Beach Surf Report: Something’s Wild Across from Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica

BEACH RESTORATION RENDERING

Santa Monica , CA — Across the Bike Path from the Annenberg Community Beach House in North Santa Monica, is a non-descript, enclosed section of beach adjacent to an unused lifeguard tower not yet ready for Summer.

There’s no Signage.

To the naked eye, this relatively blank beachscape doesn’t look like much. An almost hidden walking path divides it in the middle, and the seemingly unremarkable area is completely fenced in on three sides but open to the Pacific Ocean.  And yet, these unmarked 2+ acres of sand are pretty special.

In fact, this beach is Wild.

Inspired by the nationwide March for Science, I took the day off from Surfing and instead, I explored Santa Monica’s Beach Restoration Pilot Project and learned more about its usefulness during a presentation by Melodie Grubbs of The Bay Foundation.

(Shout out to my rural Kentucky public school science teachers: Roger Pepper (General Science), Rex Burd (Biology), Roy Long (Chemistry I & II) and Paula Setters (Physics)

Wild Beach Restoration Project

Climate Change, that bastard, is coming for California’s Coastline with severe erosion predicted during the next 100 years.  Here’s where California’s Wild Beach Project enters picturesque Santa Monica.

By not grooming these three acres of beach, The Bay Foundation and the City of Santa Monica are hoping to re-create natural sand dunes with vegetation that will be resilient to rising sea levels and will help protect our beautiful coastline.

Begun in December, Wild Beach was seeded with several types of vegetation (Sand Verbena, Evening Primrose), some of which has just started to sprout.  As the former Head Gardener of Groundhog Hill Farms in my native Kentucky, I could relate to the shouts of excitement expressed by Grubbs when she saw the results of her group’s efforts:  Stuff is growing!  The seeding worked.

During 2017’s very rainy winter months, lots of driftwood and bamboo (along with way too much beach trash — mostly plastic drinking straws (looking at you, Perry’s Beach Cafe) washed up on the beach and onto the wild garden.  Only the trash was removed.

samo_preservation_zone

So, what’s next for Wild Beach?

Birds. Snowy White Plovers, in fact.  Per Grubbs, these birds haven’t nested in this area for 70+ years and have returned because of the tasty vegetation and a protected area that doesn’t get groomed on a daily basis.

So if you plan to visit, Do Not Disturb!

Meanwhile, there’s no volleyball or sunbathing going on in this area.  The Bay Foundation has got to get some proper signage up soon to let the Public know what’s going on there before the fast-approaching busy summer months.

(Signs are on the way says project coordinator Grubbs, who spoke to a group of interested residents as part of Mayor Ted Winterer’s popular monthly Ride With The Mayor program, which ironically, was co-sponsored by Perry’s Beach Cafe. (Heads Up, Perry’s:  You are terrific, but please ditch the plastic drinking straws!)  City Manager Rick Cole was there as well, answering questions about upcoming city events like the Summer Concert Series and all things #GoSaMo.)

TED LEADS GROUP AT WILD BEACHWALKING PATH BEACH REST PROJFENCED BEACH PROJ.jpg

Can restoring an Eco-system to Santa Monica’s beaches help the fight against Sea Level Rise and Climate Change?

Only Time will tell if this restoration pilot project is successful.  It’s definitely a lab experiment at the moment, but one that is both important and worthwhile.

I am reminded of a great Wendell Berry quote that goes something like this:

Invest in The Millennium.

Plant Sequoias.

Say that your main crop is the forest you will not live to harvest.

That’s what’s going on here, I think.  The Bay Foundation and the City of Santa Monica are looking toward the Future. They can see some big problems heading our way and are looking at some creative solutions.

So remember, that blank stretch of enclosed beach across from the Annenberg Beach House, well, that beach is Wild.

Long may it be so.

U P   N E X T:

SELFIE WITH TED WINTERER

Pilot Season — The Good. The Bad. The Super Heroes.

 

 

 

 

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Food Surf Report: Celebrating Nowruz, Persian New Year and Seasonal Cooking at Spring in DTLA

CHEF TONY & YASMINN

Santa Monica, CA —  On Monday of this past week, I had painful Gum Surgery. By Friday, I had my first real meal in days, and it was outstanding.

When the Universe (or rather, your public radio station) offers you a complimentary dinner, the answer is always, Yes!  Whether you feel great or not, whether you are not sure if you can chew or not, and whether your plus one can make it or not.  Just say Yes.  A good mantra for 2017.

So, from the dentist’s chair to a comfy bar seat at a 5-star downtown LA restaurant, I had a very interesting week which started off with me barely able to eat nothing more complicated than orange Jell-O or mashed potatoes, and ended with, well, read on…

Friday: On the train to downtown LA.

I will never decline a dinner (or lunch) invitation to meet a friend downtown ever again after experiencing the pleasure of taking the Expo Line train from Santa Monica: So nice not being stuck in traffic on LA’s congested freeways!  At 6 PM, the Expo line was packed with folks heading back East after a day at the beach, but the hour commute passed quickly. There were one (or ten) people yakking away on their I-phones, but other than their inconsiderate selves, everyone seemed in good spirits which helped lift mine, as well.

The walk from 7th & Flower to 3rd & Broadway was a bit of hike, but to a New Yorker, the trek would mean nothing.  Luckily, this Santa Monican was up for it (having lived and worked in Manhattan for two years).

Arriving at  S P R I N G.

I meet Sophie, a beautiful French girl/woman, with whom I’ve been exchanging emails for the last 24 hours.  (I had less than a day’s notice that I’d been given this dinner by my fabulous local public radio station, KCRW 89.9 FM, whose show, Good Food, ran a promotion on Twitter which I entered during a Vicodin-induced coma on the beach.  I am a multi-tasker: I can recover from painful dental work and get some sun!)

What was great about Sophie is that she could not have cared less that I was without my Plus One, she was happy that I came and with great ease, comfortably installed me at the cozy Bar where I could enjoy my meal and observe the beautiful dining room and spacious kitchen at Spring.  A trio of musicians were playing some lovely traditional music.  The ambience was just right.

At the bar, I ordered an Antique Gold (saffron infused Old Tom gin, dry vermouth, lemon oil, served up).  Strong but beautiful, I wisely decided to sip it…slowly.  Afterall, this was my first sip of alcohol all week as well as my very first meal!  I wanted to savor the occasion.

A beautiful dark-haired woman approached me at the bar, greeting me like an old friend.  This was Yassmin Sarmadi, one of the partners at Spring, and the wife of the chef, Tony Esnault.

     

Persian New Year. Nowruz Pirooz.

What’s great about this dinner, this celebration of the Persian New Year, is that it’s all new to me.  A new experience.  Viva Life!  Even slightly sedated and flying solo, I was able to take advantage of this cool opportunity to explore a new restaurant and to learn about a different food culture.

Spring is a French restaurant, but for tonight and the two evenings prior, Chef Tony and Yassmin had prepared a very special, 5-course, tasting menu commemorating Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

Nowruz. Passover. Easter.  These holidays all celebrate the food of Spring.

Yassmin and I had a great discussion about the Right of Spring in Iran, and how the meal was the culinary welcoming of the new season with the first harvest of spring herbs, vegetables and lamb.  Lovely.  Just lovely.

Heretofore, I had never given much thought to how Iranians celebrate Spring in their cooking.  Food has the power to unite us, and on this Friday evening in downtown Los Angeles, it did just that.  There I sat at the bar, making new friends, and being introduced to new foods, new traditions, and new music.  Nothing better.

    

The first course, Kuku Ye Sabzi, was a “frittata” of herbs, walnut and egg, topped with barberries and served with “sangak” bread and house-made yogurt.  Delicious.  Spring onions and Radish garnished the plate heralding Spring, my favorite season.

The second course, Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi, was a duo of smoked and pan-seared white fish, served with basmati rice and house-made pickled vegetables, and let me tell you, I have never eaten a more tasty piece of smoked fish. (photo above)  Major Umami moment for me and my palate.

(Each course, btw, came with a Wine Pairing, which I declined seeing as how that might prove a lethal combo with my painkillers as well as the train ride back to SaMo.  I continued to sip my Antique Gold cocktail and drank a lot of water.)

The main course, Reshteh Polo Ba Mahiche, was a succulent slow-braised lamb shank, served with rice and toasted wheat noodles, dates and raisins.  Wow.  Just wow.  My second Umami moment of the meal. The lamb was fork tender and just melted in my dentally reconstructed mouth.  So so good.

The fourth course, Bastani, was a trio of house-made Ice Cream:  Pistachio (yum), Saffron (savory and exciting), and Rose (surprising and not perfume-tasting — my clear favorite).

The fifth and final course, Chai Va Shirini, was samovar brewed black tea served with a trio of cookies:  Baklava, marzipan “toot”, and “nokhodchi.”  The strong tea and these bite-sized cookies were the perfect finish to an outstanding meal.  I sat at the bar, savoring my drink and wondered if Jonathan Gold, LA’s premier food writer who was sitting across the room, was having as wonderful an evening as I was.  I hoped he was.  The chances were good.

So there I sat, feeling slightly dazed and pleasantly stuffed, elated with this new dining experience as well as the cultural exchange of making new friends in Sophie, Yassmin and Chef Tony.

Lesson Learned:  Continue to try New Things.  Go to New Places. Meet New People.  Whether You are with your Plus One or just flying solo.  Go.

Also, support Public Radio.  Thanks KCRW and the folks at Good Food (Evan Kleinman, Camelia Tse, Abbie Swanson).

I look forward to returning to Spring to see and to taste how they celebrate Summer.

 

N E X T    U P:

Surfing Ocean Park and Destinations Unknown in SoCali.

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TV Surf Report: In Praise of Outlander, Men In Kilts, Cable Television, and Adaptations

OUTLANDER

Santa Monica, CA — Recently, I binge-watched the first season of Starz Channel’s compelling historical fantasy drama Outlander.

I realize I am kinda late to this Praise Party, but Tha sin sgoinneil sgeulachdan! which of course, is Gaelic for That is pure dead brilliant storytelling!

Credit goes to EP Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) for such a successful adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s international best-selling series of novels, which I have not read…yet!

Time Travel. A Woman in Jeopardy. Men in Kilts. Period British War Drama.  It’s as if a woman from the 1940s got stuck in Braveheart and had to use her wits to survive.

Outlander has it all, but what I find most significant is the fact that I care about the characters and want to know how everything works out for Gabaldon’s heroine, Claire Beacham Randall Fraser (as played compellingly by Irish actor Caitriona Balfe).

Moore’s series succeeds on all technical levels.  Everything works, from Casting (Balfe; a star-making role for actor Sam Heughan who is my choice to replace Daniel Craig as James Bond; a fantastic villain portrayed by Tobias Menzies; and an all-around excellent roster of supporting players led by Graham McTavish and Lotte Verbeek) to Costumes to Production Design to Music (by BSG vet Bear McCreary).  All departments are bringing their A-game transporting the viewer to 1700s Scotland.

   

Moore’s writing team includes a coupla industry veterans, too: Anne Kenney (LA Law) and Toni Graphia (Chicago Hope). 

Costume Designer Terry Dresbach is married to Moore, and according to the Special Features interview on the DVD, she brought the Outlander books to the attention of Moore and his producing partner, Maril Davis.

The costumes are really something to behold, and the behind-the-scenes look at their production is fascinating.  Dresbach even has her own blog:

http://www.terrydresbach.com/

Scotland. I really really want to go there after watching the first season.  Somehow, Moore & Co. have avoided the Renaissance Pleasure Faire experience of it all. The majestic and mysterious Highlands are calling to me:  Tighinn An So! (Come hither!)

Of course, Outlander has increased tourism for Scotland, much like Downtown Abbey did for Highclere Castle outside London. And there are Outlander tours designed for “women of a certain age,” as my one and only friend in Edinburgh tells me.

He’s dead wrong, of course.  He’s also a writer.  And, a chauvinist.  He’s missing out by not watching an international hit shot on location in his own country, too.  Bloody Fool! The appeal of Outlander is quite broad.  There’s something for everyone, including Romance.

Gabaldon’s story starts with Claire traveling through Time from post-WWII Britain and getting caught up with the rugged men of the McKenzie Clan. That’s Season One.

I descend from Clan MacDougall. Outlander has reignited my interest in an unexplored branch of my Family Tree. This week, my browser history shows that I have been googling Tartan Plaids. And a Scottish castle, Dunollie.

Here’s the MacDougall Tartan:

MACDOUGALL TARTANNote to Self:  Find out where and who can make a Kilt.

Confession:  I have not watched Game of Thrones on HBO.  Am too attached to the fantastic books by George R.R. Martin to let another story version into my head.  I read the books first.  That’s an important distinction.

With Outlander, I was viewing blind with no preconceptions or expectations about the Story or Characters.  Like a good book, I was immediately drawn in by Moore’s storytelling and by Gabaldon’s enthralling heroine, who at one very poignant moment realizes she’s been split into three versions of herself due to her Traveling:  The Woman She Was. The Woman Trying To Get Back. The Woman Who Wishes To Stay.

Good Stuff.

Adaptations are a Big Trend right now in Television. Starz is set to premiere Neil Gaiman’s  American Gods, Netflix has a new version of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, and Hulu has Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.  AMC is in production on Sarai Walker’s Dietland, while HBO has signed on to produce Nathan Hill’s The Nix.  Amazon and Oscar-winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) are adapting Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad as a limited series.

  

Historical Fantasy is a definite favorite of mine, too.  Starz seems pretty big on this genre as well as evidenced by Da Vinci’s Demons, Black Sails, The White Queen, and The White Princess.

Bravo, cable television!

Paging novelist Anne Rice and Christopher Rice!  Where are you taking The Vampire Lestat? Let Outlander and Showtime’s brilliant Penny Dreadful as well as Game of Thrones be your guideposts.

So if you have not yet discovered Outlander, give it a binge.  Pour a glass of Dewar’s or Johnny Walker Black, and settle in for a good time.

As for me, Season 2 awaits.  Then, I’ll have until September when Season 3 premieres.

Tlachd a ghabhail! (That’s Gaelic, of course, for Enjoy!)

   

 N E X T   U P:

Pilot Season.

The Good. The Less Good. The Super Heroes.

 

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Style Surf Report: Dressing Like Roger Federer, Mens Tennis’ G.O.A.T, Will Set Ya Back A Pretty Penny On or Off The Court

FEDERER VICTORIOUS AT INDIAN WELLS

Santa Monica, CA — When I am not surfing, I love to play tennis, and it’s one of the very few sports I consistently watch on TV. This past week, the world’s best players showcased the sport in Key Biscayne at the Miami Open.

One big reason I remain engaged with this sport (after 40 years) is its most popular and successful men’s player:  Roger Federer, the Swiss Maestro.

Federer is enjoying an incredible 2017, having won his 18th Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January.  And while I cannot play Tennis like Roger Federer, I can dress like him, and so can you, dear Reader … but it’s gonna cost both you and me quite a few bucks.

This past weekend, 35-year-old Federer stunned the Sports World for the third time in three months when he won the Miami Open beating rival Rafael Nadal for the third time this season. Last month, Federer won the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, CA, beating countryman Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 7-5 in the final.  His one-handed backhand is a thing of beauty.

And as usual, Federer looked pretty darn stylish.

Federer wore a sharp-looking green Henley shirt (by Nike) during his matches at Key Biscayne and at Indian Wells.  I predict that shirt will be a big seller in the months to come.

It is the shirt of a Winner.

  

Top players like Federer, Nadal, Serena Williams  (Womens Tennis’ G.O.A.T) and Novak Djokovic all change up their clothes so that viewers/tennis players wanting to emulate their style will keep up with their changing looks. You won’t see Federer wearing the same shirt or shoes at Roland-Garros (aka, the French Open) that he wore at the Australian Open, and definitely not at Wimbledon (which features predominantly white clothing).

But what does it cost to dress like Federer on-court, not to mention off-court?  GQ Magazine boasts Federer on the cover this month, and inside its pages, Federer’s casual dressy clothing ensembles could run ya anywhere from $155 (casual wear) to $10k (dressy), and the very expensive Rolex watch is not included.

The clothes look great, and Federer is one of those guys who wears clothes well.

FEDERER GQ COVER SHOT

Roger Federer GQ Magazine Cover Story

I am a tennis player.  I sometimes wear Nike shoes, Addidas wristbands, Nike shorts, and a Head dry-sweat sports Shirt.  I am not stuck on Labels.  My clothes are all over the place and could best be described as Hodgepodge.  I could definitely use a wardrobe makeover even though I am an amateur club player (without a club…it’s public courts for me in Santa Monica).

I have been playing since Junior High School when my brother Ben and I rode our Western Auto bikes a coupla miles to the high school tennis courts in Hodgenville, KY.

Our first wood rackets (see photo below of me and my Jack Kramer Autograph) were purchased via S&H Green Stamps attained at the local grocery (thanks, Mom!).  Clothing and Sports Attire were pretty much an afterthought.

We wore Converse tennis shoes with zero arch support and tube socks, shorts and a t-shirt. In school, tennis season was Springtime when it usually rained out a lot of practice sessions and most scheduled matches.  Sweats and sweatshirts ruled the day.

La Rue County High School Boys Tennis Team (circa 1981) Hodgenville, KY

A few decades later, I have matured along with my taste in tennis clothes. I know I should and could dress better, but I love my sweat-stained SMU Mustangs hat and my 2002 US Open T-shirt.

So, How much does it cost to dress like Roger Federer?

Were I to hit the court today, or in two days courtesy of Amazon or Tennis Warehouse, dressing like Federer would cost me about $1,000.00 (plus extra for tennis balls, extra rackets, and string jobs).

His pricey Rolex watch is not included.  In fact, Federer has a collection of them: https://www.rolex.com/every-rolex-tells-a-story/roger-federer-rolex-watch.html

FEDERER NADAL AUS OPEN BACKSIDES

So, should I go online and emulate Federer from head-to-toe, here’s the breakdown of his clothes and racket(s) with retail prices courtesy of TENNIS WAREHOUSE – FEDERER’S CLOTHES (assuming shipping will be free if ya go for the entire Fed Kit):

  • $249.00  RACKET:  Wilson Pro Staff RF97 Autograph (No Strings or stencil)
  • $1,250.00  5 more RACKETS (optional; gotta have extras)
  • $140.00  SHOES:  Nike Zoom Vapor 9.5 Flyknit
  • $100.00  SHIRT:  Nike Henley (Green with Black)
  • $  28.00  HAT:  RF Classic
  • $  85.00  SHORTS:  Nike Men’s Summer Flex Ace7
  • $  17.00  HEADBAND:  Nike
  • $  12.00  WRISTBAND (x2): Nike
  • $150.00  JACKET: Nike Men’s Spring Premier RF N98
  • $  25.00  T-SHIRT:  Nike
  • $  13.50  SOCKS: Nike (3-pak!)
  • $150.00  RACKET BAG:  Nike
  • $9,100.00 WATCH: Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust II or the BATMAN GMT (optional as Federer doesn’t wear it during the match, only afterward during trophy ceremonies!)

FEDERER CASUAL IN BED WITH RACKETSFederer personifies Cool.  I like his clothes, his style, his gentlemanly demeanor both on-court and off.  He seems to really like Clothes, ya know?

One of these days, I’ll update my tennis clothes, piece by piece, to get it together.  So don’t get your hopes up just yet, Tennis Warehouse.  (And back off with the daily emails, please!).  Meanwhile, there’s always Surfing!

N E X T   U P:

Throwback Thursday and How I Rocked The Generic Sweatshirt Look in the ’70s.

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Film Surf Report: Disney Fables Are Still A Man’s World Even When It’s A Girl’s

batb     CINDERELLA

Santa Monica, CA — Disney has a curious problem with its Princesses:  Their stories are being told from a man’s POV.

Tale as old as Time: Fairy Tale about a young girl is adapted for the big screen by male screenwriter and male director because, if anyone knows about what it’s like to be a young girl, it’s Men.  Am I right, ladies?

Hold up. 

Of course, there’s more to Disney’s latest box office hit: The live-action version of Beauty & the Beast which hit theatres March 17th and stars Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Kevin Kline, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, and Luke Evans.

http://variety.com/2017/film/reviews/beauty-and-the-beast-review-emma-watson-1202001341/

There’s singing, dancing, and danger! Women know nothing of these things.  There’s no way that someone like Barbra Streisand could have directed this film.

I am half-joking, but only to prove a point.

Disney hired Bill Condon (Twilight: Breaking Dawn; Chicago) to direct from a script by Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which starred Watson).  Condon is a terrific filmmaker. Chbosky is a wonderful writer. Their version of Beauty & the Beast should be outstanding.

Will audiences embrace this new take on the beloved Disney classic (which itself is an adaptation of many iterations of similar stories)?

http://evolutionofbeautyandthebeast.weebly.com/adaptations.html

Greek Myths. French Fables. Germanic Fairy Tales.  Beauty & the Beast has been thoroughly adapted by men and women.  I am curious to see Chbosky’s version featuring Watson who is a self-declared Feminist and a leader of her generation.

Will Belle change herself, give up her life to be with a Man?  Will she stop reading in order to be in Love? The trailer looks fantastic:

http://

And why did Disney choose Men to write and direct this female-centric story instead of a Woman, especially in an era when there are plenty of female writers and directors available for the job?  The Studio has a recent history of hiring Men to helm its live-action remakes of its treasured animated classic films.

Kenneth Branagh, who did a bang-up job directing Thor for Disney/Marvel, directed Cinderella, the studio’s latest hit live-action adaptation of an animated classic film.  Chris Weitz (About A Boy) wrote the screenplay adaptation.  These guys are terrific filmmakers and storytellers, and yet, the story in question is that of a young girl.

Maleficent, the origin story of the witch featured in Sleeping Beauty, was directed by Robert Stromberg but written by Linda Woolverton (Lifetime’s upcoming Clan of the Cave Bear miniseries) and re-written by Charles Perrault.  At least, there was one woman in the mix.  There’s a sequel in the pipeline, as well.

emma-watson-beauty-and-the-beast          MALEFICENT

Alice in Wonderland, the 2010 film was directed by Tim Burton from a screenplay by Linda Woolverton, who seems to be the lone female screenwriter with a track record in this genre.  This film grossed $1 billion.  The 2016 sequel, Through the Looking Glass, from the same auspices, bombed at the box office.

Even Princess Leia (now General Organa) continues to be written and directed by Men as Disney and Lucas Film have hired men, albeit quite talented and capable, to helm the Star Wars franchise which seems to be skewing female with the introduction of Daisy Ridley’s character, Rey, in The Force Awakens.

I, for one, would be really interested to see a woman’s take on the subject matter.  Paging Catherine Hardwicke! Barbra Streisand! Kathryn Bigelow!

I had a very memorable conversation with a woman friend who is also a writer.  I stated categorically that Men can write Women really well (i.e., Joss Whedon), and she had the audacity (!) to correct me, saying, but not from a woman’s point-of-view.

Lightbulbs immediately went on in my male-gendered brain illuminating my own chauvinism.  As great as these iterations are, would a woman tell Cinderella or Belle’s story differently?

I would like to see those versions.

HUNSTMAN QUEEN    CARRIE FISHER

Snow White And The Huntsman, starring Kristen Stewart, was a hit Universal film directed by Rupert Sanders and written by Evan Daugherty and John Lee Hancock.  I would have liked to have seen Kathryn Bigelow’s take on the sequel, The Huntsman.  Instead, visual effects specialist Cedric Nicolas-Troyan made his directorial debut replacing Frank Darabont, who dropped out.  Darabont wrote the screenplay.  The film, which centered on Charlize Theron’s Evil Queen and her sister, was a box office disappointment.

Next up is a live-action version of Mulan, and guess what!  It’s being written by two women: Elizabeth Martin & Lauren Hynek.  Fantastic! Niki Caro (Whale Rider) has since been set to direct.  Progress!

REY IN STAR WARS TFA   MULAN

Now that’s a step in the right direction because as we all know, The Future is Female.

 

N E X T    U P:

Pilot Season.

The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

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Film Surf Report: Audiences with Super Hero Fatigue Syndrome Must Get Used to Universes and 44 Movies by 2020

xmen

Santa Monica, CA — Is it Me, or is it getting harder to keep track of all the big franchise super hero flicks these days:  44 movies (and counting) over the next four years?!  This audience member has Super Hero Fatigue Syndrome.

What with Warner Bros. and DC Comics landing Joss Whedon to write/produce/direct a Batgirl standalone film, and Ben Affleck deciding to direct, then not to direct The Batman,  Marvel’s Phase 3 of the MCU racheting up big time, Carrie Fisher’s death altering the course of the Star Wars Extended Universe, and the next four installments in the Harry Potter Universe where we get to see young Dumbledore, et al.

There are a lot of Universes to sort.

Blame it on Marvel Studios and its successful creation of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). Phase One introduced the audience to Iron Man, Captain America, and ThorPhase Two brought us sequels along with a very unexpected hit in Guardians of the GalaxyPhase 3 kicked off with Captain America: Civil War and a successful launch of Doctor Strange, and the MCU will be greatly tested in 2018 with Avengers: Infinity Wars uniting the Avengers with not only Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, but also Star Lord & Co. from GOTG. A projected Phase Four may be a total re-boot of the MCU following Avengers 4 and GOTG3.

Imitation is the highest form of Flattery.

Warner Bros. and DC Comics took notice (along with some Depressants) and stumbled with the uneven Man of Steel followed by the dreadful Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and the groan-inducing but Oscar-winning Suicide Squad.

The studio’s very aggressive DCEU rollout plans include not only a Nightwing standalone film but also a Harley Quinn standalone film, Gotham City Sirens, based on Margot Robbie’s performance in addition to a possible Mel Gibson-directed sequel to Suicide Squad. Ugh.

nightwing   harley-quinn

Fingers are crossed that the highly anticipated Wonder Woman can get the Super Friends back on track in time for Justice League and the Aquaman standalone film.  The Marvel storytelling approach adopted by David Goyer & Co. to the DC Comics characters doesn’t seem to be working.

Lighten Up, DC!  Superman should be fun. Bring back the Legion of Doom!

Supposedly, Henry Cavill will get another solo Superman film.  He deserves a good story, a great villain, and Amy Adams returning as Lois Lane. No script yet for Man of Steel 2, however, Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman) is in talks to direct which is a good sign.

JUSTICE LEAGUE

Meanwhile, Tom Cruise kicks off Universal’s Monsters Universe this summer with a new, contemporary take on The Mummy that will open the portal for Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolfman if all goes according to plan.

Showtime’s Penny Dreadful has comprehensively beat these films to the proverbial (and fictional) punch, btw.  Binge-watch. Now.  British. Period. Fantastic. Season One is pretty fantastic. Kudos, John Logan.

X-Men appears to be a bit of a mess following 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse.  Young Jean Grey, Cyclops, Storm and Nightcrawler lived to see another day and to carry the torch to the next decade, but will the audience care enough about them without some incarnation (older or younger) of Magneto, Professor X, Beast and Mystique?

Fatigue has set in, I think.  Nonetheless, a Dark Phoenix-centric sequel seems likely in addition to a New Mutants movie set at Xavier’s School for the Gifted.  How will the Sinister Six figure in, I wonder? (An Easter Egg was dropped at the end of Apocalypse.) Fox and Marvel seem hell bent on aging out the old cast (and audience).  Sorry, Ian McKellen & Co.  Really sorry.

Meanwhile, Disney and LucasFilm are riding high following the success of The Force Awakens and Rogue One.  The untimely death of Carrie Fisher underscores the already Must-See factor of Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. And the Young Han Solo movie is currently in production.

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Paramount and Sony seem to be playing without such heavy hitters on their roster.  Mission Impossible 6 is on the books for 2018, and Henry Cavill has been added to the cast.  And, the James Bond film is currently up for grabs with no less than 5 studios bidding for what looks to be Daniel Craig’s swan song as 007. (Now there’s a Universe just waiting to be stirred, not shaken!). Sony cannot afford to lose that franchise. Lionsgate has yet to launch The Hunger Games extended universe prequels.

Here’s the latest breakdown of what we can expect from Disney & Marvel Studios, Warner Bros. & DC Comics, the Universal Monster Franchise, etc.:

old-logan   cruise-mummy-2017

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  • LOGAN, aka Wolverine 3, opened March 3rd.  Hugh Jackman’s last turn culminates with him playing a much older Wolverine and involves a dying Professor X.  It felt like a Must-see film, and audiences turned out to say goodbye. Received great reviews.
  • May 5th  GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXYStar Lord’s father, Thanos, Taser Face, Baby Groot & more! I trust director James Gunn to deliver (again).  Reviews agree that while it’s still fun, the sequel is not as charming as the original. Meanwhile, Gunn has been set to write and direct #3. Here’s the Trailer for 2: https://youtu.be/a4HXLdO71ag
  • June 2nd WONDER WOMAN  High hopes for Gal Gadot’s solo outing.  She was the best thing in Batman Vs Superman. Chris Pine co-stars as her love interest.  Good for him. Super powerful wrist bands are crossed for a good story.
  • June 9th  THE MUMMY  Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe kick off Universal’s Monsters Cinematic Universe that includes Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman.

        

  • Nov. 3rd  THOR: RAGNORAK A great cast plus The Hulk.  Here’s the very fun and funny second teaser trailer: https://youtu.be/zilx0pnLeHA
  • Nov. 17th  JUSTICE LEAGUE Meta-Humans unite behind Bruce Wayne.
  • Dec. 15th  STAR WARS, EP. VIII: THE LAST JEDI  Answers the question:  Who are Rey’s parents? No General Leia for Ep. IX, so what becomes of her?  Here’s the Trailer which has All The Feels:  //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js“>Star Wars, Ep. VIII: The Last Jedi
  • Dec. 22nd  This date available!

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  • Deadpool 2  June 1st Ryan Reynolds returns with a new director for the foul-mouthed, almost-Oscar nominated sequel and breakout X-men property.  Fox has to get this sequel right in order to launch Strike Force, so expect a set-up.
  • Black Panther   February. Very impressed with Chadwick Bozeman and his introduction in Civil War and have high hopes for the standalone film which boasts a fine cast directed by Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station).  Interested to see the South Korea locations.
  • Infinity Wars Part One    May 4th. Could be way too many Marvel characters going up against Thanos in this one.  Everyone gets short shrift, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Marvel.
  • Ant-Man & Wasp  July 6th Not a fan, so Rudd & Co. gotta win me over. Michael Douglas returns as Hank PymPeyton Reed directs (again).
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming  Tom Holland and Marisa Tomei scored in Civil War and are awarded with a  July 7th release date.  Michael Keaton is the Big Bad.
  • X-Men: New Mutants April 13th. Josh Boone directing a new group of mutants that will likely include Wolfsbane, Rachel Summers, and MagmaJames McAvoy set to return as Professor X.
  • Venom.  Now, this is a head-scratcher to be sure.  Sony has penciled in this Spider-Man villain flick here for Oct. 5th. This is a case of wishful thinking.  Release date, but no script and no casting.  Hopes are not high.
  • Gambit    Channing Tatum seems awfully busy these days.  Is this film happening?  Doug Liman was set to direct with an original release date of October 2016, which clearly did not happen.
  • X-Men: Dark Phoenix  Nov. 2nd  Too soon. I still remember the Famke Janssen version of X3 and young Jean Grey was just okay in Apocalypse. Fox is going to the X-Well once too often, I fear.
  • Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them, Part Two  (November).  David Yates to direct the 2nd of the planned five films in the franchise that will likely culminate in the big duel between Grindewald and a young Dumbledore!
  • Strike Force A team franchise led by Deadpool, Fox will make it work for better or worse (Fantastic Four anyone?).
  • Young Han Solo May 25th or Dec. 13th  Alden Ehrenreich (Hail Caesar!, Beautiful Creatures) seems to be a terrific choice.  Donald Glover co-stars as young Lando Calrissian.  Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton and Emilia Clarke also co-star. Phil Lord and Chris Miller direct.
  • Aquaman Man, I hope Marvel gets it right here.  Jason Momoa looks great holding a trident, confronting Bruce Wayne, etc.  Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman also star. James Wan directs. Inherits the Dec. release date from Avatar 2 which James Cameron pulled.

SPIDER-MAN ART

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  • The Batman  Ben Affleck returns. Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, War for the Planet of the Apes) set to direct.  Joe Mangianello is set as Deathstroke, the villain. Frankly, I’d rather see  Bookworm (with Tom Cruise or Colin Firth). Affleck wrote the script with Geoff Johns, however, Reeves is starting over from scratch.  Hence, the delay.
  • Captain Marvel   Okay, Brie Larson.  Ya got your work cut out for ya.
  • Infinity Wars Part Two    Sequel or no sequel.  Will the Russos stick with one film? This film could also become Avengers 4 should a part two not be warranted.
  • Inhumans TV tackles this franchise first.  Hmmm….
  • The Flash  Ezra Miller’s standalone film has been plagued with problems. New script and new director caused the film to get pushed back by a year or more.
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming Part Two
  • Shazam!      David F. Sandberg set to direct.
  • Justice League Part Two     Introducing Green Lantern!
  • Fantastic Beasts 3 (November)
  • Star Wars, Ep. IX  December  How will LucasFilm resolve General Leia’s story?

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  • Cyborg   Oy.  Can’t say I am really interested.
  • Green Lantern   Hope they take this character seriously and not pull a Deadpool.
  • TBA Marvel Studios x3   Fingers crossed one of these films will be a Black Widow standalone film.  Avengers 4 looks likely to be one of these three films which will lead into a re-boot of the MCU, presumably, with all new, less expensive Avengers.
  • Superman: Man of Steel 2 What villians are left for Superman to battle? No interest in Lex Luthor. Sorry, Jessie Eisenberg.  Too twitchy.  Save this franchise, Matthew Vaughn.  Colin Firth as the villain!
  • Gotham City Sirens Solo outing for Harley Quinn. Who are the other Sirens:  Catwoman? David Ayer set to direct.
  • Nightwing (tent.) Of all the recently announced DCEU films, I am most interested in this Dick Grayson-centric film. Am guessing it’s a prequel of sorts since Robin’s demise is alluded to in BvS. Bill Dubuque (The Accountant, The Judge) scripts. Chris McKay (LEGO Batman) directs.
  • Black Adam The Rock will save both Us and this film. No doubt.
  • Suicide Squad 2 (tent.) Mel Gibson to direct? I would rather see the Legion of Doom.
  • Batgirl (tent.) Barbara Gordon gets her own standalone film courtesy of Joss Whedon
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 3. Will we see the adventures of the original Ravagers and a new mix tape?  This is the 2nd of the three MCU films slated, most likely.
  • Avatar 2: Who Can Remember The First One?

 

N E X T    U P:

Pilot Season Trends To Watch (or Ignore).

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TV Surf Report: Super Heroes, Sci Fi & Fantasy Still Trending Across Broadcast, Cable and Streaming Services

young-xmen

Santa Monica, CA — Just when you thought the small screen invasion of Super Heroes couldn’t possibly get any more crowded, look no further at the upcoming pilots and series in development featuring more DC Comics and Marvel Studios properties, among others.

Don’t get too attached to NBC’s Powerless, a half-hour comedy set in the DC Universe at a Wayne Enterprises-owned Insurance Company. Anemic ratings do not bode well.  Meanwhile, there’s Neil Gaiman’s American Gods at Starz, and Legion on FX, which has already been picked up for Season 2.  Plus, Netflix has just premiered Iron Fist, the latest Marvel character to be introduced prior to the team franchise debut of The Defenders.

iron-fist    charmed-s1

http://www.nbc.com/powerless?nbc=1

Trailer for Legion on FX

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On the air:

  • Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow at The CW.
  • Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at ABC.
  • Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher at Netflix.
  • Gotham, Lucifer on FOX.
  • Preacher at AMC.
  • Legion at FX

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Pilots in development include:

  • Untitled X-Men Pilot at FOX.  Bryan Singer directs.  Matt Nix (Burn Notice) writes and exec produces this story of a family led by two ordinary parents forced to take their Mutant kids on the run from a hostile government.  They discover an underground network of mutant families while on the lam. Sounds like This Is Us meets Running On Empty…but with Mutants!
  • The Defenders on Netflix.  Series order for the group franchise featuring Marvel’s Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist.
  • Inhumans at ABC.  Reportedly, not a spin-off of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Charmed at The CW.  Re-boot of the Aaron Spelling series from the writers of the netlet’s Jane the Virgin.  New set of three sisters in the Northeast in the ’70s.
  • Krypton at SyFy.  David Goyer executive produces this prequel featuring Superman’s grandfather who is an environmental lawyer fighting to save the planet. Poor guy.
  • Cloak & Dagger on Freeform.  Another Marvel property.  Cast just announced.

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  • Xena at NBC.  Re-boot written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach seems to have stalled.  G-M is no longer involved.
  • The Passage at FOX.  Okay, this adaptation of Justin Cronin’s fantastically dark novel about genetically created Vampires is not technically super hero-ish, however, the fantastic element, and the quasi-futuristic setting does take it to that Fantasy/Sci Fi realm, so I’ve included it.  Great book.  Highly recommend but it’s disturbing (because it’s so plausible and emotionally troubling).
  • Watchmen at HBO.  Zack Snyder’s feature was creatively not great, but that’s not stopping him from giving it the small screen treatment in a bit of corporate synergy at WB’s sister company.
  • Star Trek: Discovery at CBS All Access.  Series premiere has been delayed but casting is underway. Again, not Super Heroes, yet still super Science Fiction.
  • Squirrel Girl and the New Warriors at Freeform. Series order. Another Marvel property, but this will be a live-action comedy. Premiere set for 2018.
  • Future Man at Hulu.  Seth Rogen exec produces with Josh Hutcherson (Hunger Games).  Janitor by night. Gamer who saves the Universe by day?
  • Black Lightning at The CW.  Pilot commitment.  Greg Berlanti exec produces this DC Comics adaptation.  Project was originally set up at Fox.
  • Warrior at Cinemax.  Bruce Lee’s passion project is directed by Justin Lin.
  • The Tick at Amazon. Creator Ben Edlund’s darker and more grounded take stars Peter Serafinowicz.
  • Marvel’s Runaways at Hulu.  Teenagers on the run from their evil parents.
  • Damage Control at ABC.  Rollover from last year, but probably too late if Powerless succeeds.
  • Star Wars: The Series at ABC.  Get ready for the Star Wars Extended Universe to hit the small screen.

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Deadpool. Oscar Nominations. Profanity.

deadpool-on-bearskin-rug

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