Friday, July 20, 2018

Batman Ninja Review

So... There is a lot to respect about the animation in Batman Ninja. They obviously put a lot of work into this, and I appreciate it.

But for the rest... There is not enough facepalms or eyerolls in the world to express my feelings. Someone drank a LOT of sake making this movie.

I had originally thought this was going to be a story of "What If Batman lived in Feudal Japan". It's not. It's time travel.

Okay, I'll mildly accept time travelling Batman heroes and villains. But after that...? I think there are ways it could have worked, but not like this.

You have to REALLY love Japanese anime. I mean REEEEALLY love it, to the point where you aren't worried about common sense story telling.


Professor Marston & The Wonder Women Review

How much do you know about the creator of Wonder Woman?

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is truly an amazing biopic about his very unique life. Officially, I read that the Marston family rejected this movie, but nobody really knows all the details of his personal life.

What is known, is that the character of Wonder Woman is based on Marston's wife, their life partner, and their fascination with BDSM. Definitely an interesting psychological study of people during a time when many things we accept today, were considered a perversion.

I really hope this is more accurate retelling than the family said, because it's a beautiful story.


Fahrenheit 451 2018 Review

Fahrenheit 451 was the first Ray Bradbury book I ever read in 6th grade. I discovered him after reading a short story called Fever Dream in a magazine in 5th grade that gave me chills. Before that, I was mostly reading Hardy Boys and dinosaur books, so it felt great to read something with so much imagination.

In 1966, it was made into a movie by François Truffaut, which despite lead actor Oskar Werner's efforts to sabotage the production (because he hated the director), it wasn't a bad movie at all. There were a few powerful moments that I respect from this version.

And now, in 2018, I thought I would really hate the the modern Michael B. Jordan remake.

It turns out, parts of it were a decent modern take on the original concept!
And parts of it was Hollywood just changing things because they're idiots. Seriously guys, stop trying so hard. Your ideas suck.

The standout for me was Michael Shannon, as the Captain. He made me appreciate his acting skills, after really hating him as Zod in Man of Steel.

Otherwise, some of the scenes felt very well done (no fire pun intended), and it's easy to imagine some of the elements here happening with today's social media culture. But I still think the 1966 movie was a bit better.

In the end, you really should read the book.... before it's too late.

Westworld Season 2 Review

I will say again, season one was just amazing. This was truly one of my favorite shows ever put on television, nearly theatrical in many ways. The depth of story, visuals, and characters blew me away, after I expected it to suck. It was a reboot *blech*, produced by my mortal enemy, JJ Abrams, created by the brother of my other nemesis, Christopher Nolan. Somehow, not only did I accept it, I loved it!

And now we finally get Season two.

Um... out of ten episodes, there were a few I enjoyed a lot. But overall, the same method of story telling that felt brilliant in season one, seemed frustrating and confusing this time. In fact, I really started to get annoyed with their crap.

It was nice to see some backstory on the park and get a deeper history behind some characters, (particular standout for me was the Ghost Nation episode, and learning a bit more about James Delos), and of course visually, it's still stunning. But the overall arc this season started getting confusing and maybe a bit too existential for my taste. It seems like they are trying so hard to top season one, they forgot the story should still make sense to people watching.

I think you can summarize my feelings for this season with the opening credits. Both seasons have the same amazing score by composer Ramin Djawadi, but the visuals felt much better crafted for season one. The images had a much more powerful impact than the vague random look of season two's intro.

I'm eager for season three but they do have to... rein themselves in (see what I did there??).

Friday, June 29, 2018

Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison unintentionally made me who I am today. 

Science fiction has always been important to me, partly due to Ray Bradbury and HG Wells, but it was Harlan Ellison that taught me how to write. Of course he created a lot of brilliant 'speculative fiction', but it was his commentary on the world around us that caught my eye and tickled my brain. 

I could never match his intellect, but when I write, I can sometimes hear his voice nudging me towards what to say and how to say it. Because of his amazing influence, I always wanted him to know how much I appreciated his talent, but he's obviously not someone I could easily meet. Then a few years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find his website had his address posted, and he seemed open to anyone that wanted to send him actual mail. So, I was determined to write him a (way too) lengthy thank you letter, but as is always the case, life got in my way, and I kept putting it off. 

As of yesterday (June 28, 2018), it seems I put it off too long, because the legendary Harlan Ellison has passed away in his sleep. 
If you're unfamiliar with his name, you might know him from his extraordinary career. 

Harlan was best known for writing The City on the Edge of Forever, which is considered by many to be the best episode of the original Star Trek series. The irony of that is, he hated the episode. He wrote an entire book, reprinting his original script, and complaining about Gene Roddenberry. I read it, and I highly recommend it.

You also might recognize his name from the closing credits of the original Terminator from 1984. 

From IMDB:

"Science fiction author Harlan Ellison sued James Cameron, claiming that the film was plagiarized from the two The Outer Limits (1963) episodes that Ellison wrote, namely The Outer Limits: Soldier (1964) and The Outer Limits: Demon with a Glass Hand (1964). The concept of "Skynet" could also have been borrowed from an Ellison short story called "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream." The suit was settled out of court and newer prints of the film acknowledge Ellison. Cameron has claimed that this settlement was forced upon him by the producers. He felt that Ellison was an opportunist making invalid claims, and wanted the case to go on trial. However, the studio told him that he would be personally responsible for financial damages in the event he lost the trial. So he had no choice but to accept the settlement, a fact that he has always resented."

Harlan Ellison never took any money for this movie. He only asked for a credit acknowledging his work. And that's what he got. 

For decades, he's been described as a curmudgeon, ornery, intimidating, and just brutally honest. But others have said he has a heart of gold and would go out of his way to help friends, or even a stranger, in any way he could. He's won dozens of awards and has more wisdom and experience than any of us could ever hope to accumulate. 

He had a commentary for Sci-Fi Channel (before becoming SyFy), and fortunately for us, they're all posted online. PLEASE watch a few of these here to understand a bit more about him. Each one is about three minutes long, and definitely worth your time. You can also see some of his more recent rants on his own YouTube page here

So now I have to ask myself, what is to become of the overly inflated fan letter I started writing? 

I guess I'll just post it here as an open letter, in the hopes that somehow, his spirit might be able to sense my gratitude in the æther


Dear Mr. Ellison,

Hi, my name is Mike, and I've loved you for many years. To clarify, my feelings are strictly platonic, mostly due to my heterosexuality, although I do acknowledge that you are a good looking guy. I am in fact, deeply in love with your work, your wisdom, and your vast intellect.

Sadly, I think my "infatuation" is destined to be unrequited.  I say this, because I wrote you many years ago, after reading, Dream Corridor, and you never replied.  I know you're a busy guy, so I wasn't too upset.  But, I always had high hopes that the legendary Harlan Ellison would acknowledge my existence in some way.

I also wondered, maybe I didn't do enough to get your attention?  Maybe I was just one more annoying voice in the sea of endless banality you most likely get every day.  And in truth, I know I was quite the idiot when I wrote you years ago, (and most likely still am today).

I sort of imagined you adding my name to a vast compendium of other names, with stars next to each one, correlating the level of stupidity, like your own little black book of morons.  I sincerely hope my previous letter didn't garner a star (or two?) by my name.

But in the off chance that you were genuinely just too busy to reply, or my letter never even got to you, I decided to try writing again.  So here I am, many years later, pouring my heart out to you as concisely as my tiny brain will allow, in hopes to impart my undying gratitude and appreciation to your influence in my life.

I do apologize for the unnecessarily long introduction, but I felt the need to tell you that you have genuinely inspired me.

In middle school, I started reading Ray Bradbury, and HG Wells, and of course comic books, (mostly Hulk and Spider-man, but there were many others).  I was lucky, because my parents loved science fiction, so they would tell me about interesting things that they enjoyed when they were younger, which would generally scare the crap out of me (like some episodes of Lost in Space and Star Trek... hey, I was just a kid!).

I hated school, because I was a bit nerdy, and the masses seemed to enjoy picking on me, since I liked imaginative things *gasp!*.   And naturally, science fiction was a great escape for me from the real world.

So, in my efforts for escapism, I joined the Science Fiction Book Club.  And from reading the vague descriptions of each book, I was curious about and eventually bought your book, Stalking the Nightmare.  

Thank you!!

I still remember how I loved Djinn, No Chaser!  It made me laugh, with brilliant insults I could never be quick enough to remember if I should need them.

Of course there were many other fantastic stories as well, but that one always stood out. And since I was a slow reader, I really appreciated your short story format. I could get into the story, it would make me think, and get out, all within the same day. Rinse, repeat.

But eventually I read all the stories in Stalking the Nightmare, and the only thing left was Scenes From the Real World.  Ugh.... I  confess, as a kid, I had NO interest in reading about your personal life. I thought, "I'm living my own life, why should I listen to him rant about his problems??"  But I was desperate and a curious sort, so I decided to check them out anyway.

And suddenly something amazing happened:  I was entertained!

To my surprise, it seemed there was still plenty of flavor left in this book after I completely sucked the juice out of the fiction part. I still remember annoying my friend as I read The 3 Most Important Things in Life over the phone to him.  I wonder how much he really paid attention?  I seriously doubt I read it with the proper inflections.

Soon after finishing the entire book, I bought Shatterday, and then Deathbird Stories. Each time, I continued to be impressed with your style and imagination.

For myself, I did spend time trying to write, and created a few of my own short stories, but I never had the patience to write a full novel. And like any aspiring writer in high school that had noticed girls, I occasionally wrote poetry and nonsensical prose.

A few years later, when I began college, I started to write my own journal.  I had a useless job as a security guard, and spent lot of time staring into the empty void. I always hoped no evil doers would appear and make me do anything... because I was completely unprepared to deal with the criminal element. So I began to write.

Originally I was inspired to jot my thoughts down after watching Twin Peaks.  I loved hearing Agent Dale Cooper dictate his findings to Diane on a pocket tape recorder. I guess in some way, I was eager for my own life to sound a bit unnatural, like his.

But looking back, I can honestly say it was your original Scenes From the Real World, (and later Harlan Ellison is Watching on Sci-Fi channel) that I was channeling!

Unfortunately, it seems I've lost my spark of creativity and originality. But I do still cling to my (informed?) opinions, whether on movies, television, or occasionally music.  Sometimes those opinions are not so popular, even with my friends, which has given me a crisis of faith in my writing.  I find myself thinking... why should I bother writing, especially when friends disagree with me. I've always preferred aliens over alienation, so I never want to annoy anyone.

Today, I don't write as often as I should, because putting words in just the right order takes lot of effort for a simple guy like me. And I'm realistic enough to know, in this sea of idiots with a keyboard on the internet, I couldn't make a career out of this.

But I wanted to reiterate again how important you were in my life. I for one, will always promote your genius and outspoken views on the world. And I truly appreciate the originality I was lucky enough to experience from your works throughout my life.

I hope in some small way, I could get your attention this time.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

Oh Star Wars, I think I've finally figured you out. You have a drinking problem. If you drink sensibly, and in moderation, you can be the life of the party! But sometimes, you get drunk on your own power and just do dumb things, like pretending you can fly through space, or visiting some casino planet for no reason. There was that one time you were telling people you got your powers from midichlorians (whatever that is), and told everyone to call you Jar Jar. When you get like this, we're eager to call you a cab and send you home. Sometimes, we don't even know who you are.

Well, looks like your at it again, Star Wars. You should still be recovering from your Last Jedi hangover. Did you hear what your friends and neighbors were saying about you? Do you really want to hit the bottle again so soon? Fine, let's talk about what you did this time *le sigh*

Many fans have given up on the series, feeling that Disney has destroyed the franchise. Personally, I've felt more "Luke Warm" than Luke Skywalker, but I continue to endure, occasionally seeing things I do like, (e.g., Rogue One). 

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a movie we never asked for, and never expected. Most of the fans wanted an Obi-Wan story, or Darth Maul story, or *gasp* a Knights of the Old Republic story. But here we are... the origin of Han Solo. 

While we don't get to see his birth, or childhood escapades, we do get to see him meet Chewbacca, Lando Calrissian, the Millennium Falcon, and of course, watch him maneuver through the Kessel Run.

Despite the discouraging behind the scenes reports, director Ron Howard managed to put together a mostly enjoyable experience. If George Lucas were allowed to give his honest opinion without fans losing their minds, I think he would give it a big thumbs up. There is a fantastic speeder chase scene in the beginning which really feels like an homage to their mutual connection, 1973's American Graffiti.

Howard also gave us some beautiful shots of the Falcon, which will make any die-hard fan all giddy with excitement. I really enjoyed the instant connection Han had with, what would eventually be his ship. The scenes with him piloting around, quickly flipping switches, felt very natural, like he was truly connected.

The father and son writing team of Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, put together a decent story, giving us a bit more depth into the life of Han Solo. He doesn't start out as the scruffy looking nerf-herder we know and love. They made it clear in the beginning that he's nearly polar opposite, with lines like, "I've got a good feeling about this...", and wearing a white vest with a black shirt. They give us genuine character development, letting him grow into who he'll eventually become, through the experiences in this movie.

My biggest concern was Alden Ehrenreich. I didn't know if I would be able to accept him as Han Solo, but I was pleasantly surprised by his performance. In fact, the entire cast had good chemistry, which really helped me accept this as a Star Wars Story. The standout for me was Donald Glover. He exuded every bit of charm and charisma you would expect from Lando. I wanted to see a lot more of him. Although I'm not sure how I feel about the Will I Am haircut...

And there were a few other uncomfortable moments.

Some of the dialogue felt a bit cheap. Lines like, "Are they morons?", "No, we're not morons.". *cringe*

As well as,"Your name is Chewbacca?? I'm not going to say that every time, I'll have to shorten it!". Really?? Is Chewbacca that difficult to say?

I noticed some of the scenes also looked a bit monochromatic. As much as I appreciate Ron Howard for allowing us to see the action without quick shaky edits, there were places that felt like an overall color filter washed everything out. A few scenes had life to it, but many times, it seemed to favor a one-color look. Even blaster fire was all amber. Maybe they just wanted to match the movie poster?

Seriously, are they aware of the vast array of colors available when you make a movie poster???


So did this movie need to be made? Not at all! Could we have waited another year before it's release? Absolutely! But if you ever appreciated Star Wars, you might really enjoy Solo. From the new Disney era of the franchise, Rogue One is still my favorite, but this one gets a comfortable second place spot. 

And one last thing...

I can't believe we have to say this, but if you hated this movie, or any of the characters in it, (or any movie for that matter), do NOT abuse the actor!! They didn't write the character, and most likely, didn't write the movie.

This is Kelly Marie Tran. She was Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

This sweet girl was excited about having a big break in a Star Wars movie. Sadly, she has taken a lot of abuse from "fans" who hated her character. If you harass someone for being in a movie you don't like, you're not a fan. You're a bully, and a disgusting human being.


May the Force be with the rest of you civilized people,

Monday, April 30, 2018

Avengers Infinity War Review

(Non Spoiler Review)


Oh, you want more? Okay, let's put everything into perspective.

Ten years ago, Marvel had an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, to see if they can become something more. It began with The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man in 2008. It continued with Captain America, and Thor, culminating into one awesome movie called Marvel's Avengers in 2012.

But they didn't stop there! That was only "Phase One".

They added a few sequels, plus other classic comic book characters to the line-up, from Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Black Panther, Spider-man and eventually going into space to add my personal favorite, The Guardians of the Galaxy. Between the amazing cast, many genius directors, and of course epic writing, the real hero, Producer Kevin Feige, continued to understand what comic fans want from a super hero movie, with very few missteps.

So before going to see the newest Avengers movie, Infinity War, ask yourself these questions:

1. Do you like comic book/superhero movies?
2. Have you seen (and enjoyed) MOST of the Marvel movies from the last decade?

If you answer "no" to these questions... seriously, why the hell are you here???

I can only imagine you just wanted to read my goofy comments, because Infinity War is definitely NOT for you. It's a sequel, based on a long running series of movies. You don't necessarily have to watch them all to understand what's going on, but you should have some background into this universe before just blindly purchasing a ticket. And if this isn't your thing, that's fine. Please go see a Rom-com and stay out of my theater. I Feel Pretty is playing, or even Super Troopers 2, if you're into that sort of thing.

But for the rest of us... of course you'll love Infinity War!

It's not an exaggeration to call this movie 'epic'. Between the fantastic visuals featuring many different worlds, amazing characters, and and a well crafted story, Marvel Studios once again, gave us some impressive bang for our theater bucks.

Okay in fairness, I won't say this is the BEST Marvel movie ever. And going in, I did feel a bit 'meh' by the idea. There has been a lot of super hero movies in the last few years, and not all of them have been good. Some (misguided?) people are talking about "Super Hero Fatigue", because they can't imagine any need to make another one. To me, that's a ridiculous concept, because I'll always appreciate a new super hero movie. But I do think a lot of the marketing gets exhausting, and we are definitely getting unnecessarily overwhelmed by the hype. It would be easy for any studio to show one trailer 6 months before release date, without any other advertising, and they would still break box office records through word of nerd mouth.

And for myself, I've always preferred solo comic stories. Maybe a group ensemble is too much for my tiny brain to grasp. Even theatrically, I want one hero to focus on, because with so many characters, I can't imagine a director successfully telling a well balanced story.

But just as Joss Whedon did with the first two Avengers movies, the Russo Brothers figured out how to make a movie that fans could appreciate.

For the most part, they stuck with the Marvel formula, which admittedly consists of a LOT of CGI, and some jokes that felt a bit forced. Although I still did LOL a few times.

But if I can nitpick a moment, a few cosmetic things did bother me. And no, I'm not talking about Black Widow's blonde hair, (although that did feel somewhat irksome). I'm talking about the idea of Thor's short hair, and Captain America growing a beard. Are they turning into the same person??? They seem to be losing their identity.

And with Bucky's new beard, what happens if he decides to cut his hair?

I was also very underwhelmed with Hulk/Banner's involvement in the story. I've been a Hulk fan for many years, so I was disappointed with his portrayal. His particular story just didn't make any sense to me based on what I know of his character.

But everyone else seemed to be at the peak of their ability. Of course there were a lot of characters to follow, but the core of this movie was Thanos. Can I say Josh Brolin 'killed it'? We've seen him in the background for several previous movies, so it was great to see him finally step up and give quite a bit of depth to this character.

And one thing I normally look for in a movie, is heart. After ten years of getting to know these characters, plus many more decades of their legacy to appreciate, I can say there is plenty of things to get emotionally attached to. They've earned our love and respect. We do care about what happens to them. We genuinely care about who lives and who... dies.

Okay, not really a spoiler, because if you're familiar with the comic this is based on, you know some of the heroes die in this battle. I haven't read it (yet) but my extreme nerdy friends tell me there are some changes in the theatrical version, so don't go into this thinking you know what will happen. But also keep in mind, in the world of comic books, dead doesn't always mean dead.

However in the real world, there is one thing that could ultimately destroy Earth's Mightiest Heroes: Contract Negotiations. Some of the actors have chosen not to renew. Even though there are many sequels currently in production for the next few years, there could still be a few changes to the universe planned.

So for the most part, Infinity War is pretty awesome, and a lot of fun, but it's also the darkest in tone of all the Marvel movies.

"...But Deeesher, where does this rank with all the other Marvel movies???"
My friends and I are always trying to rate Marvel movies from favorite to least favorite since they began in 2008, so to help you understand things from my perspective, I'd like to present my personal ranking (my reviews clickable if I wrote one):

1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
2. Avengers (2012)
3. Iron Man (2008)
4. Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 (2017)
5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
6. Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014)
7. Civil War (2016)
8. Infinity War (2018)
9. Ant-Man (2015)
10. Thor Ragnarok (2017)
11. Black Panther
12. Spider-Man Homecoming (2017)
13. Thor The Dark World (2013)
14. Avengers Age of Ultron (2015)
15. Doctor Strange (2016)
16. Iron Man 2 (2010)
17. The Incredible Hulk (2008) (my edit)
*DISCLAIMER - As a fan of the Hulk, I enjoyed this movie, however I felt there was some unnecessarily sappy moments. Many great scenes were also deleted that I would have kept. So I created a version that felt better in many ways. Although I still think Liv Tyler was a poor casting choice for Betty, my edit improved many other aspects of this movie.

18. Thor (2011)
19. Iron Man 3 (2013)

I seriously hope this is on the blu-ray as a deleted scene...