What as the AGENT CODY BANKS movie taught at least one Imagination Connoisseur about objectively “good” filmmaking? That and more letters from fans.

AGENT CODY BANKS and objectively good filmmaking.

Dear Rob,

I’m writing this letter as I reach the final minutes of your 600th episode of Robservations. Big congrats on your epic run of Robcasting, by the way!

I always have so many thoughts I want to write to you about, but I have only written once before. I have been suffering some sort of mental block for a while now, not regarding writing to you but regarding writing at all. My first time writing to you was a big achievement for me, as is this one.

I’m hoping I am finally digging myself out of my hole for good now, and it would be great if I could become a regular letter writer and engage with this PGS community that I have gotten to know over the course of the many Robservations episodes I’ve watched.

Oh, anyway, none of this is what I wanted to write about.

First, I would like to thank you for having Ashley Miller on the show. I am a huge fan of most of his work (at least the work I’m familiar with).

Frankie Muniz is Cody Banks in AGENT CODY BANKS

Fringe is my favorite TV show of all time, I love The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and I thought X-Men: First Class was great. Plus, Thor isn’t too shabby and I loved Agent Cody Banks back when I was a tween. Joking aside, I must thank you and Ashley both for your involvement in the project. I know you were not too happy with the way it turned out, and I doubt he was either, but it was something that awed me when I was younger.

Looking back, it hit me in a similar way as the original two Spider-Man movies did, which is saying something because I was absolutely obsessed with those as a kid. The problem with Cody Banks was that I saw it once on TV and then it disappeared, only to live as a friendly ghost in my mind thereafter. I did eventually watch it again on Hulu, about one year before you started Robservations.

I must admit it doesn’t hold up as well as the Spider-Man movies, but it’s still something special and it was super cool to learn that you were instrumental in its creation.

Well, there I go on a tangent again, but I hope you will bear with me.

I don’t thank you and Ashley Miller for his appearance on the show just because I am a fan. I also found the chat to be quite inspirational, especially the part when you asked what his advice for aspiring writers would be, since I happen to be one. One great thing he said was, “Write constantly, because if you don’t, on some level you’re full of shit. You should be constantly—constantly—working out, as it were, and turning yourself into a better writer.”

Well, as mentioned before, I’ve been on a cold streak when it comes to writing. In the past year, I’ve only written one short story, and that was last month. I do view that story as a first step, though, and I believe that you have provided me with a great opportunity for a second step with your short story competition. I don’t really want to enter any story I’ve written before; I want to take a step forward personally, not just publicly.

This letter is getting long, but I want to get to the idea that finally pushed me over the edge to actually write.

Toward the end of the 600th episode, you and Jason Spriggs started talking about your idea that art is not subjective. To summarize, you believe art has an inherent, objective quality level that we humans do not yet have the ability to divine. During the discussion of your belief, a theory formed in my mind: Every piece of art is unique, obviously, or it wouldn’t be art. On top of that, every piece of art is made up of several different elements.

I theorize that each of these elements is objectively good or bad in and of itself. When you add up all the elements, you are then faced with the mammoth task of having to evaluate not only good minus bad (which is already hard enough), but also how well or poorly the elements interact with one another.

In conclusion, it is entirely possible (and I think likely) that each piece of art has an objective level of good or bad, but it is also entirely possible that humanity will never be able to figure it out for even one work of art because of the complexity of the equations needed to figure it out. Never fear, though. I think our rough approximations of good and bad are still worthy of crafting and refining.

I often mentally compare the pursuit of perfection to exponential functions in geometry. An exponential function will get exponentially closer and closer to a set of imaginary x and y axes, but it will never touch them. We can similarly get closer and closer to perfection, but we will never reach it.

I’ll sign off on this one now.

With honor,

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What was once lost is re-discovered in HOOK.

Dustin Hoffman as Capt. Hook in HOOK.

In 1991 Steven Spielberg directed the fantasy swashbuckling adventure “Hook” and it’s perhaps my favorite childhood film growing up for quite a few reasons.

Hello again Rob and PGS family. We are merely more then a community I feel after 600th episodes we have become family now.

Today I’d like to share with that family my thoughts on such a wonderful film, that captures the imagination perfectly.

After all here at PGS, we strive to do just that. Capture the very imagination, and what film could do that? One may ask? I did. For me that film is Hook.

And it does just that it captures our imaginations. Our very inner child if you will.

The film is about perhaps accepting the fact that while it may be okay to grow up, it’s also quite okay to be child like and still enjoy what being a child should be about. It’s also about accepting the fact that when growing up one doesn’t have to put away childish things, and give up on ones own imagination. How does it do this?

Well? It’s a film about Peter Pan. But it’s also much, much more. It’s about believing in one’s self and the real power of imagination.

It’s written by James V. Hart. Who’s own son asked him a something wonderful. He asked his father what if Hook didn’t die at the end of the Disney animated film “Peter Pan” to a crocodile? What if Pan grew up? Out of this came the story of Hook.

Peter Pan grows up and forgets who he was. He may have a family but he has come to care more for his career. His own son seems to resent him, and only long for his father to give him what every son wants most.

Then there is Hook, who longs for revenge. He steals Peter’s own kids Jack, and Maggie taking them away to neverland. The adventure begins when Peter must go back to neverland to save his kids, but is humorously in a way kidnapped by Tinkerbell played by the ever so lovely Julia Roberts.

Peter, is played by Robin Williams who is a true gem. Even on the set he spent the time to get to know most of the children playing the lost boys.

He has little hope to save his kids because he has forgotten how to fly. He has forgotten who he was, and so has forgotten how to believe. So the he has to learn to fly and find himself again to save his kids. He has to believe in himself and the power of the imagination once again. But, the lost boys do help him. Though the new leader of the lost boys becomes jealous of this and doesn’t stand for it. Once he gets his imagination back and learns to fly the two face off, and a line is drawn.

Peter remembers that his happy moment is Jacks birth and so regains who he was and that self important power we all have. Believing in ones own imagination.

Rufio the very lost boy who seems to be set against Peter at first joins him. By giving him the sword.

The film becomes an enjoyable adventure of wonderful child like imagination when it’s pirates versus lost boys.

Only before this Peter sees Jack his own son who long for his attention turn to his very enemy for the attention he did not give his son. Maggie never gives up on her father and that makes you love her all the more.

So in a sense Pan and Hook fight for Jacks love but truly only Peter really loved his son, telling him his most happy thought. Maggie just wants to go home. Jack is happy to have his fathers love, and Hook wants his fight.

Hook is played wonderfully by Dustin Hoffman.

When Rufio steps in to fight him he is killed, and says I wish I had a Dad like you that pulled at my very heart strings.

This film is very much one of my favorite childhood memories.

After Hook is memorably eaten by the infamous crocodile Jack and Maggie head home.

Peter says good by to his past and accepts his new future as a father, but doesn’t loose the power of believing as he once had nor his child like innocence he once again regained.

He becomes a better man and father.

This film will always be one of my favorite childhood films. It’s also one of my favorite Robin Williams movies.

I think this film tells us it’s okay to believe and always have that childhood like quality, and teaches us to never give up on that or the power of imagination. So thanks for reading my letter today.
-Thomas B.

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Is THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT a preview of how we’ll go to the movies in the future?

Hey Rob and the PGS,

I recently finished watching “The Queens Gambit” in its entirety and I got it done in two nights. I have to say, it was so delightful, beautifully crafted, wonderfully paced and shot, with such a magnificent performance by Anya Taylor-Joy. This limited series, in my opinion is why we “go to the movies”, without the theater. What I mean Rob, is that this 7 episode FILM is the most cinematic thing I’ve seen on screen this past year. It really got me thinking about the mediums in the business right now. The medium that we are in danger of losing and also the medium that we are for absolute certain gaining quickly.

On one hand, a theatre going experience can be pricey and sometimes a bit of a hassle, but it also provides the space that many imagine connoisseurs need in order to escape the real world and become immersed into the world created on screen. The other hard gives us the industry’s biggest leap into the future with home streaming and the over abundance of creative content at our finger tips. If it came down to it, could I sit in a theater for 7 one hour long episodes of “The Queens Gambit” in one sitting? Or would I prefer a package where I could go back each night of the week to watch one episode a night? Or would I actually prefer the limited series be edited down to a feature length film? These are all questions I was asking myself as I was watching the series and wishing SO MUCH that I was able to watch this photographed and directed masterpiece in the my favorite theater, The Regency Director’s Cut in Laguna Niguel in South Orange County.

Anna Taylor Joy stars in THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT – one of the hottest series to hit streaming in 2020.

“The Queens Gambit” reaches new heights in streaming programs. Its rich, dense, old-fashion,and meticulously written and edited. Every shot is designed to evoke the emotion of the character on screen. Along with the brilliant score by Carlos Rafael Rivera, series Cinematographer Steven Meizler and director Scott Frank knew exactly how long to take us on the journey of each shot by holding, panning, or trucking the camera at the same time Rivera composing notes that cut into each scene like a pulse pounding action movie.

Sometimes what you are watching is so fucking engaging and intense that it may even feel like an action movie at times. I think out of everything I’ve seen in 2020, whether it was at the theater earlier on in the year or on streaming, this is the best thing I’ve watched all year.

My other favorites I watched in 2020 was Hulu’s limited series DEVS and the underrated High Fidelity witch pulls a gender swap with style, grace, and actual purpose. Both on the total other side of the spectrum mind you. DEVS is a smart Science Fiction story created by one of my favorite writer/filmmakers working right now Alex Garland.

Having made my favorite film of 2015 “Ex Machina” and my favorite film of the past 9 years in 2018, “Annihilation”, I was so excited when I heard he was writing and directing a limited series that delves so deep into what he does best, sci fi. This series did NOT disappoint with Garlands beautiful sense of scenery and his ability to make something so surreal feel so lived in. The soundtrack is such an amazing contrast to how the story unfolds just how “Annihilation” does.

You can tell Garland paid so much attention and oversaw every aspect of this series. Just like with Anya Taylor-Joy’s performance in “Queens Gambit”, Sonoya Mizuno as Lily commands the screen and holds you with every frame she’s in, which is pretty much all of them. Its such a strange and unique story that grabbed me even though it doesn’t unfold until the second half of its 8 episodes.

High Fidelity is an unfortunate case of possibly being smarter and more character driven than viewers come to expect these days and Hulu was too uncertain of its future to renew it. Which is a share. Being a huge vinyl collector myself and a fan of the book and film, this was a unique take on the material retelling the story from a woman’s perspective, which I found delightful as the original book is so much about the male condition and our inability to recall failed relationships in our lives without a healthy does of revisionist history. And Zoe Kravitz was absolutely amazing being the best work she has EVER done.

This past year has really made me realize something that I didn’t want to. That media, despite not being released theatrically or being traditionally structured, is in really good shape with streaming. Do I want movies or the theater going experience to go away? Hell NO! At the same time having watched “The Queens Gambit”, High Fidelity”, and “DEVS” in 2020 at home, I’m happy and motivated that this type of storytelling is even more on the rise that its long history of television runs. Though, this is nothing new to the small screen, most mini series, at least back in the 80’s and 90’s were slowly paced, with usually 3 to 4 episodes. Streaming service’s ability to release these all at once makes them so much more of film watching experience. With the benefit of no commercial breaks or waiting a week for the next episode we as audience members can make these stories what we want them to be to us. I for one watched “DEVS” during the corse of one week, “High Fidelity over the course of two weeks, and “Queens Gambit”, as I mentioned, in two days.

The Bigger questions that I have been asking myself and that I want to ask you and the PGS are things like, what if the future isn’t one thing or another? What if, hypothetically, we can chose different ways of viewing movies and streaming programs? Rob, because I respect your opinion and your views and experience on filmmaking and television producing so much, I ask you, is it possible to realistically create a platform or platforms where an everyday viewer could chose how they would like to watch something? I know that Tarantino recently was given the license to re-edit “The Hateful Eight” and turn it into a 4 episode limited series and I thoroughly enjoyed that version. What if people could go see “Queens Gambit” in a theater as one of the different ways I mentioned? Could streaming services work with exhibitors and theater owners to play these in theaters (assuming theaters actually reopen soon)?

Is this a lame way of thinking? I feel it is something that could give everyone something that they want. Sure, I know the amount of effort that would have to go into something like this. But, as an editor myself, I know many new job could be created to make this sort of venture a reality. With re-editing streaming content that some folks may really want to see in the theater like “DEVS” or even “Chernobyl” from a couple years ago, it just seems like streaming services and theater chains can both benefit from. I don’t know. I know the industry fairly well, so I am sure I will get cut down quickly in the live chat and comments, but I can’t help but feel it’s worth discussing.

Anyway Rob, thank you reading my letter and doing everything you do everyday to make MY day just that much better. I admire what you do and what you have to say, so I thought you were the best person to at least give my questions the benefit of the doubt. Live long and prosper my friend.

Also, my interview with actor/writer/director Blake Robbins recently dropped on my channel and I’d love for you to take a glance. He is an interesting filmmaker and a great actor having played Brass on HBO’s OZ and Jim’s brother Tom Halpert on “The Office”. He’s currently got a great script on The Hollywood Blacklist.

-Cinema Gulp


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Miami Vice worked better on the small screen.

Hi Rob, moderators, and Post Geek Singularity,

I have a 2 part review for the same IP, which I want to share with the Post Geek Singularity.

That IP is Miami Vice. The first part of the review will be for the original 1980s tv show, and the second part will be for the 2006 movie adaptation.

Don Johnson (as Sonny Crockett) and Phillip Michael Thomas (as Rico Tubbs) starred in MIAMI VICE on NBC in the mid-80s.

I found the tv show, running from 1984-1989, to be just alright, as it was definitely more style over substance. Not all, but a large number of the episodes were pretty much the same stories recycled, with drugs as a problem being the most recycled. There were some episodes which I found to be a bit ridiculous, like one involving aliens and UFOs, a several episode saga with Sonny Crockett losing his memory, or one episode involving cows.

There was also a backdoor pilot near the end of the show, involving a group of teenagers, which wasn’t bad but not that good either. Also, a number of the characters fall in love with several different people really quick, which I thought was a bit of a stretch. On the bright side, there are positive things about the shows. The performances from the seven main cast members were really good: Don Johnson as Sonny Crockett, Phillip Michael Thomas as Rico Tubbs, Edward James Olmos as Marty Castillo, Saundra Santiago as Gina Calabrese, Olivia Brown as Trudy Joplin, Michael Talbott as Stan Switek, and John Diehl as Larry Zito.

I know Crockett and Tubbs are the face and lead of the series, but I thought the show worked best when it was an ensemble with all 7 of them working together and interacting with each other. A bit of a spoiler, one of them dies in season 4, which was the season where the show started becoming not as good.

There were several supporting characters, but I felt the best one was a character called Izzy, who gives the cops the latest information from the street. Izzy was played Martin Ferrero, who people might know best from Jurassic Park as Donald Gennaro who gets eaten by the T-rex on the toilet.

I liked the look of the series, as it was very stylish, and the soundtrack throughout the whole show, like how Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight was used in the 2 part pilot episode. It was also great seeing a lot of appearances from either then unknowns or already established celebrities, like Bruce Willis, Ed O’Neill, Brian Dennehy, Laurence Fishbourne, Wesley Snipes, John Turturro, Phil Collins, Chris Rock, James Brown, Julia Roberts, Melanie Griffith, Ben Stiller, John Leguizamo, Bill Paxton, Ian McShane, Ving Rhames, Liam Neeson, Luis Guzman, Stanley Tucci, and many others. Overall, while I think there were good parts of the Miami Vice tv show, I found it to be just alright overall.

I found Michael Mann’s 2006 film adaptation to not be my thing. It felt a bit anachronistic, as I felt the movie might have worked better in the 90s than the 2000s.

I tried, but I could not get into it. I couldn’t really understand the story, and the characters were very underdeveloped.

While there were good actors in this movie, like Colin Ferrell and Jamie Foxx, they and the others were all completely miscast. There was no chemistry between any of them, and their performances could have been better. Almost all the cast except for Colin Ferrell was underused, as there was a lack of teamwork and dynamics between Ferrell and the other cast members.

Also, I thought the film’s look was a little off putting, as it looked a more polished version of found footage. Overall, the 2006 film was not my thing.

That is my 2 part review of the Miami Vice IP, from its tv show and film adaptation.

Thanks, live long and prosper.

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