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 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:

390ssw[107]

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-Third Post: The One Where I Point Out the Obvious!

I know this is going to be a bit late, but I really had no idea what to write until this morning while I was in the shower. So – in trying to make the self-imposed deadline of Thursday, this might appear a bit scattered. All I really have to go by is a hastily scribbled outline and a crack-pot idea.  Y’know…Thursday afternoon.

I was in the process of showering up and thinking about going to go see a movie on Friday when two ideas hit me. One is for the novel I am (perpetually) working on, and the other explains how the Marvel Cinematic Universe got so prominent as it is today, and why the DC Cinematic Universe seems to be lagging way far behind.

When the MCU was getting put together, Marvel had a bit of a problem: their two big properties for the movies: Spider-Man and the X-Men series were not Marvel properties. They were owned by Sony and Fox respectively. Remember those days when Fox was its own entity and not in the tightly gripped paw of the House of Mouse? Well, apparently Marvel had some problems keeping the lights on. If you watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., they’re never referred to as ‘mutants’ (Fox owned that word…seriously) but ‘enhanced individuals’.

With their big money makers tucked away in the arms of others, Marvel had to do something, so they got creative. They reached way back in the back of the catalogue. They had the makings of the Avengers, which was something they could work towards, but they needed filler. This was a huge gamble for Marvel. While Iron Man isn’t a third-tier character like Mantis from Guardians of the Galaxy, he wasn’t Wolverine either.

This set-up forced Marvel to work on the world and the storylines that would become the Phases. It was a gamble to be sure, but it was one that would pay off spectacularly. Big enough for Sony to loosen its grip on Spider-Man to allow him to have a place in the MCU.

We have the exact opposite problem with the DCU. They have the heavy hitters: Superman and Batman. Like Marvel, they have an extensive world already put together. This should have been as easy as plugging in a lamp. Why did it collapse in two films? Why is the DCU seemingly now getting their feet back under them.

Because they relied on the aforementioned heavy hitters. They rushed where Marvel took their time. Thinking that they could throw up a film that treats us to another origin story and everyone would run to it unthinking, and then giving us what should have been the midpoint movie in the first arc to prelude the movie that should have ended it is a face palming offense. I’m not saying the movies are bad, but just not well placed.

However – the DCU has shown that they can learn. Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Shazam get it right. We get to meet characters that were rarely given time elsewhere. Remember when Aquaman was the butt of many jokes? I do. Heck – thanks to Jason Momoa’s performance, Marvel can’t release a Sub-Mariner movie without getting the inevitable comparisons (and the Sub-Mariner is two years older!).

I must admit that I don’t know a whole lot about Shazam, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying a film about a boy finding both family and purpose. I can’t wait to see how they treat other properties. Could Cyborg be the DCU’s body horror tale – injecting some much appropriate terror into the series? Can we Jordan Peele to direct? Can the Flash be as humorous, I hope? Having Barry and Leonard trading quips while hashing out a gentleman’s agreement while in the middle of a bank heist would give a little humor to a universe that seems to take itself a little too seriously at times. As much as I am a Marvel fan…I like what they DCU has given us so far. I just hope they can keep it up.

Well – that’s my opinion. Maybe next time I’ll delve a little further into how I would have worked the DCU’s first phase.

If you’ve liked what you’ve read and if your last name rhymes with Schmigey – hit me up on e-mail. I work cheap and fast (and I know that I can be afforded. I mean – what’s a few hundred grand between friends, right?). Also please consider checking out the book links on the right.

Have a good day, and I’ll see you next Thursday.

The Three Hundred and Thirty-Second Post: The One Where I Complain About Post-Modernism (again!)

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m getting old and set in my ways. Of course, I’m getting crotchety over all the wrong things. 

I am a Marvel fan going far back, and I am happy to see the heroes I grew up with on the big screen and done right. The effects, the story, the casting (somewhat…I would rather watch Robert Downey, Jr. as Dr. Strange, but that’s just me) are magnificent. I love the continuity and the “phases” that start and begin an arc. I’m as gleeful as a four year-old in a room full of puppies.  

However… 

I have an issue with the Skrulls, but the root of this is post-modernist villains. 

Here come the spoilers. If you have not seen Captain Marvel and/or Spider-Man: Far from Home, leave now and see those films. Right now. The blog will still be here, I promise – mostly because I’m paid through to November. I can entertain myself while you’re gone. 

Back? Cool. Here we go. 

When I was reading comics – Claremont was writing X-Men, including my favorite God Loves, Man Kills, and the Skrulls were utterly merciless. They were black hatted, dark hearted villains who thirsted after the enslavement of Earth and the utter destruction of the Kree. They were shapeshifters, cunning and perfect. The old man staring you down? Skrull. That over-friendly cashier? Skrull. Your parents? One of them could be a Skrull. You’d never know.  

I think I might have found the root of my cheerful paranoia. Moving on. 

The Skrulls in the movies are…squishy, soda-drinking, post-modern villains and I hate it. 

Let me explain. 

One hallmark of post-modern villainy is the humanizing of the villain. We meet the Skrulls in Captain Marvel and we’re told that the Skrulls are cunning, amoral and savage infiltrators. They aren’t dropping through the atmosphere with guns a-blazin‘. They steal in, take your face, uniform, memories and your life. Their first appearance was in 1962, so you can make the case that the Skrulls were the sci-fi face of the Red Menace. 

The scene with Talos calmly sipping on a soda (a subtle shout-out to Tarantino) and explaining what they were about: 

[Vers walks out of Maria’s office after listening to the Black Box recording and realizing that Yon-Rogg abducted her in 1989] 

Carol Danvers: He lied to me. Everything that I knew was a lie. 

Talos: Now, you understand. 

Carol Danvers: What? What do I understand now? 

Talos: Yon-Rogg killed Mar-Vell. He killed her… ’cause she found out that she was on the wrong side of an unjust war. 

Carol Danvers: No. Your people are terrorists. They kill innocents. I saw the ruins on Torfa. 

Talos: Ruins that the Accusers are responsible for. My people lived as refugees on Torfa. Homeless, ever since we resisted Kree rule and they destroyed our planet. And the handful of us that are left… will be slaughtered next, unless you help me finish what Mar-Vell started. The core that she found would have powered a light-speed ship capable of carrying us to safety. A new home… where the Kree can’t reach us. 

Maria Rambeau: Lawson always told us that our work at Pegasus wasn’t to fight wars, but to end them. 

Talos: She wanted you to help us find the core. 

Carol Danvers: Well, I already destroyed it. 

Talos: No, you destroyed the engine. The core that powered it is in a remote location. If you help us decode those coordinates, we can find it. 

Carol Danvers: You’ll use it to destroy us. 

Talos: [sighing] We just want a home. You and I lost everything at the hands of the Kree. Can’t you see it now? You’re not one of them. 

 

See? It’s not the Skrull’s fault. They’re just victims of the Kree antagonism. How are the Kree portrayed? Cold, emotionless and unified – marching in lockstep towards a bright, blue destiny. I wonder if they’re going to bring in the Kree Civil War? The original Captain Marvel (or Mar-Vell if you want to be accurate) was a pink-skinned Kree, which was the minority on the planet. I don’t see that being brought up, since MCU is heading in a certain direction as far as the Kree. 

 

Supreme Intelligence: You did good, Ace. 

[Supreme Intelligence grabs the Tesseract] 

Supreme Intelligence: Thanks to you, those insidious shapeshifters will threaten our borders no more. 

Carol Danvers: I used to believe your lies, but the Skrulls are just fighting for a home. You’re talking about destroying them because they won’t submit to your rule. And neither will I. 

Supreme Intelligence: We found you. We embraced you as our own. 

Carol Danvers: You stole me. From my home, my family, my friends. 

[Supreme Intelligence sighs. Carol charges and punches her in the face, but her fist is stuck in her face before she is thrown to an invisible wall] 

Supreme Intelligence: It’s cute how hard you try. But remember, without us… 

[Carol is absorbed through the wall, which projects images of her memories] 

Supreme Intelligence: …You’re weak. 

[Carol continues to watches flashbacks of her crashing in races and failing in physical activities] 

Supreme Intelligence: You’re flawed. Helpless. We saved you. 

[Carol falls back in the room] 

Supreme Intelligence: Without us, you’re only human. 

Carol Danvers: You’re right. I’m only human. 

[Carol starts remembering every time she got up from a fall] 

Supreme Intelligence: On Hala, you were reborn. Vers. 

[Carol holds a fragment of her dog tag that reads “Vers] 

Carol Danvers: My name is Carol. 

 

Post-modernism looks to muddy the waters, making the villain a little more tolerable, but at the cost of making the heroes a little less sterling. The Skrulls (at least these) are weary, fellow travelers just looking for a home free from Kree tyranny. The Kree take what they want because they are unchallenged by an unsuspecting Earth, but they do these things for their greater good.  My problem is not with the representation of Skrulls, nor with the Kree or Captain Marvel – who I can’t wait to see how they treat her run-in with Rogue now that Disney owns Fox, which owns the X-Men. My problem is with post-modernist villains. 

It was good ten years, or even twenty years ago. Not now. Not for comic book movies. Not for movies. It’s not daring, hip, new storytelling. It’s safe. It’s cliched. It’s tired. We need something new in villainy. What is it? I have no idea. Maybe we can go back to the white hat / black hat. Let’s dust that concept off. I’m not advocating moustache twirling villainy, but I’m no longer a fan of telling myself, “He’s got a point”. 

“But, Mr. Apathy!” I can hear you screaming at the screen. “The world isn’t like that!” 

I know. I know that people are complicated little things. That’s why I love writing about them. Maybe in my inky fumblings I can figure them out. I know that people do things for reasons that only makes sense to them. I’m just saying that your villain can be complex and engaging, but we don’t have to sympathize with them. 

As I write this, I know I am going to have to try to clarify my argument as I speed towards the deadline of before Thursday night. This might be as good as it gets. I’m going to try to expand on it later on. Right now, I am not completely caffeinated. More than likely I’m going to read this and wonder what was I thinking. 

Feel free to chime in through the comments, also check out the books on the right written by talented, good and charming people. Have a good day, and just remember: your boss is a Skrull.