Break out the fake hacking, techno, martial arts, and black leather! Why a Matrix relaunch could work.

I’m a huge fan of  The Matrix, and from a creative side of things, an even bigger fan of the overall universe/ concept of the property. On the other side of things, I’m lukewarm to outright “will turn the movie off because I’ve been bored to tears” when it comes to Matrix: Reloaded and Matrix: Revolutions.

The movie, along with a few other creative sources, propelled me into my career as a writer of all things super heroic, epic, sci-fi, and all around kick ass.

So when I heard that Warner Brothers was giving some thought to possibly restarting the franchise, I thought I’d just share a few opinions. Really trying not to rant here.

There’s enough of that on the internet, so call this a “calm laying out of ideas/ thoughts”.

Original Recipe or Crispy is the true answer we seek……

-In the second movie Col. Sanders, I mean The Architect, established that there had been other “One’s” in the vein of Neo.

He explained that fights/conflicts like the ones of the Matrix trilogy had happened before, suggesting that this was sort of an endless loop.

So like it or not, the Wachowski’s left the door open for more stories to possibly be told for a concept which they no longer completely own (when they sold the idea to New Line Cinema/ Warner Bros.).

Unless they signed a kick ass deal which put the complete rights of the franchise in their hands, then WB always had the possibility of telling more stories in this universe without them, and they inadvertently (or maybe that was their plan from the beginning) provided a really solid jumping off point for future stories to be told.

It would be nice for Warner Bros to bring them in on a creative front, but legally speaking, they probably aren’t obligated to. Definitely sucks, I know.

Or not, which leads me to my next point……


-As much as I love The Matrix (one of my favorite movies of all time and a trend setter for modern sci-fi film) the subsequent sequels were a’ight to just horrible. I’m not a huge fan of the Animatrix as a whole. Enjoyed some of the shorts. Others just weren’t my cup of tea.

So any other stories that could be told in this universe, which is extremely expansive, should be told probably by someone else.

I like Sense 8 well enough, and even enjoyed that Channing Tatum roller skating in the sky space opera movie they directed, but with the subsequent Matrix sequels and other movies they’ve directed since then (though I hear Speed Racer has a cult fan following) I’d rather have them on as producers, or hands off, sort of in the vein of Lucas and the current round of Star Wars.

The Star Wars franchise has hit an all time creative and pop culture high with handing off the reigns to other creators, examples including Rogue One and Star Wars: The Force Awakens

-There are some awesome creators who can tackle this material in the form of screenwriters and directors who could kick ass in this universe, and I think they deserve a chance to tell stories set in the world of The Matrix. Once again, look at the Star Wars franchise, and the hiring of such modern/ talented storytellers as J.J. Abrams, Gareth Edwards, Rian Johnson, Phil Lord and Chris Miller to continue to expand this universe.

Heck, I’d be up for writing an expanded universe comic for The Matrix.

Warner Bros: hit a dude up.

Please let this be good. By all that is holy, please let this be good.

-I think between this possible relaunch and the burgeoning Harry Potter film-verse restart with Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, I feel that Warner Bros. is trying to get a viable franchise in their hands because the DC film-verse is currently just not cutting it.

Though the Matrix movies steadily got bad in quality, they still made a crap ton of money, and that’s all these studios care about.

-Lastly, don’t do a reboot. Just pick up with another The One as suggested by Col. Sanders. Create a new story, new conflict, higher stakes, etc.

That’s about all that I have. Just a few opinions.

Please discuss below, share, and be civil. 🙂

Star Wars : My Thoughts Before We Wake

featuring art by the late great Ralph McQuarrie

Star-Wars-Concept-Art-New-Hope3

I’m writing this from the past.

All the way back on Tuesday, December 15, 2015.

Because today, Friday, December 18, is a big day. For me. For a lot of us. I wanted to write this post ahead of time. Before today. Before it happens. Before we see it. Before the Awakening. Before the results of all this hype and hope and speculation and excitement are known. Will we be disappointed today? Will we be thrilled? Will our prayers be answered? I don’t know and for the purposes of this post, I don’t want to know.

So I’m writing this from the past. star_wars_r2d2_c-3po_ralph_mcquarrie_desktop_1920x1080_hd-wallpaper-1054461

Last night (for me, here in the past), The Force Awakens had its premiere at the Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Which means that people have seen it. A large group of people, a lot of them famous, a lot of them on Twitter. And, while I trust that none of them are going to run and tweet “Oh my God! Han Solo is just Dexter Jettster wearing a Mission Impossible Mask!”, I have deleted Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and any other social media app off my phone; deleted the bookmarks in Google Chrome. From Monday until Saturday, I am in as much of a media blackout as is possible in this day and age.

Because I don’t want to know.

I’m not a spoiler-phobe. I actually find that trend more than a little annoying, as I wrote about a while ago HERE. Do I want to know the story? The surprises? The ending? Fuck no. But mostly, I don’t want to know what people think about the movie. I don’t want to read Kevin Smith tweeting “HOLY SHIT STAR WARS IS SO GOOD!” or Patton Oswalt saying “Bad news guys…”. I don’t want to know what the critics have to say. Not a single fucking one. Not because I don’t like critics, but because I have no interest in what other people think about the movie.

I only care about what I think about it.

Two reasons for this:

1. There are at most a dozen people in this world whose opinions on film I actually respect. Who I can talk movies with in a way that satisfies me. Whose praise or condemnation of a film can actually sway my desire to see it. Does this make me a snob? Fuck yes. I embrace being a snob. I don’t care what most people think because I think I know better. It’s an ugly truth about me but a truth all the same. I feel that way about all movies; with Star Wars I feel it tenfold.

2. Knowing the general consensus on a film’s quality undoubtedly taints your experience in watching it for the first time. If the praise is effusive, often times you are disappointed by what you see because it was merely “good”, not “amazing” as every keeps saying. For me, I call this the Something About Mary effect. Conversely, if the word on the film is bad, if people are ripping it, if the cursed Rotten Tomatoes (boy do I hate Rotten Tomatoes) rating is low, you go into it expecting bad and you look for the bad. All you can see is the bad. And you don’t want to feel like an idiot for liking something that everyone else hates. Or you can go the other way. You’ve heard the film is bad, you go see it, enjoy it, and think “That was much better than everyone is saying. I don’t get it.” That happened with me on The Dark Knight Rises. The word wasn’t great on it but when I saw it I enjoyed it. Looking back, I realize those low expectations inflated my opinion of the film. I bought it on blu-ray the day it came out and haven’t been able to watch it all the way through even once. I find it mediocre and disappointing.

star-wars-mcquarrie3I don’t want to walk into the theater today with that baggage.

I’m bringing in enough with me as it is.

Because, well…

I love Star Wars more than you.

Since I don’t know who you are, dear reader, it’s understandable if you find that statement laughable.

But I love Star Wars more than you because Star Wars is my thing.

And it has been since 1980.

When I was four years old, my parents let me stay up to watch the network television debut of Star Wars. It was hosted by Billy Dee Williams (which is how I know it was around 1980), from a badly mocked-up version of what I would later learn was the Mos Eisley cantina. (Did you know it was owned by a Wookiee named Chalmun? Of course you didn’t. No reason you should. But I do. Because Star Wars is my thing.)

Like so many people, the first time seeing George Lucas’s Star Wars changed my life. I was never the same after that. I had, at the age of four, fallen truly, madly, and deeply in love.

I obviously don’t remember every detail of that night, but I remember enough. I remember the opening shot of the Blockade Runner (the Tantive IV) and the Star Destroyer (the Devastator) coming over the top of the screen and thinking the child’s equivalent of “holy shit!”. Being terrified of Darth Vader. I remember the cantina, obviously. Ben cutting off Ponda Baba’s arm. Meeting Han Solo. Seeing the Falcon for the first time. I have very strong memories of the trash compactor and, after that, the image that probably stuck most in my mind: Luke and Leia swinging across the chasm in the Death Star. Of course, the getaway fight with the TIE Fighters was amazing (“Don’t get cocky!”).

But what left an indelible impression on me was the final assault on the Death Star, later known as the Battle of Yavin. It enraptured me in a way I had never experienced. Starting with the scene in the briefing room where they break down the plan (I have this thing. Don’t know what it is, but my favorite scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark is when Indy uses the chalkboard to explain to the guys, one of them the actor that played Jek Porkins in A New Hope, how the Staff of Ra worked. Don’t know why that is.) and then of course the visuals, the action. It was so damn exciting and tense. I had no idea what was going to happen next. I had seen very few movies, so it never occurred to me that of course the hero was going to save the day. I was four. I didn’t know that it was an automatic thing in movies like this. I was terrified for Luke every step of the way. He’s just a kid from a farm! This is so dangerous! How is he going to make it out alive?

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Ships crash. People die. Darth Vader starts mowing down Y-Wings in his funky looking fighter (TIE Advanced x1). It was all too much.

Then Luke switched off his targeting computer.

I stopped breathing.

Then, it happened. The moment that brings me chills every time I think about it, let alone see it. Seriously. Right now, seeing it in my head, I’m getting that feeling.

Just when it looked like Vader was going to shoot Luke down. Just when the Rebellion was about to be blown to oblivion, a miracle happened.

“Yahoo!”

The Falcon came down out of the sun and saved the day.

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They came back! Han and Chewie came back! If you were an adult, you probably knew it would happen. Because that’s how movies work. The cynical loner always grows a heart and comes back to help. But as a child? I had no idea it was coming.

And when it did, I felt it for the first time.

The jolt. The shiver. The surge.

For all I knew, at that moment, 35 years ago, it was The Force Itself.

That feeling, you know? The potent injection of emotion that seems to shoot up your spine when you see, hear, read something that just hits you in a place you never knew you had. It’s the white soldiers cheering “give ‘em Hell!” to the 54th Massachusetts as they leave to die attacking Fort Wagner. It’s a brave vampire slayer leaping to her death to save both her sister and the world (“She saved the world. A lot.”). It’s the “Ode to Joy”, when that damn chorus comes in and the bliss crackles like electricity under your skin.

I was paralyzed with… I don’t know what that feeling is. It’s a cocktail of emotions, universally known but undefined. Just that… rush. That feeling.

It was the first time I had felt it.

It was riding my first roller coaster.

It was losing my virginity.

Drinking my first beer.

I have George Lucas to thank for that. And I thank him, as all fans should, for giving us this gift.

I also wanted more.

star_wars_movies_atat_ralph_mcquarrie_fan_art_1280x800_wallpaper_wallpaper_2560x1600_www-wallpaperswa-comThe first Star Wars trilogy was an enormous hit. Millions and millions of people are fans of the films. Made Lucas a brand of his own, the most successful independent filmmaker in history. The original trilogy is beloved the whole world over. Especially The Empire Strikes Back, nearly universally considered the best of the films.

But my love affair didn’t stop in 1983 when Return of the Jedi was released. I didn’t think “Well, that cool thing is over. On to the next thing.”

I was in love. I still wanted more.

And to get more, I had to dive deeper. And there wasn’t a whole lot there.

I’ve seen the two pretty-awful Ewoks TV movies more than a dozen times each. Why? Because they were Star Wars. Same with the “Droids” and “Ewoks” cartoons. I read the seven available Star Wars spin-off novels, including the very enjoyable Han Solo and Lando Calrissian series. I read the lackluster Marvel comics.

But between 1983 and 1991, it was slim pickings for a kid who wanted more of his favorite thing.

But in ’91, a novel was published. Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire. It took place 5 years after Episode VI and heir-to-the-empire-coverstarred all of the original characters, and introduced a few new ones, including one of the great Star Wars villains (hell, characters) of all time. Soon after, in the world of comic books, Dark Horse got the Star Wars license and released “Dark Empire”, which took place a year after Heir to the Empire. It was a bleak story about Emperor Palpatine rising from the dead to take one last stab at conquering the galaxy.

With those two pieces of fiction, the entity that would eventually be called the Expanded Universe was born. It would live and grow for almost a quarter of a century.

And I experienced all of it. Every novel. Every comic book. Every video game. Every role-playing game. Every encyclopedia. Star Wars became much more than three movies for me.

Even through the Special Editions and the Prequels, the Expanded Universe thrived. The novels and comics kept coming. Some were great. Some sucked. Most were in the middle somewhere. But the Star Wars galaxy continued to grow outside of the movies. In the case of the prequels, it often times eclipsed it in terms of quality. When 2005 was over, and Revenge of the Sith had come and gone, Star Wars wasn’t over for me like it was for so many others. I hadn’t abandoned it because of the quality of the prequels. Because to me it was so much more than six films. The movies were the most important aspect, sure, but I enjoyed the prequel era. While Lucas’s movies were bad (at times horrible), with several great moments, they spawned so many interesting stories between the cracks. In comics. And fiction. And in the spectacular “Clone Wars” television show.

I can imagine losing faith in Star Wars if all you know is the films. I don’t begrudge anyone for being done with the franchise after the prequels. Nor do I blame people for hopping back on in hopes that The Force Awakens is awesome. Please, come back to Star Wars. But also understand that some of us never left. Not out of blind loyalty, but because we’re fans. Not fans of the Star Wars movies; fans of Star Wars as a whole, the entire multi-media giant it has grown into.

MCQ-dagobah

Now George Lucas is out. Disney, Kathleen Kennedy, Lawrence Kasdan, and J.J. Abrams are in. The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after Return of the Jedi.Everyone is excited to see what things are like, what’s happened, what’s going, three decades after the death of the Emperor and Darth Vader. So am I. Except, I’ve already seen it. The novels hit “30 years later” a long time ago. In the (now defunct) Expanded Universe, a lot happened in those years. Weddings. Births. Deaths. New villains. New heroes. Wars. Adventures. Tragedies. Triumphs. A fully fleshed-out timeline that has been built upon that first wonderful Timothy Zahn novel.

None of this has any bearing on The Force Awakens. This is a new timeline. A new vision. One that only includes the films and animated TV shows as “canon”. And I’ve come to terms with that. It’s fine. It’s all make-believe bullshit anyway. But it will be impossible for me to not bring all that (fictional) history with me. That knowledge is in my DNA. It’s part of what makes me me.

J.J. Abrams is without a doubt a Star Wars fan. But, if I had to guess, not the same type of Star Wars fan as I am. He loves Star Wars and I think he is going to make a film that represents it well. Except, his Star Wars is not my Star Wars. My Star Wars galaxy is so much bigger than most people’s. The question is really going to be, for me, is “is what J.J. loves about Star Wars the same thing I love about Star Wars?”. Maybe, but maybe not.

RMQ-CarkoonSkiff

What do I want this new movie to be?

I want it to be a good story.

I want it to feel like Star Wars.

I want the Kurosawa screen wipes between scenes instead of dissolves and cuts.

I want Harrison, Mark, and Carrie to be Han, Luke, and Leia.

I want Rey and Finn and Poe to be great characters that I will enjoy watching carry on the saga.

I want it to feel old and new.

I want someone to say “I have a bad feeling about this.”

I want John Williams to make me bawl like a baby.

I want it to pay homage to George but not be an homage to George. There’s a difference. Ask Bryan Singer.

I want Kylo Ren to be badass.

I want Captain Phasma to be badass-er.

I want it to be its own movie but also earn the title “Episode VII” and feel like part of the greater saga.

I want it to be good.

I want it to be great.

I want to love it.

ralph-mcquarrie-star-wars-original-artwork-concept-lucas-films-9

What do I not want?

I do not want Luke Skywalker to be evil.

That is the one thing that could turn me off of Star Wars for a very long time. Make me lose faith in the new regime. I think it would betray the original films, the films that everyone behind The Force Awakens say they are trying to do right by.

“Where’s Luke?” has been the refrain as the hero of episodes IV through VI has been absent from the poster, the trailers, the TV spots, and the toys. “Where is Luke?!?”

There could be many reasons why they haven’t shown Luke Skywalker in any of the promo material. Maybe he’s not in it that much. Maybe he’s only in scenes that are later in the film and they don’t want to spoil anything. Maybe his entrance into the movie is so motherfucking Orson-Welles-in-The-Third-Man-awesome that they want to hold onto it. Make us wait for it. Because when I see Mark Hamill playing Luke Skywalker, 32 years after he did it last, I’m going to cry. The quality of his reveal will determine whether I just get misty-eyed or curl up into a sobbing ball on the floor of the theater. I want his entrance to floor me. I want to feel like a kid again.

He could also be a bad guy. That would be a legitimate reason not to reveal him until we see the film, as some have speculated. I really hope that’s not true.

Because I don’t know what I’d do. They would have to do it REALLY well to keep me watching.

They could have Jar-Jar and Wickett talk about midichlorians for two hours and I’d still be there for Episode VIII. But making Luke the bad guy…?

Let’s hope not. MCQ-emperor

As this posts, 1:20 pm, EST, I am sitting down with my father and brother at the Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station theater in downtown Atlanta to watch The Force Awakens in IMAX 3D. The last time I saw a Star Wars film in the theater with these two people that I love: 1983. So that, in itself, will be special.

If you are reading this within two and a half hours of me posting it, I am currently sitting in a darkened theater with an appropriately StarWarsian mix of hope and fear. I don’t need this movie to be good. If it’s not, I’ll still be a Star Wars fan tomorrow. I’ll be sad Star Wars fan, sure, for a while, but I’m not walking away. When my baseball team has a bad game, a bad season, even a bad decade, I don’t stop wearing their caps. I don’t stop rooting for them, watching their games, going to see them when they come to town. And even if the last year was horrible, I still start the next season with hope that they’ll get it right this time.

I feel the same way about Star Wars. In all of pop culture, there is nothing that is nearer to my heart. That’s why I wanted to write this before seeing the film. To express my undying love. No matter what I am experiencing at this very moment, I will be a Star Wars fan tomorrow.

As for my opinions on The Force Awakens, I will express them. On Saturday I will be recording another episode of the NEEDLESS THINGS podcast where we will have a round table discussion about the film. The episode will be available online soon after the film comes out, if you really want to hear me talk about it. I’m sure I’ll have one or two or five hundred things to say.

I may even let the other panelists talk. If I’m feeling generous.

Thank you, George.

Good luck, J.J.

It’s time. You psyched? I’m psyched.

Let’s do it. Here we go.

Punch it, Chewie.

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May the Force Be with You,

Chad J. Shonk
December 15, 2015

A Few Hidden Movie Gems for The Week of Halloween

Getting right to the meat…

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Zombie Honeymoon

I’m not saying it doesn’t have some eye-rolling moments. It may very well not live up to this on rewatch.

But…

We all know that zombie movies are never only about the zombies as much as they are a device to tell a story about people and the world they inhabit. And this movie is no Apocalyptic Wasteland, but more or less a normal life with one small twist:

The husband is slowly turning into a zombie.

So the movie asks you one question: if you truly loved someone, how far would you go for them? And not in an action movie “gotta save my wife/daughter/husband/son” sort of way. This is your husband turning into a creature who kills people. Do you cover it up? He still can have conversations with you. He’s still seems to be the man you fell in love with… only he now eats people.

Do you kill for him?

When is love not enough?

 

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Teeth

I’m going to get crap about even mentioning this movie. I brought this one to a Halloween movie night and it did not go over well with everyone. Doesn’t mean it isn’t worth watching once.

In a ton of ways It Follows delivers on Teeth’s original promise. They both are views on sexuality and how both sexes view the issue differently. They both attempt to capture the old Horror movie standby that SEX = BAD = DEATH.

Except that in Teeth they aren’t saying it is outright bad, only that aggression will be met with aggression. That if you decide to stick your piece somewhere unwanted, well… BAD things are going to occur. Suddenly the woman has the power to defend herself in an unexpected way.

But mostly it is about growing into an adult. How you deal with the changes – both physically and emotionally.

 

the signal

The Signal & Pontypool

I’m grouping them together because they both deal with the idea of communication gone wrong.  I’m reminded of an Twilight Zone episode from the 80s version of the show. Two reporters come to a town to investigate some strange things going on, but what they find is that someone has figured out the Secret of Life. The only problem is that our minds cannot handle the truth, and so we snap.

I’ve always loved that idea of ideas as a virus.

Pontypool deals with the very idea our words can be the thing to cause us to go mad. A DJ, trapped in his station by a snowstorm getting these various updates of madness. And him slowly beginning to understand what might be causing it.

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With The Signal you get more of the traditional zombie movie, with a strange signal driving the madness. People turning on one another. Divided into three sections, the movie shows how we need to keep our loved ones safe… and how that ultimately may not even be possible.

George Carlin had a routine where he talked about the idea that given how we mistreat the Earth, perhaps our sexually transmitted diseases are the way the planet fights back. That anything related to sex was a no brainer since we all do it, want to do it, or perhaps are currently doing it. Sex is the ultimate delivery system to spread the madness.

So are words.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Back To The Future II: A Fan Reminisces

For me personally, this week was a GLORIOUS WEEK to be a sci-fi fan.

We got a new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer.

I picked up my copy of The City: A Cyberfunk Anthology, a book that I’m loving.

I’ll have the first draft of my short story set in the world of The Crossing ready to be sent off for edits soon, which will be submitted for this awesome anthology.

And then there was 10-21-15.

Before we jump into why I feel this day held so much significance for fans of one particular movie franchise known across the world, lets hop back into the ‘ole Delorean.

It was 1989 and I was living in Chicago. My mother had taken my brother, myself, and a few cousins to the theater to see Back To The Future II. I was a huge fan of the first movie, having killed our VHS copy of Back To The Future upon subsequent viewings (an act that would also occur with our copies of Hook and New Jack City. Weird combination, I know).

Back-to-the-Future

To say the first movie blew my mind was a huge understatement. You’ve got time travel. You’ve got great comedy. You’ve got the weirdest, awesomest (not a word, I know) buddy adventure pairing of Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and past/present Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) that I don’t think has been matched since. There was a homicidal bully/ antagonist. Wrongs being righted. Timelines being changed. Crispin Glover in all of his manic weirdness. A skateboard chase sequence. Great acting. A solid story that just damn worked.

And one of the greatest ending’s to a movie ever.

“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

And to think that there weren’t any immediate plans for a sequel, that the movie was just going to end on this huge cliffhanger, is mind boggling. As a kid, your brain just starts racing with the possibilities.

“No roads?” younger Robert said to himself as the credits rolled in the darkened living room.

“Means some serious ‘ish is about to go down.”

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The moment young Robert’s mind melted.

Ok, I wasn’t cursing at the age of 7, but you get the point.

So fast forward to 1989. Back To The Future II hits, and my 7 year old mind is just ready to be blown to bits.

And it was. 🙂

Once again you’ve got McFly and Doc Brown (who just work so darn well with each other). Cripsin Glover is gone, replaced by some dude in bad old person make up. The homicidal Tannen family are still around. Time travel. Doubles. Action. Adventure. More time travel.

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And here’s where it gets crazy.

You’ve got a wacked out version of the future. 10-21-15. There was a time when anytime maybe, 30 years plus ahead in the future was seen as possibly being this crazy foreign period where things would be extremely outlandish.

Back To The Future II wasn’t an exception. You had flying cars. Interactive 3D movie ads. Crazy fashion styles. Video phone calls (yeah, not too crazy now with things like Face Time and Skype). And hoverboards.

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As a kid seeing all of this, and with later viewings, it was a fun peek into what could be. Seeing Marty rolling around on his Mattel  branded hoverboard was awesome, and had all of us debating if some shadowy government program had created this technology in the real world.

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We were kids. Don’t be too harsh.

The flying cars were great. I wanted Marty’s self-lacing Nike’s and blow dry jacket then and there. Griff Tannen and his height growing abilities was crazy. Duck Hunt being seen as a golden oldie of the video game era was a fun nod to the Nintendo games we were then playing. And the Cubs had won the World Series.

As a kid, this is what I appreciated the most. The more visceral, fun nods to what the future could possibly bring.

The movie also ends with a teaser for the third installment that was being filmed shortly after the second movie was completed. As a kid, to have a guaranteed movie coming down the line was a fun surprise, as it confirmed we’d be seeing more of Marty and Doc’s cinematic escapades.

In this day and age where such end credit teasers are common place with big budget movies, Back To The Future II was the first time I’d experienced this. Marty and Doc in the Wild West?

Take my mother’s money, because she was going to be the one paying for that shindig.

Upon subsequent viewings, as I got older, other things started to stand out.

First and foremost, I think this would have been the first time I’d been introduced to the idea of alternate timelines. Sure there were things like Days of Future Past before, and any host of other sci-fi TV shows, and films that dealt with this idea, but this was the first time I’d experienced the concept firsthand.

hell-valley

When Doc Brown broke down how old Biff stealing the Grays Sports Almanac created Hell Valley (please see the movie for further explanation if you haven’t seen it) was just mind blowing as a kid, but appreciated for a cool storytelling tool as I got older. The idea that one man’s selfish pursuit of wealth destroyed the idyllic town of Hill Valley creates a dark tone for the flick , providing a counter balance to the whimsical adventure that we’d been experiencing before. And this alternate timeline confirmed for me that the Tannen’s are a group of murdering psychopaths.

back-to-the-future-2_8col

That face just screams psycho. Actually that face just screams all the time.

Another idea that continues to resonate with me is that as much as you might think you’re laying the foundations for a successful future, that’s not always going to be the case.

Case in point: where future Marty’s life winds up. He’s working a crappy job, his dreams of being a professional guitarist are out the window. His family life is kind of blah, and rather than try to rebuild what’s fallen around him, he continues to make bad decisions based on some crappy sense of bravado.

Now that I think about it, where did dude’s obessession with being called a chicken come from? That was totally out of left field.

Sorry, I digress.

Not saying that all of our lives have a tendency to turn bad or horrible, it was just interesting to see that the screenwriters sought to show that everything wasn’t so peachy keen in the McFly household. Remember, Doc’s whole reasoning to come back was to save Marty’s son from going to jail, which led to a downward spiral in regards to the McFly family. For a sci-fi adventure you could say such a concept being introduced was as Marty would say “Heavy”.

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The same could be said for the horrible direction that Biff takes with his greed filled run of murder and gambling. Biff chooses to be an opportunistic ass, who leaves nothing but pain and misery in his wake. And he accepts this, and revels in it, creating the hellish alternate timeline Marty and Doc head towards.

I know it’s a stretch to think that B2FII (as it’s known to all the cool kids) might have something to say on life decisions. But often we find that science-fiction can be used to speak to our personal experiences. Heck, I know as I get older, that as much as I may want to move things in a certain direction, that’s not always going to be the case, try as I might. But if I don’t at least try, then nothing will happen.

The thing to realize is even though the chips may not fall where you want them to, you still have opportunities to make those decisions. As long as you at least try. Roads less traveled and all that jazz.

I know I’m jumping movies a bit, but I feel the final scene from Back To The Future III sum’s this up perfectly:

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Jennifer Parker: Dr. Brown, I brought this note back from the future and – now it’s erased.

Doc: Of course it’s erased!

Jennifer Parker: But what does that mean?

Doc: It means your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one, both of you.

Marty McFly: [Marty wraps his arm around Jennifer] We will, Doc.

That scene always gets me on that ‘ole sappy emotion level.

So to round things out, I’ll go on the record and say this is my favorite movie trilogy of all time.

Watch this movie. Heck, watch the trilogy in a binge session and just enjoy some good cinema. Happy post October 21, 2015/ Back To The Future II day.

I almost ran off with this hoverboard. But that probably would've screwed up my future timeline.

I almost ran off with this hoverboard.
But that probably would’ve screwed up my future timeline.

 

Creative Interview with Filmmaker/ Screenwriter Gabrielle Aliké Hawkins

I’m going to be straight up with you guys and gals, I’m kind of biased on how much I respect the subject of today’s creator interview. She’s talented, driven, and she’s my lil’ cousin.

Who I’m unabashedly proud of. 😀

Gabrielle Aliké Hawkins has studied the craft of film making internationally in London, on our own shores in the great NYC, and has honed her craft working on such indie productions such as “Alto” and “Global Tides”.  In addition to being an accomplished photographer, Gabrielle is currently conducting an Indiegogo campaign for a sci-fi dystopian short film she’s written and will direct called “Criminals”.

The filmmaker recently took the time to speak with the Tessera Guild about her career, the campaign, and indie film.

Can you start by telling us a little about yourself, your background in film, and just being a creator overall?

I became drawn to the arts at a young age, focusing on dance. After suffering a severe dance injury, I decided to continue my passion for arts and focus on filmmaking. I have always been drawn to films and when I was about 12 years old, I used to write stories that I wanted to see on the big screen. At that time, I wanted someone else to direct them. Then, I realized I could direct the stories I wanted to see.

I have a B.A in Film Production from Brooklyn College and a Certificate of Completion from the Met Film School in London where I studied film producing. I started working as a Production Assistant on music videos and feature films. I recently worked as an Assistant Director on a wonderful feature film called “Alto” directed by Mikki Del Monico.

What drew you to filmmaking? What about the medium drives you to create film?

Filmmaking is such a beautiful and powerful medium. It influences our society. As a teenager, I didn’t realize how much film and media influenced me. How I saw myself on screen or if I didn’t. What I watched influenced how I interacted with people without me even knowing.

That is one of the reasons that I became a filmmaker because I would like to see more diversity on screen. Not just in terms of race but also telling unique stories. I feel that watching a great film is like watching a painting come to life.

Talk to our readers about your short film “Criminals”, and the Indiegogo campaign. What about the science fiction/ dystopian future arena appeals to you as a filmmaker/ screenwriter in terms of storytelling?

I have always been drawn to abandoned buildings and characters that are seen as outcasts from society. There is great beauty in darkness if you can see the light.

The film takes place in 2040. Our characters, Ian and Ariana, are the last surviving members of an underground movement called the E.G.O. A massive manhunt for their capture takes place, in response to their infiltration of the notorious officer program and stealing confidential government files. They escape into the woods fighting to reach their last hope for survival. Will they make it to Nuevo Acuerdo, a society untouched by the government?

 I have always been drawn to science fiction/dystopian future films and novels. Octavia E. Butler is one of my Criminals Movie Posterfavorite authors and her work has greatly influenced me. For this particular film, I wanted to write within this genre because in some ways I feel  as a society this is where we are moving towards, unless we experience a serious wake up call. Climate change, violence and so much more is something that shouldn’t be ignored by the masses.

We currently have an Indiegogo campaign running to raise money for this film. All of the money raised will go to the making of the film. There is a breakdown on the site, and the campaign ends on April 2. Check out the link for more info here.

Is science fiction a particular favorite in terms of film genre’s to create in, or does this include a variety of other genre’s?

Science fiction is one of my favorite genres to watch and write but I am also heavily influenced by other genres, such as film noir and even comedy. So depending on the story, I like to combine genres.

“Criminals” is definitely science fiction but with a film noir touch. I have a super random taste in movies so I think that helps a lot. My goal is to write a film in every genre.

Once I write a story and create the characters then I come up with the genre. I always have an idea of where I want it to go but usually the characters tell me what type of film it should be. For example, “Criminals” started off as a modern drama, but once I knew the characters and developed the story further, the genre had to change.

 A common saying nowadays is that the field of independent filmmaking has become more level, with the advent of new technologies, greater access to information etc. Do you feel that this is the case? Why or why not?

I think there are two ways to answer this question. I think in terms of making an independent film, you do have greater access thanks to digital filmmaking. There are also so many ways for people to watch films now. You can upload to websites, like youtube or vimeo and people can view your work. Also there are so many festivals, that accept many different genres and stories.

However, if you want to have your film in theaters, I think that is still pretty tough for indie filmmakers. Not that it’s not possible, because it definitely is, but it’s harder for an indie film to get wide release in theaters than a Hollywood film. 

Are there any filmmakers, or films that you feel have been an influence on you as a creator? What about those creators, or works speaks to you?

Tom Tykwer is an incredible filmmaker and his film “Run Lola Run”, is one of my favorites. The story is just so different and the moment I saw it I was in love with it.

 Gina Prince-Bythewood directed “Love and Basketball” and most recently “Beyond the Lights”. I love her work because you become so emotionally attached to the characters. I love how naturally she writes and directs human interaction.

 The television series “Breaking Bad” to me was just pure brilliance. The writing, the acting, the direction, just everything. I was blown away by this series and needed a support group when it ended.

 There are so many other films, television shows and filmmakers that I can go on and on about because there really are so many. I love the classics like “All About Eve”, “Alien” to comedies like “Friday”. I love films that make me think and sometimes I just need a good laugh. I am all over the place with the types of films and TV shows that I watch.

 All of these artists work speaks to me simply because it makes me feel something and makes me think outside of the box.

What can fans look for from you in the future, and where can they find your current work?

After this short I plan on working on a web series, and then work on a feature film that I wrote. This would be my first short that I directed so the current work I have has been on some great projects where I worked in other departments. I am also a photographer and my work can be viewed on my website.

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Gabrielle Aliké Hawkins​​​​​​ as Assistant Director on the feature film “Alto”

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s All Go To The Movies!

Like many of the Tessera Guild members, I love movies. I love watching them, discussing them, buying them, collecting them, etc. Being able to chill and enjoy a great flick from the comfort of your home is always great. On the flip side, catching a great movie at a theater can also be fun.

Going to the movies has always been an “experience” for me. Whether it be a crappy slog of a film, or a great, bombastic summer time blockbuster, I enjoy catching flicks at my local multiplex. Maybe it’s the high priced popcorn. The trailer’s for upcoming movies. The expectation created when the theater lights dim. Or the collective sigh, laughter, or clapping from the crowd when a movie hits its mark.

More than likely it’s a combination of all of the above, with some other things added to the mix. Whatever it is, I love heading to the theater. So if you’ve got a moment or two, sit back and read on as I do quick run through of some of my most enjoyable experiences at the cinema.

::Cue lights dimming as the projector reel starts::

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Jurassic Park, June 11, 1993

Shortly after my brother and I moved to Georgia, the summer movie season was in full swing. Standing out from the pack like an alpha-movie blockbuster was Stephen Spielberg’s adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel “Jurassic Park”.

Let me lay something out at this juncture: I was never a big dinosaur fan as a kid. Learned about them in school, thought they were awesome looking creatures, but never got caught up in the dinosaur obsession that apparently a lot of boy’s hit growing up.

So with this little nugget of personal history, my mind was still seriously blown when I began to see commercials for Jurassic Park.

Jurassic_Park_posterSpielberg had once again mined movie magic from the awesome depths of Crichton’s popular novel, and created a film that could possibly kick butt on a variety of levels. I distinctly remember going to a sold out show at the AMC Northlake Theater,in Tucker, GA.

As usual, Spielberg killed it. I remember the sense of wonder the first time I saw the Brachiosaurus grace the screen. Or the terror when the T-Rex destroyed  the roof of the SUV with Hammond’s grandchildren in it. And the joy of the numerous Jeff Goldblum-ism’s.

I primarily remember just having fun with my family, as everyone else around us jumped at the appropriate times, laughed during the light parts, and gripped their seats in nervous anticipation of what monster might appear around the next corner.

Thanks Mr. Spielberg.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phanton Menace, May 19, 1999

So we started with the good. Let’s move on to the opposite end of the spectrum.

I was in the home stretch of finishing high school, and it was a glorious time. I’d been accepted into college, I was working with my school’s literary magazine, and life was just friggin’ awesome.

And then there was The Phantom Menace.220px-Star_Wars_Phantom_Menace_poster

Not saying that this one movie destroyed my life, as many fanboys often declare. But it left a sour taste in my mouth when it came to the Star Wars franchise for a while. I’ve always been more of a Star Trek fan, but the sense of adventure and wonder that you get from watching the original trilogy is one that can’t be matched.

The Phantom Menace was billed as being the start of this generation’s Star Wars trilogy, as Episode’s 4-6 were for folks who’d been there at the series’ inception. Episode I was getting face time on MTV, Entertainment Tonight, a Weird Al Yankovic music video, and was just appearing all over the darn place. People were buying tickets in droves. It was insane.

And I’d never experienced anything like this. It was basically pop culture overload to the maxed out level.

So at the time I had a group of friends who were big Star Wars fans, and we decided to head over opening day to see it, right after school. We piled into someone’s car, swerved out of the high school parking lot like maniacs, and made it to the AMC at North Dekalb Mall with plenty of time to spare.

To say that being a part of something like this, on opening day, kind of shocked my nerd senses is putting it mildly. See, I’d always been sort of by myself when it came to such geeky pursuits. Sure I had friends who were into some of the same stuff that I grew up loving, mainly comics. But I found that before I hit middle school it was hard to find those guys and gals who were as hardcore about comics, sci-fi, cartoons, fantasy, videos games, etc. as I was.

fanslineupatSo when we hit the lobby of the theater, and I saw numerous folks dressed as young Obi-Wan, Darth Vader, or even Princess Amidala I thought to myself, “I’m home”. This was further solidified when we were let into the theater, and some of those same fans ran down the hall to get to our screening, as if compelled by the Force itself.

The geek expections were at a heightened pitch, as fans held mock light saber fights in front of the movie screen, and talked amongst themselves with excited voices.

Shortly after, the lights dimmed…….

That familiar word crawl began…….

And………

Well, you know the rest.

At least the light saber fights were awesome.

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The Matrix, March 31, 1999

It was spring of 1998. My cousin Tia was visiting from Chicago, and we’d decided to check out a movie. I’d been seeing a lot of commercials for an action movie with a lot of leather, slow motion, back flips, and the dude from Point Break. I thought it might be ok to check out, as I don’t remember anything else catching my eye. At least if it sucked, I could get a student discount on the ticket, and get a chance to hang with my cuzzo.

The movie was The Matrix.

Everyone in the theater had their collective mind’s blown. I mean, dammit, I’d never heard so much gasping, clapping, excited whisper’s, in a theater before that point. The experience I had watching that flick was a great one, and has only been topped by one other.

The_Matrix_PosterThis particular film has gone a long way in influencing my writing career, but also just kicked so much butt as a film going experience. I think that for most folks the movie was like nothing they’d ever seen before. Sure, Hong Kong martial arts filmmakers had been doing this style/ brand of fight choreography in the years preceeding The Matrix. And maybe a lot of folks saw the mash-up of the goth/ techno/ computer hacker culture hybrid and said “its been done before”.

But to get a movie of such stature, created by two nerdy brothers from Chicago who seemed to have filmmaking swagger for days, was a helluva beautiful thing to watch.

And to anyone who tells me that when they saw Neo fly away at the end of that flick, sort of saying “yeah, you just saw all of this mind bending awesomeness, but here’s a little something extra”, they didn’t collectively clap at the end of this flick, as it happened in my theater, y’all are lying.

And the biggest thing that stands out about this movie is that this came out pre-Internet, or at least pre- SPOILER era. I was genuinely surprised at what I saw, as I feel most folks in my theater were. And our movie going experience was all the better for it.

So those are some of my top movie going experiences. I’ve got a couple of others to add to the mix, but for now, I’ll leave you all with these to reminisce over, Please add your own movie going experiences to the comments below, and hope you enjoyed this.

Route 3: The Movie

Remember when Wizard Magazine would do their dream movie casting feature for comic book movies? It was one of the sections of the magazine that I honestly got hyped about, with the hope that these flicks might one day see the light of day.

Sure, these features were probably little more than staff writers having their chance to play a little bit of fantasy casting. But at the time, when casting news wasn’t available at the drop of a dime, this was a big thing for comic book fans like myself.

So following in the footsteps of Wizard Magazine, and my fellow Tessera blogger J. Edward Neill, I’ve decided to do my own fantasy movie casting for my creator owned project, “Route 3”.
Route 3 Logo

 

These are the actors and actresses that immediately jump to mind when I think of the “dramatis persone” of the epic tale of Sean Anderson and company. As the story expands in future issues, I’ll come back and add more actors and actresses.

But for now, think of this as my big Comic Con announcement for the casting of next summer’s blockbuster, “Route 3”.

 

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Sean Anderson: For our main protagonist, it’d be a toss up between Donald Glover (“Community”) and  Tyler James Williams (“Everybody Hates Chris”)  I know Sean’s age would have to be adjusted for the sake of the flick in Glover’s case (maybe make him a senior in high school), but heck, if Toby McGuire can play a high school student in his early 30’s, why not Glover? Childish-Gambino

 

Williams would also make a great Sean Anderson, as we’ve already seen him play a down on his luck teen in Chris Rock’s “Everybody Hates Chris”. Add to this, such roles in “Dear White People” and an upcoming stint in “The Walking Dead” I think Williams could put on an awesome performance.

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316 2316: If Marvel or Star Wars won’t have him, “Serenity’s” scene stealing actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor, can join the Route 3 ranks as Sean’s main nemesis.

 

 

CE1I loved this guy in “Serenity”, and “Inside Man”, and would love to see him do his thing in this epic flick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Nathenson: Adding to the list of Sean’s list of antagonists, comes the puppet master himself, Richard Richard Nathenson 2Nathenson. He would be played by Neal McDonough. McDonough is a guy that you’ve seen in just about everything including “Terrier’s”, “Captain America: The First Avenger”, “Walking Tall”, and “Minority Report”.

 

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He can bring definitely bring it when playing the Washington D.C. power broker, who makes Sean’s life a living hell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charles Punching

Charles Reily: No one, and I mean nooooo one would fit this role better than Mr. Liam Neeson (I almost pulled a Key & Peele and called him Neesons). Neeson would be able to bring the kick-assery of “Taken”, with the TAKEN 2dramatic gravitas of “Schindler’s List” to the mysterious, and lethal figure at the heart of Sean’s tale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Samie: Sean’s potential love interest would be played by the talented KeKe Palmer. With such credits as “Akeelah and The Bee”, and “Grey’s Anatomy” she’d be a perfect fit for the Route 3 universe. Just imagine this scene between Palmer and Williams. Box office gold.

 

 

KeKe Palme

 

Khenan & Salma: Rounding out 316’s covert ops force would be Malcolm Jamal-Warner and Michelle Rodgriguez. Sure, most folks remember Malcolm Jamal-Warner from “The Cosby Show”, as Theo Huxtable. But K S 1he had a great leading role in the post-apocalyptic television series “Jeremiah”, and other roles in “ Community”, “Sons of Anarchy”, and even “Dexter”.

Michelle Rodriguez personifies bad-assness in everything she does. “Resident Evil”.  “Girlfight”. “SWAT”. “Avatar”. “The Fast and The Furious” series. You’d be hard pressed to find a more epic action movie actress than Ms. Rodriguez.

 

MJW

 

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Khenan and Salma 1

 

 

Larry Anderson:  Idris Elba. “Pacific Rim”. “The Wire”. “Luther.” “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom”. “Thor.” Lenny 2Dude is a talented, talented, ta-len-ted actor, and he’d be able to bring a set of supreme acting chops to “Route 3”, playing Sean’s father.

 

 

Idris

 

 

Shane 1

Shane Watkins: The head of the Watkins drug cartel, Shane would be played by who I think would be a wild card to most: Dule’ Hill (“Psych”, “The West Wing”).

Hill was a hilarious straight man on “Psych”, but it was on “The West Wing” as Charlie Young where his dramatic acting skills shone. I think he’d be able to pull off the business minded, ruthless antagonist who gets caught in the wake of the epic “Route 3” story.

 

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So Hollywood, look how easy I just made your job. I’ve done the casting, and have given you a template for a script.

Just need you to cut a check so we can make some magic.

P.S If you want to read the book before seeing the potential movie, head here to pick up the current three issues of Route 3.

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