Kiss My Cinnabons

Welp, I’m about a year overdue, but I did promise that I would render my final verdict on Better Call Saul. Last night, Dana and I watched the BSC episode concerning Mike’s backstory, which turned out to be the Mike high point of the series. Today, I engaged in a thread by the one and only Wes Craven, in which he expresses bafflement at the notion that Better Call Saul is perceived by some to be superior to its predecessor, Breaking Bad. Perhaps this is God’s way of telling me that it’s time for me to hold forth, so here goes.

First, anyone who believes that Better Call Saul is better than Breaking Bad should be given an acid bath in Jesse’s tub. I have written elsewhere about my opinion of the two shows, but now that both are complete, I stand by my initial assertion that Bob Odenkirk is simply not leading man material; certainly not in the way that Bryan Cranston was. This becomes more evident as BSC moves along and becomes more serious. As the story calls on Jimmy/Saul to plumb the depths of his complex core, I don’t feel it in the way that I did with Cranston.

It is ironic that I began the show fully invested in Mike’s character, while caring little about Jimmy. At the end, I was largely underwhelmed by the Mike arc. Unlike BB, which revolved around Walter and Jesse, it felt as if BSC ran along parallel tracks. The characters of Jimmy and Mike seldom intersect. When they do, the moments are fleeting. One gets the impression in BB that Saul and Mike are in it together, but the prequel doesn’t bear this out. Also, the drug stuff involving Mike, Nacho, Hector, Tuco, The Cousins, Gus and Lalo all feels anticlimactic. We know Gus is ultimately going to prevail over Lalo. We know that Hector winds up stranded in a nursing home at Gus’s mercy. We know The Cousins live through BSC, only to be killed by Hank in BB. We’re supposed to care about Nacho’s fate, but really, he’s a small cog in a bigger wheel. When he finally kills himself with a ‘fuck you!’ to Lalo, it has a meh feel. The worst part is the cold fact that we know that everything that Mike does in the name of providing for his granddaughter will ultimately come to not. Why is any of this dramatically interesting?

The Jimmy arc is more compelling, particularly in the early seasons when Chuck was alive. We don’t need long, clever musical montages of Saul selling burner phones and representing hookers in court to know why he does what he does. Chuck is the reason. But once Chuck dies, Jimmy’s story becomes less absorbing to me. He eventually transfers his feelings of hostility from his dead brother to Howard Hamlin, but of course, this doesn’t end well. I think the best moments of the series happen between Jimmy and Chuck. Both are right about each other’s flaws and both are powerless to do anything about it while they are locked in their sibling antagonism.

This brings me to Kim. Many critics and fans fell in love with Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, Jimmy’s sometime girlfriend, partner, friend and eventual spouse. In the growing age of strong female characters, Kim is supposed to represent the moon to Jimmy’s sun. Yet, it never feels earned to me. At first, Kim appears to be a strong, confident, intelligent woman who deals with a career setback and eventually goes out on her own. Then, she becomes Jimmy’s enabler, aiding him in his con games. Her code is, “The mark deserves it.” Then, she becomes his wife. It seems she loves taking the dark ride that Jimmy offers…until she doesn’t. She pushes Jimmy to go after Howard, but ultimately, she appears to fall victim to her own sense of guilt and regret when things turn fatal for poor Howard. Her story ends as she is living a self-punishing life of dullness, complete with a monosyllabic sex partner. When she breaks down in a less than convincing crying jag on an airport shuttle, we’re supposed to bleed for her, but it feels like a female trope meant to wring sympathy from a jury.

My problem with the Kim character is that she feels like the result of an identity crisis born in the writers room. Yes, she is a woman of conflicting passions and morality, but none of it feels particularly self-aware. It’s as if the writers are engaged in a game of tug-of-war with Kim. Will she be good or bad this week? Will she be Jimmy’s conscience, or the devil on his shoulder? Unlike Walter White’s descent into pure evil, which felt organic, this feels patched together, as if we are seeing sign posts planted along a highway that is in a state of constant disrepair.

Finally, the ending. I started out lukewarm on the finale of Breaking Bad, but my appreciation for it grew over time. Conversely, I started out really liking the finale of Better Call Saul, but like it less and less as I process it more. Given all we know about Jimmy’s character, I can’t believe that he would throw himself upon the mercy of the court and take 76 years in prison just because he loves Kim. That is simply not in keeping with anything that we’ve learned about the character. Yes, it was cathartic to see Jimmy confess all of his sins in court, particularly his role in the suicide of his brother, but the confession also felt inorganic to me. I did like the flashes we saw of Jimmy’s life as Gene in Omaha. We always knew the criminal life was too much of a temptation for Jimmy to resist. I like the idea of Carol Burnett serving as Jimmy/Saul/Gene’s undoing. I just don’t buy that he’d throw himself on the sword to save Kim. Nothing we saw in the previous 61 episodes indicated that he was capable of that level of self-sacrifice.

A big problem with BSC is what critic Hannah Grace Long calls, “Prequelitis.” You see it all over the place with Star Wars, Star Trek, Batman, Game of Thrones and all other stories of an origin nature. When you’re writing a prequel, you can’t help but do a certain amount of dot-connecting. This is how Jimmy meets Mike. Check. This is how Mike meets Gus. Check. This is how Gus outwits the cartel. Check. Man we even get Gale Boetticher singing the periodic tables. Cool, or superfluous? You be the judge. Unlike Breaking Bad, which had a clear canvas on which to paint, Better Call Saul is bound to be a bit contrived. This leads to storytelling that is choppy, uneven and sometimes, disappointing. You can’t help but compare the prequel to the original. You can’t help but build up your expectations based on previous work. And when those expectations are not met, many fans can’t help but be disappointed. It is as inevitable as a heroin addict choking on her own vomit.

Vince Gilligan once said that Breaking Bad was really about the in-between moments. BSC was even moreso, but too often, it fell down on the job due to the viewing audience already knowing where the story was supposed to go.

The best example is Mike. In the episode, “Five-O,” Mike confesses his sins to his daughter-in-law after he relocates to Albuquerque. He asks her, “Can you live with it?” The next time we see Mike with his granddaughter, they are playing happily together. Given the nature of the crimes Mike admitted to Stacey, one would think she would have a hard time forgiving him, but she appears to do just that without any explanation as to how she made that emotional journey. This is something Breaking Bad would never have done. It couldn’t. In BB, we already know that Mike has a great relationship with his surviving family. Therefore, BSC doesn’t have to go to the trouble of showing us how Mike gets there. This is lazy writing in the service of prequelitis.

I’m high-lighting the weaknesses of Better Call Saul, but it really is a solid series by prequel standards. The writing is very good, especially compared to most other dramatic fare today. If you like Breaking Bad, BSC is worth a look just to see how all of the pieces fit together. But when people try to tell you that BSc is superior, give them a verbal box cutter.

Last Friday marked the 10-year anniversary of the Breaking Bad series finale. I will be watching it this fall as a commemoration. I never tire of the show and still feel it is the best television series of all time. Better Call Saul is worthy, but Heisenberg’s shoes are impossible to fill. Anyone who tells you otherwise is engaging in wishcasting.

And Bethany, if you’re reading this and want to argue with me, come do it in person in Omaha. We’ll debate it over a pint at a place called Brazen Head pub. They don’t serve fried chicken with meth batter, but their fish and chips are excellent.

Indiana Jones and the Dump of Destiny

Let me begin this blog entry with a question. Who asked for a new Indiana Jones movie? Seriously…who asked for a geriatric guy to run around the screen, occasionally cracking the whip while being upstaged by a younger, more female character? I get the concept of franchise greed and all that, but where was the outcry for a new Indy movie?

I ask this question as I watch the MCU movies, beginning with Iron Man and ending with Avengers: End Game. I’ve been down on comic book movies for the most part, but after a recent Facebook rant in which I admitted to being burned out on shows full of unlikeable, toxic characters such as Succession and Barry, I wanted something different. Somehow, I decided to give the MCU a try.

I can’t say I’ve been disappointed. On the contrary. I’ve really enjoyed the complex story that is being laid out in this string of Marvel productions that were released between 2008 and 2019. I just finished the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie and, while I’m not a comic book nerd convert, I thoroughly enjoy and now have a new respect for the storytelling in these movies.

It’s also not a coincidence that, against my better judgement, I watched the third season of Star Trek: Picard. I was absolutely floored by how good it was. It did everything that the first two seasons failed to do and will forever be remembered as the true send-off that the crew of the Enterprise D truly deserved.

So, I ask the question. Why were the MCU movies and Picard Season 3 so good? Why is Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny so bad, along with almost all of the new Marvel movies and TV shows?

If Ron DeSantis and his fans are reading this, they would stand as one and yell, “DISNEY IS EVIL!”

Ok, I admit that Disney has a lot of problems, many of which are self-inflicted, but the issue goes beyond Disney. I think a lot of it has to do with the ideas of masculinity, femininity and the encroachment of toxic politics into the culture.

Consider this string of events.

In 2015, Han Solo returned to the Star Wars universe after a 32-year absence. He was a broken-down old space bum drifting through the galaxy with Chewbacca. At the end of the movie, he was murdered by his son.

In 2016, Batman went to war with Superman.

In 2017, Luke Skywalker returned to the Star Wars universe after a 34-year absence. He was an embittered old hermit living in isolation. At the end of the movie, he died.

In 2020, Jean-Luc Picard returned to the Star Trek universe after an 18-year absence. He was an embittered old man living in isolation on his family vineyard in France. At the end of the first season, he died and came back as an android.

Sidebar: Even though William Shatner is still alive, It would’ve been impossible to bring Captain Kirk back as an angry old man because he was already dead. So, they did the typical Star Trek thing and brought him back as a young man in an alternate timeline.

In 2023, Nick Fury returned to the Marvel universe after a four-year absence and is…you guessed it.

In 2023, Indiana Jones returned to his own universe after a 15-year absence and got punched in the face by Phoebe Waller-Bridge at the end. I haven’t seen the movie, so I don’t know if he died as a bitter old fart.

Now, what do all of these fictional characters have in common. It’s obvious. They were all heroes from the childhoods of Gen-Xers and Millennials over the past 40 years. They are also all male. With the exception of Nick Fury, they are all white. So, why bring them all back and, more importantly, why paint them all with the same brush?

I think the answer has a lot to do with the rise of woke feminism in Hollywood culture. With the exception of Picard, these male heroes were all men of action and bravery. They were paragons that boys could hold up as examples to try and emulate. They weren’t overtly aggressive, but they all believed that a strong defense is a good offense. Couple that with the progressive notion that America is, at its heart, a corrupt and guilt-drenched country, and add to that the fact that all of these fictional creations are products of the American mind, and you understand why certain writers in certain corners may wish to give generations of American men the comeuppance that they think we deserve.

During this same time, strong female characters were being heavily promoted. Marvel brought out Captain Marvel, Black Widow, She-Hulk and a new female Black Panther. Star Wars promoted Rey as the new leader of the Jedi. Star Trek: Discovery was given a female lead. It’s also noteworthy that prequels to Game of Thrones and the Lord of the Rings were made with female leads.

Sidebar: Apparently, we’re going to get a new Harry Potter TV series. I have no doubt that, if someone could wrestle the property away from J. K. Rowling, they would kill off or otherwise defenestrate Harry off-screen and make the new lead a transgender character.

I have no problem with movies and TV shows featuring female leads. I enjoyed the first Wonder Woman movie. If Star Trek: Legacy ever gets off the ground, I’ll give it a fair shot as long as Terry Matalas has creative control. I loved Rogue One. But why do we have to show empowered female characters at the expense of the male characters. In other words, why is Hollywood determined to crap all over my childhood?

It is inexplicable to me why Hollywood would want to alienate its core audience. The fact is that the majority of comic book readers are boys and men. I know there are a lot of female Trek and Star Wars fans out there, but when I was a kid in the ‘80’s, all of us boys played with Star Wars figures and Transformers, while all the girls played with Barbie. I understand that gender roles are in flux right now, but if for no other reason than finances, why piss off the people whom you want to attract to your movies? Do these producers, directors and writers really think it’s worth the accolades of their fellow wokesters at the expense of losing money? Is there a large mass of girls and women out there screaming for empowered super heroes, Jedi Knights and starship captains? I am genuinely befuddled.

Only one movie defied the unwritten rule of woke pandering. It was released in 2022. It was not a comic book movie, or a sci-fi movie, or a fantasy movie. It was Top Gun: Maverick. Not only was it commercially and critically lauded, but it was the highest grossing movie of 2022.

Yes, Maverick was a lonely, melancholy older man, but when the job needed to be done, he hopped in the cockpit and did it. There was no assassination of the character. The success of Maverick, plus the success of Picard Season 3, shows me that Hollywood can still make movies and TV shows that people want to see if they stop shitting all over us.

I am genuinely happy that women are having their day in the creative sunshine. But I firmly believe that current events show us that men of all ages need heroes. Not just real life heroes like fathers, friends, mentors and leaders, but they need fictional heroes as well. Middle aged and older men don’t want to see the heroes of their youth resurrected as broken down failures. They want to see them rise up from the ashes and go out in a blaze of glory, as did Jean-Luc Picard. As men, we need something more to look to than Donald Trump and a cadre of sad imitators.

My final thought. I do think it’s more than possible that the super hero genre might simply be past its prime. Some of that may have to do with the pandemic and the seeming collapse of the movie theater experience. But I wonder about that. Maverick was in the theaters and a lot of us went…again…and again…and again.

I just realized that I didn’t answer the question about Indiana Jones. Who asked for it? I guess I don’t have an answer. It looks like it’s gonna lose money, so poor old Indy goes out on a humiliating note. How sad.

I also didn’t mention the Marvel Netflix properties such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, but they coincided with the prime years of the MCU movies.

And I forgot the glut of CW shows like Arrow, Supergirl and Batwoman, but they were forgettable. Can you blame me?


In my previous entry, I said that I seem to find great comfort in Star Trek during times of emotional turmoil. When I moved from Denver to Omaha two years ago, I began a major binge of the original Star Trek series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and many of the feature films. Recently, after Mags died and as a prelude to the premier of Star Trek: Picard, I again began to re-watch great chunks of the franchise. I also re-watched the original Star Wars trilogy over the holiday season.

I have some random thoughts about Trek overall, but I want to focus on a common thread that I see running through the major reboots of our time, especially Star Trek and Star Wars.

When we first see Han Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we quickly discover that he is a vagabond. Far from the relatively happy person he was at the end of Return of the Jedi, he is a galactic burn-out who has separated from Leia and who is now reduced to near homeless status. By the end of the movie, he is murdered by his own son.

In the sequel film, The Last Jedi, we discover Luke Skywalker, another major hero of the original trilogy, living as an embittered old hermit on a secluded island. He voices regret for everything he did as a Jedi, feeling that his efforts made little difference. He ultimately becomes a force ghost, and even though subsequent writers quickly tried to retcon Luke’s initial sentiments in the final movie, the contrast alone signifies major tonal discords in the Star Wars universe.

Now, we meet Jean-Luc Picard after 20 years in Star Trek: Picard. Again, we find a defeated, embittered old man, living on his family vineyard in France, looking back regretfully at his life. Time will tell as to where Picard will end up, but it’s safe to say that he is not in a happy place when we first rediscover him. In interviews, Patrick Stewart seems to refer to the TV series that re-launched his career as flawed in some way.

Why does Hollywood insist in tearing down its own mythology?

It’s not a stretch to lay much of the cynical mindset of the creative community at the doorstep of current-day politics. Stewart did that himself in his own pre-show interviews, siting Brexit and Donald Trump as the key inspirations which drove him back to the role 17 years after the last movie in the franchise.

In a strange, twisted way, we can link these recent events in the fictional world to those in the real world; specifically, those of The 1619 Project, launched last year by the New York Times Magazine. IN it, a series of authors and historians claim that the entirety of America’s existence must be viewed through the lens of slavery. It is an impressive body of work, but it has been disputed by many historians from across the political spectrum. Still, The 1619 Project is now slated to be included in the curriculum of many education systems across the country.

Why are we living in a time when our mythology, as well as our own history, must be torn down? I have no concrete answers. I do think that a good deal of it has to do with the blurring of the lines between fact and fantasy. Terms like, “Fake news,” can easily be reshaped into terms such as, “Fake history,” “Fake philosophy,” or “Fake science.” In this hyper-flexible environment, it is easy to tear down someone’s reality in an effort to supplant it with another. If one’s own substitute reality isn’t readily accepted by the masses, better to plant seeds of doubt with a giant question mark, rather than allowing crystallized reality to continue.

We are eight days away from the Iowa Primary; the first in the 2020 election cycle. I have absolutely no idea where our country will be a year from now. As I age, I seem to know less and less about the real, static world around me.

But I know this. We all need heroes in our lives. As a child of the ‘80’s, I found Luke, Han and Leia to be a great comfort to me. In the ‘90’s, I found Captain James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Data, Worf and all the rest of the Enterprise crews from both centuries to be a continuing comfort. More than that, even as I questioned the possibility of Gene Roddenberry’s utopian future, I found peace in the hope of it. Apparently, I still do 25 years later.

I can’t say that I believe in Roddenberry’s vision for the future. There are far too many holes in it. As I grow older, I fear that my worldview comes closer to that of Game of Thrones than Star Trek. This is why I liked Princess Leia much better as a female hero than Daenerys Targaryen.

More than anything, I find classic Trek to be the best form of escapism for me. I love the constant rumble of the engines of the Enterprise D, the childlike musings of Data, the growling observations of Worf and the calm, paternal presence of Picard.

I agree with Irvin Kershner that Star Wars is a fairy tale. Many categorize it as science fiction, but there is very little of actual science in it to explain lightsabers, blasters, droids or The Force. Star Trek tries a little harder, but it too is unlimited by its own ever-changing rule book. I treat them both as fantasy. They have different props and settings from Harry Potter, but they are tonally and thematically similar. In all three cases, they served as fictional beacons of optimism in a volatile world for three generations.

The character arc of Han Solo is particularly tragic to me. When we first met him, he was a criminal; rakishly handsome, callow, arrogant and charming. His self-seeking nature was transparent. He made it clear that he was not rescuing Leia out of any sense of the betterment of his world. He was only doing it for money. Yet, Luke and Leia lifted him up, showing him that he too had a stake in working for something larger than himself. At one point, Han tried to run away from his responsibilities, but he never quite made it before he ended up as a screaming carbonite statue. Yet, his friends risked everything to save him. Han discovered that the price of growing up was friendship, loyalty and honor.

But his story ends with Han as an old space bum who gets a lightsaber in the chest; a lightsaber wielded by his own son. Many young men might very well examine the trajectory of Han Solo and ask, “What the hell was all that for?”

Luke Skywalker did very little to advance his own arc, even before he died. Leia could not do more to empower the next generation of women warriors everywhere due to the untimely death of Carrie Fisher, but given our current political climate, it’s safe to guess that the woke writers in Hollywood would have been kinder to Leia’s legacy than they were to the other two heroes in the original trio.

Captain Picard may yet be able to restore the legacy he holds with classic Trek fans everywhere. It is likely that he will rise from the ashes and redeem himself. He will likely do it by forcing the United Federation of Planets to redeem itself for its wayward ways since he left. Yet, if the first episode is any indication, the tone of the show will be much darker and may prove to be inhospitable for Picard’s calm, measured approach.

Many critics would argue that the time for the wide-eyed optimism that used to characterize Star Trek has passed. Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense!!! One need only look at the time period in which the original series was conceived to know that there is always room for hope and optimism. When Star Trek premiered in 1966, America was in the middle of the most divisive military conflict in the 20th century. Rioting occurred in the streets of most major cities as minority groups rose up and marched for their civil rights. Every American institution was questioned and criticized down to its very core. In the ‘70’s, when Star Trek Flourished in syndication and really captured the imaginations of the public, the country also experienced an energy crisis, tension with the Middle East, a mounting drug epidemic and the resignation of a sitting president one step ahead of impeachment. Sound familiar? So please don’t tell me that the times don’t allow for hope and optimism in our culture.

Sidebar: I find it interesting that Captain Kirk’s legacy seems to be unblemished, even though the younger version played by Chris Pine didn’t perform very well in two of the three reboot movies. Perhaps it is because the character was killed off when Trek was still in its creative prime. Even though the manner of his death did not go over well with fans, he died a hero, unlike Han Solo.

I mentioned Harry Potter before. I think he, more than Kirk, Picard or Han Solo, signifies the hopeful hero of our current generation of youth. They didn’t grow up with the U.S.S. Enterprise or the Millennium Falcon in their subconscious. They grew up with Hogwarts. Wouldn’t it be a shame if someday, we learned that Harry, Ron and Hermione did it all for nothing?

Sorry, Katya, but fanfic doesn’t count.

Of Slings, Arrows and Smoking Guns

Folks, I just completed reading “Catch and Kill,” by Ronan Farrow. I highly recommend this book, but it is not for the faint of heart. The ways in which the predatory
behavior of Harvey Weinstein was covered up and excused by legions of accomplices from Hollywood to D.C. will chill your blood.

The most disturbing part of the audio book is when you hear the actual recording of Weinstein trying to force himself on one of his victims. I wasn’t prepared for it and it stopped me cold.

My one criticism is over Farrow’s narration of the audio version. His parents are both actors and he has a background in theater. It shows in his delivery. There are times when he swerves into hammy territory (particularly when immitating accents.) This detracts from a subject that should be
treated with the utmost seriousness. Despite his trials and tribulations as he battled to get the story of Weinstein’s victims on the public record, he sounds as if he’s having a lot of fun in the recording booth. This is a small nitpick, however, and should not serve as a reason not to read this impressive (if not disquieting) body of work.

For my blind followers, it is available on both Audible and BARD.

And speaking of Harvey Weinstein, God bless Hollywood! “Bombshell,” the third biopic about Roger Ailes in the wake of his public disgrace and subsequent death after credible allegations of sexual assault came out last weekend. I guess they thought we wouldn’t get the point after the first two.

Look, at this point, I have zero sympathy for FoxNews. If Hollywood
wants to cast stones at the memory of Ailes and laud the bravery of the women who came forward, more power to them. Ailes deserves the slings and arrows
and a network who cheerleads a man like Donald Trump can stand the pounding. However, the contrast in standards is pretty stark to me in the wake of Ronan Farrow’s book.

When is Hollywood gonna bring us an epic about the Harvey Weinstein years? Seriously! If Farrow’s narrative is accurate, the Weinstein affair has all the earmarks of a major thriller; a menacing antagonist, systematically oppressed women, an openly gay reporter who is the son of a celeb also accused of sexual assault, spineless network executives, shadowy foreign surveillance agencies, moles and countermoles, duplicitous lawyers, a ‘smoking gun’ recording… How can ya not love a story like that!?

Maybe we’ll get it after Weinstein is in his grave. Or maybe, we’ll get it after every single Hollywood exec and politician who took money and/or favors from Weinstein is in the ground. Less embarrassment to go with the popcorn,
don’tchya know.

If not Weinstein, what about a biopic of Matt Lauer? They could title it, “Button,” after the device Lauer used to automatically close
his door, thereby holding his victims captive.

I also notice Bill O’Reilly does not appear in the film. That is… Interesting. It’s also interesting that, despite major hype from critics, “Bombshell,” bombed at the box office. I guess the public prefers Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers over Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly.


Pass the Popcorn

I’m gonna write about something positive because…well…I need something positive in my life right now.

On Facebook the other night, I opined that I missed the era of appointment television. This was back in the glory days when 24, The Sopranos, Deadwood and Breaking Bad all reigned supreme. I miss the anticipation of a new episode, new plot developments and new water cooler buzz the next day after Tony would whack someone, or Jack Bauer would torture another Muslim terrorist.

That said, 2019 is an exciting year for those of us who have the recent TV nostalgia bug. Three movies are due out this year that serve as codas to previous TV giants.

The first one is a series that I already touched upon last October. Deadwood was a show that was canceled before its time. On Friday, May 31, HBO will correct that grave injustice by running Deadwood: The Movie. We’ll get to see Al Swearengen and all of the gang of Deadwood one last time before they ride off into the sunset. I’ve already shared my thoughts and hopes for the upcoming movie, but of the three, this is the one for which I’m most excited. It’s probably because fans have been waiting years for this thing to drop.

The second one excites me, though not to the degree of the Deadwood epic. David Chase is filming a prequel to The Sopranos called, The Many Saints of Newark. No, guys, it won’t explain the great black screen of doom that still frustrates many Sopranos fans. Rather, it will focus on a young Tony Soprano in the late ‘60’s when the Italians were embroiled in racial hostility with African-Americans. The interesting thing about this movie is that James Gandolfini’s son Michael is set to play young Tony. We’ll see how that goes. The thing that gives me pause is that I think David Chase is going to fuck up the timeline. I just re-watched the entire series of The Sopranos and it was stated more than once that Tony Soprano was born in 1960. At one point, Carmela tells a reporter that Tony was three when JFK was assassinated. So by the time Tony was 15, Nixon would already have been impeached. I don’t know how chase is going to reconcile this obvious continuity error. Still, I’ll go see the movie and hopefully will enjoy it.

The third movie is the one you would think I would be most excited about, but I am the least excited. Earlier this year, Vince Gilligan announced that we are going to get a Breaking Bad movie. Publicists are still playing it coy, but everyone knows that the movie will star Aaron Paul reprising his role as doomed Jesse Pinkman. When we last saw Jesse, Walt had freed him from captivity from Todd and Uncle Jack and Jesse drove off laughing crazily as Walt died in his meth lab over the strains of, “Baby Blue.”

My problem is that this served as the perfect ending to Breaking Bad. Walt died, Jesse was free but scarred for life and Walt’s family may or may not have been able to live in comfort thanks to his efforts on their behalf. Those unanswered questions are part of what makes the finale so good. Not everything had to be wrapped up with a pretty bow on top.

Whereas Deadwood feels completely necessary and welcome and the Sopranos prequel may or may not work, but can’t hurt anything, the Breaking Bad movie feels superfluous. Sure, Jesse was a compelling character, but without the presence of Bryan Cranston as Walt off whom Jesse used to play so wonderfully, the story will feel hollow. Yes, I may be selling Vince Gilligan short, but he gave us Better Call Saul and, for me, the results are mixed. Maybe Breaking Bad is that lightning that only strikes once. Yet, if possible, I will be in the theater on opening night, popcorn and Peanut Butter M & M’s in hand as the credits roll.

Even if all three wrap-up movies suck, it will be a pleasure to have something to look forward to that doesn’t involve a super hero, a transforming car or a talking CGI animal. I’ll take it, and pass the fuckin’ popcorn. If you don’t have any hot butter, I’ll settle for canned peaches. What about baked xiti?

Do Androids Dream of the Boys Locker Room?

I am not going to waste precious space in this blog writing about Solo: A Star Wars Story. The movie blew bigger chunks than you would find in an asteroid field. If I wouldn’t have been bored last Sunday, I would’ve saved my money.

However, there was one point I need to address. I am frankly sick of the idea propagated in science fiction that androids possess sentience.

In Solo, a young Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) has an android co-pilot named L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge.) It doesn’t take five seconds after we meet L3-37 to learn that she is an android who is on a quest; the great and universal trek for equal rights. It is not atypical for modern Star Wars to insert concepts favorable to social justice in their scripts, but even by modern standards, the character is written in a very heavy-handed fashion. She is, in effect, the Dobby of the script without the charm.

Even though Lando seems to resist the idea that droids are worthy of equal rights, we discover that he implicitly validates the idea of her sentience when we see that he is (“gasp!”) attracted to her. The ironic parallel is obvious and ham-handed; the black character attracted to a machine he views as property, just as, a long time ahead in a galaxy far, far away, white slave owners were attracted to and bedded down people whom they did not, in fact, view as people at all.

How could any reasonable viewer of Solo come to any other conclusion but that droids are, of course, sentient and therefore, do deserve equal rights. L3-37’s cause is just, which makes her death all the more poignant when it inevitably comes.

The writers had fertile ground in which to plant this particular seed. After all, the viewers on whom they tried (and largely failed) to conduct financial extractions mostly haled from a generation that grew up with C-3PO and R2-D2, two humanistic droids who, more than once, saved the Star Wars universe. 3PO was a droid who never met a neurosis he didn’t like. R2-D2 didn’t communicate in spoken language, but his series of beeps and chirps and his diminutive cuteness, made him function more as a hyper intelligent animal, if not a human.

Then, 32 years later came R2-D2 2.0, aka BB-8, courtesy of The Force Awakens. One year after that, we met K-2SO in Rogue One. Now there was a droid who really brought the tude. He might have been the poster droid for the quest for equal rights if he were not already fighting in another rebellion with some actual teeth.

Of course, one might argue that the writers don’t actually think that droids are sentient, but rather, they are using L3-37 as a metaphor for real humans here on Earth. Duh! That trope has been played by sci-fi writers for generations. Nothing pioneering in that.

Ah, but if you want a franchise that takes the concept of android sentience more seriously, you need look no further than Star Trek: The Next Generation, embodied in the character of Lieutenant Commander Data.

Any fan of TNG should know where I’m headed before I get there. Season two, episode nine. Title, “The Measure of a Man.”

Picard and company are docked at an outlying starbase that houses a newly-installed JAG officer. About eight minutes into the episode, a guy named Bruce Maddox shows up and orders Data to report to Starfleet so that he can be taken apart and studied for further cybernetic research and experimentation. Data refuses. Maddox hands him transfer orders backing him up. Data resigns. Maddox says, “You can’t resign. You are a machine. Therefore, you are the property of Starfleet Command and thus, you have no rights.” Picard, of course, legally challenges Maddox, leading to a climactic courtroom battle that would make Perry Mason bow in awe.

But wait! There’s a twist! The JAG orders Number One to be the prosecutor, even though he is a close friend of Data’s and doesn’t believe that Data is not sentient. “Tough titty, said the android kitty,” says the judge, and we’re off to court.

Commander Riker presents his case first and calls only one witness, Data himself. He orders Data to take off his hand, which Data does. Then, Riker deactivates him by flipping his off switch.

At that moment, Riker has won the argument. The judge rules in Maddox’s favor, Data gets carted off to some dusty lab at Starfleet Command and Lore takes over as the second officer on the Enterprise. His first action… To disembowel Worf.

That was in the Kelvin timeline. In the prime timeline, Picard is unnerved by Riker’s compelling case. Then, Whoopi Goldberg shows up for her one token scene in the episode. They get to talking about how history is rife with cultures who have written off other cultures as less than human, thereby making them… Disposable people.

This, my friends, is the emotional money shot of the episode. Maddox is the villain, and he’s a villain because he wants to replicate Data, thereby creating an entire race of Datas who will serve man. But Data is sentient, so that would mean that Starfleet Command is creating slaves and, just like Lando Calrissian, they are sanctioning slavery.

Picard runs with it! Now, we’re back in court. Picard cross examines Data, and we are reminded that the android fulfilled a fantasy that many teenage boys could only dream about. He bagged Tasha Yar.

Then, Picard calls Maddox. He asks Maddox to define sentience. Maddox clumsily answers that sentience contains three components; intelligence, self-awareness and consciousness. Picard quickly dismantles the first argument, and no pimply-faced fan with his or her hand deep in the Cheeto bag would disagree. Data is way beyond intelligent.

Picard then turns to argument number two, asking Data to recite his current predicament in order to illustrate his self-awareness. Data complies. This is a little flimsy, but we’ll let it go.

And then… And then… Maddox starts to become unsure. Picard pounces. “Data meets two of your criteria. What if he meets the third? I don’t know what he is. Do you? Do you!?”


Finally, the judge rules in Data’s favor, even though she admits that no one really proved their case. Her final verdict is, “I don’t know, but we’re going to defer in Data’s favor just in case he happens to be alive. Besides, we need to keep Brent Spiner around until he wins an Emmy.”

The story is over, except that Picard goes off to get nekkid with the judge, which is a task that usually falls to Riker, except that Picard has a bad history with this lady and the tension has been building all episode. Besides, Picard hasn’t been laid since… Never. And Riker is too busy hanging his head in shame even to take Deanna Troi for a loser’s lap. Data comes in and lets him off the emotional hook. “You were a splendid example of self-sacrifice, sir,” is basically what he says. Then he follows it up with, “I do not resent you, Commander. After all, resentment is a human feeling. As the audience no doubt knows, I cannot feel, because feeling connotes sentience, and I am not sentient.”

He doesn’t actually say that last part, but once these pimply-faced fans go wipe off the Twinkie crumbs and spend about 30 more years in the real world, they figure out that the writers deliberately stacked the deck against Riker. Yes, Riker won the legal battle, but in the 24th century, just as in the 21st, emotion trumps logic.

But who cares, right? Data, after all, is played by Brent Spiner, a very talented actor who is a human being, just as Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker and Alan Tudyk are all human beings. Just as Disney likes to anthropomorphize animals in order that kids grow up to adopt an anti-hunting, pro-environmentalist sentiment by thinking of Bambi as a human being, sci-fi writers want a new legion of budding social justice warriors to think of the brave L3-37, or Data, every time a kid questions whether he is a boy or a girl, or a parent wants to take their son into the girl’s bathroom, or someone at work demands to be called Rachel instead of Tony.

Just as Picard stops short of pushing forward with his argument because he likely could not demonstrate that Data does not, in fact, possess consciousness, the new woke Star Wars crowd should not bother to ask certain critical questions. Your honor, isn’t it true that computers can only do what their programmers tell them? Your honor, if you flip off Data’s switch, couldn’t you flip it back on again in 20 years, just as Data did with his brother Lore? But why can’t you do that with Bernie Sanders? Your honor, if I see a penis on a boy, but he says he’s a girl, wouldn’t a little healthy skepticism be in order?

And the answer comes back like a hyper echo. “Fuck off, bigot!!!”

Ok, friends. I can’t resist. Real quick, here are five reasons why Solo blew big asteroid field chunks.

5. As previously stated, L3-37.

4. The movie should have been a buddy adventure featuring Han and Lando, rather than a romantic adventure featuring Han and Q’ira. Yeah… I know. Strong female movie characters, yada yada yada.

3. It was doomed from the start. No actor could possibly succeed Harrison Ford. That aside, Han was the ultimate alfa male. Alden Ehrenreich’s Han Solo seemed like a wiseass college kid who acts oppressed, but secretly gets a pedicure three times a week.

2. Darth Maul appears in the movie. Ok, think about that for a second, then think about the timeline of the prequels. Does Star Wars have a Kelvin timeline, too?

1. The writers eviscerated the spirit of the Han Solo character. Han’s backstory was boring. The Han Solo we met in the original Star Wars was a self-centered, greedy, cynical, cheeky anti-hero who was ultimately redeemed. This guy was a straight-up hero whom the writers contorted to fit a mold. In other words, modern Han would not have shot Greedo first… Unless Greedo was a Trump supporter, of course.

Now that I got all of that off my chest, I’m gonna go watch Star Trek TNG, Season three, episode 16, “The Offspring.” Damn! I still get a lump in my throat every time Data’s daughter dies.


I tell ya what… I’m gonna say this with love and respect to Potter fans everywhere, especially Katya. There’s a reason why the Potter universe will always be inferior to the Star Trek universe. The reason is simple, and it can be boiled down to one word. Klingons.

There are no Klingons in the world of Hogwarts. You have werewolves and headless ghosts and Death Eaters and giants and centaurs and Dementors and hippogriffs and elves and dragons and goblins and wizards and all that, but no Klingons anywhere.

I’ve been making my way through Deep Space Nine, and it’s not a coincidence that the show went from good to great when Worf came on board. Because in Worf’s first episode, the Klingons get pissed at the Federation and invade the station. And you know what… Even though they ultimately stand down, they put up one hell of a kick-ass fight. Gone is the nerd dialogue and overtures to peace. All you get is a bunch of roaring, grunting Klingons marauding their way through the station.

And then there’s that episode where Worf is a prisoner of the Dominion and takes out about 25 Jem’Hadar soldiers before they finally get the point. He’s like, “Let me rest for 30 seconds and sip my prune juice, then we’re back at it, bitches! It is a good day to die! Rahhhhhhhhhh!!!”

And as for the Borg, two words: “Assimilate this!”

You know what… I’m convinced that Hagrid was actually a Klingon who somehow got stuck on Earth because of some freak accident in the space-time continuum. Or maybe Q was playing a joke on the magical creatures of the Potter world by making Hagrid forget that he was Klingon. That’s why he was so weepy all the time. I know Klingons don’t have tear ducts, but whatever.

You know what would happen if a Dementor tried to kiss a Klingon? He would breathe on the Klingon, and said Klingon would become offended and deliver a death scream in the Dementor’s hooded face, and the Dementor would be chasing his own ass all the way back to Azkaban. No question. Depression!? Warriors don’t get depressed.

Lest you Potter fans feel picked on, I have to admit that I don’t even think Darth Vader could take a Klingon in a battle. Vader is probably my favorite movie villain of all time, but facts are facts. Vader would throw some Klingon on the ceiling with the force, and the Klingon would kick his way back down to the floor and laugh in Vader’s masked face. Then, Vader would draw his light saber and the Klingon would say something like, “What a pretty toy you’ve got there, but the Sith have no honor,” before he took his bat’leth and decapitated Vader.

How many women are reading this right now and laughing at me. Well, I return your laughter. You criticize me for thinking that Klingons are all that and a bowl of gagh, but how many of you actually think that 50 Shades of Grey is real? You gals need to go out and find yourselves a Klingon male. He’d be perfect for you. He dresses in leather, growls a lot, gives orders and engages in ultra-rough sex. I won’t out some of my female readers by name, but you know who you are and you know I’m right.

I can’t believe I’m going to admit this, but I don’t even think Walter ‘Heisenberg’ White could take out a Klingon. He’d try to talk his way out of a confrontation, and… You think Gus’s box cutter was messy? Ok, I admit it… I’m getting pretty far afield here.

I tell you this… I think Klingons exist right here on Earth. But God has his reasons why they can’t appear in their humanoid form. So, God is masquerading them as pit bulls. Think about it. Pit bulls are aggressive and could tear a human apart if given the chance, but really, they’re just misunderstood. They are actually very joyful creatures that just want to have fun. If you give them some raw meat and play with them, they’re all good. That’s exactly how Klingons are.

Now cats… They’re Romulans in disguise. Always sneaky and cunning and you never know when they’re gonna strike. They like to toy with their victims before they deliver the kill. I’d like to pursue this line further, but I need to clean Mags’ litterbox before the caffeine wears off.

By the way, if you disagree with my views, all I can say is, you’re a Patak!

Valse Triste

After nine years of patience, I finally saw No Country for Old Men last night.

This movie should’ve had everything for me; a crime thriller headlined by Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin, a west Texas backdrop, a murderous psychopath, an old-fashioned sheriff, a briefcase full of money and a drug deal gone bad. A recipe for happiness for a guy like me.

Sadly, I was underwhelmed. I don’t get it. The critics love it. Fans love it. Rotten Tomatoes loves it. What’s wrong with me?

It wasn’t a bad movie. I just wasn’t blown away. I didn’t feel that emotional gut punch that I get from really great movies.

When I watched The Godfather, I understood the hype immediately, and that was long before we got to the climactic bloody baptism montage scene. Same goes for The Departed. How can you hate a movie in which the final line isn’t a line at all, but rather, the spit of a silenced gun blowing a guy’s face off while a rat crawls around? I was a bit cooler toward Goodfellas, but understand why it’s considered a great movie.

But No Country for Old Men was just meh for me. I understand the themes of destiny versus chance as symbolized by the fateful coin toss that serves as the killer’s trademark. But I found Chigurh to be underwhelming. Maybe it’s because I’ve been spoiled by other fictional villains such as Walter White, Tony Soprano and Lorne Malvo.

Malvo makes me think of Fargo, which is also haled as another crime classic by the Coen brothers. I didn’t care for that one either, though I love the TV series knock-off, which is a wonderful example of the student surpassing the teacher.

Maybe the Coen brothers are the problem, or rather, my problem is with the Coen brothers. Sometimes, the best director or writer in the world just can’t make that emotional connection. Steven Spielberg is that way. Whether it’s Indiana Jones or Jaws or even Saving Private Ryan, I just don’t feel that emotional hook that is required of good storytelling. Private Ryan is wonderful at simulating wartime combat, but as a story, it’s kind of thin.

Anyway, I’m done now. Except to say that I also saw Sicario this weekend. Now there’s a film that does indeed live up to the hype. The first 2/3 of it is a standard story about a naive FBI agent plunged into the dark world of the drug culture along our southern border, but the climax elevates everything that came before it.

I guess one out of two ain’t bad. I wonder if Chigurh would agree.

There is No Sulu. Only Zuul!

I have no plans to go see the Ghostbusters reboot. It’s not because I’m sexist. Melissa McCarthy doesn’t do it for me, but whatever.

The reason I’m not going is the same reason I have no intention of wasting time and money on the latest Star Trek installment. I don’t care that Sulu is gay. I mean… George Takei doesn’t like it, but what does his opinion matter, right?

I was talking with Joe and we were commenting on the fact that we never go to movies anymore. It’s not the cost that is prohibitive. I’ll pay $12 to see a good movie. It’s not the visual medium. Most major theaters have audio description for the blind now (and sometimes, it actually works.)

The reason is more basic. I officially have reboot/sequel burn-out. I firmly believe that Hollywood no longer has any originality when it comes to blockbuster entertainment.

Let’s take a look at the biggest movies from the Spring/Summer season of this year:

Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice
Captain America: Civil War
The Jungle Book (this is the third film interpretation of the Rudyard Kipling novel)
Warcraft (based on a videogame)
Finding Dory (sequel)
X-Men: Apocalypse
Star Trek Beyond
The Legend of Tarzan
Suicide Squad (another comic book movie)
The Purge: Election Year (sequel)
Jason Bourne (sequel based on the Robert Ludlum novels)
Independence Day: Resurgence (sequel)

The only two original movies I can find that have done well at the box office this season are Zootopia, and The Secret Life of Pets; both animated movies geared for kids.

Now, let’s contrast this list with the top 10 grossing films from 1984; the year the original Ghostbusters was released:

1. Beverly Hills Cop
2. Ghostbusters
3. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (sequel)
4. Gremlins
5. The Karate Kid
6. Police Academy
7. Footloose
8. Romancing the Stone
9. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (sequel)
10. Splash

Let me clarify that those 10 films were from the entire year, not just the summer season. Only two sequels out of 10. Not one animated flick! Videogames were still B-grade entertainment. Honest to God… Can you imagine a movie based on Pac-Man?

In closing, let me say that the glut of sequels and reboots shows no sign of ebbing. Coming soon, we will be treated to remakes of Ben-Hur and The Magnificent Seven.

If there’s any justice, the ghosts of Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston will send a giant marshmallow man to Hollywood. There, he will take a giant, sugary crap all over that festering town, because ghosts love symbolism. And it won’t be no wimpy 50-foot marshmallow man. Since Hollywood has to do everything bigger and better, it will be a 500-foot version.

If it survives an attack on Hollywood, maybe Seth MacFarlane could talk it into stopping by Trump Tower for one final push. Wouldn’t it be great if that Staypuff stud could do what the GOP couldn’t and, dump Trump?

Roll On, God’s Will

I’ve tried to hold my tongue on this because I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, but the plot is spoiled out there, so let me address some of the hysteria surrounding “Me Before You,” from the disabled community.

For those of you who are guilty of being, “Ablest,” and may not recognize the reference, here’s a friendly nudge. “Me Before You,” was a romance novel written by Jojo Moyes, which has now been adapted into a movie. The story takes place in merry old England and follows an active rich guy (Will) who is paralyzed in a motorcycle accident. A young girl (Louisa) who is a bit of a dim bulb takes a job as his caretaker. Long story short…Will encourages Louisa to become more educated and learn more about the world. She tries to convince him that he can still live a full life, even though he’s confined to a wheelchair. After six months, he admits that he’s had a better life than he has ever known, but flies off to Switzerland, where a doctor helps him drift off into the big sleep. But he leaves Louisa a nice nest egg so she can continue her education.

First, this is not an anti-disability movie. It is a pro-right to die movie, just as “Million Dollar Baby,” was. Where was the outrage over that? Could it be that Clint Eastwood just makes euthanasia look much more sexy? For all of you disabled leftists out there who support individual choice in the right to die arena, congratulations. You got what you wanted. How do you like it?

Sidebar: Get ready for the time (it isn’t too far away) when the abortion of disabled fetuses becomes much more common. Same concept… Other end of the spectrum. But it’s about personal choice so it’s all good, right?

Second, many so-called disabled activists are outraged because Hollywood depicts other minorities in a favorable light, while still looking down on the disabled. People, are you really surprised that we are at the bottom of the pecking order? The game of identity politics burst onto the scene in the 1960s. It was elevated to an art form in the 1990s. Why do you suppose the disabled haven’t gotten very far in the entertainment arena? Think hard. This is not a rhetorical question.

Third, many disabled bloggers (who often traffic in sanctimony) trumpet The notion that Jojo Moyes had no business writing this novel in the first place. One blogger says, “This wasn’t her story to tell.” This is a spurious argument that smacks of more than a little arrogant condescension. Larry McMurtry wasn’t alive in the 19th century. Does that mean he should’ve foregone the writing of Lonesome Dove? Dennis Lehane has written several novels dealing with racism. Should we burn his novels and lambaste his credibility because he’s white? Of course not! You can argue that Moyes’ novel was poorly researched or poorly written, but in a free society, you don’t get to decide who should and shouldn’t write what.

Finally, you know what Internet petitions are good for? Nothing! If I was really feeling generous, I could print one out with all 56,000 signatures, wipe my bum with it, crumple it into a filth-smeared wad and leave it in the compost bucket at work as a token for my greenie-weenie coworkers. One petition author whines, “Hollywood! Why do you want me dead?” Another calls this movie, “a disability snuff film.”

Folks, a snuff film is a movie in which someone is actually murdered for the purpose of exploitation. Nobody died in this movie. I know it’s common to employ hyperbole to garner attention, but for god’s sake, at least be accurate!

Ok, I’m done. Rant over. I’ve worked out all my stress, as well as other things while composing this on the toilet. Can somebody grab me that petition from out of the printing tray? I just ran out of toilet paper.

P.S.: As I stated at the beginning of this entry, I’ve not read the book or seen the movie. I have no intention of doing so. I have a lot of Hardy Boys books to get to before I’ll get around to reading a romance novel. I also don’t know anything about the writing abilities of Jojo Moyes. That said, irony often escapes the masses and subtlety is often drowned out by the megaphone of social media.

That said, some disabilities are involuntary and some are self-imposed. That is very likely the over-arching theme of the novel, if not the movie. Will chooses to allow his disability to rule his life and ultimately, his death, but he gives Luisa the wisdom and the tools to make a different choice for herself. Life is about choices, no?

I originally wrote this rant on Facebook. No one shared it; not even Evaney From Miami. I did get called, “A confrontational dick,” by Kevin; a guy who doesn’t even follow me. Thanks, Kev. Love your passion. You must be a Trump supporter.

Yeah…Trump. There’s a real handicap right there. Who am I to judge Will Traynor? If The Donald wins in November, maybe I’ll fly off to Switzerland for a consultation with Dignitas.