Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service falls short of "summer blockbuster" status by virtue of more than just its February release. Its R-rating is earned, at least in part, through some spectacularly violent moments whose absence, were they to be edited out for broader audience appeal, would leave the movie bland. For genre fans like me it's way better than the usual February fare, but I can see why 20th Century Fox opted out of a spring or summer release.

This film is a rags-to-riches super-spy mashup that nods to its forebears with all the subtlety of an exploding head. So, brief nod, then ASPLODEYGOO! Its core premise is no more or less absurd than the ones found in the usual "save the world" superhero films, and the dastardly plot is a blend of chilling "what if" and brow-lifting "WTF."

In short, it's spot-on. If you loved the action scenes in The Matrix trilogy, and have a soft spot for dapper do-gooders for whom "good" means "over the top awesome," you'll enjoy Kingsman: The Secret Service.  I did, and as of this writing it's #1 for me for the year.

There's still a lot of year left, though. This clears my Threshold of Awesome, but may drop a dozen notches before the year is out.

(cross-posted from

LTUE 2015: My Busy Schedule

I'll be at LTUE this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in the Provo Marriott.  I'm doing quite a bit of programming, and I'll also have a table there. It's not a huge event, though (between 1500 and 2,000 attendees), so I should be pretty easy to find. That said, here's my schedule:


  • 10amWriting and Mental Health: Howard Tayler, David Powers King
  • 12pm:  Comic Books: Writing vs Art: Maxwell Drake, Brittany Heiner, Howard Tayler, James A. Owen, Jess Smart Smiley
  • 3pmLiving with mental illness: James A. Owen, Bryan Beus, Bobbie Berendson W., Jennifer Wardell, Howard Tayler
  • 5pmThe Artistic Road to Fame: Bill Galvan, Bryan Beus, Jessica Douglas, Aneeka Richins, Howard Tayler


  • 9amGood Omens by Gaiman and Pratchett– Making Fun of the Apocalypse: Howard Tayler, Jenniffer Wardell, Candace Thomas, Mikki Kells, Daniel Coleman
  • 11amRules for Writing Magic: Michaelbrent Collings, L.E. Modesitt Jr., Eric James Stone, Howard Tayler Eric Swedin
  • 12pmMartian ‘r’ Us: Howard Tayler, Aaron Johnston, Derrick Dalton, Renee Collins, David Baxter
  • 5pmThe Culture of Immortality: Howard Tayler, Tracy Hickman, Virginia Baker, Paul Genesse


  • 9amPractice Trumps Talent: Howard Tayler
  • 12pmSchlock Mercenary: RPG Creation: Howard Tayler, Alan Bahr, Steven Diamond, Alicia McIntire
  • 3pmPutting Technology Ramifications into your World Building: L.E. Modesitt Jr., Howard Tayler, Dan Wells, Roger White, W. Daniel Willis
  • 5pmCharacter Redesign: Keliana Tayler, Jess Smart Smiley, Bill Galvan, Howard Tayler

(cross-posted from

Jupiter Ascending

It's got some Wachowski-sized holes in its world-building, and it feels too long to sit through, but Jupiter Ascending has some of the very best sci-fi action scenes I've ever had the pleasure to watch. The running, the flying, the shooting, the fighting... all of it hung together in ways that made sense, and the directors luxuriated in slow motion for some of the best bits. If you want to go to the movies to watch people do cool things with toys we don't have, Jupiter Ascending is a good choice.

But the plot holes? Ugh. Look, if you decide to see it, I recommend the brain-armor: anytime a non-Earthling says "DNA," pretend they're saying "magical soulprint," because whatever they're talking about has as much in common with actual DNA as pixie dust or midichlorians.

To my even-more-critical eye, the film looks like it suffered from a re-shoot, late story edits, and then a throwing up of the hands by the director, who then went on to say "there's no more money and no more time, and the producer is done chasing sunk costs, so we're releasing in February."

Have I made it sound like I hated it? No. I loved the baroque BDO visuals, the ship designs, and most especially those action scenes, which bought the rest of the movie for me. I just hope that whoever is out there in Hollywood writing a really GOOD space opera can hit the same level of visual awesome that Jupiter Ascending did.

(cross-posted from

Seventh Son

Seventh Son was reasonably entertaining, the effects were good, and Jeff Bridges was funny, but ultimately it fell kind of flat for me. I grew increasingly annoyed with Bridges "accent," which sounded exactly like his mouthful of marbles thing from R.I.P.D. The affectation seemed to fit his character, but none of the accents in the film were consistent. To my ear, it sounded like a bunch of people from all over the world were dropped into one medieval fantasy setting, and nobody bothered to bring in a voice coach. It's a bit of a nit-pick, I know, but if it hadn't been for Bridges, I wouldn't have noticed. In short, the seasoned actor broke the movie.

Seventh Son played pretty heavily to the medieval fantasy tropes, though I can't speak to the books from which the film was adapted, not having read them. We get the usual Hero's Journey stuff, piles of cliched dialog, and a painful-to-watch young romance.

Still, "reasonably entertaining." As February releases go, this one meets expectations pretty squarely.

(cross-posted from

February's Projects

I've got a full plate this month. Aside from wrapping up the climactic bits of Schlock Mercenary: Delegates and Delegation (the current story online) I need to tackle the bonus story, the cover, and the marginalia for Force Multiplication so that we can send it to print.

Then there's the substantial task list for the upcoming Schlock Mercenary role-playing game, designed by Alan Bahr, with lots of input from me. The core game stuff is done, and once we've got some art to show off we'll start building a Kickstarter page. That campaign will likely go live sometime in mid-March, and will support the production of a very nice, fully-illustrated rule book, and some odds and ends that will make some of our peculiar (maybe even unique) game mechanics fast, intuitive, and hilarious.

I say "we" with regard to the art. I'll be doing a few, goofy comic-type things in the book, but most of the artwork will be the sort of thing that you'd expect to see in a wonder-invoking, far-future, science-fiction RPG book. Full-color, fully rendered characters, weapons that look like they'd actually work, and vehicles that are more interesting than the things I dash off with a straight-edge and a circle template.  Think of it this way: Schlock Mercenary, the comic strip, is the canonical story, but the comic's artwork is mere caricature. The RPG book will show you that universe more clearly, and give you and your players much better starting points for your flights of fanciful shared storytelling.

Back to the task list: I'm also featured pretty heavily in the programming of LTUE, the SF&F symposium here in Utah on February 12th, 13th, and 14th (Thurs-Sat.) and at the end of February I'm flying to Chicago to record more Writing Excuses Master Class sessions.

You might get a movie review or two this month. I've seen Strange Magic and Into The Woods, and I'll be seeing Jupiter Ascending, but the real time sink is actually writing them up.

And speaking of writing, I've got a bunch of prose fiction on my plate as well, so I should finish writing this, and start in on some actual work.

(cross-posted from

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