Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Reviews: Sci-fi Triple Feature

Over the past couple of weeks, I watched three fun movies, and I would recommend all three. Here they are!

#1) Doctor Strange

I know. It's another one of those Marvel movies, but an impressive one that reaches further than I've seen before. It's almost like Marvel's version of Inception, though not quite as intelligent.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Doctor Strange, a world-class surgeon who loses most of his hand mobility in a car accident. Desperate to find purpose in his life, he seeks answers, which leads him to a group of people who specialize in the mystic arts.

The whole idea of the movie is that there is an unseen world outside of our mortal world, and wow -- is it imaginative! With top-notch special effects, the mystical world comes to life and makes it feel real. Marvel successfully brings magic into the mix.

As usual, Giacchino's music is always appropriate and interesting -- though, I did recognize a few Star Trek chord progressions in the closing credits.

The movie's main weakness is that it is a Marvel movie, and as such, certain steps are taken to make sure it merges with the rest of the universe. Oh, how I wished this movie could have been a standalone! Do we really need random references to the Hulk or Ironman?

Also, I felt that even though Doctor Strange's origin story started out so well, his transformation from egomaniac jerk to humble superhero was way too rushed. It was almost like: Okay, he can do that now.

Weaknesses aside, overall it was a well-done effort. I would recommend catching it in 3D even though it's all converted. Fun for the whole family!

#2) Arrival

I wasn't prepared for how good this movie was going to be. It may seem on the low end budget-wise, but its unique use of effects, color, music, and human story brings across an excellent delivery.

The movie starts with a lonely and broken Louise Banks. As aliens appear on our doorstep, Louise couldn't care less. What good is anything in her life? She suddenly finds purpose when she's recruited to help break the aliens' language.

What follows is good science fiction that strives to stick with the possible, while at the same time providing us something fantastic, and taking us on a 2001-like journey.

The minimalistic music and cinematography set a perfect alien-feeling atmosphere. The non-Hollywood-formulaic writing is a breath of fresh air. In fact, I found it very difficult to predict how it was all going to end.

And when it was all over, all I could say was, "Wow."

Highly recommended. Watch and enjoy.

#3) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

I went in with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. It felt like another typical Harry Potter movie. Only, this one is set in the past. Around the 1920s, maybe? This is long before Harry Potter was born, and when Riddle was most likely an infant.

Newt Scamander arrives in New York City with high hopes of breeding one or more of his creatures, which he keeps safe in his magical briefcase. However, things go south when a wannabe baker accidentally swaps briefcases.

The result is a funny story mixed with fun action as Newt ends up fighting a new (to us) bad guy.

Some parts are just plain silly, and the movie often suffers from "this ought to kill a lot of people but it doesn't" syndrome, but I didn't really seem to care. The movie kept my attention the whole time, and it was fun.

Go watch it with the family, though younger children might be scared by some of the scenes.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Two Month Update - #5

Here I am, a little late reporting again, and I bet you already know what my excuse is going to be. I've been devoting nearly 100% of my free time working on my new music publishing company.

You can check it out here if you wish.

Having come to a temporary stopping point, I've decided to devote today to getting back to other aspects of my life I've been neglecting.

So, in this penultimate checkpoint report for the year, I'm happy to report that work progresses forward on my planned short story: "The Last Actuary." I will be submitting it in the Actuarial Speculative Fiction Contest this coming January.

I am not happy to report that I haven't been submitting other short stories. All of my outstanding stories have received their rejection letters, and I now have nothing out -- not a good feeling. My only excuse is that I hope to make money in my other music venture. But success in another venture should be no excuse of failure in another. Is that how that quote goes?

Anyway, I hope your writing year is going well. Anyone doing NaNoWriMo?