Thursday, September 7, 2017

International Voices Finally Speaking in Science Fiction.

I'm not normally one to join in on the "essential reading" bandwagon and especially when it's work I haven't even read (This anthology doesn't come out for another five days) but in a field traditionally dominated by basically two types of authors, namely men and women of Western European descent, it's about damn time someone else got into the science fiction writing field.

Despite what those idiotic "Sad Puppies" choose to believe, there is a larger, more vital world beyond White Male Christendom-themed tales of human superiority in the realm of speculative fiction .

So, I can't wait for this one and despite the fact that I work for two libraries and could easily read it for free, I think I'll buy it instead.






If it's anywhere near as good as the Chinese science fiction anthology "Invisible Planets" I read earlier this year, I'll be most pleased. Talk about a refreshing, unique approach and execution. Every story was lyrical and compelling.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

An Apt Quote For Today

"When the masses begin to rage, and reason is under a cloud, it is a good thing, if the health of one's soul is not quite assured, to go under a doorway and look out to see what the weather is like."
                                                                                             -Frederich Nietzsche

 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

I Rate the MCU: Phase Three

And now we come to the end as of now. Since Phase 3 is still in progress, I'm obviously stopping at the most recent film but I will add to it as the later ones are released. This time around, you'll likely notice a diminished enthusiasm and a creeping annoyance in my tone.

Captain America: Civil War- The Law of Diminishing Returns is, as the hipsters say, a "thing" and nowhere is it more obvious than this third Captain America outing. Hats off to Marvel for making a dozen films before this became the case but damn! They really saved it all up for this disappointment. My criticisms are numerous, yet the real irony is that I can still find enough enjoyment in this movie to watch it from time to time. Still, it's an over-crowded mess filled with sub-plots galore, absurd contrivances and easily the most anti-climatic showdown in the franchise's history. The much touted battle royale between titans is reduced to little more than a stalling action for the main plot and a parking lot brawl with little actual consequence. Iron Man 2 is often maligned for being an obvious franchise bridge yet for whatever reason this one gets a pass? Fanboys, I disdainfully shake my head at you!

Doctor. Strange- A brief restoration of sanity and quality to the MCU, this long-awaited origin film featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme almost feels like a DC movie, and that's not an insult coming from me. This is a wonderfully absurd piece of thoughtful filmmaking that provides a nice rest for all the obnoxious franchise building going on in the other films. Ironically, this nice break would continue with

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2- Something happened on the way to the GOTG sequel. I sat in the theater and loved every minute of it! How, after my unimpressed reaction to the first movie, this one was such a great experience is either a testament to my incredible open-mindedness (Doubtful!) or the fact that James Gunn et. al. improved upon every single criticism I had of the first film and delivered an incredible sequel. I am now a fan of this franchise.

Spider-Man: Homecoming- And here endeth the honeymoon! Marvel spent years trying to finagle the rights away from Sony (who was absolutely destroying Spider-Man with those awful Andrew Garfield movies) and they finally got him, recast him, made him a kid again and threw him awkwardly but enjoyably into the mix in Civil War. Expectations were high for a movie that finally got the character just right and delivered the MCU goods in new and exciting ways. And on paper, it was all there to happen. Tom Holland is a great Peter Parker and Michael Keaton's Vulture was the most refreshing villain since Loki. But then a hit and miss script seemingly more concerned with the trials and tribulations of teenage existence was chosen and what could have been the best MCU movie since the Avengers turned out to be enjoyable but shockingly mediocre.

Well, that's it for now. I'll add to the list once Thor: Ragnarok comes out.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

I Rate the MCU: Phase Two

All of you waiting with bated breath after my Phase One list was posted can now relax those nether regions as I launch right into reviewing the Marvel Cinematic Universe's second phase of awesomeness!
(You will see that this is where I start to diverge from the Fanboy Legion)


Iron Man 3- It's weird to put the words "Controversial" and "guy wearing a super-powered suit of armor" in the same sentence, but that's the best way to describe this one. From its darker tone to its portrayal of Tony Stark's PTSD after almost dying in "Avengers," fans had a lot of shit to say about what is actually one of the stronger post-Phase One films. Writer/Director Shane Black reinvents the format here by portraying an even more troubled Tony Stark than the one we saw in the second sequel as he deals with real-world problems. Frankly, if by the third film we aren't seeing more of the alter-ego than the masked hero, it's probably not a good sign, hence the invalidation of the "Tony Stark has a bigger part than Iron Man" criticisms. Even Black's clever sleight of hand with a fake Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is entertaining and suits the film.

Thor: The Dark World- Another one that gets unfairly dissed, the Thor sequel is one of the stronger entries in the series. Yes, the plot is a tad typical but that's only because there have already been several movies at this point and world-ending threats have become the norm. But these movies are about our connection with the characters and desire to see them persevere.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier- Simply put, this is probably the best movie in the MCU's list of releases so far. Combining the feel of a late Seventies suspense thriller with incredible fight scenes and character moments, the Russo Bros. strike a perfect balance between Marvel's tendency to be too jokey and an edgier, more real-world feel. This is why I wrote previously that the first film is overshadowed. This one is literally as good as the MCU gets...at least so far.

Guardians of the Galaxy. Vol. One- And here it is. The movie that practically caused fanboys and girls alike to have screaming orgasms in the aisles because it was so hip, so cool, so freaking funny! To paraphrase Montgomery Burns, in case you can't tell, I'm being sarcastic. I had numerous issues with this movie, from its obnoxious characters to its low stakes plot and tendency to shit all over decent drama with bad jokes. When I saw this one theatrically, there was a woman in the theater who literally laughed the entire time the movie ran. That was when I realized this film was an example of pre-programming. That alone doesn't necessitate a bad movie, however, and while GOTG certainly doesn't match the classic definition of a bad movie, I found it to be a series of misfires and a blatant attempt to combine Marvel with a Disney sensibility.

Avengers: Age of Ultron- Another film in the series fans love to hate, there is an admittedly compromised feel to the film, but that's not Joss Whedon's fault. Disney/Marvel is to blame. Despite that, this installment is quite a feat. Despite the changes to Ultron's origins and some quirky character reveals (Hawkeye has a wife and kids? Black Widow has it for Bruce Banner?) or perhaps because of them, this film, along with Winter Soldier and Iron Man 3, genuinely feel like sincere efforts to move the franchise into a more adult direction. In many ways, it's a stronger film than its predecessor, especially because the actors know their characters so well at this point, but there's an unfortunate "Been there" feel to the proceedings.

Ant Man- The stories of behind-the-camera turmoil regarding this comparatively small film didn't diminish its success at the box office or as a film. It's a welcome break from all the world-threatening mayhem films, keeping its plot relatively small and the drama more personal. Unlike the more bloated GOTG, the humor works beautifully here and I actually cared about the characters and what was happening.

Next up...Phase Three Finds Amazing New Ways to Disappoint Me...

Friday, August 25, 2017

I Rate the MCU: Phase One


And now for something you really don’t care about! Many on Facebook have endured my occasional bitching about the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its glaring shortcomings. While I still enjoy them overall and will continue to see them at least through the “Infinity War” storyline, as a writer and a fan, I am allowed to have my gripes. And if you’ve read my open letter to Marvel, (hardly anyone did so probably not. Oops! Here’s a hyperlink!) you will probably note the consistency in my criticisms as well as my praise because, yes, there is praise as well.

Let’s start the feel-good cavalcade, shall we?

 

Iron Man- An awesome beginning to a potential movie franchise, this unlikely starting point places an arrogant Tony Stark brilliantly portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr. into an international weapons dealing conspiracy and a superhero’s origin story. The performances are top notch, the action is superb and the writing is genuinely compelling. The final line of dialogue still gives me shivers.

The Incredible Hulk- A highly underrated sideways sequel to a forgettable first attempt, Edward Norton is perfectly cast as Bruce Banner and the storyline advances the character and the universe even more effectively than Iron Man did.

Iron Man 2- The only thing that hampers this obviously fast-tracked sequel is the rushed, sub-plot crowded feel of a blatant attempt to set up the next few movies in the franchise. Downey still shines as a now more emotionally troubled Stark and Gwyneth Paltrow is given more to do and be this time around. Also, we get out first glimpse of the Black Widow in action and Thor’s hammer!

Thor- Still one of my favorite first movies in the MCU, Thor mixes Greek-level tragedy with Shakespearean emoting, opulent set designs and good old fish out of water humor. Chris Hemsworth makes an excellent Thor and Natalie Portman, who always seems to think she’s slumming in genre films, is charming and funny in her role as his love interest and helper. The Earth sequences have been criticized for feeling claustrophic but that’s because the big stuff was being saves for later.

Captain America: The First Avenger- Joe Johnston is the best director for WWII era superhero stories, as is evidenced by this film and “The Rocketeer.” I can’t say enough about this film or its vastly superior sequel. This one has it all. A likable lead, the ultimate in high stakes, great dialogue and wonderful character beats. It doesn’t get the respect it deserves, I think, because “Winter Soldier” overshadowed it.

The Avengers- As of this writing, this is Joss Whedon’s magnum opus. Everything he learned working on those TV shows of varying quality and his years writing for Marvel paid off beautifully. This is an almost perfect superhero movie from start to finish from the sets to the action to the music to the dialogue and the performances.

 

Next up: Phase Two Gets a Little Shaky…

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Some Reviews of my stuff with links.

It's been a while since I discussed my own work on this blog. Much has happened to prevent me from doing much writing this year, most notably a wife battling cancer and a pretty demanding yet rewarding work schedule split between two libraries. However, I still occasionally look at my Amazon author page and sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised by a positive mention.

Here are a few:

The Good Fight (Superhero vs. Monster Anthology)- The Hero Disease by Christopher Nadeau – An insightful look at the superhero in all of us when the world’s last superhero, Vanishing Act, must battle an unbeatable foe.

The Best of the Horror Zine: The Early Years- And, finally, Christopher Nadeau gave us "Never Say Treat" about Halloween becoming something much darker and terrifying.
Picking four favorites was a difficult task. I enjoyed the entire book.


Not in the Brochure: Tales of a Disappointing Apocalypse- "On the Eighth Day", by Christopher Nadeau. Something about Nadeau's stories makes me cheer the blood baths and laugh in all the wrong places. I love that.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Ten Things Genre Fiction Needs to Lose in Order to Not Succumb to Irrelevance: A Highly Subjective List

Get your butthurt cream ready, folks 'cause this list is sure to upset hardcore fanboys and girls alike! And to add insult to perceived injury, I'm not going to explain my rationale, mainly because if you're someone who can't conceive of science fiction, fantasy or horror without these elements, you're part of what I dislike about the current direction of that particular field of pop culture, and unlikely to change. Nor am I interested in getting you to do so. Unlike the typical fanatic, I'm fine with my interests and opinions being my own and yours as well.

This list merely fleshes out what I find objectionable, tiresome and obnoxious in the genre. It is by no means a call to arms. So, ease that thumb off that keypad, take a swig of something awful and ignore everything below in favor of your favorite stuff!

10. Vampires.

9. Zombies.

8. Self-referencing pop culture (attempted) parodies.

7. Cinematic superheroes who can't stop spouting one-liners (unless they're Spiderman).

6. YA Dystopia.

5. Main protagonists with Daddy Issues who save the day anyway. (With the exceptions of "All our Wrong Todays" and "How to Live in a Science Fictional Universe."

4. Love of video games being used to tell dull, listless tales of uber-nerds saving the world.

3. Constant depictions of dark, depressing futures where all hope lies in escape.

2. Endless series books that stretch a premise well beyond its breaking point.

1. Heroes, male and fermale alike, who are merely extensions of a sociopolitical agenda (this goes for liberals and conservatives) at the expense of story or, even worse, extensions of the author's self-fulfilling fantasy life.

There. That's it. I'm well aware I probably commit some of the above "sins" at times, although I do try to reinvent the wheel whenever I have to start spinning.

Come at me if you must~