Wednesday, October 28, 2020

In a year we all get to watch another Godzilla animated movie on Netflix.

I really like Toho animation. It's escapism at some of its best, and it tends to have that classic nostalgic feel that some of the 1960's (is that the Showa era?) Godzilla movies evoke within me when I see them on tv. So, you can imagine my excitement when Netflix announced (this week) an exclusive called Godzilla: Singular Point. It is directed by Atsushi Takahashi, which actually means nothing to me. However, it's a Godzilla movie. So if it has other kaiju bashing it out--and the trailer does feature the giant transforming robot Jet Jaguar--well then...I'm sold.

That being said, there is one name I do recognize in this project. There is a brand new Godzilla design from Eiji Yamamori who (I think) is in charge of kaiju design. He is a rather legendary Studio Ghibli animator, with about 17 films to his credit, including being the "key animator" in Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, House-Hunting, Ponyo, The Secret World of Arrietty, The Wind Rises, When Marnie Was There, Mary and the Witch's Flower, and Doraemon the Movie. It's obvious that the guy is an expert and a renowned artist in his particular field.

The movie isn't due out for another year, so this is way ahead of its November 2021 release. In the trailer (which I have included below), there is no dialogue. It's just music. The two-horned pteranadon creature is probably Rodan, and the spikey dinosaur/anklyosaurus thing is probably Anguirus. There are two other kaiju either shown or hinted at, but I have no idea what they are. So your guess is as good as mine.  

Monday, October 26, 2020

Now that the Meg 2 has been greenlit I've got questions.

The Meg
, which is a show about prehistoric giant sharks unleashed into a modern ecosystem, is getting a sequel. I really enjoyed the movie, mostly because I like shark movies, and I tend to watch all shark movies. In the rankings of shark movies overall, it is in my top ten. And honestly, that's not saying much as Jaws will always be a masterpiece, and the rest are just hot garbage. But I do like hot garbage from time to time.

That said, I'm curious to see if the sequel will bring back Li Bingbing and continue the interesting romance between her and action superstar, Jason Statham. I like Jason Statham. And by "interesting," I like that there was one in the first place. Most made with/for China movies never features any romance between the Chinese female lead and the American male lead. Sometimes one character will note how they think the Chinese woman is good looking, but it's always a one-way street that never goes anywhere. There are probably a number of sociopolitical reasons to explain this. And in today's world, there's a lot of China hate coming from America (being broadcast with a megaphone) even as we continue to purchase and use their products because things made in America are too expensive, i.e,. wages are too low in America to afford to buy American.

I was actually surprised by The Meg. It was immediately different, with one scene of Li Bingbing ogling a naked-but-for-a-towel Jason Statham. It qualifies as very thirsty on screen stuff. Do you like the word "thirsty" used in this context? I do love the ever evolving English language. Anyway, Li Bingbing did make it clear that she liked what she was seeing, and then there was lots of reinforcement from other cast members in the film saying things like, "You two should really be a couple." I think it would be awesome if we saw more of that headed toward something in a sequel.

It was also a movie that dared to kill a dog. Or at least sort of...we all thought the dog "Pippin" got eaten by the shark, but we do see it later in the movie alive and well. It was still goofy fun. The Meg never took itself seriously, which made it an awesome popcorn film.

And here's another musing: I wonder how a megalodon with actually "real world" physics would fare against a pod of modern adult Orcas. I think (despite the size of the shark) that the Orcas would kill it. They seem to have incredible intelligence and capability to coordinate attacks for killing things in the ocean.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Zack Snyder's cut of Justice League is redefining what a director's cut for a movie actually is.

Just when exactly did getting a cut of some previously released film mean that you could shoot new footage and somehow rework an entire story? Was it George Lucas that started this? In asking this question of myself (and before I posed it to you) I started to think...yeah...I bet it was George. But at the time when I watched the Star Wars movies re-released and with updated new footage, I didn't think it was any kind of "cut." I thought it was just a guy who may have had a vision that technology of the time couldn't produce. So, it seemed to make sense that for a work of passion (which Star Wars obviously is) that we should cut the guy a break.

Fast forward to 2020, and all the news I read about the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League makes me think of the many re-releases of the original trilogy of Star Wars, and I'm finding myself in this weird boat where I was okay in cutting George Lucas some slack, but I think Snyder should just shoot a whole new movie? I don't's just so weird as to what's going on with his Justice League cut that it doesn't even sound like it will be the same movie. is that a cut?

A cut is when you have to take things out of a movie to make a film fit within a certain time limit. It can also be something that you take out of a film in order to meet a certain standard for reviewing, or to meet a rating requirement for a wider theatrical audience, right? But what Snyder is doing is bringing back actors to film more footage. For example, Jared Leto is reprising his role as the Joker from Suicide Squad (his performance wasn't all that great and I guess his antics on set included sending used condoms to his castmates). Then there is Ben Affleck, Ray Fisher, and Amber Heard who are also reprising their DC roles for new footage in Zack's cut. We already know that there's going to be at least one appearance of Darkseid, but in what capacity, I don't think anyone (but Zack Snyder) is sure. Am I interested in seeing the Snyder cut of Justice League? Absolutely. Is it the same Justice League that I saw a few years ago? It doesn't sound like it will be at all.

Look, this seems to be a situation where it's kind of a matter of perspective. A Justice League film was released in theaters, so the movie's done as far as specific values of "done" are concerned. This new Snyder-cut that people have been clamoring for years to see (I think) never existed. But clearly Snyder wanted to make a certain kind of movie, and now he's been given a budget and enthusiastic actors who are ready to splice and dice this thing into whatever version of Justice League that Snyder wants. So he gets to decide that if he wants to write and shoot something brand new...well that's what's going to happen.

Just to be clear...there was no Snyder cut until there was. This seems oddly like some kind of philosophical argument like figuring out through a time loop that the reason trees have fallen in a forest is because you actually had to cut them down and just never got around to time traveling yet to make that happen. I guess we call this platform evangelism, which can bring us things like the sixth season of Community.

I have no idea what type of story this movie is trying to tell. I guess I'll find out next year. What about you? Do any of you out there have opinions on the Snyder cut of Justice League?

Monday, October 19, 2020

Star Trek: Discovery is back for season 3 and the first episode gave us a lot to love about the far future.

Yay! As the third season of Star Trek: Discovery got underway last week, we all got news from CBS that they've already officially granted a fourth season to this incredible series. Discovery and the new wave of shows that have popped up in its wake like Lower Decks and Picard have been a real treat in these troubled Covid times. Not only are they exciting to watch, but the overall message of hope and wonder and people just being nice to one another is the kind of comfort food that I need right now. And this is especially true with an election going on. I can just tune out all the noise and watch Michael Burnham overcome the struggles she's dealing with in her world. As an aside, Discovery taught me that the name "Michael" could be gender neutral. At first, I had a bit of trouble with it as my own name is Michael. However, it grew on me, and now I can easily see naming a girl, Michael.

I'm sure my sentiments on Discovery would enrage the Trekker Proud Boy conspiracy theorists on YouTube, if it were to catch their attention (which it won't as my blog is small). These are the guys that pound taking the "red pill" and how Discovery, because of its diverse cast which includes strong women and queer characters are ruining Trek. But those people are just dinosaurs marching off to their tar pits. Additionally, season 3 is expanding into the exploration side that resulted from a spectacular season two, which had a really clever mystery that unfolded with epic universe-ending consequences.

And the opener to season 3 was a pretty wild ride, which is typical for this show. We got wormholes, shootouts, drugs, new aliens, and new worlds. I did have a few observations that I'm going to write down, and they are spoilers, so if you haven't watched the season 3 premiere, you should probably stop reading now. observations of season 3 episode 1:

1) The character Book is very interesting, and he pretty quickly intuited that Michael (Sonequa) was a time traveler.

2) Seeing Burman get high from the truth drug was very entertaining. Sonequa is a wonderful actress.

3) Where is Discovery? This is a mystery that has me sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for an answer.

4) What are they going to do to update Discovery? What kind of new starship tech is there going to be? And is there going to be a big bad for this season?

5) It was really moving to see Burnam make the guy holding down the fort in the deserted Federation station into a Starfleet officer. And then they hung up the United Federation of Planets flag. I really liked that.

And that's it for my observations. Did anyone else watch the premiere? Anyone else want to weigh in?

Friday, October 16, 2020

David Attenborough's A Life On Our Planet will probably win the Oscar for Best Documentary simply because it has to.

Have you watched David Attenborough's A Life on Our Planet? The documentary, which he calls his witness statement, is about how human caused climate change is wrecking our planet in a startling short time, and what we can do about it. There are moments where he is obviously vexed by the disastrous course humanity is taking, and how it will ultimately lead to our extinction if we don't take drastic steps. It's all backed up by science of course, and I one hundred percent believe everything he is saying.

But we live in a world where a lot of selfish people can steer the course of our civilization. And it is so very difficult to understand the kind of self-fulfilling idiocy that humans seem to own in spades. For example, these troublemakers in our society can hold up a glass and say, "Hey, this is shattered!" If you disagree, they smack it against something and shatter it and then say, "Told you so! It was broken all along. It just didn't know it was broken!" do you argue with that? It's like a textbook example of someone declaring the election a fraud and then doing everything in their power to make the election a fraud. I've never seen anything like it. But more to the point, this childishness isn't the kind of thing that is going to solve the very frightening reality of climate change. Everyone is going to need to be on the same page, and that doesn't seem possible. I don't know if humanity can actually right this train. It seems we might just go right off the cliff and into whatever awaits us.

We may have once walked on the moon, but I think the great issues of our time will prove our undoing. That being said, I do have a useless prediction about David Attenborough's documentary: it will win the Academy Award for Best Documentary. And it isn't that it will win this honor because it is an extremely well-done documentary. It's just an old man in his nineties, having lived an ultra-privileged life that is exceptional even for white males, standing in the ruins of a town near Chernobyl and talking about the death of biodiversity, and then suggesting a course of how we can turn it all around. It will win, because it must win. It will win, Obama with the Nobel Peace is the issue and the spotlight that matter, and not so much that the documentary is better than anything else for which a documentary is made. And that is my prediction. David Attenborough's documentary will stand alone, because it must stand alone. And everyone who watches it will see that for themselves.

So if you haven't watched A Life on Our Planet, I do recommend that you do so. In his own words, the world no longer needs intelligence. It needs wisdom, and that is going to start with all of us, or at least, all of us that give a damn. Whether that is enough, only time will tell.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Expanse season 5 trailer reveals that they are following the story arc of Nemesis Games rather closely.

Last week, The Expanse season five trailer dropped. For fans of the books and in particular, Nemesis Games, there were some great one second glimpses of incredible events that take place in that story. If you haven't read Nemesis Games or you are behind on The Expanse and want to catch up, then this is your <<SPOILER WARNING>>

Nemesis Games is the book that starts a whole new story arc for The Expanse. Interwoven into season four, you got your introduction to the big bad villain, Marco Inaros, who also happens to be Naomi's ex. In Nemesis Games and I expect season five of The Expanse...Marco and his group of extremist followers wage war on Earth by sending asteroids covered in stealth paint to bombard the planet. Earth in the time of Nemesis Games has a population of 40 billion. If I remember correctly, after Marco's attacks there is only a population of 10 billion who manage to survive. Just think about that a moment, and you can imagine what season five is going to have in store for us.

The book describes cataclysmic tidal waves, earthquakes, name it. The storyline pushes all of The Expanse crew to the limit. Amos actually gets trapped on Earth, because he goes there to take care of some personal business and to visit Peaches (Clarissa Mao) who is in a high-security prison there deep underground. It actually ends up being the only reason they survive.

Meanwhile, in space Naomi gets caught up in a reunion of sorts with Marco and she has to confront full-on that her ex is a mass-murdering psychopath and terrorist. The struggle she goes through just to survive this, much less to try and save her son from being sucked into Marco's world, is some riveting reading.

And then there's Avasarala. Nemesis Games and Babylon's Ashes are at the core of her story. She is going to be involved in so many scenes as the crisis just keeps amping up for Earth, and the leadership of the U.N. and all of Earth is in tatters. There are so many edge-of-the-seat "nail-biting" scenes involving Avasarala, I just hope they can do this thing justice (I have no doubt that I will be pleased, truthfully). To give Amazon credit, they created a spectacular season 4 on the alien planet of Ilus. Anyway, if you haven't watched the trailer yet, please check it out below.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

With three months to go in 2020 the IWSG asks us what a working writer looks like.

Today being October 7th means that there are only 12 or so weeks left before the end of the year. Huzzah! As you can tell, I'm really looking forward to 2021, mostly because I want to leave the dumpster fire that is 2020 in the past. This has been a difficult year for too many reasons. However, I'm optimistic that it can only get better from here. And being the first Wednesday of the month, October 7th just also happens to be Insecure Writer's Support Group day. This is the day when all us writers out here get to express something about writing that we maybe feel insecure about, or to answer the monthly question that appears on the IWSG blog located HERE (consequently where you can also sign up).

The awesome co-hosts for the October 7 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pett, Beth Camp, Beverly Stowe McClure, and Gwen Gardner!
October 7 question - When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like?

At this point in my personal story arc, I see myself as a hobbyist. This means that I pay all of my bills through my main job, which is working for the State of Utah. And this in turn affords me the ability to craft stories or to make books and write things that are essentially for an audience of me and anyone who is like me (it's frightening, but there are quite a few people out there who are like yours truly). So it's not entirely a miniscule market. However, there aren't enough people who are like me to ever make a living from as I'm into a few niche and unique things (like nearly everyone else). And there's nothing wrong with that.

My writing journey has taught me a lot about myself, about what I like, what I dislike, and it has been a great vehicle through which I discovered who I was as a person. It definitely taught me to respect the writing process, and it taught me how difficult an endeavor it is to actually finish a story. Knowing exactly what I wanted from life (and who I was as a person) enabled me to set healthy boundaries with folks both in my family and in my friendship circle. Saying things like, "You know, I'm going to say no to that," has pissed off family and friends. I had to learn that this isn't on me. I'm not responsible for how other people feel when I reject them with a boundary. But, it was the start of healthy conversations in which I wished them well on what they wanted to do, but that I had my own things I wanted to do too that are more important. In other words, I absolutely was not going to people please so that I could get their approval. There are powerful narcissists in my family, and putting a stop to the people-pleasing was and continues to be challenging. However, it makes my life better, and the air is sweeter to breathe.

You might ask: how exactly did writing help you overcome people pleasing? Well, it has to do with finding your audience. Some authors will write to try and please an audience. I decided a while ago that I was no longer going to do that. Instead, I was going to be happy about writing things for people like me, and I wasn't going to care if others (who are not in that audience) hated and did not support my work. If you think about it, the whole concept of a review is to people please. If you get a bad review, it means that you did not please a person, and the entirety of the bad review, is them admonishing you for not catering to what they like. I'm so done with that, so I don't care if I get bad reviews.

Writing a book is kind of like living in a house. Most people like the neighborhoods with the HOA's that have the manicured front lawns and the houses that all have the tree out front in the same place and where none of the houses look all that different from the next. That's okay. I'm just the person whose house in this fictional scenario is painted navy blue and white, has too many flowers in the front lawn, who doesn't spray for insects, and who grows tons of vegetables and has drip lines everywhere. I'm that house that sticks out like a sore thumb. Where the walls inside are painted yellow and white or blue and white, and where appliances look like Easter eggs because they are bright and colorful. I'm the house that people accuse of bringing down their home values because its weird and eclectic. But that's okay, you just need to set healthy boundaries and tell people, "If you don't like it...move along. You can find people who are more like you. I don't need to conform to your standards."

So now I'll answer the question: what does a working writer look like to you? A working writer is someone who has to work to support themselves so they can afford to write what they want to write. It doesn't matter if they are a hobbyist or incredibly serious. In both situations, the audience they sell to is not yet (or maybe never will be) large enough to support them. And with the rising cost of living, especially in the United States, I don't see how writing will ever be enough to support anyone unless you can sell enough books to make six figures a year. It just costs too dang much to live (and to retire) in this country. A lot of that is (of course) housing. I know the middle class houses around here (in SLC) cost around half a million for a third acre plot. How does anyone make enough to afford a 30-year mortgage for half a million? Answer: they don't, and they end up renting for the rest of their lives.

Anyway, to quote Forrest Gump, "That's all I got to say about that."

Monday, October 5, 2020

In watching the Boys on Amazon Prime I keep thinking that all this stuff is way too real.

The second season of The Boys is almost over, having aired its seventh episode this last week. This season, the storyline of The Boys added a new character called "Stormfront," whose name is taken right from a website touting white supremacy. Wikipedia writes:

"Stormfront" is a white nationalist, white supremacist, anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denialist, and neo-Nazi internet forum, and the Web's first major racial hate site. In addition to its promotion of Holocaust denial, "Stormfront" has increasingly become active in the propagation of Islamophobia."

In the show, the character of Stormfront is a sociopath whose end goal is to usher in an age of supremacy for white superheroes (called "supes" in the series). This character uses social media to drum up fear about non-Whites invading America (and "un-American" is clearly code for being "non-White"). 

The seventh episode opens by following a man who becomes radicalized by consuming Stormfront's sub-textual and racist rhetoric about how Americans are under attack and in danger from outsiders. His whole worldview changes over just a few minutes of compressed time, until these internalized hatreds all boil over when he blows away a non-White convenience store clerk because he thought that the guy might be a super terrorist (and therefore bulletproof) and he was hellbent on exposing this. Note that this was a clerk he'd visited a countless number of times, and who always treated him with respect. But he became the enemy and "bam," was murdered by this newly-minted "domestic terrorist," who had taken it upon himself to defend America. What's even more cartoonish is that the shooter seemed to experience real remorse once he realizes he just murdered someone. In the real world, shooters don't seem to have any remorse over the things they have done. Truth is stranger than fiction, right?

But let's take a moment and think about this whole scenario I've outlined above. What does this sound like to you? If you are thinking of organizers like Unite the Right and individuals like Kyle Rittenhouse, then you're in the same camp as me.

It also doesn't stop there. After the guy's murder, Stormfront (the actual Nazi who is in a thinly-veiled disguise) condemns the shooting, adding that their (meaning her's and Homelander's) thoughts and prayers are with the shooting victim's family. It's said with enough casualness to show they understand how empty and meaningless those words are, but they also seem to be powerful and useful to project an aura of caring (which is difficult for a sociopath to do).

The Boys feels like a twisted mirror reflecting what I see as 2020 American reality. The hypocrisies uttered by the main characters are dwarfed by the enthusiasm of a crowd that applauds their every word. And despite having all the power in the world--there is a part during the second season when Homelander acknowledges fully to his pre-teen son that they are "gods"--they manage to convince normal, powerless people that they are the victims.

I'd say it's too much isn't. It feels real. I won't ever understand how a person who knows they are untouchable and recognizes that they are, in fact, a god could ever play the victim. Or that anyone would actually buy the story that they are a victim. But I don't need to understand why this happens. All I need to know is that it does happen every single day. America's poor and helpless absolutely love to coddle its rich and powerful and continue to sacrifice to ensure that their priorities and goals are well satisfied.

It's just all too real, peeps.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Stargirl's first season was only the latest story arc featuring villains with all the good intentions.

The first season of Stargirl ended a couple months ago with villains that had good intentions. In the narrative of the story, we learned that the big bad who was called Icicle had a wife who died because of an illness brought on by a company dumping chemicals into the local water supply. Of course (capitalist dystopia), no one at the chemical company actually took responsibility for her death. This sent the villain on a quest to create a wonderful liberal utopia that could only happen if a lot of people died along the way.

Icicle was head of the Injustice Society of America, and they had a big bad evil plan. Members of the Injustice Society were Brainwave, Icicle, Tigress, Sportsmaster, and the Gambler. They killed people, even kids, with no regard...all to accomplish this: a progressive agenda that would shame even Bernie Sanders. You see, they wanted to combat global warming by forcing people to embrace solar and wind power. They were going to eliminate discrimination over race, religion, and sexual orientation. And they were going to provide universal healthcare. When I realized that this was what the Injustice Society stood for, I was like, what the hell? Those are good things, right? But the method by which they were going to accomplish these things was through brutality, violence, and mind control that would end up killing so many people...oh so many. It reminded me (a bit) of Thanos...

Which brings me to this point: we are getting some very interesting villains in our fictional stories these days. Villains that you can actually sympathize with because, as they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Where have we seen this before, other than with Thanos, who (as a reminder) killed off half the universe to restore the ecosystem of the universe? Here's the list I came up with.

1) Killmonger in Black Panther just wanted an end to racism and the effects of colonization.

2) Ozymandias in Watchmen wanted to prevent another World War from happening. He wanted to save billions by triggering genocide so that they would unite against a common enemy. You can't have world peace without breaking some eggs, right?

3) Magneto wanted a life of dignity free of discrimination for his kind. In order to accomplish this, he just needed to kill all the humans.

4) Darth Vader just wanted to save his family, starting with his wife. He was an incredibly powerful child shunned by the Jedi because they thought he might turn evil. 

5) Syndrome from the Incredibles wanted an egalitarian society where no one is superior than another. That's not so bad, right?

Do you have any you would add to this list?