Blog Archives

A ‘Blockbuster’ Podcast Is Playing on a Streaming Service Near You

Podcasts, podcasts and more podcasts. They’re everywhere.

Then, when you’re done listening to all of those podcasts — takes about three lifetimes — there are even more podcasts to discover.

However, like in any industry and field of interest, there are pieces of work that rise above the rest. If the premise, coupled with an exclusive sneak peek is any indication, then the ‘Blockbuster’ podcast is one to be listened to for any movie fan generally and any fan of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and John Williams specifically.

io9 Gizmodo columnist Germain Lussier summarizes the exciting recreation of two cinematic pioneers and game-changers along with their equally dynamic and genius musical composer friend John Williams in their early years in the moviemaking industry beginning in the 1970s.

Created by Emmy winner Matt Schrader, Blockbuster is a six-part docu-narrative podcast dramatizing the friendship of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg as they were making their formative films, Star Wars and Jaws, with the help of composer of John Williams. Schrader has basically created a modern radio play, blending meticulous research with strong vocal performances, sound effects, film clips, and an original score, all into a highly entertaining audio experience. The show puts the viewer right there, with Spielberg and Lucas, for the moments when they changed movies forever.

The entertainment value of this kind of creative storytelling is a fitting nostalgic throwback (or flashback, since it’s Friday) that is something special. It reminds one of the Golden Age of Radio in America.

Below is an exclusive two-minute snippet (courtesy of Forbes) of the eight-part podcast involving George Lucas and then-wife Marcia Lucas during a possible a-ha moment for the listener (and perhaps George and Marcia at the time) that popular culture was about to change forever in some way with a far-out film that takes place in space. Interestingly, Marcia worked on the original ‘Stars Wars’ in 1977 — famously written and directed by her husband George — for which she won an Academy Award for Best Film Editing.

Image result for george lucas marcia

(Marcia and George Lucas)

‘Blockbuster,’ in just a couple of minutes, is intriguing (recreated) eavesdropping that is refreshingly simple and streamlined in its delivery. Ironically, it’s a must-see listen experience for movie fans.

Season 1 of the ‘Blockbuster’ podcast is available on iTunes and Spotify.

“The Goldbergs” is Television Heaven

“So it does involve treasure.”

Spoiler Alert: This is a recap of The Goldbergs from January 14, 2014. 

We all remember being in high school and taking part in college fairs and enjoying the wild circus known as class elections. The latter consisted of our fellow classmates who would state their positions on various issues and makes sensible, reasoned promises like building a two-story winding water slide that splashes into the cafeteria where there would be a free towel and soda waiting for us to quench our thirst before biology.

Then, the kids finally told their parents to stop helping them with their campaigns.

Beverly and Betsy, this means you.

And there may be no better example of maternal love and support of all things motherly on television than the incomparable Beverly Goldberg. Whether this involves scaring her son away from his interest in the University of Hawaii by saying the school is surrounded by sharks or by hanging blown-up, embarrassing pictures of her son in every hallway of his school for everyone (including his blonde crush) to see with an image that’s downright unforgettable.

Beverly Goldberg is “a shoulder-padded, crunchy-haired mother warrior.”

While Barry was enduring the high-stakes game of high school politics (with and without berry bombs), Erica and Adam each had their own crisis to confront.

Erica, a former model student in the classroom (just not in Senegal), was confiding in her unwilling Pops with a pastrami sandwich about how she had been successfully scamming her Mom about all the extracurricular activities she was boasting on her college application. This reveal caused an uncomfortable, but therapeutic, flashback of her days in the Model U.N.

She was studious. She did lots of work. She was a mini-Beverly driven by an unrelenting Type A personality. This ultimately led to a battle between Libya and Senegal that could not be resolved peacefully.

This inner conflict led to Erica resigning from the U.N. (but not on her application, of course) for a much cooler, laid back approach to academics and life in general.

She had checked out, which brings us to Adam and his Dad at the Video Heaven movie store.

Yes, there was a glorious time in the history of Mankind when men, women and children would dare to leave the comfort of their own homes and venture off to a video store where they would walk through a maze of movies (new and old) in search of “the one.” But, the catch was there needed to be a VHS or DVD behind the empty cover box on the shelf. If not, Friday night was a bust. Game over.

All was lost, including one’s very soul…at least until the next day when the shelves were hopefully restocked.

There was always the return bin, but that was the last resort. Most importantly, or at least on the same level as “Be Kind, Rewind,” was the existence of the late fees. Murray Goldberg realized the horrible ramifications for not returning a movie on-time: a bullet through his wallet!

A dejected Adam, who had discovered an Indiana Jones in the return bin, was denied by the clerk because of an outrageous fine to his Dad’s forgetfulness to return the Paul Newman-led movie masterpiece Slap Shot, unleashed a fury on Murray that seemed impossible to resolve.

Incredibly, with the odds against each of the Goldbergs (except for the preoccupied, sandwich eating Pops), each found his and her inspiration and strength in doing the uncomfortable.

Barry decided to start caring about his campaign for Treasurer by publicly denouncing his Mother’s insanity and all mothers’ insanity to great applause, fanfare and an impossible victory, Erica chose peace and reconciliation with the Model U.N. and with her personal struggle with Senegal and what that country represented to her, Beverly took her foot off the pedal of a high school class treasurer’s race along with her battle for parental supremacy with arch rival Betsy, Murray paid his outrageous fine (though the math did add up) and Adam forgave his Dad for a lost night of action, adventure and all-around Harrison Ford greatness.

For Murray, swallowing his pride, admitting he was wrong to someone outside his immediate family and doing something unforgettably nice for his son Adam (for two months anyways) was one heck of a long shot. Some may even argue it symbolized a last second, seemingly impossible slap shot to win the game…

Adam had in his hands an official card to Video Heaven with 50 prepaid rentals. For those of us who remember such cards, it was a moment of pure bliss and awesomeness.

Maybe listening to Toto will bring us to the yellow brick road where it will, in a surreal sense, lead us back to our own Video Heaven.

As a former patron and employee at Blockbuster, this episode rang especially true. The movie store scenes rewound cherished memories of restocking new releases and classics and of manning the computer/register in the front to eager movie watchers of all ages, day and night (plus an Olympian).

It was a great job making people’s cinematic dreams come true!

There’s no place like Blockbuster, there’s no place like Hollywood Video, there’s no place like a video rental store!

Books of Epic Proportions

Dan Brown. J.K. Rowling. Tom Clancy.

And now J.J. Abrams apparently.

Reading books is still a popular leisure activity, despite how it may pale in comparison to venturing off to the movie theater to see the next big blockbuster sensation. The bottom line is that people enjoy stories of all genres with varying temptations and hooks. One day it may be action or adventure, the next could be drama and romance and the weekend may be primed for mystery or humor. The imagination has no limitations and is, therefore, eternally receptive to stories of all variations and styles.

In recent years, the word, “epic” has flown into our lexicon as nearly the same speed as Superman himself. There was even an animated film titled, “Epic” released earlier this year. While book releases rarely create epic fanfare or global pandemonium, there was one yesterday that just might expand literature into an unseen dimension of creativity.

Famed filmmaker J.J. Abrams, who is prepping the Disney reboot of “Star Wars,” had his book (co-written with established writer Doug Dorst) debut to the public yesterday. The title of the nearly 500-page mystery, “S,” may be the beginning of a new style and era of creative writing.

Yesterday, it was J.J. Abrams releasing an original novel. Who will be next? Steven Spielberg? James Cameron? Kathryn Bigelow?

Dare I dream for an original novel by Christopher Nolan?

There is no singular style, method, genre or process to writing, acting, directing and producing an epic blockbuster. There are unequivocal similarities, no doubt: original story, great characters, plot twists, big, yet believable action for the setting, stunning cinematography, hints of ambiguity, etc. But each crew has done it differently with a certain trademark.

Imagine this formula translated into an original novel that reads like an epic Hollywood movie that instinctively provokes intrigue and that relentlessly illustrates vivid scenes in our minds like the flow of some of our favorite movies?

Incredible books with the similar qualities listed above have and are being written. However, the scale of these literary adventures, mysteries, romances, etc. would be new with a particular cast of writers.

Try to envision a movie in IMAX with a powerfully unforgettable soundtrack somehow captured and placed within the binding restraints of a book.

There is a grandiose expectation with J.J. Abrams’ book because of his acclaimed cinematic skill set and storytelling accomplishments behind the camera. People will be expecting that “it” factor that will definitively distinguish “S” above the other available mysteries on the shelf.

Adapting popular books into movies is a common practice in Hollywood. And these scripts usually sound as if it were penned by an author instead of a screenwriter. The pace and style of the dialogue and the patience paid to character development is discernible. It’s not always absolutely good or bad, but it certainly is noticeable to the audience.

Last year, in late November, director Christopher Nolan made a rare public appearance to participate in a solo forum in New York City with a small audience to discuss his current, “Dark Knight” trilogy, his past movies and his then upcoming role in “The Man of Steel.” In fact, it happened on a Wednesday. Due to a contradictory statement given to me about a conflict at work that Wednesday and following Thursday, I had to refrain from securing one of those rare tickets when one was remarkably available.

I digress.

Christopher Nolan had agreed to answer a few questions from fans and/or attendees during this gathering. The question I submitted was essentially this: “Have you ever created your own original superhero with a corresponding universe and enemy(ies)? If so, who is it? What are his or her superhero powers? If not, would you ever be interested in such a venture?”

I was interested in not only my question, but all of the questions, plus his responses of course.

Maybe he read my question, maybe he didn’t. But if he did and the answer is yes, the possibilities and excitement among his fans would be difficult to contain.

The aura that surrounds “S” was palpable the moment I held it in my hands. There is a unique power and influence that radiates and thrills from the work of creative cinematic storytellers. Imaginations simply run wild with the stories they tell.

I just hope more will soon put it in writing.

The Pleasures of Past “Inconveniences”

It’s Friday evening and after unwinding from a long and “stressful” week at school, my family and I embraced the TGIF-mentality much like the family did from the movie “ET.” We gathered in the family room that was perfect for watching movies and enjoyed a film that was just released. Surrounded by and in between all of us was a steaming hot Donatos pizza box, a half-gone two liter of Coca-Cola, cups and plastic Dontaos themed plates everywhere and an opened blue and white movie container with the word in bright yellow block letters “BLOCKBUSTER” showcased down the cases’ spine. This was a Friday night spent with family during my childhood. It was awesome.

Once the 3:00 p.m. bell sounded on that Friday during my elementary school days, the opportunity to make the weekend great had begun! After discovering my mom’s car from the usual lineup I opened the door and said hello. When asked what I had learned that day, I just responded with what had become protocol: “stuff.” With a humorous roll of the eyes, she put the car in drive and we went home.

Knowing that a very cool new movie had arrived that day at the movie store, I waited for the right moment. “Mom, you look really great today!” Thankful for a split second, she quickly saw through my transparent motive. Uncertainty still in the air, time had passed to early evening, around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. Contemplating for a few moments, I finally mustered the courage to ask the two biggest questions of the impending weekend: “Mom, can we get pizza tonight?…and stop by Blockbuster?”

Pausing for dramatic effect (which worked in ways you cannot imagine), she replied, “Sure.” It was official: Friday night was going to be legen-wait for it…

The Blockbuster just a couple miles from my house was packed with fellow kids, parents, teenagers, adults and every age demographic you could picture. Looking at every movie box with precise analysis, I searched for “the one.” Once discovered in the “New Releases” section, I picked up and gazed at the cover box with amazement. Next step, I nervously and excitedly look behind it and hope for a VHS to be available for rental. As an FYI, a VHS is what us ‘old people’ used to call movies. Talkies is another popular expression.

At the counter, I hand the movie to the clerk who is sporting a welcoming smile and a happy attitude for the young man about the experience a cinematic adventure. My mom hands her the official membership card, the clerk swipes it, opens the case to ensure the correct movie was ready for rental, snaps it closed and then a white receipt is printed and stuck inside the top with the due date included. With a smile as wide as a mile, we walk out of the brightly lit, magical Blockbuster store and return home to then order a cheese pizza just like in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Home Alone” that is at our front door in a speedy fifteen minutes. Once the pizza guy is paid on our warmly lit front step, the moment had finally arrived and it was officially Friday Movie Night.

Today, at virtually any hour and day of the week, I turn on my laptop, open up iTunes, go to the iTunes store, click on the movie I want, confirm the download through my iTunes account and in less than an hour I’m watching the movie…alone and with total convenience in the comfort of my own home. Ughh.