Sunday August 16, 2015
Henry Cavill's "Superman" is not nearly as entertaining a hero as is his "Napoleon Solo" in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
My oldest daughter and I took in the movie Friday night, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
subsequently leaped onto my 2015 rankings
and took spot #3. It could have taken the #2 slot from Avengers: Age of Ultron
if its third act had treated us to more of the awesome banter from the first two acts, but the misstep was a small one, easily forgiven.
Two standout items from The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: outstanding visual storytelling during the action sequences, and brilliantly twisty dialog during the talky bits. As added bonuses, Henry Cavill redeemed himself from that Superman role I was so disappointed in, and Armie Hammer redeemed himself from that Lone Ranger role that I'm still trying to forget.
Does there need to be a sequel? No, but I left the theater happy in the knowledge that there could be, if only in the imaginations of the folks who see the film.
Friday August 7, 2015
I'm afraid I don't have anything nice to say.
For the record, I have zero problems with a black Johnny Storm. The actor did a great job with what he was given, and nothing felt forced. So let's get that out of the way. I also don't have problems with the many violations of Marvel canon. A movie should be allowed to be its own thing, working freely within the space it stakes out, whether it's being adapted from a best-selling novel, a beloved short story, or a comic book.
No, my problem with this movie is that I was bored. A lot. I nearly fell asleep at the 75 minute mark. I actually regretted the decision to see it, with real regret for the lost time AND the fact that I was going to have to think about this movie AGAIN in order to write the review.
The best metaphor I can think of for this movie is that it is akin to the output of a cargo cult. The film makers have all these artifacts of the great comic book adaptations that have visited their island in the past, they have collected the flotsam that has washed up on their shores, and now they have built something that they think looks like a movie in the hopes that they can summon a magic that they do not understand.
(Note: I'm using the trope version of "cargo cult" here. The real thing is more complex, I know.)
Many of the right pieces are in this movie. They are not connected correctly, and some key pieces are missing, so the result feels counterfeit, and kind of insulting. The film adaptations of The Fantastic Four that we got from this same studio in 2005 and 2007 were much better, and they were not very good to start with. It's remotely possible that this film will be enjoyable in a throw-popcorn-at-your-TV kind of way in a few months, but please don't invite me to your house for that party. I cannot sit through it again.
Fantastic Four enters my list below the Threshold of Disappointment, sitting pretty at #20. The only reason it isn't all the way at the bottom is that I expected it to be kind of bad, while I had high hopes for Furious 7. So yeah, it's my fault I didn't enjoy it.
Fantastic Four was bad because my low expectations were not low enough.
Tuesday August 4, 2015
I was at Gen Con Indy last weekend, so I didn't make it to Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation
until the Tuesday after it opened. I really liked it. The action was taken to super-spy levels of unbelievable from the opening scene, and the intrigue and heist elements were both spot on and satisfying.
Which is to say that the movie is full of all the ridiculous things you expect from the Mission: Impossible franchise, including punchy uses of the theme in all the right places. Joe Kraemer's soundtrack
is lots of fun, and will make good music for me to write and draw to.
I was pleased to find that the trailers did not spoil the film's key scenes—a kindness on the part of the marketing department, I suppose, though it's possible that they had explicit instructions from filmmakers who wanted to preserve some of the intrigue.
Tuesday July 28, 2015
I'm exhibiting at GenCon Indy with Jim Zub and Tracy Hickman this week. You can find us at booth 1935.
We have new pins and badge holders, and all eleven print editions of Schlock Mercenary, along with slip cases.
Here's my event schedule:
6:00pm, Room 224 Worldbuilding: When Your World is a Character
10:00 am, Room 224 Character Craft: Motivation and Obstacles
5:00pm, Room 245 Business of Writing: Advanced Kickstarter
7:00pm, TBA Planet Mercenary Field Marshal Play Date (players have been pre-selected. If you want to come spectate, watch me on Twitter for the location.)
6:00pm, Room 242 Writing Excuses: The Live Studio Audience Episodes (will be recorded)
When I'm not in events I'm almost certainly at my booth, though I have been known to sneak out for breaks from time to time. Mostly, though, I'll be glued to my seat working on the cover art for Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication. I'll also have some images from the upcoming Planet Mercenary RPG book if you'd like to peek at those.
GenCon Indy is one of my favorite events of the year. We have a fantastic crew working our booth with us, and Tracy, Jim, and I have lots of fun talking with fans and with each other throughout the day. Come get stuff signed, or just stop by and watch the magic happen.
Friday July 24, 2015
The Happy Madison/Columbia Pictures big-budget, big-screen remake of the brilliant short film "Pixels,"
by Patrick Jean, could never be as brilliant or cool as the short was. I wanted to see it anyway, and I went in knowing that I was in for 110 minutes of Adam Sandler's "loser makes good" schtick
My low expectations helped! Also useful: my sons, both avid gamers, were really enthusiastic about seeing the movie, and they weren't at all jaded about the performers (in part because I'm a good parent, so they don't have a dozen hours of Adam Sandler dumped into long-term memory.)
But most surprisingly of all, the film delivered fun video game references without showering us in raunchy Sandlerisms. His character was genuinely likable, and the comedy actually worked.
The movie lays down its ground rules early in Act One: this is a universe in which a goofball played by Kevin James can become president, and will invite his underachieving, TV-installer childhood friend over to the White House regularly enough that security recognizes him. A proper action movie would spend the first two acts building up to that possibility. Pixels tells us to accept it early on, so that our Suspenders of Disbelief won't be strained later in the film. Which, to continue the metaphor, probably means that the first act steals our pants, ensuring that there's no work for the suspenders to do at all.
It's a good thing, too. If you spend any amount of time asking questions that begin with "wait, wouldn't they just..." you will almost certainly lose whatever opportunity you may have had to enjoy the film. It's a precarious position for a film to take, I know. But there it is.
I get upset when people tell me "just turn your brain off." That's a pointless thing to say after the movie is over, and if that disclaimer is actually required before the movie starts, something has gone wrong. Pixels invites you to shut down some of the logic circuits during Act I, which is how movies that need you to turn your brain off should be handling it: up front.
Don't get me wrong, here. I'm not defending Pixels
as great art (Patrick Jean's "Pixels"
yes, Happy Madison's Pixels
no.) It could have been a much better movie had different decisions been made early on, but once your green light is locked into a feature-length story of video game attackers pixelating targets on Earth, numerous "great art" paths are closed to you, and you do the best you can. Even so, Pixels
could have done better. The movie's energy bled away pretty quickly when we didn't have pixelated action on screen, which suggests a pacing problem, which in turn suggests okay I have no idea what that actually suggests since I write stories but I do not make movies. All I know is that some of the parts just didn't work for me. Everything else is Armchair Eberting.
(Note: Patrick Jean, who created the original short, was given credit among the writing team for the big-budget Pixels. This makes me happy.)