Monday, December 14, 2015

Happy Holidays and I'll see you in the New Year

Happy Holidays everyone. I'm going to shut my blog down until the first Wednesday of January 2016 when I put up my next Insecure Writer's Support group post. May you and yours have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. But who am I kidding? With the first Star Wars movie to come out in almost a decade exploding everywhere on Thursday, who isn't going to have the best holiday ever? Seriously.

Friday, December 11, 2015

I really really want this poster for Ready Player One by artist Harlem Elam.

I want this poster so bad. Artist Harlem Elam was commissioned to do it, and he got author Ernest Cline to sign every one. I recognize all the pop culture references for the book. It really is 8-bit perfection. Oh and you can click to embiggen.

My review of Ready Player One (which I read earlier this year) is located HERE.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What you can expect from the Dr. Strange movie is a mind trip action film. That sounds right up my alley.

Disney via Marvel started rolling out their ideas regarding phase 3 of the Marvel universe this week, and it pretty much started with the video below about Dr. Strange. Also, there's concept art embedded in the video that totally shows Benedict Cumberbatch as the sorcerer supreme. This is gonna be soooo good.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Is a suspension of disbelief a requirement for true happiness?

So here's a question for all of you: is suspension of disbelief a requirement for happiness? As writers, all of us need to be aware that suspension of disbelief is incredibly important to a story. For lack of a better example, it's the trick that the Wizard of Oz pulls on anyone that walks into his throne room. "Behold the great and powerful OZ!" Just don't look behind the curtain or you may be disappointed. However, what led me to ask this question of you was not a movie like the Wizard of Oz. Rather, it's a roleplaying game: Dungeons & Dragons. Allow me to explain.

About five months ago, I decided to explore the Fifth edition rules set that was issued in 2014, and run a game for my friends. Now, just a little background, for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about Dungeons & Dragons is basically "bad improv" (I think this is fair to say) in a fantasy story that is (hopefully) masterfully narrated by a person in the role of Dungeon Master (I say this tongue-in-cheek). However, improv can be incredibly fun so don't knock it until you try it. :)

Of course there are rules and all that, but that's not what I'm going to talk about. Rather, it's the observation that (in the role of storyteller or "dungeon master") it's my pleasure to entertain folks, and a lot of this job has to do with storytelling tricks that are supposed to seem random but (in all actuality) they aren't random at all. Having difficulty following? Here's an example: a player's character comes across a magical weapon that is the exact weapon in which they are specialized. Mind blown, right? What a coincidence! Sooo crazy. Sarcasm aside though, I've noticed that no one complains. In fact, they seem to be really happy with the story.

So I got this idea in my head about how we all kind of trick ourselves into thinking that we've done something ourselves when we really haven't. For example, I work with handicapped people who (with the aid of a team of non-handicapped people) are able to climb mountains or even bobsled. Those accomplishments are theirs (with like ten other people working full time to make sure they succeed). So weird, right? But it's a "suspension of disbelief" and leads me to this statement: the joy you feel in accomplishing something is totally yours with the hidden acknowledgement that you should never EVER peek behind the curtain. I can think of lots of examples in life where someone's happiness about something depends on a suspension of disbelief that what happened to them was accomplished through a) skill, b) hard work, or c) brilliance. Nevermind that a whole team of people may have also been involved. Nevermind that it could have been just pure blind luck.

So what do you think? Are a lot of life's pleasures dependent on a certain level of disbelief? Here's another example (albeit absurd): is there a suspension of disbelief with regard to the food we eat? Are we all comfortable with eating fried chicken and beef because we don't see what makes it possible to put those things on our table? I would imagine that most people don't even give it a moment's notice. Rather, ignorance (as they say) is bliss, and the more and more I think about this cliche, the more and more I believe what it says about all of us and a very important key to something many of us find elusive: true happiness.

Friday, December 4, 2015

For my Insecure Writer's Support Group post I think I'll just focus on the dragon outside the window because he's really the sum of all my fears.

I missed Wednesday's Insecure Writer's Support Group, because I'm old and I forget things now and then. To make up for it, I'm putting up my IWSG post today, and it has to do with this picture, which (I hope) serves as some kind of writing prompt for all of us writers. Additionally, I hope it's great at reminding all of us that no matter how many stories and books we write and put on our shelves, the specter of insecurity lurks just outside the window.
This picture is called "Dragon in the Archives" and it was done by artist Michael Komarck. His website with more of his work can be found HERE, and I hope you check it out because Mr. Komarck is amazing. So I guess all that's left to do for this post is to air my particular insecurity of the month and so here it is: I have a fear (when I get into a project) that I will take on too much. To conquer this, I've had to learn that I alone allow my "dragons" (as in the picture above) to be as big as I want them to be. My goal then is to keep them small by focusing on a little bit here and a little bit there. Sooner or later the whole project will be finished. For me, it all comes down to spending "my spoons" wisely (look up spoon theory if you want an explanation of this) and not all at once. The dragon can be kept at bay by a mere glass window no matter how much he wants to get in, and I can always deal with the dragon tomorrow.

The IWSG is hosted by Sandra Hoover, Mark Koopmans, Doreen McGettigan, Megan Morgan, and Melodie Campbell! Author Alex J. Cavanaugh started the whole thing many moons ago.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The animated adaptation of The Little Prince looks really really good.

This trailer for "The Little Prince" surprised me with its quality. It looks like something I'd expect from Pixar at the height of its powers. I know nothing of the story, but I've always been drawn to animation. One of the things that I really like in the trailer is how the animation kind of switches up during the story of "The Little Prince." If this is one of the most beloved stories of all time, I think I've got some catching up to do. I guess it's a good thing that the movie is coming out next year after it makes its big splash at Cannes.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Sometimes Doctor Who has a plot so complex that I'm not sure I quite understand what's going on.

This post contains plot spoilers for "Heaven Sent," episode 11 of this season's Doctor Who.

I'm not sure what to think of this season's Doctor Who. First off, I'm actually not positive that I understand it either, but maybe that's the point? Last week we bid farewell to Clara Oswald, who (in being very much like the Doctor), had become reckless. Her death was uncomfortable, but I think the character of Clara had run its course so maybe this way was the best way to go forward? However, the result of Clara's death was the doctor being ensnared by Ashildr into his own confession dial, which (as it turns out) is a revolving castle where he's stalked by a monster that epitomizes his greatest fear.

The episode Heaven Sent (episode 11 of the 35th series of Doctor Who) was brilliant in its creepiness. There was the slow plodding monster that always caught up to the Doctor (82 minutes was as much of a lead as he could get on the thing if he ran from one side of the castle to the other). In order to open up new corridors, he needed to confess to the monster something deeply personal, which then caused everything to move as it does in Hogwarts.

Eventually, he'd find himself at room 12 which had some kind of wall harder than diamond and many feet thick (covering the way out which consequently led to Gallifrey--the doctor's home world which he kind of/sort of destroyed). He could hammer at it with his fists and make a small chip here and there like a bird pecking at a diamond. Then his greatest fear would catch him and...dying...the doctor would crawl back to a room where he would fry his own brain with an electrical charge to force a version of himself stuck in the hard drive of a computer to be born so he could start over again (have you guys ever seen the movie "The Prestige"? It's like that). After several billion years of doing this and repeatedly chipping at the wall, he finally breaks through to find Gallifrey. At least, that's what I got from it.

The episode was as creepy as Doctor Who gets too. It effectively used lighting and the loneliness of being trapped in this shifting prison (not to mention the buzzing flies which heralded the approach of the monster) to convey fear. And when the mystery of thousands of skulls buried beneath the water was solved (they all belong to the Doctor and his billions of reincarnations) the true horror of this place set in. Basically, the Doctor was trapped in his own hell and just like the journey the narrator takes in Dante's Inferno, he had to pass through the portal in the ninth layer before he could begin the ascent to some kind of redemption.

Anyway, the great reveal at the end of the episode is another confession from the Doctor: that he's the Hybrid, and I've got to confess I'm not really sure what that all means in the lexicon of Doctor Who. Any readers care to explain it to me? I'd be interested to know. This series continuously pushes the envelope of what I think I understand.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and I'll see you next Monday.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving. It's my second favorite holiday so I'm really looking forward to it (my first is the Fourth of July because you can't beat summertime, lemonade, fireworks, and BBQ). I'll see you next Monday.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Is Alan Moore a genius or a crackpot that can write? You be the judge.

This is where I stand with regards to Alan Moore: I think he's brilliant. But whether or not you think the guy that wrote perhaps the most famous Batman story ever is a genius or just plain insane, if you're a writer perhaps you might want to listen to what he has to say. Recently at an anti-library closure protest Alan Moore said that aspiring writers should self-publish. Surprised?

Here's a quote: "Publishing today is a complete mess. I know brilliant authors who can't get their books published," Moore says. Then he goes on to explain that many publishing houses are afraid to take risks on fiction (a thing a bunch of you out there know all too well. Moore goes on to pass this advice: "Publish yourself and don't rely upon other people."

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Why is the lack of information about something so damned addicting?

Today's blog post comes out of a realization that I may be one of the sheep that gets sucked into hype. It's an admission that's been a long time coming, but we are legion (this army of sheep), and because of our over curious natures we must poke and prod at things until we find out the truth. It's honestly why I keep coming back to things, and I'd just like to know why my brain (and many others) is wired this way. You want examples?

In the new Star Wars: Force Awakens trailer we now know that Maz Kanata is 1000 years old and she's voiced by Lupita Nyongo. The lack of knowledge about this character has led many to speculate it's a "new Yoda" which may be why she's so old. A new Yoda?! Are you f'ing kidding me? That would be so cool IF IT'S TRUE. Also, what's up with Kylo Ren's saber? Supposedly, the quillions are there to "vent" energy from the light saber because it's unstable. But why is it unstable? Will J.J. even answer this question or just tease us along like a stripper in a glitter shop?

In the leaked information about Alien: Covenant (the sequel to Prometheus) Ridley Scott let drop that another earth ship finds a planet in a dark corner of space and David the android is living on it. What about Shaw? She was the only survivor from the Engineer planet in the first Prometheus film. Knowing that Shaw is nowhere around leaves me unsettled.

In the Flash television show, I think the identity of Zoom is going to end up being Barry Allen's dad. But of course, I don't know because they've been keeping it hidden all season (thus far). So there's this huge question as to why Barry's dad would be messing with Barry (even if it's an Earth 2 dad).

In the Walking Dead I want to know what happened to Glenn. Period. And they're deliberately leaving us in the dark with respect to this to make us feel every ounce of Maggie's pain. Was the voice on the radio at the end of the last episode Glenn? It sure sounded like him, but not knowing is driving me crazy.

In Game of Thrones, is Jon Snow alive or dead? Will Melisandre resurrect him? Who knows. And it's all the waiting for answers that sucks.

Anyway, if any of you out there are psychologists, I'd sure like to know why the lack of information about something is so damned addicting. And why are some of you (Grumpy Bulldog) able to just be uninterested in everything equally.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Into the Badlands on AMC hit most of my Quentin Tarantino fanboy buttons with its incredibly gorgeous fights

So AMC premiered their new series "Into the Badlands" last night right after their weekly dose of "The Walking Dead." I gotta say that it hit most of my Quentin Tarantino fanboy buttons. The credits were wonderfully done in full comic book story board mode with silhouettes and samurai swords. The filmography was beautiful with the over-saturation of color doing its part to make me feel like this is a fantasy world where the rules are different.

I liked the very Steampunk-esque vibe I got from the show too. It seemed to play well with the absence of guns, the prevalence of martial arts, and the setting that was part poppy field and part Louisiana bayou. The characters that we met are named: 1) The Widow, 2) Jade 3) Lydia 4) M.K. 5) Veil, and 6) Sunny. Those are all the ones that I could remember. Sunny is a complete badass that channels Jet Li and Jackie Chan in every scene and M.K. is the mysterious boy with strange berserking powers that only emerge if he tastes his own blood. The mythology of the world is set in the distant post-apocalyptic future where (apparently) opium is highly valued, Barons (white people) are warlords with armies of ninjas, and where people in "The Badlands" hear rumors of a better life in the great ether that lies beyond the known world. These are all themes that go into every post-apocalyptic story. After all, you can't have an apocalypse without hope.

And "Into the Badlands" I think has plenty of hope going for it. Sunny is going to be a father, so there's urgency for him to want to seek out the truth behind those rumors of a distant land where people aren't killed for having children. M.K. adds fuel to the fire of Sunny's imagination by verifying that he came from that place...only he doesn't know how to get back. Of course, right? That'd be too easy. And the other Barons are circling Sunny's Baron, which is bad because I think if Sunny's Baron dies it's kind of like a medieval Japanese society, and he'll be expected to die with his lord.

All in all though, I was amazed by the big fight sequences. It's exciting that there's a martial arts drama with no skimping and the action is as good as in any movie. I guess I'm just going to hold on and enjoy the rumble. So did any of you catch "Into the Badlands" last night?

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Victorian age Sherlock with Cumberbatch at the helm is exactly what the doctor ordered

As much as I like modern day Sherlock Holmes, I gotta say that the BBC doing a Sherlock series with Cumberbatch and in a Victorian setting meets every single one of my requirements for what is good. I like the Victorian setting. It's good for storytelling. Do you agree? Bravo BBC, Bravo.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Is shared universe franchise television the answer to a flooded market?

In case you didn't know about this, the C.E.O. of FX television (John Landgraf) said in August (before the TV Critics Association) that there's a bubble in the television industry. He said that there are too many scripted television shows, which leaves audiences and content creators in a bad position. When asked about why he thinks there's a bubble he said, "I can tell you that I went from someone who could keep track of every absolutely not being able to keep track of every show." In the same address, Mr. Landgraf also indicated that it is now difficult for people to find great TV.

At first, I think it would be easy to say that there's a lot of similarity with what Mr. Landgraf is saying about the state of television and what was said by institutionalized businessmen at the top of the traditional publishing pyramid just a few short years ago. I remember reading articles about how the plethora of books put out by self-published authors was just a tsunami of crap. As the metaphor went, the tsunami would just pull everyone under so that no one could make any money any more. There would be no "incentive" for anyone to write books; the truly good ones (which naturally only the traditional publishers are capable of finding) would never see print because they'd all be out of business. Basically, it would be a literary apocalypse.

Circling back to television, I know it takes a lot of money to produce a show. Daredevil on Netflix cost $3-4 million per episode, and I think The Flash on the CW costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $1-2 million (which I attribute mostly to the reusing of locations between their franchises). With that out on the table, it is easier for me to look at what Mr. Landgraf is saying from a "business" perspective and admit that he's probably not entirely wrong. Shows absolutely have to attract enough viewers or they can't support advertising which pays for all of the programming. This is partly why (when I watch things on DVR) I rarely fast forward through commercials. I must support the industry that pays for all the eye candy that I watch every day, right?

I suppose what I'm saying is that scripted television simply can't be done without a skilled team of people all working toward a common goal. Books on the other hand can be done by one person who acts as publisher, author, cover artist, editor, etc. And that's probably why I don't really worry about the book industry. After all, writers produce material because they have to and not because they're paid to do it. I don't think this is true for scripted television shows.

However, I'm not in the business of producing television programming like Mr. Landgraf is, so I don't know the numbers. From a consumer point of view though, I have no problem picking out the shows that I watch. Sure, it requires dedication and reading of blogs like io9 that have teams of writers assigned to following different shows during a week BUT I CAN DO IT :). Because of io9, I'm currently blazing my way through Person of Interest on Netflix (and have been finding it thoroughly enjoyable). I've also consumed How To Get Away With Murder (based on reviews...and yes it really was frickin' amazing). These are incredible shows that I didn't watch live because I was watching something else. So maybe who Mr. Landgraf was talking about isn't me. He's talking about the casual middle class consumer that subscribes to basic television and waits to watch shows that can be shared as a couple. You know, people with kids enrolled in sports and only a few hours a week where there's time to relax...this as opposed to people like me burning through television series like someone that has no life and is screaming, "I need my next FIX! GIMME GIMME GIMME" which is honestly how I feel when an episode of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones ends.

So let's assume that Mr. Landgraf is right and I'm wrong. Let's assume that there can be a "bubble" in television and that at some point there just won't be enough viewers to support all of the shows and as a result a lot of our favorite shows will just go extinct. Remember Firefly? Kind of like that only on a mass scale, and that's just simply recognizing that "Firefly" seems to have some kind of absurd life with people who follow science fiction when in my opinion it was simply "above average." But this blog post isn't about how everyone seems to have jumped on the "Firefly" bandwagon making it seem like the show was somehow this spectacular brilliant phenomenon when it really wasn't even as well written as The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, or Breaking Bad. So if we assume that there's a bubble, then the next question is, "What is the solution?"

I think this very thing is behind why we're seeing so much shared universe franchise television being made. The CW has a shared universe Justice League of America thing going on, we just recently learned that Bones (on Fox) and Sleepy Hollow (also on Fox) share a same universe, and then there's the whole "Chicago Trilogy" (which is very successful) on NBC: Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, and Chicago P.D. We have yet to see if Supergirl will join the CW's Justice League franchise or if it exists on its own in a separate universe (which is what we must assume). Personally, I think shared universes are awesome because I like the characters I love to be interconnected through plots and stories. Just look at the Marvel movies. Who here doesn't think that the way Disney brought together the Avengers was simply spectacular. Would it have been as cool if we didn't have the separate films of Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America? I'm going to say, "No."

So in a way, a flooded market or "bubble" (if you will) is forcing television to up its game. Maybe that's what Mr. Landraf is actually complaining about when he talks about "bubbles." He's complaining that it's harder to make television that people will watch now. A big corporation complaining that they have to work harder to satisfy consumers? I think that's something I can get on board with and enjoy. What do you think? Is there a bubble in television? Is it hard for you to find a television program to watch? 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Here's Not Here felt artsy and comforting and psychologically wonderful compared to last week's episode of The Walking Dead

There are spoilers in this episode analysis :). You have been warned.

Last night, The Walking Dead treated us to a special 90-minute episode that was all about Morgan. At first, I was irritated that it looked like there would be nothing on the developments of last week. But once I settled into the episode called "Here's Not Here," the actor John Carroll Lynch (who played Eastman) gave an astounding performance as the cheesemaker that gave Morgan a reason to live.

Reflecting on the episode now that it's over, I realize that this was a really strong story. I loved the way Gimple decided to explore who Morgan is and why he seems to think now (of all times) that all life is precious. And then there's the quote from Eastman when he tells Morgan (as he's dying) that he "could stay" in the cabin but he hopes that Morgan doesn't. Life is about people, and he encourages Morgan to seek out others so that he won't be alone.

It's too bad really that "the Wolf" Morgan was relating his tale to in the jail there in Alexandria couldn't get the message. Despite how touching the tale of Morgan's redemption was, the surviving prisoner of the wolf invasion promised to continue to kill just like the psychopath that Eastman starved to death in his cabin.

Also I love the subtle answers we all got in this episode. There was the chocolate candies that we saw last year when Morgan laid them on the altar at the church just outside Terminus. Well now we know where he got them from. There was the answer as to why Eastman had a jail in his cabin. We were shown how Morgan learned aikido and how to use a staff so effectively. I just hope Morgan eventually finds a way to "pay it forward" so to speak and finally find peace.

Friday, October 30, 2015

I've changed my mind about Glenn in The Walking Dead and I now think he's 100% alive

There will be spoilers in this post. Please go away if this bothers you.

So I think that AMC is borrowing a page from HBO's mega-popular series "Game of Thrones." Even though Game of Thrones still doesn't come back for almost half a year, photos have surfaced online from the upcoming season and Jon Snow is in a lot of them, dressed in Stark armor, and he's leading an army. Speculators from super bloggers known as "The Watchers on the Wall" speculate that he (of course) gets resurrected by Melisandre and subsequently isn't a part of the Night's Watch anymore because his oath stands fulfilled. But that doesn't mean that HBO can't pump up ratings by killing off a beloved character and leaving fans around the world to speculate on his fate.

Well the same thing happened with Glenn in The Walking Dead. Only in this case, it's a set photo released by AMC during the late summer when Glenn was photographed in a group with Jesus (a major character from the comic) who hasn't been introduced yet. Here's a copy of said photo below.
Jesus in the comic books is a badass, able to escape handcuffs, do karate moves, and wield all kinds of martial weapons. He's also a nice guy, and he approaches the people in Alexandria to form an alliance of sorts between the community they have and the one Jesus is originally from (which happens to be much bigger). Which pretty much sets up that Negan will be introduced in the season finale sometime next year. Negan is the most brutal of The Walking Dead villains to date, and he's actually the one that kills Glenn as an example to Rick (who opposes him). I "suspect" that AMC is probably going to adhere somewhat close to this although they might substitute Daryl for Glenn. If that's the case, then there will probably be riots in the streets.

Anyway, since this photo got brought to my attention, I thought I'd let all of you know that I've changed my mind on Glenn's fate. He's 100% alive and AMC is trolling all of us hard because it's the kind of thing that brings in the advertisers. And that's just the way it is.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Is the secret brother that Iris just learned about on The Flash named Wally by chance? If that's true is the CW doing Crisis on the Infinite Earths?

Look...the CW has just been knocking it out of the park with "The Flash" and "Arrow" this fall, and last night's episode entitled "The Fury of Firestorm" was no different. The insertion of heroes and villains from Earth 2 is just the beginning of what I must assume is a steady build toward Crisis on the Infinite Earths. If they can pull off Crisis at some point in the future, I'm going to go bonkers because it's even more ambitious than The Avengers. However, it also means that Barry Allen dies (if they follow the plot in the comic book drawn by George Perez), allowing Wally West to become "The Flash" infused with all of the powers of the Speed Force.

Up until now, there hasn't been a "Wally" West. But I don't think it's much of a stretch to think that the CW wants to at least introduce him. I mean, Iris's last name was always "West" and so was Joe's (naturally). And last week, they introduced "Francine" who was Iris' deadbeat former addict mother come to Central City to get to know her kid again. This week we found out that Francine was in town because she has a terminal disease. But because Iris is an investigative reporter, she discovered a secret that Francine had kept from her and Joe: the existence of a brother that she's never met. Iris asked Francine, "Do I have a brother?" but the emotions were coming too fast and too strong for Francine to answer before Iris walked out. What I wanted to know was, "Is his name Wally?"

Wally West is going to be the third Flash (the first was Jay Garrick and the second was Barry Allen--please correct me if I'm wrong comic book nerds).

Random Thoughts:

1) I do like that it's Iris this time that is keeping "the secret" from Barry and Joe. It's a good "turn of the table."

2) It also seems like a very natural way to introduce someone (Wally) considering they've never talked about him at all. Usually shows are just sloppy and introduce someone as a "cousin" and just expect the audience to go along with it.

3) The C.G.I. for the huge man shark guy at the end was awesome.

4) The new Harrison Wells looks like he may be a good guy. That will be so weird because he looks just like the old Harrison Wells who is responsible for killing Barry's mom. How will Barry ever get past the way the guy looks to work with him on anything? 

Monday, October 26, 2015

AMC is trolling the whole world with Glenn's death on The Walking Dead.

AMC is trolling the whole world with Glenn's death. Sometimes, I feel like (to use Lady Gaga's words) that I'm in a "Bad Romance" with The Walking Dead. Week after week, it beats me up to the point that I need therapy. Yet I still come crawling back.

If you don't know, we're three episodes into the sixth season, and Glenn was in a pretty hopeless situation having fallen from atop a garbage bin into a herd of walkers. Our last shot of him were guts being pulled all red and glistening from what looks like his corpse. I say this last point with caution because Glenn fell from atop the garbage bin with Nicholas in his arms. Did Nicholas land on top of him? Is that Nicholas' body we're seeing being ripped apart? And if so, Will Glenn survive by being coated in zombie parts and blood and all things vile and be able to walk out of there?
Are those Glenn's innards? Or are they Nicholas'? Damn you AMC!
It honestly doesn't seem very likely that Glenn could be alive. At this point, I'm comfortable saying that 95% of me thinks he's dead. But I hate this "uncertainty." The showrunner didn't have to film this sequence with such ambiguity. None of the other deaths have been ambiguous at all. Glenn could have fallen from atop the garbage bin a few seconds after Nicholas fell. That would have dispelled any and all theories that Glenn could somehow survive. As it is, even The Talking Dead featured no interview with Steven Yeun, which is normally how the show likes to play major deaths. It also didn't list him in the official list of deaths and then it referred to Glenn's death as "the most shocking moment from tonight" rather than "Glenn's death."

Shame on you AMC. You did this on purpose. It's not going to make me stop watching the show, but to shamelessly troll the emotions of a HUGE audience that will want to make up reasons for a beloved character to be alive seems like a desperate cash grab. Sigh. I guess I'll have to just put up with it until they decide to definitively answer the question by showing Glenn's reanimated corpse. However, if AMC holds true to form (like they did with Beth), it will be half a season before we get any more clarity on what happened to Glenn.

What do you Walking Dead fans think? Is Glenn dead? Is it possible for him to somehow survive? Is AMC trolling all of us and laughing its ass off?

I just don't want to admit that this is how it ends. Not for Glenn. He deserved better. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Supergirl airs on CBS on Monday after Big Bang Theory and I hope it will be good.

The Supergirl pilot airs Monday on CBS directly after Big Bang Theory. I know the pilot leaked online about six months ago, but I never bothered tracking it down and watching it. Instead, I'm content to wait it out just a few more days and watch it live on CBS. I'm sure it'll be good. Why? Because I trust the showrunner, Greg Berlanti, who is the genius behind the CW's amazing comic book adaptations of Green Arrow and The Flash. Also, I gotta say that I love the idea of Supergirl. She's absolutely got the power to deal with heavy hitter supervillains, and it's going to be different than yet another Superman reboot (which has been done to death).

But there are a few nagging questions that I have. The first is obviously whether or not Supergirl will take place in the same universe as Arrow and The Flash. I think it would be awesome to have crossovers galore on television, but I'm not so sure how CBS would feel about doing that with the CW. Additionally, is Supergirl going to be unapologetically a girl? And if so, will that turn some people off when the character of Kara is in non-superhero mode? And I wonder if there will be any sexist trolls that come out complaining that the actress doesn't feature an "in your face" rack for men to stare at.

Anyway, if you haven't seen the latest tv spot, I'm including it below. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My mind keeps wanting to disbelieve that I'm actually seeing Han Solo and Leia on the screen again.

After the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer premiered during halftime of the Giants vs. the Eagles Monday night, my mind was pretty much ruminating on it all night. I did manage to score some tickets for me and some friends at the first IMAX showing. The Fandango website crashed multiple times, and I heard that the volume of ticket sales was 8 times that of the previous record holder, a.k.a. The Hunger Games. Early predictions are saying that this Star Wars movie is going to be the biggest movie the world has ever seen. Yes, it'll supposedly be the one that dethrones Titanic and Avatar. And I, like everyone else, is wondering how Luke Skywalker plays in all of this. I'm wondering (too) why Leia looks so sad in the screen grab below:
This is gonna be a long two months to have to wait. I gotta say though that my mind keeps wanting to disbelieve that I'm actually seeing Han Solo and Leia on the screen again. It's like Han Solo overload. This is the most "epic" play of a nostalgia card I have ever seen. Well done Disney.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The new Star Wars Force Awakens trailer airs on ESPN tonight during Monday Night Football.

The new Star Wars: Force Awakens trailer is going to air tonight during Monday Night Football on ESPN (if you didn't know, ESPN is owned by Disney). I guess I'll be enthusiastically watching :)
Thoughts on the poster? Is that a new kind of Death Star in the background? Where is Luke? This movie is gonna be the biggest movie ever.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Thank the gods of television because Green Arrow a.k.a. Oliver Queen no longer has that awful wig in its flashbacks

We are now two episodes deep in the fourth season of Arrow, and I am pleased to report that in the latest flashbacks to "Lian Yu Oliver," the wig is now gone. Yes, I never liked the wig. Did you like the wig? It looked bad on Stephen Amell. It really really did.

It seemed like every season had a different wig too.
This was the Hong Kong wig. 
This was the Lian Yu "Island" wig.
Yay! The wig is dead! The wig is dead! Long live natural hair on Arrow's characters. And in case you didn't know, this message has been brought to you by all the things that are important in life.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I tore apart the New York Comic Con trailer for the Shannara Chronicles and this is what I found

There is a lot of weird in the new Shannara Chronicles trailer that premiered at New York Comic Con this last weekend. So I decided to get my hands dirty and see what I could spot by going frame by frame. Also, you can click to "embiggen" any of these frames to get a better picture of what's going on.
First off, fans of the books already know the "Planet of the Apes" reveal: that hey this is Earth only thousands of years after a devastating nuclear war! So MTV has obviously just accepted that and isn't very shy about using "iconic" scenery to remind you that it's earth. In the above cap, what looks like (to me) the Space Needle is leaning on some remains of some skyscrapers. How the Space Needle retained that much of its original look when the buildings around it crumbled is beyond me, but the shot looks good.
I have no clue who this guy is in the trailer. But the cauldron behind him looks like one of those you see on the terrace of the elven palace in a later shot, so I'm going to go with "this is the changeling" who is the demon that wreaks havoc in the elven palace because it can change form to whatever it wants to. The blood on the lips is kind of a dead giveaway that this person is evil.
I think this shot occurs relatively early in the series and is probably from the pilot. The whole "let's blindfold you and make you run a footrace" strikes me as one of those training things that monks always do to their students. "Use your other senses..." and what not, so I bet this is how "The Chosen" (a council of people who look after the sacred tree known as the Elcrys) get their jobs. How would you like to run a footrace to get your job? I think I'd fail.
This is obviously where the king of the elves (Eventine) shacks up. He's the Terry Brooks version of Elrond. As you can see, there are obvious Lord of the Rings influences. But why not? Elrond in The Lord of the Rings had a pretty nice crib.
This is one of the protagonists named Wil Ohmsford. He's a half elf and gets given some blue elfstones which allow him to hurl blue flame at everything and make it explode, wither, and die. If I remember correctly, the elfstones also function as a compass basically allowing Wil to know which direction he needs to go if he's lost but knows what he's looking for. So a compass that also burns shit down seems like a good legacy weapon to me.
This is Eretria. She's a gypsy but in the book they're called Rovers. Essentially she's the "sexytime" to Wil Ohmsford's "I want to sex you up" vibe, which basically functions to keep Elfstones from turning into the sausage hang that The Hobbit always had a problem with.
This is the sacred tree known as the Elcrys. It has the power to keep demons exiled in a dimension that invisible to mortals and elves alike. As long as it stays strong and proud, then the demons can't threaten the world. So the crux of the story is that the tree is dying and every leaf that falls is basically one demon that gets free of The Forbidding. Naturally, demons immediately resume destroying everything. The book "Elfstones" mainly deals with three demons: the Dagda Mor (the most powerful), the Reaper, and the Changeling. The Dagda Mor (who wields a staff that shoots different colored fire than blue) picks the Reaper because it's good at hunting down and killing things and picks the Changeling because it's good at disguising oneself by changing its outward appearance.
This is Allanon played by Manu Bennett fresh off of "Arrow" where he destroyed it as Slade Wilson. The worried look on his face is because (as a druid) he can sense the Elcrys dying. It's kind of the same look I get when I realize I've killed yet another houseplant by watering it too much.
This HAS to be Allanon's hand surrounded by blue flame. It's really the only thing he does in the books: shoot things with blue flame, and it all comes from his hands. To be fair, the blue flame in the book always came across as always useful (kinda like socks).
This screencap looks like the elven palace (seen above) burning and the whole forest torched by demons. It's obviously a dream (I think) and that's Amberle's head in the foreground. My guess is she's been given a vision of what will happen should the Elrys die. As last of the Chosen (all her fellows get butchered by a demon but I can't remember which one) it's up to her to save the world basically. So in a sense, she's the "Chosen One"...lulz.
I think this is a screen cap that shows the Dagda Mor there in the upper right. What gives him away is the staff he's holding, which I mentioned earlier shoots a different colored flame other than blue. Was it red? Red seems kind of demonic so yeah...I'm going with red. Anyway, he's the most powerful sorcerer among the millions of demons on the other side of the Forbidding Wall. It's my guess that this screen cap takes place while the Dagda Mor is still in the Forbidding because of all the yellow noxious mist. I guess the far side of the Forbidding is essentially a toxic waste dump of bad gas.
This looks like the Dagda Mor and the Changeling about to have a demonic kiss. Who knew demons could be so intimate?
I think this is our first shot of the Reaper. In the book, the Reaper is pretty much a traditional "Reaper" demon with a cloak that swirls in the wind and a cowl with an impenetrable blackness staring back at you. I always pictured the Dementors from Harry Potter as being very "Reaper-esque." I guess the makers of the Shannara chronicles want to distance themselves from HP and have gone to effects that invoke viscera and horror, kind of like Alien.
What in the world is this? I don't remember there ever being snow in the Elfstones of Shannara. My guess is that it's the tower that Mallenroh lives in because there are scenes of Wil and someone else trying to get out of a room that's obviously burning down in the trailer. That reminds me of the witch sisters (Mallenroh and Morag) that lived in a valley that surrounded a lone mountain. Somewhere in that mountain was a sacred place where Amberlee needed to take a seed from the Elcrys. In the book it was forested, but maybe they are going with snow and ice to differentiate it from the elven homeland. Mallenroh and Morag were very interesting characters. The CGI budget may have been too high for MTV to do justice to Mallenroh because she had an army of treants (essentially) that kept her valley safe from intruders. But honestly, the series looks like they spared no expense so I gotta say, I'm excited for January. Below is the full trailer as seen at New York Comic Con. I left a few screen grabs out because they seemed redundant to explain. Let me know what you think.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Doctor Who is at its best when an isolated group of people encounter something that's beyond their pay grade and the doctor swoops in to save them

In the third episode of Doctor Who airing just this weekend on BBC America entitled "Under the Lake," the Doctor comes face-to-face with ghosts. Now, I'm not an expert on Doctor Who, but from what I've gathered in the episodes that I have watched the Doctor does not believe in ghosts. Every time they've appeared before in the past, there has always been some explanation. "Aliens" is one of my "go to" answers, but essentially..."things that behave like ghosts" have always been explained away as being something else.

In "Under the Lake" it looks like we're getting genuine disembodied spirits, albeit, those that are being used by an alien life force to form some kind of a "soul transmitter." The signal gets stronger as people die because their souls are harvested for the alien broadcast. The sinister implications of such technology lead to at least one question: if a transmitter is designed to broadcast coordinates into outer space through using human souls, how can this (at all) be good for humanity? Naturally, the doctor is the one that comes up with the solution, but I have to wait until next week to see how the stunning cliffhanger resolves itself.

Yet, this brings me to a small point I want to make: I think Doctor Who is at its best when an isolated group of people encounter something weird and even horrifying and something that they cannot explain. Into this scenario the Doctor inexplicably appears and helps them suss out what's really going on and then provides solutions.

The history of Doctor Who is replete with examples of this kind of plotting: the weeping angels are one such example. There was also the artificial flesh episode that struck me as particularly memorable. Maybe its something similar to how George R.R. Martin sees the concept of evil: that being there really isn't "evil" per se. Rather we perceive "evil" because it goes against our self interest. In these Doctor Who episodes in which people encounter something horrifying, there is always some twist...some reason for the creatures to be doing what they're doing. It could be as simple as survival, but the reveal always has something to do with understanding that which previously was a mystery. And once the understanding happens, the monster ceases to be so scary.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The iPhone 6S is damn near waterproof. Watch this video and see for yourself.

A few years ago I dropped my iPhone 4 in a hot tub. It was instantly ruined. Because I was on contract, the cost to replace it was around $600.00. But I didn't really have much of a choice as I was not even home at the time and doing some important things that needed to get done with my parents and I couldn't be without a phone. So yeah, it sucked. Ever since then I've paid for the Apple Care Protection Plan whenever I upgraded a phone (it costs an additional $100) because Apple will replace your phone if anything happens to it, and that includes dropping it in a hot tub.

I knew that Apple was working on trying to get all of their internal components waterproof, but I was really surprised at how it could stay submerged in a bowl of water for an hour and wasn't even harmed. This goes beyond even a waterproof case (which tend to look extremely ugly) and defeat the purpose of spending money on some tech bling. With all of their other developments (better camera, instant gif maker, etc.) it makes me really wish I'd waited to upgrade my iPhone 4S to the iPhone 6s. It also makes me think that the iPhone 7 will most likely be completely waterproof.

The biggest surprise: I haven't heard of any of the waterproofing capabilities mentioned by Apple in their advertising. I think that would be a great selling point. No wonder they shattered records when it went on sale the other day.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Are two spaces after a period a deal breaker in a relationship? Bloom County's Sunday comic says yes.

In this Sunday's Bloom County by master comic artist Berkeley Breathed (if you don't follow Bloom County on Facebook then you should), Opus gives us the importance of his campaign platform: having two spaces after a period. I guess "space really is the final frontier."

All of us writers get it, don't we? Don't all of us want two spaces again? This is a campaign worth the presidency people! I hope you giggled as much as I did.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Heroes Reborn seems like a solid sequel to the original series and Katana Girl is my favorite evo thus far

I watched Heroes Reborn last night, and I enjoyed it. But I also felt like there was a lot that I had missed. So doing a little research I discovered that NBC had a web series that leads up to the events in which the site at Odessa goes boom. Who knew?

If you followed the original series, Heroes, at all then you know that Claire Bennett is the cheerleader. It turns out that she broadcasted her powers to the world five years ago and inspired thousands of other evos (this world's "X-Men") to go public with their abilities. And just like in the X-Men storylines, they are discriminated against and blamed for basically everything that's bad in the world (like the terrorist attack in Odessa, Texas). As a side note, why doesn't anyone have a superpower that can clean up the smog above L.A.?

In the ensemble of characters we have Luke and Joanne Collins who are an interracial couple that hates all evolved humans and basically just wants to kill them all (subtle these two are not). There's Tommy who's a kid that can make objects disappear. There's Miko who stars as Katana Girl, and Carlos who's a masked vigilante picking up where his brother left off. The main character appears to be Noah Bennet from the original Heroes series.

Out of all the new "heroes" I rather liked Miko's origin story as I'd never come across it before. A gamer geek finished a very difficult video game called Evernow and got to an unexplored level wherein he "unlocked" the character of Katana Girl. The video game gave him a real address to go and check out. When he arrived at this hotel somewhere in Japan, he found a girl that was the spitting image of "Katana Girl" waiting for him in a room that matched the exact address. She seemed confused and at first booted him out of the room. Later though, she finds a katana in exactly the place that the gamer guy said she would find one and it transports her into a video game where she fights samurai standing in the way of rescuing her father (who is being held captive in a Tokyo skyscraper).

All in all, it was pretty cool, and I've got lots of questions about Katana Girl. For one, did she actually exist before the gamer guy unlocked her? That would be interesting if she didn't. Also, I'm not really sure what Miko's "superpower" happens to be. If it is that she can transport from the real world into a video game by drawing a sword then that seems really confusing. However, it's apparent that she can move from one place to another in the video game and her real life position seems to shift with that. So maybe her superpower is that she can hop into and out of "the matrix" (for lack of a better word).

One thing I can appreciate about a story with mutants is diversity done well (Asians, Hispanics, essentially everyone that Donald Trump hates). However, the whole mutants against regular people storyline has practically been done to death. I like how the X-Men movies are finally (after more than ten years of it) moving away from this kind of tale to fighting ultra-powerful villains like Apocalypse, and I kinda/sorta wish that other X-Men knockoffs (like Heroes) would take a cue from Marvel regarding this. The studio execs need some jerk-face editor cracking them over the knuckles and screaming, "That's cliche!" But it probably boils down to budget, right? You've got to have a storyline that only rarely calls for C.G.I. because doing all of the effects that make us "oooh and ahhh" are expensive.

Anyway, watching Heroes Reborn on Thursdays is easily going to fit in my lineup as I'm not a Grey's Anatomy/ How to Get Away With Murder watcher. Did any of you take the time to watch Heroes Reborn? If so, what did you think? It remains to be seen if this series can stack up to the awesomeness hinted at by CBS's Supergirl (which I'm most excited about). If you haven't checked out the trailer for Supergirl, you can do so by clicking "play" below. Have a great weekend, folks.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ready Player One is Ernest Cline's first book and it's also a masterpiece

Ready Player One is Ernest Cline's first book. It's also a masterpiece. I can't tell you how many times I felt overwhelmed by nostalgia for small towns and the eighties...a time in my life that I now recognize as being simpler and easier. I guess there's something to the saying that none of us can never go home again. I wish that weren't true.

Ready Player One is a dystopian young adult novel, and it shares with other young adult novels the cliches of having dead parents. The soul of the plot, however, speaks to anyone that has ever played massive multi online roleplaying games (myself included). In the dystopia of Ready Player One, global climate change and the plundering of Earth's resources has made it so that there is tremendous income inequality everywhere, and the poor must live in trailer parks called "Stacks" that are as high as skyscrapers yet they are not fanciful buildings. Rather, they are trailers piled one on top of another via a metal grid that makes this possible. In Wade's trailer (he's the protagonist) there's at least a dozen people including a tattooed aunt with a druggie boyfriend that beats him up when he's drunk.

The rest of the world really isn't any better. The poor far outnumber the wealthy, and corporations enslave debtors to work for them in call centers as technical support specialists for Oasis (the huge online game that is at the center of Ernest Cline's story). The thing I loved about Ready Player One though was the fact that it took me back to my childhood. Halliday (the deceased creator of the Oasis) set it up so that his hundreds of billions of dollars would be inherited by whomever managed to find his hidden Easter egg. In order to do this, you had to find three keys. It sounds easy, but because of the expansiveness of the Oasis, no one had found it in five years. Not until Wade finally put things together and realized that an old Gary Gygax module from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons called "The Tomb of Horrors" was where he would find the first key. And following clues that were in front of him the entire time, he knew exactly where to look for the "Tomb of Horrors," and I gotta say, it's exactly how it appears in the module.

From there it's a trip through all the greatest things that made the 80's "the eighties" including games of Joust and Tempest and Pac-Man, being put into the movie War Games as Mathew Broderick's character, and even taking on the role of Arthur in Monty Python's Holy Grail. And in all of this fun, there is tremendous danger too because the corporation called IOI (which very much wants to take control of The Oasis so they can charge money for it) hunts down and murders all of Wade's family and some of Wade's friends. The CEO of IOI gives Wade a warning in that it's ridiculous to think that the stakes could be anything other than astronomically high because there are billions and billions of dollars to be lost. In other words, IOI will stop at nothing to find the Easter egg.

If you haven't read this book, I strongly urge you to do so. It's great storytelling, and I recently learned it's being turned into a film by Steven Spielberg. I can't wait to see it. And of the books I have read this year so far, this one is among the finest.

Monday, September 21, 2015

In the world of the Walking Dead committing an evil act out of fear is exactly the same as committing an evil act because of intent

Rubén Blades who plays Daniel Salazar on AMC's Fear the Walking Dead, said something really interesting in last night's episode, entitled, "Not Fade Away." After Madison Clark's character returned from her afternoon adventure in which (to her horror) she found evidence that the military "protecting them" was killing innocent Americans, he told her of this story from when he was a boy. The military had come to his village in El Salvador, taken people away, and when he asked his father where they had taken them he was reassured that they would all come home again. He didn't think anything of it until he found them all in the river. His father told him, "Men don't do bad things because they are evil. They do evil out of fear." And then Mr. Salazar said, "My father was wrong. There's no difference between the two."

It's this that I wanted to talk about. At first I thought that Daniel meant there's no difference between evil and fear. However, that didn't make sense. Then another interpretation occurred to me: Daniel was saying that people who commit evil acts out of fear are exactly the same as those who commit evil acts just because, well...they're evil.

Within the framework of The Walking Dead world, I find this thought particularly troubling because what does it say about Rick Grimes? He's our protagonist from the series that launched Fear the Walking Dead, and we ended last season with him doing particularly evil actions out of fear. So really, Rick (who started the series as a hero and with a heart of gold) has made a transformation to being an essentially being the villain. At least that's the conclusion I'm left with when I consider the wisdom of Daniel Salazar's words.

What do you guys think? Is committing an evil act out of fear any different than committing an evil act because you intended to do so?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Are Jim Kay's drawings of the Harry Potter world enough for you to crack open your wallet and buy all these books again?

With over 100 brand new illustrations coming in the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone I have to ask, are Jim Kay's drawings enough for you to break open your wallet and buy this book again? It's getting released October 6th. Maybe I'll have to make a trip down to the old Barnes and Noble and pick up a copy. I'm sure they shall be collectible, and it'd be a shame to pass up the chance to get them before they go out of print. I wonder if there will be people lined up for a midnight release? Hmm. So many questions.... Click to embiggen any of the images below as they are samples from the book.

If you have a little extra time, please visit my friend's blog found HERE. He's detailing our D&D adventures. It's kind of fun to read about the weird and wacky things that Steve puts us through every week. Disclaimer: Steve likes 2nd Edition D&D which came out in the 80's. When I look back at all of the covers put on modules from that era, they're all so 80's it's kind of funny.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I'm excited for Sword Coast Legends but don't know if I'm going to pay for the Belaphoss statue even though it's super cool

This is the Belaphoss statue you get when you pre-order one of the
many Sword Coast Legends packages.
In less than two weeks, the video game Sword Coast Legends gets released. This is one I plan on getting opening day. It's been years since there's been a solid entry by Dungeons & Dragons for desktop (and other platform) machines. Check out the trailer below if you are a fan of fantasy-based rpg's. Right now they've got a few pre-order packages. I'm trying to justify the $200.00 package to get both the beholder mini and the Belaphoss statue. It probably won't happen though because I just bought a new laptop.