The Three Hundred and Forty-First Post: The One Where I Review ‘It: Chapter Two”!

I finally saw ‘IT: Chapter Two’ in the theatres, by far one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. Stephen King adaptations tend to run in only two directions: great (Misery), and not so much (Maximum Overdrive). While I was worried that the second half wouldn’t translate well, and I do have a couple of bones to pick with it – all in all, it has been one of the better adaptations. Nothing is better than Misery as far as film-to-movie goes.

One of the things that I noticed with the second one that didn’t happen with the first were the jump scares. There were fewer ones in the second, and the ones that were there (only three) you could see coming. I think this was a stylistic choice. The first movie dealt with the characters as children, so they’re going to be many more things to terrify them. The director made a good choice in really amping up the horror, but also giving the audience time to cool down…much like the children had with the summer. The second movie had the Losers Club as adults. Fewer jump scares, because they had already been through the hazing that was Pennywise twenty-seven years ago, but now their fears were reasonable, adult fears. The only character that still had that childish scares was Patrick Hocksteller. He was still trapped in that child-like mind set from being in the sanitarium.

The great thing about both the novel and the movie was the message about not giving up a child-like mind. Not letting the wonder fade into the grey ennui of mortgages, 401k and the comfort of a good marriage. All the Losers Club went on to jobs that benefited from that young spark of imagination mixed with the very adult toolset of intelligence and wisdom. One thing that I really liked in the first movie that carried over to the second one was things happening in the background. One of hte more remarkable scenes featuring a chronically underused Bill Hader was his confrontation with Pennywise during the festival. Pay attention to the background. I don’t want to outline it for fear of spoiling it. Given the nature of the confrontation, and what happens the director gives us a very unsettling reinforcement of Pennywise’s subtle control over the whole town.

There are some problems I found with the second film, and they aren’t very spoilerly if you’ve read the book and seen the movie, but you should also know that adaptations are rarely faithful – but if you want to go to the theatres with an untainted mind, skip the next paragraph.

Aubrey and Mike – Bill and Beverly’s spouses respectively – don’t make much of an appearance in the film, while in the novel, they’re powerful pawns in Pennywise’s defense. I understand that there might have been more, but it was either not present in the screenplay, or their material rests on the cutting room floor. Mike should have gotten more screen time at the beginning, just because I would have liked to have seen Beverly having to face down him down in the final showdown. While all of them had to face more nebulous psychological fears, it would have been nice to see Bev face down and conqueror a very visceral fear in Mike.

All in all – It: Chapter Two is worth the price of admission, in theaters right now. Go see it. Next week…I don’t know. I might do another card just to try to stay in the habit of scrambling to beat a totally arbitrary deadline. Writing is continuing on as it slowly does. I am finally getting to write one of the scenes I’ve been waiting to do for a while involving Ehren and the reason why he sells barely functioning potions to people who really don’t want or need them. I can’t wait!

Stay safe, Ignore any clowns offering you balloons. I’ll see y’all later.

The Three Hundred and Fortieth Post: The One Where I Try to End It Well, But Can’t…Just Like “Dexter”

I just finished Legion and Chernobyl. I am satisfied with the way they ended (well, as satisfied with the existence of a 2,600 square km Exclusion Zone that’s going to be there for another 100,000 years). Dexter, Game of Thrones and The X-files? Not so much, really. There are a lot of series and movies that, to me at least, ended unsatisfactorily. It’s not just limited to T.V. shows. The Dexter novel series also didn’t stick the landing for me either.

What I don’t understand is while it is hard to end a series, why would you metaphorically sow salt into the earth and then burn it? A lot of good series have ended in less than optimal ways. Yes, I can understand that most times, the writer is not in control of when a series is going to end. One day, you’re in your bean bag chair thinking of what to get for lunch from the studio commissary…then the showrunner comes in, says the series has been canceled and every loose threat needs to be tied up in three episodes.

I’m going to admit, that I don’t have a lot of knowledge of what happens behind the scenes in the writer’s room, but I have seen my fair share of series go belly up. I can understand if you have no time, but as far as I can tell – “surprise firings” only happen in offices and the set of the Drew Carrey show. I’m sure you’ve got some time to get things together.

Is it really a case of ‘I am taking you with me’ in a literary sense? I don’t get it from a writer’s (as shaky as it is in my case) point of view. You spent this time in creating a world and characters that breathe, walk and talk as you will it. You build a fan base person by person with glances into your world. You add other writers to it and let them run with whatever threads you left, either seen or unseen. Slowly, that story becomes a world, a galaxy and then a universe. Unlimited in scope you marvel at your work.

The pink slip comes. Your universe begins to crumble at the edges.

If it were me, I would plot out a season, but I would have a contingency plan for when the axe hits. Have a script outline ready to go with a satisfactory ending ready to go. Why burn and salt when you can go out with a bang and a bow.

Did you know that when J. Michael Straczynski wrote Babylon 5 he wrote it every episode for the whole five season run? He ended it all in a good way, and even when the studio threw money at him, he kept it to a five season arc. Yes, he wrote a ton of movies following the end of the series, and he tried to keep it going with another series, but when push came to shove in his original baby, he stayed true to his word.

I think more series would be better for a limited arc. Write a limited arc…say…three seasons with a way to squeeze in one more if it’s popular. That way, if the series is trash, but the studio is going to commit to an arc, to either get to the magical syndication number or to get the writer under a contract for some real work, you have a way to wrap it up. If the series is popular, you have a way to keep it going. If the series sucks more than the black hole in the center of the galaxy, then you don’t have to worry about sustaining an arc because they’re going to pull it anyways.

Of course, this is all predicated on the old-fashioned notion that a season is 22 episodes with a break at the end of the season. Tell you what – I’m going to end this here, but next time, I’ll give you my opinion of the current status of season planning.

Please feel free to drop a line or a comment. Ta-ta for now.

The Three Hundred and Thirty-Ninth Post: The One Where I Draw One Line While Stepping Over Another…

I’m normally not political on this blog, but I had a notion and I thought ‘sure…why not’?

Complaining that we’re living in the midst of tyranny has become a new e-sport. Either the tyranny of the right or left, we are toiling and waiting to be freed – and only armed revolution is going to fit the bill. No, I’m not being hyperbolic. ‘Nazi’ is being thrown about by either side with abandon and frankly, the Overton Window can’t slam shut on this fast enough for me.

The point I am going to try to defend is this:

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If we stop and look at the situation, it’s not very dissimilar. This is a topic that is going to be worth a deeper examination later on…say…late October to early November of 2020, but for now, I’m going to hit the highlights of what I can pull off from memory.

The big similarity? The rallies and the protests. We have fascists on one side and communists on the other. This is not more hyperbole from me. There are pictures of the red and gold flags from the Soviet Union being bandied about at the protests. While we’re not at the ‘running gun battles in the streets’ level of violence, but these protests are getting rather hairy on average. There’s been at least one notable death and several injuries. I don’t see it calming down any time in the future.

What of the economy? Oy vey…while the Chinese trade war isn’t doing us any favors, we’re not in a recession…yet. From what I’ve glanced at, 2020 could be the year that kicks off a recession, and that might give other interested people the impetus needed to toss their hat in the ring. While we’re not having to pay the murderous reparations that Germany had to do, which was a contributing factor to the rise of the Nazi party, but our national debt continues to soar with no end in sight. Unless the Trump administration does something soon, I don’t think his chances of retaining the Presidency will be very high.

So – what do we do? How can we put our time and knowledge to work for us, rather than waiting what seems to be the inevitable?

For Jesus’ sake – everyone needs to take a step back and breathe. While I don’t believe that most of the foment is engineered by those in power on either side of the aisle, I certainly am sure that no one is letting this crisis go to waste. I think it’s the ones who are very vocal and easily agitated who are steering the national conversations right for the icebergs. Facebook, news media and political organizations on both left and right are profiting from these fights with either cash or attention (which they can turn into cash). The more wound up we are, the less likely we’re going to examine the situation more critically.

Are we doomed? No. We have a lot of hindsight and history to guide us if we choose to examine it. I would like to think that at some point, we as a nation are going to step back from the brink.

Nations do behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.

The Three Hundred and Thirty-Eighth Blog: The One Where I Went to a UFO Convention and Met Someone!

First off, I want to apologize for missing a deadline. I do have a good excuse, and it’s tangentially linked to this post. Next time, if I’m struck low by con crud – I’ll just throw up a little message or some amusing cat picture explaining there is no post this week.

Now – I went to my first UFO convention a week ago, partially for the novelty of it and to see a person who is well known in these circles.

Travis Walton disapproves of the quality of this photo

If you’ve seen the movie Fire in the Sky or read the book of the same title, this is that Travis Walton. He is the reason why I went out to Knoxville and added to my speeding ticket collection (only 46 more states to go!).

I’ve been asked if I believe in UFOs. ‘Believe’ is a loaded word for me. To say I believe in something means I accept it as a facet of life without reservation, even if given evidence to the contrary, or even lack of evidence to its existence. I don’t believe in UFOs like a child believes in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. I accept their existence, but if someone showed me evidence of a hoax, I would change my view.

Having said that.

I believe Travis Walton.

I got to see him three times. Twice at the convention, and once in the elevator at the hotel where I was staying. He’s friendly, a little reserved and signed my copy of Fire in the Sky without fuss. One might say aloof, but then again – if you’ve gone through what he’s gone through, I think you’ve earned a little distance from people.

But if you look at him, you can’t help to think that he’s undergone a trauma reserved for combat or dark alleys. The best way to describe his demeanor is: something scooped out everything that was Travis Walton and left the husk behind out of politeness. I don’t think he’s pulling a con, or that he had a serious of events in his mind that could be interpreted one way and he chose the other. He was abducted by beings from another world (dimension?), held for five days and then dumped back down. Whether it was their way of saying “Sorry about that blue flame hitting you, but Gazorth is a little quick on the trigger. Here’s fifty bucks and we just settled out of court” or this was a deliberate attempt to take someone for tests and it backfired a little, it did happen. A conman wouldn’t keep this up for forty-four years. I can’t keep up a self-imposed deadline for a month apparently, much less claim to be abducted.

Another thing about the convention and comparing to the local Comic-Con or GenCon, is the atmosphere. Outside, it was like other conventions with wares being peddled (you know what attracts aliens? Clean gutters and tattoo artists) and celebrities selling autographs (Dean Haglund from ‘The X-Files’ was there!). Inside the lecture hall was a different matter.

Even as some of the presentations were…odd…there was an atmosphere of serious scholarship. Comic-Con and GenCon had more of a free-wheeling feeling to it. Everyone there to see their favorite actors or writers or artists and play games. In Knoxville, it was an almost monastic silence and perhaps only five cosplayers (in order of complete costumes: Scully, Spock, George Norry [including a woman sporting the dyed black hair, brows and mustache], and silver lame generic alien). I should also mention that this is the inaugural convention, so I’m sure as it goes on there will be more to it. Will I go? Not entirely sure.

It’ll come down to my belief and acceptance.

Thanks for stopping by! I will be more diligent about maintaining my deadlines in the future. To the right, as always, you can buy me coffee or check out the books written by good friends. If you like this blog, be sure to spread the word.

Always: keep watching the skies.

The Three Hundred and Thirty-Seventh Blog: The One Where I Complain Groundlessly About Hollywood, Again!

I was worried that I wouldn’t have a topic for today, and I would have to rely on one of those Hemmingway Cards again…then I saw this.

I’m not very happy about the possibility of this movie getting shelved – especially with the talented cast the studio fielded (not to mention the crush I had on Wolfsbane). Sure – Disneywood Fox Studios killed the X-Man franchise with Dark Phoenix and re-shoots have been ordered for the movie, but none had happened so far. While Feige is eager to pick up mutants and the Fantastic Four from Fox – I don’t think we’re going to see a New Mutants release anytime soon on the big screen.

Why? Well – if Fox had read my earlier post about how I feel about the whole Dark Phoenix saga, they would have avoided a whole lot of woe. I’m not saying that I wanted God Loves, Man Kills in its place. The comparisons to X-Men 2 would be completely justified. I really wanted to see New Mutants – not for the fact that I’d get to see some of my favorite actors and characters, but because of how the movie was set up.

The one thing I like about the MCU is that they’re not superhero films, they’re other genre films that happen to have superheroes in them. I know I’ve talked about this earlier, but in all the superhero movies out there – only one film dared to approach horror and that was Brightburn, which is a massively underrated horror film in its own right. Horror is a genre that is under-represented in movies unless it’s Halloween (the holiday).

The MCU has a lot of horror in their back catalog, and a lot of adaptable properties. The Brood? The Aliens rip-off homage that took over their host, absorbing a mutant’s power until it finished gestating and transformed itself into the alien body. We’ve seen that The Shadow King and Legion can be handled excellently on the small screen (don’t spoil it for me, I know the last episode came on recently), so why not one or the other on the large screen.

And don’t tell me Disney can’t do horror. Jesus Christ – the most frightening movie I’ve ever seen is Something Wicked This Way Comes. Let’s face it, the House of Mouse can be blood-curdling when they set their mind to it. There is some supposition that New Mutants is going to end up on Disney+ (what does the plus mean? +$!). No. No, that will not do. It needs to be on the big screen. I need to be sitting in the darkened theater with pop corn and soda in my lap and waiting for Wolfsbane and Magick and Sam “Cannonball with Ears” Guthrie.

Is that too much to ask? For the MCU to continue to push the art forward and for Disney to stay the hell out of the way?

Well, this isn’t what I was oringally going to talk about, but I thought I had seen something on TV that Dredd was going to be released in 3-D and that put me into a tizzy. Sadly (?), I couldn’t find a trailer or a date of release. I might have been mistaken.

If you’re looking for some original work – on the right side of the page, you can find some well-written books from dear friends, or you can find my stuff. If you’d like, you can also donate to my kofi account. Thanks for stopping by. Have a good day.

The Three Hundred and Thirty-Sixth Blog: The One Where I Glorify Insomnia as the Solution to a Work-Life Imbalance!

Of course not! I have 32 hours of things to do in just 24 (minus at least six hours for sleep if I’m lucky). I don’t think anyone has any semblance of good work-life balance, be you a chemist, mother or scribbling desperately writer. Sure, I do tend to shoot myself in the foot often (like now for example – I’ll reddit later…after this page…really) and I could get more productive if I just applied some discipline.

However…

The ideal work-life balance would be this: I work more in the evenings at my dreaded day job (shout-out for my own work) and do more writing in the mornings and early afternoons when I am awake and firing on all cylinders. I have more energy in the morning and my mind seems a lot clearer then as opposed to the later afternoon and early evening when I finally get home from the mail room and all I want to do is watch Critical Role, irradiate my dinner and go to bed. I know that should get some writing done when I get home, while I have the energy to do so. Instead, I succumb to bad habits.

I know I should break myself of these rusting chains. I’m not going to get anything done the longer I slump on the couch and watch Mercer and Co.  It’s just…the old saying ‘you can lead a horse to water, you just can’t make him drink’ is very spot on with me. Yes, I can come in hear as soon as I walk through the door, plop down in my chair and tell myself that for the next hour, I am not leaving here until I crank out at least five hundred words.

Which makes me cruise the cat pictures on reddit that much harder. Yes, even to myself, I am a contrarian prick.

Back to the ideal work-life balance. I never minded doing my work at night. I am a night owl – as much as I now like being away during a majority of the day, but if I had my druthers, I would like to do my work during the night and have those few precious hours when the world is asleep to really write somewhat undisturbed. As the world begins the long process of waking up, I’m closing my bedroom curtains and settling down. That would be nice.

Too bad the meth-heads and the construction down in the alley would keep me awake for the day. As much as I love the schedule, it would be impractical. So, I guess that I’ll just have to settle down, prioritize things and get back to writing rather than Top 10 weapons you can farm in Borderlands 2 or another YouTube offering.

Well – that’s all for this card. I’ll probably do another one and then chat about the latest wave of the MCU. I heard who the antagonist is going to be for the Black Panther sequel, and some questions I have for the movie.

Thank you for stopping by, and feel free to donate some coffee (speaking of working third shift) to my kofi account or buy one of the books I have on the right-hand side of the screen. They’re good and cheap.

Take, care now.

The Three Hundred and Thirty Fifth Blog: The One Where I Talk Quite a Lot About What I Liked in Black Panther!

Do I have to say *spoilers* for Black Panther? I mean – if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re probably not a Marvel fan and just stumbled onto this blog by accident, but I am going to probably spoil it for you badly.

Wait! Wait! Come back! There’s value here! Really!

First off, I am going to admit that I am a Marvel fan. I am going to try to be objective about this, but I make no promises.

The first time I watched the movie – I had a typical fanboy response. I loved it. I loved that the T’Challa’s main arc was started in an earlier film and what we got from Black Panther was the second act. His first act happened a whole movie ago! The third act was a movie after this one, wrapping up T’Challa’s redemption and forgiveness arc. For the story minded fans (like me), this was a great reward for paying attention to what was going on in the MCU. Even the Black Panther movie itself had three acts (T’Challa’s ascent to the throne, his fall and his subsequent reclamation), like all heroic movies have nowadays. If Joseph Campbell even gets a 1% royalty from the use of his formula, that man is stinking rich.

For those of you who might not know what I am writing about, Joseph Campbell examined myths from different places and different times and came up with what he calls The Monomyth. Every heroic tale from long ago has a pattern to it. While Mr. Campbell uses Hindu mythology in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, we can see it clearly in that old, old epic Star Wars.

I’m not going into deep, deep detail about the Heroic Cycle. Just go out and buy Hero with a Thousand Faces. If you’re a storyteller, or interested in how stories are told, then this is the book for you. If you can’t get the book, head over to TV Tropes on the Internet and they have a whole subheading dedicated to the Heroic Cycle and all of its variants. For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to use very broad strokes for this.

The first step is always the Call to Adventure. Going with the Black Panther, we had his call to adventure in Captain America: Civil War with the death of T’Chaka. The Call to Adventure is never pretty. It’s not supposed to be. Its purpose is to force us out of our comfort zone into the wide world. Sure – Luke Skywalker’s call to adventure was the hologram, but what got him out the door was the death of his aunt and uncle. T’Challa would have been happy to be the Prince of Wakanda for another ten for fifteen years, but that would have been a bad movie (Black Panther: Breakfast is Cold). He had to be pushed on the path and it took The Winter Soldier to do it.

You know who else had a Call to Adventure?

Killmonger.

Like I said, the Call is ruthless. Erik’s call was the death of his father at the hands of the King T’Chaka. If that hadn’t happened, Erik never would have done all the things he dd to get to the point where he was Killmonger…which brings us to the next big step.

Finding the Mentor.

The Mentor is the one who provides the Hero with the Boon or the Item to be carried with him on the journey. In Star Wars, the Mentor is Obi-Wan and the Item is the lightsaber. With T’Challa, everything is laid out for him easy-peasy. He had Zuri to guide him through the ceremony where he talked to his father in the Ancestral Plain. With Killmonger, the Mentor comes in two parts. The training comes from the biggest mentor of all: The U.S. Government. They give him the warrior’s skillset and the intellectual’s wisdom (Navy SEAL and M.I.T. – literally ‘go hard or go home’). The boon comes from the other half of the Mentor: Ulysses Klaue. The boon, unfortunately for Klaue, is his dead body. This is also where we begin the next part of the Heroic cycle. For Killmonger, this is also Crossing the Threshold. This is a point of no return for the Hero. Everything he’s learned and done has led him to this point. He and T’Challa must now Enter the Underworld.

Entering the Underworld is exactly what it is. The Hero must enter a place of darkness and despair to find and defeat The Dragon – otherwise known as the villain or the protagonist. With T’Challa, this is after his second fight at the waterfall which is a mirror to the first fight. The first fight with M’Baku is at the height of his story. The second fight? Not so much, but the hero must fall before he rises. You can’t fall much farther than death.

In the Ancestral Plane, he meets and defeats his Dragon, and this the strength of this movie. T’Challa’s villain isn’t Killmonger. The Black Panther’s Dragon is him accepting two things: that he is suddenly King (honestly, who among us is ready to deal with the death of a parent?) and that the man and King he revered was at the end of the day just a normal man like the rest of us. A man who made mistakes and never fixed them. That was T’Challa’s Underworld, his decision in trying to make things right and foregoing death was his battle. He could have stayed behind with his father and ancestors, let others clean up the mess. Instead, he makes the right choice and comes back.

For Killmonger, Entering the Underworld is more of a figurative event. You might think it’s when he’s in the mines and fighting T’Challa. That’s the climax. The real descent begins in the throne room and challenges T’Challa for the throne and mantle. His descent, however, almost brings down Wakanda with him. The fight on the Waterfall is him Defeating the Dragon – with T’Challa being the embodiment of Killmonger’s Dragon which is the nobility that killed his father and abandoning him to the United States. The fight in the mine is another fight for T’Challa against his Dragon, again it being embodied in Killmonger. The dragon this time is the sentiment that Wakanda needs to assert itself on the world scene in a violent fashion. The end of this fight is T’Challa Returning Home.

Returning Home is the Hero coming back with wisdom or power to use for the good of his immediate environment. In Star Wars – Luke has gone through the Underworld in the Death Star, witnessed the death of his Mentor and Defeated his Dragon (Darth Vader is indeed the Dragon of the whole series, but the Death Star is the Dragon of his movie. Vader doesn’t really get Dragon status until the second movie) and Returns Home with the power and the knowledge of the Force. With Black Panther, he Returns Home (breaking the civil war and restoring order) with Power (he has the last heart-shaped flower in him, so he is also the last Black Panther, which is also symbolic of the old world that’s left behind) and Wisdom (what Wakanda does has ramifications for the world beyond their borders) to use them for the betterment of the nation of Wakanda, and the world at large.

Killmonger…well…his is a bit more complicated. While his material goal of supplying weapons and sparking a revolution failed, his other goal was far simpler: getting Wakanda to take its place on the world stage. He Returned Home with wisdom of what happens in Wakanda doesn’t always stay in Wakanda. His goal was achieved at the cost of his life, but being a hero means that sometimes you must make a sacrifice. He won, and he got his reward to see a Wakandan sunset. The tragedy is that even in death, he couldn’t let go of the hatred (from imdb.com):

T’Challa: We can still heal you…

Erik Killmonger: Why, so you can lock me up? Nah. Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, ’cause they knew death was better than bondage.

 

Everything gets wrapped up, T’Challa shares his wisdom and his nation. WE watched two heroes – fighting for opposing reasons – reach their goals. Black Panther is a great film, certainly one of the best Marvel films to come out. Its greatness comes from the fact that they changed the conventions of movie story telling and it paid off. Hopefully, this trend will continue, and not just in Marvel.

Wow – I think that’s my longest post ever. Next time, I’ll try not to run off at the mouth. Please consider the books on your right as they were written by friends far more talented than I am or consider getting me a nice cup of coffee with the kofi link. Thank you all for listening and I wish you well.

p.s. – still meeting deadlines! Huzzah for me!