Friday, March 22, 2019

Taking a one week break. I'll be back on April 1st.

Can you believe March is almost over? It's insane how fast this year is going. Three months in the basket already. Before long, I'll be mowing my lawn.

I'm taking a week off. I'll start blogging again on April 1st. That's when Legends of Tomorrow starts up again, so I think the timing will be perfect.

See you then.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

I'm a little disappointed that Captain Marvel has an Achilles Heel.

I wrote in an earlier post that there were no counters to Captain Marvel's powers in her movie. Well I learned from IGN recently that it's true, Captain Marvel appears to be unstoppable. However, in that same article, Kevin Feige assures us all that Carol Danvers will in fact have an "Achilles heel." So basically, she's just like Superman now. Why am I disappointed? I guess I was getting on the train boarded by George R.R. Martin who wrote:

"The movie is hugely entertaining. I look forward to seeing how the Marvel teams uses the captain in the forthcoming Avengers movie. Once she comes fully into her powers, she is far and away the most powerful character in the MCU. She could eat Iron Man for lunch and have Thor for dessert, with a side of Doctor Strange. Thanos is in trouble now."

Well, I guess Thanos is in trouble provided he doesn't exploit the afore-mentioned "Achilles Heel." But something tells me that this will be exactly what happens.

It all seems so "constructed," doesn't it? As if it were all carefully plotted...painstakingly so...and the fate of all these characters were left...god forbid...up to writers.

Oh geez...I think I just popped my own bubble of suspension of disbelief. Don't go there, kids, just don't. It's no fun to peek behind the curtain and see the Wizard of Oz for what he truly is.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The final season of Game of Thrones is less than 30 days away.

The final season of Game of Thrones is less than 30 days away as of this writing. It's been a long wait to see who will take the Iron Throne. Just to show you how much it has been on my mind, a frenemy (I realized after I was his friend that he was a narcissist and psychological abuser) that I haven't spoke to in over a decade died in January of kidney failure (I didn't really feel anything at the news, but I did wonder why someone even bothered to tell me). However, when I was told the news through an acquaintance (who I also haven't seen in person for over ten years--the message came through Facebook messenger of all places), the first thing that popped into my head was, "He doesn't get to see how it all ends." It seemed like a fate that was just salt in a wound, you know?

I hope that I never die when I'm about to finish something that's gripped my attention for years. And all this speculation of course is assuming that this frenemy even watched Game of Thrones. But, I had little doubt though that he did. When we were on speaking terms, it was apparent that we were passionate about the same things, and Game of Thrones has pretty much dominated all of fantasy fiction for the last decade. Kudos to George R.R. Martin to getting us so enraptured into the politics of some fictional kingdom whose ruler (I might add) won't even be ruler of the world of Westeros. Nope, they'll just be the ruler of seven smaller kingdoms on a continent that's smaller in land mass than the rest of the land on Westeros. It just goes to show you that politics and conflict can be small and yet remain incredibly interesting.

According to Entertainment Weekly in an article posted just a few days ago, each episode has an average final length of 72 minutes. Episode one is 54 minutes long, episode two is 58 minutes long, episode three is an hour and 22 minutes long, episode 4 is an hour and 18 minutes long, and episodes five and six are each an hour and 20 minutes long. The showrunners have also stated boldly that the final battle will put to shame any fantasy or fictional battle that has ever been seen on big screen or small. That includes the final battle of Return of the King, i.e., the golden standard known as the Battle of the Pelennore Fields. For what it's worth, April cannot get her soon enough. With my taxes already out of the way, April with Game of Thrones and spring and Avengers: Endgame is going to be the best month of the year.

Valar Morghulis everyone.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Will Disney use the powers of the Reality Stone to remake the MCU to introduce the X-Men and mutants?

The second full length Avengers: Endgame trailer dropped this week, and I had a thought that was along the lines of: Where does Marvel go from here? only I combined it with the real world knowledge that Disney has now acquired the X-Men and the Fantastic Four and Deadpool when they bought them from Fox Studios for a pretty penny.

So here's my thought: Is the Reality Stone going to remake the universe in a kind of reboot? Allow me to explain before you decry the cheesiness of this idea. It seems to be the only way I can think of to preserve continuity and introduce mutants. The MCU hasn't been able to talk about mutants at all up to this point, because they haven't had the rights to do so. Instead, they've used the Inhumans, which really isn't the same thing, and their first outing with the Inhumans was pretty much a disaster. Put another way, I've never seen a flop like the Inhumans was come out of the Disney-controlled Marvel studios. It was like they had no idea how to handle them at all.

I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't point out that the MCU has also explored the Inhumans to a greater extent through the ongoing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series (its final season will be airing soon), but it still hasn't been all that compelling (even though I've found it more interesting than say The Gifted or some of the other Marvel series that have been showcased on Netflix). The reason behind my lackluster interest in these stories is that I'm tired of mutants feeling oppressed by humans and there just being plot after plot of humans abusing mutants and then mutants turning around and doing the same. It's like beating a dead horse. That being said I also don't like it when shows are canceled as it just seems to be pointless to watch what remnants there are that have been uploaded for your viewing pleasure. So, I haven't even bothered to watch the second seasons of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. It all just seems to be a waste of time, which I can devote to series that are invested in storylines that won't be canceled prematurely: think Star Wars: Resistance.

So back to my little theory: The Reality Stone, as you may know, is one of the six Infinity Stones. From what I can gather, it is a remnant of a singularity that predates the universe, and it can basically alter reality itself on a grand scale. Thanos demonstrates some of its power in Infinity War both to show Tony Stark what Titan used to look like and to make Drax and Mantis into slinkies. Anyway, all that mumbo jumbo aside, I think it has the power to alter reality so that the X-Men and Mutants can be a part of the MCU. That seems like an easy fix, right? And it's a great way to reboot all the X-Men storylines that Fox has been unable to accomplish. For example, this new Dark Phoenix movie that Fox is advertising looks absolutely terrible. Dark Phoenix was a villain on the same scale as Thanos, and her lifting up trains and stopping bullets is just stupid. This was a villain that ate entire suns to fuel her powers.

So what do you think? Could the Reality Stone remake the universe to allow the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and Deadpool to suddenly be a thing in the MCU? Do you think Disney would do that?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

So far in the MCU Captain Marvel pays no price for the use of her powers which cannot be countered in any way.

Like most of America, I went to see Captain Marvel this last weekend. I enjoyed it. I thought it was good (not great), and it accomplished what it set out to do: tell the origin story of the latest superhero. I literally knew nothing of Captain Marvel going into this movie aside from (at some point) Rogue steals a good deal of her powers and can fly around and possesses super strength. And she looks really cool in the trailers with the photonic energy flowing around her (and her eyes are blazing with power). Oh and the helmet she wears pushes her hair into a mohawk...that's kind of cool as well.

I guess when I look back at the film, I was a little underwhelmed by the photonic laser beams that she can shoot out of her hands because they just seem so straight forward and an easy solution to everything. Spoiler Alert: there is nothing that can counter them. They basically destroy everything, so there is that.

But that's both neat and not so neat. I mean...if all you have to do is blast something...and it goes away...then there really is no build-up, right? That's pretty much what Captain Marvel does the entire movie. One thing gets in her way and bam, it's gone. This includes multiple Kree spaceships at some point...and none of them (and their advanced weaponry) stand a chance. I imagine she wouldn't need the weird forge from a neutron star that we saw in Infinity War to melt the uru metal and create Thor's weapon...she could probably just use her light beams and melt anything that was needed (no matter how fantastic) and it would just make her hair glow and look all nice while she was doing it.

Based off what I saw in Captain Marvel, she could have just blasted Thanos in Infinity War and he'd be done mid-speech. Again, there seems to be no counter to her power. Or maybe there is one, and we just haven't seen it? But I think I'd hate that with a passion. And this brings into question the whole "suspension of disbelief" argument. It would be a painfully obvious plot device for Thanos to suddenly have some kind of foil for Captain Marvel's blast em laser beams. I'm not saying that this shouldn't be the case, but if nothing in the universe seems to be able to stand up to them prior to "X" event, why should "X" event even be a thing? It's the same problem I have with superman's powers, i.e., "Ha ha I'm invincible and can do anything...oh! Kryptonite! I'm powerless!" and yada yada yada.

I think I prefer superheroes who always have to struggle. Like their powers make them clearly superhuman, but their superhuman foes can easily keep them in check and there's this tug of war that happens in any combat between them because anything could happen. Hulk is super strong but can get knocked out by similarly strong things. Black Widow is a great fighter but ultimately a bullet can end her. Doctor Strange has all the magic stuff, but he's got to have the finesse to cast the spell and the stamina to withstand the price the magic use extolls upon him. Captain Marvel blasts things, none of the blasting drains her in any way, and nothing can counter the blasts (it either explodes or is destroyed). She feels very much like a deus ex machina...a thing that can just fix anything by just showing up. Her presence feels oddly out of balance with everything else.

Anyway, my guess is that Captain Marvel as a standalone movie, isn't a wide enough view of this character. I think when the next Avenger's movie hits in a month, we'll see that there are checks on Captain Marvel's powers, and that she's more in balance with the bad guy, Thanos. And by that, I mean she won't be able to just take him on herself and will need the other Avengers. I just didn't see it in this film. She could basically have done all the Avenging herself and wouldn't have needed anyone else.

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Orville has turned into Star Trek the Next Generation.

When I first started watching The Orville, I got the impression it was going to be a tongue-in-cheek version of Star Trek: The Next Generation much in the same vein as the "old" movie Galaxy Quest. However, that's not what we got. In the second season, I was really struck by this when the show invested so much time with Bortis (and the complications of his alien species and their view of sexuality), and then it went straight off a Borg script by turning Isaac (who is a Kaylon diplomat) into the equivalent of Locutus of Borg by having him be instrumental in restoring order to The Orville and thus having a hand to play in the high stakes battle to save Earth from annihilation.

That it is a love letter to Trek is no secret. McFarland has long waxed poetic about Trek, and he probably launched The Orville to give fans something to watch who felt spurned by the fact that Star Trek: Discovery (also in its second season) is behind a paywall. As a side note, I do love and look forward to Star Trek: Discovery far more than I do The Orville (which usually waits on my DVR until Sunday before I watch this week's episode, whereas I watch Star Trek: Discovery the moment it is available). For me, Star Trek: The Next Generation was never good enough, but it had those Borg episodes that just kept me on the hook. The Borg were a fantastic villain and foil for the Federation.

To explain a little regarding my comments on The Next Generation, I didn't really like the episodes where Picard plays his flute because he spent an entire second lifetime learning about an alien race that implanted in his head a memory so that someone would mourn their passing. It was good and I'm glad I watched it, but I have no desire to see it again. Sacrilege, right? I didn't really like the episodes where we saw what it was like to serve on a starship as a member of the lower decks. In other words...I didn't like all the slow stuff. I didn't like all the hours and hours of character building or the conversations in Ten Forward. I liked the action, the times when the Enterprise faced off against the Borg, or when the Enterprise was involved in a horror-like mystery with high-stakes implications. I also like serials, i.e., when the story continues and evolves with each passing episode. You only get that in "To Be Continued" episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and by extension, The Orville. But its in every single episode of Star Trek: Discovery.

I guess this puts me at odds with some Trekkers out there who dislike new Trek (I guess that's as good a reason as any to appeal to a new audience and discard the old). It also makes sense from a money-making point of view. Tastes from young people are quite a bit different from those who grew up in the eighties (I seem to be an exception because my tastes align with a much younger crowd). Some of the older Trekkers (my peers) are vehement in their complaints with things like, "Look at what they're doing to Spock!" and "Klingons don't look like that!" and the list goes on and on. They say things like, "The makers behind Star Trek: Discovery are going to cut their nose off to spite their face and alienate their base." Eh? Not really. This so called "base" is a lot smaller than those who are whining about Star Trek: Discovery would care to see. CBS All Access hit its money-making goals one year ahead of schedule, because of Star Trek: Discovery. And its eye-popping subscription numbers are behind launches of "All Trek, All the Time" on the app going forward.

New viewers, I think, are more aligned with things people (like me) desire. For example, I'm the World of Warcraft player that enjoyed raiding and instance runs more than standing around in cities, conversing with others and crafting things to be sold on the auction house. I love action. I love fighting and doing things. I'm not so much into exploring, unless exploring means that there's a fight I can participate in (and demonstrate skill) in a previously unexplored area. I'm the perfect "Diablo" player where there's combat and then magic items. In other words, fight and then reward and rinse/repeat.

This translates into my diet of television a lot. In my opinion, The Orville rocked it strong when it made the Kaylon into villains and played down the humor by substituting in some serious drama. Then they just kept adding to the pile by having the Orville crew discover huge tunnels filled with the bones of an entire race that the Kaylon annihilated in order to throw off the chains of their enslavement. Then of course was the assault on Earth, which had a dramatic battle that was every bit as epic as the one that took place at Wolf 359 in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I like that kind of stuff, and as long as I get it in doses...I'll probably keep watching because I'm on the hook. The formula is probably ten parts boring episodes and one part exciting one, and then you've got me.

But I love Star Trek: Discovery. No episode is boring. It's like Game of Thrones. Everything is serial and builds on episode after episode. The production values make every single episode look like a movie. The acting is incredible, and there's enough odes to the old stuff that it hits all my pleasure buttons. I'm so happy it has been renewed for a third season, and I'm pleased that there are going to be five more Star Trek series that get launched behind the CBS All Access paywall. Those are going to be so good. All Trek, all the time. And (at least as far as my tastes go) the producers seem to know what a viewer like me wants. "Give me Game of Thrones! Give me The Expanse!"

I do feel sorry for you Trekkers out there that want The Next Generation back, and I'm glad you have The Orville. I like the nostalgic feel of The Orville too. There's a lot that reminds me of the nineties, and it's more than just McFarlan's periodic speckling of the dialogue with eighties music and old movies. However, I'm also grateful that the things that I like are being catered to by people in the entertainment industry, and I like my space opera with lots of action and things happening and high stakes. I want it in every episode if possible, hold all the filler please :). And yes, I'm willing to pay for it outside of cable.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Today's Insecure Writer's Support Group question reminds me why writing from unused perspectives can freshen up a story.

Today is the first Wednesday in March of 2019, and that also makes it Insecure Writer's Support Group day. This is a blog fest that happens once a month (and has been a recurring event for many years now). Here's a link to their official BLOG that explains all about it. If you sign up, you'll get an opportunity to really connect with other writers out there.

March 6 Question: Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

This is a real thinker. Historically, I've written a lot from the perspective of various protagonists because it seemed like the thing I was most comfortable in doing. Many of the books I read (while growing up) seemed to have this kind of structure to them. You got introduced to the hero, then the hero was presented with an opportunity of some kind, or a conflict of some kind, and you followed them along on their journey. Because it was so prevalent in fiction, I absorbed this as a means to tell my own story, and it's very straight forward.

But now that I'm older, and I've read books by George R.R. Martin, Thomas Harris, James S.A. Corey, and Richard K. Morgan (just to name a few), I've realized the power of telling a story from the anti-hero and antagonist point of view (or at least devoting as many chapters to their perspective as I do to the hero's perspective). The reason? It seems silly to me to insist on villains being all good or all evil, even though that's the diet of fiction I was pretty much raised on. People are only villains when they have motivations that are the opposite of whomever's point of view you are looking through to understand them. Increasingly, I find more value in discovering this, and a lot of the way I've been doing it (in some short stories I've written) is through the antagonist's perspective. 

How a writer chooses to tell a story is just as important as the events of the story that take place. In other words, it's just as important as the plot. And by selecting different points of view than the traditional hero-first perspective, a writer can even retread tired old stories because this new point of view makes them all fresh again. So really, it's just another trick a writer can use to hone their craft.

Monday, March 4, 2019

The best fight in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon remains the best two person fight I've ever seen recorded on film.

When I read that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was coming to Netflix this month, I reminisced for a moment about the best fight scene I think I've seen in film (and it came from this movie). It takes place between Yu Shu Lien (who is played by Michelle Yeoh) and Jen Yu (who is played by actress Shang Ziyi).

Yu Shu Lien wields a dao (which is a saber that can be split into two smaller blades), a spear, dual hook swords, a metal club, and a broad sword. She does so in that order. Of note, Yu Shu Lien also grabs a monk's spade at one point but it turns out to be too heavy for her to manage correctly.

Jen Yu just uses the Green Destiny, which is a kind of magical blade that can just cut through anything (including stone) and never breaks. So it's a cheat weapon.

In the scene Jen is angry at everyone in her life who's been pressuring her, and she's also super eager to prove herself worthy of wielding the sword. Shu Lien has just told Jen that they have hidden Lo, Jen's bandit ex-boyfriend, in the Wudan Mountains, and Jen is extremely flippant at this news. Shu Lien has no f*cks left to give and is tired of Jen's attitude so a fight breaks out, and it's amazing.

Shu Lien is a way better fighter using inferior tools, and so they're basically equal. As a veteran warrior, it's mesmerizing to watch Michelle Yeoh's character grab weapon after weapon to use against the sword that just slices through them like they are nothing. If she was going to kill Jen, she could have beat her. But that's not what's going on. She says as much too with the line, "Without the Green Destiny, you are nothing." Being a Brat, Jen fails to accept defeat gracefully and ends up hurting Shu Lien in a minor way before fleeing. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Star Wars Galaxy's Edge sounds incredibly cool and is probably the closest thing we'll ever get to an actual Westworld.

I saw on io9 today (link HERE) that some of their staffers got an early look at the huge renovation going on at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. In case you didn't know, Disney is building a Star Wars theme park there with a highly detailed Millennium Falcon that you can walk in and interact with as a group.

It looks and sounds incredibly cool, although I doubt I will ever go and visit it (but one never knows). Most of these things sound like you'd get the best enjoyment from them by having lots of kids around. You get to build lightsabers, go into shops that sell Star Wars themed items made to look like they are from around the galaxy, and pilot the Millennium Falcon with up to five others. It sounds incredible for a family of six (four kids and two adults). Not so much for a single guy like me who would get lumped in with a bunch of people I don't know. But another lifetime...this sounds like tons of fun. Take a look at some of this concept art:

In order starting with the first pic you've got the ride "Rise of the Resistance," which will take you inside a First Order "capital class" ship where you see holograms of the major cast characters taking you through a ride where you race across the deck and past actual sized AT-AT's and Tie Fighters to escape. Then you have the Den of Antiquities where I think you'll be able to purchase all sorts of "rare" and "pricey" items from around the galaxy (and it will look like the picture). Then there's the "marketplace" and the "Smuggler's Run," which takes you on board the Millennium Falcon. And you can eat in the Mos Eisley Cantina as well. Those are the things that really stood out from looking at pages of the concept art on google image search.

It honestly sounds like a place you could lose a lot of time in...perhaps an entire week. Maybe at that pace, the grueling lines for it wouldn't be so bad. 

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