Friday, August 26, 2011

Cool stuff


Hey all, this is just a quick one, as I'm working on several things at the moment, and generally don't have a lot to say. We'll talk more after the weekend. Anyway, just wanted to let you all know that Lisa is blogging over at the Scribblerati and that you should pop over and give it a quick read. It's a short one too, but then I guess the whole Scribblerati is busy with their various projects at the moment. Maybe I'll blog about that next week. Also, there's this: It's a super-sweet fan-made teaser poster for Captain America. I think it's brilliant.


Thanks to Alex4everdn for sharing and Io9 for the heads-up.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Best movie of the summer (2011)

"Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death." --Cornelius, Planet of the Apes (1968)

That is so true...


Ok, so before I begin, I feel like I need to admit that my mother knows the Director's parents. I don't really know how they know each other. I think they met in Italy. Anyway, I don't know them and I don't know the Director. I've never met any of them, but there you go, ok?

Read on!

So, first off, I've got to say: I'm surprised. This is a film that when it was initially announced my immediate reaction was to roll my eyes and make a fart noise. I mean you've all seen Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, right? The film this film is based off of? No? Not surprising...


God damn, huh? That was 1972, folks--just under forty years ago--a time when movie trailers were these terrible, artless, mish-mashes of bombastic voice-overs and confusing montages. What the hell was it about these awkward, horrid jumbles of junk imagery that made people want to go to movies? Amazing, right? It's from a time when Hollywood didn't know how to market shit with any kind of sophistication, but then the first "blockbuster" was still four or so years away, huh?

But I digress.

Anyway, the moral of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is plain for all to see: Apes make lousy house pets.

Fast forward nearly forty years and Rupert Wyatt decides to remake/re-imagine/do over this film and Hollywood, being the reliably creatively-myopic bastards they are, loving nothing more than remakes and sequels, say okay. Now, usually this is a bad thing, a very bad thing. Usually. But Wyatt did the Escapist, a pretty good prison break film despite the inclusion of a dream sequence, and he took a script that was done by a pair of writers I honestly wouldn't expect much out of as far as quality was concerned, and he ended up turning out a phenomenal summer movie, one that both embraces and transcends the "popcorn film" genre. Which means we won.

So what's it about?

In short: A bunch of apes who only want to do two things: Kick a little ass and eat some cookies... and they're all outta cookies.

The longer version?

Read on, but for you sensitive-nancy types, there may be some spoilers ahead:

Hollywood oddball James Franco plays a scientist hellbent on curing his father's (John Lithgow) debilitating case of Alzheimer's disease. To do so, he creates some gunk that is supposed to repair brain damage, blah, blah, blah. They test it on Chimps and some of them respond well, making them smarter and their eyes green, but before he can get real funding, one chimp, Bright-eyes, (one of many nice little references to the original flick) flips the fuck out and, as a result, all of the "contaminated" chimps are put down and the project is closed.

But why did Bright-eyes flip out?

Ape in a box!

That's right. Baby on board. James Franco sneaks the baby out, saving it, and takes it home and, I can only assume, immediately discovers that Chimps desperately need to wear a diaper... and pants... and a nice sweater. Because otherwise it would be weird. Jon Lithgow names him Caesar and they realize the baby is really, really smart. He learns to sign and all sorts of stuff, so James Franco injects John Lithgow too, who also starts to heal. And for the next few years, life is good. Also, the super-hot Freida Pinto is James Franco's lady. So life is extra good for James Franco. Kissy-kissy.

But the easy life doesn't last when there's a super-smart, pants-wearing chimp in your house, Caesar is growing up, growing stronger, and growing smarter. Also, there's a dickhead neighbor, played by David Hewlett (of crappy Stargate fame), who is the unluckiest man in the history of the planet, starting with his having to live next to James Franco. Also, John Lithgow's immune system starts to fight off the science-gunk and his Alzheimer's starts to come back. These things all lead to a bad moment that ends with Caesar being taken away and put in a Simian Guantanamo run by the always super-great Brian Cox and the young Draco Malfoy, who somewhat unsurprisingly is a huge jerk. That's when Caesar realizes he is different from other Apes. And that those Apes need him. He becomes their leader and answers the best question ever: "Why Cookie Rocket" and eventually plans a break-out, but first he sneaks out and steals the smarty-gas from James Franco's house...

Oo-oo-oo?

And then...? Oh yeah, baby. It's on, like Donkey Kong.


This is a seriously good movie. It's funny watching the trailers and TV spots, because they all showcase the action, and guess what? It's all at the end. The rest of the film is a tightly paced, tense and engrossing Sci-fi thriller. The characters are developed and their motivations are crystal clear. My summary a paragraph or two up? It's tongue and cheek, obviously, but it's also overly simple, because there's a lot more going on up the film. What happened, why it happened, what's going to happen? It's all strung together really well and best of all, it makes sense (within the context of the film, of course).

Mostly, it's just a joy to watch a summer film that isn't 99% hollow spectacle, one that relies on the power of its story first, instead of a "narrative" powered by flashy crap effects and told by idiots, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing, as they say... Which is not to say that there isn't CGI. There is. And it's brilliant. Andy Serkis plays Caesar and just like when he played Gollum and King Kong, it's all motion capture, but it's intense and close-up and cutting edge. Caesar's facial expressions are Andy Serkis's. The tiny movements, the subtle emotion, it's all Andy Serkis. It's amazing. There's already early oscar buzz. Of course, how much that's actually worth, well... it's the Oscars... so, who really cares, it means nothing and it means everything, and mostly doesn't matter at the moment, but what it does signify is how impressive the performance really is. And it is impressive. Are there times when the CGI shows and you realize it's a fake computer monkey? Of course there is, it is a fake computer monkey, after all, but more importantly, there's times when you will forget.

My favorite parts?

There's the little nod to the Statue of Liberty early on and there's a couple of moments where Draco Malfoy gets to say some of Charlton Heston's famous lines. "It's a mad house! A mad house!" and, of course:


Unsurprising, sure, that's almost a mandatory moment, right? Everyone expects that line, because that's THE line. What makes its use brilliant is the fact that when it comes, you're instantly hit with this "ha-ha" moment that throws you off and distracts you, so that the moment that comes immediately next is a total "Holy shit" moment. It gets you to look one way and then wham! Total blindside. It works perfectly.

Really well done.

Also, I love the mention of the launch of the Icarus space ship and the later mention of how it has been lost in space. That is awesome. I love it. Love it. I love it because it's treated as no big deal in the film, just background noise, but the old fans instantly know who's on that ship... Charlton fucking Heston. A fantastic nod to the original, that also maneuvers this film into the canon and also lays the strings for a possible sequel. So that's also really cool and well done.

Does that mean there's going to be a sequel? Well, in its first two weeks (Number one film in the country both weeks), and almost on it's third, with a projected budget of $93 million (relatively cheap for a summer film), it has about $220 million total in box office receipts already ($120 million domestic/$95 million foreign), and even if you double the budget to account for marketing (as the rule goes), it has already made it's cost, which means that every weekend after this is nothing but gravy. That's a success in anybody's book, so... yeah, there probably will be, even though I don't think there necessarily should be.

But then, I didn't think THIS movie needed to be made, so what do I know?

Moving on, another thing I really loved was the way the film solved it's own problems. How do a bunch of apes--even super-smart apes--take over the planet? The answer is: They don't. They just want to be free, to get away and live on their own. A small, but perfectly understandable and justifiable motivation. The Apes aren't evil, this isn't a sweeping revolution, they're not offering a better way; they just want to be free. That's great.

Another great thing?

The humans aren't evil either. A lesser story would make the humans a bunch of moustache-twiddlin' jerks who love nothing more than beating on Apes all the live long day. Sure, there's some jerks in the film, but they're just regular types of jerks. There's some implication that Draco might hit some of the Apes at times, while in captivity, but it's never really shown, and neither is the genetics lab--where James Franco works--shown to be this excessively inhumane and torturing and evil organization, the film lets the idea of captivity on its own be enough and I really like that, the sophistication and subtlety is brilliant. It would have been so easy to make this ridiculous and over-the-top, but instead, Wyatt allows for a more honest character driven drama and tension to play out center stage, rather than focusing on the usual hollow, overwrought, and music-driven crescendo of manipulation.

Plus, it's a last little thing at the end, right when you think it's done, but I really liked the way the film explained how the earth eventually becomes the Planet of the Apes. The set-up during the film isn't overbearing and it isn't used like this big flashing flag of things to come, it's smart and surprisingly out-of-left field. I like how it's laid out for future stories, but well developed enough that you don't need to see how those stories play out, because you already know what's going to happen. In the end, it's a satisfying and full story.

Bottom line? Good, smart, and fun. You should go see it, it's totally worth it.

Really.


Gorilla butt,
Jon
Also, there's this, which is awesome in any language:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

This weekend... and beyond!

Hello!

I've got to go do some errands today, so this is just a quick post concerning a few things I'm looking forward to or I think are neat or whatever.

First up: the new Conan.

Yes, I'll admit, I'm going to go see this. It will probably be terrible, I completely understand that, and it definitely looks like they took Robert E. Howard and EXTREMED it, but... what can I say? I'm interested. You see, I grew up in a time when Hollywood couldn't get enough of two types of films.

1. The Mad Max/Post-apocalyptic movie.
2. The Sword and Sorcery/Barbarian movie.

The reason? They were cheap and easy. All you needed was some shoulder pads, a little chain mail, a washed up bikini model and some kind of drug-baby mutant freak looking guy and then you drove about two hours east of Los Angeles and used some mountains, or better yet, desert as your set. After that it was easy. I loved these types of films as a kid. They're kind of hard to revisit now, but whatever, so are SpaghettiOs. Anyway, this guy, Jason Momoa? He was on Stargate: Atlantis (which was terrible and stupid and not worthy of an informative link) and he had this awful lion's mane head of golden dreadlocks and... they were fucking terrible. BUT, he played Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones and not only was he great, but he cut his hair, so I'm thinking, if the movie is terrible, I don't think it will be because of him. It comes out this weekend, so I'm going.



Then we have the second action-extravaganza coming out this weekend: Columbiana.

I'm a little ambivalent on this film. I like Zoe Saldana and I don't blame her Avatar's stupidity, plus, she was really great as Uhura. Now, granted, the Losers was one of my picks for Top Ten Worst Films of 2010, but she's good. This film, though... it looks like another Jason Bourne, another Salt, another fill-in-the-blank one man/woman super-assassin killer army. I like those movies, sure, but only when they're good, so you know, this could be terrible. Especially because it was written by the club-footed baboons that wrote Taken, which was in the top 5 of my Top Ten Worst Films of 2009. Wow, that's quite a pedigree,  now that I look at it. Hmmm... maybe I'll wait for video for this one.



Next: The new Immortals trailer.

I've talked about this film before, right here. Now, granted, it looks like it's getting a little wobbly around the edges. It might get more than a little out of control crazy and fall apart, crashing down into the land of stupid, I mean, it stars Mickey Rourke for God's sake, but it brushes up against another childhood love: Greek Mythology, so I'm interested. I know what you're all thinking, I can hear you clearly. "Wow, Jon... you liked warrior of the wasteland, barbarian movies, Star Wars AND Greek Mythology... you must have been real cool..." Yeah? Well... shut up. Of course, the Greek myth geek in me instantly recognizes that these are EXTREMED versions of Greek myths, but it comes out close to my birthday (in case you wanted to send gifts). So I'm going.



Finally, Olly Moss is pretty awesome.

His poster work is amazing. Simple. Stark. Iconic. He has the ability to distill the essence of a movie down to a single image. He's the hot shit burning up the Internet nerds at the moment, understandably.


So, he gets a lot of work and one thing he's been doing for awhile now is the art/promo work for the game: Resistance: The Fall of Man, which is a run-of-the-mill First Person Shooter well known for having Olly Moss artwork. Now, the third Resistance Game is about to come out and instead of showcasing their boring, run-of-the-mill game play, they rightly choose to animate a bunch of Mr. Moss's artwork. It looks great.



So, there you go, kids. From me to you.
Thanks to Badass Digest for putting up some of these recently.

Yours,
Jon

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Man-cation, all I ever wanted...

Well, well, well... Guess what, people? Little Ms. Supercute Wife is going to be out of town at a conference the next few days. I think we all know what that means:

Hello, Party-town! Population: Moi.



It's gonna be just like that, but with more fried chicken.

There's gonna be some movies, too! There will be the Rise of the Planet of the Apes and probably Green Lantern and King Fu Panda 2, as well (They're at the $2 theatre). WOOOOO! Who's getting popcorn! I'm getting popcorn! Dig it.

In other super-awesome news, swing by the Scribblerati blog and check out all the latest hullabaloo going on over there. Mark is busy confessing his deep love of all things Rush and Shawn and I are discussing the ups and the many, many downs of self-publishing. Come on over, stay awhile, but don't steal nothing or I'll cut you!


Stay tuned,
Jon

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Captain America, a movie review


As the myriad of long time readers will no doubt recall, I have very much been looking forward to the Captain America movie and I am here today to tell you, at great length, what I thought of it now that I have finally seen it.

Short and sweet: I liked it.

The longer version? Have a seat...

First, a little background: The story of Captain America!


Captain America is the story of the world at war. It is the story of the good fight. It is the story of good vs. evil. It is the story of a good man. It is the story of a scrawny little pencil neck geek with a death wish. It is the story of Steve Rogers, a young man who wants to join the army but is too wee a young man to be allowed to sign up to fight. It is then that Steve meets a kindly old German gentleman by the name of Professor Erskine, a man who preys upon Steve's unbridled patriotism and manages to convince him to take a bunch of drugs and agree to participate in an experimental treatment. Amazingly, Steve doesn't wake up in a bathtub full of ice with an ouchy butthole and missing a kidney, but as a supreme bad ass--a super soldier, if you will.


However, unsurprisingly, the Nazis frown upon this (as they are wont to do, being Nazis), so they sabotage the experiment after it finally works, ensuring that while America won't have an army of super soldiers, they will still have one... thus illustrating the type of planning that lost them the war... Anyway, this upsets Cap (as his friends call him... ahem...) and he throws the Nazi through a window. Krrr-Rash! Take that, Ratzi! He then spends the next few years fighting spies at home, before shipping overseas and giving the rest of the Nazis what-for!


But Captain America doesn't survive the war.

Captured by Baron Zemo, he and his stalwart buddy, Bucky, escape and try to stop an experimental drone from flying to Germany or an experimental rocket from striking Britain or an experimental missile from striking Washington... depending on what issue you read... Anyway, he and Bucky jump aboard, but it's booby-trapped! Or maybe they damage it. Either way, it blows up BIG TIME! The explosion tosses Captain America down into the sea and kills Bucky or tosses him into the sea, as well, where he is found by the Russians and brainwashed into becoming the super assassin: The Winter Soldier... depending upon what comic you read.


Captain America sinks to the bottom of the sea, where he is eventually frozen in ice and found by Eskimos, who worship him as a God (A Popsicle God) until an angry Namor the Submariner comes across this lunacy and decides to throw the Eskimos' Popsicle God into the ocean, because he's a huge jerk. The Eskimos stand at the edge of the ice and watch their God float away and they're like: "Dude!" and Namor is like: "What? Fuck you guys." And then he swims away... the jerk...


Meanwhile, Popsicle Cap floats south where he is found by the Avengers, who are tooling about the ocean in their submarine looking for the Hulk... in the middle of the ocean. They're looking for the Hulk. A giant green guy known for hanging out in the desert... Yeah. So, rightly deciding that the Hulk may have given them the slip, they take Captain America home, dry him off and decide to keep him!


And a hero from the past is reborn into the modern world! Adventure ensues! Not to mention occasional wackiness! And shield-slinging! And heartfelt speeches!


And thus, many a garbage can lids were destroyed by children pretending to be Captain America.

The movie more or less follows the story of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) becoming Captain America and fighting in World War Two against his arch-enemy and Nazi counterpart, the Ubermensch: The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) and then crashing. Ker-SPLASH!

And I thought it was great. Of course, that's with the caveat that I didn't think it was a great film, just that, as a Captain America fan, I really enjoyed it. There were problems, yes. There was a bit more Rocketeer than there was Raiders and it can be a bit clunky, pacing wise. Some of the cool supporting characters were a bit short-shrifted and some of the effects were wonky, but those are small things.

If I was going to pick two big complaints, they would be:

1. Joe Johnson. He is one of those workhorse directors whose best has always been no better than middling and reliably lacking flash. He can get the job done, but there's nothing special. He favors the cheesey and the broad and it shows more than a bit. However, he got the look, tone and color palette right for this film, so bully for him. Still, there's a part of me that wishes Fincher would have done this movie. Why David Fincher, you ask? What do you mean, why? What the hell's wrong with you?

2. The ending. This is kind of a weird one and maybe it's just the comic fan in me, as they didn't get the ending wrong, per se, as in, it was pretty much how it went in the comic, sort of. No, it's more like... they biffed it. Too fast? Too rushed? Not enough here? Too much there? It was just a bit off. I felt like the endings were placed in the wrong places, their pacing was off. And! AND! They never actually mention that he was frozen in ice and placed in suspended animation in the film. They never actually say it. I wonder how many "normals" out there watched the ending and had ZERO idea what just happened.

So, yeah, there were issues, but whaddyado?

Now, some folks might complain that the movie Captain America is fighting Hydra, instead of the traditional Nazis, to which I say:

1. That's untrue. In the movie, Hydra is an off-shoot of the Nazis. Yes, they break off, but they're still a group that originated with the Nazis, so therefore, he is fighting Nazis.

2. It's a good thing, as reality and comics aren't exactly peas and carrots, you know? It's like Reed Richards in the Fantastic Four. Why does he spend all day making flying bathtubs for himself, why not use the engine design to end the world's dependence on fossil fuels? Why not cure cancer, Reed, instead of, oh... I don't know, making t-shirts that stretch reeeeally far? Asking why Captain America didn't stop the concentration camps is just awkward. Putting him among such horrors, ones that he is ultimately completely impotent against? It just seems... disrespectful. Kind of like how they killed Hitler in Inglorious Bastards. Impotent and disrespectful.

3. By making it a secret side war against Hydra, the Allies still win WWII on their own, without Captain America, so their victories and sacrifices aren't lessened by the inclusion of a star-spangled underwear model. This is good because of, you know, respect.

So, face, as in: In your.


Moving on...

Evans was great. He portrayed Steve as a good person, not a stick in the mud or a bumpkin or a naive idiot. He was a competent soldier, not a bully. And he looked fantastic. The costume. The shield. The colors. Sure, the motorcycle chase wasn't necessary, but it was classic Cap. Hugo Weaving was great as the Skull. He was just awesome and I loved the Werner Hertzog accent. I also liked the way they left gaps in Cap's WWII service, allowing for more period set sequels in the future. There was good action, it had a few laughs. It also had the usual Marvel movies tie-ins, but they weren't clunky, they fit well. I really enjoyed it and believe that there was more good than bad, without a doubt, but I freely acknowledge that I am biased and more than willing to forgive. Your mileage may vary. 

Now, they just need to tell the story of Isaiah Bradley, the secret first Captain America...


A true believer,
Jon

Friday, August 5, 2011

A little behind

Hey there kids,

So, I was sitting around, pickin' my ass today and suddenly I went: "Huh, I haven't posted at my blog lately, have I?" And you know what? I was right, I haven't posted lately. I really feel bad about this because there isn't much excuse... well, except for the usual one, of course.

That's right, I've been busy.

I have, I swear. I've been working on my thing for that one thing and I'm liking how it's shaping up, I've also been job hunting and doing housework and drinking coffee in the cool morning breeze on my backporch, so, yeah, all that's been distracting me. It's true. But it's been more than that, am I right? Yeah, I'm right. You know it and I know it. It's plain and simple, people, I've dropped the ball. That's what it is. No, no, it's true. There's no one to blame but myself. I dropped the ball. I hear you out there, I do. My inbox has been literally flooded...literally... well, not literally, not at all, in fact, but I can imagine it. Where's the content, man? That's what you'd ask. Where's the rambling diatribes? Where's the pictures of Le Sexy Ladies?

Boom!

Yeah, you and me both, old man...

Ask and you shall receive. I'm like a genie in the bottle, all you gotta do is rub me the right way. I'd say that you could call me Ka-zaam, but Shaq already beat me to it, like he does with everything... the jerk.

So, anyway, what's the story, morning glory? Is that what you're looking for? What's been going on? Well, like I said, I've been working on that thing for that thing and it's going good. I think it'll be ready soon. Two weeks? Give or take? Yeah, that seems about right. Two weeks on the outside and then we move on to the next step. I'm also preparing an alternate pitch, as well, something to ride shotgun. It's good and sellable and it might end up working out better. We'll see, fingers crossed.

Other than that, I'm wrapping up the short stories. I'm hoping that will wrap up soon. Once I'm done with the thing, I may give the shorts another spin, call them good and pull the trigger, you know? Cross more fingers, please.

But what about the blog in the coming future?

Will I slack off again?

Yes.

Deal with it. This is Mine, after all...

But, because I love you, my dear and constant readers, I will schedule some blogs for you all to look forward to. Next week: I have some plans. I plan on blogging over at the Scribblerati blog about Diversicon and then blogging over here about the Captain America movie. I also plan on seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes, so I'll blog about that too.

So there, next week: Three blogs!

Promise,
Jon