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Review:Cloverfield

I am going to admit that I love the Cloverfield series right here. I like how they blend different genres and styles. The first one had a found footage feel with a Godzilla origin. The second had a thriller/horror vibe with an alien invasion, and the third has a science fiction action adventure and lost in space feel. And yet all work together in the same universe. As a story creator myself, I LOVE THIS!

Now, I admit there are a lot of plot holes, and some big science aspects that really miss the mark, especially in the third one. Still, I enjoyed the actual story. I liked what they did with the main character. I like the mystery of what’s happening. And I think it fits in this…universe…?

For a non spoiler review: Don’t go into this expecting the best picture you ever saw. That’s not what this is. Don’t go into it expecting Godzilla monsters. That isn’t what this is. Don’t go into it expecting hard sci-fi with absolutely flawless science to back up what’s happening on screen. That is DEFINITELY not what this is.

What you should expect is a survival adventure on a space station slowly falling apart. And it does an okay job of being that, as well as expanding upon the universe of Cloverfield a bit. There are some good special effects, some interesting character moments, and as a survival space movie it is good.

If you’re trying to bridge the gap between Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane then you might get annoyed. Don’t watch it for that.

Now, for the spoilery stuff. You’ve been warned:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on February 6, 2018 in Review

 

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Thoughts on Star Wars the Last Jedi

Is been a few weeks since I saw the new Star Wars movie, and I had to think about it because I wasn’t sure what I thought about it at first.

On the positive side, there were some cool new creatures. Crystaline wolves, fish people, and porgs (that were flavor to the set rather than integral to the story, which I liked.)

I loved the final battle scene. The beautiful reds and whites playing off each other, and marking every move made in the field.

I really liked the development of Rey and Kilo. Tense hatred, punctuated by bitter betrayal, and a risk finding answers for both of them. I almost felt their story line was a little rushed to add in bits for other people, which disappointed me.

I even liked the bomb run. It had a very ww2 vibe to it, risking everything to stop the enemy, which is what the original SW fight scenes were based off of.

So, there was a lot to like in the movie, and even love.

But let’s get into the things I didn’t like as much. Here there will be spoilers, so you’ve been warned.

The biggest problem I had with the movie is that while we were watching I would be really into what was happening, on the edge of my seat, and then something would happen that just pulled me out of the scene and ruined it for me. I thought about it too much, stayed analyzing and trying to figure out why it didn’t fit, and it took me a while to get back into it. There weren’t a lot of those moments, but they were sometimes big moments.

In writing one of the worst things you can do is throw a reader out of the story. It becomes less likely they will pick the book up and continue reading. There were other things that pointed at bad, or sloppy writing. No foreshadowing, missing continuity, sub-plots that lacked cohesion with the main plot (casino planet?). You probably want specifics, but it’s been a few weeks since I watched it so I can’t give you a very detailed list of anything. But I can tell you why I think the purple-haired-lady was such bad writing.

In a story you have to make people care about characters. Make them hate the character, or love the character, but make them FEEL something about them. Either you see them a lot and grow accustomed to them, or they save a puppy, or kill a puppy…SOMETHING happens to make them endearing or hated by you, and then when they die you care. Either you cheer, or you’re sad. It really impacts the audience. But you have to SHOW that they are worth caring about, not tell us.

If I said “hey, that dude over there killed a puppy,” you might look at him a little sideways, but you’re probably not going to believe me. If I show you a video on youtube of the guy tying up a helpless puppy, putting it in a sack, then throwing the sack into a deep, fast moving river…you’re calling the cops more than likely. Showing has far more impact than telling ever will.

In this case they introduced a character, told us she was some great commander that did some awesome thing, then she promptly told Poe (someone we really liked) to get lost. She keeps telling him to get lost, and has no meaningful interaction until the very end. Even then she tries to destroy the one chance we, the audience, can see of the rebels survival by trying to capture Poe. Then after she’s destroyed all chance of anything good happening (from what we see) someone finally speaks up and says “oh, she had a plan.”

We spent no time with purple-haired-lady. We knew nothing about her, other than Leah said she was a good general. We did not see her kiss a kids boo-boo, rescue a puppy, or teach some young trainee to shoot. She did NOTHING except stand there and tell Poe to sit down and shut up, over and over again.

I saw a video from I Hate Everything that said we also didn’t care about Admiral Akbar, so it wouldn’t have mattered if they would have switched it out. I disagree. The fact is Admiral Akbar has been a staple meme of Star Wars culture. “It’s a trap!” is imprinted on us. We quote it, time and time again. We see his face, hear his voice in countless videos, pictures, and jokes. We knew him. No, he didn’t save a puppy either, but he did try to save the fleet, on screen, while we watched, and that resonated with us. We watched as the ships were decimated, and we knew Admiral Akbar tried to save them, but it was too late. If he had been the one on that ship to sacrifice his life than it would have meant something. Instead we got a “and Admiral Akbar is dead too” from some lady we didn’t know, or care about. They didn’t even have the decency to show him die.

You know what it felt like? What a lot of the movie felt like? The director said “how many women can we cram into this movie” and he cut out as many men as he could, making their rolls insignificant if he couldn’t out right cut them. Unless they were the bad guy. Notice that most of the fighter pilots they showed were women? Or that all of the generals were women? Poe was cast as even more of a screw up maverick than the first movie, and Fin was painted as an idiot at times. Mostly due to sloppy writing. I try to imagine this is because most of the men already died in battle and all they have left is women, but it’s still awkward that they make the male’s in the rebel group look so damn incompetent. Even Luke had become a coward, though I was glad to see he learned from it.

Lastly, the way they destroyed the ship at the end was kind of bad ass, I’ll admit. It was beautiful imagery, and looked amazing…and it left a lot of questions. Like why didn’t they sacrifice any one of the other three ships that were being destroyed before that? Oh, I can see not sacrificing a ship unless you had to, but you’re already dead. Why aren’t you doing something heroic instead of letting yourself get blown up? And how did purple-haired-lady know it would work? Was she really the first person to even think of doing it? Even so, it was a beautiful scene, and I think with a little bit more story they could have made it fit in better.

And no, I’m not talking about the casino planet. Let’s just forget that ever happened, okay?

Overall I loved the imagery, and the battle on the salt planet was beautiful. I even liked the end of Luke, it was fitting. I thought the dice on the mirror were kind of dumb, but what can you do? There was sloppy writing, and inconsistencies, and it kind of didn’t fit entirely in the Star Wars universe, but it was a really good space adventure film.

Would I watch it again? Maybe, if it was on late night cable or netflix. I’d probably even like it more the second time. If you believe the film theorist watching something repeatedly makes us like it more. I will probably even go to the theater to see the next movie in the series…and hope it has a better writer next time. Or the director stops trying to make it so female-centric. Whichever.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2018 in Review

 

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5min – Movie review – Split

I started this morning with checking emails, and going down the rabbit hole of reviews and twitter messages. Not a productive morning. Or maybe it was. I guess it depends on how you look at it. Social media is a necessary evil of trying to get people to notice you, so there is that.

Last night we watched Split finally. It is a movie about three young girls that are kidnapped by a man with multiple personalities. They talk about how a person who has to go between personalities will sometimes have physical differences depending on which personality s/he is in at that time, and they describe it as “taking the light” from the others. being an M Knight Shyamalan story we were waiting for the twist. But there really wasn’t one this time. It lays out the movie from the beginning, and I could see the ending coming. I don’t know if this makes it better or worse for that. The “twist” might have been the cameo at the very end from an earlier movie.

I liked the story, and the ending made sense. I am glad they were very subtle about the abuse of the main character in her past, but you knew it was there. Not good. But integral to the story. Split was a little slow for my taste, taking a very long time to get to certain things. But that’s normal for a Shyamalan story. Signs, the village, and lady in the water were the same way. Slow. Meticulous Calculated. That’s Shyamalan for you.

But overall I enjoyed it.

And that’s my five.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2017 in On Writing

 

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Review: Spectral

netflix-spectral-prostokat Part war movie, part sci-fi ghost story, Spectral was an amazing cross genre movie. A lot of action, a lot of mystery, and a whole lot of “what the heck just happened?” in a good way.

Set in a somewhat futuristic society where troops are trying to protect yet another city from displaced insurgents, a loan engineer finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place. Go back home and forget he saw anything, or stay and help figure out what’s killing soldiers and civilians alike. Ghost like apparitions that could be soldiers in invisible camouflage, or….something else.

The main focus of this movie is the battle between the soldiers, and the apparitions, less about the personal interactions. You won’t find a sappy love story, or heart warming coming to know yourself. This is all about the action. And there is a lot of it.

spectralgrenadesThe “ghosts” are grounded in some pseudo science, giving some explanation as to what they are and where they came from. As is the weaponry the soldiers fight with. But the pseudo science is really glossed over, and you can’t take a look at it too closely or you might see just how unrealistic it is. However, some of the visuals they use to get the science across is pretty amazing. Weapons, armor, and techno gizmos are awesome to look at, and a cos-players dream.

Being as this was an action movie, above all else, I had to appreciate some of the military tactics, while scoffing at others. They do make a convincing formation moving into a building. They do not, however, utilize tactics for entering an unknown location. Information is the key, and they didn’t seem to have much before rushing into a building headlong. Plus one of the scientists is so head strong that she takes some stupid risks to prove her point. Bad tactical risks.

I also found it curious how quickly their engineer was able to whip up a bunch of gadgets. The world is about to end and he has time to make enough weaponry to outfit an entire battalion? Hard to suspend your disbelief on that one, but the ending battle was glorious because of it.

For all the pseudo science, I did find the lore of the ghosts to be interesting. I liked how they presented them, and how they stopped them. The visual effects were beautiful, as well. The ghosts had just enough weak points to made the battle scenes more interesting, but were still a formidable foe. It was only the Achilles heel that managed to take them out in the end.

Still, for a military sci-fi movie, it isn’t so overbearingly military that I lost interest, and the paranormal has enough of an interesting angle that it might keep more action junkies happy to the end.

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2016 in Review

 

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Suicide Squad: Review (no spoilers)

I know, the critics hated it. Suicide Squad got trashed by critics while the fans seemed to really enjoy it. Odd how that works.

I will admit, I’ve been a big Batman fan from a very young age, and I absolutely, unequivocally, LOVE Harley Quinn. I always have, I always will, I own the comics series she’s that awesome. Just a little crazy, completely without fear, and always trying to find some bit of normalcy even when everything’s not quite going right.

I think the Joker was actually the weakest part of this movie. Set aside the actors performance, the writing for the Joker just wasn’t as deep and thoughtful as the other characters.

I was actually very pleasantly surprised how they managed to put in origin stories for almost all of the Suicide Squad members, and how they were caught to begin with. Then they went a little deeper, showing what made some of them tick. That brought the characters alive, giving them more dimension. The villain (who I won’t be naming) added to that depth, showing what the characters actually wanted in life. Their deepest desires.

I watched a review before going (spoiler free, thankfully) that said the movie had a over arching theme of love. I think the movie’s theme was actually love verses hate. The main villain and the woman who put the Suicide Squad together are both operating out of hatred for something. They want to destroy (or be able to destroy) the things that make them afraid. The Suicide Squad, oddly enough, is representing the choice of love in their various incarnations. In Quinn’s case it isn’t the sanest of loves, but it still is love.

This isn’t a dark brooding story like The Dark Knight, and it isn’t a non stop action movie like some of the Avenger movies. This is an action movie that has a lot of character development. It shows the men and women of the Suicide Squad coming to grips with their place in life, and becoming a team.

Also, I have to admit the main actors, Will Smith and Margot Robbie really do fantastic jobs. Viola Davis does a great job of making me really hate her character, Amanda Waller, too.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2016 in Review

 

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Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

imagesWe went out to watch the new Star Trek movie tonight, and I have to say I rather enjoyed it.

Now, I admit I’ve been a die hard Star Trek fan from a young age. I grew up watching re-runs of the original show, and started in earnest with The Next Generation. I loved how they mixed a message in with all the action and drama. There were bad episodes, but even the bad episodes were entertaining.

When they did the Star Trek reboot I was a little apprehensive. Reboots aren’t always good, as the new Total Recall and Robocop can attest (though I kind of liked the new Judge Dredd.) Sometimes they fail because they stray too far from the original source, in which case the die hard fans are left forgotten, wondering why they even bothered to stick with the original franchise instead of making something new…or they take the original source material and just grind it up and spit it out in a “modern” movie that is very forgettable.

This Star Trek reboot had some things I liked, and some things I didn’t. In many ways it did make sense to start off by completely rewriting history, and starting from scratch. I was also pleased that in the second movie they had Khan. He was an important character in the first series, and there was a lot of character development in that movie. A lot of things between the three main characters (Kirk, Spock, and McCoy) were established in that episode that needed to happen to further the new series, and Khan was a great backdrop for that all to happen.

I was slightly disappointed that the new series became much more about the action movie style then the character development and subtle commentary on the world around us. While some of the original movies were blatant about it (save the whales?) others were far more appealing. Learning to trust your friends, standing with your crew, putting differences aside in search of peace… All of them very well told, and many you didn’t catch unless you thought about it.

I was happy to see that this latest movie had a moral. It wasn’t in your face about it, and it required some thinking, but it had several morals laced in with the high action plot. I think there are a few subtle morals to the story, the biggest one being to stick with your crew when the going gets tough, and that unity in the face of adversity will see you through. And I saw a one much larger one that I can’t tell you because it would spoil the whole movie.

The other fantastic thing about this particular movie is the character development. Kirk, Spock, and Bones, are all learning to trust one another, and finding a true friendship together. The chemistry between the three main actors really felt like it was coming together, and I loved to see that. The actors are getting to know one another, and seem more natural up on the screen. They are coming into their own, which makes the movies that much better.

Overall, I’m looking forward to the next Star Trek movie. I think they are doing justice to the source material while still making a brand new universe. I hope they continue to weave those subtle morals into the story, to make the story worth telling and sharing, and making it last. Because, lets face it, action movies come and go. We have some that we really love, but there are very few that stick with us for generations. Star Trek has become such an icon of the future because it shows us a future that we want to have. It teaches lessons, and inspires science. It expands the mind instead of just entertaining it for a couple hours. And that’s what keeps us coming back for more.

But I will also admit…I was on the edge of my seat for some of those scenes! The action is top notch.

Whatever reason you go see it, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2016 in Review

 

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