Solo: A Star Wars Story Box office discussion–what it means to everyone–and nobody cares about China

Box office numbers are often a good thermometer into what the world is thinking, and I pay attention to them closely, and sadly the new Star Wars movie Solo: A Star Wars Story is falling well short of the kind of numbers its going to need to make. I found it interesting to see how many news outlets were already writing stories on Friday about how dismal the box office numbers were for the new Star Wars movie, like The Hollywood Reporter for instance. Their story was that Solo was bombing big time in China. Well, since when was China the market decider for films, they are communists, more aligned with the villains in these stories? Solo: A Star Wars Story is all about freedom and I’m sure the “state” wasn’t all that happy with the film, and that whether or not people saw the film or even advertised it so that their billion people had access to it is probably a big factor. Asians especially in China are not big on the Star Wars films, but that’s OK, they haven’t been a big part of the box office numbers all this time—who really needs them now? Solo isn’t any different, yet The Hollywood Reporter was almost as happy as a kid on Christmas Day to learn that China was not supporting the new Star Wars picture. There’s a lot going on with this one which justifies a good long discussion.  (CLICK HERE FOR MY REVIEW OF THE FILM)

First of all, I don’t think the poor box office numbers so far reflect that Solo: A Star Wars Story is a bad movie. If you took the box office numbers of Infinity War and Deadpool 2 and released Solo: A Star Wars Story on a light release month, such as April I think this Star Wars movie would be on track easily to achieve a billion dollars at the box office, but with some competition out there, it would appear there is only so much money on the table to divide up between all the movies, and that’s not a bad thing for theater owners. I often say that Hollywood has let down all the personal investments that theater owners have to shoulder with less than stout productions that drive their concessions. That certainly isn’t the problem currently, there are a lot of movies released right now, and coming up as the summer unfolds which should help theater owners sell lots of popcorn. Hollywood owes them for always being available to display the Hollywood product to the public. That same public has a lot to do on Memorial Day weekend, that’s when the pools open in the states and people typically have things to do outside. In America Memorial Day weekend was pretty nice except for some flash flooding in the eastern part of the country. Everywhere else it was sunny and hot—and people spent time outside. May 25th may have been a traditional release date for Star Wars, but it’s no longer a great weekend for opening a movie because it’s the gateway to summer and people are often doing a lot of things that involve going outside.

Additionally, there are problems for Star Wars to overcome, the entertainment media is trying to do with Lucasfilm and Disney what the general media is trying to do with President Trump, and that is torpedo anything that they do that’s good, because everyone else is struggling to compete. Disney is going to make a lot of money this summer between the Marvel films and Pixar’s Incredibles 2—many in the entertainment business are very happy to see a Star Wars movie get bad press, because it’s a shot at Disney as a media company they are competing with. It’s like how the rest of the NFL teams around the country enjoy it when the New England Patriots lose a game, or Tom Brady throws an occasional interception. The trade media rushes out to talk about how Tom Brady is too old and is losing it. But the very next week Brady will throw for 400 yards and have a quarterback rating over 100 and the Patriots will win by 24 points over whoever they are playing. Disney and its tent pole of Star Wars is a big presence in the marketplace and the second handers love to see trouble happening in the Star Wars universe.

But then there is the very legitimate problem that I have talked about before and that is the mistake that Kathleen Kennedy and her story group at Lucasfilm has made in throwing out the extended universe of Star Wars and pushing very progressive themes in these new Star Wars movies cramming PC culture down the throats of the fans who clearly don’t want those elements in these movies. To me the Lucasfilm efforts with Solo: A Star Wars Story went a long way to fixing those problems with the fan base where some still want to enjoy new instalments, while others want to boycott the films in hopes that Disney will fire Kathleen Kennedy for messing with the elements that made Star Wars great to begin with. Nobody cared that Princess Leia was a bit of a feminist in the original A New Hope. George Lucas tried to make people happy by putting a black guy in the stories with the character of Lando. But in general, the heroes were white people, especially men and Kennedy has been very active to change that. But while doing so she literally destroyed two of the most popular female characters that fans loved, Jaina Solo, Han’s very strong daughter, and the wife of Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade. Fans who read the books went on a lot of journeys with those characters over two decades and suddenly fans were told that those people didn’t exist in Star Wars anymore, and that has caused a lot of consternation. When The Last Jedi failed to reveal who the parents of Rey were—many people were hoping that she was actually Jaina which would at least explain why she is flying around in Han Solo’s precious Millennium Falcon—a lot of fans stepped away from Star Wars at that point and now this second film in only a year has hit theaters and people are ambivalent about it. The Last Jedi was a very progressive movie that really split the fanbase, from not revealing the parentage of Rey, to the killing of Luke and the obvious progressive messages of feminism and sacrifice where everyone was blowing themselves up instead of taking the fight to the enemy, it’s that which made it so the fans stepped away from Solo: A Star Wars Story.

I have been enjoying the new Star Wars stuff the best I could. I have not been a fan of what Lucasfilm has done. I was a big fan of the Star Wars EU and I think Lucasfilm could have easily have just picked up these stories where the books left off and would have done something really special. However, I think the value of the movies and all the merchandise that is coming from the franchise does far more good than bad. I think Lucasfilm and Disney made a major mistake with Star Wars and that they are trying to remedy that now. For me Solo: A Star Wars Story was a huge step in that direction—of making things right with the fans. But its obvious that the fans are going to make Disney and ultimately Lucasfilm earn back that respect which is where things are today. There was a boycott of this latest Han Solo movie and it had an impact on the final ticket sales. As the word is getting out, because Solo: A Star Wars Story is pretty good—I think its one of the best and is certainly on par with the original films somewhere in quality of story telling between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. But the film is more fun like A New Hope was. I like the prequel films but can admit that Solo: A Star Wars Story is better than those films and it is certainly better than The Force Awakens. But these new young actors are making a name for themselves, the young Alden Ehrenreich is earning his respect from the fans little by little. Many fans have been sitting on the fence with Solo: A Star Wars Story because they weren’t sure how to feel about a new actor taking over for the legendary Harrison Ford. If this latest Star Wars film does anything it shows fans that its possible to have a younger actor playing an old favorite, and because of that I think Solo: A Star Wars Story will have good legs into the future of the franchise, and people will come back to the films and forgive Lucasfilm and Disney for their mistakes with the first three films made since the acquisition in 2012.

Alden Ehrenreich is a smart young actor with a good head on his shoulders, and he likes playing Han Solo in Star Wars. He’s good for the franchise and understands that taking less money for the opportunity to do more films like this makes good business sense because it could place him in Hollywood as the next big demand actor—like Harrison Ford was. With all that under consideration I think Disney certainly put the cards down on the table with this one holding nothing back promotionally. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they spent $500 million on the movie and are worried at this point of making that money back, which I think they will. But they spent the money expecting a billion in return and that could cool them on launching the other projects that are in the pipeline. Hopefully they let Lucasfilm go forward with the budgets on those new films, the Kenobi film, the Boba Fett film, the Rian series, and of course at least two more movies about the young Han Solo—as well as a whole bunch of other films not yet released. It’s not too late to make these films into the kind of successes that were experienced with Marvel—but getting the fan base back on board is the key.

To win back the audience, and this is just my advice, do with it whatever you want Lucasfilm, you have to get Mara Jade and Jaina Solo into Episode Nine as its being directed now with J.J. Abrams. Everyone gets what they want if that happens, Kennedy gets her strong female leads, Luke has a reason for being so distressed in The Last Jedi, and Rey gets a name and a reason for having the Falcon with Chewie as her co-pilot. A new trilogy featuring Jaina could even take things further 30 years after Episode Nine—the possibilities are endless. It took Marvel ten films to build up the kind of anticipation that was seen in Infinity War, Star Wars could do something very similar, but they’ll have to earn back the fans, and Solo: A Star Wars Story was a big first step. Hopefully Disney doesn’t get cold feet after they study these box office results and consider whether fans will support two Star Wars movies in the same year. They will, and they will support three or four a year if Disney will make them and be very profitable with $200 million budgets. But it will take more movies like Solo: A Star Wars Story to earn back that fan trust, not more movies like The Last Jedi or even The Force Awakens. The nostalgia wore off and now reality is there for Star Wars films, going forward, people want to see new ground that pays respect to what they know from the original EU—and fans don’t want to be preached to with gay characters, or black characters, or women. They just want to see a story set in a galaxy far, far away that will endure for centuries—and not fall out of favor with whatever new political movements come in the next few decades. Star Wars fans want their traditions, and they want the long view—and its their money that Disney wants, so it’s up to the giant entertainment company to give it to them.

I think I’ve listened to the new Han Solo theme from the John Powell soundtrack back to back for a solid four days now and I love it, it’s so full of optimism. It reminds me of how it was when Christopher Nolan’s Dark Night series started back in 2008, with a movie that many people didn’t think was needed because at that point Batman had been done so many times. The Nolan trilogy built up a nice audience and earned a reputation by the fans that they trusted and supported. Those films each went on to make over a billion dollars each. Iron Man the first Avenger film also came out that year with a fantastic performance by Robert Downey Jr. The film only grossed around $500 million globally much like I think this new Han Solo movie will make, but it became the glue that built up those next nine Marvel films. Disney purchased Marvel shortly after that film’s release and the rest is now history, and has been very successful. It has allowed Disney to make obscure films like The Black Panther, which I thought was pretty good—which would have never been made unless there was a need for the ever-expanding universe. Star Wars could do better, but the fan base will have to be built and listening to that soundtrack of Solo: A Star Wars Story that new Han Solo theme could serve as a nice light in the darkness for all the Disney executives timid about the next stage of the adventure. The best thing to do would be to support the effort and not panic, there is a lot of good that came out of Solo, and it hints at how things truly could be now that it looks like Lucasfilm is starting to figure out how to make these Star Wars movies without the guidance of George Lucas. The John Williams contribution is absolutely brilliant and I hope that everyone involved can use it to launch something really special, because the opportunity is certainly there.

Rich Hoffman
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Hollywood Down 8% in 2017: Trading politics for profit to destroy an industry

This is far more important than most people think—the movie box office for July of 2017 was down 8% from the same period a year ago.  Additionally Disney has lost around 4 million subscribers to its Disney Channels over the past three years as kids turn to other forms of entertainment.  More and more homes are cutting their cable service as it’s just too expensive for what people get,  and theater owners are struggling to survive with Hollywood giving them very little to work with to justify the big investment that a movie ticket costs these days.  That same home theater market is keeping people home more rather than go to the theater to see movies that could otherwise just be seen on Netflix.  If you couple all that with the Donald Trump versus the media battle—which will hurt traditional media extensively, the entertainment industry is in big trouble—which I have been saying for a long time.  All the stocks are down for the theater owners—which I feel sorry for.  The distributors have let them down by pushing a product that was just too liberal for mainstream American audiences and now they’ve all been hung out to dry.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/box-office-hollywoods-franchise-crisis-worsens-july-fourth-1018493

http://www.tubefilter.com/2017/07/05/disney-channel-freeform-ratings-falling/

For about 20 years I bounced around with tentative meetings within Hollywood.  For me it was more than a treasure hunt, I really wanted to make movies and to contribute to the library of wonderful movies that I had grown up with.  The business end was something I didn’t have much patience for since most of the people running the industry were radically more liberal than I was.  So I’d get a project floating around out there but it would go cold.  The money guys were also liberal so the project proposals I suggested were either heavily scrutinized with extensive re-writes to soften them up, or they just weren’t getting off the ground.  In a few cases I was offered positions in the industry, but my wife didn’t want to move to California—and without living in such a way that you could network in that town, it was pretty much impossible to get any project off the ground.  I went to several film festivals, won a few screenwriting awards and ended up doing a few bull whip stunts for legitimate studios but the last time I flew back from Hollywood in 2008 I knew that the industry was in trouble from a business perspective.   They weren’t going to make it which made me sad, because I liked traditional Hollywood—I always liked Howard Hughes, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Albert Hitchcock, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.  These new filmmakers in Hollywood were too political and I was from a flyover state so things just weren’t going to work out.  After that last trip I put my focus into other business opportunities and waited for the inevitable which is now upon us.

Movies cost too much to make, the labor unions which represent all the industry people has forced them all to think too collectively to stay in touch with the American people.  Reading with great interest how the Han Solo movie fell apart at Lucasfilm it’s obvious that the new generation is just too soft and manipulated by their director’s guilds—into liberal politics which the movie going audiences can’t stand.   Even though I warned of all this years ago, and have written extensively about it since, it still hurts to see an entire industry collapsing on itself.  The Hollywood product is now on life support with only a few big Disney releases carrying most of the industry.  Warner Bros. has done well with Wonder Woman, and Marvel had their usual hits with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.   Small films like Baby Driver did respectable business, but big films like Pirates of the Caribbean 5 were down a quarter from the previous installment worldwide and that isn’t good news.   Critics have been hard on these new movies as they have an extreme political slant to most reviews and once the Rotten Tomatoes scores hit online people are so turned off they just don’t go see these films and that cycle is worsening.

Hollywood is about more than just the movies themselves—it’s about an entire industry from print media like Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, to the television shows Inside Edition and Entertainment Tonight.   Critics for the big newspapers have national audiences in some cases and they have abused their relationships and let that stardom go to their heads giving themselves the power to sink or swim a picture—so essentially they have cut off their own noses to spite their faces.  I remember a very specific day in Glendale, California where several day time television programs were set up on the same street to shoot exteriors and I was having lunch with some people who worked the trade publications who were full of themselves way too dangerously.  I tried to make them aware of the fragile eco system that was on full display and they had the kind of attitude that the gravy train was going to go on forever.  Well, within two years every one of those people was out of a job and their publications had folded.   They should have listened, but of course they didn’t.  Most of those big name trade publications won’t be around much longer because nobody really cares what they have to say. The media stars they talk about are today far more political than they used to be and they have aligned themselves against Trump who is set to be a very popular and successful president, and now there just aren’t enough fans of their material to carry them into the next decade.

There are going to be a lot of bankruptcies—and even the Disney Company will feel the squeeze.  While I continue to be very impressed with what Disney is doing at their parks and with the Star Wars movies as one giant mythology spanning many platforms—computer games, etc—they still rely too much on theater owners to distribute their core products and those theater owners need more than just Disney to stay afloat.   They need every weekend to have people wanting to go to the theaters to buy over-priced popcorn and soda to watch a movie they don’t want to wait for release on the home market where likely the televisions they have at home is far better than what is offered at the theater.  I will have to add that when my wife and I went to see The Book of Henry that the Regal Cinemas we went to had adjusted their prices down for popcorn and pop to a very reasonable level.  The theater owners out there are doing their jobs and adjusting to the marketplace, but Hollywood hasn’t.  They keep making the same crap and trying to repackage it instead of turning loose people with great ideas to constantly keep material fresh.  I know I wasn’t the only one trying to get new ideas to production companies—it was mainly a cultural problem.   Studio execs were too interested in getting laid at the multiple parties around town by telling chicks that they were for this liberal cause or that—so they were making decisions at the executive level in producing products that American audiences did not want to see.   Once they got their blow job they had already committed their studio to ten films for production the next year which nobody would want to see because of their overly liberalized political overtones.   Sure the chick who was giving blow jobs at the party liked the Matt Damon movie about fracking—but nobody in America wanted to see it and the budget was blown.

So the industry is toast—it won’t recover in its present form.  Of course there will be investment opportunities in new styles of media, but the Hollywood game is over.  The industry just hasn’t come to terms with it yet.  There are a few $1 billion dollar earners yet to be released in 2017 but it won’t be enough.  By the end of the year the gains will be so far down that they won’t even be worth discussing.   And life outside of Hollywood will go on.   All I can say to those people who were so haughty 10 years ago is that I sincerely tried to tell you this would happen, but you didn’t listen.  I wish you had.  So now it’s time to pay—and it will be painful.  But you people did it to yourselves.   America will be great again and Hollywood has removed itself from being a part of it—and that’s a damn shame.

Rich Hoffman

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‘Baby Driver’: Reflections where facts are more dramatic than fiction

Even through the new film Baby Driver isn’t quite out yet I think it’s safe to say that my own car chase story Tail of the Dragon is still the most intense action packed of its kind ever put to paper by a human mind to date.  But I’ll have to say, when I wrote that story, I was thinking about movies done in the style of this soon to be Edger Wright classic.  There is room in our culture for a lot more of these types of stories and this one has hit me hard with anticipation for many personal reasons. First of all, since I first heard the song “Radar Love” by the Dutch Band Golden Earring in 1973 I have wanted to see it used as a backdrop for a car chase of some kind and it looks like Edger Wright has done it.  Second of all, by the previews shown so far, the main character of Baby played by Ansel Elgort looks remarkably biographical to my real life between my 17th and 19th years of life.  After all it was those experiences which provoked me to write Tail of the Dragon to begin with—to get all that out on paper.  So it makes me very happy to see movies like Baby Driver getting made and that several of the Fast and Furious movies have continued to push great box office numbers in theaters.  I hope the same for this one—I am very excited for it.

I’ve alluded to it before but after watching these trailers it may be time to get a little more specific because the Baby character just in these previews speaks to me with quite a bit of reflection.  I understand his dilemma.  It was only a month or so ago where a political enemy of mine had looked me up on one of those online searches trying to get dirt on me, and they were stunned at what came back to them.  It showed over 17 hostile interactions with law enforcement and this person sent me that information hoping to get some leverage on me because I’m now living the life of a respectable citizen and they thought I wanted to hide that past.  What they didn’t know is that I consider my actions back then—at that critical juncture between youth and adulthood–to be very respectable—even though it might have been on the wrong side of the law. All I ever wanted was freedom—real freedom—and I wanted to be a millionaire quickly and just step over the nonsense of fighting it out the way I saw was making other people miserable.  I did live heavily in the fast lane and I was willing to use those skills to acquire all the money I could to launch a family and when I found the right girl for me—those people didn’t want to let me out of that lifestyle—and many conflicts ensued.

If I were ever have been said to have an addiction it was probably speed, the kind you get from driving a car extremely fast.  Like I said, as a youth when I first heard the song “Radar Love,” I was thinking of it playing to excessive speed in very fast cars.  The very first person I remember admiring as a young man was Evel Knievel so even at ages 5, 6, and 7 moving fast and recklessly was pretty much all I thought about—so when I was finally able to turn 16 and buy my own car I was ready and I quickly made a reputation for myself. My very first traffic ticket for excessive speed was on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving in 1984 where I was in a race with a Trans Am that clearly out powered my car at the time.  So the only way to win was to have more nerve than he did—so I flew through a swarm of cops parked at the Tri-County Mall in Cincinnati on the wrong side of the road at well over a 100 MPH—against the traffic.  When the police got the radar gun on me they caught my speed at 85 MPH in a 35 zone.  They would have taken me to jail for reckless operation but one call to the Sharonville police station told them to just issue me the ticket.  I was under the protection of the senior judge in that district and literally had a get out of jail free pass given to me by him—because I did work on the side for him which was related to a mob outfit in Chicago—and they wanted me free to do it.

The way that Kevin Spacey’s character is portrayed in Baby Driver reminds me precisely of one of my first “bosses.”  This guy ran a car dealership that I worked for and from that I had to do more than just sell new and used cars.  I did repo work and they liked me because I had no reservations about danger—as people obviously didn’t like having their cars taken back when they failed to make payments. I was always very eager to sneak up to someone’s house and take their car without being shot, and people did shoot at me while doing this kind of thing.  It was very exciting and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  These days repo guys aren’t allowed to do some of the things we did to get our cars back so for me it was a unique opportunity to live very dangerously and get away with it legally—and make great money doing it.  But then again, the car dealership was a front at the time for cocaine dealing—as a way to launder the money and all these repo jobs were ways that this Kevin Spacey style “boss” could check to make sure I wouldn’t be a rat—because they needed a driver to help deliver regionally.

I had my limits of course.  I didn’t mind the danger or the drama of court appearances and the continuous threat of jail—but I did not like drugs.  So when the dealership sent me with another senior car salesman down to Over-the-Rhine to deliver cocaine to a distributer operating across from Union Terminal it was in my precious car which had survived many high-speed encounters and for which I was particularly attached to.  Of course they didn’t tell me what we were doing—they let me believe that the whole operation was going to be a unique repo job, so I didn’t ask what was in the suitcase in my back seat. But I did think it was strange that we didn’t take a company car on this effort—as we typically did.  This was my car and the salesman smoked—and because we were not in a company car I had a little sign on my dashboard telling passengers that there was no smoking allowed. In fact, people who knew me also knew my very strict policy against drug use. So this forty something drug dealer who was very rich I might add, was very upset with  my rules and promised that I’d have a hard time when we got back to the office.  So things weren’t getting off to a good start. When we arrived to the destination he left the suitcase in my back seat and told me he’d be right back as he went to the door of the townhouse where the target lived. While he was in there I took a peek at what was in the suitcase and I saw that it was cocaine.

Over the years up to that point I had a reputation of not flinching at anything.  I knew some of these people I was working with were serious criminals and some were very powerful politicians and sports stars.  I was with them as a body-guard at times even though I was very young, and as an assurance that no matter what happened I was their ticket out of it.  They had never asked me to directly commit a crime—but rather used me as a lifeline back to freedom—and I was very dependable.  But, I had just met my future wife and I was thinking of living a normal life that we could build a family with—and once you’ve been invited to those types of circles—they don’t want you out flapping your mouth about every little thing you’ve seen.  They’d prefer you to be dead or with them—there really isn’t any middle ground.  So with drugs in my backseat I left that guy down there and headed back to the sales office where the mission started and reported back to my Kevin Spacey looking boss that his partner at the dealership was selling drugs.  He looked at me exasperated.  “You left him there?”  Of course I had to tell him yes and there was about a half hour of excessive panic because this Over-the-Rhine distributer had a ruthless reputation and now he had to call in for help while he was in hostile territory.  I was commanded to go back and get him for which I refused.  They had to send someone else.

Maybe I’ll write about the details sometime about what happened next but needless to say the Baby Driver plot reminds me of the two weeks that followed. I can really sympathize with the Baby character especially at that time in my life.  I wanted to be married to this wonderful new girl and I wanted away from those types of people—and it wasn’t easy.  A lot of people got into a lot of trouble and I had to drive very fast a lot to stay out of both jail and this side of the dirt—because these people did play for keeps. It seemed like a long time then, because at only 19 years of age, time moves more slowly, but in reality it was all over in just a few months.  Things worked out for me the way I needed them to.  It was a tough adjustment to live without the level of money I was used to.  Just out of high school I made twice as much money as my dad did at the prime of his career, but my country club wife assured me that she wanted to do everything clean and that holds true to this very day.  It took a while, but eventually I was able to climb out of that hole in my lifestyle—and it was all worth it—especially being able to live and tell about it.

It doesn’t happen often but just watching the previews for this new Baby Driver movie set to “Radar Love” took my mind instantly to this very turbulent time and I won’t even pretend that it was all bad. I loved living like that. It was fun to live beyond the rules and to be so good at things that people would literally do anything to make it so you could keep doing it.  For the first seven years of my marriage I didn’t have a driver’s license because once I stepped away from that life the courts crashed down on me and it wasn’t easy—the penalties were severe.  That past kept clawing away at me trying to either pull me back in, or destroy me in the process—it took about an entire decade to finally outpace that lifestyle I had before my marriage.  People had to die off and the fast life caught up to many of them who did manage to live for the next decade.  They either destroyed themselves or they ended up in jail.  There wasn’t really any middle ground.

Needless to say, I feel a connection to Baby Driver and I really hope it does good business during its run.  Speaking from experience I think what’s worse than a life of crime is a life not lived.  The spontaneity of life is a magical thing and you often don’t really see it until you are pushed well beyond your comfort levels.  And even though he is villainous in this movie Kevy Spacey’s character is right—people do love a good heist—they do need something to talk about over their “lattés” Thinking of “Radar Love” and the way the scenes played out for the preview of Baby Driver, I feel quite a lot of satisfaction knowing that I gave plenty of stories that have been talked about over a great many lattés.  And in the great theater of living, that’s not a bad thing.  I can’t wait to see Baby Driver.

Rich Hoffman

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“Interstellar” Epiphany and Soundtrack Review: A 50th Anniversary at Virgin Galactic’s first space resort

I had an epiphany that my wife and I were stepping off a Virgin Galactic vessel into the first hotel of their design floating above the earth with the horizon spinning outside of a massive lobby window. It is Virgin’s first hotel in space established as a resort location rivaling the Atlantis vacation destination in the Bahamas complete with an indoor water park covered with large glass windows looking out into the vastness of space. The lobby was lush and expensive with exotic restaurants all offering outrageously epic views out every window. The moon is always full and casts a constant—haunting shadow through every object and mixed with the brilliant light shining off the earth is a bluish hue that has never been replicated by any light on the home planet. It’s our 50th wedding anniversary and we have a $5000 bottle of wine to mark the year of this writing to celebrate our first week-long vacation in space. We have worked hard and deserve to pamper ourselves with a very expensive outing that will mark many years of persistence. In the lobby is playing the old soundtrack to the classic 2014 movie Interstellar, which has by then become the standard of music referencing space. It was that award-winning Christopher Nolan movie that changed it all and set the tone for the second world-wide space race causing Hilton, Marriott and Virgin Galactic to build the first space stations catering to tourism. Virgin was the first to achieve it.

The majestic views out of the multiple windows demand the music of Interstellar because nothing else would be sufficient. The hotel operators just play constantly the old Hans Zimmer soundtrack to help alleviate the shock of being grounded so firmly to the floor as the view outside swirls around like a marry-go-round. It takes some getting used to for some people; some actually throw up with the disorienting effect of the earth’s horizon spinning around so rhythmically. There are trash cans stationed along the pathway toward the check-in counter large enough for visitors to dump their stomachs in the most graceful way possible. A cleaning crew quickly removes the contents so not to alter the smell of space—that rusty metal odor mixed with the fragrance of lobby vegetation that is intended carefully to greet guests as they step off the shuttle from their journey below.

We walk to the counter as track 7 on that enchanting soundtrack plays with organs chiming to the tempo of a clock’s second hand—the earth still swirling, the light from the moon and sun moving around the room casting shadows in all directions hauntingly. Bright overhead lights on the ceiling between more large windows cast stabilizing light so that the lobby looks to be the only stable element of a universe in chaos outside—which adds to the otherworldly sensation of a species raised on a planet where the sun rises and falls every 12 hours and the horizon is always fixed. Here, the sun is always out, the moon is always full, and the horizon never stills—it spins perpetually so to provide an earth like gravity for the visitors—some who are already in their swimming suits and heading for the massive domed Water Park behind the check-in counter.

My wife and I aren’t sick; the music brings our minds to ease with a familiarity that we know well. We have listened to that soundtrack every week for the last 25 years and know its notes by heart. Before checking in we just listen to it while we sit in one of the lobby seats and watch the Virgin Galactic shuttle pull away from the docking station and head back to earth with its navigational thrusters silently pushing it back into a declination orbit to Spaceport America—our home launch point. In another three hours that same ship will be back with more visitors and within 30 minutes another ship will arrive from Spaceport America and fifteen minutes after that, one from Space Port Japan, then one from Spaceport Europe. Because Virgin Galactic has brought the Internet to Africa—they now have one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Soon they will have their own spaceport in right in the middle of the Congo.

My wife and I head to our rooms and prepare for dinner. We spend five solid hours drinking our expensive bottle of wine sitting on our hotel bed watching the world turn—literally. And we cherish that this event has finally been made possible after many years of dreaming. The whole time we listen to our well-played soundtrack for the several hundred thousandth time—Interstellar, as we have always loved it and likely always will.

That soundtrack actually only came out a few days ago, on November 17, 2014, so my son-in-law rushed to Barnes and Nobel to get it for he and my daughter the moment it was unloaded from the delivery truck. They spent their evening listening to it while eating Chinese food from their favorite restaurant—and they gave me a copy. They have already seen the movie twice and are looking for ways to see it many more times. In what’s being touted as a first-of-its-kind promotion, Paramount and AMC Theatres are offering movie patrons in North America the chance to see Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar as many times as they want, for one price.

As with any deal, there are rules. Those who want to participate must be members of the AMC Stubs program, which has an annual fee of $12.

The unlimited tickets will be available for sale to AMC Stubs members at 330 AMC theater across the country, including AMC Imax locations. The price will range from $19.99 to $34.99, depending upon the location (currently, the average cost of a movie ticket price in the U.S. is $8.08.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/paramount-amc-theatres-partner-unlimited-749512

Interstellar requires for most people many viewings just to understand everything that is happening. Many critics of the film on their first viewings were used to a more conventional film experience and didn’t know what to make of some of the sound issues. As I said in my review—I think I was the first and only one to date to point it out—the sound in Interstellar was entirely on purpose. Christopher Nolan wanted there to be times where the events overwhelmed the sound made by the actors—because in real life—that happens often.

“I’ve always loved films that approach sound in an impressionistic way and that is an unusual approach for a mainstream blockbuster, but I feel it’s the right approach for this experiential film,” Christopher Nolan said, speaking for the first time in detail about the use of sound in his new film.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/behind-screen/christopher-nolan-breaks-silence-interstellar-749465

It is because of this approach to sound that the Interstellar soundtrack was so exceptionally good—and is why it will become the inspiration for all that I described above. When my kids gave me the first copy of the soundtrack and I played it for much of the day on Tuesday and Wednesday listening to it many, many times—it was easy to conclude that it was a masterpiece. I remember the music being great during the movie, but listening to it by itself, it was simply phenomenal as it steps up and well beyond anything that’s ever been attempted. The closest that I can think of is Philip Glass—but the Hans Zimmer approach comes with a much bolder, and narrative link to the future by drawing so historically on the past.

Blasting through the track on the soundtrack titled “S.T.A.Y” all that I began this writing above occurred with the epiphany. Many of the world’s problems seemed so miniscule and the minds that made them that way even less relevant. I could literally reach out and touch that future space station/hotel as if I were there, as if I could smell it, taste it and walk across its vast floors with Richard Branson still alive and standing in the corner welcoming his guests with long flowing locks still beyond his shoulders with a smile from ear to ear.

At dinner in my epiphany there was a guest who played in the center of a vast dinning hall with a clear picture of the moon out the distant window—again spinning around with rhythmic precision upon a large glass piano lit from beneath with blue lights that made it look like it was made out of ice. That guest was an elderly Hans Zimmer playing the Interstellar soundtrack live with a deeply personal concert, graced too with a smile from ear to ear knowing that it was his soundtrack that helped build this palace of achievement in defiance of the earthly stupidity which attempted to shackle man’s ankles to earth forever. His music helped free those shackles to usher in this entirely new age of dreamers, fortune hunters and lovers of science and possibility. It was and would be the best dinner of our lives. Happy 50th Anniversary to us—and it was.

Rich Hoffman

www.OVERMANWARRIOR.com

‘Tail of the Dragon’s’ Parent: Mad Max’s ‘Fury Road ‘unleashes itself at LAST!

One of the great treats for me that came out of this year’s Comic Con in San Diego was the interview with the great George Miller and the preview of the new Mad Max movie, Fury Road. I can admit without shame of any kind that George Miller’s Mad Max films were deep on my mind while I was writing Tail of the Dragon. I have watched the development of the new Mad Max film for over a decade now and remember well when it was first proposed back in 2002. Back then Mel Gibson with all his box office horsepower was behind the project with Miller, but the project still didn’t get off the ground. Then Gibson fell from grace and nobody in Hollywood wanted to touch the project and there were film delays and all types of issues. But Miller—finally—has managed to make the film with Tom Hardy now playing Max and I am ecstatically excited for the project.

http://insidemovies.ew.com/2014/07/27/george-miller-mad-max-interview-comic-con/

I was a bit shocked that the review of the San Diego Comic Con thought that preview of Fury Road was the most interesting thing they had witnessed. I couldn’t help but think of my own car chase story Tail of the Dragon which surpasses car crash wise anything seen in that preview or any of the Fast and Furious movies. The biggest difference was that I set my car chase story in the present as opposed to the future. My character is trying to save society from the kind of collapse that Max is reacting to. But I agree with Miller, car chases stories are essentially westerns on wheels. Hearing his articulation and the general audience reaction to his new Mad Max film gave me encouragement that Tail of the Dragon might someday find the right elements to end up on film. But it would take a really good director to pull off—and people like Miller are not exactly falling from the trees like apples.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about somebody besides Mel Gibson playing Mad Max. I grew up with Max and brought those experiences to my Tail of the Dragon novel mixed with plenty of Smokey and the Bandit. Star Wars is often compared to a western in space, and car chase films are like Miller described, westerns on wheels. Whenever a film has something to say about morality they are usually termed as “westerns.” Growing up with Mad Max I learned a lot about the depravity of the human spirit which was remarkably insightful. The opening of the first Mad Max film with the Nightrider on a rage across the desert with his crazed girlfriend was classic cinema that climbed into the mind of insanity at its finest and took viewers into the essence of a mind gone mad. I watched that movie almost every day from age 12 to 16. Not because of the movie influence but because of what it revealed about human nature, I became Mad Max at age 16 and I have the car chases, races and crashes to provide the testimony. Those experiences then became my own story, Tail of the Dragon—the horse of the western had been replaced by a car and I used mine as a kind of weapon against depravity. And when I couldn’t defeat depravity I out ran it with sheer speed.

I will forever be grateful to George Miller—his films are art with a value into the human mind that goes well beyond what people are comfortable revealing about themselves. The stunts in the Road Warrior, the second Mad Max film were unbelievably intense and I never forgot them. Even after all these years they still hold up as some of the best stunt work done in any picture. The cinematography has never been surpassed even after thirty years by anybody in the business. The dust, the smoke, the blood and violence of the car crashes are both beautiful yet horrific to look at and nobody does it like George Miller.

Miller’s vision of the future is not far off—if the engines of the world are turned off—the minds that drive society forward–people certainly do revert back into a tribal abyss. It is not hard to conceive that they would devolve into the kind of villains seen in Miller’s Mad Max films. Max was a good man during the days of civilization; he had a child, a nice wife and wanted to give up life as a cop to get away from the madness of the people he was holding back from taking over. Miller understood the strange mix of great charisma and madness that Mel Gibson was able to bring to the screen when he was in a 100 MPH stand-off with the Toe Cutter at the beginning of the first Mad Max. Mel Gibson would show throughout his career that his real life was more like Max than anybody would have guessed, and that brought some humor to the 2014 Comic Con that Miller addressed correctly. I share with Gibson some of those traits and as a young man I would discover the real genius of Miller’s Max character when I too had to face off against an opponent traveling at me at over 100 MPH in a game of chicken. Like Max, I didn’t budge even though I had far more to lose than the other guy.

I know what it feels like to be that close to the edge and to push beyond it to a place of fearlessness. Whether or not there had ever been a Mad Max film, my fate would have put me in the same circumstance. But as those circumstances occurred, I always thought of how much insight into the human condition George Miller had in his Mad Max films—a brutal reality not beheld by any other artist in any other art form—and I could confirm its authenticity.

Max couldn’t escape madness and it finally caught up to him and killed his family leaving Max a very sane man bent with rage in an insane world that only devolved from there. Fury Road takes place between the first Mad Max film and the Road Warrior, so there is some rich material there to delve into for Miller as society devolves from a rich industrious culture into tribal nomads desperate for value of any kind fleeing constantly from chaos. In the Road Warrior there was always sadness to Max—an awareness of how far down the drain the world had devolved, but a resolute charisma that refused to join it. It was as if he alone stood against the insanity of the world and was aware that the only way to meet it was by going “mad” himself when pressed by danger. As a result, those still sane in the world gravitated to Max to be saved, which he did in the Road Warrior, then on a more epic scale in Beyond Thunder Dome.

Beyond Thunder Dome was a bit too light for a Mad Max film but was still enjoyable. Mel Gibson was moving into a mainstream actor and George Miller was being lured in to doing more commercial work. It was the weakest film of the series but was still a work of art visually and in concept. I went to see it in 1985 all by myself at a summer matinée. I had some time to kill before work so I went to see it alone, just me and Max and I loved it. It was a wonderful way to watch George Miller’s version of a “western”—like Max himself.   All alone.

As much as I am rooting for Fury Road—and I will see it on opening day—it won’t surpass the violence and sheer magnitude of car crash carnage I wrote about in Tail of the Dragon. I am a product in some ways of Miller and I took that into real life then wrote about it with a new perspective. But it is encouraging to see such positive audience reaction from Comic Con as they had toward Fury Road. There may be hope for my own project yet due to the forecasted success of Miller’s resurrection of the Mad Max franchise. Apparently Miller has a sequel to Fury Road already written and is ready to head into production. For that film, yet unnamed, I will be the first to that one as well, and for every film that comes after—because George Miller is a master of the car chase western, and I am grateful to him in ways that are beyond description.

As for Tail of the Dragon, it is a shame it takes a positive reaction from audiences at Comic Con to tell studios that movie goers want car chase movies. I didn’t see anything in the Fury Road preview that eclipses what was done in Tail of the Dragon. So I was a bit impressed that audiences thought Fury Road was the most intense preview coming out of the event which showcased the latest and greatest that Hollywood was churning up. That certainly puts Tail of the Dragon in a class of its own but like Miller’s journey to bring Fury Road to the screen; the trip for Tail of the Dragon will likely be longer and will take just the right personalities—which has not yet been assembled.

Rich Hoffman

www.OVERMANWARRIOR.com