Friday, April 20, 2018

If there was a version of heaven that was the Legends of Tomorrow universe I'd name it Nerd Valhalla.

Legends of Tomorrow recently had its season finale, and I loved it sooo much because it had the most epic battle of all time ever. The chemistry between the cast has really grown since season one, and Sara Lance in the role of captain of The Wave Rider is everything that I could hope for in an inspiring leader. Additionally, Mick might be my favorite character, and I honestly used to hate him. But he has the greatest lines now, and he delivers them with on-the-spot comic timing. These are my personal favorite highlights from this spectacular season finale (there are spoilers in this post):

When combining powers of the totems, Mick repeatedly asks, "Are we making a baby?" and everyone ignores him. This made it all the funnier when that thing came out of the light, and his immediate response was to kill it with fire. That was just awesome, because it was obviously a "John Carpenter-esque" THE THING style abomination.
"Beebo Hungryyyy. I La-La-Love You!" Yes, Cuddle Me Beebo (whom we saw near the beginning of this season being worshiped as a god) finally defeats Malice, the huge D&D demon-thing (note that everyone has been mispronouncing this demon's name as "Mollus" and who Mick has been calling "Phallus). Also note that it is Malice that corrects their pronunciation of his own name. It's funnier when the villain demon thing is so bothered by it that he corrects them before fighting them. When Beebo wrestles Malice and defeats him with a huge body slam from the sky. Malice is gone and Beebo explodes into a blue heart of pure awesomeness leaving a crater and the Legends behind. This is how all season finales need to end, in blue hearts.
John Constantine looks like he's joining the cast of Legends of Tomorrow. This makes me really happy, because I've always liked the character of John Constantine and he honestly fits really well with the wacky group of Legends.

Sara giving that rousing speech to the Legends, Helen, Jonah, etc. and then following with "Now: how do we sneak out of the back?" was a high mark of the episode.

I'm kind of sad to see Damian Dahrk go. I was kind of really liking his villainy. It was such campy fun, and he seemed to be really hamming it up as a villain, which is perfect for a show like this. I know that ultimately he can't stay. He's evil (for one) and is probably too powerful to stay with the team, but he had incredible chemistry with Ray and Nate and Sara.

I'm glad Sara and Ava are a thing again.

Guys, this was an episode where a bad-ass Themysicra-trained Helen of Troy killed a shitload of bad guys with the standard sword and jumping around, and then picked up a gun and casually mowed down a shitload more of bad guys. That's another reason why everyone should watch this show.

I kind of squeed silently when Beebo did that Bruce Lee beckoning and then the kiai.... That needs to be captioned by someone online with the phrase, "Come at me bitch."

So in short, after becoming a Viking god. After the whole season of cameos. After we all became a little obsessed with it all. The Legends totem bearers finally got their shit together and Voltron into giant Beebo. The Blue God has returned to kill Malice with love and cuddles as only something so good and pure could. It was a perfect moment that really shows how crazy incredible this television series is. If you aren't watching, you should, and just skip season one. It's full of crazy chicken people (as Mick calls them) and they kind of ruin it (just being honest). 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Why do we like big monsters?

I saw Rampage on Tuesday night. It was a fun flick, but it made me think of kaiju and why I want to see films like Rampage, Pacific Rim, and the upcoming The Meg.

Culturally, we like big monsters, giant robots, and things that make us feel small. It makes for good entertainment, but I think there's a psychology behind it that goes beyond "disaster porn." Before I get to the point that I want to make, I'd like to review some of the theories that everyone else has put out there to give you some scope of what I'm talking about.

When it comes to Godzilla and other kaiju of the Showa era of television, the Japanese were putting a face or symbol to an overall fear that they had of nuclear power. This has been talked about and discussed for years, and Godzilla is (himself) an embodiment of that fear run amok. But the extenuating longevity of such creatures in cinema makes me believe that there's something else that's going on here. Another theory is that giant monsters and robots are the reverse of the fascination we all have with disaster porn...that we are celebrating the creator of the destruction as opposed to the aftermath of the destruction. Eh, maybe that's it, and maybe that's not it.

My theory is that Americans like small things, and this is especially prevalent among young people. In our society, fat people (for example) are reviled and have been for decades. And look I'm just pointing out how I see things, and I'm not trying to shame anyone's body style. It's just the truth as I see it (as uncomfortable as the truth may be). I'm just asking that you listen to me for a bit before the outrage sets in on what I'm trying to say. If you allow yourself this time, you might start to see my point. Anyway, I'll continue.

Call a person "fat," "large", "roamy" or whatever adjective you want, and you'll see an obsession with size. It's a "I'm glad I don't look like that" kind of thing. There are people who shame men who take up too much space in a subway car (they call it "man-spreading"). Not enough of an example? Well, I've noticed young people don't like larger phones. "That looks way too bulky!" I've noticed a lot of teenage girls want "small cute cars" and "small this" and "small that." Most want thin (read as small) boyfriends. So from my observations, people idolize small and hate "big." And it doesn't stop with flesh. There's always a drive to make the latest tech device lighter, thinner, smaller. And plastic surgeons make their megabucks by promising to shave a millimeter here and there. Size, size, size...it's what's important and what people seem to value. Many hipsters like to go to fancy restaurants where the portions are small but beautiful (that's another example). I have acquaintances who (in the privacy of a home where they can speak and not be judged) say out loud to me, "I'm not attracted to fatties." It's just the way some people are, but you can bet they'd never say that on social media. Nope, these same people post body positive messages on their social media...a "do as I say not as I do" thing. If you didn't realize it quite yet, I'm sorry, but people are terrible. *Bubble Burst*

Anyway, it's my opinion that whether or not you express it, most Americans these days have at least an unconscious bias for liking small things (even if we ourselves are large). And by converse, it's not much of a stretch that this bias for liking small things also wants us to fool ourselves into thinking that we too are small (even if this isn't anything even remotely close to the truth). Kaiju, huge monsters, and giant robots destroying cities does this in a fantastic way. These huge monsters make us all feel small and powerless and helpless, even if we are six-foot four and could benchpress a Mack truck. Seeing these monsters reminds us of happier times when we were children and small and could not comprehend the world in the jaded way that we do now. And it's this powerful feeling...it's this ability to make us feel small in a good way...that is why we like huge monsters. That's my theory anyway. Who knows, maybe seeing things that are larger than you can even improve your self-esteem in small bursts because you know that other people are staring at the large thing causing all the destruction. "At least I'm not the monster" the unconscious thought may go. And for this simple reason, big monsters, giant robots, and kaiju may have an enduring legacy that goes on and on forever in the cinema that we all enjoy.

Monday, April 16, 2018

I really hope that the new Robbie the Robot in the Netflix Lost in Space draws some kind of connection to the Krell of Forbidden Planet.

I'm only four episodes into the new Lost in Space that premiered on Netflix this weekend, and I've really been enjoying it. Simply put, the show looks stunning on my television, and all of the acting is good, even that done from the twelve-year-old kid that's playing Will Robinson. However, the most eye-catching thing in the episodes that I've watched is the mysterious robot.

Being a science-fiction nerd, I know that the original "Robbie the Robot" got its introduction in a fifties movie (that I love) called Forbidden Planet. It was a Shakespearean-inspired retelling of The Tempest, Prospero the sorcerer, being recast as Doctor Morbius and Prospero's daughter Miranda as "Tara," who consequently is the only woman in the film. This kind of story (with an all white, all male cast) could not be told today without significant changes. But the most fascinating thing about Forbidden Planet was the research that Doctor Morbius had done, a small part of which allowed him to cobble together "Robbie the Robot." As an aside, Doctor Morbius does reveal in Forbidden Planet that building something like "Robbie the Robot" could have been expected of a child among the Krell...beneath the notice of greater minds.

In the movie Forbidden Planet, Robbie the Robot could do just about anything. In one scene he delivers 200 tons of lead shielding that he created the night before and sets it down with only one arm. He takes a request from a cook to synthesize Kentucky bourbon and creates something like fifty gallons of it (again with only a sample and in about a 24-hour period). How does this differ from the robot we're seeing in the Netflix series? Not by much, but with one notable exception (spoiler alert). Robbie uses a 3D printer to get a gun to give to Will Robinson for protection. I sighed at this, because the Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet would have just made one (could have made an entire arsenal on request within 24-hours).

Now I know that Netflix is under no obligation to go back to the roots of the robot. But I have to say, why not? The story of the Krell was incredibly fascinating and even if a smidgen of it makes its way into backstory for the setting of Lost in Space, it would be fun...maybe even amazing. They were a civilization that reached unimaginable heights of power. They literally solved the problem of power and created infinite energy that their society could use to build things. At the very pinnacle of their civilization, they unleashed a machine that would allow every single Krell on the planet to make real anything that they could possibly imagine. It was this that destroyed them, because basic emotions buried within the Krell (like anger and jealousy) caused monsters to spring forth that wiped them all out within a single night. The fifties show called them "monsters from the id." Left behind was a civilization of machines that kept running for a hundred million years without anyone to tend to them, until Doctor Morbius found their relics beneath the surface of an unexplored planet and started studying all that he could find (everything that was above ground had long eroded back into the planet surface).

So yeah, here's my hope that the new "Robbie the Robot" in the Netflix Lost in Space draws some kind of connection to the Krell of Forbidden Planet. I think it would be all the richer for doing so.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Meg channels Pixar in the funnest way using both music and some very similar font.

Movies with sharks in them are what superhero movies used to be before Marvel got so damn good at making superhero movies. This summer, we get The Meg, which is short for megaladon, which is short for "Bruce" from Finding Nemo.

At first I didn't really know what I was watching. And then it hit me, Jason Statham is finally in a movie with a bunch of green screen special effects! Jason Statham hates special effects, and it's probably the reason why he's a "B" or even "C" list movie star. Maybe Dwayne Johnson had a talk with him in filming the last Furious movie and said, "Hey man, if you want to make it big you have to go green screen. That's just where it is these days."

And regarding The Meg, it looks incredibly cheesy. And in this situation, cheesy is definitely good. Big Trouble in Little China was cheesy, and it's arguably one of the best movies of all time. It's all in how you handle your cheese, and The Meg seems to have it down pretty good in this trailer (I've embedded it below). For what it's worth, I love the campy feel of the tale as it unfolds, and the underwater research station off the coast of China looks really damn good. I totally feel for that little girl; I think I empathize with her fear of "the monster outside" because I saw Jaws so young.

Random musing: anyone else notice that the lettering on the poster reminds me of Pixar? Anyone notice that the music, i.e. "Somwhere Beyond the Sea" that appears in the trailer is also Pixar-esque? This has to be intentional. Anyway, if you haven't watched the trailer, click on it below and prepare to be entertained.

I have this love/hate thing with sharks. I really do. And the bigger, the better. I can't wait for August.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Cinderella live action movie that came out in 2015 is a true delight. If you haven't seen it yet you should watch it with your family.

I recently (and accidentally) watched the Cinderella live action remake that was in theaters in 2015. When it debuted, I missed it. Now I wish I had gone to see it in the theater because I really do think that it's magical. If you haven't bothered to look it up, you should do yourself a favor and watch it as soon as possible. It's wicked fun, and just a really good story. But here are some reasons that I fell in love with it.

1) The musical score is from composer Patrick Doyle, and it's incredibly lovely. It just kind of sweeps you along in the same kind of feel good tunes that you heard in the early Harry Potter films, and it lends the whole movie a kind of an old timey Bedknobs and Broomsticks kind of feel to it before embracing some truly epic and emotional crescendos. Just listen to this one tune from the soundtrack, and you'll see what I mean.


2) The costumes and set design are exquisite. When Cinderella shows up in a golden coach wearing the most incredible blue dress there ever was in order to attend the ball where the prince is waiting for her...well, it's magical. I know it's supposed to be, but I was captivated by it. The blue dress is fantastic and Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother is the best choice ever for this kind of thing. A little "Bippity Boppity Boop" goes a long way.
If only all of us could feel this good when getting dressed in the morning.
3) The chemistry between the two leads is incredibly strong. Of course, I'm probably a little biased because I really like Richard Madden and would watch him in just about anything. But his portrayal of Prince Kit is super worthy of a Prince Charming if ever I saw one. OMG the blue eyes...just sayin'.
4) Cate Blanchett. I'd never seen her play evil until I saw her in Thor: Ragnarok. If I'd seen Cinderella in 2015, I'd have been better prepared to appreciate how evil she can be. She really nails the role of the wicked stepmother.

5) The details are so amazing. There are swan chandeliers. Yes...swan chandeliers. Just stop and go watch it. It's a feel good movie, and if you've been feeling down, it's just the kind of thing to pull you out of that funk and make you believe in magic once again.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Love Simon is a lovely movie that represents the struggle of a gay teen in a very affluent white household and not what it must be like for the other 99% of America.

I saw Love, Simon on Monday night with my friend Brad. Speaking in generalizations, it's a delightful movie in which an angsty teen deals awkwardly and ultimately heroically with coming out in the digital age. Along the way to this heroic end, he makes some very bad choices with regard to his friends (which ends up destroying trust), and he tells quite a few hurtful lies because he doesn't know how to deal with a person who is blackmailing him regarding his sexuality.

The film is directed by Greg Berlanti, who some of you may recognize is the producer behind a ton of the CW hits like The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. It's also not a surprise (knowing this) that the guy who plays Kid Flash from Legends of Tomorrow is one of the stars. The core of the movie revolves around Simon trying to discover the identity of "Blue," and the reveal is worth the wait as the story is ultimately romantic and about accepting yourself (and asking for acceptance from others).

But the film also has a strange problem that I feel uniquely apt too point out, regarding these kinds of stories as they are presented so casually on screen to unsuspecting viewers. Simon comes from a family where (in his own words) "the quarterback married the head cheerleader, and they did not peak in high school." But their house manages to be one of those "not overtly ostentatious" homes that's easy to accept as an "everyman" home. However, it's not and far from it. How do I know this? Because I have a brother that works in the furniture business, and I can tell you exactly how much all of the things cost that I saw in this "typical white suburban home."

They had a Sub-Zero refrigerator. One of these has to have custom cabinets in order to be installed (like they have to be ordered with the refrigerator) and the base model of a Sub-Zero fridge is somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000.00. They go up to $20,000. I also saw a Wolf-brand range (this is the same thing and it's ridiculous). Their backsplash over the range had a pot-filler appliance. This is only found in upper end homes. They had a massive island with granite countertops (again think very high-end). Simon's bedroom had a chalkboard wall which is on the very cutting edge of the new designs featured on HGTV. Additionally, all of the kids in the movie had every latest gadget and appliance.

Long story short, this movie was chock full of VERY AFFLUENT teens, and this bothers me on a lot of levels. I'm not talking teens with parents who live in a $500,000 home. I'm talking teens that live in homes that are worth well north of a million dollars. Every. Single. One. Why is this movie...this first movie that is a John Hughe's-esque film regarding gay teen agers...so brimming with 1% wealth and being passed off as an "everyman tale of what it's like to grow up gay?" I'm not sure if I can even answer this question. But it's things like this that convince people that they are "middle class" when in fact they are in the "lower class." They see Simon and think, "Oh there are a lot of issues he's dealing with that echo my life so I must be just like him...." And I'm the "buzzkill" because I say, "No...you are not just like him! You have never been just like him. Do your parents have a refrigerator that costs the same as a new car? No you don't! Do you even know what a new car costs these days?! I'll tell you that most people in the nation can no longer afford them. Did you know that the average price of a new car now in the U.S. is in the neighborhood of $45,000? There's not that many people who can afford a new car."

Sure, you can brand me as a leftist whiner about all of this stuff, but income and wealth ignorance create a false reality. In other words, whether or not you choose to believe it, I think a lot of the problems we currently have in this country are because people do not acknowledge or even realize how poor they actually are...that they are IN FACT lower class when they think they are middle class folks. When someone is in the lower class, and they vote in tax breaks that help the wealthy because they feel like this represents them, it's not good for anyone. Love, Simon and other movies like it perpetuate this kind of wealth ignorance, because the wealth is not ostentatious and dripping with gold. "Oh they must have a nice fridge that cost a few extra dollars than my Kitchenaide that I bought at Lowes" is exactly what the one percent in this country wants the everyman to think. "NO NO NO, it is not merely a nice fridge, but one that costs TEN TIMES if not more what you paid for yours and does all kinds of other things. A family that can afford that...that can afford to cook pancakes in a kitchen that easily cost $100,000.00...is as unrepresentative of the majority of America as a tortoise is to a regular human being.

Don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed Love, Simon. But it's a movie that represents the struggle of a gay teen in a very affluent white household, and not what it must be like for the other 99% of America. After Simon comes out, he's seen studying a picture of Anderson Cooper, heir to the Vanderbilt fortune and multi-millionaire anchor of CNN. I think this was an appropriate comparison, because Simon's struggle has way more to do with Anderson Cooper than it does with any other gay teen out there. Just sayin'...wealth is the lubricant of life. The more you have, the less friction you get from all of life's troubles.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

I recommend reading books to enable yourself to keep on writing.

It's the first Wednesday of April. Flowers are coming up around my house (I hope they are frost resilient), and only one of my new trees died (however, it was under warranty so only elbow grease is involved extricating it from its grave and replanting a new one). Easter is now behind us, and we are all participating in the Insecure Writer's Support Group if not the A TO Z challenge (good luck everyone!). If by some chance you are not participating, then you can go over to their website by clicking on THIS LINK and sign up.

I almost missed today's post. I got done with the final finishing touches of the composition that I'll now put up on Friday, and then I thought, "I know I'm missing something." And then it hit me, it's that time of the month again. So without further ado, the question for this month's IWSG is as follows:
When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?
When I'm down in the dumps, I tend to work on my writing by reading. Some may say that this isn't technically writing, but I beg to differ. I think that reading and consuming books is indeed writing, because it helps you to compose sentences in your head. It also helps by giving you another way to look at a manuscript, and you may become inspired by a story and want to write something similar. For example, my friend Patrick Dilloway told me once that he was reading a John Irving novel, and that he liked it so much he was "inspired" to write a book in the same vein. This is what I'm talking about...the whole idea that another person's writing can inspire you to write.

Anyway, that's my answer. When my writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, I dig down by reading so that I can keep on writing. It just may not happen for a while, but I think that's perfectly okay.

Monday, April 2, 2018

I spotted four Dungeons & Dragons Easter Eggs in the fantastic Ready Player One movie.

Ready Player One was a fantastic movie. I saw it with my best friend, Brad Habegger, and he liked it too. But if you've read the book, there are quite a few differences, and likewise there are quite a few things that are similar with the original story (as told by Ernest Cline). From this point forward, I want to warn you that there may be a few spoilers in this post. But (for the most part), I'm going to talk about how Ready Player One got created rather than concentrate on the individual events that transpire in the movie. So proceed with caution if you're scared of getting even a single spoiler in my weird, roundabout way of giving a review for this thing.

Much of what's enjoyable for me when thinking about a movie is examining the recipe of all the things that go into making the thing in the first place. It's just how I roll. And Ready Player One took a total of eight years for it to get made, which is kind of crazy if you think about it. In a previous blog post, I pointed out how it took Steven Spielberg's creative team some three years JUST to get the licensing for the things they show in the film. This aside, the rest of the time was spent figuring out just how to realize all of the concepts that Ernest Cline wrote about. Making it a tad more difficult was the fact that Ready Player One wasn't even finished yet when it was purchased by the movie studio. I think that's an odd occurrence in and of itself. How lucky can you be when your book isn't even finished, and it's been optioned for a major motion picture by Warner Brothers? I suppose it'd be kind of like winning the lottery, and I honestly can't even imagine that kind of success. However, it does explain why Ready Player One (when you read it) feels like it was written to be a movie more so than it does existing in its other accessible format (as a novel on a shelf).

The original (first) script was written by Ernest Cline. As the story goes, he left out parts in the book that he thought would be too expensive to realize as a movie (the part in the dance club was one of these scenes that got cut). And then in swept Steven Spielberg to the meeting with Ernest Cline, having read the script and the book. The legendary director then asked for the parts to be put back into the script. When Ernest Cline said that he cut them because he thought they would be too difficult, Spielberg replied, "I'm Steven Spielberg. I can do all that stuff. Trust me."

In the end, other script writers were hired to help Cline adapt his book to a workable movie format, but Cline also said that working with Spielberg was a blessing. That being said, the author is really proud of how the movie turned out, and that's good enough for me. With all the differences, and considering the legal nightmare of obtaining all the intellectual property present in the Oasis, the film still tells a resoundingly good story with a moral to it: don't get so caught up in fictional worlds that you let real life slip you by.

To finish, I wanted to point out four things I spotted in my viewing of Ready Player One that are related to my childhood passion of Dungeons and Dragons in the film. Hopefully, if you played D&D at all, you'll appreciate these. So here they are:

1) Look for the Tomb of Horrors illustration from Dungeons and Dragons on the door of the vehicle that "Aech" drives. Here's what it looks like:
2) Look for a picture called "The Great Red Dragon" by the late Keith Parkinson on the Door of Haliday's bedroom near the end of the movie (after Parzival has won the contest and is about to receive the ultimate easter egg). Here's what it looks like:
3) There's a mention of "Gold Mines of Gygax" in the film, which is an homage to Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons & Dragons.

4) The Orb of Osuvox is obviously a 20-sided dice modeled after the iconic die used to roll in Dungeons & Dragons.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Spielberg is right when he says that Netflix movies should be banned from the Oscars.

I think Spielberg is right on the money when he says that Netflix movies should not be eligible for Oscars. They have the Emmy's for that, and should be nominated for Emmy's.

If you didn't know, Steven Spielberg (whom I have called the G.O.A.T. in a previous blog post) was labeled widely by his critics on the internet as "Old man shakes his fist at cloud" for his comments regarding the popular streaming platform, Netflix, and the following comment:

"Once you commit to a television format, you're a TV movie. You certainly, if it's a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar." Of course he has his reasons, but I'm not going to post them here, relying instead upon your ability to google them if you are interested. What I am going to post is my own opinion, which I think is relevant in the realm of public discourse.

Personally, he's making a lot of sense. Netflix original movies are definitely TV films. I personally applaud Spielberg's effort to keep the cinema experience alive. It's something I legitimately enjoy, and his heart is definitely in the right place. Netflix is gaming the system by releasing movies in Los Angeles just long enough to make them eligible for the Oscars before they are available for America to watch in their pajamas. While many people see this as "the wave of the future" I would like to borrow a quote from Jeff Goldblum in a Spielberg movie called Jurassic Park: "Everybody was in such a hurry to see if they could that no one bothered to even ask if they should." If film makers want the prestige of an Oscar, they should have to jump through the hoops to get it. The bonus is that those of us out here who are interested will have the opportunity to view the work as intended in a theater with the latest sound hardware and four-story screens.

/end rant.

I will let you know how I enjoyed Ready Player One on Monday :).

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Why did the Walking Dead deviate so much from the Total War storyline in Robert Kirkman's comics when it was so good?

Jumping the Shark is a term that refers to a Happy Days episode. It's a point-of-no-return kind of place from which every subsequent episode is just bad. In my opinion, The Walking Dead has finally lost it and jumped its own shark. This week's episode was ridiculously bad. Please note that I blame writers...as in bad writing. For all the writers out there reading my words, it probably stings, but the truth shall set you free. Spoilers are ahead.

This week's episode was called "Do Not Send Us Astray." It was just bad. Negan's crew under the leadership of Simon decides to attack Hilltop with their zombie-coated weapons, and they get routed by the Hilltop peeps in pretty rare fashion for this show. But despite all the killing by Rick and company, it doesn't ever appear that Simon's crew diminishes in number even though they showed up in what appeared to be like four trucks. How many frickin' people could there possibly be in four trucks?

And then when some people who were wounded turn into zombies at night, people just blunder into them. "Hey are you okay? I'm going to just go out here and-- w-wait! WHAT ARE YOU DOING! Arrrrggghhh..." and death. Like this happens over and over. Death by zombie bite while I'm just sitting on the couch rolling my eyes. If that's not enough, Hilltop has got no one on guard apparently, and the zombies just walk into the house where the people are all sleeping in a huge communal room. One zombie even frickin' falls down the ENTIRE flight of stairs and no one wakes up. So yeah...more screams... "Arrrggghhh! Aahhhh! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" blah blah blah.

Outside, one of the kids (his name is Henry) grabs a gun and goes into the place where Maggie is holding the Saviors they've taken as prisoners and demands that the one who killed his brother step forward or he'll start killing. Well they rush the kid and he gets knocked over and they all run out and escape. Sigh. Really?

And then this random guy that I don't even remember from any episodes dies and they play the music that they always play when someone dies that a main cast member really liked (this time it's Carol) and Carol looks all sad. But seriously, I don't remember this guy from any episode. Why is Carol even attached to him at all? Why is she looking sad?

There's (of course) no mention of Negan who we last saw with Jadis who honestly has no reason to keep him alive but of course she is doing just that.

This storyline did not have to go this way. I read the "Total War" storyline of The Walking Dead as written by Robert Kirkman. It was good and totally different. Why did they change this storyline? Why did they deviate so far from it to make it just stupid? I hate this idea that in order to entertain readers of the comics, they have to make things "different," especially when "different" is essentially synonymous with "bad."

It's a good thing they don't have any real competition on Sunday night for viewers. Otherwise The Walking Dead would be in a lot of trouble.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Tom Holland may be the most talented male entertainer of his generation.

I'm legitimately impressed with Tom Holland. He kinda dropped into my radar when he was cast for Spiderman: Homecoming and yeah, I thought he got the part because he's quite attractive. But then I started watching some of his other movies to see what all else he's been in, and I've been kind of blown away by the guy's sheer amount of talent.

In the movie Pilgrimage he plays a monk and speaks in what I think is Gaelic for the majority of the movie, and it just rolls off the tongue, looking very genuine the whole time. The whole thing is subtitled too. And I also found out that he was in this BBC production called Wolf Hall that was all about the inside court of Henry VIII. It has a lot of great reviews, and he plays George Cromwell, the son of Thomas Cromwell. His acting is superb, although it probably wasn't much of a stretch considering he has a thick English accent. What is a stretch is that he can bury it so convincingly and speak like an American teen.

He can also dance really well. Like...I mean professionally and on a competitive level. His dance routine on LL. Cool J's Lip Sync Battles was over the top good. And I guess that (to get the part of Spiderman), he did as many back flips as he could (without a trampoline) and nailed the part by blowing away the competition.

He's got all kinds of movies. He's been in thrillers in the middle of winter fighting for his life, he's been a kid caught in one of the most devastating tsunami's of all time, and he's been in several medieval dramas. He was also the star of Billy Elliot, which was a very successful play in England. For someone so young, I don't think I've ever seen the kind of spectrum that he's fielding in an entertainment career. Additionally, he seems to be immune to the curse of child actors who fail when they become adults.

Anyway, Tom Holland reminds me of another famous Tom who went on to do great things: Tom Hanks. I feel like we're about to see another one of that caliber that goes on to change the way in which we view movies and entertainment. Just my two cents I suppose. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Here are eight passing thoughts I had regarding Pacific Rim Uprising immediately following the Thursday night premiere.

Pacific Rim: Uprising is a pretty solid entertaining popcorn flick. From this point forward, there are spoilers. You have been warned.

It delivers on what it's supposed to deliver on: robots fighting kaiju. I like big monsters so mark check on that one. I like big robots so check on that second part. If you've seen the film, maybe you could weigh in on what worked for you and what didn't work for you. This is really one of those kinds of movies where people are going to have opinions on all kinds of things. So here are my assorted musings :):

1) I liked the enemy jaeger because it had two swords. One sword in the first movie was cool. But two was definitely better. I was not expecting the enemy jaeger to have a kaiju brain in it. That was a pleasant reveal and cast a wider net as far as the story goes.

2) I wanted to see the cool ball weapon with the spikes do more than it did. It looks impressive, and it should be more than just a huge morning star, even if that is what it is. Sidenote: Tokyo getting trashed by kaiju seemed somehow suitably appropriate.

3) Whoah! I wasn't expecting the Newt twist! Did anyone see that? What the hell? I'm not sure how I feel about a hero from the first movie becoming a villain in the second. My friend, Brad, really liked it. But it doesn't sit right with me.

4) I loved how the kaiju got to combine into one larger kaiju. However, it would have been fun if the jaeger's also got to combine into one super huge jaeger. I think that should be the next thing that comes out of this franchise (if there's another sequel).

5) I really liked the gravity whip thing that allowed one of the jaeger's to pull down a skyscraper, or rather...multiple skyscrapers.

6) Scrapper (the small jaeger) was super cute. I loved it, and I loved that it had a crucial role to play in the final battle. It had a lot of unique powers for its overall size.

7) Not a fan of the first hour or so of the movie before things really get going. I get that they needed to do some housekeeping related to the former movie, but it did seem to get a bit tedious. It reminds me a lot of how slow the first half of the 2014 Godzilla reboot was.

8) I miss Guillermo del Toro. The legendary director has a way of making the Jaegers and kaiju just look so huge. Maybe it has to do with his film angles, but everything always felt so big in the first Pacific Rim. The final battle in this one didn't seem to capture that same sense of awe. Maybe it had to do with filming most of the battles at night and in water. Or maybe it was just a combination of all kinds of things that only del Toro knows for certain. Either way, it's plain as day that Guillermo had no hand in the making of the movie.

Are you seeing Pacific Rim: Uprising? Do you plan on seeing it? Do you have expectations? What did you notice in your viewing of the film?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

I love looking at these old pictures of the white castle that appeared in the 1983 British fantasy movie called Krull.

Because my brain is random, the other day I was discussing the beautiful white castle (at least I thought it was pretty) that appeared briefly in the fantasy movie, Krull, which was a 1983 British-made movie in the same vein as The Dark Crystal. Some of you who read my blog may have seen it. But I googled pictures of "the white castle" and found some production paintings and the actual black and white pictures someone took of the set for it (which made it very real at that point). It never occurred to me that they actually built the thing. I'd always assumed it was just a fancy matte painting or some kind of special effect. But yeah, they created a whole "miniature" for it...only it wasn't all that tiny. There's a truck in the foreground to give it some scale.
Above is the very cool production painting. The final product looks a lot like this as seen below.
And you can see that the facade of the castle was about twice the height of an actual truck. That's kind of cool, and I imagine that building on that scale may have enabled more detail to be put into the finished piece.
For the balcony section of the white castle in the movie, they actually built a pretty large set piece at Pinewood Studios. Above is what it looked like prior to actors using the set for actual filming.
And then the final product as it appeared in the movie is shown above. I imagine it was quite a bit of work to get it all realized for the film. At least, quite a bit more than I originally had imagined. Just a little bit of silver screen magic, right?

Monday, March 19, 2018

People that have seen Deadpool 2 are comparing it to Alien 3 and what it did for that franchise and this is not good.

There are quite a few movies coming out in the next few months that I want to see. Most immediate are: Pacific Rim 2 (March 22nd), Ready Player One (March 29th), Rampage (April 19th), Avengers: Infinity War (April 26th), Deadpool 2 (May 17th), and Solo: A Star Wars Story (May 24th).  Of these blockbusters, Deadpool 2 has done some acrobatics to land perfectly between Infinity War and the next big Star Wars movie. However, that may be the only good thing about it. I read online that Fox (the studio behind Deadpool 2) has had at least one test screening of the movie, and the responses were "not good." Yikes. :/

I know that reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, but these people who are given early access are a great measure of how a movie may perform. And from everything that people are saying, the audience for Deadpool 2 thought the film was a huge mess with characters that weren't used well (Vanessa from the first movie being one of those) with someone even calling it an Alien 3 blunder. For those of you who don't follow science-fiction movies in a franchise, being compared to "Alien 3" is NOT GOOD. THIS IS DEFINITELY NOT GOOD. Alien 3 was a terrible movie, and a departure from everything that came before it to something that had a wildly different feel. In fact, the franchise hasn't been the same since no matter how many times they've tried to reboot it, reshoe it with Predators, or even branch into expensive and beautiful prequels. If I had to point to a movie that ruined the ultimate potential of the Alien franchise, it would be Alien 3.

So how is Fox responding? Studio execs are "reportedly" stunned and they are trying to figure out if there are some last minute things and changes that can be made in order to salvage it. Hmm. Again, this is definitely not good. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, people. But honestly, did any of us actually think that the story of Wade could be carried successfully unto another movie and not lose a ton of its magic? To even begin to answer this question, we might want to ask, "Why was it so good in the first place?"

Well, it pushed the envelope in a field saturated by superhero movies. Deadpool was different because he was crude, gory, and excessive in all the wrong ways. Another thing that made it good was the clever writing in approaching the story with a non-linear structure. This broke from the standard "origin" followed by "hero fights villain" and "villain is defeated." And the final thing (again just trying to be honest) the movie got "lucky." I don't think any of the makers of Deadpool would have thought that it was going to be as big a commercial success as it was (being rated-R). And when something has lightning strike for it, it's usually because of something else that isn't controllable. Otherwise "viral marketing" would be something that people could strategize and repeat over and over. The thing is, what goes viral and what doesn't is completely random. People don't know how to reproduce that kind of success. And Deadpool just "touched a nerve."

Anyway, it sounds like the sequel is going to be terrible, but I will probably end up seeing it anyway. However, it's kind of sad knowing that it will be terrible when I'm still months away from being able to watch it.

Friday, March 16, 2018

It took three years for Spielberg's team to just get the licensing together for all the properties contained within Ready Player One.

Spielberg spent three years JUST getting all the licenses together to even be allowed to make Ready Player One. And he didn't get all of them. I learned from io9's post yesterday that he couldn't get Ultraman and Star Wars. Think about that...with all of his connections, he still couldn't get all of the licenses that he wanted to get. That just blows my mind. I never would have thought that Ernest Clines "ode to the eighties" would have been a difficult film to create, but it goes down as one of the more difficult ones in history if you measure the amount of red tape one has to cut through to even start filming.

Also, I got challenged by the hive mind of a group I message with the other day that was saying that some early reviewers at SXSW panned Spielberg's Ready Player One adaptation. If you've heard this but don't know why, I want to set you straight. There was a technical glitch in which the sound dropped for a full minute during the Ready Player One showing. A lot of people in the crowd thought this was intentional, and gave the movie terrible reviews because of it. If you remove those reviews out of the equation, it is getting a stellar reception. And some are even saying it is better than the book.

Honestly, when I think about this movie adaptation it doesn't surprise me one bit that the movie will be better than the book. The novel was crammed with nostalgia, but it was heavily reliant on references that (should you be without) are almost impossible to picture because you don't know what they look like. For me, it was an incredible book because I know what the Tomb of Horrors has in it because I've run that D&D module countless times. And I know what a Delorean looks like because I loved Back to the Future. And so on and so forth. People who don't have all that information downloaded into their brain tend to hate Ready Player One (the book). I have no doubt that it will translate much better to them on screen because everything will be right there for them to see.

Here's the latest trailer. I'm so excited for this.
 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Close Encounters of the Third Kind would be an impossible movie to make in modern day America.

I recently purchased my tickets for Ready Player One and Pacific Rim 2. These are two movies that I'm excited to see, but for very different reasons. I want to see Pacific Rim 2, because I like big monsters and robots, and it looks like the movie went in a very intriguing direction when it was apparent that Charlie Hunnam would not be back to reprise his role as a Jaeger pilot that saved the world. The fact that they are going with Idris Elba's son is (I think) even better than another show with Charlie Hunnam's "hot shot" character in the pilot seat.

As for Ready Player One? Well, I read the book and reviewed it in a blog post three years ago. If you want to read the review, it's posted HERE. However, the biggest reason I'm looking forward to it is to see if Steven Spielberg (who got back into the director's chair from his semi-retirement) still has the magic. I've said it before HERE, but I think Steven is the G.O.A.T. And I've been educating some teenagers by showing them Spielberg movies at my house about once a month (the teens in question are named David and Moira, which is really nerdy considering that these names are both X-Men characters). Yes, the mom is a huge nerd.

Anyway, the next movie I have scheduled to show these two teens is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It's a movie that I really liked as I was growing up. However, in thinking about the film, I suddenly realized that this is not a movie that could be filmed today. To clarify, I'm saying it would be impossible to put to film in today's climate.

For one, it glamorizes a deadbeat dad. Richard Dreyfuss is clearly disenchanted with his own family because they don't want to participate in his alien-driven mania. Does he love his kids? Maybe on some level? But he's not even done with his marriage before he's making moves on a woman who shares his mania for the location of Devil's Tower, and who has lost her son to an alien abduction. Sure, the story offers convenient excuses for Dreyfuss's behavior, but there's no way that wouldn't all get panned to death by reviewers and (I think) there is no way it could even get greenlit today for any kind of budget (whether or not someone like Steven Spielberg was behind it).

Close Encounters also has stellar reviews. However, there's no way people would review the movie the same in today's climate. It would get so many one star reviews it'd make the director's head spin as people trashed it and created negative hashtags on social media for a movie that clearly glorifies all the awful stereotypes of deadbeat dads.

I suppose that what I'm saying is that Close Encounters is an anachronism. It's a masterpiece for the time and place in which it appeared, but to remove it from that period would be to destroy it utterly because the things that made it great would be overwhelmed by its underlying social message. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Thank you Dave Filoni for a wonderful series finale of Star Wars Rebels because it made me excited about the future of Star Wars again.

The final episode that there will ever be of Star Wars: Rebels created such a "David Filoni" inspired universe of potential that I'm actually excited for the future of the franchise. Knowing now what Disney executives must have known a year or more ago when all of this was being discussed, I can see why episode 8, a.k.a. The Last Jedi, was made. So if you want to hear the ideas that bubbled into my head, please know that there are going to be spoilers from here on out as I discuss the Star Wars: Rebels revelations and what they may mean for the Star Wars universe at large.

So...I get it now. All of the old cast needed to be buried so that new stories could be created with young characters who are alive and well at the end of Star Wars: Rebels. The universe may have lost its last Jedi, but "Jedi" was just a title. It was a name given for people trained in the use of the Force that also had membership within an organization. But even Shakespeare in a universe not so far far away realized that a rose by any other name smelled just as sweet.

Surviving the end of Rebels, which had its curtain call beyond the events of Return of the Jedi are pretty much everyone. The universe has Ezra Bridger doing who knows what (the guy sailed off into hyperspace riding space whales and towing Grand Admiral Thrawn's Star Destroyer along with Grand Admiral Thrawn as his prisoner). Those stories have yet to be created. The galaxy also has Ahsoka Tano, who has incredible training, and who could potentially train Rey, who (in my opinion) is wielding power the equal of Yoda. I mean...all those rocks at the end of the Last Jedi were easily as heavy and massive as an X-Wing, and she didn't look all that strained to be throwing them around.

So what can we expect then in Episode 9 and beyond? I personally think that we're looking at Ezra Bridger and Ahsoka Tano getting cast as live action stars. I think we're going to see the fate of Grand Admiral Thrawn, and somehow he is going to be connected to the remnants of the First Order. And I think we're looking at new force powers that will resemble magic more than they do science fiction. Most people know (by now) that Jedi's were based on fantasy wizards anyway.

I'm hoping that my friend, Kevin Long, will weigh in somewhere in the comments. He's also a fan of the series and has quite a few insights that I value and that I don't pick out myself in my own viewings of the shows.

But yeah, thanks to Dave Filoni I'm excited for Star Wars again!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

I think booking a professional massage is the perfect way to celebrate any achievement.

How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?

This is the question that is pondered by the Insecure Writer's Support Group for the March 7th question, and it's a pretty good one. It made me think of a particular scene in the movie, Romancing the Stone:
For those of you that don't know this movie because you are too young to have seen it, the plot is pretty simple (and kinda great):
A single, lonely, romance writer finds herself caught in a wild adventure of her own when her sister calls for her help. She immediately heads to Columbia in search of her sister. Unbeknownst to her, she carries a map to the largest emerald in the world, and there are many people after it. She teams up with Jack, a guy who seems to to have stepped off the cover of one of her books, in hopes to reach Cartagena and her sister.
At the beginning of the movie (where the above gif is taken), she's finishing up a steamy romance and is putting the finishing touches on her story. In tears, she goes about her apartment looking for tissues, doesn't find any, and celebrates anyway by blowing on a note that was intended to remind her to buy more tissues and then some wine and a nice relaxing sit by the fire (if I remember correctly). The next day she drops off the finished manuscript off with her publisher or agent (I'm not sure who it is at this point). Anyway...it's a great representation of how to celebrate finishing a story even if I've never done it that way.

I honestly haven't finished that many stories, and for me, there really isn't a definitive finishing point usually because I need to do (or am compelled to do) rewrites and revisions. I wish it was a matter of "type type type" and "The End." But there is a kind of #selfcare that I do on a regular basis that seems kind of celebratory, and I usually do it whenever I feel particularly good about an accomplishment and that's to book a massage at a local spa. So yeah, I think going to a Japanese spa is what I do to celebrate anything, and that includes finishing a story (if I can even definitively call it that). It's usually a two hour one with side accouterments like a steam room and sauna and my latest favorite: the warm coconut milk drizzle. Yeah, it's as awesome as it sounds.  Seriously, if you guys out there aren't getting massages, it could really change your mood and put you in a zen state for at least a week (give or take life's stressful circumstances).

Thank you for visiting.

Monday, March 5, 2018

I wanted Shape of Water to win Best Picture and it did. I'm super happy now.

Last night, I (like a lot of people) watched the Oscars on ABC. I had my favorites even though I was unable to see all of the Best Picture nominations in a category that was overflowing with deserving films. But I think the one I was behind the most as the night wore on was Guillermo del Toro's Shape of Water. But, I knew that it "could never win," because it was too weird. It was too "out there," and it resonated with me so strongly that nothing I ever loved that was this weird and alien and different could ever be Best Picture material, right? Boy was I wrong. This year the academy embraced the weird. There simply is nothing out there in movies like Shape of Water, and I'm so happy it beat out and won Guillermo del Toro not only a Best Picture Oscar, but an Academy Award for Best Director, something he's been deserving for many years now.

Each of the three characters in Shape of Water really resonated with me. One was a gay man, rejected and shunned by essentially everyone (believe me I know how that feels here in good ole Utah). One was a woman isolated and alone because of her disability, quirkiness, and probably because she didn't feel attractive or ever considered herself to be attractive. I also know what that feels like. And then there was the fish guy who was alone in the world with no family to talk to or anyone else that was like him. Ayep, I know what that feels like as well. I remember when my friend Jake went to see it with his family (hearing me rave about it), and he told me that they were so offended by all the sex that they walked out. I responded (rather snarkily), "It's good that you have that choice because if I could, I'd probably walk out on my life too and pay to see something else." I remember that comment took him aback and we stopped discussing the film together because he could see that I'd tied a lot of my identity to this strange and weird film from Guillermo del Toro, and that I was experiencing things with its story that he was not equipped to ever understand. It was an "agree to disagree" moment. I have these moments often with the Mormon that is Jake.

I couldn't have been happier with the Academy Award for Best Picture this year. For the other categories? I suppose that Gary Oldman was deserving of one given the little bits that I have seen of his Churchill impersonation. It's about time, right? But I also kinda wanted Timothee Chalamet to get an Oscar for Call Me By Your Name. However, (and if I'm being completely honest) I think that in the end, Oldman getting the Oscar was the better choice. Timothee is so young...he needs to do more to earn such a prestigious award. And my feelings toward his Oscar snub may be tied up with the fact that I'm a biased person that was obviously taken with him and his movie. At least I can admit my biases. It's probably a good thing that I don't vote for Oscar-nominated films.

Oh and can I say that Gal Gadot and Tom Holland were the best dressed man and woman at the Academy Awards? I'll include pics of both of them below so you can see (in case you missed the Academy Awards). Spiderman knows how to rock a tuxedo. #justsayin

Friday, March 2, 2018

LOL the Lego Infinity War set just spoiled where the sixth and final infinity stone is and we were right all along.

Everyone on the internet that cared kinda/sorta believed that the last Infinity Stone, a.k.a., the Soul Stone, was going to be found in Wakanda (because the trailers for the movie are all lit up with a huge battle that takes place in Wakanda). But it wasn't ever said to be in Wakanda, and it didn't appear in Black Panther, as I discussed in an earlier post. And Lo and behold, it looks like it definitely is. Here's a picture of the Lego set in question, and I've circled the soul stone in blue paint so it's easy to spot contained in an alien drill which obviously removes it from the ground in Wakanda (that's why the ground is all cracked). 
So now the question is: how does all of this fit together? And for answering that question there are a hundred theories I've read. I'm going to single out one and just quote directly from him...my friend, Tony Hale, who lives over in Oregon. Earlier this week I sent him a message on Facebook about all of this stuff, and he responded with this theory:
"There is a problem with the locations of all the Infinity Stones, and it's this: it puts most of the stones on Earth. I actually think that Odin had the Soul Stone (and all of the other stones) at one point. Hence, the fake gauntlet in his treasury room. I also think Thanos gave Loki the mind stone so that he could put two of the stones near one another, namely the Tesseract (space stone) with the Mind Stone. In the comics, the writers hint that the stones are drawn to each other, and I think that Thanos wanted to get them all into play. So, I think he knew the gauntlet in Odin's treasury was fake, just like Odin obviously knew in addition to one other person: Hela.
    "So let me put it all together for you. When Odin worked with Hela to subvert the universe, he was actually collecting the stones. Partway through collecting them, he realized they were too dangerous together. So he left the Aether (the Reality Stone) with the elves. Odin also left the Power Stone with the remains of the destroyed ancient aliens, until Starlord stumbled across it. The aliens were one of the races destroyed along the way by Hela and Odin. The Mind Stone was never recovered (Thanos starts with it in his "possession"), and I think that Odin had not yet discovered it when he ended his search. The Time Stone (of course) was on Earth, which Odin learned after becoming deified by the Norse men and women. In this aspect, I think that Odin gave the gift of the Soul Stone to the people of Earth, who had deified him. In the comics, Thanos has a love affair with Death, but I think the MCU is not going to go as metaphysical with this character. Instead, they will use their already existing representation of Death in Hela. Well, Hela knew about the fake gauntlet, and she obviously wants to rule the universe. So she found someone devoted to her, filled him with the idea of the Gauntlet, and sent him to get it for her. That's what I think is going on."
It's a nice theory, but it leaves me a little wanting, because I think there are enough clues in Black Panther that the heart-shaped herb does indeed derive its power from the Soul Stone. And the Lego box has a picture of the Soul Stone being drilled from the ground by something heavy enough to crack the surface. Then of course there's the huge fight in Wakanda, which are not Norse people, so they couldn't have been the recipient of the Soul Stone. So yeah...maybe Tony is overthinking this? Maybe the Soul Stone just happened to be in a meteor of vibranium and crashed into the Earth millions of years ago, and it has yet to be extracted. That may end up being the sole explanation of all these questions about vibranium's seemingly endless powers to do fantastical things.

However, Tony does make me think that Hela may (in fact) not be dead and could have survived Asgard's destruction at the hands of Surtr. Maybe she has a role to play in all this to come.

One last piece of information: for those of you that are excited for Avengers: Infinity War, the release date has been moved up a week to Friday, April 27th for a worldwide simultaneous release. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Star Wars Rebels just took a sledghammer to the Star Wars universe in one of its last remaining episodes called "Wolves and a Door." Let's talk about it.

There are spoilers here, and we need to talk about what Star Wars: Rebels has done. I hope that there are some of you that are brave enough to talk about this with me, spoiler warning be damned.

First, Star Wars Rebels is canon. This is not "fake news." Disney (the company that purchased all of the rights to Star Wars from George Lucas for $4 billion a few years ago) has said as much. Here's a quote from the article on what is canon and what is not canon from Wookiepedia.

"The new canon began on screen with the Star Wars Rebels animated television series and in print with the novel A New Dawn. Under the direction of the Lucasfilm Story Group, all elements of Star Wars canon now operate in a unified and collaborative storytelling setting...."

The sledgehammering of the Star Wars universe took place in the Jedi Temple that had an entrance picturing the "Mortis gods" from an episode in The Clone Wars. This was a very interesting (old) episode, for the father (pictured in the middle) had two children: one represented the Dark Side of the Force and the other represented the Light Side of the Force. The father was essentially the balance between the Light Side and the Dark Side. The three of them were very powerful.

Anyway, once inside the temple, Ezra used the power in the temple and his own abilities through the Force to save Ahsoka Tano from Darth Vader (who I had presumed was dead two seasons ago in a spectacular battle on Malachor, where a Sith holocron was located). So he used time travel to actually save a major character who is now alive in the universe because Ezra chose to save her. Just think about that a moment. Time travel has now been introduced into the canon of Star Wars, and it is not just an observation kind of time travel. It is a kind of time travel that can undo literally anything.

Mace Windu was killed by the Emperor. Well not so fast. Are you sure? Let's time travel and fix that by giving Mace Windu a heads up at Anakin's betrayal.

The Jedi were taken by surprise that Senator Palpatine was in fact, Darth Sidious. Well...not so fast. Let's time travel and fix that by giving the Jedi council a heads up that's years in the making.

Oh, the singular moment where Han Solo is killed by his own son in The Force Awakens goes down as a spectacularly bad decision on Han Solo's part. Well...let's fix that by undoing a few things.

Seriously...everything that we know about Star Wars' entire story from the very beginning can now be rewritten. Nothing is sacred unless Disney wants it to be. Holy Cow! That is just crazy to consider, and I don't know how exactly I should feel about this. It's incredibly tempting to say that it is a good thing for the franchise which now has a way to deal with plots that are unpopular. But does it feel like maybe too powerful a weapon with regard to a story that is close to the hearts of so many? Does it feel like Star Wars Rebels maybe crossed a line somewhere?

I want to talk about this with someone. Let me hear your thoughts. Hopefully there are going to be some who are intrigued or horrified by this new development in the Star Wars universe's canon. Maybe Princess Leia should have uttered the phrase (back in A New Hope), "Help me Dave Filoni...you're my only hope" instead of "ObiWan Kenobi," because Dave Filoni has just upended everything.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Annihilation is one of those films containing imagery whose sole intended purpose is to fool you.

There are some spoilers in this post regarding Anniliation (the movie), but they are not "overt." Proceed at your own risk.

Annihilation is one of those films that has imagery in it whose sole intended purpose is to fool you. I have a love/hate relationships with these kinds of movies. On the one hand, I really love being able to identify things clearly. I love that some movies don't require a whole lot of thought processes to figure out exactly what I'm looking at. "That's obviously a fish" or "that's obviously a woman" etc. I think you may know what I mean if you've seen a lot of film. However, Annihilation is not one of these kinds of movies. It's a movie where you say, "Wait...was that a bear?" Or, "Wait...did that woman not have eyes a minute ago or was that just me?" "Was it a bad angle?" "What exactly am I looking at here?" "Are those things moving?" And the list goes on and on. It's aggravated further because you can't rewind a film for a second glimpse when it's being shown in a theater.

I did enjoy the film, but why can't we have good intellectual films where I'm absolutely certain that what I'm looking at is a thing? Maybe the reason is that in order to ask intellectual questions to begin with, we have to present something alien that we've never seen before, and then wait for our brains to catch up. In other words, you want to eschew the familiar. But, is this what good art does? Presenting the unfamiliar to our senses so that we have a chance to process and then name it so that it becomes familiar? After seeing Annihilation, I found myself thinking of the first time I saw the xenomorph from Ridley's Scott's Alien, and how I tried to figure out just what I was looking at. "Was that a head?" "Was that a tail or is that all one piece?" Of course, after staring at art illustrations and models and even holding a miniature one in my hand that was "for sale" in a Portland, Oregon comic book shop, I now have a pretty good idea of what the xenomorph is. So there is no more "surprise" factor, and seeing it on screen is actually kind of boring, which is the opposite of what one wants from an artistic point-of-view. So maybe Annihilation really succeeds in this instance, because there were many "WTF moments" that hit me during the viewing time of the film.

My criticism aside, Annihilation is a film that is full of smart stylistic choices. The wide lenses that the director used were obviously chosen to create an unnatural sense of space. Short focal lengths isolate characters in the frame. Even before the characters enter "the shimmer," which is a zone of ever-expanding weirdness slowly swallowing the Earth, the film is full of windows, screens, and lens flares to create dubious perspective. When the heroine and her husband are reunited during the early scenes, a drinking glass sits in front of the place where their hands meet in order to distort everything about their relationship in the land of curved light and strange reflections.

Ultimately, Annihilation was filled with technical brilliance, but because of all the trickery, I'm not sure of exactly anything of what I saw. Nor am I sure that any of it really matters. As a side note, this kind of bugs me, because I think that if a story is so weird that it defies any kind of understanding, it (maybe?) has pushed its audience too far. Or maybe I'm just picky and lazy because I want things to make sense.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Brainiac that SyFy is bringing to Krypton is super cool.

SyFy channel is launching a new Superman-themed television show that takes place before his planet blew up, and it launches on March 21st. Naturally, it's called Krypton, and my original feelings were just kind of ho-hum about the whole thing. I'm kind of over-saturated with Superman stuff that's kind of built up over the years from Smallville, to Superman Returns, to a reboot of Superman in Man of Steel, and then to Supergirl and so on and so forth. But I'm kind of excited for Krypton, because the villain in it, a.k.a. Brainiac, looks sooo good. Below is a picture of Brainiac courtesy of USA Today (he kind of reminds me of a green borg from Star Trek, which is maybe why I kind of like him so much).
In the trailer (which I've embedded below so you can watch it), he looks absolutely awesome. He has a massive, kind of sprawling skull ship, and he's surrounded by all kinds of black cables and ropes that look like tentacles. I've never seen Brainiac look like that, and he gives off a decidedly evil (and very ghoulish) vibe that feels like it will make the story told in Krypton very interesting. The design of him is influenced heavily from a Geoff Johns's cover for Action Comics #868, which is shown below.
In watching the trailer, the only question I had was, "Why are they putting Kryptonians in ball caps and hoodies?" I haven't figured that one out yet, but maybe it was to appeal to Americans watching the show instead of trying to create a completely alien-looking race similar to how director Ridley Scott approaches things. Without the brilliance of someone like H.R. Giger, envisioning something "alien" is undoubtedly going to be based upon something of which we are undoubtedly familiar.

So who is Brainiac anyway?

He's been depicted in multiple television series several times, but I've always been underwhelmed by him in every single appearance. Supposedly (I haven't read the comics in which he's the biggest villain) he is Superman's archenemy, and he is responsible for shrinking and stealing Kandor, the capital city of Superman's home planet Krypton. The bottle city of Kandor is a pop culture icon, and features prominently in cartoons and the comic books. The fact that we might see this event happen in this new series gives me enough of a reason to want to watch it. Hopefully, it's darker and more serious than Supergirl. Not that I don't like Supergirl, but I sometimes enjoy a nice brooding switch from all the campiness that is on the CW. I think that dark and brooding is perfect for Krypton as it's literally a series set on a planet on the brink of annihilation. There's nothing quite like "impending doom" to light a fire under things.

Random thought: I wonder if there are going to be overt comparisons to Earth in Krypton, as many think that our own world is on the cusp of some kind of apocalyptic doom associated with climate change. Maybe like the Kryptonians that our fiction writers dream about, we'll all turn a blind eye to it until it's too late. That could be fun.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Facebook changed the social dynamic of the world by allowing people to ask for things from you without actually doing anything at all for you.

My brother was taken aback the other day when he trolled me and asked why my art has not made it onto Facebook. I told him that I didn't like Facebook and could care less about sharing it. His eyes opened wide with shock and surprise, but he decided (for once) not to angrily press me into sharing on Facebook. He has done this before with me, insisting that I post pictures and such of my house on Facebook so that everyone could see. When I said no, he pushed until he got his way. That's just our dynamic I guess. My brother says that he shares everything on Facebook to create Facebook memories. Again, I could care less about Facebook memories. I prefer the real ones. And should I ever be so mentally compromised that I can't remember the real ones, I doubt I'll remember how to get onto Facebook anyway. It all seems like unnecessary narcissism to me, if I'm to be honest. I feel like I know too many people on Facebook who are addicted to attention. There's actually a disorder for it called "attention addiction disorder." For those who don't know what this is, it's when a young person gets too much attention for one reason or another and grows addicted to it because it feels good (kind of like a drug). As they get older, they need to have that sustained input of attention and will do anything to get it, including risky sexual behaviors etc.

Side Note: For those that are legitimately interested in seeing my art, I will be posting a picture I've been working on for months here on my blog when I finish it. But it's a really slow process, and I'm about 90% done. There's lots of detail in it. Anyway, that's not what I wanted to talk about in this post.

What I wanted to talk about is that I've been really struggling with putting into words why I don't like Facebook, and why I try to stay off it as much as possible. And then it finally hit me, I think I dislike Facebook so much, because it changes the social dynamic that I was raised up knowing (into something that feels alien and different). Here's how: Facebook allows people to ask for things from you without actually doing anything at all for you. It makes it too easy for people to become takers in your life without giving anything.

It used to be that people had social contracts with each other. If you wanted to get to know someone, you would hang out with them in real time. You would go and visit their home. You would pick up the phone and talk with them for hours on the phone until parents told you to stop monopolizing the line. You knew what was going on with their lives on a daily basis because you invested in another person. Facebook has removed all of that. Now, all you do is check someone's feed of things that they post to your wall and that's your substitute for "catching up." There is nothing unique for you. Rather, it's like everyone is doing a "press release" for their avocado toast that they chose to eat in the morning. "Press release...I'm drinking O.J. from this cute kitty cup!" It's ridiculous and wrong on so many levels.

I suppose I'd be okay with it, but these same people that you somehow friend because you saw them once and they send you a friend invite will still come after you for favors (like a Go Fund Me account or a request to join a political activist rally), even though they haven't stepped one foot in your house and even though they never call. With as little effort as possible, these people still expect you to come to their aid, they expect you to extend levels of respect to them that you would previously only do to people you really wanted in your life, yet they will never do the same. The equivalent of "breaking out the fine China" for a new generation of people is to abide by all of the political correctness that they insist upon if you are to communicate with them beyond a "hello" and treat them with the respect of a visiting dignitary and not an average person. And I'm being serious here. I have barely met people and they have asked favors from me having to do with multiple personal pronouns, not using certain language (or to provide trigger warnings), and to respect them in ways that I was raised to believe that only "honored guests" received. There's been several times when I've paused, and asked, "who are you exactly?" and then gotten into a heated conversation about how that's not appropriate only to put that person resoundly in their place and they never speak to me again. In truth, it's a wonderful feeling, but it's also why I hate Facebook. People today seem to think that they can do so little, and then expect so much from someone in return. I come from a generation of people who believed that you treated everyone at a baseline, but extra-ordinary respect needed to be earned. Now (it seems) that people desire extra-ordinary respect to be the baseline, always, and without exception. I simply don't agree with this. There are plenty of reasons for people to be treated with no respect, either through their abhorrent behaviors or attitudes.

It's a curious development of the technology era, and I've been called a "luddite" by some who eschew my particular view on social media. I've never really considered myself a luddite. I know that I'm quite versed in technology and seem to have a solid grasp of how computers, mobile phones, and apps work. But just because I prefer paying in cash as opposed to paying for things using Facebook (yes there's a way to pay through Facebook) or paypal or Bitcoin shouldn't be a reason for a person to call me a "luddite" even if it is meant affectionately.

I see for me an odd kind of future, where I willfully embrace introversion over the complexity of trying to navigate friendships which are ultimately both meaningless and frustrating. Anyone else noticing these kinds of relationships and interactions cropping up in your life with more and more frequency? Do you blame Facebook? I look forward to reading your comments.