Monday, August 22, 2011

True Blood Ignites!

Last night’s episode of True Blood was just as "edge of the seat" as every episode prior to it. We cannot get enough of the madness, cutting-edge, gripping, biting and all around sexy hot feel of this entire season. After drinking Bill’s blood, Sookie has a dream about both him and Eric. In it, she tells them both that she is in love with them and wants to be with them together. After Bill initially says, "I'm the King of Louisiana— I do not share," he gives in. The scene ends with both guys biting Sookie's neck simultaneously... leaving the fans to use their lustful imaginations to uncover the rest of the fantasy/dream sequence. Props to Alan Ball for allowing Team Eric and Team Bill to unite for a rather titillating option that perhaps hadn't been added to the equation. This move was yet another example of Alan Ball's talent. If we could have, we would have dropped by his house and hugged him for allowing Sookie to take a far more "powerful" stance by bringing up (during her dream) that men are fine with two women and one man... but they tend to become far more uncomfortable with two men and one woman. Bravo Alan!

I believe that Jessica Tuck (Nan) had the wittiest comeback while listening to Jessica cry over all that she feels she's lost. "Sometimes I think I should put my career on hold and become a maker, but the past few hours have made me question that." Hoyt also had a clever one-liner about the door frame that he and Jason just fixed: "It looks great, if you ignore the bullet holes and general f&%kedupness of everything." Alcide is 6'6"! We knew Joe Manganiello was tall (and God knows the full nude body shot was even more helpful), but we're completely elated that someone finally revealed just how tall he is. Sookie takes off to warns Bill— their relationship has always been at the center of the show, complex, brooding and yet often hilarious, so we are all pleased that the writers are finally shifting back toward focusing on it.

We see an interesting side to a lot of characters in this week's episode of True Blood. Lafayette (as inhabited by the spirit Mavis) spends most of the episode squeezing in the word "bébé" into every sentence of dialogue, and Debbie and Antonia both begin to spin out of control. Perhaps jealously and revenge is a dish best not served when you've gone insane. The two episodes coming up in September are "Soul of Fire" on the 4th and "And When I Die" on the 11th, and information is out about both. So if you are anti-spoiler, we STRONGLY suggest that you stop reading right now.

In the first September episode, "Soul of Fire," As the Wiccan-vampire standoff reaches a critical juncture, Sookie summons her faerie powers to prevent Marnie from bewitching Bill, Eric and Pam into a suicide march, while Jesus casts a secret spell designed to un-bind Marnie/Antonia and break the witch's deadly defenses. Sam settles a score with Marcus; Alcide confronts Debbie about her allegiances; Andy finds unexpected passion in the forest; Lafayette is consumed by the past."

It sounds like they have plenty on their hands in Bon Temps, and some new alliances are going to form to take on Marnie/Antonia. Meanwhile, other allegiances and relationships could be falling apart, as Alcide may be torn between his loyalty to the new pack for Debbie and what is right. He saw that they weren't exactly holding back when they were beating up Sam, nor did they care when it turned out to be Tommy in episode 9. What will he do in episode 10 when he has a bleeding Tommy in his truck? Meanwhile, in the second episode and True Blood season 4 finale, "And When I Die," It's Samhain, Wicca's greatest holy day, and spirits of the dead surface in Bon Temps, giving Sookie valuable allies to combat Marnie’s newest incarnation. Lafayette’s latest medium encounter imperils his relationship with Jesus; Jason finds confession good for the soul, but not the body; Alcide makes a heartfelt appeal to the woman he loves; Terry receives an unexpected visitor at Merlotte’s; Sam and Luna envision a storybook ending, for once; Nan wears out her welcome with Bill and Eric. Debbie confronts Sookie and Tara with deadly consequences, and the denizens of Bon Temps brace for a new crisis with a familiar face.

The season finale is the episode set to introduce Scott Foley's character, someone from Terry's army past. He'll be a recurring character, coming back in season 5, so it will be interesting to see just what he reveals in this last season 4 episode. Foley is positively thrilled to be joining such a stellar cast. "I'm thrilled to be joining True Blood and looking forward to meeting everyone," he said with a major glint of respect. "I've bought the previous 3 seasons of True Blood and I am catching myself up on all the goings on in Bon Temps." That is a WHOLE lot of catching up Scott!

Meanwhile, what's going to happen when Sookie tries to take on "Marnie's newest incarnation"? What will this incarnation be of? Who will end up on which side, and will everyone survive for the new season? There's also a "familiar face" returning, and it'll be interesting to see who that is and how it all goes down. We are glued to True Blood and we refuse to forgive the Primetime Emmys for all but snubbing this incredibly executed show. So it's filled with supernatural beings? That does not make it any less phenomenal. It's time for the Emmys to "step up" and honor a show like True Blood. During Buffy The Vampire Slayer's run, the show was only given one Emmy for "Hush", which played out with over 30+ minutes of absolute silence and no dialogue. This is absolutely inexcusable.

A Bohemian Outlook

It would appear that matters of money consume and dominate everyone at one point or another. In my travels, I am always mystified by the too frequent mention of money. Some have little else to speak of. Money is forefront in our consciousness and our mental focus is monetary and materialistic to the exclusion of values which lead to our well-being and greater growth. And I do believe that the pursuit of money is the greatest of foibles and truly a deleterious superficiality in the greater scheme of life. Why agitate your minds and live in a state of perpetual privation in the pursuit of the undesirable and unnecessary? Focus your minds and souls upon growth and fulfillment by being grateful… showing compassion and love. I do believe that what we focus our minds upon will come our way in life with sufficient effort. Our mental focus determines our consciousness and subsequently what we will inevitably attain in life.

And I do believe that the majority of us live with the deluded belief that satiation of material desires and the fulfillment of a lavish lifestyle will lead to meaning and fulfillment and happiness. But the fulfillment of outward desires does not make for meaning in life nor fulfillment nor happiness. The endless quest to amass one’s fortunes and material possessions merely makes for true poverty. Poverty is defined as being in want of the necessities of life. Yet we have become a society in which the vast majority cannot distinguish between monetary and material wants and the necessities of life and live in perpetual want of their superfluous desires. Man has become a slave to his own desires. And this is true poverty, is it not? Life becomes a struggle. This has always been an obstacle to human growth, contentment, peace, happiness, and meaning and fulfillment in life. Happy is the man who can live without, for his life is not consumed with want.

Dwell less on inquiry into the meaning of life but rather devote your energies to seeking, discovering and dwelling in the meaningful in life. A search for the meaning of life is nebulous thought akin to a dog pursuing his own tail without hope of ever grasping it. Seeking, discovering and dwelling in the meaningful in life is both life-enriching and pragmatic, and akin to the clever coyote who forever lopes onward, happy with his lot in life and always content his tail will follow him wherever he goes.

Middle age might be seen as a new chapter in life and a time to renew one’s growth or an opportunity to better one’s life in finding meaning and fulfillment. The same might be said of retirement. There is a new beginning in each and every day. The highly acclaimed and very prolific painter, Grandma Moses, began her career in painting in her elderly years. One is never too old to begin anew. Life is an ongoing progression with many chapters rich in meaning and fulfillment.

I roam free and my Bohemian range is wide in a perpetual quest for fine coffee and stimulating conversation. I am a café prophet and I do confess your conversations have been titillating. I have so often lent you my uninvited ear. Were I not a reticent and solitary creature I might have asked to join you, but I choose not to divulge indiscriminately in conversation but rather to contemplate and share my thoughts more exactly. Perhaps my collection of brief thoughts will be of service to you. They are some of the spiritual conclusions I have reached in my existence, tried and true. Spiritual I define as of the human spirit as opposed to of religion although there is a great deal of richness on matters spiritual to be found in some religious thought. This is for the young and old alike who seek answers to the great question that life is, in and of itself. And life for the curious of heart is like the world to a child, a great unanswered question unfolding in each and every day of our short lives. I share with you my rambling thoughts on life… but I am still evolving… so I often learn far more than I teach.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises Wraps in Pittsburgh

'The Dark Knight Rises' is just finishing up its time in UPBEAT Entertainment News' home city of Pittsburgh. The production was filming for the better portion of the month of August, with most of the exciting stuff seemingly finished. More recently, Anne Hathaway has been spotted on set in full Catwoman garb, as has an aerial vehicle of sorts being piloted by Batman. Thanks to Superhero Hype, a couple of new pictures of a Tumbler that has found itself in one of Gotham's greatest potholes. In a video which comes from the YouTube channel of pittsburghmovies, people are seen posing with the very same Tumbler once it was hauled out. Keeping in theme, subaruwrxfan has posted a video of one of the Tumblers showing off a new addition, a rocket launcher of sorts.

The production leaves Pittsburgh on Sunday. It will pick up filming again this fall in the city of Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Times. Unless a couple of interesting occurrences happen on the Pittsburgh set over the weekend, there won't be any leaked photos from the film for a little while.

In addition to the aforementioned Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, the cast includes Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, Tom Hardy as Bane, Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Michael Caine as Alfred, Liam Neeson as Ra's al Ghul, and Josh Pence as the younger years version of the character.

Christopher Nolan is at the helm of 'The Dark Knight Rises,' which hits theaters on July 20th, 2012.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Conan the Barbarian" Works as a Reboot

Directed by Marcus Nispel, “Conan the Barbarian” works as a reboot. "We're going back to
the mythological Conan as he's described in the Robert E. Howard stories," he explains. "But at the same time, we can't deny that the popular consciousness has changed and things have shifted. People's demands of who Conan should be have changed, and yet there's a certain amount they wouldn't want us to change. So the mantra in making “Conan the Barbarian” is 'give people what they want but don't give them what they expect.' " The obvious first step in this endeavor was finding Conan himself— no small task considering the character's towering physicality and stoic charisma. In December 2009, the filmmakers had been actively reading actors for over a month when casting director Kerry Barden suggested Jason Momoa, fresh off of shooting HBO's upcoming "Game of Thrones."

"When we first met Jason, we saw everything that we hoped Conan would be," remembers Weldon. "He has the imposing physicality. The confidence. And there's a sense of unbridled energy to him that's essential for the character." Adds Lerner, "I can't imagine a single actor that I have worked with or seen on screen that could fit into those shoes as perfectly as Jason does. He is a natural athlete. He has the aggression, the power, the energy needed. And when you actually read Robert E. Howard's descriptions of Conan, they describe Jason exactly."

The half-Hawaiian, half-Irish actor made his name in the globally popular "Baywatch" series, followed by extended runs on "North Shore" and "Stargate: Atlantis." Momoa was only six years old when Milius' film was released, but he remembers encountering the images of Conan created by visionary comic book artist Frank Frazetta, whose darkly sensual, lush style helped define not only the Conan comic book universe (and the film's poster) but the entire sword-and-sorcery genre. "When you see those drawings, they just they speak to you," says Momoa. "Our goal has been to capture the hero featured in Frazetta's pictures. That was our aim." Frazetta's images also considerably impacted Nispel's and production designer Chris August's vision of the film. "You can't shoot Conan in a vérité style," says Nispel. "You have to paint it, choose new angles, light it all very graphically, and then you're able to tell the story in such a way as to easily suspend the disbelief of an audience."

That said, both Nispel and August agreed that the film should feel like a lost piece of history, an epic about real people in a real ancient time. Explains August, "We decided the environment should become a huge part of the film and that it should have a very dirty, gritty feel. Magical, but in a more brutal way. Marcus had this vision to try to do as much of Conan as possible in camera, meaning we actually saw what was being filmed without adding a whole lot of CGI," recalls Weldon. The reality-based approach that Nispel proposed married well with Lerner's and Weldon's plan to shoot the film at Nu Boyana Studios and locations throughout Bulgaria. Says Lerner, "In terms of production value, it was far easier in Bulgaria to create the set pieces and props and dressing to bring Hyboria to life and create a visceral experience."

Nispel and August found everything they were looking for during an extensive location scout across the country. "Bulgaria has an amazing landscape and a long cultural history that was perfect for the project," reports August. "While scouting along a river, someone would point up and there would be caves that monks had carved out of the hills. It really felt like Conan's world, very tough and harsh but at the same time stunningly beautiful."

"Nowhere are the middle ages more prevalent than they are in Bulgaria," avows Nispel. "Why create fake digital sets when there's a gigantic cave (Prohodna Cave in Lukovit) or a prehistoric forest (Pobiti in Kamani, Varna, near the Black Sea) right there in front of you?" With a production schedule taking shape, Momoa headed straight into an intensive training regime, spending six hours a day for a month and a half with the Los Angeles based action design team 87eleven before heading to Bulgaria. "That process really helped me understand the character," says Momoa, who did most of his own stunts. "Conan speaks through his sword. He's got to because he's not one for words. So the sword training with Master sensei Chad Stahelski really helped me find Conan's core." Weight training with Eric Laciste rounded out the day's work and helped the six-foot-five actor bulk up before cameras rolled.

As casting continued, the role of Tamara, Conan's accomplice and eventual love interest, went to action-veteran Rachel Nichols (STAR TREK, G.I. JOE). A novitiate of a Greek-influenced monastery and a master of martial arts, Tamara is a "pureblood," a direct descendant of the Sorcerers of Acheron whose blood will awaken the power of the Mask of Acheron. After meeting with Nispel, Nichols jumped at the chance to play a smart, capable woman who breaks the mold of typical fantasy heroines. "This is not a case of Conan doing all of the action and Tamara sitting by passively as the damsel in distress," explains Nichols. "Tamara is smart and strong and if given the choice of fight or flight she chooses to fight. She's Conan's female counterpart and she goes toe to toe with him."