Category Archives: Entertainment

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.

Advertisements

Movie Review: Black Panther

Black Panther is an interesting movie.  On one hand, its a Marvel superhero movie, another one in the chain.  On the other hand, it’s an epic scale dynastic struggle akin to an epic fantasy series like Game of Thrones, complete with lots of worldbuilding.

Black Panther has plenty of action, humor, and a surprising level of drama.  The main character has quite the journey, one where he learns the weight and costs of being king.

There’s some controversy about the movie, on themes and messages.  I’ll say that you’ll probably come away from it with what you bring into the theater and leave it at that.

It  isn’t my favorite Marvel movie, though it has some great (albiet hard to believe, even in superhero physics) scenes.  The story was good, though there were some nonsensical plot holes that could have been tied up a bit more neatly.  The movie has not just one, but two characterful villains, though I don’t think they got their full mileage from them.

In many ways, the movie stands alone more than most of Marvel’s latest movies.  Which is at once both a strength and weakness.  I can’t help, too, but feel that Wakanda is being set up to be the battleground for Infinity War.  We will see.

The movie does have a few flaws.  There was such a large cast that I can’t help but feel that some characters were shorted in both their stories and development.   Some pivotal moments left me scratching my head, particularly with how characters didn’t give enough weight to some things in some scenes, while they did in others.  There were also some pacing issues where some of the setup took longer than really neccessary.  They wanted us to explore this world of theirs, but in the process they shorted other parts of the movie.

All in all, it was a fun movie and I recommend it.  It has its own unique feel and I would like to see how it connects in to other movies, particularly the upcoming Infinity War.  Now, go out and see it for yourself and feel free to tell me what you think!

Movie Review: The Last Jedi (No Spoilers)

The Last Jedi, Star Wars Episode VIII, is a movie that seems to have more controversy about it than any other recent movie.  Some people love it, some people hate it, and everyone has an opinion.  Short review?  See it for yourself.

Longer version: The Last Jedi is a movie which is focused upon building (or rebuilding) the Star Wars universe.  On the one hand, TLJ is Star Wars, in a way that the prequels weren’t.  It’s fun, it’s humorous, and it tells a story of good versus evil.  Plus there’s magic space wizardry and exploding space ships.

On the other hand, it isn’t a movie without flaws, or without messages of cynicism.  There are vast swathes of the movie that could have been cut out or streamlined.  There are militarily stupid decisions made, that if they were made in the real world, people would face serious criminal charges.  There’s a lot of humor, but some of that humor is cutting, to the point of offending those who held the original movies (and the expanded universe) close to their hearts.

But it is a new story.  This isn’t a repeat of things that have come before.  This is the start of something new.  And in a lot of ways, that’s the problem that many people have with the movie.  There were decisions made with the story structure and plot that suggest the franchise is moving on.  This isn’t about the original series and original characters, it’s about the greater universe.

On the third hand, there were decisions made in the new story structure that were… too safe.  There were some, potentially, very powerfully emotional scenes, and multiple times the writers/directors pulled back from the full delivery of those scenes.  They shied away from doing the hard things, they kill off swathes of faceless people we care little about (to the point of absurdity), yet there were several scenes where named characters should have died… yet they didn’t.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie.  It was fun and (despite the many faults) it was still Star Wars.  It had the spirit, the character, of a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  I will say that walking out of the theater, I really had enjoyed the experience, it was only after thinking about various scenes and story elements that I began to notice the flaws.  I recommend seeing it and developing your own opinion.

Movie Review: Thor Ragnarok

I finally had the time to watch Thor: Ragnarok.  Short version: it’s a crazy, fast-paced, often ADHD, humorous, adventure.  Go see it for yourself.

Long version: the movie is funny, the action scenes are over the top and Cate Blanchet is a fantastic villain.  The interactions between Thor and Loki are witty and charming and there’s even a couple of moments of endearing emotion, as you sense they are two brothers who have gone their (very) separate ways but still care for one another (even as they try to kill one another).

The constant humor is great, though I wonder how well it will hold up over time.  Thor, normally the straight man, is making witty quips and throwing out cheesy one-liners almost constantly.  At times, it feels like a series of 80’s one-liners tied together with a bunch of action scenes.  Still, the jokes are funny and the situations are dark enough that without this level of humor, it would be a pretty depressing movie.

There are no major plot twists (or at least, nothing that’s not hinted at from the beginning).  This is a movie about Thor beating down those who get in his path (and occasionally being electrocuted, I mean, what’s up with that, he’s the God of Thunder, how is electricity his weakness?).   It has something of a Blues Brother vibe, “We’re putting the band back together!”  But that campy humor works… because the situations are so ridiculous and desperate that sometimes unleashing a Hulk on your home planet is preferable to the alternative.

It’s not a movie without flaws.   The director definitely went with humor as a way to diffuse the very dark overall plot line.  That’s fine, but I do think they could have spent a bit more time exploring the sacrifices and efforts of all the non-Thor Asgardians.  They had some terrific actors like Idris Elba who were basically in cameo roles.  The plot was fairly predictable, the villain(ess) was bad, even charmingly so, much like Loki, but without as much background or motivation.

I really enjoyed the movie, I may go see it again, but  I didn’t love the movie, not the way I was hoping.  There were no deeper themes, other than the occasional bit about family.  This was an action movie, first and foremost.  Which is fine, but it left me wanting just that little bit more.

Movie Review: Kingsmen: The Golden Circle

Kingsmen: The Golden Circle is a movie that I wasn’t sure that I really wanted to see.  I enjoyed the first movie, which surprised me as I had expected it to be another generic action movie.  The first movie was witty and had some surprisingly insightful moments of introspection.  Eggsy was a fun character who we could genuinely like as a decent human being.

I didn’t want to see that ruined with a throw-away sequel… and that’s generally what I expect when a movie like that gets a sequel.  But I was wrong.  If anything, The Golden Circle is an improvement on the first movie.  Eggsy isn’t just the low-class version of James Bond… he’s a better version.   One scene in particular stamped him and also transformed the way you see him from the first movie, where they had some throw-away humor that has now come full circle.

As far as the action, it’s just as over-the-top as the first movie.  The CGI can get a bit old, especially when the baddies are firing fully automatic weapons in downtown London without seeming to cause any secondary damage, but I’ll let that slide, because they make you care about the characters.  They put the extra effort in so that you can understand their motivations.  The good guys are human, and they are put into circumstances that can require them to do things they don’t want to do.  The main villain is absolutely psychotic, with an introductory scene that, if anything, is a bit too far.

The story has personal touches, it’s not just about the end of the world scenario, it’s also about the people who are important to Eggsy, and they do a great job making the audience care about those people, too.  I have two minor complaints about the movie, and both of them are so closely tied into the plot that they’re major spoilers that I can’t go into them.  Neither of them were deal-breaking, I came away from the movie satisfied, entertained, and importantly, wanting more.  I want there to be a sequel, I want to see what happens next with Eggsy.

If you haven’t seen it, go out and make time.  It’s fun, engaging, and it has plenty of stuff for you to think about afterwards.

 

What a bunch of a-holes: Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Movie Review

(Spoiler Free) Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2, is in some ways even more of a trippy ride than the first one.

There’s the same manic energy, the same ridiculous, over the top humor.  It’s exciting, and epic, and as crazy as a box of ferrets on crack.

Guardians of the Galaxy was unique, fun, and more than a little unhinged.  The characters were interesting, the stakes were high, and it had surprising depth for a movie with a talking racoon.

Flash forward to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.  It turned the crazy to 11,   More characters, more excitement.  It’s an ensemble cast where every character has their moment to shine.

It’s not entirely perfect.  Gamora never quite gets the emotional depth of the other characters, despite several opportunities.  Baby Groot is highly entertaining, but rather limited.  There’s a sort of predictability to the plot, we already know where the characters are going to end up, just from seeing them at the beginning.  This is them finding their groove, seeing how they’ll work together.  It’s a team-building movie.  But it’s just as much fun as the first one and there’s plenty of great jokes.

All in all, it’s a solid movie.  The actors did a fantastic job, the characters were spot on, and the humor and action were both great (if sometimes mind-boggling).  The themes of family run throughout, and the most powerfully emotional scene in the movie was one in which there weren’t any words.

Guns, Lots of Guns A John Wick Chapter 2 Movie Review

john-wick-2-posterjpg-fe1944_1280wGuns, lots of guns… wait, wrong movie… right?

The first John Wick movie was a dark, gritty, story about revenge, heavy on gun work and with a surprising level of characterization.  To top things off, when the YouTube video of Keanu Reeves doing gun training for the sequel aired, it was straight out awesome.

Needless to say, I was pretty stoked to see the sequel.  And in some ways, it really doesn’t disappoint.  The gunwork and action scenes are phenomenal.  The choreography is fantastic, the method of John Wick’s murder spree is bloody display of art… but there’s very little of the deep motivations from the first movie.

In the first movie, John Wick is a man driven by revenge and hate.  We not only see how much has been taken from him, but we see the pettiness and brutality of the men that took it away.  We root for his vengeance, as an audience, and excuse the mass-murder rampage that results.  It’s very much like Kill Bill, in that regard.

The second movie has none of these motivations.  He’s had his revenge, he’s killed everyone in his path… and (not to spoil things, but you can guess from the fact that there is a sequel) he gets pulled right back into the life of an assassin.  John Wick kills a lot of people.  Most of them are presumably bad.  He doesn’t have the motivation or drive to do it, he has no revenge, no anger, no justification beyond the preservation of his miserable life.  In that, it feels as if the writer just didn’t really know what to do.

Spoiler (highlight to read): He does it for a sort of murky reason in that he doesn’t want to have the entire criminal underworld come after him.  In fact, he kills more people in this movie than in the last, 128 versus 77 in the first one.  He has his marker to justify, but the end result of him fulfilling the marker is the same as if he hadn’t… so why bother, why did all these other people have to die?)

In the end, John Wick Chapter Two fails to do what the first movie did: rise above being gun-porn.  Don’t get me wrong, it does that gun-porn fantastically… but it’s ultimately a shallow movie that doesn’t have the depth of characterization of its predecessor, nor does it have the interesting plot.  The villains are mono-dimensional and the lack of motivations of John Wick reduces his murderous rampage into a mass shooting event where he guns down droves of nameless mooks.

I came hoping for a story of revenge or vengeance and I walked away at the end feeling as if nothing had been resolved.  The action and acting are fantastic… the story and characterization is flat.  I recommend it for a popcorn movie, but it doesn’t achieve the depth of the original movie.

Guns, lots of guns
Guns, lots of guns…