X3, you make my life complete
Watching the Emmy's the other night, you may have said to yourself, "What the hell kind of hairstyle is Hugh Jackman wearing?" Or, if you were me (you are not), you would have said, "Ooooh -- have they started filming X3?"

The answer is yes -- production is underway, with a target release date of May 26, 2006. I'm actually quite relieved to hear it, not just because I'm looking forward to it, but with the addictiveness of this era of summer blockbusters, I need as many studio-cranked hits as they can muster. Give me the juice!

As you all know, or should know by now, I was a big fan of X2. It managed to be bigger, better (as sequels are ruled to do), more exciting, and yet kept an interesting plot without resorting to special effects to carry the tale. As such, it ended up being the best superhero film to date (beating out Spider-Man 2 by a slight margin). And of all the superhero franchises, the X-Men have unbelievably large cache of cool characters, both good and evil, to pull out. To boot, some of their storylines are legend, such as the 'Dark Phoenix' saga, referenced at the end of X2. The question is, with all these resources at the producer's disposal, what are they going to do next? In short, another large, bold movie or are they going to screw the pooch?? (In shorter, for some, when are we gonna see Gambit?)

Well, X3 started off inauspiciously with the hiring of uber-hack director Brett Ratner, instead of Bryan Singer, who is busy putting his stamp on the Superman movie series. 'Superman Returns' opens two weeks after X3's posted date, so I'm pretty sure that the schedule is rigid. Anyway, after I heard the 'Brett' news, I kinda tuned out of speculative internet sites. Until I saw THE HAIR again, and then I got curious.

XMF, a site dedicated to the next film (clued to me by Cinescape), has a lot of insider data. For instance, the cast continues to get more and more impressive, and as for the characters, the list is growing. Multiple Man has been cast as a member of 'Omega Red's faction', but according to the report on XMF, that is just one little bit of what to expect:
    The brotherhood want to get to the phoenix, she is confused and about to rise. Magneto knows this, and wants to take advantage of it. He splits up his men, and decides to create diversions so the X-men can’t get to the phoenix. But he fails, because the scene clearly starts off….

    Part 1 - Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Xavier, & Storm are there where Jean Grey (The Dark Phoenix) Is rising, by there surprise Magneto and Mystique are also there. Xavier and his team seem to be there to aid Jean, while the brotherhood seems to be there to corrupt. A bit of powers begin to fly, brother hood vs. x-men and at a point phoenix versus everyone.

    Part 2 - Close by in the forest you can see Wolverine running, nothing was explained about that. He was probably on his way to the other older x-men. Next thing you know Omega Red, Gauntlet, Multiple Man and a bunch of Omega Red’s henchman surround him. By some sort of coincidence some sort of military ( XMF was NOT told what the name of the faction was but we do know that they have something to do with the Sentinels. ) show up and the surround all four mutants. Multiple Man multiplies and takes them on, as Gauntlet and Omega Red take on Wolverine. This scene is brotherhood diversion one.

    To sum it up: Wolverine Vs Omega Red, Gauntlet, Multiple Man. Unknown faction against all the mutants. Double fight in one.

    Part 3 - As said, happening at the same time, a fight at the X-mansion begins. New brotherhood members Pyro, Scarlet Witch and Avalanche approach the frontal area of the Xavier Institute. Approaching them immediately are Rogue, Ice Man, Jubilee and X-Kid. Right away conflict flares and without any explanation to why they begin to fight, it seems to of been acknowledged it wasn’t a friendly meet and greet.

    Part 2 summed up: Avalanche Vs Jubilee, Pyro Vs Ice Man & Rogue/X-Kid Vs Scarlet Witch.

    Part 4 - You can’t leave out the biggest and badest it seems, because when all this is going on, who would’ve thought Juggernaut was on campus as well. Luckily Colossus was around. Colossus faces off at the X-mansion with none other then Juggernaut. Good thing he had help available from x-student Kitty Pryde aka Shadow cat.

    XMF was not given exact information on which team beat each team in each moment, but expect a classic x-men clash. This is the fight scene X-fans have been dying to have, and here it is. This is a rewritten perception of the information we were given. It was rewrote in a way that you guys can read it and probably enjoy it more. We were told that this scene is 7-10 minutes long, and really wasn’t a big part of the movie at all. Its looking good for X3. This is from the same source who gave us the information on Omega Red & Gauntlet, we support this 100% and can tell you this is fact, and not fiction.
Holy crossovers Batman!! The weirdest thing about all that is that Vinnie Jones has been cast as Juggernaut. Although it would be interesting to have the cockney bully play Xavier's jealous brother, Juggernaut is monstrously huge. Well, I guess they are going to use a lot of CGI or maybe even have the character be CGI (this would make sense as Kelsey Grammar is cast as the gymnastic Beast). In any event, if even 70% of this ends up being true, I'm already wringing my hands in anticipation.


Dream Job v.1.0
It's been quite some time since I've done any significant writing for the infamous work-in-project that is my book. I'd gotten 50,000 words in and was forced to stop, not because I'd written myself into an impossible scenario, but because I hadn't done enough backstory to really know how things should be playing out. And if the author doesn't know, I can tell you that's the quickest way to contradict yourself and not only confuse the reader but likely piss them off as well.

Unfortunately, once I set down the pen and got to plotting, I was forced to confront the reality of the structure. Yes, I had a beginning, middle and a (in my opinion) helluva good end. Yes, I had scenes I definitely wanted to put in for action. I had a bunch of dialogue and revelatory exchanges, too. What I didn't have were was the, well, cyctoplasm of the piece. The goo that holds it all together and makes it a work. I had too many elements and not enough connectors to make them all make sense. In short, I suffered from an overabundant imagination for thinking up cool ideas and a stagnant imagination for how to put them all together. Or, perish the thought, whether some should be included in the first place. The story that I want to put down is ambitious, and thus the plotting and backstory that needs to be written is like a book in itself, just much shorter, told in paraphrasing, and murderously complicated (and far more than it should be, which is why this process is ongoing).

So, over the last 4 years (cringe) since I've written new pages I've set to thinking about the plot and slowly working it together and also working the term 'myth' into my status as a writer. Unfortunately, at the beginning of that time, I was laid off the job I had at the time, so I was a little distracted with the attempts to find gainful employment. And then, when I finally found another job, it kept me far busier than I had been previously, learning new technology, inventing procedures, etc. In short, I started to become a little more caring about my career, such that it was, and wanted to put a little elbow grease into it. And writing could take a back seat. Not dead, but certainly needing a good dusting every now and then.

In that format, I've been operating at a snail's pace (but a pace nonetheless), coming up with answers to plot questions once in a blue moon, tightening up the project one small pull at a time. This weekend something just popped into my head while I was on the eliptical machine (the vast majority of my plotting 'revelations' happen there when I'm zoning out), and I rushed back to work to write about a page of backstory that finally connected one of my most worrisome dots. I won't say that I'm near the end of the plotting, but it was another gigantic pull towards the final product.

One of the best things about writing is when you get those little moments and you write some little phrase or scene and you know it's cool. Those are the great days. The worst days are the ones where you sit and stare at a page and try to wring something, anything out and it just-will-not-come. Unforunately, I've found that like anything in life, you need balance to accomplish anything. You can't have the good days without the bad, and the only way to have the good is to think about what needs to be done and work at it. Just keep at it, as much as possible.

And why am I writing all this on the blog? Because of the little moments, and because there are apparently job openings right now for a position where your cool moments will be even cooler:
    IGN FilmForce can exclusively report that Lucasfilm is seeking screenwriters for its planned TV series based on George Lucas' Star Wars film saga. Keeping with Lucas' penchant for security, the show will be scripted at the bearded one's secluded Skywalker Ranch. Work will commence this January.
Talk about the best job ever. I wonder if they'll post on Monster... and get 40,000 replies (including mine).


Anyone for tennis?
Well, I sure as shit wasn't going to stay up to watch it last night, but the Agassi - Blake quarterfinal match from the US Open has already been compared to that of Connors' emotional run back in 1991. I've been getting up at the crack (crack for me = 7 AM) of dawn for work, and I'm planning on heading out to watch the first game of the NFL season, so I wasn't going to even start watching when it came on at 10:30 last night. My instincts served me well, for I not only knew Leia was my sister, but the match lasted until 1:15 AM. Double grande latte, indeed.

Fortunately, thanks to the instant-reply capability of USA network, I was able to catch the last 2/3 of set 5 at the gym today, and I can tell you if the entire match was like that, the hype is on the mark. It was some of the most intense, well-played, back-and-forth, crowd-involved, emotional tennis I've seen since, well, that Connors-Krickstein match they show every year there's a rain delay. Also made for a riveting workout, as I got on the treadmill and was running with the intensity of the match; I kept running into the front, seemingly infused with the energy of the play (in reality it some low-grade speed I got from "Benny"). In any event, as the players finished, both equally spent and yet aware of the moment, they smiled as they met at the net. Blake said to Agassi, "It couldn't have been more fun to lose," and I smiled involuntarily.
More Marvel
Well, Marvel Comics has finally taken the obvious step to ensure the quality and integrity of their characters that are represented on film. In short, adopt a 'do-it-yourself' mentality:
    Marvel has announced they will change their name from Marvel Enterprises to Marvel Entertainment. The plan is for the company to produce films based on its own properties.The company has identified ten characters & groups it will develop as potential feature franchises: Captain America, Avengers, Nick Fury, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Cloak and Dagger, Dr. Strange, Hawkeye, Power Pack, and Shang-Chi
Jaquandor reminded me of this topic, and clearly has only a casual knowledge of what he speaks when he disparages a title he barely read called 'Power Pack', a comic about a group of adolescents with super abilities. I actually have issues #1-20 in the 'archives'. I have read them many times, and contrary to Jacquador's questionable opinion, the first dozen-or-so issues were quite intriguing. I thought they were pretty well written at the time. Perhaps I'll revisit next time I'm up at the 'rents. In any event, of the new titles Marvel has listed as potential movies, that one is far more interesting than some of the others.

The most questionable on the list are Nick Fury and Blank Panther. The latter makes the list look like 'Hey -- let's throw in this guy to get the 'black' crowd.' If you were going to throw someone in, why not the 'Falcon' (or Luke Cage)? Probably because he'll be included in the 'Avengers' franchise, although that logic should be also applied to 'Ant-Man'. In short, both guys have no powers and were among the least remarkable characters I can recall. Even though they have potential, you're going to have to go a long way to making a franchise out of them. Better served as back-up for Captain America, really.

And if you are going to include 'Ant-Man' and 'Blank Panther' (again, hwuh?), where are the other more prominent Avengers like Iron Man or Thor? Well, golly they are in production already. So much so that this whole list smacks of being the last one on the gravy train more than wanting to keep the integrity (of the remaining B-characters who haven't had movies made of them yet). Some would like to see the 'Silver Surfer' but it's tough to visualize that without having a cackle about the rationality of taking a guy on a flying surfboard seriously. My only contribution to the not-already-tagged list would be Captain Mar-Vell, who died a long way back of cancer (after, ya know, saving the universe).

All that tripe said, I would certainly fork over my $10 bucks to go see Captain America (the 1991 farce-of-a-film, which I have seen, is just plain embarrassing), the Avengers, and Cloak and Dagger could have potential. But the one on the list that I would jump to see is Dr. Strange, some of whose comics are amongst my favorites. The character's ability as Sorcerer-Supreme would lend countless possibilities toward films, and if done right and true to the character (one would imagine this was the whole purpose of Marvel wanted to do these films themselves), could be one of the best ever. Just saying.


Why I Love to Hate Religion
Perhaps the most common reaction I receive when people find out that I have a love/hate relationship with religion is bewilderment, and I can understand this point. To a lot of people I meet, religion is something that either they are a part of (some grudgingly) or that they avoid all costs. For me to read books about religion is analogous to a person who hates spiders doing research about them every now and then. That may not be the best analogy ever devised, but comparing a spider to religion is about as charitable as I can get.

Of course, growing up, my view of God and such was a lot different than it was now. I have no doubts that my upbringing had a lot to do with my distaste for the cloth, but I suffered nothing so melodramatic as abuse or an exorcism growing up. In fact, I always had a kind of weird fascination with it, because of three basic reasons.

First, as a child the answers you get to your questions are circular in logic at best ("Because it says so in the Bible.") and mysterious at all other times ("God works in mysterious ways."). When you're young, it's not very proper to question the authority of parents, teachers, or adults when they give you the run-around(hell, try doing it as an adult). Of course, these non-answer answers (the gifted go on to be politicians) only spurred me to look elsewhere for the 'answers' (such that they are). Of my gifts, I have an inquisitive nature, and an innate need to understand WHY things work if I'm going to have anything to do with them.

A counter-example would be cars. I don't work on cars, I am not fascinated by cars, so I have no care about the difference between a carburetor and a radiator. To many an average American, this is nothing short of incomprehensible. Luckily, I, again, don't care. What I care about is spirituality, the existence of an afterlife, "God's will", etc. Many of these same people who can't understand why I am not changing my own oil will blithely believe whatever they were taught in Sunday school, or accept whatever religion their parents had. For as important question as "do you have a soul", to shrug and tow the line is near blasphemy. And I love to blaspheme.

Second would be the movies. Two of my favorite films of all-time come from the 80's. In fact, from the same year (1981). The first is the rollicking serial-adventure story, Raiders of the Lost Ark, the second, Chariots of Fire. 'Raiders' has more obvious and more action-packed religious themes, with Mr. Jones searching for a relic of Christian myth. (You'd think the Nazi's would have guessed from the thrashing they get from the Hebrew God at the end that killing Jews wouldn't be a good idea, but then I guess no one ever found out about it. Here's a lesson from westerns, Jehovah: always leave one baddie to tell the tale.) 'Chariots' is the true story of two English runners, one Jewish and one Christian, who run for different reasons and different Gods. It is a fascinating and enthralling study of both men and the impact they had on the Olympic games of 1924.

Both films have intense moments of religious awe, some melodramatic, some beyond belief, some that make you wonder. As a 10-year-old filmgoer, already beginning to seriously question what belief or God is, my fires got stoked by some great filmmakers. And really, is it any coincidence that George Lucas had a hand in one? I've always had a fascination with religious-themed movies, and if done reasonably right (e.g., The Prophecy, Constantine come to mind, films that don't just tow the line and are genuinely entertaining), gets me thinking, even if the film's premise is considered to be ridiculous.

Aside, when I finally saw the movie 'The Exorcism', I thought it was pretty good, but I didn't find it remotely scary. Granted I did watch it for the first time when I was 30 (I watched it on my birthday, alone, in a dark house, and it still didn't freak me out.), but I'm notoriously skittish about horror films to this day, so I don't think age has anything to do with it.

For instance, I had nightmares for two nights after seeing 'Scream'. That kind of admission alone might cause some of you to spew green pea soup in digust. And I kind of hope it does, because I have quite a malicious streak. 'Scream' is the type of film that gets under my skin the most easily, because it is based on reality. A crazy guy with a knife is a lot more threatening to me than Christian myth.

Third would be the mystery of nature itself. The feeling one gets (or I get for the purposes of this little treatise) from laying with your back on the grass and staring up at the clouds or the starry sky. Standing on the edge of the ocean on the beach at midnight, looking out at the murky blackness, the water vast and the horizon infinite. Or, it can be as simple as thinking about a person you haven't seen in years, and then suddenly running into them the next day. The feeling of powerlessness before nature, the vastness, the intimate unknown experiences, the unexplainable connection one feels. If I am convinced of anything, it is that there is more out there, and in here, much more, that we have yet to discover. Religion and the history thereof is a roadmap to many peoples' attempts to either find out more, explain, or manipulate people who are scared into doing horrors.

It is because of the last remark that I write this piece today. There was an incident this week at the West Bank, in which Arabs burned Jewish houses following an 'honor killing' (via Wretchard). I had figured from the term 'honor killing' that there was some kind of duel between Jew and Muslim in which someone had to take their own life out of shame, or something like that. The facts are much more shocking:
    A security sources said the rampage was triggered by an incident last week in which a 30-year-old woman was made to drink poison by her relatives because they suspected her of carrying on a romance with a Christian man from the village - thought by scholars to be the city of Ephraim to which Jesus and his disciples went in John chapter 11.

    The woman was quickly buried, but last Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority police exhumed the body for an autopsy angering relatives. So-called Muslim 'honor killings' are common throughout the Middle East but attract only minimal sentences due to their widespread cultural acceptance as an integral part of Islamic 'Sharia' law.
It's a sick twist on 'Romeo and Juliet', and it leaves an indescribable feeling of revulsion in my stomach. To me, a perversion of spirituality, of shocking ignorance and stupidity, and somehow just not quite surprising.