Friday June 6, 2014
Edge of Tomorrow is not, as it happens, Groundhog Day with guns and aliens. Oh, the central conceit is similar; both films feature information-based time travel, in which our protagonist re-lives recent events, remembering each prior pass, while nobody else is aware that time seems to be looping. And of course, given that ability, both Tom Cruise's reluctant soldier and Bill Murray's unlikable weatherman adopt similar strategies, at least at first, but Groundhog Day is a comedy about being banished to Hell and finding redemption while looking for an escape, and Edge of Tomorrow is straight-up military science fiction about saving the world.
(Is Groundhog Day a deeper, more meaningful film? I think it is, yes.)
I loved Edge of Tomorrow. It dragged in parts, leading with a particularly annoying bit of dragging at the very beginning, when a news montage telling the story of the alien invasion took twice as long as it needed to, but the film's opening act embedded us in the invasion perfectly, letting us experience the horrors of war without, you know, experiencing the horrors of war. Not nearly at the Saving Private Ryan level, mind you, and I'm fine with that.
Unlike Groundhog Day, the time-travel loop in Edge of Tomorrow had a couple of very chilling rules associated with it, and those added tension and darkness in just the right way, for me at least. They did make the Act II Disaster a little predictable, but I've gotten pretty good at not letting my understanding of this sort of story-structure get in the way of enjoying the movie.
Emily Blunt was perfect, and if you're NOT a Tom Cruise fan, you may find him to be ESPECIALLY perfect, at least for the first 20 minutes. I really liked despising his character.
Were there plot-holes? Well, yes. Of course there were. But I really enjoyed the film in the theater (I saw the 2D version) and will likely enjoy picking it apart with friends in the weeks to come. Edge of Tomorrow comes in at #6 for me for the year so far.
Tuesday June 3, 2014
I'll be at the Privateer Press Lock & Load GameFest this weekend!
They're flying me out on their dime, and the schedule they presented me with was rammed to its riveted seams with free time.
Usually I have four to six hours of programming each day, plus a signing or two. Lock & Load? A couple of really cool panels about the writing process, and then lots of long, terrifying stretches of blank space.
Apparently they want me to come and play with them. As in, games. My editor Aeryn said, and I quote:
"You'd better bring an army. I plan to thoroughly whoop your butt with my freshly painted Skorne."
It's nice to see the adversarial author/editor relationship being maintained in this way. Seriously, though, Aeryn insisted that I pack an army and suggested that I make time to hang out near the Iron Arena for pick-up games.
So I grabbed my pick-foam carrying case and packed all of my Farrow, which you can see here are fully-painted. They will look really good in victory or in defeat. Once I was committed to bringing that case, I figured I might as well fill it, so I added models that I can enter in the painting competition. These will look even better in victory or in defeat.
If you're going to be at the event, maybe we can get a game in. Be warned, however: it's possible that they'll put some sort of a bounty on my head, so that playing games with me is worth more credit toward I-don't-know-what. My dance card may fill quickly with the blood of a metaphor that shouldn't have tried to mix dancing and bounties with a wargame.
You'll definitely be able to catch up with me at the signing from 1:10 p.m. to 3:10 p.m. on Saturday, where I'll be autographing copies of my brand-new story from Skull Island eXpeditions, appearing in print exclusively at Lock & Load. Electronic editions will eventually be made available for anyone to purchase on the SkullIslandX website.
Sunday June 1, 2014
I only got to know Jay after he'd begun fighting cancer, and although the cancer finally took him this morning, I don't feel like it won. Jay gave so much to so many people, and he did so when he had so little left. There's triumph in that.
Last summer he threw a party where he could say goodbye to his friends. It was the sort of thing that not many people can pull off. He asked me if they could use a piece of artwork I'd done for a benefit earlier that year, and while the answer was "yes, of course," I realized I needed to draw something new. "Clockwork Departure," above, is what I did with that opportunity.
My first memory of Jay comes from a WorldCon, I think in Denver, but I could be wrong. We met in a crowded hallway during some party-crawl or another, and Jay was familiar with my work. He gushed, and then began introducing me to others, freely using words like "genius" in ways that I would never dare use while talking about myself.
I came away from my very first encounter with Jay feeling wonderful, and feeling like what I did was worth continuing to do.
That's the man we lost this morning, but cancer couldn't take him before he left that mark on me and countless others. We'll miss him, but we'll never forget him.
Saturday May 31, 2014
Because somebody asked, here's the list of films I'm planning to see between now and mid-August, and for which I'll write reviews. I'll be seeing them on opening weekend whenever possible.
Edge of Tomorrow (late review -- I'm at an event all weekend)
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Of the films on this list I'm most excited about Guardians of the Galaxy, and most worried about How to Train Your Dragon 2. I loved the first one, and desperately want them to do something new and awesome that I can love just as much, but that's a tall order.
After that, I supposed I'm pretty hopeful for Edge of Tomorrow, and cautiously optimistic for Jupiter Ascending. I mean, I expect it to be a clumsy space-opera, but if it's a GOOD space-opera I'll be really happy.
Anyway, now you know. If there's something coming soon that's not on this list, and you'd like me to see it, go ahead and post that in the comments. I make no guarantees, however. As I said in reply to the original comment, I see movies that fall in the intersection set of "I want to see this movie" and "I have time to see this movie." I don't bother seeing films that don't interest me (pretty much any horror movie, for instance.) Life's too short for me to take ALL the bullets for you guys.
Friday May 30, 2014
Angelina Jolie was perfect as Maleficent. Rick Baker's work on her face and horns? Also perfect. There is an awful lot to love about this movie.
So, yes! I loved this film, and had a great time seeing it with Sandra. Having an actual date at a movie will do a lot to boost it over the Threshold of Awesome, but I don't think Maleficent needed the boost.
The film did have a little bit of a demographic problem, though. Kids are going to want to see it, and I can see how parts of the movie were built to appeal to them. The narration, in particular, was something neither Sandra nor I felt was necessary, but for kids who can't yet grasp the nuances of great acting the additional layer of storytelling is bound to be helpful. And the battle scenes? Lots of clobbering and flinging, but no actual stabbing, no blood splatter, no decapitation, and surprisingly very little death. One scene in particular shows a group of soldiers fighting giant, burning, magical thorns, and it's going badly enough for them that I pretty much assumed they were dead. Nope! The smoldering, sooty, and scraped up soldiers report back to the king, and that particular visual seems like it would feel right at home in a cartoon.
There were lots of kids, and I think a few tweens in the audience. Judging from the noise, they had a good time. What I'm saying here is that you shouldn't trust me to tell you whether a movie is going to work for your kids, because I AM FORTY-SIX.
The jaded old man in me wanted Maleficent to dig deeply into the horrors Maleficent wrought. Why stop with "kind of dark" when "grimdark" is just a few steps away? Well, because Disney. Minor disappointment aside, I'm totally okay with how Disney decided to play it, especially since they played so well against some of the tropes they've established over the last 75 years.
You might be wondering what the film does to the Sleeping Beauty canon. Well, wonder away, because I don't want to spoil anything... except to say that there were a couple of scenes where the sets were built to echo the animated feature's matte paintings, and I got a real thrill out of those. If watching Disney's Sleeping Beauty is something you're up for before seeing Maleficent, I'd encourage it. I wish I'd done it. There are probably a hundred such moments throughout the film, and I only caught two.
Maleficent clears the Threshold of Awesome, and though it only ranks #5 for me, as of this writing the top six films are really quite close. And I think I said that last week, too.
(Aside: "Fun I had at the movies" is not the same as "want to see again." Godzilla, Maleficent, and The Lego Movie are all films I'd be happy to see again, and I've already seen Godzilla twice. But before you ask, no, I'm not going to create a scale for re-watchability. I do have an actual job to do. Speaking of which, I need to post this, and then ink comics and sketch in copies of Book 10.)