Saturday, March 21, 2015

Top ten directors list

I make lists. Because, I like it. So here is some more ridiculous top ten randomness. My top ten favorite movie directors of all time, my picks for their best five films.

Steven Spielberg

“E. T. The extraterrestrial” (1982) 
“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977) 
"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984)
“Empire of the Sun” (1987) 
“A.I. Artificial Intelligence” (2001)

James Cameron

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991) 
“Avatar” (2009) 1
“The Abyss” (1989) 
“Aliens” (1986) 
“The Terminator” (1984) 

Brian De Palma

“Body Double” (1984) 
“Dressed to Kill” (1980) 
“The Fury” (1978) 
“The Untouchables” (1987) 
“Obsession” (1976) 

Oliver Stone

“JFK” (1991) 
“Wall Street” (1987) 
“Talk Radio” (1989) 
“Platoon” (1986) 
“Savages” (2012)

Robert Zemeckis

“Contact” (1997) 
“Back to the Future II” (1989)
“Forrest Gump” (1994) 
“Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988) 
“Back to the Future” (1985) 

David Cronenberg

“Videodrome” (1983) 
“Crash” (1996) 
“Scanners” (1981) 
“The Brood” (1979) 
“Rabid’ (1975) 

Quentin Tarantino 

“Jackie Brown” (1997) 
“Pulp Fiction” (1994) 
“Inglourious Basterds” (2009) 
“Death Proof” (2007) 
“Kill Bill Volume 1” (2003) 

Joe Dante

"Innerspace" (1987)
“Explorers” (1985) 
“The Howling” (1981) 
“Gremlins” (1984) 
“Mantinee” (1993) 
“The Burbs” (1989) 

Paul Verhoeven

“Basic Instinct” (1992) 
“Robocop” (1987) 
“Total Recall” (1990) 
“Showgirls” (1988) 
“Starship Troopers” (1983)

Jess Franco

“Vampyros Lesbos” (1970) 
“99 Women” (1968) 
“Venus in Furs” (1968) 
 “Kiss Me, Monster” (1967) 

“A Virgin Among the Living Dead”  (1971)

Runners up and my favorite film of theirs

John Carpenter "Escape from New York" (1981)
Kathryn Bigelow "Point Break" (1991)
Spike Lee "Malcolm X" (1992)
Martin Scorcese "Wolf of Wall Street" (2013)
Christopher Nolan "Interstellar" (2014)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Top five books that influenced the 'Caitlin Star' series

Birds of Prey – DC Comics

The resident female characters of Gotham City are among my favorite in all of fiction. No “Batman” book has ever captured the sense of empowerment embodied by the woman of the Dark Knight’s city than the early 2000s run of “Birds of Prey”, written by Gail Simone and penciled by Ed Benes.

The influence on "Caitlin Star"?

There is little bit of all the Gotham girls in "Caitlin Star", especially Black Canary, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy from an anti-hero's perspective.

Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors

“Before the Dawn” by Nicholas Wade is a furious and fascinating page turner that I could not get enough of. It is a non-fiction science book that attempts to solve the mysteries of human prehistory, especially the lost years between the exodus of modern humans out of Africa 50,000 years ago until the beginnings of recorded human history and urbanized civilization  roughly 5000 years ago.

The influence on "Caitlin Star"?

The scientific discoveries reported on in this book were a major launching pad for the pre-history timeline and Bull Mongoni mythology of the “CaitlinStar” series.

“Shadows of the Empire” by Steve Perry

This book excels at world-building just as much as it does characters. The setting is richly detailed, a vast underworld of the "Star Wars" universe hinted at in the final act of "Empire" and the opening set-piece in "Jedi" and fully explored here in an irresistible fashion by author Steve Perry.

At its core, "Shadows of the Empire" is an epic gangster story that makes fantastic use of the most interesting period in all of the "Star Wars", the time between "Empire" and "Jedi".

The influence on "Caitlin Star"?

The way author Steve Perry uses viewpoint and balances character and action is what I was striving for in the “Caitlin Star” books.

Brak the Barbarian by John Jakes

First published in 1968 at the amid a torrid Frank Frazetta/Robert E. Howard inspired sword and sorcery boom that lasted right up into the early 1980s, this John Jakes “Conan” rip off is a glorious pulp masterwork in its own right.

What sets the “Brak” series apart from other Conan posers is John Jakes himself. He is a fantastic storyteller and a brilliant craftsman who writes visually and has a keen sense of pacing. There is a reason all of those historical novels of his (“The Bastard”, “North and South”, etc.) sold by the tens of millions. The guy can flat out write great fiction.

The influence on "Caitlin Star"?

The vivid, colorful prose, the visceral physicality, and the attitude.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The original dystopian, big brother, social commentary satire novel that often gets overshadowed by "1984" and the rest of the recently re-surging genre. I first read this book in an eighth grade literature class. I was blown by away it then and still love it today.

The influence on "Caitlin Star"?

The idea of a society where the powers to be (be it state, corporate or otherwise), want to impose their own perverted sense of moral superiority on others in order to control them.

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

‘Jupiter Ascending’, a powerhouse soundtrack

Despite some narrative and pacing issues, “Jupiter Ascending” is an entertaining space opera anchored by the luminous presence of Mila Kunis and some of the most stunning production design seen any science fiction movie since “The Fifth Element”, a film “Jupiter” shares much in common with, save for the kooky humor of that 1997 film,

This movie is what I used to call “good junk”. But there is one aspect of the film that far surpasses anything we see or experience onscreen—Michael Giacchino’s soundtrack. The composer of the landmark music for television’s iconic series “Lost”, has created a magnificent, monumental epic of bold, melodic, romantic, exciting orchestral music that sets a new bar for the accomplished young maestro. From 2012’s “John Carter” to last year’s best score, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” Giacchino has shown he is the heir apparent to John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, and pre-“Titanic” James Horner. With “Jupiter Ascending”, he lives up to the hype.

Giacchino fans can thank the film music gods because despite the troubled film being so utterly despised and flopping at the box office, the “Jupiter Ascending” score has been given the full blown Howard Shore/”Hobbit” style superb 2 CD release containing almost all of this sensational score. Even better, Giacchino has become of the most soundtrack fan savvy composers, presenting his music in a structured, chronological order with longer cues to give the best stand-alone listening experience.

The composer astutely opens the soundtrack with four fully developed cues titled, “Jupiter Ascending – 1st Movement”, “Jupiter Ascending – 2nd Movement”, etc.

“Jupiter Ascending – 1st Movement” opens with a thunderous choral statement of the score’s haunting mystery motif before developing into a full statement of the movie’s main theme—a gorgeous, soul-stirring melody performed with choir and orchestra in a way that brings to mind both Alan Silvestri’s “The Abyss” and Howard Shore’s “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.”

“Jupiter Ascending – 2nd Movement” is a heart-breaking cue packed with sentiment as the composer introduces his love theme. This fantastic theme gets a full orchestral workout in the next cue as the score begins to heat up with its first sample of full blown action and suspense music.

Perhaps the best track on the album (in an album jam-packed with nonstop greatness) is track 10 on CD2, “The Commitment”. There is a wonderful statement of the film’s love theme, an emotion-drenched tune in the mode of the composer’s work on “Super 8” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Then, with a Williams-like skill of superb craftsmanship, Giacchino propels the score toward its furious finale with a pulse-pounding “Star Trek” style action music in and a bold, rousing restatement of the main theme.

Michael Giacchino’s ability to write accessible, emotionally affecting music is astounding and his level of craftsmanship gets better with each album. The richness, sonic color, and narrative trust of this score put in that upper echelon of film music. This is much more than a soundtrack. This is a stand-alone symphony brimming with emotion, excitement, and a sense of wonder.

Bottom line: Loaded with rich melodic material and bold, exciting action music, “Jupiter Ascending” is a musical masterwork and one of the best scores of the decade.