Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Disappointments Happen

Recently there have been a few disappointments connected to my favorite franchises. Now I do not expect everything to be perfect every time. I've seen enough failed aspects of these franchises that I know just being in those universes does not mean it will be perfect. I still do not have to accept it when things are poorly done.
So first we'll do the easy one, the trailer for the upcoming Venom movie ( I never had high hopes for this project and the trailer did nothing to change that. In fact if anything the trailer was so poorly done it made me even more certain this project was going to bomb.
First off the idea that you could have a Venom story done without something of the needed Spider-Man backstory already started it off weak. That part alone said this was not going to be Venom, but a character with the look and powers, but not the essence. So they then give us a trailer that tells us nothing at all about the movie. We get no idea of plot, no idea of character, no idea of, well, anything important. It is just a batch of random scenes with no images of the full Venom character. We barely see Eddie Brock, and what we do see does not create any interest.
My money is on Venom being a bust. Sony has shown that when left to their own devices, they have no cue how to handle the Spider-Man franchise. They ruined Amazing Spider-Man 2 in no small part because they were more concerned with building up to a Sinister Six movie, that no one really asked for, but the studio seemed to put as a high priority than actually making a good movie. They seem to be more concerned with getting movies out for as much of the non-Spider-Man Spidyverse characters that they have the rights to use than actually making any of it work. DC has already shown us that just getting movies out there for the sake of getting movies out there, just does not work.
The second noticeable recent disappointment was with the Star Wars 40th Anniversary short story collection From a Certain Point of View. Here we get 40 short stories in the classic trilogy time frame from 40 different writers.
It starts off with a story following Capt. Antilles from the end of Rogue One to his death at Vader's hands in A New Hope. It was good start with a decent story that worked and gave us a worthy look into a minor character.
After that, well it is a lot of hit and miss. We get to see the excitement of the Imperial paperwork and how to manipulate it. We get an odd story from Aunt Beru after she dies. We see Leia's adopted mother (who now did not die when Leia was young) right before Alderaan is destroyed, which bothered me greatly since that is trying to rewrite movie canon.
We get a batch of stories focusing on the aliens at the Mos Eisley Cantina. These stories disagree as to what each character's motives are, changing from one story to the next. In some stories the band has been playing there regularly for some time, while one story has them on their second night there. We get off POVs that do not at all line up with the movie. I started to get irritated with each new story that clearly did not at all work with the story I just read, while being told they are in the same universe, on the same planet with the same characters interacting with each other.
Near the end we get another example of stories not fitting together when dealing with Rebel pilots and the Battle of Yavin at the end of A New Hope. In one story we have a bunch of pilots upset that they did not get to go into battle because there were not enough fighters. This is followed by a story of an engineer who is looking at all the fighters that did not get used because of the lack of pilots...
Much of this is the kind of thing a good editor would fix by working with the writers. Well, for some reason this collection has no listed editor. It does say “All participating authors have generously forgone any compensation for their stories. Instead, their proceeds will be donated to First Book—a leading nonprofit that provides new books, learning materials, and other essentials to educators and organizations serving children in need.” But still, they could have put a little more effort into coordinating the stories and making this work.
Now there are some good stories in there and some interesting concepts introduced, but for the most part this felt too amateurish and not well planned out.
Gonna end on a positive note about something that did not disappoint, Black Panther was a awesome movie. Loved it. While I was bothered by a few elements of it, in the end it did not disappoint.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

That Was So Brilliantly Done Once I Thought About It

I am a fan of musical theater. Despite the jokes, straight men can enjoy and appreciate musicals just fine. My favorite musical of all time is Man Of La’Mancha. It is a great story, but on top of that if you listen to just the songs themselves, you get told the story. A truly good musical tells the story with the songs.

I hate Grease, mostly because the story is pure crap and fully lacking in morals. Also the music does not at all tell the story. Grease started off as musical review that they then tried to put a story to and as far as I am concerned it didn’t work.

There are musicals I have enjoyed and ones I have felt are over rated. I have my opinions.

One that I enjoyed on both stage and film is Chicago. A few hours ago the song ‘Cell Block Tango’ got stuck in my head. Singing it over and over again to myself I realized there was a true brilliance to it concerning the story that I had never seen before. In many ways it represents the type of things songs need to achieve in musicals.

The songs is about all the women who are in the prison for murder. We have only one major character participating in the song. The rest of the women are background characters and are only seen for this song, except one. Each of them gives the story of their murder along with their justification of doing it, if they had done it. Well all but one of them.

The one exception on the scene, the only one who does not brag about committing murder and only she says in English is ‘uh uh, not guilty’ for her part. She clearly does not speak English and very much comes off as the only one of these women who is actually not guilty. This is also the only character development we get for her. Yet she ends up laying a huge role in the play. Her name is Hunyak.

The only other scene featuring Hunyak is when she is put to death for being found guilty. She is the only character we see actually suffering punishment and is the only character who is most likely not guilty.

It is her death that wakes our main character up to the reality that there is a chance of her actually being found guilty. All the rest of that one song is just filler for her character getting developed so her death can be significant. And it is an enjoyable song that can get stuck in your head.

To have such a minor character get developed on such an important manner in one verse of a song is brilliant story telling. I love it when I see something so cleverly done. This is what more writers need to strive for.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

It’s Canon Now, You’re Just Gonna Have To Live With It

While I had my problems with the movie, all in all I liked Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It was enjoyable and had lots of surprises to it.

But there are those who do not share my opinion. 

There is an on-line petition to have Disney remove the film from being canon and do a new episode 8. And they have gotten over the desired amount of signatures for it. I’m sure someone at Disney or Lucasfilm will make some kind of statement in reply, but not much more.

One of my co-workers signed the petition. He was one of the fans like myself who had enjoyed the books and comics that for over two decades had built up an amazing and enjoyable continuation of the Star Wars universe. In talking with him I found it interesting that he actually believed that it had been the plan to adapt those stories into movies. I had to explain to him that even if Lucas was the one doing the new movies, that whole storyline would have been ignored and that Lucas had nothing to do with creating the Expanded Universe.

The one conclusion I told him he had to accept was that no matter what, Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi is now canon, no matter what his views on it are. It has been long understood that no matter what, the films are the final say. Aspects of the EU have been undone so many times due to the films. This is nothing new.

So even if The Last Jedi were a total bomb and everyone hated it, it would still be canon.  However, it has received critical praise from reviewers. People are flocking to see it world wide and it is on track to hit the billion dollar mark. And the movement against the film looks to be largely inflated by organized trolling efforts.

There really is no reason at all for Disney or Lucasfilm to remove support. All efforts are going to focus on the next film to finish up the trilogy, followed by more one shot movies and a new trilogy not focusing on the Skywalkers.

So for all those who dislike the Last Jedi for whatever reasons, it is canon and nothing is going to change that. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

It Just Keeps Getting Better

Earlier this year when Fox started airing commercials for The Orville I was rather unimpressed, but curious. The ads did not really draw me in and gave me no real idea about the show. The humor looked like it was going to fall flat and all in all just not work.

I actually was picturing the show to last a few episodes and then fade away.

I watched the first episode and it seemed to back up that belief. You could see what it was trying for, but it was missing its mark. The humor all felt forced with an awkwardness I couldn't explain.

Yet there was something there that made me want to give it a chance.

Episode by episode it has grown better. They seem to have figured out the pacing and how to work the humor into the episodes so it feels natural.

Fairly early on the show made it clear it wanted to deal with some serious issues. In their third episode 'About a Girl' they jumped right into some significant moral and societal issues, that did not seem to fit with how the show had been sold to us. It was truly surprising.

Now from the get go this was clearly Seth MacFarlane's ego project. This is the guy who gave us Family Guy and the Ted movies. For him to try to do serious sci-fi... Even though he was behind bringing us the brilliant reboot of Cosmos with Neil deGrasse Tyson, picturing MacFarlane writing a serious show just didn't seem possible. I was expecting the bizarre, unhinged humor of Family Guy, without morals or good taste getting in the way. With such mature writing, it is hard to believe this is the same guy.

And Seth MacFarlane's Captain Mercer is not an interesting character. It is clearly MacFarlane is playing space captain because he wants to. But I am all for letting him play if he can keep the rest of the crew interesting and give us these stories.

What we are getting with the Orville now is an old school style Sci-Fi, looking at sci-fi tropes in a episodic format. One of the most noticeable differences between Orville and say Star Trek:TNG (which is the show I would say it most closely resembles), is that the characters in Orville are relaxed, not taking themselves overly serious.  While this does make it feel nonmilitary (seriously, I do not think I would want this team out there protecting me) it allows for a much more honest dialogue between characters. When you have the second in command say "this may sound like I'm talking out of my ass" with the reply "then please make sure you enunciate" during a briefing, it works.

The Orville is not the show I was expecting it to be, but it has become enjoyable and the farther along we go the better it seems to become.  MacFarlane seems to be figuring out how to make it work and will hopefully keep following what we have seen in the last few episodes that have worked so well.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Disharmony of the Spheres

My story 'Time of the Bursting' has been published in the anthology 'Disharmony of the Spheres:

It is an anthology of stories that focus on mental illness. This is the most meaningful anthology I have been in.

Half the profits from this book will go to the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Organization, a group that battles teen suicide.

The following is from the product description.

"Mental illness is very common in our society, but it’s also very misunderstood. Many view those with mental illnesses as being weak, but there is a great deal of strength in those that must battle their own minds on a regular basis. Disharmony of the Spheres focuses on characters with mental illnesses that are still able to be successful. They may not completely overcome their illnesses, but they are able to beat them back and succeed."

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Oh No!!! There Is Politics In My Entertainment...

Note, this post will talk about politics. This is your only warning.  If you keep on reading, it is all on you.

I know a writer on Facebook, who for various reason I decided to unfriend. His views were just insulting and often he would say 'no comment zone' when making a political post and delete any comments left. Too often these post were as inaccurate as it gets, with no facts to back them up, and obviously you were not allowed to correct him by telling him the facts. So I had enough once he tried to compared homosexuals wanting to not be discriminated against with the KKK, which was for me was crossing an unforgivable line. However when I wish to see what the other side is saying I check out his page. The other day he had a political cartoon going after Marvel Comics for being 'Social Justice Warriors' along with his rant about how Marvel went downhill after getting political.

And I am fine with that, as it is his opinion.

Jump a week or so, and I learned the original The Day The Earth Stood Still was on Netflix and my girlfriend had yet to see it.  So we watched it.

Did you know it has a strong, obvious political statement to it? And that statement is clearly liberal? And that it was made over sixty years ago?

I wonder if my former FB friend knows of this?

Sci-fi in general seems to have a lot of strong liberal messages to them, and has for some time. Roddenberry never hid the liberal ideas in Star Trek. The whole series was highly political.  Roddenberry would be labeled a 'Social Justice Warrior' nowadays and most likely would wear that label proudly.

I could go into a list of books, movies and TV shows that back me up here, but that would be long and boring. There does seem to be an historic truth that the future favors progressive thinking and that truth pops up in our fiction regularly for a reason. Instead I will do some generalizing.

Are there are stories where the unregulated corporations are the good guys and not the villains? Capitalism left unchecked is the go to bad guys for a good deal of stories. Our fiction very clearly says that the free market will NOT fix itself, even in the more conservatively written stories. We as a society would not find a story where a corporation left to its own devices, without some form of oversight, being the good guys and putting doing what is right above making money just because it is the right thing - just too unbelievable. Tony Stark doesn't become heroic until he suffers at the hands of his company's unchecked greed and realizes there needs to be regulation there. And very often Iron Man's enemies are his business rivals who do all they can to be unregulated.

 Any political messages there?

Marriage equality, gay rights and accepting homosexuals is pretty much everywhere nowadays. Is there any mainstream sci-fi right now that is not promoting a pro-LGBT message? Both Marvel and DC comics have been pushing such a message for several decades now.

Maybe my FB friend is bothered by Marvel being critical of a President they disagree with?  That's brand new right? Sorry, but back in the '70s Captain America was fighting a bunch of bad guys and found himself fin the Oval Office and that the President (We never see his face, but it was obvious as to which President) was actually behind this criminal plot. Steve Rodgers gave up being Captain America for a time because he was so disillusioned.

But I guess that was not being political somehow.

Politics has been in our entertainment as far back as human history goes. For someone to suddenly get upset because any form of entertainment has a political message they disagree with seems to be overacting to me. If you are serious about such things, there really is little out there for you to enjoy. If you can't handle political views you disagree with being expressed to you, it would be best to avoid reality in general as well as most forms of entertainment.

Politics are always going to pop up in entertainment no matter what. It comes out in the creative process and it would be insulting to imply any artist should censor themselves for your comfort. People like my former FB friend much live in an odd state of denial if they are just now getting upset over how political their entertainment is.

Monday, October 9, 2017

A Very Pleasant Surprise

I was sitting around, feeling like watching something, but no idea what to watch. I went randomly  scrolling through Netfllix to find something. Saw a film I had never heard of starring Simon Pegg and figured that was a good bet.

The film was titled Absolutely Anything.

Just watching the credits I was already gaining faith in the film.

The full surviving cast of Monty Python as the voices of the aliens, written and directed by Terry Jones and with Robin Williams in what would be his final role as the voice of Dennis the dog. Such a huge batch of talent.

The story is that aliens have discovered Earth and have decided to judge us. This is done by giving one random person the power to bend reality as he pleases and see how he handles it. They do not inform the individual, just get him the powers and see what happens.

So Simon Pegg's character is given the powers and slowly learns he has them. The powers work by doing what they are told do without concern for the intention behind the commands, which is where most of the comedy for the movie comes from. There were good stretches where I just could not stop laughing. He really is about the best comedic actor out there right now.

Kate Beckinsale pays the love interest. Her character is dealing with an obsessive ex-boyfriend played by Rob Riggle, who ends up being the main human antagonist in the film. Beckinsale's character also serves as the human anchor for the all powerful Pegg, giving some morality to what might had otherwise just been a crazy comedy.

With all the talent and names connected to the film, as well as being Robin Williams' last role, it surprises me the film didn't get more attention during its brief, limited, theater run here in the states. I found it highly enjoyable and fun, and a truly pleasant surprise for a movie I had never heard of, but should had.