AN ABSENTEE REPORT 2.0

As this news service continues to celebrate our 25th anniversary, we once again dip deep into our not-so-distance past to find a previous article that speak for the time as it was then as it’s now.

Although the pandemic isn’t as bad as it was a year ago this time, and is NOT over with in spite of what some may claim, a number of events that would normally take place this time of year that focus upon in person happenings will be either be held later in the season, or will occur one year hence. And one of those events is the ever lovin’ San Diego Comic Con, the be-all-to-end-all place to gather to celebrate, as well as sell, the best (and perhaps worst) of comic related elements, science fiction, fantasy, and any other aspects that is part of the popular culture universe–no matter what kingdom, sector, galaxy, planet, or alternative reality tribal vantage point they may hail from–or not!

Although this writer has never attended the SDCC, I was aware of it since its humble beginnings in the early 1970’s when comic book collecting began to grow up.

As some of you readers out there may know, the biggest get together of its kind took place over the previous weekend. (Actually, a weekend and a half!) It was the infamous San Diego Comic Con, where a massive crowd of folks, enough to fill a good sized city, arrived at this town along the Pacific Ocean and just a stone throw’s from Tijuana, to literally “geek out”, burring themselves in anything and everything within the form of comic books, graphic novels, science fiction, fantasy, horror, animie, and anything one can create that mostly caters to a young(er) demographic or for those that never got around to growing up. This party won’t report on just what went on for mainly one specific reason. Yours truly never showed up!

Yes, this very writer did have opportunities to attend this five day event (including the Wednesday night preview) that met at the San Diego Convention Center, but for various reasons, some important and others long forgotten, just could not get away to meet all of the fan boys along with a few fan girls to live, breath, eat, sleep, text, tweet, blog, and poop about this form of domestic popular culture.

However, by the time this issue hits the streets (or is made available via cyberspace), there will be millions of other reports on just what went on. From the big movie studios using the convention to market their new releases to the comic books publishers, (DC, Marvel, and everyone else) plugging new and existing titles, as well as the teams of wannabes that are seeking their nitch into writing, drawing, and creating the “next big thing” when it comes to this art for print, movies, television, video streaming, or however media is presented.

The San Diego Comic Con has been around for some forty plus years, staring out in 1970 formed by a group of comic book collectors that paid tribute to comic titles from the “Golden Age” (1933-1955), “Silver Age” (1956-1970), as well as those comic strips that appeared in newspapers aka “The Funnies”. From that humble beginning (as well as one of many other comic book conventions that took place in various cities around the nation), this weekend meeting of comic fans grew slow but steady to a massive orgy of comics and everything in between that exists to this very day!

This writer used to attend some of the smaller conventions that usually took place in a hotel ballroom over a Friday night through Sunday afternoon period. The first one this writer attended was something called “Nostalgia ‘72” that took place at the Pick Congress Hotel in downtown Chicago, as well as its sequel, “Nostalgia ‘73” that was also at the Pick the next summer. (Both conventions met in late June-early July) As far as yours truly can recall, there was no “Nostalgia ‘74”, but did attend another convention that year whose name was long forgotten–mainly because it wasn’t as well organized!

Throughout the decade of the 1970’s aka “The Bronze Age”, this same ol’ person would show up at few of these gatherings. Not because I (no more third person references) was deeply into comics or anything although I did find ‘em amusing for what they were, but just to view what was out there in terms of comics, movie related materials, TV, and so on. At the evening hours, there would usually be special events (sometimes with a lecture attached) of comic related subjects, from a complete run of some 1940’s-era serial made by a poverty row movie studio, to live appearances of some star that was part of the era. At another convention name long forgotten (c.1976), Kirk Allen, the first screen Superman, made an appearance to speak about his career and how he turned down an offer to appear in the TV series that made George Reeves a star! Before he spoke, the first episode of Superman Vs. The Mole Men was run, followed by Kirk speaking on stage while taking questions from the audience. At another connection (c.1979), Bob Clampett made an appearance to speak about his days at Warner Bros. as well as his creation of the puppet show TIme For Beanie and its cartoon version Beanie and Cecil. Later that evening, a selection of Clampett directed Loony Tunes were run, as well as a few kinescopes of TIme For Beanie and Beanie And Cecils from the early 1960’s were screened.

But those meetings and conventions took place multiple generations before, now totally irreverent. But this writer (now returning to third person reference) still makes an attempt to follow upon what’s going down in comics and so on. Perhaps the only notion behind it all is to attend conventions. But that’s a schlep as it is! So much for geekdom!

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SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY (Warner Bros.) features LeBron James appearing as LeBron James (i.e. “himself”), a professional basketball player. But this isn’t the LeBron James story. It’s a take of a basketball playing person being involved with a bunch of cartoon characters that are out to save the world and his character as a caring dad–sort of!     

Let’s get into the plot first as created by the story writing team of Juel Taylor, Tony Rettenmaier, Keenan Coogler, and Terence Nance, with a screenplay by the for named team with additional material by Jesse Gordon and Celeste Ballard, and based upon the Space Jam story written by Timothy Harris, Steve Rudnick, Herschel Weingrod, and Leo Benvenuti (Whew!) It starts out as a standard sports bio movie. We see LeBron as a kid living in working class Akron, Ohio, playing hoops in a community center while getting chewed out by his coach for not concentrating on his playing the game. Then comes the montage of stock footage and TV clips showing off his rise to fame. Then we see LeBron at home living in a fortress of a mansion set in the Hollywood Hills being portrayed as a family man–and a well-to-do one at that! (This is all happening just in the first eight minutes of the movie, including the opening credits!) After some Tyler Perry-esque banter, then comes the real plot of the feature.

Deep inside the serververse (computer mainframes) located deep within the Warner Bros. studio lot of Burbank, California, a digital algorithm being of artificial intelligence,  Al G Rhythm (Don Cheadle) watches LeBron from far and within with envy because he’s a rather successful being both on and off the court. Meanwhile at a staff meeting with a group of WB executives, LeBron is offered a place as part of the studio’s intellectual properties. After the high tech pitch featuring Al as its top “pitchman” showing he can team up with DC super heroes, etc., LeBron turns down the offer, in spite of what his twelve year old son Dom (Cedric Joe) feels as he is more into creating video games than following his dad’s footsteps on the court. Al, not too pleased in this turn down, gets his revenge by sucking LeBron and Dom inside the serververse. Al proceeds to  “kidnap” Dom, only to offer LeBron a deal. Al challenges him into a game of basketball with his squad of cyber players to win freedom. If LeBon’s team wins, he and Dom can go off and run back into the real world. If he loses, the two are stuck inside of serververse forever! Since LeBron is within the WB lot, he gathers the studio’s best intellectual property to form a team–the Loony Tunes characters consisting of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and the rest of the bunch for another round on the b-ball court!

This movie is a follow up to the 1996 release Space Jam, which in turn was based upon a c. 1992 TV spot for Nike entitled Hare Jordan where Bugs Bunny through animation and Michael Jordon through “real life”, go out for a one-on-one game of hoops. Of course, this latest entry to the Space Jam series(?) has been tweaked for a postmodern audience of kids, mostly young boys and perhaps some adults, that grew up in the wired age where everyone is connected through online portals, as well as being somewhat familiar to selected Warner Media’s intellectual properties, or IP for short!

But getting back to the SP-ANL movie itself. Unlike the previous SM feature that hinted that one was watching a flick with live action and animation blended in, this entry takes the same idea and stretches out entirely, nearly making this film as one long advertisement for Warner Media, or at least the sellable parts of WM! As to the animation, it’s a lot better than what was seen in the original SJ flick, since CGI has improved within the last twenty five years.

Although there’s a lot more involved in this title, this writer won’t get into the details. (No, it’s not a spoiler alert since there isn’t anything to spoil!) However, don’t expect anything intelligent about it, unless that intelligence is from artificial and digital stock!

As directed by Malcolm D. Lee, this film would appear to please a rather juvenile (and again, mostly male) audience! It might cater to a standard fan of professional basketball, but don’t expect those involved in sports talk radio, TV, or wherever one obtains their sports stat sheets to discuss this feature in any regarded terms. However, it still does make ideal product placement, just like it was back in the day when Air Jordon ruled the NBA b-ball set! And so it goes!

PS..Don’t also expect to see Pepe Le Pew in this feature. The reason has something to do with the character not being “politicly correct” in today’s landscape. But this writer won’t get into that issue as this is a movie review, not a political forum! And we’re gonna keep it that way! Get it?

SP-ANL is rated “PG” for cartoon-type violence (or course), as well as for mild television suitable cussing. Now playing in theaters where available, as well as streaming online via HBO MAX (“ad free” a.k.a. “subscription” version) for a limited time.

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ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE (C) 2021 Linear Cycle Productions. All rights reserved. The views and opinions are those of the writers, and not necessarily of the staff and management. ‘Nuff said!

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