Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Star Trek: First Contact (20th Anniversay)

Had to fix a clogged drain tonight, so not much time for words tonight.

In short, happy 20th anniversary to First Contact, one of the best Star Trek movies. Action-packed but still soulful, proudly trumpeting a better tomorrow. No offense to J.J. Abrams, but I still think it's the most masterfully directed movie of the franchise. The way the camera moves around James Cromwell as he steps forward to shake that Vulcan's hand gives me goosebumps every time.

It's a shame that Jonathan Frakes wasn't at the helm of more blockbusters. He's one hell of a director who made one hell of a film.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Ghost Story (Dresden Files)

First time reading (well, listening to) Ghost Story. I've been rationing out the Dresden Files books slowly, especially now that I'm coming to the last books in the series to date. I waited as long as I could before discovering how Jim Butcher resolved the cliffhanger from Changes. While I won't overtly spoil what said cliffhanger was, just look at the title Ghost Story.

It's not one-for-one, but The Dresden Files books come in two flavors, Harry Dresden wins the day but digs himself deeper into a hole or Harry Dresden wins the day and decreases the chances that he will, to use Butcher's words, "take the southbound train" when his journey is truly over. Ghost Story falls under that second category, even if it's more bittersweet than most.

Still, it's exactly the book I needed right now. Butcher admits that Harry Dresden is bascially Peter Parker, if Spider-Man were allowed to continually change and mature over the years. Both characters speak to me at such a fundamental level. Flawed, human, brave, self-doubting, determinated, regretful, hopeful, and yes, a wise-ass.

And there's good lesson to take away from these books, especially during these times: there's no monster out there that you can't look in the face and mock - preferably with a cheesy Star Wars quote.

Again, exactly what I needed right now.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Weekend Plans of the Nerd Kind (11/18 - 11/20)

Out of town this weekend. Old friend's birthday.

Enjoy yourself. Do something good for someone else.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders



Man, what a treat. And a $.99 rental on iTunes right now.

It's made with affection and a healthy respect for silliness. DC's home video division gets close to perfectly capturing the tone of Batman '66. It's no surprise to see names from Brave and the Bold (such a fantastic show) in the credits. It's made by people who believe the world needs a few more Caped Crusaders and a few less Dark Knights.

I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Nice Guys (More Thoughts)

Tons of fun. Enjoyed it a little less than expected.

It's always cool, but only amazing in fits and starts. It's a shaggy dog of a story that coasts on its considerable charm. It feels like Shane Black focused too much time on flexing his directing chops at the expense of the script, which doesn't crackle with life like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (his best script and movie) did. But it further proves that Black is an exceptional writer and director.

There are more than a few moments where the film hits its mark, surprising you with a gag, a moment of violence, or a clever play on classic pulp cliches. The one surprise missing are the moments of weight that Kiss Kiss had - moments where Black considered the horrible things he was always puts his characters through.

Despite the story being underdeveloped in places, Healy (Russell Crowe) and March (Ryan Gosling) are the best duo Black's created yet. To say anything more about them would ruin the film's surprises. (And Jesus, the red band trailer spoiled far too much.) While Ryan Gosling gets the showier performance (absolutely inspired), Russell Crowe walks a tightrope between tough and charming better than he ever has before.

For better or worse, their story is just beginning as the credits roll. I enjoyed the hell out of it, but I wish I hadn't felt like the best was yet to come.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Nice Guys

My head hurts. A lot.

Going to finish watching The Nice Guys with volume down low. Watch it. It's good. Probably the second best movie of Shane Black's career. More on that tomorrow.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Warcraft



Not as bad as I expected. But not, you know, good.

Don't know what I can say that the initial reviews didn't. Far too many characters and world-building in the first act. A rushed back half and an anti-climatic, franchise-building ending. Having played Warcraft II and III (only dipped my toe into World of Warcraft - not a MMO guy), I could follow everything well enough. I just didn't care.

Like The Phantom Menace, Warcraft gets all the pieces on the board for future movies. And like Lucas' prequel, it feels unnecessary to start at square one. Most of the movie - where the orcs come from, the corruptive magic of the Fel, and the death of Lothar's son - could've been told through visual shorthand or scenes where we learn about this world a piece at a time while an actual story was told.

The odd thing is I'm still impressed Duncan Jones' direction. I've never seen a movie I had so many problems with that I thought was so well-directed. And I'm not saying that because I'm such a huge fan of Moon and Source Code. As he's already proved, he's great with actors and can do spectacle. He can tell complicated stories with complicated ideas. This is only a guess, but it feels like he was forced to cut a three-hour movie down to two.

There are a few nice things here. The visual effects for the Orcs are another step forward for mo-cap technology, especially in capturing nuanced facial expressions. Travis Fimmel and Ben Foster turn in surprisingly good performances. And there are a few moments here and there that actually work. In those moments, you feel like you're watching something other than a $200 million Wikipedia summary.

But here's the crazy thing, I'd still be willing to watch Jones return to this world and get it right.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Weekend Plans of the Nerd Kind (11/11 -11/13)


Writing: Not much planned at the moment. We have another round of Indefensibles articles to finish. I haven't attempted a prose work in awhile. I've been playing with doing a Cthulhu Mythos story just for fun. But instead of mimicking Lovecraft's purple prose, I'd thought it'd be fun to tackle that universe in the lean style of Elmore Leonard or Gregory Mcdonald. You know, more dialog than prose. Play with the Mythos, but run as far away from aping Lovecraft as possible.

Could be fun.

TV and Movies: Almost done with Season 5 of Gilmore Girls. It's my first time through the show. The wife's watched it two or three times since it popped up on Netflix. In the past, I'd sit down with her off and on and watch a few episodes. It's now one of our favorite shows. Like a lot of serialized shows, the plotting is a bit wonky to keep the dramatic tension going. But, Jesus, the banter. I live for banter, and I'm not sure anyone does it better.

Speaking of banter, I have The Nice Guys checked out along with Warcraft. Actually more excited to watch Warcraft, but I know The Nice Guys is gonna treat me better. I just need a little fantasy right now, I think, after this goddamned week.

Games: About a quarter of the way through Resident Evil: Revelations. It's not bad - but a big step down when you play it right after Resident Evil 4. That was my second time through RE4, and while I remember liking it the last time, I realized this time around that it's a friggin' masterpiece. At this moment, it might even crack my all-time top ten games.

Anyway, Revelations feels slight in comparison, but it's a nice fusion of classic Resident Evil survival horror (limited ammo and health, the necessity to avoid enemies, etc.) and the more action-oriented direction the series took with RE4. The controls are a huge improvement over RE4, but the limited monster types and backtracking might wear out its welcome. Still, it's a survival horror game on a giant cruise ship. That's pretty kick-ass for a Deep Rising fan like me.

Books: Finally getting around to picking up The Dreden Files again. Getting near the end of the series with Ghost Story. Not much to say about it so far. Maybe more on that next week.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

11/10/16

I don't know where we go from here.

It's forty-eight hours after this goddamned election. Words, feelings, and plans for the future are still half-formed. A dam in my head has been erected, and there's this phantom limb feeling that it should be ready to burst.

We, as a nation, are not lost - not yet - but we have lost something. Most likely, for good. And I won't lay blame for that loss on anyone's feet - there's enough blame to go around. I didn't do enough. We didn't do enough to say, "No. This isn't normal. This isn't right. This is not who we are."

Guess what? This is who we are. We're talkers, not listeners. We're winners. We feel like we have the right to be right all the time. This is who we are, and I don't know where we go from here.

I know where I need to go, what I need to do - at least in some small part. I need to write. Something I don't do enough. It's probably the only thing I'm good at it... and it's something I hate doing. I hate it because the "you suck" voice in my head - a voice I can usually tune out - gets cranked to eleven. And it keeps getting louder the more I do it. Better to keep that voice quiet, I usually tell myself.

I'm beginning to understand how limiting, how damaging, that voice is. It goes through a lot of our heads. More than you probably think. And that voice may even be the reason we elected this monster of a man as our next president. And I bet you good money that tonight, as he tweets about how unfair it is that people are in the streets protesting his electoral win, there's a voice in his ruined head that sounds like daddy. And even now daddy's screaming, "You're a failure. You're a failure."

But enough of that shit. At least for now. It's time for all of us to do something - anything - that helps give the middle finger to the darkness that surrounds us. For me, that's writing. Thanks to everyone who's reading this now or plans to keep coming back. I imagine most of you will be people I know only through Twitter. So let me say now how grateful I am to have you in my life. Even before this awful time, you've made me laugh and see the good in this world. For that, I'm eternally grateful. I hope I've made you laugh, as well - and see things from a slightly different angle. I'm so glad you listened. And I want to hear what you have to say, now more than ever.

I'm not sure what good it will do, but it's time to resume this blog. A few hundred words a day about one geek and his geek obsessions.It's something. And something is better than nothing.

END OF LINE.