Friday, September 27, 2013

Philosophy of Caitlin Star

Who were the Bull Mongoni and what is the contemporary 21st century philosophy carrying their namesake? This excerpt from the back cover blurb of “Caitlin Star” gives a hint.

“Gunner Star takes on Caitlin as his protégé and trains her in the ways of the Bull Mongoni, a mythic species of hominids that lived long ago. An exciting, brave new world opens up for Caitlin as she discovers a new philosophy, achieves an astonishing level of physical and mental focus, and begins to see the world around her from a new perspective.”

Who were the Bull Mongoni?

Today there are four known remaining groups of hominids, referred to as the genera  “hominidae” in evolution flow charts, but better known as the advanced group of intelligent primates called great apes. They are chimpanzees (2 species), gorillas (2 species), orangutans (2 species), and the only great ape that kills for sport, practices cruelty, and willfully destroys everything in their path—Homo Sapiens (one species, humans).

There may only be four great apes today, but for several millions of years—right up until recent history—there were scores of distinct hominids walking the earth, all of them descended from a common ancestor some 17 million years ago.

As you can see above, this subfamily Homininae branched off into two distinct tribes approximately 8-10 million years ago. One tribe was the Hominini—humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos. The second tribe was Gorillini—gorillas.

The Sacred Scrolls speak of a third great ape that branched out from the Homininae subfamily, the tribe known as the Bull Mongoni.

The Scrolls, oral history, as well as the Sumerian writings and the legends of the Neolithic North American natives, allude to a great race of man-beasts that lived among the wild creatures deep in the rain forests of the Congo and the secluded mountains of Eurasia. These hirsute hominids were swift, strong, and muscular. Although highly-social with a rich culture, unlike the other hominids, the Bull Mongoni could be loners as well.  An individual would roam a vast territory, often with a big cat as a companion. Some theorize this is how the great cats learned to patrol a territory.

By all accounts, the Bull Mongoni were peaceful and showed great respect for their great ape brothers and sisters. But the Homo sapiens who exploded out of Africa like a plague were not so accommodating. Humans then, as now seem hard-wired for only one purpose—to cause needless destruction.

What is the Bull Mongoni Philosophy?

The ancient Sumerian texts refer to the Bull Mongoni as “the protectors of the earth and all creatures.” The philosophy of the mythic hominids could be best categorized as a “Mother Earth”, a belief that there is a universal force, a spiritual energy that expresses itself through natural world and the living creatures around us.

They were peaceful, but if crossed, a Bull Mongoni could unleash a frightening fury.  There are documented accounts of human encounters with Bull Mongoni right up until the Roman Empire.

After the Homo sapien explosion throughout Africa and out across Eurasia, the remaining Bull Mongoni needed to adapt to survive in a world that was now teeming with this murderous new species of hominids. A species that would end up dominating the planet and destroying everything in their path until there were almost 8 billion of them.

At their darkest hour a new force emerged among the Bull Mongoni, a formidable warrior named Tarmok. Under his leadership Tarmok and his Bull Mongoni brothers and sisters adapted in two ways.

First by becoming stealth—staying deep in the forests, high in the mountains, and dispersing into remote areas away from belligerent Homo sapiens. Second—they became fierce and deadly warriors.
Already five times as strong as humans, under Tarmok’s guidance the Bull Mongoni learned to master the art of the flesh by conditioning and strengthening the body with rigorous physical exercise and frequent feedings. They became experts of identifying plant herbs with medicinal and performance-enhancing effect. Long before the armies of Mesopotamia began to march across the Mediterranean creating the first human empire, the Bull Mongoni became masters of forging metals into broadswords. Inspired by Tarmok, the Bull Mongoni became the most formidable warriors the planet has ever known.

Gunner once described his philosophy to Caitlin as a mix of “nihilistic barbarism, physicality, and Native American spirituality”. But perhaps the best way to convey the core of the Bull Mongoni philosophy are in the words of Tarmok himself as translated from The Sacred Scrolls.

The 13 mantras of the Bull Mongoni

1) Protect those who cannot protect themselves.

2) Destroy all bullies.

3) There is no forgiveness! There is no invisible man in the sky to get you off the hook.

4) You are the sum of all your actions past and present. Your sins are yours and yours alone. Have the courage to own them.

5) My body, my business.

6) Technology improves, but man does not. The Homo sapiens are the same greedy, selfish, destructive, cruel, murdering, species that migrated out of Africa and exploded like a virus across Eurasia 50,000 years ago destroying everything in their path.

7) Kindness will be rewarded with fierce loyalty.
8) Let go of your fear. And use your enemy's fear against him.

9) You want to hunt for sport? Then try hunting a man who is equally armed. Then we will see what a tough guy you really are. What's the matter? Afraid of a fair fight?

10) When you sculpt and harden the flesh, you sharpen and focus the mind.

11) All disputes should be settled with a broadsword and a fight to the death.

12) You want to see me dead? Then you will have to come here and kill me yourself with your bare hands. Come on. I dare you. I double-dare you.

13) Good God it's great to be a Bull Mongoni!

Caitlin Star now available at bookstores and online retailers everywhere

Sunday, September 22, 2013

If I could talk to the animals

There are times when brooding angst and adult cynicism need to be put aside. 

“We Bought a Zoo” is one of those movies where you need to just shut the critics out and let yourself feel.  It is the kind of story that will take you to a very special place if you allow it to.  It is the story of a man who—well—buys a zoo—and in the process learns a lot about himself as he gets to experience the world around him from a new and enlightened perspective.

The fictional zoo in the movie (called the Rosemoor Wildlife Park) is based on the real-life Dartmoor Zoological Park, located in Devon, England and the real-life family who purchased the zoo in 2007. Working from the non-fiction auto-biographical book by Benjamin Mee, director Cameron Crowe and co-screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna keep the core of this wonderful real-life story, and add just the right touch of Hollywood gloss amid a classic three act structure.

Crowe has always demonstrated a talent for working with actors and getting a great performance out of his lead. This trend continues with “We Bought a Zoo”. Matt Damon is fantastic, demonstrating a warmth and vulnerability that synergistically blends with his innate charisma and heroic on-screen presence. It is a skilfully executed performance resulting is in Benjamin Mee coming across as a memorable, complex, heroic character we root for.

Scarlett Johansson is terrific as Kelly Foster, the dedicated lead zookeeper who places her faith in Ben and becomes his mentor along the way. The supporting cast is spot on from the always engaging Thomas Hayden Church to the stellar talent Elle Fanning who steals every scene she is in. Her emotional honesty is astonishing and if this movie has one flaw it is that there should have been few more scenes for her character.

One major change the movie makes on the real life story is to have Benjamin’s wife die before the events in the film that lead to the purchasing and opening of the zoo. Crowe uses this to provide a way to give the zoo a more direct dramatic catharsis for the viewer. Caring for the animals and being responsible for a selfless and dedicated staff allow Ben to have a new purpose in life and both he and his children are able to connect and heal as they bond with the noble creatures now in their care.

There is a wonderful scene halfway through the film where a bear named Buster escapes from the zoo and is loose in suburbia. An escape would jeopardize everything they have been working for and result in a rejection by the licensing board. Ben is the first to come upon Buster in an open field near a section of forest. When Ben stares at Buster and sees the bear experiencing the utter joy of freedom amid the natural world he was meant to live in—Ben has a profound moment of clarity. After Buster is tranquilized an emotional Ben’s first words are, “I want to give him a bigger enclosure. I don’t care what it costs.” One of the great pleasures of this movie is the experiencing the emotional journey of Ben’s character through the sincere and skillful performance of Matt Damon.

Bottom line, “We Bought a Zoo” is wonderful, sentimental feel good film anchored by a warm and engaging performance by Matt Damon.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Family values, Luc Besson style

Mixing danger and dramatic violence with humor and heart is a monumental task to pull off in the context of a film. French director Luc Besson is the rare film-maker who can pull this off. Many of his films are a deft mix of action and comedy interlaced with moments of extreme violence and dark humor. Besson’s “The Fifth Element” (1997) is a good example of this style of shifting tones and the visually magnificent science fiction film has achieved cult status.

“The Family”, the new Besson film starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Tommy Lee Jones, takes the  action/violence/comedy approach to a whole new level. It is an ambitious film that tries to thread a very fine needle in between tones and hit the dramatic sweet spot. And thanks in large part to a magnificent cast delivering top level performances, it succeeds in a big way.

“The Family” is the story of an American mobster turned informant Giovanni Manzoni (now known as Fred Blake) and his family as they struggle to adjust to a new life in the witness protection program. Besson and his co-writers, Tonino Benacquista (who wrote the novel) and Michael Caleo wisely keep the location set in the director’s home country of France, setting up an endless array of cultural clashes ripe for humorous exploitation. And exploit the humor the film does, but not in just a shallow and situational way.

This movie may have the three act structure of a classical comedy, but the characters are wonderfully realized and fully developed, especially Robert De Niro’s Fred Blake. The casting of De Niro in this role may at first seem like a no-brainer, but actually it is a ballsy move fraught with all sorts of inherent risk. Besson and De Niro could have easily allowed the performance to become buffoonery and the film itself to slip into parody. Instead we are witness to a master director and an all-time great actor operating at the peak of their craftsmanship. De Niro’s performance in “The Family” is a pure joy. This is his best work in years.

The rest of the cast is equally as miraculous. It is fantastic getting to see Michelle Pfeiffer back on the big screen without having to endure a lousy film with it (“Dark Shadows”). Like De Niro, her performance intentionally is designed to be self-reflective without being self-parody as it mirrors her work in the 1988 Jonathan Demme directed classic “Married to the Mob”. To say that Michelle Pfeiffer wears her years well would be a hideous understatement about how radiant this beautiful actress still is.

Dianna Agron is the real find here. Anybody who watched “Glee” knows how talented and charismatic this young actress is. But now we see her playing alongside Oscar winning actors in a film directed by a famous French auteur and there is only one conclusion to reach—Dianna Agron is sensational. She is going to be a major movie star.

John D'Leo shows solid acting chops as the street savvy son, Warren Blake. Tommy Lee Jones is, well, Tommy Lee Jones, he’s great. Besson nails every single secondary and minor role with the perfect casting, especially when it comes to the French town’s people. There is a scene in the final act involving a debate and a film festival that alone makes this a must see movie.

Then there are the villains. Keep in mind these are not farcical villains. These are scary, authentic villains straight out Besson’s “The Professional” or “The Sopranos” or any number of Scorsese films. The villains are real and so is the danger they represent. What proves the movie works is when the family faces danger, not only do we fear for them, we care about them.

Despite all of the outrageous laughs, dark humor and the violence, in the end “The Family” is a film with heart. It ranks alongside “Elysium” as the best film so far in 2013.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Archer Moore's review of 'Caitlin Star'

The flowing is a review posted by author and songwriter Archer Moore at Amazon.

When You Wish Upon a Star

The man named Gunner Star returns in the latest action packed adventure from author James J. Caterino. But this time Gunner plays a supporting role as his blossoming warrior princess takes center stage - Caitlin Star. For those unfamiliar with Caterino's Gunner Star novels, Caitlin Star is the perfect place to start. The world is a darker place than ever; with corruption and oppression run rampant and live televised beheadings sold as mainstream entertainment. Yet hope springs eternal as a rebel movement takes hold, a movement led by Action Heroes trained in the art of hand to hand combat mastered by an ancient race of hominids known as the Bull Mongoni. Caitlin Star chronicles the rise of a girl more wondrous than Wonder Woman, stronger than Sheena and braver than Merida. Caitlin Star is her own woman who follows a moral compass to restore goodness and humanity to a world gone mad. Packed with political intrigue, breathtaking battles and biting satire, Caitlin Star is the written equivalent of a video game, a graphic novel where the words are the pictures, a triumph for Caterino. I can only pray that my own daughter grows up to be half the woman Caitlin Star is.

Caitlin Star now available in paperback and digital formats everywhere

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cool stuff right now

Ray Donovan

To the uninitiated the title of Showtime's newest critically acclaimed film noir drama may seem a bit effusive, so let’s put it this way; if you were a fan of “The Sopranos”, you will love “Ray Donovan”.

Liev Schrieber stars in the title role—a brooding, edgy character who is employed by a powerful Hollywood law firm who “takes care of problems” for the rich and famous ranging from A-list movie celebrities to NBA and NFL superstars.  Imagine the Harvey Kietel character “The Wolf” from “Pulp Fiction” employed as an enforcer by the CAA and you get the idea.

Liev Schrieber is absolutely fierce as Ray Donovan. The formidable actor owns this character and we see and feel every intricate layer of imbedded turmoil and internal conflict barely kept in check by the character’s code of discipline. If Ray showed up at your door and asked you to do something—trust me—you would do it.


2013 is turning out to be great year for science fiction movie fans. We learned that Christopher Nolan is hard at work on a new interstellar space epic and had super spectacular sophomore spectacles from the two newest auteurs of the genre.

The first was “Oblivion” back in April by Joseph Kosinski, the visual wizard behind “Tron: Legacy” (2010). The second hit theaters a few weeks ago, “Elysium”, by Neill Blomkamp the formidable indie-flavored filmmaker who shook us to the bone with 2009’s huge surprise debut film “District 9”.

“Elyium” is a full-throttle, thinking person’s science fiction action film that grabs us from the first frame and never stops.  It is one riveting scene after another, always filled with tension and emotion, always framed and paced with a master’s sense of story and timing. “District 9” was reminiscent of the socially charged, visceral films of George Romero. “Elysium” captures the smashed-mouthed adrenaline and political meatiness of vintage Paul Verhoeven, especially “Robocop” (1987).

“Summertime Sadness” – Lana Del Rey

Yet another haunting, hypnotic, musical masterwork from this generation’s version of Nancy Sinatra by way of “Mad Men”. Every song that Lana Del Rey creates brings to life the simmering angst and melancholy lurking in the emotional shadows of the underbelly of Americana. The 50s, the 60s, the 70s, and indeed the entire past sixty years of American sociological and popular history lives in the aching lyrics, captivating melodies, and mesmerizing music videos of this creative genius.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Best cult soundtracks ever

What is the definition of a great cult soundtrack? First of all it has to be a great score, period—a well-crafted, musically sound piece of film music with a vision. Second, the score has to have a loyal following bordering on obsessive fanaticism. Third, that following has to be limited in size. Cult scores may be great artistic accomplishments and enjoyed immensely by fans, but they possesses  some alternative characteristic—trendy pop arrangements, dated electronics, or avant-garde atonality—that make them far too inaccessible for not only mainstream music listeners, but even die hard film music fans.

Here is a subjective list of this reviewer's favorite alternative film scores of all time.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) Leonard Rosenman

This is one crazy soundtrack.

Leonard Rosenman is credited with introducing avant-garde classical concert techniques such as twelve tone scale to Hollywood film music. His colorful score for “Fantastic Voyage” (1966) is an endless treasure trove of modernistic sonic delights for any serious soundtrack fan but it is with “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” where Rosenman took his craft to a new extreme.

Perhaps he was inspired by Jerry Goldsmith’s experimental techniques from the original. This soundtrack may lack the classical set pieces of Goldsmith’s score, but it set a new standard in pushing the boundaries in irreverent atonality.

 Crash (1996) Howard Shore

To paraphrase a quote from another Howard Shore scored film, if you haven’t seen “Crash” or heard this soundtrack yet, how I envy you.

J.G. Ballard’s edgy novel is one of my favorite books and director David Cronenberg turned it into a fully realized, hypnotic, erotic noir masterpiece. Make no mistake, this film is not for everyone. Okay it’s not for almost anyone and Howard Shore’s relentless and yet fascinating score is every bit as strange and surreal.

Howard Shore is an incredible composer with a wide ranging body of work. Those who only know him through his “Lord of the Rings” scores may want to check out this soundtrack to experience the composer’s experimental side.

“Lost in Space” (1965-68) John Williams

If you enjoyed the avant-garde aspects of “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” (2001) and “War of the Worlds” (2005), then you will want to seek out some of John Williams’s bold and experimental music from this 60’s classic Irwin Allen television series. The score for “My Friend Mr. Nobody” is an astonishing achievement and ranks alongside the best compositions ever by the legendary composer.
William’s “Lost in Space” music is truly groundbreaking and to hear it now feels like reverse engineering a UFO. Many of the phrases and motifs used here would later find their way into future scores by the maestro. The best representation of John William’s music is on the “Lost in Space” 40th Anniversary Edition produced by La-La Land.

Assoluto Naturale (1969) Ennio Morricone

This is an incredibly difficult film to see but worth tracking down at a festival or even a bootleg DVD. Silva Koscina was a beautiful Yugoslavian actress who had an incredible sexual presence. This haunting, sensual melodrama has an irresistible, melodic, catchy pop lounge score by the giallo king Ennio Morricone.  The legendary Italian maestro always managed to produce kitschy melodic scores that were both addictive and moving.  This is one Ennio’s most erotic scores ever and one of his best from the giallo era. Available on CD and MP3.

Ladyhawke (1985) Andrew Powell

The dated synths may turn off some and others may find it cheesy, but this magnificent blend of orchestral wonder and 80’s electronic pop is an absolute sweeping work of wonder.

The best way to experience the “Ladyhawke” score is to simply listen and enjoy. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Caitlin Star: The Motion Picture

To paraphrase something Gunner Star once said by way of a reference to a Quentin Tarantino penned line from “True Romance”:

You’re a writer. Write mother fucker.

It is true. I am a writer. Or to put it more accurately, I am a storyteller—and as part of that burning desire to create and bring imagination to life—I am also a director, of sorts.  Not a day goes by that I do not imagine “CaitlinStar” being made into a major motion picture. Every scene is storyboarded out, every aspect of the production fully planned in painstaking detail down to the shooting locations, camera lenses, and who the costume designer would be (Colleen Atwood is on top of that list btw), and of course, the composer (right now I have been imagining a big, epic, dramatic James Horner ala "Braveheart", "Avatar", and "Troy").

Of course I would love to direct it, but that is never going to happen. Which might be a good thing. I want the best possible director at the helm. Someone with the talent, technical skills, vision, and proven experience to bring “CaitlinStar” searing to cinematic life with all the grit, drama, emotion, action, and realism.

So here is my “Caitlin Star” movie dream team. Keep in mind this is just me and my fevered fan boy yearnings as I allow my imagination to run amuck. I have not reached out to anyone on this list through official channels nor has anybody else at Gunner Star Productions as of yet actively recruited for any of these individual positions.

So here it is, the way before pre-production fantasy mock draft of the primary cast and crew of “Caitlin Star” the motion picture.


Caitlin Star – Blake Lively

We talked about all of the nominees here last month. We debated fiercely but soon and it became crystal clear and simply could not be denied. Blake Lively is Caitlin Star.

Gunner Star – Vin Diesel

The first moment I saw Vin in “Pitch Black” back in 2000 I knew that we had found our Gunner Star. The charisma, the presence, the physique, and my god that voice! Vin Diesel in Gunner Star.

Tyrone Fulton - Morris Chestnut

Seen most recently in the critically acclaimed “Nurse Jackie” on Showtime and the not so critically acclaimed “Kick Ass 2” in theaters. The studly actor made a spectacular debut in “Boyz n the Hood” back in 1991 and has been one of Hollywood’s hardest working actors ever since.

I always pictured Tyrone Fulton as a mid-90s era Wesley Snipes and Morris Chestnut is right about there now. A match for the character physically, athletically, and emotionally—he would be a perfect love interest for Caitlin. Morris Chestnut is Tyrone Fulton.

Lithgow – Gary Oldman

The veteran heavyweight talent is capable of playing anyone but the anthropology professor and Bull Mongoni scholar is especially suited to the actor’s robust skill set. This casting makes even more sense when you consider the director choice below. Gary Oldman is Lithgow.

Lori the Watcher - Anna Kendrick

The college girl hacker turned Bull Mongoni rebel possesses a simmering intensity and intelligence that just screams for the casting of someone who can convincingly play a character smarter than everyone else on the screen and in the theater watching. “Up in the Air”, “50/50”, “Pitch Perfect”—Anna Kendrick is fast becoming my one of my absolute favorite actresses. Anna Kendrick is Lori.

Director – Christopher Nolan

No explanation needed. I mean, talk about a dream scenario right out of “Inception”. “Batman” is a major influence in the Gunner Star/Caitlin Star Bull Mongoni universe and when you consider the tone and subtext of Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, he is the ultimate director for “Caitlin Star”.

Next Time: Casting the villains of “Caitlin Star”.