Better Than the Movie!

Not quite vampires, and that's okay!

Not quite vampires, and that’s okay!

I started watching the “From Dusk Til Dawn” series on Netflix. It is surprisingly, amazingly good. And I didn’t really like the movie. I just thought the second part was way silly. This series takes the first part of the story, about the brothers, and expands it in an interesting, but logical way. I’m on episode four and they’re not at the bar yet. There’s also this thing about a Mayan blood cult which makes more sense than the “vampires” in the movie.

And Fez is in it!

Things Cat People Say When Dog-Sitting

Yes, very cute. Now stay! For like an hour or two.

Yes, very cute. Now stay! For like an hour or two.

– What? What is it? What do you want, dog?

– Stop staring at me.

– No, I’m not getting up. I just shifted a little. Don’t get all excited.

– Stop breathing on me.

– Really? Showing me your belly again? Have some dignity, canine.

– What’s that smell?

– Stop following me.

– Why the hell are you barking now??

– You just..how did….GAH!

The Evolution of Comic Book Movies

The following is a pretty long ramble about movies and super-heroes. You have been warned.

Space Shawarma?

Space Shawarma?

Guardians of the Galaxy!!1!!eleven!!!! AAAAAAA!!!

Okay. Got that out of the way. Ahem. I saw a particularly awesome movie today which I shall not spoil because YOU NEED TO SEE IT! NOW! But I will talk about my reactions to this movie and comic book movies in general.

In ye olden days before the Marvel Singularity, comic book stories translated to film or TV tended to be anemic, stilted versions of their comic book selves. There are several reasons for that, of course. One being the special effects budget. But what I’m talking about here is suspension of disbelief.

You can only put so much unbelievable stuff into a movie. And comics have the most unbelievable stuff of anything ever written! You have super-science mixed with magic mixed with pulp fiction mixed with aliens and gods and…well..EVERYTHING! So when someone decides to take a comic book property and turn it into a movie they have to figure out what elements to leave out and what to keep in order to make an exciting but at least tolerably believable film. And so most comic book stories are origin stories, taking the world as we know it and adding a single element, like aliens, or a mystical prophecy, or super-powers gained from radiation or some genetically-altering formula. And that’s basically it. Because if you put too much unbelievable crap together in one story audiences tend to cry “bullshit!” You need to ease an audience into the rest of the stuff with additional stories.

Which is why when it was announced that the X-Men would have a movie I was thrilled, but I also knew that we wouldn’t be seeing aliens or alternate dimensions or demons or any of the really out-there stuff you usually read in the X-Men comics. (I STILL want an “Inferno” movie! Make it happen, Singer!) No, I knew we’d just be getting the basic mutant “everybody hates us” storyline. And that made me sad. Because, even if the movie were successful enough to warrant a sequel, I knew we wouldn’t see the stuff I want to see. With sequels they usually would bring in another director and writer who likely knew nothing about the property and were starting from scratch themselves trying to make a story from this character. And they never took actual stories from the comics.

Why? Because movie studios aren’t interested in story. They’re interested in profit. As soon as they establish a property, they just fling more of the same out there and sweep up the falling cash. Traditionally, sequels either keep too much to the original formula adding nothing interesting to the mythology, or they throw something in that’s so jarring compared to the original that is just looks ridiculous and have nothing to do with the stories from the source material. Look at Superman III-V (I’m counting I and II as basically the same movie)  or the Joel Schumacher Batman movies. Sequels continue until they suck as much money as they can from the property, leaving a dried-up, violated husk.

And then something happened. People who grew up with these comic book movies and horrible sequels grew up to direct their own movies. People who cared about the properties. (Perhaps a bit too much in some cases.) Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies are perfectly acceptable and didn’t need a reboot, in my opinion. Yes, the third film suffered from too much unbelievable crap at once, but it wasn’t as badas, say, Batman and Robin. Progress!

MARVELous Meal

Spider-Man and Sue Storm were soon asked to leave the barbecue because their licenses are with another studio.

And then Marvel decided to start doing their own movies. Marvel, the comic book company, the people who actually write the stories, started making their own movies based on their own characters and plots! This, at last, is what I have been waiting for my entire life! Movie-wise, that is. Producers who care about continuity and who care about the fact that all of these comic book characters they own are in the same universe and know about each other and probably have lunch on occasion!

It’s a great time to be alive!

Thus, the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase I was born! And it was good! I mean, REALLY good! They established their main characters each in their own movie and then did something that had never been done before. They BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER FOR A TEAM MOVIE! By the time The Avengers came out, Marvel’s universe was well-established. If you’d seen the other movies, you’d know what’s going on. So they didn’t have to waste time on yet another origin story. They didn’t bother explaining to the audience what SHIELD was or why a man could turn into a giant rage monster because you know that story already! They could just go ahead and concentrate on creating something amazing built upon what they had already established.

And then, with Guardians of the Galaxy, they did something even more amazing! They basically said, “Okay, so you know all about this universe and what’s possible. If you believe all that and are fine with it, here’s the next layer built on top of those established premises!” Though they were probably more eloquent in that metaphorical statement.

Don’t you see? They successfully brought the audience into the next phase of story-telling! We now have a comic book universe where there are gods (or god-like beings) and aliens with incredible power and they can just tell stories in that universe without explaining it all again! And they care! They’re not just throwing random directors at these movies. They are carefully planning epicness.

Dr. Strange

The Shiny Hand of Cyttorak!

What will the next phase be after this? With Stephen Strange name-dropped in Captain America: the Winter Soldier and the news that they’re working on a Dr. Strange movie, the next phase will introduce magic. But will it work? Will audiences who have accepted the leap of superheros and the leap of aliens (who mostly seem humanoid and all seem to speak English) accept the idea of magic? I certainly hope so.

Authors/Characters

A weird thought just occurred to me. (Yeah, I realize nothing but weird thoughts occur to me.) Some names are more common than others. Can you think of an instance where an author named a character after him/herself yet the character was not a fictional extension of the author? Or do they all instinctively not use their own names? Imagine the implications. Millions of parallel universes where certain names simply don’t exist. No Stephens exist in Stephen King’s universes. No one named Pat or Patty in any Patricia Brigg worlds.

Like I said. Just a weird thought.

Seminar Casting Call!

Seminar Casting Call!

Good people! (Or evil or neutral. I’m not picky.) There’s a new casting call up for the audio anthology series “Seminar!” And once again you have the opportunity to voice a character I created with my own twisted mind! All you need is a decent microphone, a quiet place to record, and a little bit of time.

There’s one female role, one male role, and four roles that can be any gender. If you’re going for the female role, you’ll have to sound like a little girl. Or, hey, if you have access to a little girl, let her audition!

Auditions have to be in by June 25. So come on! Strut your vocal cords! Let’s see what your voice is made of!

 For details click the title above.

Days of the Week

My shifting miasma of thoughts today wandered over to the days of the week. What an odd hodgepodge of labels. We have two days named after the sun and moon, and then four Norse gods and a Roman god. How the heck did that happen?

So I decided to look it up. Basically the Romans named the days after their gods and then the Germanic people decided to take their model and make a few changes. And of course they replaced the Roman gods with Norse ones, and the sun (solis) and moon (lunae) they replaced with the gods Sunna and Mani. I guess they just didn’t have a corresponding god for Saturn. (aka the Titan Kronos. I guess he does kind of stand on his own, doesn’t he?)

Kronos

Oh, and it turns out many other European languages replaced “sun’s day” with “the Lord’s day.” Which I guess I kinda knew already.

Isn’t that fascinating??

Oh. Just me, then.

Amazons Attack! Again!

Once upon a time, DC Comics released a crossover storyline called “Amazons Attack!” In this story, Wonder Woman’s mother, the queen of Themiscyra, went insane and decided that Man’s World should be destroyed. So they attacked Washington DC with all the magic and weird tech they could muster.

Needless to say, the Justice League were taken quite aback.

The one thing I remember was that they released some sort of killer bees onto the population and Batman was really very concerned. The panel read, “An Amazon attack. A deadly bee weapon. Bees. My God.” I remember having to put the comic down and back away because I was laughing so hard. I had no idea that the rest of the Internet was as tickled as I was and that someone had created a meme. But, it looks like that happened.

Image
Anyway, DCU Online has released a new DLC called “Amazon Fury!” which looks like basically the “Amazons Attack!” storyline. And the biggest question on my mind is, “Will there be bees?” Because I’d totally spend the 10 bucks or whatever to hear Kevin Conroy’s Batman say those immortal three words.

“Roger, Roger”

I’ve been avoiding the “Star Wars: Clone Wars” cartoons. And I wasn’t even sure why until I decided to start watching them. First of all, you have to understand that I don’t consider myself a big Star Wars fan. Yes, I’ve seen all the movies, including the Ewok specials and the dreaded Holiday Special. I had many of the action figures as a kid. I was as excited as anyone else when Episode 1 premiered. I had even bought and read the comic book adaptation so was pretty spoiled for the movie. I’ve read some of the Expanded Universe. Just the Timothy Zahn stuff, really. (I met him once. Great guy.) I probably know more about the Star Wars universe than the average lay person. But I don’t really consider myself a die-hard fan.

 

I wanted to like the three prequels. I really did. But there was just so much that bothered me. And I hated that this new backstory contradicted the stuff I’d already read in the Expanded Univere. This new Star Wars universe seemed brighter, chirpier, more kid-friendly than I was expecting.

 

I think my main complaint, however, about the prequels is the presence of the battle droids. These are really stupid droids. And there are a lot of them, all created/rented/hired/whatever to fight a war. And they’re morons! And very fragile. And talk like kids’ toys! Why the hell are these things considered a threat at all? Their campiness and uselessness is only outdone by the extremely hateable Jar Jar Binks.

 

Battle Droids

     Seriously. I’ve seen toasters more threatening.

 

I know, I know. C3P0 and R2D2 were mostly comic relief in the movies. And I’m fine with a protocol droid and a mech droid being Abbot and Costello in the Star Wars ‘verse. Seems fitting. But when we’re talking about an army so menacing, so threatening that they created a civil war. Well… this isn’t it. That big battle they had on Naboo in the first movie? They didn’t need an army of Gungans. They just needed a couple dozen bulldozers. Roll right over ’em.

    

That being said, I’m four episodes into “Clone Wars” and I have to say it’s a nice, solid story so far. Despite the existence of those damn droids. Though every time they appear on screen the quality goes down.

 

So I guess I’ll be celebrating Star Wars Day by watching a few Clone Wars episodes and not speculating on the upcoming sequels.

 

May the Fourth be with you all.

The Quiet Ones

"Thank you."

“Thank you.”

 

I just watched _The Quiet Ones_. Ooh! Good stuff. Like _Oculus_, this is just the sort of horror movie I like, where people attempt to approach the supernatural in a scientific and somewhat intelligent way, and then get in a bit over their heads.

This is the sort of movie that makes me want to look stuff up and see how much of what happened in the movie actually did happen. It’s one of those “based on actual events” movies, except they don’t tell you that at the beginning. (EDIT: It’s actually right there in the trailer. Somehow I just glossed over it.) But in the closing credits they show pictures of the actual people involved. Supposedly, anyway. I’m still looking it up.

The movie seems to be based loosely on something called “The Philip Experiment,” in which a group of people (Canadians. Go fig…) attempt to create a ghost with their collective imagination and then talk to it. They apparently succeeded, thus proving that ghosts are merely projections of our imagination, or that some extra-dimensional entity was having a laugh and pretending to be Philip the ghost. Of course, the experiment was later proven to be a hoax. But it is a cool story.

The movie is based very loosely on the experiment. It basically takes the idea and runs with it. But where did those pictures in the closing credits come from? Eh, it’s probably just another layer of fiction to enhance the story.

Anyway, I feel so inspired right now.