Tuesday, May 19, 2015

It Was a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Weekend

Yes. The only connection between Mad Max: Fury Road and Mad Men is the word mad. But, flimsy as the connection may be, I’m using it to justify a post about both the film and the series finale of one of the best television dramas of all time.

I joined fellow Okie Geek Podcast panelist Devon and her husband Kevin at a screening of Mad Max: Fury Road; the long-awaited fourth entry in Director George Miller’s post-apocalyptic franchise.

I’m not going to spoil the plot, because you should invest two hours of your life and see this film in a real-live theater — preferably in 3-D — but its sparse dialogue, punk rock world-building and action packed chase scenes were so beautifully bizarre I can't wait to see it again. George Miller must be a student of silent film because the first third of his movie features a soundscape reminiscent of the fast-paced music associated with movies of that era. Plus, the action scenes have the same stylized herky-jerky sped-up look of an early Laurel and Hardy film. Charlize Theron steals the show. Tom Hardy was absolutely fine in the role, but I was surprised to see how marginalized his Max became as the story progressed.

Fury Road is everything I’ve hoped a big-budget blockbuster summer action movie could be. Thank goodness this movie exists in the world.

As a viewer who had been with the series since the very beginning, Sunday’s Mad Men finale had me feeling all the feels. In marketing/advertising speak, the finale "successfully leveraged content to create maximum impactful engagement”. In non-buzzword speak, it hit all the right notes and had a good mix of happy and ambiguous endings.

Again, no spoilers, but I felt the finale was ultimately true to the series while being somewhat optimistic about the potential for people to change for the better. Unlike many series enders, it didn’t exist solely to service the viewership with happy endings and neat tidy conclusions. My one quibble (and honestly, it’s so minor I worry I’m diminishing the greatness of the episode by mentioning it) was the scene where Joan and beau Richard try cocaine on vacation in Florida. It seemed to exist only as a cultural signpost that screamed, “WE’RE IN THE 1970s NOW!” and served no real purpose to the greater plot.

Don Draper, the main protagonist, the “good guy”, is a serial cheater, an identity thief, a drunk, a negligent father, an unreliably employee/boss and a bad friend. The fact that so many viewers (myself included) still want to see this seemingly terrible person succeed and thrive after seven seasons of two steps forward, two steps back character development is a testament to the acting ability of Jon Hamm and the storytelling genius of creator Matt Weiner. I said on an earlier podcast that Mad Men has done for television what The Great Gatsby did for literature.

I don’t believe the world will ever again see a show as complex and challenging as Mad Men or a series that so acutely captures the inherent contradictions of the American dream.

Friday, May 15, 2015

New Contributors to the Okie Geek Blog

The Okie Geek Blog is getting new contributors.

If you haven't heard the new Okie Geek Podcast, click here.

The podcast features new additions to the Okie Geek Blog: Devon Green, Chase Harvick and Joshua Unruh.

They are very knowledgeable in the ways of the geek, and I value them coming along for the ride.

They are also great writers, so I look forward to seeing what they will bring to the blog..

From here on out they will be joining in the conversation here which I haven't always been able to do on a regular basis.

Also, now that you've listened to the podcast you can rate and review it on iTunes.

The better the feedback, the more we can produce the kinds of content you enjoy.

And please, leave us a comment anytime.

Meanwhile, Keep Calm and Geek On!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Marvel Cinematic Universe: An Historical Persective

So I just got a chance to watch Avengers: Age of Ultron with my wife this weekend.

Let me preference this blog, by saying there are absolutely no spoilers.

Suffice it to say, the movie is amazing! Full of heart and comedy and excitement. There are certainly some tense moments, but it wouldn't be a great one without them. The other thing I will add about what is essentially Avenger 2 is that it is a successful sequeal, going above and beyond its predecessor.

So let's start there.

For generations the adage, "The Sequel is never better than the original" has stood the test of time.

While there are certainly exceptions to break the rule: Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, Terminator 2: Judgement Day and, of course the granddaddy of them all, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Usually what follows the original work, can never exceed what came before: Raiders of the Lost Arc, Ghostbusters and of course, Police Academy. I kid about the last one. Actually when it comes to comic movies the best example is to look to Superman with Christopher Reeve, released in 1978. The film had its share of success and was followed by an equally well done, Superman2  in 1980. But, I remember hearing at the time that it was so successful the industry already green-lighted a third and fourth picture which devastated the franchise.

I have lived many years watching sequels which never lived up to the original, until now. Not just Avenger2 but the entire Iron Man trilogy and Captain America: Winter Soldier. Marvel has managed to do something any movie corporation would be thrilled to see: sequels that shine brighter than their progenitors.

But with Marvel, it's something even more amazing.

In 2008, Marvel released Iron Man.  The feature piece was so successful the company decided to make a sequel, but, then, in an absolute stroke of genius decided to do something unheard of: create another movie which on it's face had absolutely no connection with its predecessor.

So right after Iron Man2, Disney/Marvel released Thor and Captain America. The movies which were so much more than spin-offs held their own, and it wasn't long before the world began to realize what Marvel was up to: an eventual massive cross-over team up known as The Avengers.

And the franchise has never looked back. But, now, after seven years, maybe it is time for us to look back. Not just on the lifespan of the current Avengers series, but on the entire history of fiction writing.

What Marvel has done is create a cohesive universe which has now spanned eleven successful movies, one broadcast television show in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.and even a streaming serial in Daredevil on Netflix.

I have spent the past 24 hours trying to recall a time in film history when several different story lines have been created in the same narrative to create standalone stories as well as these epic team up features. I can't recall anything. Even in the realm of fiction itself over thousands of years, nothing even comes close.

If you can thing of anything, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

In the meantime, the future continues to look bright for Marvel with more stories on television, Netflix and of course the big screen,

But, I feel the biggest winner is going to be us, the viewers.

So, what do you think about the historic aspect of the MCU? Let me know in the comments...