Point the Compass update, and some thoughts on The Wolverine by Josh Trudell

The show. Theshowtheshowtheshowtheshow. That about sums up the progression in my head these days, with just over five weeks until the opening reception for my first gallery show. #pointthecompass #knowitloveit

I’m trying to squish every detail I can so it doesn’t become an issue later, and so far, so good. The prints are printed, and are currently being framed – with any luck, I’ll be signing them this week.

Among the interesting experiences that have come with this have been getting interviewed for the first time. It’s an interesting experience from the other end, I must say.

The Wolverine has come and gone, marking the end of summer movie must-see blockbuster season.  (Summer movie Netflix season just doesn’t have the same ring to it.)

I thought it started off very strong, dissolved a bit in the middle and rebounded fairly well. It benefits from comparison to the wreckage that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: The Last Stand. Not an adamantium bullet to be seen, thank goodness.

One of the bigger surprises was the effort made to tie The Wolverine into that universe – with all the ballyhoo about him being alone in this movie, the tie-in to his humanity was a very clear reference to the events of X3.

Hugh Jackman continues to bring his A-game to the role, and the fearsome sidekick Yukio, a cross between Jubilation Lee, Hit Girl and Gogo Yubari,  adds some spice to the mix. I hope she makes the transition into the full-fledged X-Universe.

I could have used a little more berserker vs. ninjas, but it sound as if that’ll be appearing in an uncut version on blu-ray. And yes – the mid-credits scene was awesome.

A dark night, indeed by Josh Trudell

For many movie fans, July 20 was supposed to be one of the highlights of this year.

The Dark Knight Rises was expected to be the capper to a trilogy that put comic book movies on the same level as “serious” films – movies with cinematic gravitas, such as Unforgiven or Citizen Kane, but built around characters revered by geeks and nerds the world around.

Midnight showings are a tradition for this kind of movie – art films don’t get hundreds of people lined up dressed as elves or Ewoks. The anticipation was off the charts.

Then, at a midnight showing in Colorado, this happened.

I would have been in a theater that night if I hadn’t had to work the next morning, just as excited to see the next great story unwind from the projector.

I spent that Friday reading stories and tweets about what happened. This self-proclaimed “Joker” may not have gotten the hair color right, but he got the Clown Prince’s craziness pitch-perfect.

Mass murder has been done before, and sadly, will be again. There’s no accounting for crazy.

But this one invaded one of the last sanctums of adult imagination – a place where men and women can put aside having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, worrying about paying the mortgage, how their children are doing in school, what they are doing with their lives.

Summer movies – the out-of-this-world scenes, the dark superheroes with tortured pasts, the whip-cracking wit – these are our great myths, our great stories.

Some will take the intellectual high ground here and argue that the summer tentpole movie form of entertainment shows how depleted our society has become.

I’ve got no argument for that – I’ve thrown away enough money for dreck such as Transformers II to understand where they are coming from.

But even Shakespeare and Joyce wrote some losers – the difference is at this point, their “Spider-Man 3” has been consigned to the wastebasket of history, while we’re stuck with it on blu-ray for the foreseeable future.

Taking two hours to be as badass as Wolverine, as cocky as Iron Man, or as determined as Batman is how we escape from the daily grind – the same way ha’penny heads crammed into the Globe Theater saw MacBeth, Hamlet, and Othello fight their demons.

This killer splattered real blood on the stage where our players – those embraced by moviegoers everywhere – stood up to injustice and wrongdoing, and made the stage a little smaller and a lot more real.

About the movie: Friday night, I had tickets to The Dark Knight Rises. As I sat in the theater and listened, the buzz was there, but quieter – restrained and questioning instead of joyful celebration.

After the movie ended, the buzz resumed – still lower than one might expect, but interested – people examining the story with each other to understand it. Like The Dark Knight, I feel like I have to see it again (and possibly again) to catch the nuances.

Some mild spoilers ahead.

In general, I found Bane’s blunt battering ram of a villain to be an apt metaphor for the movie – it winds up with a telegraphed swing, but still hits like a truck. The Dark Knight, in comparison, was like the Joker’s knife – it was in your ribs, twisted and out again before you even knew he was there.

Personal preference – I liked TDK, then TDKR, then Batman Begins. But they are all of the highest quality when it comes to superhero-based movies.

The Way Is Lit By A Firefly by Josh Trudell

Everyone needs a little career help sometimes.

What do I do about the boss who is driving me crazy? The co-worker constantly talking about minutia? The old guy who does it that way because that’s who we’ve always done it?

Well, if you’re Forbes, you listen to Han Solo.

This was a funny little piece, although logistically flawed to anyone who has spent quality time in the Star Wars universe – Han shooting Greedo was a footnote to the saga, not the reason the war started.

It's good career advice, though, at a time when I've felt the need for some. I’ve been going through a grind the last few weeks – between work, freelancing and school assignments, I’ve been trying to keep my head down and push through the pile.

It’s difficult to keep the inspiration light going when it seems the pile never ends. However, there are some words of wisdom to be had from one of the best characters ever to wear a pretty flowered bonnet on television.

I’m speaking, of course, of Captain Malcolm Reynolds of the starship "Firefly*. Capt. Reynolds and Capt. Solo have a passing character resemblance, but Reynolds is Solo without the Rebel Alliance – a smuggler just trying to get by.

While I'm not planning on starting an interstellar smuggling career (not from lack of trying), Captain Mal had many words of wisdom during the show’s short run. Here are a few particularly inspiring passages.

“I start fightin’ a war, I guarantee you’ll see something new.”

From the 2005 movie “Serenity” (a follow-up movie to the TV series), this always strikes me when I think of people who have been laid off and are forced to come up with a new plan. A character is questioning what side of him he is showing her. It always impresses me when people fight back from bad spots and find a new and even better place.

“We are just too pretty for God to let us die. Look at this chiseled jaw!”

In the middle of a firefight in the first episode of Firefly, Mal keeps his head and sense of humor. It’s a funny moment, but a good example of people keeping calm under pressure. That kind of light moment can do a lot to improve a working environment.

“You don't know me, son, so let me explain this to you once. If I ever kill you, you'll be awake, you'll be facing me, and you'll be armed.”

Here, Mal is talking to one of his passengers, a city-raised doctor who is somewhat terrified of the rough-and-ready Reynolds. Finding a workplace where people are treated fairly – even if they are being laid off – is something to treasure. It can also describe the difference between a good workplace and one poisoned by office gossip.

“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.” This is something I keep in mind every time I get tired of juggling multiple projects and want to go veg out in front of the tv. This battle to get a new business off the ground, take classes, pick up freelance work and deal with the vagaries of a full-time job will be worth it.

It will. Why? Because you can’t stop the signal.**

*Firefly was a television show that was on Fox for less time that it takes to read this sentence. Go find the DVDs and watch them. Now.

**”Can’t Stop the Signal” was the battlecry of an army of Firefly fans, called Browncoats, who successfully petitioned Universal for the movie “Serenity” after “Firefly” was canceled.

John Who? by Josh Trudell

Sweeping sci-fi action movie. Oscar-winning director, coming off a game-changing film. Huge powerhouse studio sinking tons of money into it.

Sounds like the kind of movie that rakes in more money that most third-world countries produce in a year, doesn’t it?

Instead, it’s the “monument to excess”  (and it took one glimpse of the price tag for critics to dust that phrase off) called John Carter.

Now, I admit - this kind of film is my raison d’etre when it comes to summer movies, so I’m inclined to like it if at all possible. The Superwife and I both chew up the epic blockbusters like Girl Scout cookies. We’re right in the heart of the nerdcore that this movie should have been aimed at.

The problem I saw was – well, who WAS this movie aimed at? Or was it aimed at all?

The natural comparison for John Carter is Avatar, the 2009 James Cameron-directed epic. They had many of the same ingredients going in.

When Avatar came out, we were swimming in ads for months, in all forms of media. The marketing campaign was thorough, to say the least. It became an can’t-miss event – the guy who directed Terminator and Titanic is coming out with a big movie! Holy crap, I’ve got to see this!

Do you know the name of the director of John Carter? Do you know what he’s done? Did you hear about it anywhere?

For the record – his name is Andrew Stanton, and he directed Wall-E and Finding Nemo. He’s been a Pixar guy since the beginning.

That might have been good to know, considering the reputation Pixar has crafted.

Disney is Pixar’s parent company now – but based on the storytelling Disney did with the marketing for this movie, Stanton may want to stick with animation.

The story is an old one – based on Edgar Rice Burrough’s novels, the first of which was published in 1912.  So it was the inspiration behind a lot of the minds that came up with films such as Star Wars, and yes, Avatar.

Another point to hammer home, perhaps?

At this point, though, the novels are not widely known. A marketing approach helping people understand what they are in for might have been a good idea. I knew what a Na’vi was for months before one showed up on the big screen – but Jeddaks were a whole new concept.

In short: You’re introducing me to this new world – a new language, new beings, new social structure. In my opinion, it might have been a good approach to give people a Rosetta Stone course before dumping them into this epic tale.

Critics rightfully gave John Carter some lumps, in my mind – it’s a little long, and occasionally a little muddled.

The critics who enjoyed it seemed to have a common theme, though: Embrace it for its innocence. It doesn’t carry most of the heavy messages of Cameron’s Dances with Smurfs – but it’s fun. That’s something that makes it worthwhile all by itself.

I give it three stars out of five for excellent action, a fun storyline and decent chemistry between Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins. For more thoughts about the movie's issues and values, I recommend these thoughts from Mr. Beaks at Ain't it Cool News.