Thursday, April 25, 2013


If you missed them, here's Part I and here's Part II. All caught up? Good. Let's move on.

Here’s the thing: I don’t mind JJ Abrams. He seems like a nice guy, he’s undeniably talented and I say good for him. He's done an excellent job of getting a ton of projects up and running on both TV and film. Also, he kind of made Keri Russell, who I will love forever, into a household name, so I can never, ever be angry at him for anything.

But having said all that, I don’t give a shit about any “original” film project that Abrams has in development. He’s the perfect work-for-hire guy. He’s kind of obsessed with modeling his career after Steven Spielberg and SUPER 8 was a pretty heavy-handed homage to him (that was still good up until the end). That movie and his Spielberg adoration helped quite a bit, because it turns out that Spielberg had kind of a lot to do with Disney handing the STAR WARS franchise to a guy that just spent the last 5 years in bed with the “enemy” STAR TREK.

Movies are at a weird place right now. Companies need things to make money so they're very picky about who they give big budgets to. A lot of the big directors on studio short-lists have been pretty good about the “one for them, one for me” blueprint. Christopher Nolan might be the best at it. He keeps making BATMAN movies and agreed to produce SUPERMAN and consult on JUSTICE LEAGUE because, if he does, Warner Brothers will pretty much give him however much money he asks for to make any other movie he wants. It works out for everyone.

Darren Aronofsky is kind of the same way, but just never actually follows through. He signs on to direct things like THE WOLVERINE, uses that as leverage to get financing for something that he actually wants to make, then drops out of the former. It’s smart and I’m okay with it. He's done it 4 or 5 times already.

I want fresh new movies from Nolan, Aronofsky, Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo Del Toro, Paul Thomas Anderson and guys like that. These are guys that have clear visions of what kind of movies they want to make and have the clout to get them done.

JJ Abrams is in a group with Peter Jackson. I’m fine with them being work-for-hire guys forever. I'm okay if Peter Jackson keeps making HOBBIT movies forever. He's good at those, so more power to him. I've seen them all one time and will never watch them again. But kudos to him for getting them going.

These guys will turn in solid, enjoyable movies every time out. But there won’t be much of a risk to them.

Low-risk is exactly what Disney is looking for with a new STAR WARS trilogy. I think deep down, even if they won’t admit it, they know how bad the prequels were and are afraid of that happening again. This is kind of their last chance to give the STAR WARS franchise a little credibility. It’ll always be profitable (maybe not 4 billion dollars worth) because there will always be people looking to buy Boba Fett t-shirts and Storm Trooper hoodies, but they want people to be excited about it again.

JJ Abrams can do that. He’ll make a solid, entertaining STAR WARS movie that will be devoid of any chances and adhere to a strict company line. The execs at Disney likely have a bullet list of things they want to see and don't want to see, that was put together from hours of research done by interns scouring the Internet. They will hand that list to Abrams and say “make sure these are all followed.”

He’ll say, “Okay,” work with what he has and still manage to make a solid movie. Will it be great? Who knows? I do know that it will be entertaining.

I’ll see it. There’s no denying that. But I’m not over the moon about it. I got that way once. Then I spent the next three years trying to convince myself EPISODE I wasn’t a pile of garbage.

The real problem here is two-fold.

First, Disney announced last week that they’d be releasing one STAR WARS movie per year for the next six years. EPISODES 7, 8 and 9 will come in 2015, 2017, 2019 respectively and the even years will be filled with one-shot movies set elsewhere in the universe. This is a little like putting the cart before the horse, in my opinion, but I'm not a movie studio executive. I'm a guy with a blog.

Those one-shot movies mean that you should look forward to a Young Han Solo movie in which he acquires the Millennium Falcon. That's an easy one. A stand-alone BOBA FETT film in which the mystique that was already stripped away with EPISODE II is ruined further and run into the ground. Again, pretty easy. And a young, CGI Yoda flipping around with a lightsaber. I hope I'm wrong, but those are probably the safest - and most boring - bets for the first three outside the trilogy.

Maybe eventually they’ll start doing something cool with those, but it won’t be any time soon.

Again, I will be seeing all of these movies, but I’m not exactly thrilled for them. There’s a small part of me holding out hope that something here may surprise me. It’s faint though.

Second, as was the case with the original reports, each movie will be 100% spoiled at least a year before it comes out. Every movie site on the Internet is going to run round-the-clock stories and every image, every scene, every tiny detail will be put online as soon as possible. Sites will spend time piecing together each thing until they have the entire plot online. This will happen. It’s one of the main reasons I’ve stopped visiting a lot of sites. I want to enjoy movies again. I don’t want them to tell me every little detail 8 months before I can see the movie. A lot of people do want that though, so that’s what’s going to happen. It’s kind of a bummer.

There are a few bright sides to this whole thing, though.

One, is that we’re getting new STAR WARS movies. No matter what I've written previously, deep down I'm looking forward to it. I just want them to be good. My fingers are crossed.

Two, and probably most importantly, is that to build good faith, I think (hope) Disney will release a DVD set of the original trilogy. The ORIGINAL trilogy. The three movies as they were when they were released in 1977, 1980 and 1983. Not the ones that George Lucas has been fucking with and adding shit to for the past 15 years. There are enough of those out there and I haven't bought any of them. I just want the original three movies, with their original awesome cover art and all the warts that came with them. I want Greedo shooting first. I want the storm trooper bumping his head. I don’t want to see Jabba the Hutt until RETURN OF THE JEDI. I want them they way I remember them from my childhood. Is that too much to ask?

I’m optimistic about the future of a franchise that I loved as a kid, but not incredibly excited. This could all change the second I see a trailer for EPISODE VII, and I hope it does. I want to be excited. I want to feel like a kid again.

And if it’s terrible, well, we’ll always have Patton Oswalt’s pitch for the new trilogy. That’s almost good enough for me.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


If you missed Part I of THE FORCE, click here to catch up.

On October 30, 2012, the Internet exploded.

That was the day that Disney announced it had purchased the rights to all things STAR WARS from George Lucas for something like 4 billion dollars. There had been rumors of that happening for a while, but everyone kind of chalked it up to just that—rumors. STAR WARS was Lucas' baby. There was no way he would ever part with it.

Then he did.

That same day, Disney announced that they had been secretly working on EPISODES 7, 8 and 9 as well as a few stand-alone movies set inside the STAR WARS universe. There were plans to release a new trilogy and go from there. Every movie site online turned into what FOX News, CNN and MSNBC resembles on an election night. They had "experts" weighing in, they threw out any and all rumors they could dig up, they were undercutting and backbiting everyone else to get "scoops" and publishing endless lists that might as well have been titled "10 Things You Need To Know About Some Movies That Aren't Coming Out For Like 3 Years That We Have No Actual Information About But This Site Makes Money Based On Web Traffic And STAR WARS Will Get Us Page Views."

It was really, really annoying. More so than the Internet usually is, because this was STAR WARS and the Internet loves STAR WARS. Almost as much as it loves cat gifs. Almost.

The speculation as to who would be in charge of the new trilogy began, and every single day there was a new name attached to the project. Eventually, it came out that Michael Arndt had been assigned the task of writing the project and had already handed in an 80-page outline. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher had been approached about reprising their roles as Luke and Leia, and it was on.

Once there was a writer, a director couldn't be far behind. The announcement of Arndt, immediately scrapped one of the most widely speculated candidates—Brad Bird. Bird had been working with Damon Lindelof on a secret project for Disney that no one knew anything about. When the news of Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm broke, everyone just thought that was what it would turn out to be. Bird and Lindelof both denied it, and then Arndt was announced and things kind of died down around there.

The list didn't end with those two, though. Matthew Vaughn, director of LAYER CAKE and X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, was another speculation. Word is that he was approached, but wanted to do his own story that included Chloe Moretz as a young, violent Jedi. Disney said no, he went away.

Jon Favreau, who had also been slowly developing a film for Disney was also high on the list, and the one everyone assumed was going to get it. Spielberg had already turned it down, and JJ Abrams had been right behind him with the denial. Favreau seemed the likely candidate. Zack Snyder, Rian Johnson, Darren Aronofsky, Guillermo Del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron were also names that were thrown out—but those are the names that get thrown out pretty much any time there's a franchise that people want to see succeed.

Another name on that list that was a little bit out of place, but well deserved was Ben Affleck. ARGO was doing well and once it started getting nominated and winning awards, his name got attached to more and more things. Hell, he was even approached by Warner Brothers to see if he'd direct the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE movie. Not only that, but they wanted him to pull double duty and play the new god damn Batman in it, too.

Think about that for a minute. Affleck, Chucky from GOOD WILL HUNTING, only a few years removed from shit like PAYCHECK, REINDEER GAMES, JERSEY GIRL and "Bennifer" was being courted to revive the STAR WARS franchise and get the long-suffering DC Comics super team off the ground.

Talk about a fucking comeback.

Anyway, none of those panned out and last month it turned out JJ Abrams had been full of shit when he was quoted in Entertainment Weekly saying that he didn't want the job and just wanted to be a fan in the theater. He'd gotten the job and STAR TREK fans went nuts. Half of them were grateful to be rid of him because he hid the Enterprise underwater in the new trailer and the other half were pissed that STAR WARS had beaten their beloved TREK once again.

It was official. JJ Abrams and Michael Arndt were hard at work on a new set of trilogies that pick up sometime after the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI and move on from there.

All the speculation on who would get the job was over and every movie blogger and movie writer was able to finally move on to other topics. No, that's not true. They all just moved on to trying to decipher the entire plot and every last beat of the story to ruin for the rest of you.

Tomorrow, in Part III, we'll look at the actual future of the STAR WARS universe, why I'm totally fine with JJ Abrams at the helm and how if you're already sick of STAR WARS, it's only going to get worse from here on out.

This turned out to be way longer than I originally planned. It's become my own version of the STAR WARS trilogy.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I came up with the loose idea for this post a long, long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away, ha) but never got around to it. I just never thought it was relevant enough to spend as much time as I needed to on it. With all that's happened lately and especially with the most recent development, I figured it was about time to get to it. Also, no one at this boring office job of mine cares what I do as long as it looks like I'm working.

It's bound to be a long, winding, reflective and somewhat silly post, but it's my blog. I can do that. It's what you've come to expect from me.

We're going to talk about STAR WARS and we're going to talk about how if you've never seen any of the movies before, it's too late for you. You can't start now. You missed it. Don't even bother.

STAR WARS came out in the spring of 1977, EMPIRE STRIKES BACK came out in 1980 and RETURN OF THE JEDI followed in 1983. I was too young to catch the first two, but I was 3-years-old when JEDI came out and it was the first movie I ever saw in the theater. It was terrifying. I hid under a stack of coats during the previews and the scroll, but once the Rancor Monster came out, I did too. I watched wide-eyed and enthralled the rest of the way.

After that, STAR WARS kind of became my life. There was no Internet and I didn't have an iPad—hell we didn't even have a Nintendo yet. I was cruelly forced to use my imagination, creativity and hundreds of toys—mostly STAR WARS—to fill my days. I did just that. Every single day. Sometimes they'd fight with my other action figures, but STAR WARS always won. That's just how it went.

When the prequels were announced, I followed it as closely as I could. The Internet was in its infancy, so I was reduced to newspaper clips and driving my 1979 Ford Granada to Barnes & Noble to check out Entertainment Weekly. When the release date came around, I camped out in the parking lot of Century 16 in SLC along with hundreds (literally hundreds) of other people to get tickets for the first showing.

I saw Episode I three times the first day it came out. I skipped out on seeing Vanilla Ice with Earth Crisis to see a movie for a third time in a 24 hour span. It was mostly because I was pretty sure Earth Crisis wasn't actually coming and something like this would happen anyway.

The more I watched EPISODE I, the more I convinced myself that I loved it and it was a great addition to the story. It's not. It's actually really, really bad. It was on TV a few weeks ago and I watched it for a bit and remembered just how awful it is. I got less excited for EPISODE II, which let down my already-lowered expectations and EPISODE III was just awful.

All three of those movies have scenes that are individually great, I'll admit that, but they're few and far between and sandwiched between another 110 minutes of absolute garbage.

If they're your first foray into the STAR WARS universe, and you were kind of young when they came out, I can see how they might be okay. But for someone that had been building the mythology in his head for 15 years like I had, they were just a total letdown. Each one was worse than the one that came before it.

It's almost pointless to get into an argument about them now. You either like them or you don't. I won't try to defend them and I won't listen to a defense of them. If you love the prequels, great. I thought they were fucking awful and the fact that George Lucas keeps tinkering with the originals, making them closer to the prequels is even worse.

This isn't going to devolve into some weird rant against George Lucas or anything. That's what the rest of the Internet is for. You can find feature length movies on the subject. I'm not interested in that, nor do I need to add to it.

Basically what all of that amounts to is that the prequels made it impossible for me to care about STAR WARS in a passionate way ever again.

A few weeks ago, the topic of STAR WARS came up and a friend of mine said she'd never seen any of them. That was echoed by a few more friends, too. I was kind of stunned, but also a little bit relieved.

"I think you're better off having never seen them," I said.

"Really? Everyone else tells me that I have to watch them."

"Nope. If they weren't a part of your childhood, you can't start them now. They'll just be too silly to process."

This is a statement that I stand behind 100%.

If you've never seen any of the STAR WARS movies, you shouldn't watch them. That time has come and gone, my friend. The story is still great and the mythology of STAR WARS, EMPIRE and JEDI is still great fun, but they haven't aged well.

They were too much a product of their time. The special effects and action sequences pale in comparison to what have become the standard and it'll just look like a low budget fan film. Which, really when you break it down, is exactly what George Lucas made in the mid-70s.

Had you seen them when you were younger, you would have understood literally thousands of pop culture jokes made throughout the 90s, but those are all in the past, too. I still read and see things—current things—with STAR WARS jokes in them and most of them aren't funny anymore. It just kind of depresses me. Just let it go.

However, I'll still laugh at any and all STAR WARS jokes before I laugh at a single LORD OF THE RINGS joke.

This seems like a good breaking point. For now.

In Part II, we'll talk about the Disney acquisition, JJ Abrams and the future of STAR WARS.

In Part III, we'll look at the actual future of the STAR WARS universe, why I'm totally fine with JJ Abrams at the helm and how if you're already sick of STAR WARS, it's only going to get worse from here on out.

But what do you think? If someone has never seen STAR WARS, should they try to catch up or just let it go?

Monday, April 22, 2013


I stole this from the website Letters Of Note. I'm not ashamed of it.

If you've never been to that site before, you should check it out. They have some fantastic letters on there and they're in the process of putting together a book of all the best ones.

This might be my favorite, though.

Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the most famous architects in the world and his work is truly amazing. I've never gotten to see any of it in person, but I did see a recreation of one at the MET in New York. It was fantastic.

But this... this I love even more.

Wright designed a home for a man named Bob Berger in 1950. In 1956, Berger's son decided that the family dog, Eddie, needed a house of his own in the backyard. But 12-year-old Jim, didn't want just any old doghouse. He wanted it to have a similar look and feel to his own. He figured the best way to do that was to write a letter to Frank Lloyd Wright and ask him to design it. He offered to pay with the money he earned on his paper route.

Wright was too busy initially, but told Jim to ask again in a few months. Jim did just that, and Wright supplied plans for a doghouse.

Jim's father followed the plans and built the house for the family dog.

Eddie hated it and refused to use it, but still.

You can read the whole post (with photocopies of all the letters and the blueprints) here.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Remember when I started making all kinds of noise about doing more with this site? Me too.

See, that was when I was living the high life of being unemployed, going to the gym, watching DEADWOOD and FRIENDS all day, all while planning how to become Internet-famous.

Then I remembered that I had bills to pay, so I had to get a job. So I did.

Now I work for a company called Local Results. I'm doing SEO copywriting at the moment, trying to make websites for karate dojo's, taxi services and construction companies in the deep south sound more interesting.

During my downtime, they've had me write a few blog posts for them, too. I wrote this one about the best April Fool's Day jokes that I found on the Internet (no really, that's what I did one day), and then since that one was so awesome they had me write another one.

This one is a contest. There's three of us on the content team, and they decided that we'd all write a blog post and after a month, whoever wrote the post with the most unique page views will win.

So I wrote this post about how creating a website/blog is a little bit like making a mixtape. And we all know how much I love mixtapes, right?

Here's a link to the post. You should read it and share it with your friends and co-workers. I'm pretty sure this is a little bit of a test to see how far each of our personal reach is, and I kind of really want to win.

So help me out. Go read this piece for me.

Your Website As Your Personal Mixtape

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sunday, April 7, 2013


If you don't know much about the early days of the Salt Lake City Hardcore scene, this probably won't interest you very much, but you should read it anyway.

I wrote it for SLUG Magazine and I'm really happy with how it turned out. A lot of fun to write.

SLUG Magazine -- It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon, and Jeremy Chatelain, Chad “Chubba” Smith and James Holder are sitting around a table, drinking coffee and swapping stories. The three of them are in full youth-revival mode, trying to remember details of things that happened nearly a quarter of a century ago.

“I Googled ‘Insight’ and ‘straight edge’ the other day,” says Chatelain. “There’s some old hardcore fanzine entry that comes up called ‘straight edgers are dicks.’ It goes on to list all these bands and the reasons why they’re dicks––and we’re on there.”

Read the rest at

Friday, April 5, 2013


A few years ago I was at the Sundance Film Festival. It was the middle of the week, early in the day and I was making my way into the Holiday Village Theaters, which had become basically a home base for all press screenings. I had gotten press credentials by faking my way through it, pretending that Grudge City Activities was a legit website that published movie reviews – something we had never done a single time. There were so many people trying to get press badges that they didn’t have time to check every little thing. My name was still in the system from the year before, when I legitimately covered the festival for Red Pulse Magazine and the U of U. I didn’t think I had a shot, but much to my surprise, they emailed me back with a green light.

Since I didn’t have any actual deadlines to follow, I was pretty much free to go at my own pace and wander through the press screenings, catching only movies that I wanted to see. I showed up early one morning to see RESTREPO, which started shortly after 8 am. A few hours later, I hit another screening, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was. I want to say it was the Pat Tillman documentary, but I’m not sure. All I remember is what happened right before the movie started.

I was sitting in an aisle seat, near the front of the theater. It was a press and industry screening, so the only famous people to attend weren’t even famous. They were film writers that I knew by name and reputation from reading their stuff on various blogs and film sites. No one famous ever came to them, so there was never any fanfare. Press screenings are for critics that wanted to see as many movies as possible and write as much as they possibly can. Or, it’s for pretend film writers that fake their way into getting credentials so they can see shit they want to see and not have to pay for it – like I did.

As I sat in my seat, watching the press file in, I saw someone I recognized and recognized immediately.

It was Roger Ebert.

This was long after cancer had ravaged his health and taken away his jaw. But there he was. He was standing with his wife, Chaz, looking for a place to sit down and see the movie. There were a couple of seats open in the row behind me, and everyone immediately moved down so that Ebert and his wife could take the two seats on the aisle. He was treated like royalty by everyone that saw him. People would walk by, say hello and continue to their seat. Everyone had a smile on their face, even though he wasn’t able to say anything, since losing his jaw took away his ability to speak. But he still nodded and acknowledged each and every person as they said hello.

Then the lights went down and he went to work.

I kept turning around ever so slightly, looking over my shoulder so I could watch him write. I’m not the kind of guy that takes notes in movies, but Ebert was letting it fly. The pages of his notepad were always turning and his pen almost never stopped moving. I wanted so badly to see what was on those pages, but I settled for catching a peek out of the corner of my eye every few minutes.

I can’t say that I agreed with the man 100% of the time and maybe not even 50% of the time. But whether I agreed with him or not, I still admired the hell out of the guy. I watched AT THE MOVIES when I was little, always trying to figure out what time it had been moved to by checking the TV Week that came with the Sunday paper. Sometimes I'd have to stay up way later than I was allowed, but it was worth it. He and Gene Siskel taught me how to love the art of film. You can make an argument that he killed legit film criticism by reducing every review to a simple “Thumbs Up” or “Thumbs Down” but you’d be wrong.

He did that for the benefit of TV, because that’s what you had to do when you were on TV. You have to dumb it down and make it simple and accessible for the millions of people that just want to know if a movie is good or bad. For a long time, I thought he was just a guy on TV – the fat, nerdy guy with glasses that argued about movies with his buddy. When I got older and was finally able to discover that he wrote great columns and books about movies, I started paying a little bit more attention to him.

Roger Ebert taught me how to review things objectively – whether it was comics, movies, albums, bands shows or books. He taught me how to write about what I love and write about what I hate, but always doing so in a way that’s not disrespectful to the person that created it. He knew his words had power and he knew how to use that power for good. He knew what his reputation was and he knew that he couldn’t abuse it. He knew how lucky he was to have a job in which he got paid to write about something he loved. He never once took that for granted.

I’ve been paid actual money to write about almost everything I’ve ever loved and I can safely say that I owe a lot of it to Roger Ebert.

On Tuesday, he posted his “Leave of Presence” article, in which he talked about slowing down a bit, stepping away and looking at things from a new angle. He revealed that he had been dealing with cancer again, but was in high spirits. I didn’t pay much attention to that part. I figured he’d beaten cancer three or four times already, he could do it again. He had so much planned for the next little while, that I was just certain that he’d do all of them and then some. I figured that I'd always run across something he wrote, some way or another for at least a few more years.

Two days later, as I wrote about a construction company in Texas, I read the news that he’d passed away. It was a weird feeling. I never officially met the man, but it was like I’d known him since I was little. I’d grown up with him, tracked his career and watched his shows. I'd also followed his long battle with a disease that he’d overcome so many times, but fell one battle short.

Ebert’s gone now, but he influenced, inspired and showed an entire generation of people that loving movies could be a job as long as you took it seriously and did it well. I’ll always think back to that January morning a few years ago when I had the pleasure of sitting next to him while he did what he loved.

When the movie ended, I stood up, put on my coat and grabbed my bag. Ebert was still writing, because that’s what he did. Writers write and Ebert never stopped.

"So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies."