Category Archives: Entertainment

Helloween Masquerade

Hey everyone.  I celebrated my birthday this weekend by visiting the Helloween Masquerade here in Denver.  The big draw of it for me was Cruxshadows, one of my favorite bands, and since they rarely (if ever) tour in the US and it happened to fall on my birthday weekend, everything worked out perfectly.

If you’re a fan of their music, I shouldn’ t have to tell you how awesome it is to see them live.  They have a ton of energy, their songs resonate with me, and overall, it was a great experience.  If you’re not a fan of their music, I’ll link some of their stuff and feel free to watch.  It’s not for everyone, but I find it’s great writing music for me.

Oh, and to top things off, they started playing this song right around midnight (and the start of my birthday).

All in all, it was a great weekend, the perfect way to get me charged up to tackle all these books I need to write.

Here’s a couple of their songs that I enjoy:

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A Worthy Evolution: The Predator Movie Review

Hey everyone.  I went and saw The Predator this weekend.  It’s getting rather mixed reviews, so I thought I’d put in my own two cents.

You know the scene in Ant Man, where Luis  is explaining something and it rambles everywhere and doesn’t make a lot of sense, but is probably the best part of the movie?  That’s Shane Black’s The Predator.   It’s fast, it rambles, there’s scenes & dialogue that you think are going somewhere and end up going off on a tangent instead… and it’s a lot of fun on the way.

I’ll note that I didn’t give The Predator a very high bar to success.  It had to be better than the last Alien vs Predator movie (which was about as bad as dousing my eyeballs with lime).  It surpassed that by a wide margin.   In fact, I’ll rate it as one of my favorite movies this year.

There were a ton of 80’s references in the movie, everything from “get to the choppas” to the fact that the movie opened with no previews, it went straight into the movie sort of like movies *used* to do.

The humor was good, the characters were just strong enough that you could root for them without having to worry about a lot of angst as they died.  The Group 2 military folks were… well, very accurate in a lot of ways, from the inter-service rivalries to the fact that they dealt with horrible situations with dark humor and an unwillingness to give up.

The action was over-the-top and in some ways, just totally unbelievable.  But it worked with the overall story.  The Stargazer project boss was sufficiently crazy and evil that after a first couple scenes with him, you know he’s going to die horribly and you’re actually rooting for a predator as he dismantles his henchmen.

There’s some story and plot elements that either weren’t made clear enough or that they could have spent some time on… but I’ll accept the hand-wave in a combination of (very) unreliable narrator and the limits of the movie.  There’s details that we don’t need to know and that Shane Black streamlined the movie is obvious.  The couple of scenes where we get a break from the relentless pace are used to establish characterization and to add depth to the movie.

I’ve got a couple of complaints as far as the use of actors.  Yvonne Stahovoski’s character was almost criminally underused.  She’s a fantastic actress and I would have like to see more of her.  Olivia Munn’s scientist was a bit too much of a bad-ass for her background, but she pulled it off well enough.

Story wise, I felt like it was a combination of Lethal Weapon and Predator, with the gritty buddy-cop feel to the two lead military characters.  Which worked very well for me, especially with the blend of humor.  The references to 80’s and 90’s action movies were great.  I feel like it needed a scene with Danny Glover sitting on a toilet saying “I’m getting too old for this shit,” but other than that, I think it was far more “predator” than the last few movies in that vein.

The ending, too, sets the stage for a sequel I’d actually like to see, with humans using and adapting alien tech.  I don’t want to spoil anything here, but I definitely think it’s a great ending (even if they jump ahead missing some key details on how they got there).

The movie is surprisingly pro-military and at the same time, very anti-authority.  The ‘authorities’ have private mercenaries and conduct experiments and authorize murders and false-imprisonment of innocent people.  The actual military members we see are trustworthy, work hard, and sacrifice everything to do what’s right, even when they know they’re going up against something they can’t defeat.  There was a lot of the Aliens vibe from the “military” characters in this one, and I really liked that.

So don’t believe all the internet rage and certainly don’t judge the movie based on the critic reviews.  It’s crazy, it’s messy, but man is this movie a whole lot of fun.  So loosen your tie, sit back, and just enjoy the ride.

Movie Review: Ant Man and the Wasp

As things go, Ant Man and the Wasp was exactly the movie I needed to see.   If you’re a fan of the Marvel movies, or even if you aren’t, it’s fun, fast paced, and humorous.  The risks are dire and personal, this isn’t a movie where they’re fighting an alien of ridiculous power and strength.  These are people dealing with problems that make sense (even if some of those problems involve quantum mechanics).

It’s a movie that doesn’t hesitate to use humor to diffuse a tense situation and where the nonsensical is an acceptable route for problem-solving.  It rewards the audience for paying attention.  It also does a great job of showing that super-powers don’t necessarily solve problems and often times makes things more complicated.  It does all that without being preachy or boring, while still giving you enough time to process everything that’s happened.

And yeah, it ties into the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Captain America Civil War and Infinity War.  At this point, I’m having a difficult time thinking of a movie they haven’t done well enough to be entertaining.  Ant Man and the Wasp is fun, engaging, and there’s enough interesting emotional and “real” world problems that I really found myself on the edge of my seat.  So if you haven’t already seen it, go watch it already.

Too Incredible: Incredibles 2 movie review.

There’s an opening section of the movie where the actors and writers apologize for the movie taking so long.  They say it was worth the wait.  You know, they actually were right.  The Incredibles 2 really was a fantastic movie and oddly enough, it was worth the wait.

Without going into spoilers, the movie tackles the ideas of good and evil, of what it is to be different, and most importantly, of what it means to be a family.  It does all this through a humorous prismatic lens that keeps things entertaining throughout.

It’s a kid’s movie, but it addresses themes of responsibility and duty without getting preachy.  The cartoonish heroes and villains have to deal with the consequences of their actions.  There’s never a point that bumps you out of it, and as a whole, there’s enough tension and worry about what’s going to happen that the audience can worry but still enjoy themselves.  I thought the release on father’s day was apt, as well.

The humor was fantastic.  It bears repeating… this is probably one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen… even as it addresses some pretty scary thoughts in concept.

I  quite enjoyed it and I plan on seeing this one again.  If you liked the first one, I recommend this movie.  Go see it yourself.  It’s simply incredible.

 

Dick Jokes, Humorous Deaths, Lots of Luck, and Cable: A Deadpool 2 Movie Review (No Spoilers)

There’s a surprising amount of controversy over whether or not Deadpool 2 is worth seeing.  I really liked watching the first one in theaters.  Deadpool as a movie wasn’t without its flaws, but it was a whole lot of fun.  Deadpool 2 is more of the same, plus some actually fun and engaging characters.

If you’ve seen the first one, then you know what you’re getting into with this one.  It has the R rating for a reason.  If you’re not familiar with Deadpool, he’s sort of a cross between Johnny Knoxville and Wolverine.  So lots of dick jokes combined with super-human regeneration.  You might be able to see where some of this is going.

Deadpool 2 brings to the stage X-Force, Deadpool’s version of the X-Men.  They’re like the X-Men in every way, except they kill people for fun and profit.  So not really much like the X Men from the movies, I guess.

The movie has a ton of jokes, easter-eggs, and breaking the fourth wall moments.  What makes the whole thing work and stop from becoming it’s own punch line is that they have a couple of characters playing things straight.  God only knows how, at times, but they manage.  Domino and Cable in particular really stole the show.

The movie isn’t without its flaws.  At times, Ryan Reynolds goes a bit too far chasing a joke.  As my wife said, they don’t just beat the dead horse, they beat the dead horse with another dead horse.  The story has some… interesting issues with time travel and the kid actor is channeling a bit too much Rebel Wilson (Like, seriously, you could have swapped their characters from Pitch Perfect and this and no one would have noticed).  He does a good enough job, but he could have toned it down just a little.

There’s been some internet curfuffle about “ERMAGERD LESBIANS.”  Frankly, it’s far less than I’ve seen in PG-13 movies, so I don’t really give a damn.  The two characters in question didn’t really add much to the movie, you pretty much could have had the entire movie without them, but they put the one in because she was good in the last movie.  I wish they’d given her a bit more screen time or done something more with her, at least.

For the good: Cable and Domino really stole the show.  I mean, seriously.  I want a Cable movie.  Hell, I want a Domino movie!  The actress was spot on, her ability is awesome, and it would be hilarious to have her do her thing with Deadpool occasionally crashing the party.  Cable, same thing, he’s a bad-ass with no-sense of humor and a tragic backstory.  What’s not to like?

All in all, I really enjoyed the movie.  I could have done without as much naked Ryan Reynolds and a few less jokes being rode into the ground, but those issues were balanced by the general humor and the great acting.  Go see it yourself.  Plus, stick around for the mid-credits scene.

Movie Review (Spoilers): Avengers Infinity War

This review contains spoilers.  So reader beware, I’m going to go analytical on this one… but first I’m going to preface the spoilers with some generic comments.  Yes, I enjoyed the movie.  I think people should see it themselves.   Other (mostly) non-spoilery comments: I think Cap’s new shield(s) are lame.   I want a Wakandan energy shield.   Spider Man steals the show.

So, now into the actual review.  It starts out with a bang and with a mass murder of Asgardian survivors.  There’s a bit of continuity issues here (as later on in the film, Thor says that Thanos killed half his people, but Thanos blew up the ship and we don’t really see any survivors).  So there’s an issue.  Loki’s death was interesting, but there was an inevitable element of it, it wasn’t really a surprise and frankly, was pretty stupid of Loki.  I would have rather seen him join up with Thanos to betray him at a truly opportune moment, maybe even chuck Thor out an airlock.  Instead, we could see it coming.  There was no surprise in it.  Heimdal sort of stole the scene, too, in his sacrifice to send Hulk to Earth to give them warning.

The introductions and initial confrontations on Earth were good.  They set the scene well, and there’s enough humor and mixed desperation to make it all entertaining and engaging.  I would have liked to see Vision in full fighting form.  Having him barely limping along through most of the movie was a bit of a disappointment.  I get it, he was injured, but you would think they’d try to fix that.

The Guardians of the Galaxy really stole the show, them and Thor, anyway.  Pretty much every scene with them was highly entertaining.  The pace through the whole movie was fast, faster than I would have liked, but it wasn’t as frantic as people have complained about.  No, there’s not a lot of time for character growth and such, but that’s not what this movie is about.  It’s about the end of the world, it’s a disaster film more than anything else, and if there’s one thing that this movie does very well is to show the cost of a terrible disaster.

I’ve got to say, it’s almost Wagnerian Opera, at times.  From Heimdal through to the very end, we see the cost of fighting evil.  It doesn’t pull any punches and it doesn’t let up.  It’s dark, but the strong point of this film is that the heroes don’t flinch.  Most of them realize that they’re not going to survive, that they’re fighting to save others and not themselves.

The middle act is full of that sort of thing.  We lose a few characters, we see Thanos toy with some of them, letting them think they’ve done well, only to pull victory away from them, often in comical fashions.   Bubbles in Starlord’s pistol was the most brutal, I think.  The torment on Quill’s face as he worked himself up, only to have all that effort pulled away was heart-wrenching.  The return of Red Skull was a nice touch, but I would have liked to see more done with that.  Make him join up with Thanos, give Thanos a minion we actually recognize and already dislike.  Give Cap an enemy to fight that he knows and already hates (oh, and Bucky, too).

That brings us up to the final battle where Wakandan warriors start dying in droves.  We see them almost take the Gauntlet from Thanos (so close, yet I can’t help but think that Strange planned it, planned for them to lose so that Thanos could take the Time Stone, so he could then take the Mind Stone).  We see Thanos toss the mightiest heroes of Earth around like they are children.  Then he rips the Mind Stone right out of Vision’s head.  It’s all brutal, very metal, and terribly operatic.  The choices they made on who lives and dies were telling, though.  We knew the Hulk wouldn’t be one, not since Bruce Banner has character growth to figure out why the Hulk is gone all cowardly lion.  They kept Ant Man out of it all since he has a movie coming out in a couple months.  Scarlet Witch was obviously grateful to die after having killed Vision for no reason.  Doctor Strange was an interesting choice, especially since he saw this all coming.  He knew and planned for it, which makes me wonder what Wong is doing back on Earth as this all happens.  Bucky and Falcon just felt like cheap shots.  Neither of them have had enough screen time, their characters are both interesting, but Marvel doesn’t seem to know what to do with them, to give them a movie or what.

The Guardians… damn, if anyone paid a price for fighting Thanos, the Guardians sure as hell did.  Rocket is the only survivor.  Gamora’s death was similar to Loki’s, we saw it coming, it still had emotional impact, but her death was for Thanos’s sake, to humanize him somewhat, and it achieved that.  Peter, Drax, and Mantis *all* dying on Titan seemed rather harsh.  It would have been nice to see Drax and Mantis running around trying to save the universe without Peter Quill.

Spiderman… well, we know he’ll be back.  He’s got a movie due next year, after all.  (For that matter, we know many if not all of them will be back, because comics) his death was meant to humanize Stark, to humanize the cost of fighting Thanos… but it just let me down a bit on the writing.

Stark’s survival is the thing that leaves me shaking my head.  I get it, RDJ is sort of the backbone of this universe.  It all started with him… but come on, let some of the younger generation step up.  Tony Stark’s story and character have been complete.  There’s not much more for them to do with him.  I get it, I realize that Doctor Strange orchestrated Stark’s survival, getting a promise out of Thanos because of whatever he saw in those multitude of futures…but still, the writers made that choice because they wanted RDJ in the lead… again.

For the rest of it, Black Panther going down was a nice touch.  An emotional impact that I wasn’t expecting.  The others, including at the post-credits scene, showed the impact, well enough.

In the end, however, what do we come away with?  The fight isn’t over.  There can be no doubt about that.  Thanos may have had his way, but that means little when they left heroes like Steve Rogers and Tony Stark.  They’ll go after him and they’re going to find a way to fix things (in as much as that’s possible).  Avengers 4 is going to be focused on fixing all of this, and with the power of the Infinity Gauntlet, anything is possible.

I think that something many critics missed is that despite the title, this isn’t just an Avengers movie, this was very much a Thanos movie.  Thanos showed the biggest character arc, the most growth, and in the end, it was Thanos who achieved his goals.  We can argue all day about the rationality of his motivations (ridiculous in so many ways as to be utterly insane), but his drive and implacable resolve made the movie.

What would I have changed?  Oh my word, so very much.  I would have used Red Skull for more than a throw away here and gone character.  It would have been great if he joined Thanos and worked with him from then on.  The motivations for Thanos are a bit silly, but Josh Brolin lived it up well enough that we can accept them, the character was far more interesting in play than as a concept.  Stealing a few more moments for character growth, a scene with Banner and Natasha (Widow) would have been nice.  Use of some of the earlier enemies: Red Skull, Loki, Baron Nemo (whose motivations are similar to Thanos’s) and even an Ultron robot (whose motivation was basically the same as Thanos) as his lieutenants would have been interesting, especially with the scheming they would have done against one another and Thanos.  That would have also given us some real emotional hooks when one of them were taken down or switched sides.  Red Skull facing off against Steve Rogers and Bucky, backed with Thanos and Hydra goons would have been great.  Baron Nemo, granted powers by Thanos, would have been terrifying.  Ultron with alien tech?  Yes, please.

All in all, it’s a fun, fast-paced movie.  It hits you hard in the feels, though I think the writers played it safe a couple times near the end.  They’ve built the House of Marvel on RDJ’s shoulders and I think they’re terrified that if they kill him off, they’ll kill the franchise.  Overall, it was basically what I expected of the movie.  I enjoyed it, I give them props for managing so many characters and giving many of them engaging and awesome scenes.  I really want to see the impact of Thanos’s victory in the upcoming movies (plus the TV shows, which I need to get back to watching, assuming I ever have free time again).  I think it’ll hold up well, better than Age of Ultron.  It’s not my favorite Marvel movie, but it still beats the socks off of the DC cinematic universe.

Oh, and as a final thought, who else thinks they’ll use “fixing” everything as a chance to bring the Marvel X Men into the MCU?  I mean, continuity issues, Time Stone… what better way to get Wolverine and Hulk into a drinking contest?  Here’s to hoping.

LTUE 2018 In Review

Apologies for the delay in posting this.  Between the long drive out and back and the backlog of stuff I had to do once I got home, I’m a bit behind on posting.

LTUE is always a fantastic convention.  It is predominantly a writing convention, which makes it more focused and the group, as a whole, is filled with writers more than fans.  Pretty much everyone there is there to improve their writing craft and to network and socialize.

The panels, as always, are fantastic.  There’s a huge range of panel topics, which offer great topics  that are useful for new writers as well as experienced writers who are looking to learn about new subjects.  Unlike some other conventions, though, the big draw is the time spent between panels, chatting with other authors and having the opportunity for one on one discussions.

If you are a prospective author, the convention is fantstic and I can’t recommend it enough.