Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Movie List - 2011

The long anticipated Mel's Movie List of 2011:

Top 20:

Source Code
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (7.2)
Battle: Los Angeles
Sucker Punch
Adjustment Bureau
Super 8
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
War Horse
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The
Adventures of Tintin, The
Cowboys & Aliens
X-Men: First Class
Captain America: The First Avenger
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
The Three Musketeers
In Time (2011)

And the rest in alphabetical order:

Arthur Christmas
Atlas Shrugged: Part 1
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2): Rodrick Rules
Gnomeo & Juliet
I Am Number Four
Johnny English Reborn
Mars Needs Moms
Mr. Popper's Penguins
Pirates of the Caribbean(4): On Stranger Tides
Puss in Boots
Smurfs, The
Transformers(3): Dark of the Moon
We Bought a Zoo

Saturday, March 10, 2018

2018 Checkpoint #1 -- Why I'm Slow to Submit

For my two-month checkpoint, I'd like to share some thoughts.

I am slow to submit stories to magazines. So far this year, I've only submitted twice. However, I may be okay with this. I've come to realize why it is I don't submit as much as I "should."

Let's talk about this.

When I started this blog eight years ago, I was all gung-ho about breaking into the business. I read up on what I was supposed to do, so that I could make sure to do it all right.

Part of this was to follow Ray Bradbury's persistence advice. Writing one story and submitting one story each week was the key to success. It worked for Bradbury, so it could work for me. I saw getting published in magazines as a rite of passage for those on their way to becoming established authors.

I tried it for a while, but all it seemed to do was to get me more rejections faster.

Then I saw a particular X-Files episode where the Smoking Man really wants to get published -- funny, right? After years of trying, he finally gets a hit. An obscure magazine decides to take one of his stories. He's so excited that he decides to quit his nefarious day job -- that is until he realizes the magazine changed the ending to fit their own purposes.

You can check out the clip here ...

But then, this also hit me: how many people actually read the magazines that I'm submitting to? There are a handful of sci-fi buffs who watch movies, TV shows, comics, books, blogs, etc. But what are they not reading? The short stories in sci-fi magazines!

I think that's it.

#1) The magazines are looking for specific stories and styles that fit their mold -- thus rejecting good stories while accepting others that might not be as good.

And #2) If my potential audience isn't even reading where I'm submitting, how exactly do I get to them?

If one thing, the pile of rejection letters I've received has toughened me up and taught me how to react like a professional, and how to understand the business concept of "no deal." Each rejection I receive has a little less sting in it.

However, the pile in total sends a strong message -- the 'zines aren't interested in my style. It becomes difficult to spend that 20 minutes putting together a package to send to a magazine, knowing it's just going to be rejected -- wasting both my time and theirs.

Then again, my sci-fi friend tells me, "It costs nothing to submit to a magazine. If you have the stories, go ahead and submit."

And then it hit me: it's not the submitting that's important, but rather it's the writing. It provides practice for writing bigger projects, and the stories can always be compiled into anthologies.

It's been a while since I've written a short story. That's where I need to be focusing my efforts. I can keep submitting to the 'zines and pile up the rejection letters -- but when the time comes, I'll end up self-publishing if I have to.

It's not recognition I need, but rather volume.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Movie List - 2012

Here is my movie list for 2012:

Top 20:

Life of Pi
Les Miserables
Dark Knight Rises, The
Cloud Atlas
Hunger Games, The
Avengers, The
Hobbit, The: An Unexpected Journey
Wreck-It Ralph
Amazing Spider-Man, The
Bourne Legacy, The
Total Recall
Wrath of the Titans
Hotel Transylvania
Lorax, The
Ice Age: Continental Drift
Jack Reacher

And the rest (in alphabetical order):

Red Dawn

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Black Panther Shines

Marvel has done it again. They have released another original standalone movie that rocks.

Black Panther takes us to Africa to the country of Wakanda, site of an ancient meteor strike that left a material so strong, it could be used to build amazing technology.

Prince T'Challa, first introduced in Civil War two years ago, returns to save his country from new threats while working to protect their secrets.

The result is an action-packed adventure, good plot lines, and even a few emotional moments mixed with some fun African music.

And my favorite part: the other Avengers do not show up at all throughout the whole movie! They're only mentioned in passing. So, I was able to enjoy this standalone in its entirety without annoying cameo appearances.

What was there not to like? Perhaps there are a couple of large plot holes, but that should be expected. The CGI was pretty awesome, though I may have noticed a few flaws. My 12-year-old daughter reports that the bit rate was slow enough to catch. I thought I noticed the same in a couple of scenes where a moving object seemed to skip across the screen, but then again, it could have been a not-so-great projector at our theater. And there was one scene where I could have sworn T'Challa's necklace was floating over/in front of his outfit. (Was his outfit largely green-screened? Or green-suited?)

Yeah, that was the most I could come up with. Go catch this movie while it's in the theater. We went to go see it the 2nd Saturday and it was still packed. There was a lot of clapping at the end of the movie.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Movie List - 2014

Here is my list for 2014 -- subject to change should I watch more movies.

Top 20:

Edge of Tomorrow
Guardians of the Galaxy
LEGO Movie, The
Hunger Games, The: Mockingjay -- Part 1
Imitation Game, The
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Grand Budapest Hotel, The
Big Hero 6
How To Train Your Dragon 2
Into the Woods
Maze Runner, The
Monuments Men, The
Giver, The
Boxtrolls, The
Hobbit, The: The Battle of the Five Armies
Mr. Peabody & Sherman

The rest in alphabetical order:

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Earth to Echo
God's Not Dead
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Movie List - 2015

Here is my list for 2015 -- subject to change should I watch more movies.

Top 20:

Peanuts Movie, The
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (7)
Martian, The
Mad Max: Fury Road
Inside Out
Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation
Jurassic World
Hunger Games, The: Mockingjay -- Part 2
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The
Age of Adaline, The
Jupiter Ascending
Hotel Transylvania 2
Shaun the Sheep Movie

And the rest (in alphabetical order):

Divergent Series, The: Insurgent
SpongeBob Movie, The: Sponge Out of Water
Terminator Genisys

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Movie List - 2016

I've decided to continue my movie list idea back to 2010, which is the beginning of my blog. Today you get the 2016 list. And just like I said with 2017, if I see any further movies, I will adjust the list accordingly, only ranking the top 20 and separately listing the rejects. If I did a review, you can click the link to check it out.

Doctor Strange
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Star Trek Beyond
Kubo and the Two Strings
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
The Founder
Suicide Squad
Captain America: Civil War
10 Cloverfield Lane
The Magnificent Seven
Finding Dory
The Jungle Book
Kung Fu Panda 3

Didn't make the cut -- though I enjoyed most of these and despised at least one (in alphabetical order):

Alice Through the Looking Glass
Angry Birds Movie, The
BFG, The
Independence Day: Resurgence
Jason Bourne
Pete's Dragon
Secret Life of Pets, The

Monday, January 29, 2018

Honorable Mention: Writers of the Future

Boom, baby! I finally got my name recognized. Earlier I mentioned getting Honorable Mention in the 4th Quarter 2017 Writers of the Future contest. This time I have proof.

Check out this list of winners. I'm 7th name from the bottom. I had them send me a certificate ... I was so excited. It all starts somewhere, right?

What does this mean? I'm not sure, as I don't know what percentage of participants are chosen. I count 177 names total. It's said that thousands submit each year, so maybe I made the top 10%?

Anyway, I submitted another story. Fun!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Last Jedi Revisited

In this spoiler-filled review, I will analyze The Last Jedi and respond to some of the critique against the film. For my spoiler-free review (like you haven't already seen the movie), click here.

Overall, this movie presents a conundrum. Most critics seemed to love the movie, while most fans hated it. Well -- certain fans. It seems that those who have dived into the whole Star Wars universe (read the books, seen the cartoon series, frequented the fan boards) tend to hate the movie, while those like me who saw just the movies and stayed away from the other media tend to enjoy the movie.

This reminds me of The Empire Strikes Back when it first came out to mixed reviews. It was definitely not my favorite movie at the time, and I resisted the whole "you are my father" thing for at least a couple years after that. That was a twist I didn't want to accept. But now, that movie is at the top of my favorite Star Wars movies, as all fans know that you're supposed to say this. When Return of the Jedi came out, it solidified Empire and demonstrated what made it so great.

Episode IX could very well have the same effect on The Last Jedi. Only time will tell.

When analyzed as a standalone movie in terms of plot, character development, musical score, cinematography, etc., The Last Jedi turns out to be a great movie.

Plot: It's simple to follow; a lot happens in a short amount of time; it follows a classical drama formula; several classical techniques are used such as the Rashomon effect (the differing memories of Luke waking up Kylo) not used in any other Star Wars film.

Character development: This is severely lacking in the first six movies. In the prequel trilogy, you get a little with Anakin and Obi-wan, but it doesn't feel organic. In the original trilogy, there is development mostly for Luke, a little bit for Darth Vader, Leia, and Han Solo, but practically none for anyone else. In The Last Jedi, we see development for Rey, Kylo, Luke, Poe, Finn, and a tiny bit for Leia. Hux also provides comic relief.

Musical score: I think absolutely nobody complains about John Williams' work. As always, he continues hitting each cue perfectly, either foreshadowing or reminiscing with the proper leitmotifs.

Cinematography: Again, I think hardly anyone complains. This movie gives us, hands down, the best fight scenes of all Star Wars movies, amazing special effects, and moving scenery. The only exception is some bad CGI in relation to animating living characters -- something was off with Snoke's body movements, and some creatures on Luke's planet looked fake.

Where I agree with the die-hard Star Wars fans:

The new type of humor didn't fit. In the opening scene where Poe is ribbing Hux, it felt like I was watching Guardians of the Galaxy. And Luke throwing away his light saber just seemed to make it worse. That was not too much removed from this spoof I saw just before the movie came out.

At the end of The Force Awakens, we see a view of the island from different angles, and it appears to be empty except for Luke and Rey, but all of a sudden there are animals and a race of caretakers? Well, this one doesn't bother me too much in hindsight, but at the time, it really caught me off guard.

Admiral Holdo was very stupid in not revealing the whole plot to Poe, though I'll talk more on that shortly.

I did not appreciate the political statement coming from the visit to the casino planet.

There were indeed too many twists in the movie. Twists are usually good, but the event of Finn and Rose failing to acquire the flower man combined with them ultimately being caught in the end was disappointing to me -- at least one twist too many.

How ever, there were so many fun things happening in the movie. A few responses to criticisms:

"This is not my Luke Skywalker": I respect Mark Hamill, who's come a long way from whiny teenager to nefarious Joker. But he's still an actor, not a writer. He did say that he would act as asked to act, and he did his job well.

The weaknesses and strengths shown to us in The Last Jedi are consistent with his character in the original trilogy, and even enhance his character. He had tried to raise the Jedi back to what they were before. Disaster ensued, and he decided humans weren't meant to use the force and cuts himself off. By the end of the movie, he learns that he was wrong. He realizes there is hope in Rey. He ultimately decides to show one last awesome demonstration of the force and saves the day. (Bonus: you can hear the Whilhelm scream embedded in the light-saber sounds when Kylo first charges Luke.)

Any other plot alternative would seem inorganic after what had already been established in The Force Awakens: "I'm the most awesome Jedi Master but I'm just going to hide out here on this island -- yeah -- look at all these boulders floating around me and I won't lift a finger to stop the First Order!"

Leia Poppins: yeah, I love that term, but this is actually one of the more believable developments. In a sense, it's necessary plotwise, as it allows for both the scene of Kylo not being to push the button to destroy his mother, then watching her die, and the later scene of Leia saying goodbye to Luke before he dies. But could Leia actually pull of this cool Jedi trick? All she would have to do is survive long enough in space (a "regular" human can stay conscious about 15 seconds), and then use the force to pull herself toward the spaceship with a little help from Newton's third law of motion, a technique already used in Episode II. Of course, coming back into the ship without ejecting everyone else into space would be an issue, but they conveniently did not show that part. I am in the vast minority for having enjoyed that scene.

"This movie throws away everything from the earlier movies": Well, I will admit that very little of the force vision Rey experiences in The Force Awakens makes it into The Last Jedi. For example, we don't see the Knights of Ren. But we still have another movie left to see, and that looked like a towards-the-end scene anyway, or a flashback of them killing Luke's followers.

Though, we did see a spaceship crumble, like in Rey's vision.

Other than that, I see a natural flow of events from one movie to the next. In The Force Awakens, most of the Republic was destroyed by the big gun, so we're left with a small group of rebels who are evacuating after their last attack. Meanwhile, Rey continues to reach out to Luke. While certain developments are contrary to what many fans expected, from a technical standpoint, there really aren't many contradictions to what has been established in the past.

"Why didn't Hux just light-speed one of his ships around to the other side of the rebel fleet?": It's so easy to criticize Hux's decision in hind-sight, but from a military analysis, his decision seems sound. He had no knowledge of a hidden planet. He knew that if the rebels jumped, they would trace them and destroy them. There appeared to be no escape.

And finally ... there's Holdo's decisions. On a second viewing, I noticed three major exchanges between her and Poe. One was when Poe first approached her. At that point, it was perfectly understandable that she should withhold information from him. He was insubordinate, and did not have proper clearance. She didn't trust him, and thus chose not to reveal the plan.

There was another point when Poe went to her to describe the Finn plan (which was already in progress if I remember correctly). It seems like this would have been the perfect time for Holdo to tell Poe what was happening, but even then it seemed reasonable that she could make the stupid decision not to tell him out of her pride. It was dumb of her, and she ended up paying the price.

The third exchange was after she and Leia stops the mutiny and she finally reveals the plan. Stupid on her part, but worked for the writers in developing Poe's character. Yeah ... I wish they could have done that a little differently, but this isn't much different than any other plot hole in all the other movies.

There is much, much more that I'm leaving out, but this all goes to show how much fun debate this movie has kindled. Sure, it disappointed many fans, but there are still many fans that enjoyed it. I hope that the ninth installment will help us come to understand The Last Jedi, and that it will rise to its proper place in the movie Star Wars universe.