders — Bob, who sadly died in 2019. Sadly, Lynn Cunningham was unable to join us, but John, Dave, Kate, Sharon Palmer, Linda Swann, and I were all present and accounted for. I was a bit nervous, as I hadn’t really touched my percussion since our February 2020 gig at Farpoint….
For our 40th anniversary we did a new version of one of our standards, “Polymorph Your Mother,” and did some classics — “Dragon Feeds Tonight,” “Jousting,” “Beware the Highwayman” — and some newer ones — “Sailin’ with Captain Morgan,” “One Little Trip,” “Wanted: Harem Guard.” Later that night, we also performed masquerade halftime, opening with “Earth Magic Girls,” reprising the new version of “Polymorph,” and ending with “Arthurian Pie.” I’m pleased to say that I remembered how to percuss, and we sounded pretty dang good, despite the usual sabotage by the tech crew of our sound system. (They’ll get it perfect one of these days….)
Video of the Saturday morning concert should be up on the Tube of You soon.
In between those two concerts, I did a very well attended practical self-defense workshop and a panel on assembling anthologies with Michael Jan Friedman, Joshua Palmatier, Mike McPhail, and Robert Greenberger, which was very wide-ranging and fun — we talked about crowdfunding a lot, as well as the art of story flow — and then I had to help Wrenn set up the author dinner.
So for years, several authors would make a dinner pilgrimage Saturday night to Andy Nelson’s Barbecue, which is a fabulous BBQ place on York Road about a mile and a half from the hotel. The problem was that the place isn’t that large, and more and more people kept wanting to go, plus at 7pm or so on a Saturday night, they’re often out of things.
In 2019, Wrenn and I decided to make a big order off the catering menu and have a buffet in the McCormick Suite for all the author guests to participate in. This had the dual effect of everyone getting the food they want from Andy Nelson’s and also enables dinner to be on-site (so if someone has a panel or event, they don’t have to drive back). Plus, it’s one time when the authors — who are generally kept pretty busy — to just sit and chat with each other.
It was a huge success in 2019, and was even more so this year, as we learned from our mistakes (for starters, way fewer baked beans and way more mac and cheese….) and everyone had a wonderful time. As an added bonus, Wrenn ordered two cakes from Wegman’s, as well as a birthday candle, to surprise Christopher D. Abbot’s husband Jeffrey, whose birthday was over the weekend.
We also had the Dave Galanter memorial right after dinner, which was a lovely remembrance of a fellow word-slinger and fantastic human whom we miss very much.
The Masquerade, scheduled to start at 8pm, finally started at 8.45pm (sigh), and then after the entries, we found out that we weren’t the only half-time act (providing entertainment for the crowd while the judges deliberate on who would win prizes), so we had to wait for two stand-up comics to do their bits before we went out.
After our set, I put the percussion back in the car, stopped by the bar in my garb — which included a kilt that Wrenn got for me last fall and which made its public debut Saturday night — and then went back to the room to change into less sweaty clothes (a few people requested to see the kilt) and hung out at the bar for a while in the Authors’ Corner. The authors always take over one of the three corners of the bar at the hotel, and — just as happened in 2019 with Anson Mount and Ethan Peck — one of the actor guests joined us to hang out, in this case the lovely John Billingsley, who joined me, Wrenn, Meredith Peruzzi, David Mack, Dayton Ward, Kevin Dilmore, Greg Cox, Amy Imhoff (and her friend Thomas), Scott Pearson (and his daughter Ella), Kelli Fitzpatrick, Kathleen David, Rigel Ailur, Hildy Silverman, John Coffren, Rich White, Morgan Binnix, Karen Roberson, Sue Kisenwhether, as well as possibly other people I’ve forgotten because I was drinking. A good time was had by all until the bar closed.
Sunday was crazypants — I had four panels, all in the Belmont room. Two two-hour blocks, between which I helped Wrenn pack the car and close out the hotel room. I did panels on writer’s accessories with David Mack, Greg Cox, Christopher D. Ochs, and Scott Pearson (Greg kept extolling the virtues of notepads and index cards); crowdfunding your novel with Joshua Palmatier, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, and Glenn Hauman; and recurring characters with Michael Jan Friedman, Russ Colchamiro, and Rich White. In addition, there was an improv thing Andrew Hiller led with me and Hildy Silverman where we on the spot created a monster. That was lots of fun.
After another hour or two of doing the dealer room and saying goodbye to people, Wrenn and I headed down to Columbia, Maryland to visit with her uncle Jack, a retired Christian Brother, whom we hadn’t seen since before the recent apocalypse. Wrenn talks to him on the phone all the time, but it was good to catch up in person.
And then we went home, stopping at a Popeye’s for dinner in Delaware near where Wrenn lived when she was married the first time, so I got an impromptu tour of her old neighborhood, which was fun.
We finally got in at midnight to two cats who were very glad to see us………
It was a great show, as always, but this year’s was special because of the induced hiatus. Shore Leave is always as much family reunion as it is a convention, and that was especially true this year. So great to see so many people, and I wish I’d gotten to spend more time with folks than I did (including some dear friends I barely even saw).
Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Marauders”
It’s Seven Samurai in space! An old favorite is redone yet again, and it almost works. The Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch fends off some “Marauders.”
In general, this is actually a decent reworking of the premise, but writers Rick Berman, Brannon Braga, and David Wilcox are a little too painstaking in their homages to both samurai movie and Western to the detriment of the actual genre they’re working in.
Here’s the problem: the Klingons have a) a ship in orbit, b) disruptor pistols, and c) transporter technology. Yes, they’re bullies, and yes, bullies tend to back off when their victims fight back, but this isn’t a fair fight by any stretch. There’s nothing stopping Korok from beaming back down outside the ring of fire Reed created and shooting everyone. For that matter, there’s nothing stopping him from firing on the colony from orbit, and Enterprise—hiding as they are on the other side of the planet—wouldn’t be able to stop them in time.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds First Season Overview
Three years after Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn kicked all the ass in Discovery season two, two years after they announced the series, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has finished its first season, and it’s mostly been wonderful. Check out my overview on Tor.com, covering the good and the bad of this delightful new Trek show.
The season also spent a great deal of time on one aspect of Pike’s character that carries over from the events of Discovery season two, specifically Pike’s learning of his eventual fate (as chronicled in the episode of the original series that introduced Pike to audiences, “The Menagerie”) in “Through the Valley of Shadows.” Knowing that he is fated to be brutally injured saving the lives of a bunch of cadets is something that haunts Pike throughout the season. I was disappointed that they were harping on this, but it looks like Pike’s attempt to alter his fate—something he was explicitly told was impossible when he got the vision, something he did, by the way, in order to save all life in the galaxy—in “A Quality of Mercy” will have cured him of trying to change the future that we already know he can’t change anyhow.
4-Color to 35-Millimeter: Spider-Man: No Way Home
Spider-Man goes to Doctor Strange for help and winds up breaking the multiverse. It’s Spider-Man, Spider-Man, and Spider-Man versus the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, the Sandman, the Lizard, and Electro, as the great superhero movie rewatch looks at Spider-Man: No Way Home.
One of the things I absolutely adore about this movie, though, is that it—in a kind, compassionate, not at all mean-spirited way—calls out one of the biggest flaws in the Raimi and Webb films, which was that most of the villains ended up dead in the end: Norman Osborn (both times!), Harry Osborn (only once), Otto Octavius, Eddie Brock, Curt Connors, and Max Dillon all die. Flint Marko is the only one of the five in this movie who is guaranteed to survive when returning to his universe. And that never sat well with me, especially in movies about a hero who won’t kill.
And this movie pushes back against that tendency—which has been a trope of action movies forever, which has bled over into far too many superhero movies—by having Spider-Man work, not to stop the villains, but to save them.