Friday, March 23, 2018

Here are eight passing thoughts I had regarding Pacific Rim Uprising immediately following the Thursday night premiere.

Pacific Rim: Uprising is a pretty solid entertaining popcorn flick. From this point forward, there are spoilers. You have been warned.

It delivers on what it's supposed to deliver on: robots fighting kaiju. I like big monsters so mark check on that one. I like big robots so check on that second part. If you've seen the film, maybe you could weigh in on what worked for you and what didn't work for you. This is really one of those kinds of movies where people are going to have opinions on all kinds of things. So here are my assorted musings :):

1) I liked the enemy jaeger because it had two swords. One sword in the first movie was cool. But two was definitely better. I was not expecting the enemy jaeger to have a kaiju brain in it. That was a pleasant reveal and cast a wider net as far as the story goes.

2) I wanted to see the cool ball weapon with the spikes do more than it did. It looks impressive, and it should be more than just a huge morning star, even if that is what it is. Sidenote: Tokyo getting trashed by kaiju seemed somehow suitably appropriate.

3) Whoah! I wasn't expecting the Newt twist! Did anyone see that? What the hell? I'm not sure how I feel about a hero from the first movie becoming a villain in the second. My friend, Brad, really liked it. But it doesn't sit right with me.

4) I loved how the kaiju got to combine into one larger kaiju. However, it would have been fun if the jaeger's also got to combine into one super huge jaeger. I think that should be the next thing that comes out of this franchise (if there's another sequel).

5) I really liked the gravity whip thing that allowed one of the jaeger's to pull down a skyscraper, or rather...multiple skyscrapers.

6) Scrapper (the small jaeger) was super cute. I loved it, and I loved that it had a crucial role to play in the final battle. It had a lot of unique powers for its overall size.

7) Not a fan of the first hour or so of the movie before things really get going. I get that they needed to do some housekeeping related to the former movie, but it did seem to get a bit tedious. It reminds me a lot of how slow the first half of the 2014 Godzilla reboot was.

8) I miss Guillermo del Toro. The legendary director has a way of making the Jaegers and kaiju just look so huge. Maybe it has to do with his film angles, but everything always felt so big in the first Pacific Rim. The final battle in this one didn't seem to capture that same sense of awe. Maybe it had to do with filming most of the battles at night and in water. Or maybe it was just a combination of all kinds of things that only del Toro knows for certain. Either way, it's plain as day that Guillermo had no hand in the making of the movie.

Are you seeing Pacific Rim: Uprising? Do you plan on seeing it? Do you have expectations? What did you notice in your viewing of the film?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

I love looking at these old pictures of the white castle that appeared in the 1983 British fantasy movie called Krull.

Because my brain is random, the other day I was discussing the beautiful white castle (at least I thought it was pretty) that appeared briefly in the fantasy movie, Krull, which was a 1983 British-made movie in the same vein as The Dark Crystal. Some of you who read my blog may have seen it. But I googled pictures of "the white castle" and found some production paintings and the actual black and white pictures someone took of the set for it (which made it very real at that point). It never occurred to me that they actually built the thing. I'd always assumed it was just a fancy matte painting or some kind of special effect. But yeah, they created a whole "miniature" for it...only it wasn't all that tiny. There's a truck in the foreground to give it some scale.
Above is the very cool production painting. The final product looks a lot like this as seen below.
And you can see that the facade of the castle was about twice the height of an actual truck. That's kind of cool, and I imagine that building on that scale may have enabled more detail to be put into the finished piece.
For the balcony section of the white castle in the movie, they actually built a pretty large set piece at Pinewood Studios. Above is what it looked like prior to actors using the set for actual filming.
And then the final product as it appeared in the movie is shown above. I imagine it was quite a bit of work to get it all realized for the film. At least, quite a bit more than I originally had imagined. Just a little bit of silver screen magic, right?

Monday, March 19, 2018

People that have seen Deadpool 2 are comparing it to Alien 3 and what it did for that franchise and this is not good.

There are quite a few movies coming out in the next few months that I want to see. Most immediate are: Pacific Rim 2 (March 22nd), Ready Player One (March 29th), Rampage (April 19th), Avengers: Infinity War (April 26th), Deadpool 2 (May 17th), and Solo: A Star Wars Story (May 24th).  Of these blockbusters, Deadpool 2 has done some acrobatics to land perfectly between Infinity War and the next big Star Wars movie. However, that may be the only good thing about it. I read online that Fox (the studio behind Deadpool 2) has had at least one test screening of the movie, and the responses were "not good." Yikes. :/

I know that reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, but these people who are given early access are a great measure of how a movie may perform. And from everything that people are saying, the audience for Deadpool 2 thought the film was a huge mess with characters that weren't used well (Vanessa from the first movie being one of those) with someone even calling it an Alien 3 blunder. For those of you who don't follow science-fiction movies in a franchise, being compared to "Alien 3" is NOT GOOD. THIS IS DEFINITELY NOT GOOD. Alien 3 was a terrible movie, and a departure from everything that came before it to something that had a wildly different feel. In fact, the franchise hasn't been the same since no matter how many times they've tried to reboot it, reshoe it with Predators, or even branch into expensive and beautiful prequels. If I had to point to a movie that ruined the ultimate potential of the Alien franchise, it would be Alien 3.

So how is Fox responding? Studio execs are "reportedly" stunned and they are trying to figure out if there are some last minute things and changes that can be made in order to salvage it. Hmm. Again, this is definitely not good. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, people. But honestly, did any of us actually think that the story of Wade could be carried successfully unto another movie and not lose a ton of its magic? To even begin to answer this question, we might want to ask, "Why was it so good in the first place?"

Well, it pushed the envelope in a field saturated by superhero movies. Deadpool was different because he was crude, gory, and excessive in all the wrong ways. Another thing that made it good was the clever writing in approaching the story with a non-linear structure. This broke from the standard "origin" followed by "hero fights villain" and "villain is defeated." And the final thing (again just trying to be honest) the movie got "lucky." I don't think any of the makers of Deadpool would have thought that it was going to be as big a commercial success as it was (being rated-R). And when something has lightning strike for it, it's usually because of something else that isn't controllable. Otherwise "viral marketing" would be something that people could strategize and repeat over and over. The thing is, what goes viral and what doesn't is completely random. People don't know how to reproduce that kind of success. And Deadpool just "touched a nerve."

Anyway, it sounds like the sequel is going to be terrible, but I will probably end up seeing it anyway. However, it's kind of sad knowing that it will be terrible when I'm still months away from being able to watch it.

Friday, March 16, 2018

It took three years for Spielberg's team to just get the licensing together for all the properties contained within Ready Player One.

Spielberg spent three years JUST getting all the licenses together to even be allowed to make Ready Player One. And he didn't get all of them. I learned from io9's post yesterday that he couldn't get Ultraman and Star Wars. Think about that...with all of his connections, he still couldn't get all of the licenses that he wanted to get. That just blows my mind. I never would have thought that Ernest Clines "ode to the eighties" would have been a difficult film to create, but it goes down as one of the more difficult ones in history if you measure the amount of red tape one has to cut through to even start filming.

Also, I got challenged by the hive mind of a group I message with the other day that was saying that some early reviewers at SXSW panned Spielberg's Ready Player One adaptation. If you've heard this but don't know why, I want to set you straight. There was a technical glitch in which the sound dropped for a full minute during the Ready Player One showing. A lot of people in the crowd thought this was intentional, and gave the movie terrible reviews because of it. If you remove those reviews out of the equation, it is getting a stellar reception. And some are even saying it is better than the book.

Honestly, when I think about this movie adaptation it doesn't surprise me one bit that the movie will be better than the book. The novel was crammed with nostalgia, but it was heavily reliant on references that (should you be without) are almost impossible to picture because you don't know what they look like. For me, it was an incredible book because I know what the Tomb of Horrors has in it because I've run that D&D module countless times. And I know what a Delorean looks like because I loved Back to the Future. And so on and so forth. People who don't have all that information downloaded into their brain tend to hate Ready Player One (the book). I have no doubt that it will translate much better to them on screen because everything will be right there for them to see.

Here's the latest trailer. I'm so excited for this.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Close Encounters of the Third Kind would be an impossible movie to make in modern day America.

I recently purchased my tickets for Ready Player One and Pacific Rim 2. These are two movies that I'm excited to see, but for very different reasons. I want to see Pacific Rim 2, because I like big monsters and robots, and it looks like the movie went in a very intriguing direction when it was apparent that Charlie Hunnam would not be back to reprise his role as a Jaeger pilot that saved the world. The fact that they are going with Idris Elba's son is (I think) even better than another show with Charlie Hunnam's "hot shot" character in the pilot seat.

As for Ready Player One? Well, I read the book and reviewed it in a blog post three years ago. If you want to read the review, it's posted HERE. However, the biggest reason I'm looking forward to it is to see if Steven Spielberg (who got back into the director's chair from his semi-retirement) still has the magic. I've said it before HERE, but I think Steven is the G.O.A.T. And I've been educating some teenagers by showing them Spielberg movies at my house about once a month (the teens in question are named David and Moira, which is really nerdy considering that these names are both X-Men characters). Yes, the mom is a huge nerd.

Anyway, the next movie I have scheduled to show these two teens is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It's a movie that I really liked as I was growing up. However, in thinking about the film, I suddenly realized that this is not a movie that could be filmed today. To clarify, I'm saying it would be impossible to put to film in today's climate.

For one, it glamorizes a deadbeat dad. Richard Dreyfuss is clearly disenchanted with his own family because they don't want to participate in his alien-driven mania. Does he love his kids? Maybe on some level? But he's not even done with his marriage before he's making moves on a woman who shares his mania for the location of Devil's Tower, and who has lost her son to an alien abduction. Sure, the story offers convenient excuses for Dreyfuss's behavior, but there's no way that wouldn't all get panned to death by reviewers and (I think) there is no way it could even get greenlit today for any kind of budget (whether or not someone like Steven Spielberg was behind it).

Close Encounters also has stellar reviews. However, there's no way people would review the movie the same in today's climate. It would get so many one star reviews it'd make the director's head spin as people trashed it and created negative hashtags on social media for a movie that clearly glorifies all the awful stereotypes of deadbeat dads.

I suppose that what I'm saying is that Close Encounters is an anachronism. It's a masterpiece for the time and place in which it appeared, but to remove it from that period would be to destroy it utterly because the things that made it great would be overwhelmed by its underlying social message. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Thank you Dave Filoni for a wonderful series finale of Star Wars Rebels because it made me excited about the future of Star Wars again.

The final episode that there will ever be of Star Wars: Rebels created such a "David Filoni" inspired universe of potential that I'm actually excited for the future of the franchise. Knowing now what Disney executives must have known a year or more ago when all of this was being discussed, I can see why episode 8, a.k.a. The Last Jedi, was made. So if you want to hear the ideas that bubbled into my head, please know that there are going to be spoilers from here on out as I discuss the Star Wars: Rebels revelations and what they may mean for the Star Wars universe at large.

So...I get it now. All of the old cast needed to be buried so that new stories could be created with young characters who are alive and well at the end of Star Wars: Rebels. The universe may have lost its last Jedi, but "Jedi" was just a title. It was a name given for people trained in the use of the Force that also had membership within an organization. But even Shakespeare in a universe not so far far away realized that a rose by any other name smelled just as sweet.

Surviving the end of Rebels, which had its curtain call beyond the events of Return of the Jedi are pretty much everyone. The universe has Ezra Bridger doing who knows what (the guy sailed off into hyperspace riding space whales and towing Grand Admiral Thrawn's Star Destroyer along with Grand Admiral Thrawn as his prisoner). Those stories have yet to be created. The galaxy also has Ahsoka Tano, who has incredible training, and who could potentially train Rey, who (in my opinion) is wielding power the equal of Yoda. I mean...all those rocks at the end of the Last Jedi were easily as heavy and massive as an X-Wing, and she didn't look all that strained to be throwing them around.

So what can we expect then in Episode 9 and beyond? I personally think that we're looking at Ezra Bridger and Ahsoka Tano getting cast as live action stars. I think we're going to see the fate of Grand Admiral Thrawn, and somehow he is going to be connected to the remnants of the First Order. And I think we're looking at new force powers that will resemble magic more than they do science fiction. Most people know (by now) that Jedi's were based on fantasy wizards anyway.

I'm hoping that my friend, Kevin Long, will weigh in somewhere in the comments. He's also a fan of the series and has quite a few insights that I value and that I don't pick out myself in my own viewings of the shows.

But yeah, thanks to Dave Filoni I'm excited for Star Wars again!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

I think booking a professional massage is the perfect way to celebrate any achievement.

How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?

This is the question that is pondered by the Insecure Writer's Support Group for the March 7th question, and it's a pretty good one. It made me think of a particular scene in the movie, Romancing the Stone:
For those of you that don't know this movie because you are too young to have seen it, the plot is pretty simple (and kinda great):
A single, lonely, romance writer finds herself caught in a wild adventure of her own when her sister calls for her help. She immediately heads to Columbia in search of her sister. Unbeknownst to her, she carries a map to the largest emerald in the world, and there are many people after it. She teams up with Jack, a guy who seems to to have stepped off the cover of one of her books, in hopes to reach Cartagena and her sister.
At the beginning of the movie (where the above gif is taken), she's finishing up a steamy romance and is putting the finishing touches on her story. In tears, she goes about her apartment looking for tissues, doesn't find any, and celebrates anyway by blowing on a note that was intended to remind her to buy more tissues and then some wine and a nice relaxing sit by the fire (if I remember correctly). The next day she drops off the finished manuscript off with her publisher or agent (I'm not sure who it is at this point).'s a great representation of how to celebrate finishing a story even if I've never done it that way.

I honestly haven't finished that many stories, and for me, there really isn't a definitive finishing point usually because I need to do (or am compelled to do) rewrites and revisions. I wish it was a matter of "type type type" and "The End." But there is a kind of #selfcare that I do on a regular basis that seems kind of celebratory, and I usually do it whenever I feel particularly good about an accomplishment and that's to book a massage at a local spa. So yeah, I think going to a Japanese spa is what I do to celebrate anything, and that includes finishing a story (if I can even definitively call it that). It's usually a two hour one with side accouterments like a steam room and sauna and my latest favorite: the warm coconut milk drizzle. Yeah, it's as awesome as it sounds.  Seriously, if you guys out there aren't getting massages, it could really change your mood and put you in a zen state for at least a week (give or take life's stressful circumstances).

Thank you for visiting.