Monday, May 29, 2017

As The Fad Fidget Spins...

When I was a kid, there was a Saturday Morning TV series on CBS called The Dr. Fad Show. The show would spotlight inventions, usually toys aimed at kids. It's host was Ken Hakuta, aka "Dr. Fad", an entrepreneur/inventor who acquired the rights to introduce the "Wacky Wall Walker" octopus toys to the U.S.. I think the show had a much briefer lifespan than the article on Wikipedia indicates, but it sure didn't last long enough to highlight...the Fidget Spinner.

Or is it called The Handy Spinner? I've seen that name appear on some packaging, along with the basic, Hand Spinner. The product has flooded the marketplace and general populace of the planet like the McGuffin in a Doctor Who alien invasion storyline and comes in a variety of shapes and colors, the basic model is shaped like a 3-blade propeller that resembles a plastic holder for old subway/bus turnstile fare tokens from the late-80s/early-90s. It functions like a pinwheel without a handle. You can spin it like a roulette wheel on a flat surface...or hold it while it's spinning with your thumb & index fintertip secure on the center. The use of ball bearings in each of its blades implies a centrifugal force that keeps the spinner spinning for a long duration - SCIENCE!

They often appear cheaply made and are available for 5 bucks and up, with little distinction in quality control. If it you bought it cheap, you got it cheap; if you bought it for over 10 must've been one of those people who spent the same amount of money back in the early-2000s for plastic candy dispensers shaped like old flip phones.

It's being marketed as a new stress toy, like those metal balls you might've seen Lawrence Fishburne fondle in Boyz In Da Hood, or foam balls or balls on pendulums or yo-yos or anything else created to either preoccupy you from biting your nails or delay that nervous breakdown you're on the verge of at the office...or if your phone's battery dies. I'm tempted to assume that the shift away from massaging spherical objects as a form of relaxtion was to put an end to "That's what he/she said!" wisecracks about juggling balls, but I want to take the high road and assume those were a passing fad. Who didn't get bored playing with those balls after a while?*

I gotta tell 'ya...I don't really find those spinners relaxing. I think watching the spinning motion makes me a bit nauseous and anxious for the end of it, but I had to have one. It reminds me of the Loituma Girl or "Windmills of Your Mind" or Technotronic's "Spin That Wheel" from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles soundtrack...It's cute, though. Honestly, it looks like the ultimate thneed, like some new product that the Once-Ler made from spare parts of old discarded thneed factories.

I predict the end of this trend will happen before the summer of 2017 reaches its dog days...or when some square morning news anchor decides to cover it as "The next big thing," which is precisely when it stops being next and becomes what it was.

You don't need Dr. Fad to offer that diagnosis..but I'm not sure if our heathcare can afford him anymore..hmm..I think I'm getting why those spinners caught on...

*That's what HE said.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

No Bat-Auteur For "The Batman"

The behind-the-scenes gossip about the forthcoming live-action Batman movie The Batman was initially more interesting than the movie itself. It's star, Ben Affleck, was set to star in this one-shot Batman picture amidst hopscotch performances in a handful of DC Comics superhero movies, beginning with Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. What Batman fan wouldn't want an actual Batman movie whilst Warner Brothers is playing catchup to Marvel Studios? And it would be called The Batman...because they already used "The Dark Knight" for The Dark Knight and there are only 3 other monikers left: "The Caped Crusader", "The Masked Manhunter" and "The Dark Knight Detective".

The title is serviceable, but the big draw was that Affleck was going to produce, direct and co-write the script with Geoff Johns, whose Batman: Earth One graphic novels always seemed crafted like Batman movie plots. Rumors about the plot were tied to casting, with the most prominent that Joe Manganiello (a once-rumored casting choice for the part of Batman) would be cast as Slade Wilson, aka, Deathstroke, best known as the archfoe of Nightwing and the Teen Titans. Another rumor was that the film would feature all the Batman this could work is a mystery - it's usually the type of plot found in the Batman video games, like Arkham City. And while Affleck denied that the screenplay was going to be based on any pre-existing story, a film involving a breakout at Arkham Asylum that features all the villains at once would make sense...maybe the Joker and Harley Quinn were going to appear in it to play off events from Suicide Squad?

Then the rumors sounded less progressive. Affleck at first seemed pragmatic, observing that he may have to redesign the present Batman costume into something that would be comfortable for him to use when hoping behind and in front of the camera...then there were rumors about the script. Did a script exist at all? Was it badly-received by the studio? Then we heard that screenwriter Chris Terrio was brought in to give the script a rewrite. The studio still wasn't thrilled  (again, this is all rumors, rumors, rumors), but they desperately want a Batman movie ready before the audiences decide they'll just let Marvel Studios have their dollars or because they can't seem to get any other production running solid within the timetable they've set for themselves.

Then...a bombshell. Affleck bails. He's still willing (or obligated? Rumors, rumors, rumors) to play Batman, but it's hinted that his heart's not into wearing any additional hats for this film anymore. But at least, his script - what remains of it - will still get used, right?

Enter Cloverfield, Planet of The Apes franchise reboot and now new director of The Batman, Matt Reeves. He wants to use a new script that would incorporate his own ideas. Fair enough. But that's the end of the auteur Affleck Batman movie we thought we were going to get, which will live on in lists of unmade Batman films that include Batman Unchained/Batman Triumphant, Batman Beyond, Batman: DarKnight and alternate versions of Batman vs. Superman and Batman Begins.

The first picture headlining this post is a composite of what I pictured we might've seen in the Affleck Bat-flick...and might still see, since every idea gets used in Hollywood. The Catwoman film with Halle Berry and Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skulls were based loosely on ideas from rejected scripts that were kicked around for years! It could happen!

I'm not sure the second image I'm offering might. I thought it would be fun to imagine a Batman movie featuring villains I hadn't seen before on film, plus The Penguin, because the latest rumor I had read was that actor Josh Gad might be up for the role. Rumors, rumors, rumors.

So who's the villain draft picks for my Batman movie project? Hush, Nocturna, The Gentleman Ghost and The Penguin. A gamesman, a femme fatale, a trickster and a gangster. It's risky to me because none of those four are as popular as the Joker and Harley, but I think they offer cooler visuals than Bane or Ra's Al Ghul did in the Nolan movies...maybe if the script is good. I need to collaborate with a good screenwriter...

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Lead On, McDuck.

Was Ducktor Who foreseen? Nah, but I want to play along and assume it was.

In 2008, BBC Books published a Doctor Who tie-in novel by Lance Parkin called The Eyeless. It's a grim story set during the waning years of The 10th Doctor's tenure as "The Doctor" as he wanders through an urban dystopian landscape, seeking out an unusual power source sought after by a race of eyeless, ethereal, transparent aliens. It's a gloomy affair, but he gets the job done. It's certainly readable - I recommend you check it out; I recall it's available to download in E-book format, or just hunt for a carbon copy to buy online.

What's this got to do with Ducktales? Well, the 10th Doctor was played by David Tennant, the actor who succeeded the late Alan Young as the voice of Scrooge McDuck in the new revival of the 80's cartoon. The announcement of his casting inspired a slew of Doctor Who + Ducktales ="Ducktor Who" fanart. His casting was a huge surprise to me and the rest of the world; he simply wasn't on anyone's betting pool for the part, but when he was revealed, nobody cried foul. In fact, if there's one thing that old fans seem amicable about in the steady buildup to the big premiere, it that's the new actors seem okay. It's the new character designs/personalities for the nephews and new look of the show that's got fans' feathers ruffled..

Ah, the irony. I can recall that, for decades, Ducktales was often judged harshly by so-called "purists" as a crass deformation of the Carl Barks material. Now the new revival is being looked down in terms of fidelity to that same cartoon! It's all humbug, to me. I'm still amazed we're getting new episodes at all. I want to see this new series - I'm looking forward to it.

In the final 1/3 of The Eyeless, The Doctor drops a reference to Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge in Mickey's Christmas Carol, with the line, "Lead on, McDuck." The character/companion whom he's dropping this line to doesn't really get the nod...and the Doctor's way of explaining why he said it - that the nature of the short trips to the past, present and future of his companion's timeline/lifespan is reminiscent of the Ghosts of Christmas Spirit accompanying Scrooge in Mickey's Christmas Carol and has repercussive effects felt on the traveler - is so offhand that it's really oddly put; I had to read those passages several times to understand it.

So...I thought that was a fun bon-bon to chew on among the other Ducktales bon-bons we've been fed. We were shown hints that the crew knows who these characters are, knows about the old comics, knows about the new comics, remembers the lyrics to the theme song, has a tie-in comic book coming to coincide with the premiere..there was even a life-size replica of the inside of Scrooge's bin as a photo-op booth at the Disney23 convention... They KNOW. We just have to watch. We've been assured we're not getting a journeyman effort from this team.

...confidentially...I DO wish they had kept Scrooge's coat blue with the red collar, cuffs and matching spats. Was that so much to keep?