(1) SKULL SESSION. NPR doesn’t think much of King Kong: Skull Island, but compensates by adding interesting movie trivia to their review:
A noble beast gets shackled, ape-napped from his island home and dragged to America in:
- Minute 84 of 1933’s landmark King Kong,
- Minute 90 of 1976’s Jeff Bridge/Charles Grodin/”and introducing Jessica Lange”-starring King Kong, and
- Minute 135 of Peter Jackson’s 2005 prestige pic King Kong — which, at three hours and change, qualifies as the most Kong-sized of the bunch.
In the new, comparatively unambitious Kong: Skull Island, the big guy finally claims a perk of his eight decades of stardom: He gets to do the entire picture from home.
Indeed, this new colon-ized, name-and-address-formatted Kong is at its mediocre best when it pretends to be a nature documentary about Skull Island’s bizarro flora and fauna. One of its most captivating scenes has the big ape bathing himself in a river — at last, computer animators have learned to make convincing water! But every time the movie threatens to get interesting, one of its hordes of ersatz, non-animated characters shows up and starts talking again.
There’s plenty of top-flight talent — Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, the Johns Goodman and C. Reilly, and the Jacksons Samuel T. and Marc Evan — so it’s no chore to sit through. But good luck being able to remember in two months whether you saw this thing or not.
By comparison, the Boston Globe thought it was fun and gave it 3 stars out of 4:
“Kong: Skull Island” isn’t a remake or a reboot or a re-anything. It’s just a Saturday matinee creature feature with a smart, unpretentious script, a handful of solid supporting players, and a digital Kong who feels big enough and real enough to provoke the necessary awe. This is all to the movie’s credit.
Better yet (and unlike [Peter Jackson’s 2005] film), the new movie understands the line between thrilling an audience and scaring it silly — between action-adventure awe and horror-movie gross-outs. The movie feels as if it has been made for a 10-year-old kid, either the one living in your house or the one living in your heart.
(2) COMIC SECTION. And Dan Thompson’s Brevity welcomes the movie with a punny cartoon.
(3) NAVIGATING THE AMAZON. Why did Amazon build a brick-and-mortar bookstore in the first place? Why is it now about to open number 10?
People were surprised when Amazon announced its first brick-and-mortar bookstore in November 2015. Then came No. 2, 3 and 4.
Sixteen months later, Amazon just confirmed to Recode that it is now working on store No. 10 — a location at the Bellevue Square shopping center across Lake Washington from Seattle. Plans for this new location were found in building permits flagged by the building contractor site BuildZoom.
“We are excited to be bringing Amazon Books to Bellevue Square in 2017, and we are currently hiring store managers and associates,” an Amazon spokesperson said.
If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Amazon really likes the traction it has seen in the four stores that have opened so far and is committed to becoming a physical retailer at scale. New locations are opening in places like Chicago, New York City and the suburbs of New Jersey later this year.
That doesn’t mean the stores still aren’t puzzling. Why does Amazon — bookstore killer — want to become a physical book purveyor? One smart take has been that the stores are as much about selling Amazon devices like the Echo and Kindle as they are about selling books.
(4) NEW STOPS ON THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY. China’s Internet may be showing the way. British anthropologist Tom McDonald, who moved to Anshan, a small rural town between Beijing and Shanghai, has written a book about the Chinese internet, about which he is apparently very protective, and is the source of information for this BBC article.
Most writing about China’s internet had explored metropolitan elites living in the country’s huge cities – and had tended to focus on the issues of censorship and government control, painting a joyless place straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. Yet here in Anshan, McDonald was surprised to find a vibrant and innovative online world. “It is easy for us to assume that ‘the Chinese Internet’ ought to be a very drab and boring and constraining place, whereas actually, Chinese internet users are incredibly creative and the internet is incredibly lively,” he tells me. “It was more like an online carnival.”
….One of the core differences, from British social media use, was the fact that the people of Anshan tended to shy away from political pronouncements on their profile pages – “not because of censorship, but just because all the people around them would ask why are you posting that on here,” says McDonald. Instead, their updates tended to be centred on the family and relationships with somewhat saccharine images and messages – perhaps as a way of upholding some of the values at the heart of their rural community.
Chip Hitchcock sent this comment along with the link: “The writer seems especially taken with the way everything works together, which suggests the (possibly-mythical) computer scientist’s praise of cyberpunk (~’Sure, everybody’s doing terrible things to each other — but their computers all work together!’)”
(5) TODAY IN HISTORY
- March 10, 1972 — Killer-creature flick Frogs hops into theaters.
- March 10, 1972 — Silent Running premieres.
- March 10, 1997 – Buffy the Vampire Slayer premieres on television.
(6) THE BUFFYVERSARY. “20 Years Ago ‘Buffy’ Welcomed Us All To The Hellmouth (aka High School)” NPR reminds us.
Twenty years ago, on March 10, 1997, TV audiences were introduced to Buffy Summers, a pint-sized blonde who could hold her own against the undead. Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran for seven seasons from 1997 to 2003. It had witty dialogue and used monsters as a metaphor for everyday high school problems like bullies, catfishing and feeling invisible.
If that wasn’t enough to make high school seem hellish, the characters went to school on top of a literal Hellmouth. “So many people at the time sent us letters saying, ‘I’m only getting through high school because of Buffy,‘ ” says Buffy writer and producer Jane Espenson.
The BBC also cites Buffy’s influence on pop culture:
Without Buffy’s brilliant musical episode Once More, With Feeling would Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s movie ever have been green-lit?
Actually, yes, it would have been. But if you enjoyed the singing dancing love letter to LA which didn’t win best film at this year’s Oscars, you could do worse than to check out Buffy’s musical extravaganza.
It’s exactly like La La Land, but with added demons.
It also set a trend for other TV shows to unexpectedly feature a musical episode halfway through a series, including medical comedy Scrubs and medical drama Grey’s Anatomy – and an upcoming Supergirl/The Flash crossover.
(7) TODAY’S DAYS. You get your choice.
- Mario Day
Mario Day came about when it was noticed that when one marks the day Mar.10, it spells Mario. From then it just took off. Mario was first introduced in Nintendo’s game Donkey Kong. When he appeared in this game in the early 1980’s he was not the well-named plumber that would be recognized today. His name was Mr. Jumpman and he was a carpenter.
- International Bagpipe Day.
The Bagpipe Society has been sponsoring the celebration of International Bagpipe Day since 2012. They have helped to bring the bagpipe to new players since 1986. It is important to them that the history and playing of the bagpipes is not lost. Putting this day together was with the hope of bringing awareness of the over 130 different types of bagpipe throughout the world.
(8) JEDI JOCULARITY. Mark Hamill tweeting as Trump —
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) March 7, 2017
(9) DANDELION WINE KICKSTARTER FAILS. Filmmakers ambitious to produce a movie of Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” attempted to crowdfund production with a Kickstarter campaign but they had received only $4,791 of the hoped-for $350K when the campaign ended in January.
In December, the Utah Independent profiled the men behind the effort.
RGI Productions filmmaker Rodion Nahapetov and producer Natasha Shliapnikoff, long-time friends and colleagues of Ray Bradbury, have launched their Kickstarter campaign for the “Dandelion Wine” movie.
“The Kickstarter campaign is so important to us because by receiving the support of Ray’s fans and friends, we will be able to make the movie the way Ray would have wanted it made independently, true to his vision and with love!” said Shliapnikoff.
(10) ELIGIBILITY POST. Adam Rakunas keeps voters informed —
This is a reminder that I am *not* eligible for the Campbell Award. My clock ran out last year.
I remain eligible for the Taco Award.
— Adam Rakunas (@rakdaddy) March 6, 2017
(11) NATIONAL TREASURE. Maybe the original art for the cover of Action Comics #1, which introduced Superman to the world in June 1938, no longer exists, but in late 1938 or ’39, Joe Shuster re-drew that cover for use as a puzzle from the Saalfield Company of Cleveland, Ohio, which was manufactured in 1940. “I wonder what this piece of original art might be worth today?” asks John King Tarpinian. The search is on!
(12) OOPS! Meanwhile, we know what happened to these treasures — “Pulped fiction: Blundering artist destroys rare first edition of The Avengers and other valuable comics worth £20,000 to make papier-mache scultpture”. The Daily Mail has the story.
An artist made a papier-mâché sculpture from comics only to discover that the books were in fact first editions worth about £20,000.
The piece of artwork, called Paperboy, was created by Andrew Vickers, 49, from Sheffield, who found the comics for the man-sized statue in a skip.
However, after handing the sculpture over to an exhibition he was told the comics, which included a first edition of The Avengers, would have been worth a small fortune.
(13) THE NOT-SO-DREAD PIRATE GAME. The Digital Antiquarian remembers when Ron Gilbert made an adventure game that didn’t suck – Monkey Island.
The game casts you in the role of Guybrush Threepwood, a lovable loser who wants to become a pirate. Arriving on Mêlée Island, a den of piratey scum and villainy, he has to complete a set of trials to win the status of Official Pirate. Along the way, he falls in love with the island’s beautiful governor Elaine — her name sets the game up for a gleeful The Graduate homage — and soon has to rescue her from the villain of the story, the evil ghost pirate LeChuck.
The Disnefied piracy wasn’t hard to do, especially after Gilbert discovered a charming little historical-fantasy novel by Tim Powers called On Stranger Tides.
(15) SF IN LIVE THEATER. Alastair Reynolds tells about seeing Diamond Dogs in Chicago, a stage play based on his story.
The House Theatre team did a remarkable job with this undoubtedly challenging material, working with inventive stage and prop design to nonetheless evoke a series of settings many light years away, and hundreds of years in the future. All the cast are in the above photo, along with the crew behind the production, and it was a pleasure and privilege to see so much skill and imagination come together on stage.
My story takes place in a range of locales, from the bowels of Chasm City, to a starship, to the ravaged surface of an alien world, and ultimately the many-roomed interior of the enigmatic alien structure named Blood Spire, an enormous tower floating just off the surface of the planet Golgotha. Depicting all this in film would be a feat in itself, and quite beyond any reasonable notions of practical theatrical staging. The solution adopted by the House Theatre was to use artful minimalism and suggestion, trusting in the audience to employ their imaginations given the narrative cues provided the actors and the sound and lighting effects. I thought it worked tremendously well, and the later stages of the story – involving the passing through of the puzzle rooms in the Spire – achieved a strange, stark beauty, all with little on stage but the illuminated, moving doorways and the actors in their spacesuits. Later, as the story progressed to its grim conclusion, extremely effective use was made of the ingenious puppet designs of Mary Robinette Kowal, allowing us to follow the actors as they became something other than human. These latter scenes, aided by an unsettling score, had a truly surreal power.
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]