With apologies to Dr. Seuss

Over on Facebook I mentioned that the visual inspirations for the Schlockiverse are The Jetsons and Dr. Seuss. Christopher Wright replied with a bit of Seussian rhyme, which inspired me to create the following:

Oh the places you'll go! Oh the things you will eat! There's an amorph who's walking without any feet! 

There's a Unioc staring with one giant eye, and a plasgun for sharing with those soon to die.

Lo, see the annie-plants gravying guns, and viewingless funerals spelled without "funs."

Here's a cannon that might bring swift death to a star. (Okay, maybe you won't get especially far.)

Happy New Year, everyone. 

It's 2015! Hello, Back to the Future, Part II

We watched Back to the Future and then Back To The Future, Part II with our kids last night. The 2015 imagined by Robert Zemeckis was a satire (of course,) and lots of people have discussed where it hit and where it missed.
It was particularly interesting to watch my kids react to the film. Flying cars and hoverboards? Very cool! Self-drying clothing? Don't be silly. People sitting around a microwave pizza engrossed in the programming on their wearable devices? Well, duh. Why's that scene even THERE? We know THAT.
Remember the bit where Marty, Jr. watches six channels at once on the TV? My kids shrugged. Six is kind of silly. They max out at two or three -- YouTube in one window, and a sandbox game like Minecraft or Terraria in a another,  and a play-through video in a third. Why would you do six if none of them are interactive?
All that aside, they liked the film, and they're really looking forward to the third one at some point today. Me, I remember being kind of upset at the "downer" ending of Back to the Future Part II, and my memory of it was Marty standing in the rain. No, it ended with Doc Brown saying "Great Scott!" and then fainting, and those last moments of the film were far more enjoyable than I remember them. Maybe the films of the last 15 years have reprogrammed me to enjoy middle-act endings.
I could be wrong, but I think the big thing that Back to The Future Parts II and III gave us was a rebirth of serial cinema. Without their commercial success, Hollywood wouldn't have greenlit Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, and comic-book movies might still be what they were in the 80's. Hollywood thought Zemeckis was crazy at the time. I'm glad he had Spielberg on his side, because I've loved the serial cinema of the last 15 years.
(cross-posted from howardtayler.com)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

If you didn't enjoy the first two installments in Peter Jackson's Hobbit franchise, you probably won't like this one, either, because it doubles down on everything.
If you did enjoy them, this one pretty much sticks the landing. There were bits I didn't like much (the Sauron/Necromancer "Jefferson Airplane" visual tops that list) but this didn't feel overblown or too long. It felt huge, and justly so.
Tolkien tells us that there are battles in Middle Earth.  Jackson shows them to us. Tolkien tells us that there are thirteen dwarves in the party. Jackson shows them to us. Tolkien tells us that Laketown gets burnt by a dragon, and the survivors become refugees. Jackson shows us all that. The list goes on--The Hobbit is a short novel (by the standards of epic fantasy) because Tolkien does a lot of telling in between the showing. The Hobbit trilogy of films is a long movie (by the standards of genre-fiction films) because Jackson expands on the tells to give us a big show.
In order to make any of that engaging, we need to be seeing it through people with whom we identify. This is why during previous films we're introduced to Legolas and Tauriel, Bard's children, Azog, and the whole host of other named characters.  Each of the dwarves is his own distinct character, and Laketown is full of the faces of human people who look like they could be our neighbors.
I'm down with all of this. In fact, I'd be quite happy to see the trilogy with an additional 90 minutes of footage, because some pieces felt a bit short.
My biggest complaint (aside from the 60's music-video effect for Sauron) lies in the fact that some of the lines I remember from the book weren't in the movie. But without the book I wouldn't have noticed. So, yes, the purists will again be frustrated.
My second-biggest complaint is that I think these films are best appreciated across three nights with the same group of friends and/or family, and that's not how I saw them. If you haven't seen any of them yet, renting the first two and then seeing the third might be downright delightful.
I saw the HFR 3D version, and it was gorgeous. No shaky-cam! And Middle Earth looked real enough to walk right into. Also, I don't want to walk into this part of it. Five is at least four too many armies.
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies clears my Threshold of Awesome, and comes in at #6 for me for the year, just behind Godzilla.
(cross-posted from howardtayler.com)

Penguins of Madagascar

I love the penguins in the Madagascar films, but they're best taken in small doses with no character arcs. This film was fun, but it wasn't awesome. 

If you've seen the third Madagascar film, the one with the circus, the opening chase scene is over-the-top hilarious. Delightful. Penguins of Madagascar gives us a gondola chase that is similarly over-the-top, but it didn't quite clear the bar set by the Paris chase in the previous film.

Part of the problem with this film is that in all of the others the penguins are a force of nature. They are super-beings whose successes are godlike, and whose failures mean a thing simply cannot be done. In this film, however, the penguins are our protagonists, so they're not allowed to be super-beings. They come close, sure, but their failures feel contrived, and their successes can't ever be quite as awesome as they were in the previous films.

So: small doses.

I had fun, though. Penguins of Madagascar comes in at #14 for me for the year.

(cross-posted from howardtayler.com)

Exodus: Gods and Kings

Exodus: Gods and Kings is pretty powerful, but it might rub a lot of folks the wrong way. It doesn't tell the story of Moses the way biblical literalists would have it be told. (Disclaimer: It's also not the story of Moses that I believe in, but I didn't expect it to be.)

That's okay. It's a pretty good story. And it's a story that rings true in a lot of ways, especially in the ways that the characters relate to each other. 

Was it fun? Not really -- I'm putting it at #16. But it was beautiful and powerful and I liked it. Best of all, I never once heard Batman noises come out of Christian Bale's mouth. Although Batmoses would have been a cool movie, too.

On a strictly literary level, Batman and the other comic-book superheroes are very similar to the gods and heroes of ancient myth. They're part of a modern mythic pantheon, and this is a very flattering way to justify why their origin stories and key adventures keep getting re-told (much more flattering than the "we're too scared to take chances with a new story" version). In that light, Exodus: Gods and Kings is a Moses movie just like The 13th Warrior was a Beowulf movie, and Troy was about Achilles.

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