Monday, June 18, 2018

All of the things you should know before you go and see Incredibles 2.

If you like Easter Eggs in movies, and you intend on watching Incredibles 2, you really should read this post :).

I saw Incredibles 2 this weekend, and I'm listing some things that you should pay attention to from the past so that you can get the most from this movie (if you haven't already seen it). Before you read this list though, it is a bit spoiler-y. However, I don't think it's too bad because it doesn't reveal anything about the plot of the film per se. Without further ado, here are the things that I noted:

1) In the 2005 short, Jack-Jack Attack, the babysitter has many activities that she tries with the baby that are supposed to be healthy and neurologically stimulating. One of these things is having the baby listen to Mozart. As a result, the child makes the babysitter earn her pay by destroying his own house. There's an event that pays homage to this short in Incredibles 2. Hint: "It's Mozart, Dahling."

2) A113. This innocuous seeming letter "A" grouped with the numbers "113" is a reference to the almamater of a bunch of Pixar artists who all went to class together in room A113. I believe it was at the California Institute of the Arts. I know Brad Bird is one of these alumni. Hint for spotting this one is the title of a movie made by Francis Ford Coppola.

3) John Ratzenberger, who played Cliff Clavin in Cheers, voices another character in this Pixar outing. He has voiced one character in every single Pixar film to date, so it's kind of fun to look for him. Hint: It's rather early in the film. Another one to watch out for is Bob Odenkirk who played Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad (if you're a fan). He plays a similar type character in this show, which seems like a stereotype unless you admit to yourself that he actually is really good at this kind of character. If the actor doesn't seem to care about being stereotyped, I see no reason to care either.

4) T.V. shows. At several moments in the movie, you see Johnny Quest and then The Outer Limits. These are two shows that I loved, and I looked it up to see if they were ever on the television at the same time. They were, and it happened in 1965. So that's when The Incredibles takes place: the year 1965. Just an F.Y.I. in case you were wondering at what point the movie is supposed to take place in American history.

5) Craig T. Nelson. He's the voice of Mr. Incredible, but his other role of note is playing the dad in Poltergeist (from the 80's). In that old movie, the family's youngest child is lured into another dimension and they can hear her pleading for help. Well, guess what one of Jack-Jack's powers is? Yup, it's a nod to Poltergeist.

6) Remember the Incredibile (Mr. Incredible's car from the opening action sequence of The Incredibles?) I will only say that James Bond would be proud.

7) There's a character named Evelyn Deavor. If you say it out loud really fast and pronounce the (EVE)"Ehv" part as "Eve" and still pronounce the "l" and the "yn" normally, it takes on a whole new meaning. That's all I'm going to say about that. Hint: It's a name like "Stuart Padasso." Shorten the "Stuart" to "Stew" and you're suddenly saying "Stupid asshole" if you say it really fast.

8) You'll want to stay through the credits because you get three songs (with vocals!) for characters featured in The Incredibles. They're done in the vein of the Spiderman song. You know the one: "Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can/ Spins a web any size, catches thieves just like flies/ Look out, here come the Spiderman!"

Friday, June 15, 2018

The universe of the Unbreakable movies is far more compelling and better than the Sixth Sense.

This post assumes that you've all seen the movie, Split, by now and realize it is the second installment (sequel) in the same movie series that contains the movie, Unbreakable.

M. Night Shymalan's greatest film is Unbreakable and not The Sixth Sense. As more and more of the ongoing story (which M. Night did not just "luck out on" but planned via the long game over many years) has its day in the light, I am convinced that Mr. Shyamalan is a genius that just had a bunch of bad beats.

Take for example these points:

1) The Horde character from Split fits perfectly within the Unbreakable universe, not only because (like Mr. Glass) he's the ultimate progression of what happens when you take something to the extreme, but because Elijah's mother in Unbreakable said, "There are two villains typically; one that fights the hero physically (the Horde), and the archenemy who fights the hero with his mind (Mr. Glass).

2) Kevin (the Horde) is actually in the movie Split as a brief cameo/Easter Egg when Bruce Willis goes to the stadium. He brushes up against a mom leading her child away, and he realizes that the kid is being beaten by his mom and that his dad was killed in the same train wreck that he survived due to his super powers. So Kevin was created by Mr. Glass in the same way that Bruce Willis's character was created. Furthermore, in that scene, Bruce Willis stares at the boy so (in fact) they've met before and I bet this will be shown in Mr. Glass when it comes out.

I don't know about you, but it actually feels good to be excited about an M. Night Shyamalan movie again.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Here's four points I want to make about Jurassic Park that make it lightning in a 25-year-old bottle.

I bought the 25th anniversary of Jurassic Park on 4K ultra HD off Amazon a few weeks ago, and I plan on watching it tonight with two teens who have never seen any of the Jurassic Park movies. It should be a lot of fun, as I've been educating them on some of the best offerings from the eighties and the nineties in a weekly "Wednesday" movie format. We eat popcorn, and I provide some insight into the film that we're about to watch to give it a little "educational" edge. The movie itself was a great deal. I got all copies of the Jurassic Park movies in 4K (including Jurassic World), blu-ray copies of the same movies (that I can give out as gifts) and an awesome carrying case that showcases facts about each movie, all for $40.00 (I think this was a super sweet deal).

In thinking about Jurassic Park and what I want to say about it, I've isolated four main points that I want to emphasize when it comes to this movie:

1) Jurassic Park was lightning in a bottle. For shark movies, there is really only one good story and that's Jaws. I think time has pretty much proven this to be correct. Everything else just isn't as good. The same goes for dinosaurs. That one good story was penned by Michael Crichton who was a genius and foresaw how genetic engineering could possibly bring back prehistoric/extinct animals if you could just get the D.N.A. blueprint from something. It's just enough of a stretch to make this tale believable. There's no old world sorcery or time travel element involved. The story just asks you to stretch the science we already know today a little further and bam...you are in Wonderland.

2) Michael Crichton obviously had a thing for theme parks run amok. HBO is currently running the critically acclaimed Westworld, based on a story by Crichton. In a similar vein, Jurassic Park is the same kind of show, taking a theme park and making it all break down in the most catastrophic and dramatic fashion possible.

3) Jurassic Park has many themes to it. One is that humans and greed are at the root of failure when it comes to realizing big ideas. A second (and sometimes overlooked) message of the story is parenting and acknowledging that parents oftentimes don't make the best decisions when it comes to children. They can also get completely overwhelmed by natural circumstances causing events to spiral out of control even in a world full of the modern luxuries and conveniences that we all take for granted. In the end, the character of Dr. Grant is every adult out there who finds himself suddenly caring for smaller humans and just winging it to try and keep them safe.

4) John Williams's musical score is perhaps the best one that he's ever done, and it's perfect to the tiniest degree in adding emotional punch to scenes in the movie. If ever there was a musical score that is a true masterpiece, it is Jurassic Park.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Pixar knows how to handle family dynamics and emotions which is why the Incredibles is better than any Fantastic Four movie.

The Incredibles 2 is coming out this week, and I already have my tickets. If you're a fan of the Fantastic Four comic books though, it's hard to see how well Pixar does with essentially the same characters compared to how poorly conceived and managed the Fantastic Four movies have always been.

In the Incredibles you have:

1) Mr. Incredible. He has super strength and above average resilience to the elements.
2) Mrs. Incredible. She's able to stretch her body to unknown lengths.
3) Violet. She's able to go invisible and create force fields.
4) Dash. He's able to run at super sonic speeds.
5) Jak Jak. This baby has the ability to shapeshift, plus a lot of other things thrown into the mix that we haven't even explored yet.

In the Fantastic Four you have:

1) Mr. Fantastic. Like Elastigirl above, he's able to stretch his body to unknown lengths.
2) Invisible Woman. Like Violet, she has invisibility and the power to create force fields. She also has telekinesis.
3) Human Torch. He's able to turn his body into living fire and he can fly and shoot all kinds of projectiles out of his hands.
4) Thing. He has a body made of rock and he has super strength.

So, as you can see, it's a pretty close matchup between the two franchises. Of course, Fantastic Four did come first, but that really isn't any excuse as to why the Incredibles is so much better at its story on the screen than the Fantastic Four has been. If you've even bothered to watch any of the Fantastic Four incarnations, I think you'd agree with me that they are terrible...basically unwatchable...piles of steaming night soil.

Anyway, why do you suppose that is? Rather, what does the Incredibles do that makes it so much better?

Here's my thoughts:

Pixar is brilliant at breathing life into characters. They know how arguments, love, caring, and all the feels can really spin into a strong story. They focus on the characters and try to build layer upon layer of emotional impact so that you end up feeling it in your heart. The Fantastic Four films focused too much on story and powers and not enough on the relationships between the individual characters on the screen. When I watch the Fantastic Four movies, I see that they have no heart to them.

Fantastic Four as an intellectual property is also kind of ridiculous. Stretching (outside of animation) just never looks good (it's cheesy) and Doctor Doom is a strangely wild creation of a villain, being simultaneously a despot, an evil sorcerer, and a genius.

But all these criticisms aside, I think what does it for me with Incredibles vs the Fantastic Four is the family dynamic. If it isn't spot on then it's not going to be entertaining to watch. And in this arena, Pixar wins hands down.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Everything magical has a kryptonite or your story arc just isn't any fun.

Recently, I started to read The Chronicles of the Deryni by Katherine Kurtz. They are quite entertaining, even with some unexpected head hops, but I'm sure she's really grown as a writer since these early novels popped onto the scene some fifty years ago. Her story plot, for what it's worth, reads in a similar vein to the X-Men.

To be clear, Ms. Kurtz didn't copy them by any means, because all of this stuff must have formulated in her head in the fifties and sixties. But she does use a plot device which (when I look back on it) is used in just about everything that has magic or relies upon a kind of superpower that can do incredible things. That being said, most of us know that magic equates to "fun." But sometimes, you just have to put the lid on all that "magic stuff" or your story unravels because your heroes are too powerful. For Katherine Kurts, this "thing" is called "merasha." It's a poison that affects magic-users, a.k.a. deryni, by stripping them temporarily of their powers and rendering them so sick that they can barely function. Does it sound like something else? You betcha.

So here's a list of things I compiled (aside from merasha) that are used to strip various magic-using or super-powered things of their ability to just solve everything with their special talents.

1) Kryptonite. It comes in all colors but it essentially has one function: to strip Superman down to a normal person so that a villain can beat him down.

2) Dampening collars in Deadpool 2. These are like slave collars, and their only purpose is to strip a mutant down by suppressing the X-gene that is the source of powers for these kinds of superheroes. When one is being worn, one has no powers and can be beat down.

3) Wands in Harry Potter. Strip away the wand and you have a wizard that is helpless and can be beat down. I like this particular device a lot because it seems less of a contrived plot thing and is less offensive and cliché. But if you examine it under the same light, it's exactly the same thing as kryptonite.

4) Ysalamiri. These are furry, lizard-like tree-dwellers in the Star Wars universe that produce a Force-neutral bubble. And (you guessed it), there only purpose is to power down Jedi so that they are helpless and can be beat down.

5) The spell "anti-magic shell" in Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder role-playing games. This spell renders all magic and magic items inert. It's sole purpose to exist is the same as above...to make characters assailable after they've become so powerful that nothing can touch them.

6) Being "worthy." This trope, used to great affect in Thor, is another way to make a character that is otherwise too powerful a schmuck that the universe can pick on.

7) The Omega Particle in Star Trek. This particle was a whole episode in Voyager and its purpose for even existing was to establish that there was a way to destroy subspace so that faster than light travel couldn't work in a sector. FTL travel is a very powerful thing, so there needs to be something to keep it in check if a story plot demands this.

8) Nosebleed in Firestarter. The dad in Firestarter (Stephen King movie with Drew Barrymore) was limited by his nosebleeds in how often he could call upon his power. Otherwise he'd just steamroll over everyone.

I'm sure there are dozens of other examples, but this is all I could think of at the time. It's just interesting how any story featuring magical/powerful beings needs to have some kind of mechanic to limit said beings or the story arc just isn't any fun.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A book title is far more difficult to come up with than a character name.

It is June, and the year is halfway over. To start off the month, it's time to talk about the Insecure Writer's Support Group and to sign-up HERE if you don't know what this is. Once a month, we address a question that is posed on the IWSG website. This month's question is:

What's harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

By far (at least for me), it's harder to come up with a book title. Usually, I agonize over it. Then I google it to see what other kinds of things might come up in a search. I look to see if there's strange search results, etc. As for character names, these just seem to flow more naturally from my head. But I have no idea if any of the character names I came up with over the years really irritate anyone out there. And it's my opinion that character names rarely have the same kind of impact as a book title does with regard to any bottom line considerations.

Any of you out there in disagreement? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. :)

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Millennium Falcon has three droid brains in its computer and the idea came from Lewis Carroll.

By now, most of you have probably seen Solo: A Star Wars story. If not, you are all at least probably interested in Han Solo and know some background on the Millennium Falcon. So I feel like I can discuss what happened in the movie (spoiler alert) to some degree without leaving a bunch of you behind in all the geekery.

In the movie L3-37, the droid abolutionist and intimate companion of Lando Calrissian (Lando is pan-sexual) had it/her mind uploaded into the Falcon to take advantage of one of the most complete maps of the universe so that they could escape the Kessel Mines (a point that has been bantered in casual conversation in Star Wars canon for decades). So when C-3PO talks about the Falcon's dialect in the original trilogy, it's probably L3-37 that Threepio is talking to (and this has been pretty much confirmed by the internet).

What I didn't know is this next part, which is something I discovered with a little research elbow greese. R2-D2's internal monologue in the Last Jedi novelization says that the Falcon has three droid brains in its main computer, and this "tidbit" was part of the original canon before Disney took over everything. Furthermore, this "three brains" thing in a computer can be traced back to Lewis Carroll, who was a mathematician and logician and who would have probably programmed computers if they had been available in his era.

The idea behind three sentient processors is that if they disagreed upon an answer, two of them could "outvote" a faulty one, whereas dual processors would simply deadlock and a single processor could possibly hand you the incorrect answer.

It makes me wonder if there's going to be a movie where droids rise up against their slave masters, and they are led by a sentient Millennium Falcon. I wonder if Stephen King would sue for stealing his idea?