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Thursday, May 28, 2009
Can We Just Make the Remakes Stop?
You may have heard that they're doing a remake of "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" for the big-screen. Normally, this news would send me into spasms of joy because I love "Buffy."

However, I can't get excited or behind this new project--and not because it won't be a continuation of the series or include the lovely and talented Ms. Sarah Michelle Gellar.

No, I can't get behind this because this proposed reboot won't include the man behind the success of the show, Mr. Joss Whedon. Apparently when Whedon was an unknown writer and struggling to get his script for the original "Buffy" movie out there, he sold some of the rights to Kuzui Entertainment. And now, they're looking to partner with Darkhorse Pictures to make a new, darker version of "Buffy"...without Joss Whedon.

To which I can only say, "Hope that works out for you, but I probably won't be there."

To me, the success of "Buffy" can be full credited to Joss Whedon. He's the voice behind the series--you can even seen glimpses of it even after they had to "Hollywood" up the script for the orginal film.

It's Whedon's apparent exclusion (there's time for them to reach out to him and bring him on board), that exemplifies everything that's wrong with the whole "remake" or taking a television property to the big-screen these days. For the most part, it seems that Hollywood is content to take a recognizable name and just throw it up there onto the big-screen without really looking at or embracing what made the original property so well-remembered or so loved by its core fan audience. (There are exceptions to the rule like "The Fugitive," "The Brady Bunch Movie" or the new "Star Trek.") But I guess for every three misses, there's going to be one hit and those odds work in the studio's favor. Either that or they're reaping a bunch of cash back on DVD sales or rentals. It must be something...

But do we need a "Buffy" remake right now? I'd have to argue, not so much. It's not that I don't love "Buffy," but the show hasn't been gone all that long. And heaven knows with Blu-Ray coming, they'll work out some new way to make money off the show by releasing it on that medium at some point. "Buffy" is doing well in its season eight in the comic books (overseen by Whedon, mind you) .

My feelings on this are the same as the proposed remake of "True Grit." One of my favorite Westerns, I'm not sure quite why we need to remake it. The Coen brothers say they're going to be more faithful to the original novel. Here's the thing--I read the novel after seeing the movie and the movie, as it is, is fairly faithful to the book. There's a little more made of the potential May-December romance of Rooster and Maddy (who if you don't know those names, you need to go and rent the movie immediately....), but overall it's pretty much the same basic storyline we get in the film. Yes, it was made a bit more a showcase of the Rooster character for John Wayne, but the man won an Oscar for the film. Surely there must be other things to remake or...here's an idea...look to some of the newer works being published in the field to make a new Western. As a fan of Westerns, I'd love to see a new one come out, not just a rehash of an icon of the genre.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/28/2009 01:33:00 PM | |
Sunday, May 10, 2009
"Star Trek" (2009)
For years, we've wondered what a big-screen, big-budget version of "Star Trek" would look like. With the latest installment in the long-running franchise, we can now say the answer is, "spectacular."

Of course, if you want to see a visually stunning piece of film-making that doesn't quite capture exactly what it means to be "Star Trek," you don't have to look any further than 1979's "Star Trek: The Motion Picture."

I have to admit that going into this new "Trek" film, I was worried that style would win over substance. I also have to admit I was worried that any attempt to show us the first meeting of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest of the classic crew would just annoy the continuity purist deep within me and diminish my opportunity to enjoy the film.

Yes, other franchises have had reboots and I've enjoyed them. But I didn't have as big an emotional investment in James Bond or Batman as I do "Star Trek."

Thankfully, the central conceit of the movie--a time travel storyline that effectively reboots most of the "Trek" universe ("Enterprise" is probably the only television franchise not rebooted and it does get a small shout-out here)--says, "Yes, we know there's this long, rich history, but we're starting over with a clean slate, so don't worry about it." And, for the most , it works, though I do have a few niggling, nitpicky details that the script ignores or overlooks (two big ones--Kirk's older brother George isn't mentioned and the fact that everyone in Starfleet has a detailed knowledge of the Romulans when the original series established that the Romulans were an extremely secretive group of people in the aftermath of the Romulan War...but that's my inner "Trek" geek coming out....)

In a lot of ways, rebooting the franchise may be the best thing to happen to it in a long time. Also, having the movie come out as the single entry from the "Trek" universe also helps. I say this becuase it allows the film to take some chances and not have to worry about how a series on television will deal with the after-effects. Also, by saying "hey, we're starting over again," you can make some changes, such as the destruction of Vulcan or the death of Spock's mother, and have them stand without having to find the "Trek" reset button. I really think the big winner in this reboot is the Pocket Books franchise for the sheer number of new novels mining some of the things brought up here that I'm sure will hit the market in the near future.

As for the movie itself, it's good. It borders on great and it's spectacularily fun entertainment. The story arc of watching Captain James T. Kirk come of age and find his place in the universe is nicely done . The parallels of Kirk and Spock work because that dynamic drove a lot of the better episodes of the original series. And for those of you who might say you don't buy the two being in conflict as we see through a great deal of the film, I point you to "Where No Man Has Gone Before." In many ways, this film is like that episode, showing us the early stages of the friendship to come.

The big question on many "Trek" fans will be--is it as good as "Wrath of Khan?" No, but then again, there's little that (to me) is as good as "Wrath of Khan." Part of that is that "Khan" is a love letter to the Trek fans. It also works because it offers us the best big-screen representation of the classic series characters. For this new "Trek" we're rebooting and while we have all of our old assumptions about the characters in place, they're still new and growing and developing.

For the most part, everyone in the film is well cast. My concern about recasting the crew (because who can play the roles again in quite the same way?!?) proved to be a bit more baseless than I'd assumed, though I still miss Shatner as Kirk. I do think Chris Pine captures the essentail swagger that is Kirk and the moment when Kirk takes command of the Enteprise is a great one. The way it works and the confidence you feel that, finally, Captain Kirk is where he needs to be and Nero would be better served to turn tail and run becuase his plan is about to fail spectacularily is one of the better in the movie. And, the film does have a large scheme in which Captain Kirk and company do get to save the Federation and the universe.

And, just like "Batman Begins," the movie comes to a point where it ends, but leaves you wanting more. As I walked out, I was ready to see the next installment and see what the series has in mind next. I think the next film could be better because it won't have to do the heavy lifting of introducting everyone to the audience and will be able to get in there, show the characters interacting and tell a great story. I'm hoping the next installment will be for "Trek" what "Dark Knight" was to "Batman Begins..."

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/10/2009 06:09:00 AM | |
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Lunch Cards
At the check-out in Barnes and Nobel the other day, I noticed a basket full of packages of small business-card sized cards called "Mom Cares" (or something like that). It was a collection of about 20 or so cards to drop into your kid's lunch box or lunch sack to let them know them know Mom loved them and was thinking about them.

It's a pretty neat idea--but one that my Mom had years ago. Growing up, I first took a lunchbox and then later a brown bag lunch to school. I'm not sure exactly when it started, but every once in a while, my mom would slip in a little card she'd ordered from Current telling us she was thinking about me and that she loved me. I don't think the cards in question were specifically designed for this purpose--and if we'd only known they'd be selling as such today we could have patented the idea and made a small fortune. (It's always so easy to say things like this after the fact...I recall when the heat-shields came out for cars, kicking myself for not thinking that what people would want was collapseable carboard pieces with sunglasses on them to keep the car cooler during the summer heat.)

Seeing the cards reminded me of those little notes from my mom. It also got me thinking about how those little cards would come along at just the right time. I recall a few times in junior high and high school having just one of those days where it seemed everything was going wrong. And getting that little card was a nice moment for me and reminded me that someone loved me and cared about me--even if whatever piece of teenage drama currently unfolding was happening.

I know this weekend is Mother's Day and that we'll all be celebrating our mothers. But in that moment, I was reminded again of what a cool mom I am blessed to have...

And to start writing down things like these cards and the sun visor that I need to patent and make my fortune off...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/07/2009 07:59:00 PM | |
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Rethink Church
A couple of reports about my denomination, the United Methodist Church, launching a new four-year campaign to appeal to young adults caught my attention earlier this week. From what I've read and by exploring the new website that is one facet of reaching out to people who are already connected via social networking sites, I think the UMC is embracing the spirit of John Wesley in the new millennium. From my understanding and study, Wesley wasn't a person who was going to set back and wait for the people to come to him--he was going out into the places they lived and connecting with them there. It's not hard to imagine Wesley using Facebook today to find ways to connect with people.

The biggest thing I've noticed is the way the church is trying to be relevant to the lives of people today. In the past couple of years, I've noticed the word "relevant" being used a lot in attempts to figure out how the church can connect with young adults.

My big fear in all of this is that once a person has his or her heart strangely warmed ala John Wesley, that they'll come in to visit the local church and find that it's nothing like the social networking site they're used to. I'm not saying we should allow texting and adding friends during a service, but I do hope the local congregations are being prepared to rethink church themselves. I think the worst thing that could happen is that people start to visit, excited by what they've experienced and wanting to explore deeper, only to find the church experience one that dampens their fire instead of fanning it. Or worse yet--we turn these people into more pew potatoes...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/06/2009 07:38:00 PM | |
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