Category Archives: Movies

2013: The Parting Glass

Now that 2013 is officially in the rearview, I’m not as hung over as I expected to be, but I’ve long known I’m a social drinker and when the party is small, so are my drinks. The party last night was just that—small—and in a way, quite reflective of the year I’ve had.

I don’t know if that’s necessarily a bad thing.

At any rate, I know a lot of my fellow writers are doing a “this is what I did with my writing” or a “this is what I’m going to do with my writing” post for the New Year and this is kind of like that, sort of, in a weird way.

What do you mean by weird, Chris?

Well, in 2013 I didn’t do shit all in regards to my writing. Oh, I wrote things; I just didn’t publish them. I went to some conventions and sold a few copies of my first novel, Necromancer, and met some cool folks out on the road. The awesome Nelson W. Pyles podcasted a few of my short and flash fiction pieces on The Wicked Library, but that was the extent of where my writing went the last 12 months.

Halfway through the year I freaked out about this. Of course, by the time June/July came around, I’d only subbed one piece (which ended up shortlisted and ultimately rejected). After the PMPress Writer’s Retreat at the end of July, I subbed two more pieces, and then another near the end of August. All three were (obviously) rejected by the respective editors. Looking back now, at the start of the new year, I’m more like fuck it. It is what it is. I did write, I just didn’t publish, and it’s about the former, not the latter.

One thing that I did do was get back into reading novels. Before some of you have a conniption over a writer “not reading,” let me explain: for the past several years, I’d read almost exclusively short fiction as the editor for Title Goes Here: and it was awesome; I was able to read and publish writers like Alison Littlewood, Paul Anderson, and Alexis A. Hunter. But it didn’t leave much time for novel reading. Sure, I’d squeeze in a couple here and there (and those were familiar books I’d read before), but not like I used to read. This year, I’m happy to say I put to rest 32 books over the last 12 months. The only book I attempted to read and didn’t finish was The Talisman by King and Straub. Sad to say this is like my third time trying, though I did make it further than any other attempt.

I will finish that book this year.

But, here’s the list of books I did read. You know, for the curious.

01)  Back Roads & Frontal Lobes by Brady Allen – 5/5
02)  They Thirst by Robert McCammon – 5/5
03)  Lucky Man by Michael J Fox – 3/5
04)  Phantoms by Dean Koontz – 4/5
05)  The Talisman by Stephen King & Peter Straub –
06)  Throttle by Stephen King & Joe Hill – 3/5
07)  Quarantined by Joe McKinney – 3/5
08)  The Hunt by Joseph Williams – 4/5
09)  The Rising by Brian Keene – 2/5
10)  Coraline by Neil Gaiman – 3/5
11)  Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill – 4/5
12)  Pavlov’s Dogs by D.L. Snell & Thom Brannan – 3/5
13)  Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock by Sammy Hagar – 3/5
14)  (dis)Comfort Food by Brad Carter – 5/5
15)  Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist – 4/5
16)  Demons, Dolls, and Milkshakes by Nelson W. Pyles – 5/5
17)  A Trail in Blood by J. David Anderson – 5/5
18)  Losing Touch by Christian A. Larsen – 5/5
19)  Draculas by Crouch, Kilborn, Strand, Wilson – 3/5
20)  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – 4/5
21)  War of the Worlds by HG Wells – 2/5
22)  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – 4/5
23)  1984 by George Orwell – 4/5
24)  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – 4/5
25)  I, Robot by Isaac Asimov – 3/5
26)  Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein – 3/5
27)  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick – 3/5
28)  Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – 4/5
29)  The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin – 3/5
30)  Children of Men by PD James – 3/5
31)  Wolf Hunt by Jeff Strand – 3/5
32)  The Hand of God by Tony Acree – 4/5
33)  The Wolf’s Moon by Patrick Jones – 2/5

I started building a reading list for this year a couple weeks ago, which includes several old King books I haven’t read in a decade or so, plus some other things I found on the bookshelves here I hadn’t read. I also received four Jonathan Maberry books for Christmas. They’re on the list, too. I can’t even speak to the number of books I have on my Kindle. I’ll read some of those, too.

I watched many movies in 2013. I can’t say I’m completely proud of this, but it’s a fact, and I do love movies. The number I watched is about double the number of books I read, but this list does include the few movies I saw at the theater and Netflix movies. Here’s that list, too, for the curious folk.

01)  Diary of a Nymphomaniac – 4/5
02)  Apartment 143 – 3/5
03)  Sector 7 – 3/5 (Korean, subtitled)
04)  Trollhunter – 4/5 (Norwegian, subtitled)
05)  The Tall Man – 3/5
06)  Dead Season – 2/5
07)  In the Spider’s Web – 1/5
08)  Good Neighbours – 3/5
09)  The Rig – 2/5
10)  The Lost Tribe – 1/5
11)  Airborne – 3/5
12)  The Innkeepers – 3/5
13)  The Devil Inside – 2/5
14)  Black Death – 3/5
15)  Cashback – 3/5
16)  Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness – 2/5
17)  Intruders – 3/5
18)  Rango – 3/5
19)  The Day – 2/5
20)  Dead Snow -3/5 (Norwegian, subtitled)
21)  Chernobyl Diaries – 2/5
22)  The Thirst: Blood War – 2/5
23)  Red: Werewolf Hunter -2/5
24)  Cleopatra’s Second Husband – 2/5
25)  Pontypool – 4/5
26)  Total Recall (2012) – 3/5
27)  Jack the Giant Slayer – 3/5
28)  Evil Dead (2013) – 4/5
29)  Byzantium – 3/5
30)  The Lords of Salem – 3/5
31)  Battleship – 2/5
32)  Chronicle -2/5
33)  TMNT (2007, animated) – 3/5
34)  Behind the Candelabra – 4/5
35)  Extinction: The G.M.O. Chronicles – 2/5
36)  The Last Stand – 3/5
37)  Sanctum – 2/5
38)  Hanna – 2/5
39)  Cowboys vs. Aliens – 2/5
40)  Darkwolf – 1/5
41)  Wrath of the Titans – 2/5
42)  Trip to the Moon (1902) – 3/5
43)  The Great Train Robbery (1903) – 3/5
44)  World War Z – 3/5
45)  Frankenstein (1931) – 3/5
46)  The Public Enemy (1931) – 3/5
47)  This is the End – 3/5
48)  The Heat – 3/5
49)  Rear Window – 4/5
50)  His Girl Friday – 3/5
51)  Storage 24 – 2/5
52)  The Frankenstein Theory – 2/5
53)  Oklahoma! – 2/5
54)  Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) – 4/5
55)  Pacific Rim – 2/5
56)  The Wicker Tree – 2/5
57)  Spiders – 2/5
58)  The Conjuring – 3/5
59)  State of Emergency – 3/5
60)  Compliance – 4/5
61)  Shame – 4/5
62)  R.I.P.D. – 3/5
63)  Dredd – 3/5
64)  Infected – 2/5
65)  Stevie – 3/5
66)  Fatso (Norwegian, subtitled) – 4/5
67)  Battledogs – 2/5
68)  Apollo 18 – 3/5
69)  John Dies at the End – 4/5
70)  War of the Dead – 2/5
71)  War of the Worlds (1953) – 2/5
72)  The Sessions – 4/5
73)  Frankenstein (2005) – 3/5
74)  Mimic – 3/5
75)  Children of Men – 4/5
76)  Paranormal Activity 4 – 2/5
77)  The Possession – 2/5
78) War of the Worlds (2005) – 3/5

For the extra curious, you can read my post on how I derive my ratings here. If you don’t care, don’t click.

Overall, 2013 was a decent year for me and I’m happy in the growth I made as a writer. Personally, it was up and down. Probably the best part was finding out that grandfatherhood (BAM! just made up that word) here in a few months (March), while the worst part was fighting against depression and lethargy. I’m used to these spells just not for this long.

Funny truth…

On 12/31, before the drinking started, I did this Facebook “mental age test” and answered the questions honestly (c’mon, you know you fudge those fucking quiz answers to skew the results to whatever you think they should be) and my mental age was 16. Those of you who know me are aware I’m on the far side of 16 x 2. I don’t feel 16; I certainly don’t act 16 (though my wife may disagree with that). I believe it’s a sign I still hold a somewhat romantic and optimistic view of life and people, while masticating the shit sandwich I have every day for lunch.

Strangely, though, I’m okay with that.

Good night and joy be with you all.

Hello, 2014.

Movie: Pacific Rim

So, I saw Pacific Rim Monday night. My initial impression remains solid: the movie was lacking. Before people start slapping me around, I did enjoy it, but it’s rare that I don’t enjoy a movie. A film has to be really, really bad before I’ll say skip it and give it the low rank of 1 on the Brown Scale.

Oh, there will probably be spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read the rest of this post. You’ve been warned. Don’t bitch at me.

pacificrim

For what it was, Pacific Rim was excellent. It was a big, loud summer action movie. I’m a guy and, fuck yeah, I loved the idea of big robots fighting big monsters. It’s almost like a wet dream.

Almost.

Then I realized I’m a thirty-coughhackcoughcough year old man and I need more than a hot blonde with rosy red lips to throw me into overdrive. Let’s face it, I’m at the age where I need to be fondled a little, coaxed, maybe even teased before I get aroused. In other words, I want to fully enjoy myself, not just get a quick, hard fuck in a back alley. I have my go-to movies for that sort of thing and, being at this discriminate age, I’m perfectly content with those. I don’t need to branch out, find a younger replacement; it all ends the same for me.

I think, in ten, maybe fifteen years, Pacific Rim is going to be that movie for the younger people watching it now.

Pacific Rim hits all expectations in the arena of CGI and graphics, of making the kaiju and the jaegers look stupendous. It’s really a marvel what del Toro and the FX team did. But really, when you break it down, that’s all they did. They give you the hot blonde (in fucking spades, man), but she’s nothing but a scared little girl underneath all the makeup and flashy clothes; she’s just playing dress up.

The filmmakers try to give us characters we can care for. Honestly, I’m not sure if they tried too much or if they didn’t try hard enough. Fuck, it’s the apocalypse, so everyone has suffered loss (entire cities are GONE), so here are my impressions.

Raleigh loses his brother in a kaiju fight. Now, this happens while connected in the “drift” piloting their jaeger. While you know Yancy dies, the film gives you beautiful shots of the malfunctioning jaeger instead of a moment with Raleigh. Oh, sure, we see him scream for a few seconds and then we’re back to the big robot again. Stunning CGI supersedes human emotion. For the loss.

Mako loses her whole fucking family during a kaiju attack. This flashback is better. Much better. A young Mako is seen running down the street, a single red shoe in her hand, screaming for her parents. Kid scenes always get to me since I have young kids and my cold dead heart comes alive for them. She’s filled with hatred for the kaiju (but who wouldn’t be?) and this is where the movie fails her character. She’s so goddamn meek and doesn’t stand up for herself to Stacker; he’s the one who tells her she can’t pilot because revenge will cloud her judgment, etc. Thank you, fucking Yoda.

At one point, the film tries to explain this away as her having respect for Stacker, admiration, and love. It’s a throwback to old Asian customs, I suppose, but really, we’re at the end of the world in modern times, so I only bought it the first time she walked away. After that, I wanted her to own up and stand her ground.

They even try to make you feel for Stacker, the hard ass military man. You know he has a soft spot for Mako from the start, mainly because Idris Elba is a fascinating and talented actor, and every time he looks at Mako, there’s love written all over his face. Of course, we have no idea why this is until much later in the movie… unless you’ve seen any action movie in the last decade or so, in which case it was obvious. So, yeah, he saves her as a kid (he’s the pilot of the jaeger that kills the kaiju that kills her parents) and raises her and now we have the whole father figure/mentor (ta da) role. He’s not just the hard assed military man trying to save the world with lines like this to Raleigh: “All I need is your compliance and your fighting skills.”

I’m not even going to talk about the humorous element provided by the scientists. They seemed a bit too whacky to fit into the obvious gloom and doom of the movie and I didn’t laugh once when either one of them were on the screen. Other than what they contributed to the plot by way of their discoveries, they could have not existed for me and the movie wouldn’t have suffered at all.

I do think the movie addressed the mutual attraction between Raleigh and Mako well. It was there, you could see it, but it was never overtly stated, only hinted at. The closest the movie comes to pointing it out is when Raleigh admits that he never had a reason to look forward to the future, until now. I memory serves, that’s in the middle of a jaeger/kaiju battle, though, so his timing is a bit… off.

But these are pretty stock characters and emotions in the action genre. We have the actual hard assed military guy who likes only his dad and his dog, the exotic oriental fighters (CRIMSON TYPHOON), and the stalwart Russian pilots (CHERNO ALPHA). Sure, there’s the unifying message that we must all coexist and work together if we’re going to beat the world ending problems (insert personal metaphor here) we face today. There’s the message about how even the screw-ups, the underdogs, the alternative to what’s current and popular all contribute to saving the day. It’s all there, man. Just as you’d expect it to be. None of them really rises above their intended stereotypes and the portrayals are mostly flat.

Let me compare Pacific Rim to the movie Battleship, another summer blockbuster that was, quite universally (critically, anyway), panned. Pacific Rim had a budget of 180 million dollars and Battleship 209 million, so they’re comparable. The special effects were just as good on Battleship as they were on Pacific Rim, keeping in mind Battleship wasn’t quite as grandiose. But nothing looked obviously fake, nothing was too far-fetched in the world they created.

In both movies, aliens attack from the ocean, we’re provided with a bleak scenario, our screw-up and underdog character that rises to the challenge after losing someone he loves (incidentally, it’s a brother in both movies), the hardnosed (with a soft spot military man), and a geeky scientist that acts as comic relief. Both had some minor continuity/plot issues, but nothing that really detracted from the extravagance.

Holy hell, they could almost be the same movie.

Battleship, based on a board game and not anime culture, is somehow considered less of a movie by folks. I’m not sure how that works. Battleship is every bit as good as Pacific Rim, if not slightly better. Why? Because Peter Berg lets you have time with the characters, lets you feel their losses as they mount up.

In the long run, though, Pacific Rim is just another action flick, and it gets the same ranking as Battleship, which is 2/5 on the scale. Go see PR for the spectacle, but don’t expect much more.

Unfortunately, I expected more. I don’t apologize for wanting intelligent sci-fi to come back. I’m tired of the stereotypical blonde fantasy and I’m not ashamed to show my age and admit to needing more to get my rocks off.

Movies: The Frankenstein Theory & Storage 24

I’ve decided to put my dinky movie reviews on the blog instead of on Facebook/Twitter. The blog feeds to both anyway; it’s all about the streamlining and shit.

I’m currently taking a film appreciation class, which means the movie watching time is being ate up by plenty of older flicks. Despite all that, I did manage to get two movies in last Friday. Neither of them was that good, but that’s okay; I didn’t hold out much hope for either one.

“The Frankenstein Theory” throws us the idea that maybe Frankenstein’s monster is real. Mary Shelley wasn’t a genius, but rather an author who used real letters to construct a fiction. Using some far-fetched data, a scientist (related to the original scientist Dr. Frankenstein was based on) manages to figure out where the monster may be due to migrating food and unsolved murder cases. They show up, thinking the creature is going to be all roses and understanding; it’s not, they all die. I rated it 2/5 for the interesting aspect of putting Frankenstein into a different spin.

The second movie was “Storage 24” and I was hoping for so much more. It’s a pretty bad alien movie and the premise is that this disparate group of unfriendly people are trapped inside a storage facility (hence the title) with the alien. It’s not friendly (of course) and eats far more than just cats. The creature itself seems to be hybrid Predator/Alien/Human and isn’t very original in looks or the way it moves. There’s a bit of interesting character stuff thrown in, but not enough to save the film as a whole. I thought the ending was unique, though, as the survivors make it out of the facility. I generally enjoy Noel Clark and Colin O’Donoghue, but I suggest avoiding this one unless your movie palate is as unsophisticated as mine. I give this flick 2/5 and that’s all I have to say about that.