Thoughts about ‘Battlefront II’: Stories told in a very impressive new way


On a lighter note we are living in some interesting times.  I have been very encouraged by the glimpses of the future that are emerging, especially the new Tesla tractor-trailer that has the potential to dramatically change the transportation industry.  I am a person who gets very excited when I see things come along that expand the imagination of the human race on a mass scale, like the latest Star Wars products—whether it’s a new toy, video game, or motion picture installment.  With each new addition to that fantasy/science fiction mythology the imagination of the human race is expanding dramatically.  And that has never been truer than in the new Battlefront II video game by DICE and Electronic Arts that expand the efforts of the first version of that game for all the major platform systems over what was released in 2015.  This 2017 edition is just marvelous, jaw dropping cool, and a seriously interesting look into the nature of politics and the human soul.  There are a lot of interesting things going on with Battlefront II that are indicative of some of the greatest art our culture has ever produced.

Nobody buys a game like this to play the single player campaign mode, they buy it to play online with thousands of potential people at all hours of the day and night all over the world.  People in cultures where guns are unfortunately banned can play a game like this and instantly they are playing the most modern version of cops and robbers that we all aspired to as kids, before public schools made it impossible for kids to even make a pretend gun with their hands.  Boys, girls, young and old are all thrown into these battles together and they force you to work toward team objectives to survive by heightening your individuality to the quickest reaction times and personal aptitude.  The desire to play such a game is a very primal one, and this game is certainly one of the best to date at making everything work well and allow players to just enjoy the experience.  I enjoy the ground based combat quite a lot, but it is the flight combat that I love the most.  I thought the first Battlefront was pure heaven for my personal tastes, but in this second installment, it’s so much better, better than I thought it could ever possibly be.  One of my favorite video games that I played as a kid was the Activison Star Wars game The Empire Strikes Back which was a blocky 2D Defender type of thing involving snow speeders and a constant wave of Imperial Walkers, each that required precisely 48 hits to kill unless you managed to hit a little sweet spot that sometimes appeared on the top of the shell.  So the aerial combat in Battlefront II is just beautiful to look at and participate in.  Stunning really.

But the real star to Battlefront II is their new story mode campaign that I was excessively impressed with.  Not only is it a nice story to add to the Star Wars canon fitting in with the movies nicely, but it’s some seriously good science fiction.  For instance, the Empire has a new weapon in this story which are satellites in space that fire into the cloud formations of planets to heat up the atmosphere and cause hurricane like storms on the ground to harass their enemies.  I thought that was a very interesting concept considering that this very year in real life we saw four major hurricanes hit the United States alone, three of which made ground fall as upper category storms.  Many conspiracy theorists believe our current government can do something similar to this now, so I found it interesting that a big platform game by Disney would even allow something like that into a Star Wars storyline.  But it worked and was very interesting.   Does it advance conspiracy theories or address a tyrannical problem indicative of world governments—I think it does a lot to get a conversation going about the temptation to use weather as a weapon against dissidents.   If the Romans could have done something similar, or the Nazis, they would have.  In Star Wars, the Empire does.

The other big surprise for me was a scene where Kylo Ryn was mind walking through the memories of a captor he’s interrogating.  It was a dreamy sequence that you play through as a participant and it reminded me of an old game called Shadowman—where you had to walk through the world of death to solve problems.  I thought it was very intelligent and exhibited great skill in advancing a pretty complicated story.  The game was already one of the best campaign story lines that I’ve ever played, so this last sequence was very interesting.  At that point the makers of the game I thought were just showing off.  They knew they had a great game and at that point were just putting an exclamation point on the end of it.  They could have played it safe, but then it wouldn’t be a Star Wars movie.  In Star Wars fans expect innovation and risk.  When science fiction fans watch something like Star Trek: Into Darkness we know we are seeing touchy, feeling content that is popcorn to the base fans—Star Wars seeks  to blow minds wherever possible with ever-expanding concepts—so it’s good to see that ambition still alive even under Disney control.

Battlefront II is a massive game with huge investments put into it.  Its targeted release was announced months ago for November 17th.  I preordered it which allowed me to start playing it on November 14th, three days early and I have to say, this is one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had so far.  Previous winners were of course Uncharted 4 and the latest Zelda game for the Nintendo Switch.  Battlefront II is a massive game with a lot to do and it holds that massive population of a world that wants to play it all at the same time very well.  The scope of the game is so big that I saw it being advertised on the NFL website heavily last weekend, and everywhere else that Disney felt they could penetrate popular culture.  But honestly, no wonder NFL ratings are down.  People may be turned off by the National Anthem issue, or the high salaries and spoiled brat attitudes of the players, the concussion protocols, and the softening of the game to appeal more to women but with competition like Battlefront II to occupy people’s time, a passive NFL experience is pretty boring.

If you are looking for a great video game to invest in, then this is it. It is released to the general public today in time for the Holiday season and is the perfect thing to do when it’s cold outside and the days are short.   With two new Star Wars movies coming out over the next six months, the announcement of a new trilogy and the Disney parks putting the finishing touches on their new Star Wars lands there is a lot to be excited about for even passive Star Wars fans.  Even as Hollywood is struggling massively; Star Wars is still good enough to keep the industry alive for a bit longer all by itself.  It won’t last of course.  The motion picture experience will likely give way completely to the small screen and video games like Battlefront II.   In many ways the video game industry is still able to tell stories in the classic way that great movies like THX-1138 did; only participants can actually be part of the story instead of just viewers.  That’s what makes Battlefront II such a great offering, because it is truly great science fiction and fantasy that we experience typically in great literature and it puts you in the action as a participant to interact with other people, and that makes it extremely unusual.  Not so unique for the kids who have grown up with these games, but for the tapestry of human history where information is exchanged through art–this is a real showpiece worthy of a great deal of respect.

Rich Hoffman

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Eliyahu M. Goldratt’s ‘The Goal’: Kathy Kennedy is doing a great job with ‘Star Wars’, and how we can prove it with proper business measurements

Before anyone says, “Oh no, he’s writing another Star Wars article,” stay with me for a bit here. What I’m about to say has some very important things in it that are very “holistic.”  They span very much into our greater lives as a human species, so put on your thinking caps and follow along.  Specifically Star Wars and in general Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy have come under great attack lately for firing four directors and twelve writers as she looks for just the right combination of people to make the new Star Wars movies just right.  The most recent news was that J.J. Abrams was coming back to direct Episode 9 which caused quite a stir and finally unleashed a major backlash from the entertainment community that was surprising, because it has revealed some extremely Marxist elements that we all know are there, but these Star Wars firings are exposing it in a measurable way.   So as a guide post to keep us all from getting lost I’d like to introduce to everyone the very good, and very popular book on business, The Goal, written in 1984.  The Goal is such a powerful book that Amazon makes its executives read it and apply the basic philosophy to their industry, which obviously works.  I also happen to know that Boeing has had their industry flow professionals read the book to improve their business climate as well, so we aren’t talking about some fringe infusion of ideas here.  The Goal is very mainstream in American business—extremely well known.   In short The Goal is to make money and to use that as the identifier of all business measurements.  If you are in business the only thing you should be concerned about is making money, it’s not to provide jobs, it’s not to just make products, and it’s certainly not to fuel a political philosophy that is not aligned with the realities of the world.   Now let’s introduce the great director John Landis whom I am a tremendous fan of but has obviously lost his mind late in life.  Read the linked article for the details, but in essence Landis has forgotten that the reason for a movie studio to exist is to make money.  Disney exists to make money.  The director’s specific job is to make money for the studio, not to sacrifice themselves for some social cause, or to have artistic, and creative freedom to let their “inner voice” speak to a mass audience. The director in the case of a movie or most anything else is there to make a product that the studio can make money off of.  It’s the only thing that matters.

Now obviously to do that the product needs to be desired by the public and in the case of Star Wars it brings a lot of joy to people who go to the movies, buy the toys and video games and in general it is those movies that keep the theater experience going so that directors can work on movies that are not Star Wars and may only appeal to 5% of the population.  Movie theater owners need to make money too just to have a place to show Hollywood products.  The industry is there for them to work because enough money was made with something like Star Wars to allow for other viewpoints in other films to be presented to mass audiences around the world.   If I had to value stream map this situation for studio executives I’d of course designate the consumer at the movie theater as the customer that the value of the product design must appeal to in order to successfully implement the strategic objectives.  These people fired from the various Star Wars projects, like Colin Trevorrow and Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, just over the last couple of months were obviously not getting the holistic reason for the Star Wars films getting made.  And what people like John Landis are now criticizing Kathy Kennedy for doing is essentially the labor union point of view from the various entertainment guilds—and that is putting money before art.

I can tell you that growing up all I wanted to be in life was a film maker and an adventurer, something between a Josh Gates and Steven Spielberg.  But when I had the opportunity to work on a few movie sets and talk to people behind the scenes I realized that most of them were Marxists openly pushing for socialism in American society.  So I had to turn away from that industry—sadly.  In the old days these liberals, like John Landis, and Ron Howard had to put up with their stars such as Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis and Clint Eastwood who were all conservative A-listers and Hollywood at least had a nice balance of product to present to the public.  However over the last few decades Hollywood producers looking to appeal to the Clintons and the Obamas in office tried to create a new generation of Marxists to replace the conservative leading men.  They tried to bring progressive ideas to their stories and they figured that if producers gave big explosions and loud music to a movie feature to help the Marxism go down easier, that audiences would stay with them, but that hasn’t happened.   People have just found other things to do.  It should say a lot that Netfllx productions like Stranger Things which is an obvious throwback to the 1980s and the HBO show Game of Thrones which is all about politics set in a kind of Medieval time where all the primal human instincts are explored, lust for power, sex, dominion over others are presented without a lot of subtle global warming messages, and the plight of the poor–the trend toward a customer experience is well-known..  The labor unions in the entertainment industry are looking at their situation and they are blaming Disney for not sticking to their Marxist goals of social reform but instead keeping their focus on “making money.”  Disney currently makes a lot of money off Star Wars and their Marvel projects.  They are giving audiences what they want and in return we give them money.  That’s the name of the game.

Disney to appease the creative labor unions does take up social causes-but it doesn’t help them at all toward The Goal.  They have nearly destroyed the ESPN network with progressive garbage nobody wants to hear tied to sports.  And Kathy Kennedy has messed with Star Wars in ways that could easily destroy it, by putting more of an emphasis on female characters. I don’t have a problem with it, but its a gamble to try to expand the market reach of Star Wars with females at the possible expense of the males. So far so good, but it is a risk worth noting.  Kathy Kennedy is not a Midwestern conservative, she is a social progressive and it shows in her projects.  But at least she understands The Goal which was written by Eliyahu M. Goldratt—and that is to make money.  To make money with Star Wars you must have merchandising—the experience must continue long after customers have left the movie theater.  That means that filmmakers have precisely two hours to create a product that will unleash countless books, comics, toys, t-shirts, bed sheets—you name it.  There isn’t room for some director to “put their own take on things,” they must follow The Goal—and that is to make money for Disney and its shareholders.  That is a very capitalist concept which pisses off the Marxists—but tough luck.  The product does not exist to make a point—it exists to make money because with that money many good things happen.

I went out on Force Friday a few weeks ago to buy a few items.  One of the things I had to get was a Rathtar from The Force Awakens movie, which was released on Force Friday specifically this year ahead of all the new The Last Jedi toys.  Even though I was very hard on The Force Awakens when it came out largely because Kathy Kennedy allowed the franchise to movie away from the line of stories I had been reading for thirty years in the novels and allowed J.J. Abrams to have the creative freedom to write a completely fresh Star Wars story changing the direction of the original novels dramatically, I have respect for the good work done on that movie.  My favorite scene from any movie in recent memory and certainly one of my top ten moments of all time is that scene from The Force Awakens when the Rathtars are introduced.  That was a lot of fun and whenever it’s on television when my grandkids are watching it, I usually stop what I’m doing to see it again.  At Force Friday there were a lot of happy people spending countless thousands of dollars on new merchandise because The Goal of the product which is Star Wars was aligned with their consumer needs.  Disney received a lot of money, which was The Goal, and the consumer got a quality product that spoke to them mythologically in ways they needed—for whatever reason.  The end result was good for all parties in that transaction.  It is not up to some Marxist Hollywood type to question The GoalThe Goal is market driven, it is up to those in the entertainment business to figure out what the consumer wants—not to change the consumer into something the artists wants—do you get what I’m saying—because this relates to virtually everything in our culture.

I have been extremely excited about the new Han Solo movie now directed by Ron Howard.  I think he’s exactly the right guy to make that movie which he had to take over from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.  Obviously Larry Kasden who has made some of my favorite movies in the past understands The Goal of Star Wars as a screenwriter.  He may not philosophically like The Goal, but he’s hired to do the job of achieving it—and that’s the difference between professionalism and being a Marxist douche bag.  He’s the writer on this new Han Solo movie along with his son so when the young directors known for The Lego Movie were fired because they didn’t get what Larry was trying to put up on the screen, Ron Howard was brought in to fix things.  I was happy about it because it told me that Lucasfilm understood what The Goal was, and they were committed to it.  I have no doubt that the professionalism of Ron Howard will keep The Goal of the new Han Solo movie in focus and deliver a product that Lucasfilm needs and Disney can continue to use to make a lot of money—which is a wonderful thing.  But I did have to send Ron Howard a Tweet the other day reminding him that all his Donald Trump bashing he has been doing may very well draw a line between him and his audience—half of which like the job Donald Trump is doing.  By politicizing Star Wars, you risk deviating from The Goal, and that is dangerous to everyone involved.  Howard is a smart guy and a fabulous director, but it’s not his job to define The Goal. It’s his job to implement it as the director, and that’s what he was hired for.  All the below Tweets shown below are on Ron Howard’s main page.

The new Star Wars movies may be corporate productions that lack the heart of the solitary vision of George Lucas—but they do understand The Goal and that’s why they are special.  The three measurements in The Goal are throughput, inventory, and operational expense—everything for a successful implementation of a flourishing business model is contained within those three measurements.   Throughput in the case of Star Wars is the delivery of a movie on time from conception to the release date.  Inventory is the resources it takes to make the movie, like directors, writers, studio rentals, building props—all that stuff.  And of course operational expenses are the overall costs of keeping the movie franchise alive as a social mythology, the new theme park attractions, the marketing of merchandise and all the other big picture items.  There is a lot more to a movie than just paying honor to the creative instincts of the film’s directors or the writers.  There is much more to The Goal than just the vision of an artist.  Star Wars is successful because traditionally Lucasfilm understood The Goal.  The Marxist friends of George Lucas may have given him grief over it, but if George had listened, we wouldn’t have Star Wars.  And in that respect, what has John Landis done lately except complain.  He made that famous “Thriller” video like a million years ago.  And The Blues Brothers was made in the 70s.  I would say that Landis like his friend Spielberg has forgotten what The Goal was and instead have adopted that radical Marxism that they all share through their director’s guild.  And lucky for us, who are Star Wars fans, Kathy Kennedy has kept her eye on The Goal and not the socialist sentiments of her entertainment industry friends.   Sure she made the lead actors in most of these new movies a “girl” and she made a black stormtrooper, and put a Hispanic guy in as the lead hot-shot new pilot, which I’m sure made her liberal friends give her less grief over heading a giant capitalist movie studio—but at least she hasn’t forgotten The Goal.  And for that I must commend her.  If she has to fire 200 Star Wars directors she should, because it tells me she is committed to my customer satisfaction and not the social ranting of just another Hollywood Marxist, like John Landis.

Rich Hoffman

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Why the Star Wars Movies Keep Losing Directors: The Pizza Hutt delivery driver

It was my oldest grandson’s birthday party and it was a Star Wars themed event so my youngest daughter who is the mother of the young man put heart and soul into giving him the party of a lifetime.  She personally decorated the house for this party with creations she mostly made from scratch and it was quite spectacular.  To match her efforts she wanted all of us to dress up so the first time that I can ever remember I put together a costume of my favorite Star Wars character—Han Solo, and had a lot of fun doing it. In the process I learned some things that are worth sharing.  One thing that became obvious to me as I acquired all the Han Solo costume pieces needed to get everything together for this party was how similar it was to the kind of equipment needed for Cowboy Fast Draw and that while wearing it, I felt more like a western character than a science fiction icon—which Han Solo has always been.IMG_5166.JPG

Naturally through small talk I have been asked why I like Star Wars so much and my reply is usually because it’s the best western that movie makers can produce these days.  As much as George Lucas wanted   tell a story about a hippie idea of eastern religion defeating western greed through the “force of others” his creation of Han Solo really is the key to the entire Star Wars universe.  The character so wonderfully played by Harrison Ford is an Ayn Rand kind of superstar who advances the story wonderfully, and gives everything resonance.  George Lucas always intended Luke Skywalker to be the hero of the movies, but it was Han Solo that really took over the story as the central and most popular character.  I knew all this before I put together as authentic of a costume as I could, but wearing it complete with the gun belt instantly knew where I was.  The gun belt was the key, it felt as good as my rig for Cowboy Fast Draw and remanded me that it’s not lightsabers and talk about The Force, but Star Wars is more about “having a good blaster at your side” than anything.  Lucas may have intended for Han Solo to be redeemed by the end of A New Hope into the kind of unselfish character that hippies were wanting to portray in 1970’s San Francisco—but the love that the director had of fast cars and Saturday Morning Republic serials featuring cowboys won the day and it was those influences that turned Star Wars into a simple science fiction drama and placed it into the realm of something truly special.  Star Wars is the best western movie made in the modern era—and by that I mean the last 40 years.IMG_5259

I don’t think George Lucas meant to make Han Solo such a powerful character but as the story evolved it was the old smuggler and that capitalist sector of characters from bounty hunters down to crime lords who took over as the featured plot lines that most captured the imaginations of fans.  People didn’t want to grow up so much to become Jedi in the temple fighting the Sith—they wanted to be the smuggler and hot-shot pilot flying the Millennium Falcon and solely saving the galaxy.  In his best moments Han Solo is not a team player but is someone always used to being in charge and finds a way to be successful even when the odds were terribly stacked against him.  When they tried to water Han Solo down into a group think character, he loses much of his power and I think this was something that mystified George Lucas a lot over the evolution of that character.  George Lucas the hippie who knew mostly dope smokers and San Francisco radicals found it an unintended consequence.  But the little boy who grew up watching serialized westerns and swashbuckling action adventure movies found in Han Solo a trusted voice from the past—and wisely Lucas went with it out of the needs of his new company Lucasfilm to pay all the bills of his various projects—even though it bothered him that Luke wasn’t the star of the movie as it was always intended.

I bought 21 pizzas from Pizza Hut for this party to be served on a table in front of Jabba the Hutt. It was a cute idea that my daughter had to tie the two things together so when the pizza delivery guy arrived he found himself pulled into the Star Wars universe by default, and he was having a good time.  While I was paying the guy and walking him back to his truck we talked about Star Wars and why the new Han Solo movie and now Episode 9 had lost their directors.  In fact, since Lucasfilm announced their slate of 6 new Star Wars movies four directors for those projects have bitten the dust and either been fired, or have quit.  The trade media for Hollywood really hasn’t understood why but this is where the rebel George Lucas always shinned brightest.   In spite of his liberal tendencies, Lucas at heart was a small business guy whose father owned a stationery store in Modesto, California.  Naturally, Lucas hated the studio system because of their static approach to filmmaking.  And it was that part of him who shinned through Han Solo—the do whatever he wants, guy—which made Star Wars so special and Ayn Randish.  These modern kids raised in the studio system may have loved Star Wars growing up, but that doesn’t mean they “get it” when it comes to putting what they love up on-screen.  Kathy Kennedy who runs Lucasfilm now apprenticed under George Lucas for most of her adult life and she has an understanding of what makes Star Wars work even if it’s difficult to put into words.  She knew instinctively why her new film directors weren’t having success in developing their Star Wars stories—for instance reports from the new Han Solo movie set which is coming out in May of 2018 were that the directors were turning the story more into an Ace Ventura comedy instead of a western set in space.  So Kathy brought in Ron Howard who has been around long enough to know at least how to mimic what George Lucas had stumbled upon so many years before.   The pizza guy agreed with me, Star Wars to work had to pay tribute to its western-like background—without it the storylines flounder and fail—much like many people felt the prequel films did.  I personally liked them because I like politics, but without the swashbuckling element of the matinee idols of the 1950s, Star Wars is pretty boring.  I know that, obviously Kathy Kennedy understands that much—but more importantly, the Pizza Hutt delivery guy understood it.

The exchange of values has always been something I could share with my kids through Star Wars and obviously that is getting passed on down to a new generation.  As the kids dressed up there were a lot of Kylo Ren costumes, and even some of the adults wore Kylo Ren t-shirts.  Little do they know that by the time we get to Episode 9 that Han Solo’s now infamous son will turn back to good and help Rey restore goodness to the imaginative galaxy set a long time ago, far, far away.  Kylo Ren will turn out to be a good guy—which I think is a very good thing.  Again, it goes back to Han Solo again, without him and his redemptive qualities, Star Wars falls apart as something special in our human culture.  For me its fun to be able to share these values on a platform that allows for at least the discussion and Star Wars does that better than anything else out there presently.  That wasn’t always the case, back when George Lucas was growing up, there were a lot of things like Star Wars out there that communicated value effectively and our culture reflected it.  These days, not the case—values have been cast aside by movie directors trying to make movies about socialism, which people don’t like, instead of capitalist westerns which people do, and they are often mystified as to why people like the Pizza Hutt delivery guy don’t like their product.  (Hey, I gave the pizza delivery guy a huge tip for his capitalist appreciations and enthusiasm.  He understood.)  Wearing the authentic Han Solo costume for me told the whole story—it took what I had only thought of before and applied it to reality.  Han Solo was a gunfighter and that is a concept specifically unique to American culture and was the heart of every good western.  That is what makes Star Wars work, and why it is such a good device to teach morality stories about good versus evil.  It is those values which I’m glad I can share with these new generations which was on full display at my grandson’s birthday party. It was a lot of fun to be a part of.

Rich Hoffman

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The Not So “Magnificent Seven”: Hollywood can’t make westerns anymore because everything is a Clinton campaign ad

If you ever wanted evidence of a declining culture and the severe impact that liberalism has had on Hollywood specifically, then just watch the newest remake of The Magnificent Seven.  The 2016 version was just God-awful, pathetically put together.  It was a disaster of a movie that shamefully called itself a western.  Clearly the writers, director and production staff had no idea what a western was when they cast Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington in the remake of the 1960s classic, because the film wasn’t even watchable.  I struggled through it because as a western I felt I needed to see it for cultural reasons but I will have to say that I was glad to see the end credits indicating that the movie was over because it was a disaster of a film.  The original film stared Yul Brenner and Steve McQueen along with several other popular actors from the period.  But that movie was a remake of the 1954 film The  Seven Samurai directed by the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa.  Those classic films were good—not my favorite by any means because everyone pretty much dies during their big standoff with the villains at the end, but at least you could appreciate the valor. In this modern version all that valor is gone and all you end up with is an anti-capitalists message and a bunch of characters that are so unlikable that you are happy when they finally do die.  If you plot a line of Hollywood quality from The Magnificent Seven in 1960 to this modern update in 2016 counting the 1985 film Silverado by Lawrence Kasdan (another remake) you can clearly see a declining culture over time.  There’s no question about it.

One of the reasons Star Wars has held up over time is because of the influence of Akira Kurosawa in it.  The original Star Wars film was based on the Kurosawa film The Hidden Fortress. (1958)  In those old Kurosawa films character was a defining trait and the valor of combat was a feature of the underlining plot.  Several American filmmakers found influence with Kurosawa and essentially turned those plots from samurai sword culture to six guns.  In the case of Star Wars it was both, samurai swords became light sabers represented by Luke Skywalker and Han Solo represented the American western’s love of guns as the weapon of choice and so long as that style of filmmaking complete with human valor stayed as the centerpiece of the stories, they continue to endure.   All that is very well known, particularly among film makers and film school students—so I would have expected when the production for The Magnificent Seven started in 2014 and 2015 that the entire crew would have known how to make a movie—after all, they had access to all the best stuff from film hardware, budgets, to stunts.  They had much more to work with than old Akira Kurosawa did back in Japan when those old samurai films were first being filmed.

I knew the film was in trouble almost from the very beginning when the villain of the modern story went on an anti-capitalist—anti-God rant that was completely out of context with the kind of story westerns are known for.  It was a modern political speech that made it impossible to accept Denzel Washington as a suitable replacement for the old Yul Brenner character. There was a way to put a black actor in that role and still have a good movie—but these idiots missed the point completely focusing way too much on the racism and not nearly enough on the character itself.  Who cares if the guy was black because the character was so unlikable?  The filmmakers were entirely too focused on the progressive trends of our modern society and selling those trends to the public than in making a classic western filled with American values.  It simply went through the motions, put cowboy hats on people and called it a western with the type of story that might as well have been a campaign ad for Hillary Clinton.  And obviously, she lost the election that took place just a few months after the September release of the 2016 version of The Magnificent Seven. So the studio found itself on the losing side of philosophy—and the movie just fell flat.

I personally love westerns and it is a real tragedy that Hollywood no longer knows how to make them.  When Disney tried to make a remake of The Lone Ranger—which I thought was good, they even missed the main point—that westerns are about values—not the action.  Western gun fights mean nothing unless the characters in them exhibit a notable valor that justifies the conflict.  But modern filmmakers just don’t get it—and that is astonishing considering all the study of great films that go on to this day.  With the resources that film schools have to study this situation you’d think they’d get it, but they don’t.  That is essentially why Hollywood is failing.  You can’t attack the essential premise of American values and expect a western to work.  Westerns are not about the hats and the guns—but rather the values for which those things represent.

Needless to say I expected a lot more.  While The Magnificent Seven was filming Chris Pratt was in talks to be the next Indiana Jones so I figured that these filmmakers would utilize the star power of the young actor to make a really special western for modern audiences.  No.  All they could manage to do was create some progressive piece of crap that only people who supported Hillary Clinton for president could understand—those weird liberal types with that strange skin, downturned mouths and empty eyes who made up her supporters.   They are not like most people, the liberals who supported Hillary Clinton are physical manifestations of their rotten philosophy and it actually shows up in their molecular make-up.  There just aren’t enough of those people to support a modern western.  People who like westerns are not the kind of people who voted for Hillary Clinton so these film studios are missing the point.  I have no doubt that westerns have a place in modern cinema.  I’m sure Clint Eastwood could still make a good western because it takes a filmmaker who understands the genre.  But these skinny pants directors of this modern age have no idea what a western is.  They can watch them, and try to duplicate them, but they just don’t get it.

And that brings us to the new Han Solo film that just brought Ron Howard in with just three weeks of production left on the schedule.  From the very beginning Kathy Kennedy made it clear that this Star Wars film was to be inspired by Fredric Remington and the Phil Lord and Christopher Miller directors just weren’t getting it—due to their impulsive jokes for which they are known.  She had to go to Ron Howard who has roots on Happy Days and the Andy Griffin Show to get a director who could get their mind around this modern western set in space.  I hope it works out because honestly we are a culture desperately in need of westerns once again produced for modern audiences.  It doesn’t matter if its horses or space ships the values of westerns are about people and valor, not just stunts and guns.  Akira Kurosawa would have never done so well with his samurai films if he had just had sword fights.  It was his characters that carried his films and inspired many of the great westerns that came out during the 1950s and 1960s.  Hopefully Hollywood will learn from these mistakes—but obviously when it came to The Magnificent Seven, their efforts were not so magnificent—but rather pathetic.

Rich Hoffman

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The Subtleties of Astrophotography: Sorting out the noise of light and living

Don’t worry, my daughter is a concealed carry holder who routinely shoots in dangerous areas such as Over-the Rhine and in Chicago—so she knows how to handle dangerous situations.  In these following photographs I didn’t worry about her.  She did take her sister along on some of the shoots which was smart, but even though she knows the risks, she has enough experience to mitigate the impact of those risks with her knowledge of firearms.  The thing I worry about more is the legal mess a young woman would get into after having to shoot someone in self-defense.  She has the personal safety angle covered—the legal angle is the biggest concern for me.  However, I hardly ever get to see my kids anymore because they are always out doing things like this.  Professionally my oldest daughter Brooke has literally been booked for photo shoots every weekend and many week days lately and has a full schedule extending into 2019, and it keeps getting worse with bookings.  She’s become a very good photographer in a very competitive field and now she is turning up her comfort zone into the very difficult field of astrophotography.  As she shared her images obtained during the third week of July I knew she had done something very special and was headed in a direction that was putting a fine point on her professional uniqueness.   To hear from her personally click on the video below or read her article about how she captured these really phenomenal images of the Milky Way in the night sky.

For people who have become victims of our horrible education system and our generally destructive trend socially to highlight stupidity as some badge of honor so not to make stupid people feel bad about themselves, the Milky Way is the galaxy that we live within through the vastness of space.  We are loaded on a spiral arm of star clusters spinning around a massive black hole which is at the center of it.  So to capture the perspective of that arm in the night sky is quite an intense feat of light, focus and natural environmental conditions.  It is not an easy thing to do so it makes me very proud to see my daughter attempting to do just that.

My kid is not yet 30-years-old and while her peers are out making fools of themselves partying it up like a bunch of idiots—she’s out doing things like this in her spare time which  is increasingly happening after long days of professional endeavor between photo shoots.  If you watched the video you can understand why I couldn’t be prouder of her—listen to her speak.  It’s like listening to a fine symphony of music to hear her utter complete sentences and using a nice vocabulary coming out of the mouth of such a nice young lady. If she weren’t my daughter I’d be extremely impressed.  However, she is my daughter and I know what she has pushed herself through to arrive at this level of professionalism—but it’s still nice to take a moment to consider how magnificent she really is as a person.   She’s a pace setter and she’s emerging as a very unique photographer in a field of professionals who have been doing it for years and are quite good.  What’s giving her the advantage isn’t just the conceptual side—it’s the conceptual application that she naturally has mastered that is doing it.  There are a lot of people in the world who know how to take a nice photograph.  There are people professionally working in Hollywood as cinematographers who would greatly struggle with the light she was working with to capture these images.  But it is how she sniffs out a photo from nowhere that is setting her apart from the crowd.  In the world of tomorrow—which is literally getting nearer with every sunrise, Brooke is the photographer of her age to record the optimism of all that’s coming.  Her playfulness at living comes out in her photographs and that is something you can’t teach.  A person either develops this trait or it’s not there revealing only mechanical applications of a heartless artist.

Just as she said in her video, there is a lot of light noise in the night sky and so it is true as well in most professional fields.  It doesn’t matter if the profession is acting, being a musician, business tycoon, or housewife; you have to work really hard to separate yourself from the noise of our society.  Everyone is living their life and hopefully they all think of themselves as great and try to be the best that they can be every day.  But as nature has it, not everyone can be the best so to put yourself above the fray, you have to work really hard and make it so that you are continuously pushing yourself.   My daughter and I have had these long talks for many years so she understands what she needs to do, but it is always nice to see her doing it.  Just as she had to drive hours out of the way to capture these photographs at just the right time of year and at the correct time of day—so too in life—you have to go further than other people and be willing to always push for that extra bit to get there to arrive at the definitions of success—because there is a lot of noise from people who try to be good at things from the rolled down windows of their cars.

I’ve showed Brooke a lot of movies over the years and she is well read and has been exposed to the finer things in life—so she has context on the details of what makes things—good.  But I was surprised to learn that her favorite movie was Interstellar recently.   That was the Christopher Nolan film that I wrote about several years ago which I drug my family to on an opening night because I thought it would have an impact on their lives.  I’m glad it did, but it still surprised me that it was her favorite movie out of all the movies she’s been exposed to.  She told me that recently in one of those rare moments where she and her husband were able to come home and have some dinner and watch a collection of political speeches about NASA, that it was Interstellar that most touched her and I just think that’s magnificent.  You might have noticed that she inserted a song from the Hans Zimmer masterpiece musical score from that film on her article for context.  When the first space stations open up to the public and hotels start popping up on the moon in a few years, I have no doubts that Brooke will be one of the first to be there.  And that quite simply makes me very proud.

Most parents are proud of their kids—and that is mostly a selfish emotion.  After all, who wants to raise children only to think they are pieces of crap?  To think otherwise would be to concede to failure.  So it’s not unusual for parents to be proud of their children mostly out of the necessity of justifying all the hard work that goes into the job.  But when a child evolves into something that is uniquely defined and hungry for living life in their own endeavors it is something to celebrate. It just so happens that in Brooke’s case she is my kid and she has given me a lot to be proud of, and she’s just getting started.  It makes me very proud that she speaks so articulately, that she is running around at 11:30 PM looking for the right light in a night sky for a perfect picture not for some magazine or other paid endeavor—but because she has a natural passion to do so.  And it makes me proud that she’s not naive enough to do these things without being heavily armed to defend herself.  The results of all those elements are showing up in her artistic endeavors and whether or not she was related to me, it’s a beautiful thing to witness.

Rich Hoffman

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Donald Trump’s Tomorrowland: Making “Failure’s Not An Option” great again!

I kept looking for it but have yet to see any news really covering what Donald Trump’s administration has been doing in regard to American space exploration.  It was only just before July 4th 2017 that Trump signed an executive order reactivating the National Space Council at NASA and  making Mike Pence the is the chairman of the board.  Then just a few days after that great American Holiday Mike Pence was giving a speech at the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center announcing that the first meeting of the new council would before summer ended.  It was a big speech with grand national appeal but it was eclipsed behind Trump’s G20 visit and the first face to face meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.  The news media was completely consumed with the news of this oversea visit and the antics of Trump’s combat with the various news organizations—so they missed the announcements about America’s new role in space that sounded much more spectacular than when Kennedy gave in his famous challenge ahead of the Apollo program in the 60s.  Trump was thinking bigger—much bigger and Mike Pence is about to make his mark as a very strong VP in the vastness of space.

As Trump and Pence were unleashing space once again the Wall Street Journal had a very interesting article which was quite familiar to me, that “smart medicine” was in fact the wave of the future and ultimate cure to illness on earth.  And to what effect?  We don’t need to get sick as humans and die of old age—we can fix all that now and until very, very recently–publications like the Wall Street Journal were not covering those regenerative technologies.   I bring it up here because space exploration takes time and the best way to embark on such an adventure is to live the amount of time that Noah did from the Bible, to see many years of development to and from the vastness of space and to colonize the once unthinkable.  We’ll want every human being and more available today for such adventures. There were so many magnificent quotes given in Trump’s speech then Pence’s speech at the Kennedy Space Center to be played back to history for many years.  I thought many of those quotes were better than when Kennedy made his famous challenge to the American people when he announced that he intended to put man on the moon within a decade.   In case you haven’t heard, Trump wants to do that by 2020.  Trump then wants to be on Mars by 2024.  Those are ambitious goals for a space agency that has literally been turned off to study climate science and Islamic contributions to science.  Trump’s commitment to space is actually astonishing and will carry with it a new era in adventure, science, philosophy and politics.

I haven’t been down to our family retreat at Cape Canaveral for a few years now.  I have often spoken glowingly about my visits there to my favorite beach in the world, Cocoa Beach and the many famous landmarks that evolved in the wake of the space program at NASA.  From our condo we can see the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center.  My kids are especially in love with the place and have watched several launches from that four story balcony.  They were there to see the last Space Shuttle mission return home under the Obama administration and they have recently seen the Space X rocket tests and have been enthusiastic about it still.  But they don’t know it like I do—where Space Shuttles seemed to take off every month and we were on a fast track to life outside of earth.  I love the optimism of space, the promise not only of adventure but of new discoveries and opportunities, such as mining Helium-3 off the moon for real nuclear power.   There is great talk now of going to Mars in weeks not just months which of course would allow us to mine the moons of Jupiter and even Saturn realistically and carry our civilization toward a Type 1 classification—where we master our solar system for resources to advance our technology.  Having that promise ripped away by the Obama administration and other previous presidents has been extremely disheartening.

It was my fault; back when my kids were getting more home school from my wife and I than anything they learned in ten years of school I took my children on a very special trip to Florida to visit the Kennedy Space Center then directly to Disney’s Epcot center.  The entire trip was focused on science and technology showing them the possibilities that were in front of their lives.  That was in 2003, George W. Bush was in the White House and I really thought he was serious about returning America back to the moon.   So I took my kids to the family condo at Cape Canaveral and let them meet astronauts at the Space Center and literally turned their imaginations loose.   Since then there really hasn’t been any ambition for space by virtually anybody.  This has been reflected in a few very forward-looking movies, like Tomorrowland based on the Disney attraction at Magic Kingdom and the very good Christopher Nolan movie, Intersteller.   I was very surprised to learn from my oldest daughter that her favorite movie so far in her life is Intersteller.  It made me a little sad because it was I who planted those seeds so long ago and in her life nothing had so far came from it.  So many kids in her generation have had their minds turned off and now they look at the world inwardly instead of outwardly.  Their vision is small because they have their faces pressed into the feces of their own existence and that folly is literally destroying mankind with remarkable swiftness.  And bright thinkers like my daughters—ignited by an overly optimistic dad have seen little to match that zeal from their generation.  When Trump said that in the vastness of space many of our problems would seem small—he’s right.  The solution to much that sickens us as a species will be solved in space and in the journey of mastering it.

It was during that trip that I bought a t-shirt from the NASA shop stating “Failure is not an option” which was the classic line from the Apollo 13 mission that was made into a movie by the great movie director, Ron Howard.  I wore it everywhere because it matched my optimism for everything.  Anyone who deals with me knows that this is my basic philosophy.  Failure is never an option for me—and never has been.  It is kind of an innate instinct that I have always had, but the space program in America framed the spirit in a way I have always fed from.   It was quite remarkable to wear that shirt to Epcot Center the next day with my kids asking questions and taking them to Tomorrowland to see all the optimism contained there for our future.   Even though my kids were impressed, I was frustrated because I felt we could be doing so much more as a country—but from the very top—in the White House we lacked vision and the great dreamers had been grounded, seemingly on purpose.

If you’ve ever been through a NADCAP audit dear reader you’ll understand what I’m talking about.  For many decades now government has imposed so many rules and regulations onto the aerospace industry that we’ve stifled creativity and brave innovations with so much bureaucratic red tape that the love for adventure that used to be present even in engineers has been stuffed into a bottle and sealed up tight.  The days where World War II fighter pilots were the test pilots and advisors for NASA are over—they have been replaced by pin headed politicians and paper pushers whose only adventure in life is to decide who will make the coffee run to Starbucks.  The industry bureaucrats have replaced the type of horse sense innovation that actually invented space travel with static manufacturing plans designed to take the thinking away from production leaving us all with a cold—dead work environment of people disconnected from the passion that can be garnered from being a part of the industry.   Aerospace today from the top to the bottom look for reasons not to do things than in how to do them because the regulatory zeal placed upon it by government has crushed the desire to achieve things.  The good news of Trump’s commitment to space means so much more than just going back to the moon—it means uncovering that American spirit that put us there in the first place and going back to what worked—and allowing young people to dream of a work culture that stated “Failure is Not an Option” and spent every last breath of their lives articulating that type of thinking.

It was as if there were a cloud of negativity that has taken over the world and until Trump unleashed his big ideas that cloud has been in full rebellion.  It doesn’t want Trump to succeed in these quests and it has been so thick that even the magnanimity of the two speeches done after the 4th of July 2017 by first the President then the Vice President down at Kennedy Space Center that nobody heard about these events.  They were probably the most important news stories of the week, yet nobody covered them—not even Fox News.  Even supporters of Trump’s administration like Jessie Watters and Eric Boiling didn’t make a mention of these bold speeches on their coverage that I could see watching them through the following weekend—the news was all about CNN’s fake news coverage and the G20 Summit.  Nothing about America’s new commitment to space or the wonderful science that will come from it—we are talking about a new dawn for the human race while the attention is on keeping our heads in the waste of our lives by cowardly bureaucrats who want to keep our feet firmly in concrete sealed to the shallow history of European stagnation.

Everyone should have seen this coming, after all Trump is all about thinking big, and by the time he is done our previous visits to space will seem like distant history—not to be forgotten, but certainly not the focus of future visits of people to the Kennedy Space Center. Based on what Mike Pence said, Cape Canaveral is poised to be a true space port where private sector and government truly work properly toward the goal of expanding mankind into the vast cosmos above our heads. Instead of saying “remember that” we will be making t-shirts of what was just said in a board room off in the corner of the Vehicle Assembly Building as some engineering problem revealed major headaches for everyone.   It is in the thrill of overcoming those obstacles that the adventure of space happens—not from the losers who throw their hands up in because the word “the” is placed in the wrong place in a manufacturing plan.

But that those plans will be written once more as discovery happens and innovation dictates light feet and an indomitable spirit.  Yes, Trump’s commitment to space is the best thing to happen in America over many years and I am proud once again of our space program.  It won’t take long to see the results even though at this point very few people are talking about it.  Soon however, that won’t be the case.  It will prove to be one of the biggest things to have ever happened to the human race and its happening right now. And not a moment too soon!  We’ve needed this, and now Donald Trump is starting that train of successes in science moving again and the results will be positive for every single human being on planet earth—and that’s not an understatement.

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.

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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