Make no mistake, cats can be evil

Lionheart

My cat Lionheart is some kind of genius. Well, Cecil is too, but Lionheart is an evil genius.

No matter what time I’ve got my alarm clock set to go off, Lionheart begins yowling to wake up an hour before. It never fails. If I’m up at 6, he starts yowling at 5. When I was filling in on the KFI morning show and I was getting up at 2:30, he started yowling at 1:30. That’s just demonic.

I was telling this story to KFI News Director Chris Little. He smiles a eureka-like smile and says, “Why don’t you set your alarm for an hour after you want to get up?”

Genius.

So I tried it, laughing maniacally like some kind of evil scientist building a Kryptonite-fueled super robot to defeat Superman, and went to bed.

The next morning, no yowling at all. Nothing. Not a peep out of Lionheart. I finally creaked my eyes open and he’ staring at me. “It’s not nice to try to fool a cat,” he seemed to glare.

If my body is never found, you know who to question.

Not a bad day at all

KFIToday was a pretty big day.

It started early with me rolling in to the Clear Channel building in Burbank, knowing that much of the day’s coverage on KFI would be devoted to the Supreme Court rulings on the issue of gay marriage. I was in for another fill-in shift, knowing that for most of it I’d be focused on various permutations of the day’s top story.

But right before my first newscast at noon, the news director let me know they’d finally made their decision — I was going to be named the official midday news anchor.

I’ve been in between full time gigs since last October, when Dial Global shut down the GoRadio unit and sadly was not able to find a new position for me. It was a heartbreaking day. Since then I’d been on the hunt, with quite a few close calls — gigs that almost coalesced, but then fell through at the last minute. It was frustrating, more than I can say.

I’ve been a part time news anchor at KFI since 2006, and fortunately those part time hours continued during my job search, enabling me to make sure the cats were fed. And when Chris Lane announced her departure a few weeks ago, I immediately put my hat in the ring. I thought I had a pretty good shot until I found out who some of the other candidates were… There were many days I concluded that I didn’t have a chance in hell of getting it.

But the decision has been made, and for whatever reason, KFI Program Director Robin Bertolucci and News Director Chris Little saw fit to appoint me to the slot, every weekday on the Bill Carroll Show. It’s a terrific match because I’ve been a fan of Bill’s for a long time, and have been a fan of KFI since I first arrived in Los Angeles in 1999. It remains to this day one of the best-imaged radio stations I’ve ever heard. As a program director, I’d often used KFI of an example of how to properly position the identity, the vibe, of a radio station.

So now my career has made the complete conversion from the DJ and programming side to the news anchoring side. And now maybe, with one huge weight of anxiety removed from my shoulders, I can relax, concentrate on my work, get back to writing… And I may even grow the beard back.

The continuing evolution of marriage

With today’s Supreme Court rulings, it’s easy to see that the gay marriage issue is a cultural shift the nation is undergoing right before our very eyes. The next generation will wonder what the fuss over it was… Just like today some look back on laws banning interracial marriage and wonder what were people thinking, the next generation will look back on laws banning same-sex marriage and wonder what were we thinking.

And it probably behooves us (yes, I used the word behooves) to remember that once upon a time, marriage was basically a man’s family buying another family’s daughter… and before that multiple women if the guy was wealthy enough. And not that long ago wives basically had no rights in relation to the husband. Marriage has always been evolving.

Get ready for more Z

By most accounts, World War Z (reviewed below) was a troubled production. A late rewrite of the film’s third act necessitated some reshooting, and a lot of experts thought the flick would turn out to be a dud.

But it didn’t. It came in at number two in last weekend’s box office derby with 66 million dollars’ worth of tickets sold domestically, and in fact it’s the best opening of superstar Brad Pitt’s career.

And that seems to have settled the question as to whether there would be a sequel. Paramount has counted the receipts and given the green light for more World War Z. Brad Pitt’s on board too.

World War Z hits the spot

World War Z is surprisingly gore-free, and a pretty good end of the world flick. It’s well-made summer escapism, and worth the couple of extra bucks to spring for the 3D version.

But let me be up front: I hate zombies. What I mean to say is, I hate the zombie genre. I’ve always thought it was incredibly stupid, and most zombie films have the same variations of plot you’d find in a porno. Not that I ever watch porn, mind you, but I hear through sources there’s lots of it out there, but not a lot of variation on the essential story line.

In fact, I think the zombie genre is so stupid I almost didn’t watch The Walking Dead. The one and only reason I sat down to watch the first episode of the AMC series was because Frank Darabont, the guy who gave us Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and the criminally underappreciated The Mist, was behind it. I’ve been hooked on Walking Dead ever since — because it was smart enough to go beyond the single-thought story line of most other zombie efforts. It wasn’t about the zombies, it was about the humans left behind and how they dealt with the apocalypse.

World War Z doesn’t take the Walking Dead route, in that the story is indeed focused on the zombie threat. However, it’s smart, packed with intelligent action and doesn’t waste a minute of your time.

These zombies aren’t the usual laughably slow, lumbering creatures… these undead guys are fast. They swarm. Their attack is sudden, unexpected… and World War Z makes the most of that suddenness with a few 3D “in your face” zombie attacks that never failed to make the people in the seats next to me jump. Also, these zombies are like ants, in that they can work together to achieve a goal like, for example, using each others’ bodies to climb over a high wall.

About the lack of gore: I didn’t really notice how relatively bloodless the movie was until late in the film when Brad Pitt sinks an axe into a zombie’s head. The zombie, and the axed head, were kept off the screen, below the frame. The violence, especially for a zombie apocalypse, is surprisingly PG-rated. There’s MUCH more blood and gore in ten minutes of the typical Walking Dead episode than there is in the whole movie.  But the lack of gore doesn’t detract at all, and really, I didn’t miss it. It still managed to pack lots of tension and suspense into an extremely efficient 2 hours.

There are quite a few knockout scenes… Great CGI zombie swarm shots, an incredible plane crash sequence, and a chilling shot of a sudden nuclear explosion seen off in the distance from a cockpit.

There’s nothing deep here, no hidden meanings, no allegories to the human condition. It’s just a version of the end of the world you can munch on buttered popcorn to. I give it three and a half still-moving zombie fingers out of five.

Man of Steel flies high enough

Let me get what’s wrong with Man of Steel out of the way first.

The final act – the huge final battle sequence that’s become de rigueur for superhero flicks – is interminable. Not only do we get one that just goes on and on and on and on, then when get the personal showdown between Superman and General Zod that goes on and on and on and on.

With millions being spent on CGI effects, it’s already become a tired trope that final battles must feature the destruction of a city. In this case, Man of Steel aims to top Avengers by not only destroying a small town, but utterly destroying New York. Sorry, I mean Metropolis.

Superman of the comic books wouldn’t have allowed such wanton destruction — he was always concerned with protecting innocent bystanders. While much is made of his concern for a family of innocent bystanders in the finale, the rest of the half-hour to 45 minutes of battles seem to offer no such concern at all. At least 4 or 5 buildings get knocked over.

Product placement. Enough with the IHOP already.

Superman as Messiah. The film really packs in the Jesus references. Several crucifix poses for Superman, a critical moment of decision backed with a picture of Jesus in prayer, and Superman’s referencing that he’s lived on earth for 33 years. Okay, we get it. I’m sure the nice Jewish boys who invented Superman would have loved that.

Okay, here’s what’s right with Man of Steel.

First, I like looking at Amy Adams. Always have, always will.

The absolute best part is Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, Superman’s adoptive father. In two of the scenes, Costner gives the best performances of his career. One, a simple line that packs so much emotional punch I felt it in my chest. “Can’t I just go on pretending to be your son?” young Clark Kent asks. “You ARE my son!” Pa Kent replies, but with a line reading that carried with it the entire emotional weight of the film. And maybe a couple other movies besides. I love you, dad.

In another, it’s just a moment. Costner doesn’t say a word, but the moment packs an equal emotional wallop.

If for nothing else, those two short scenes make Man of Steel unforgettable.

The movie boasts plenty of other great performances. Michael Shannon is terrific as Zod, who doesn’t play the villain as a villain, he plays it as if he’s the hero fighting the whole world. That’s always the best way to play the heavy. Diane Lane isn’t on screen nearly enough. Russell Crowe is awesome.

The opening Krypton sequence is great, even if a bit Lord of the Rings/Avatarish.

The Christopher Nolan influence was a source of concern going in — making Batman brooding and world-weary worked for that character, but it wouldn’t work for Superman. I was hoping they wouldn’t go that route — and they didn’t. They did, however, choose to humanize Superman by making him first a child who just wants to be like the other kids, and then a young man who desperately wants to know who he is and where he fits in the world. Those scenes, contrary to what some other critics have said, give this version of Superman an emotional resonance I’ve always felt the others lacked.

Did I mention I like looking at Amy Adams? I got a thing for her. Can’t help it.

The music. Hans Zimmer nails this one. The score is wonderful. It’s memorable, soaring, heroic, and makes great use of drum lines.

Focusing a little more on the sci-fi elements of the Superman story — I confess, I like that aspect a lot.

This version is definitely better than the awful Superman Returns from a few years ago, but the bottom line for people in my age group is this: Is it better than 1978’s Superman The Movie? To be completely honest with you, I think Man of Steel beats it out in the final analysis. It can’t top it when it comes to action, that’s for sure. Maybe Man of Steel is a little too serious… but I think it struck the right tone, and 1978’s version does indeed show it’s age.

Four phone booths out of five for Man of Steel.