Friday August 22, 2014
I can't really say that I enjoyed Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, but I paid attention all the way through. This was one of those films which proved objectionable pretty quickly, but which was chock full of visual and structural storytelling techniques I wanted to absorb.
I guess my experience was a little bit like stepping up really close to a painting in order to see the paint rather than the picture.
Regarding the picture: the movie earns its R rating with violence, nudity, language, and drug use. The final line of narration, tells us that Sin City leaves its stain on everyone, and that pretty much summed up my experience.
Regarding the paint: Structurally, it's a neat sort of palindrome. Story A begins, Story B begins, Story C begins and ends, then Story B ends and finally Story A ends. Visually, it is brilliantly composed. We move freely from hyper-realistic black-and-white scenes to heavily stylized silhouette animations, and we cover lots of middle ground as well. Each shot works in very strong support of the story. And as stories go it's horribly dark, and it's never actually happy, but it's powerful and well told.
I saw the 3D version, and I think the 3D added a lot. Looking way up as naked Josh Brolin gets blown through a window, and then tracking him down... well, the 3D really sold that for me.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For was not really that much fun for me, not in the usual sense, but I reveled in the art. It clears the Threshold of Disappointment, but only barely. I may study stills or scenes from it at some point in the future, but I never actually want to watch it again.
(cross-posted from howardtayler.com)
Wednesday August 20, 2014
This was probably my best-ever year at GenCon Indy. With bullets:
The Wallrike scooped me up at the airport, saving me cab fare, helping me sort out a housing snafu, and basically being excellent company.
The Kokomo Irregulars had the booth completely loaded and assembled by Wednesday at noon.
I got all of my Massively Parallel bonus story rows penciled on Wednesday by dinner time, while sitting in the awesome booth.
I got to hang out with cool people all weekend. Some of them are name-droppable. Some are awesome people whose names only carry cachet with the folks who are privileged enough to have met them.
How many books did I draw in? I don't know. Pretty sure it was "hundreds."
My panels went well, with only one exception, and that one went so far off the rails it made for great commiseration fodder.
Our booth did better sales-wise than it has in any prior year. 15% better than our next best number, and up 25% from last year.
I learned important stuff from Jim Zub, who is a great boothmate, a brilliant writer, and a very savvy industry insider.
I came home energized, and I got work done the very next day. No con-crud, no post-convention blues, no problem.
The one blemish on the experience is that this year the one game I managed to play was "D20 roll-off" in which you sit down at the bar and roll dice to see who rolls better. And really, this is the blemish every year. I don't get to play games. When I'm away from the booth, I'm not making money. Sandra sent us some handy bar graphs that showed just how much money we weren't making when Jim, Tracy, and I had to be away from the booth.
Adding to the blemishy darkness of this is the fact that while we had plenty of players interested in testing the Schlock Mercenary role-playing game, we never were able to align ourselves for a table and some dice.
Back to the positive notes: Symposium! If you're a writer, and you want to attend panels in which writers talk intelligently about writing, and do so with the understanding that they're talking to an audience full of writers, you should seriously consider attending GenCon Indy just for the Writing Symposium. It has attracted an all-star cast, and when the panels are over there are a million things to do. Marc Tassin has done an outstanding job of growing the symposium over the last three years, and when I talked to him about it I could see that he's committed to continuing to improve it.
(crossposted from howardtayler.com)
Tuesday August 19, 2014
Per my Twitter feed, The Expendables 3 is better than either of the first two installments in the series. The first was goofy and ridiculous, and not in great ways. The second took itself too seriously, and ended up being goofy, ridiculous, overblown, and clumsy. This one, though, struck just the right balance for an action movie. I had fun.
The film does not clear my Threshold of Awesome, however. The predictable dialog really wore on me, especially when a character was pausing for dramatic effect, and I knew what he was going to say next. Also, the final act's conceit was one of those ridiculous supervillain tropes -- in this case it's the one where our bad guy has lured the heroes into a trap, and instead of just pouring overwhelming force into the kill box, he starts the timer on an explosive.
What follows that countdown is purely predictable, but it also shapes up to be a nice fulfillment of all the movie's earlier promises. They shoot all of the things and do all of the stunts and we have our huge cast of readily-recognized hitters finally working together.
The stand-outs for me in this film were Ronda Rousey, who made a much better transition from MMA champion to actress than Gina Carano did, and Antonio Banderas, who was hilariously awesome.
The Expendables 3 comes in at #15 for me for the year thus far.
(Cross-posted from howardtayler.com)
Saturday August 16, 2014
I know, I know... dot-coms are so "turn-of-the-century," so "last decade."
Trends and missed boats notwithstanding, howardtayler.com is a thing now. It's the hub for all the stuff I do. It's like putting all of my eggs in one basket, only without the actual risk associated with dropping the basket.
The blog here under Schlock Mercenary will still feature my movie reviews, important announcements, and assorted posts I think readers of the comic will enjoy. Howard Tayler dot com will have all kinds of stuff on it, including everything I post here, and feeds from the comic, from Writing Excuses, and probably other stuff. Recently I posted a single panel Sherlock Holmes comic, and an attempt to write horoscopes.
Should you feel inclined to subscribe, you can use http://howardtayler.com/feed/ with whatever RSS aggregator you currently use.
You can also subscribe to just my reviews using http://howardtayler.com/category/reviews/feed/, which will ensure that you don't actually have to check the comic in order to discover my critically important opinions on a particular film.
This site, schlockmercenary.com, will be getting an architectural overhaul soon, and that may change the way its own RSS feed works. We'll try not to break anything, but if there is an omelette to be made, we'll let you know where to find new eggs before we break all of the old ones. Does that satisfactorily tie into the eggs-in-one-basket metaphor?
Thursday August 14, 2014
I will be at GenCon Indy this weekend. I arrive on Tuesday for setup, and won't fly home until Monday the 18th, and yes, this means the convention is eating a week of buffer. Like a voracious monster with 70,000 mouths...
Find me in Booth 1437 with Jim Zub and Tracy Hickman. We're pretty much smack-dab in the center of the exhibit hall, facing the Asmodee folks. Is there convention-exclusive merchandise? Yes, there is!
(Note: for those unable to attend GenCon, these exclusives can be purchased during the month of August if you've got the "Schlock Troops" level of patronage ($2.50/mo) over on Patreon.)
We'll have plenty of other goodies, including the sale-priced ten-book bundle, and the latest Schlock Mercenary title, Longshoreman of the Apocalypse, and not only can you get me to sketch in the back of that at no charge, Zub can sign it for you too! He wrote the bonus story (and it is awesome). Zub will have Skullkickers collections, and will happily tell you all about Wayward, his new project. He'l also be signing comic books galore - Pathfinder, Samurai Jack, Figment, Skullkickers, and more - and maybe, just maybe you'll be able to coax a commission out of him. (Hint: use money.)
Tracy will be signing books and books and books (thirty years of writing will do that), and will have his Sojourner Tales game! Brand new!
My schedule is pretty packed. If you have to pick just one thing, you should pick my solo presentation at 7pm on Thursday, "Crafting Humor for the Page."
Here's my full schedule:
12pm -- Room 245: Cliches and Stereotypes, with Susan Morris, Erin Evans, David B. Coe, and Brad Beaulieu
1pm-6pm -- Booth 1437 (with occasional breaks)
7pm -- Room 245: Crafting Humor for the Page, my solo presentation!
10am-1pm -- Booth 1437
2pm -- Room 243: Author Networking 101, with Kerrie Hughes, Kameron Hurley, Marc Tassin, and Carrie Harris
3pm-5pm -- Booth 1437
6pm - Room 243: Getting Great Reviews, with Susan Morris, Steve Diamond, and Kelly Swails
10am-12pm -- Booth 1437
1pm -- Room 245: Writer's Life: Tales from the Trenches with Don Bingle, Howard Tayler, Ed Greenwood, Michael Stackpole, and James Sutter
2pm -- Westin, Capitol III: XDM - X-treme Dungeon Mastery, with Tracy Hickman (note: I'll be a little late and a lot out of breath.)
4pm-6pm -- Booth 1437
10am-3pm -- Booth 1437 (note that Jim and I will be there, but Tracy will not! If you want to catch up with Mr. Hickman, don't wait until Sunday to try.)
Lots of folks, including business partners, peers, fans, and fellow gamers, have asked about my evening schedule, or about "catching lunch" at the convention. Unfortunately, lunch is taken on the run, and my evenings are booked with private meetings or crash time.
There is one, and only one free-floating event, and that is the GenCon Indy Schlock Mercenary RPG playtest. I made that sound WAY MORE OFFICIAL than it really is. Alan will be holding a few of these, catch-as-catch can. Find Alan at GenCon! I will be able to attend (as a player) exactly one of these. I don't know which one. If you want to maximize your chances of playing or watching, follow @AlanBahr, @HowardTayler, and/or @Schlocktroops on Twitter.
(crossposted from howardtayler.com)