Planes, trains, and Automobiles

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“Those aren’t pillows!”

If that line means nothing to you, you’re either too young or it’s been too long since you’ve seen that movie. But the holidays are coming up, so chances are it’ll be on TV. Just in case, though, here’s that scene from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles on Youtube, via Fandango’s “Movie Clips.”

Why am I referencing that John Candy and Steve Martin holiday classic? Because that was my day coming back from Oregon to Japan. I traveled for about 18 hours straight, crossing the International Date Line and losing a day on the calendar. Two hours by car from Lincoln City to the Portland, about three in the airport, 11 in-flight, another 1.5 on a bus and then the last 30 minutes by train.

I’m not kidding!

But it was worth it. I learned so much at that Writers’ Master Class that I still, days later, am not prepared to process it all. And now I have to go back to work for the Navy (leave’s over), to night shifts, and continue my preparations for getting out of the Navy in just 2.5 short months! Whew! But it’s all downhill from here. Looking forward to the roller coaster ride into the next chapter of our lives!

Meantime, I’ll slowly be implementing changes to the way I do business as a writer, publisher, blogger, and general weirdo. Hopefully for the better, for me, my family, and even you, the reader eager for quality escapism and entertainment. Stand by for those.

The first will be a freebie book available to my Conspiracy Newsletter subscribers. If you’re not onboard yet, enrollment is always open. Join the conspiracy and join the adventure! I’m eager for feedback as I start up new and exciting avenues down the developing indie author pathway. And as soon as I get a chance to explore a new cybernetic delivery system, everyone on the mailing list will get a chance to test it out for me in the form of a free downloadable book.

“Join the Conspiracy!” Sign up by clicking here.

More coming soon…

(Note that this post is slightly out of sequence. I actually traveled before Halloween but the costume pics yesterday—and the offer for a free book—were more time-sensitive to get out there.)

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Atomic Blonde Movie Review

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I think I can sum it up in two words: “HOLY SHIT!”

I’m not going to go full-blown analytical review.  Don’t want to give away any spoilers or anything.  I’m not sure when this released in the States, but we just recently got it on base here and the wife and I went to see it.  After the dismal experience with Valerian we needed something to make us believe in movie-going again.  And this did it!

(BTW, I would be willing to write a list of complaints about Velarian but I’m trying not to be a downer on here.  “If you don’t have anything nice to say,” kind of thing.  I can generally tell from the ads if a movie is going to suck, so I was not surprised, but we needed a night out and The Fifth Element is one of our faves, so we decided to risk it.  Ten minutes into the movie and I would have been okay with leaving.  I was done with the two main characters after about 60 seconds with them.)

Oh yeah, I was supposed to be saying kickass things about Atomic Blonde.

Go see it in the theatre before it’s too late!  Cool spy movie without the corny gadgets—not that I don’t like corny gadgets, but this one didn’t need them.  Cool realism in the last days of East Berlin.  Action, ‘splosions, and rock and roll!  Just a great movie experience and a kickass time.  See it on the big screen with big booms.  (Get out of the house and off your phone, for God’s sake…!)

Really, it’s damn good summer movie.  Especially if you need a break away from costumes and magic and the like but still want some over the top excitement.

Spider-Man Homecoming: The Best Spidey Ever?

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I have the advantage of being in The Land of the Rising Sun, where it’s now Friday evening.  So I’ve gotten to see the movie before just about anyone else!

There was a snag in the beginning.  It was supposed to be a 3D showing.  I opened up my little packaged glasses and put them on…  and couldn’t see jack shit.  The right lens was way too dark.  I got up and moved toward the lobby.  So did a lot of other people.  We crowded in and grabbed another pair, returned to our seats, put them on, and…  same thing.  I thought about trying to watch it without the glasses, but that just doesn’t work.  I would only be able to make out about 20% of the visuals for the whole movie.  Just as I was about to go ask for my money back, the house lights came up.  Ten minutes later (or maybe fifteen) we started over watching the regular 2D version and got a free movie voucher on the way out the door.

So there’s a story you didn’t care about.  Tell us about the movie, right?

Well, I’m not going to give you any spoilers.  (I hate that!  I want to discover and enjoy the movie myself.)

Was it the best Spidey movie ever?

It was certainly the cutest one ever.  Lots of great Peter Parker and friends and girl chasing and…  just lots of cute highschool stuff very fitting for the character.  I like very much—and always do in superhero stuff, and try to do the same in my own books—when the real person, the “secret identity,” is the main character. A real breathing person, and they become the superhero.  Really, that just about defines Spider-Man right there.  That’s what made him so popular to begin with, right?  He was nerdy, always got real-person problems Peter Parker.  Spider-Man was him letting loose.  There was plenty of that in this movie, and it was great.

It was by far the funniest Spidey movie ever.  See previous paragraph for hints as to why.

It was also a part of the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe, which added so much more to it than it just being a standalone Spidey movie.  Lots of other pieces and layers and characters fitting in.  That was great.

The costume was cool and actually made sense.  At first I didn’t care for the sleek design and the tiny little chest spider, but the fact that it comes from Tony Stark makes way more sense than previous iterations where the really cool high-speed low-drag costume was knitted by Peter himself using Aunt May’s crochet needles.  In this movie, the handmade costume LOOKS handmade.  It’s a sweat shirt and sweat pants.  Perfect!

Some kind of off-putting things for old, diehard fans is the remodeling and just plain new supporting cast of characters, but that’s okay.  The same old (and racially monotone, by the way) gang was getting kind of worn out after 50 years.

Michael Keaton is awesome, as you would expect.  The Vulture is finally not a lame old man, but a true badass.  And a working class hero kind of villain, which was cool.  And the whole villain plot fit very well into the greater established universe.  Very nicely done.

So, after all of that, is it the best???  I’m a big fan of the Tobey McGuire/Sam Raimi movies—well, the first and second one, anyway (#3 pretty much sucked).  For me, up until now, Spider-Man 2 with Doc Ock and the whole awesome cast and the plight of Peter Parker stuff…  That was the best of them all.  But now…?

I guess if I was pushed into the corner and made to say which is the best of all, all things considered…  Yes, Virginia, Homecoming is the best ever.  Not an easy call, but yeah, I gotta say it’s so.

In fact, it re-inspired my old childhood love of the character.  More recently, Spidey had taken a back seat for me, especially after those last couple movies.  But I’m loving Spidey for being Spidey again.

So go see it!  (Not that I had to tell you that.  You were going to anyway, weren’t you?)

 

SyFy Channel’s The Magicians

Also, after seeing the hype on the Syfy Channel, I decided to give The Magicians a try on Netflix.

And…  I like it!

It’s kind of a guilty pleasure kind of show.  Similar to Harry Potter, but for the college-age crowd (or older).

There’s foul language, sex and sexual tension, and some scary moth-faced demon guy.  The Harry Potter bit comes in as it’s on a secret college campus for learning true magic.  But the writing is really good, with interesting character development and complications.

I never particularly liked the cheesey, high school drama on The Flash or most of the fantasy shows like Buffy or whatever, but this show I like.  If you like the nerdy stuff, check it out!

(I’m tagging this as a “movie” post ‘cuz I ain’t got no “tv” tag–and don’t watch enough to do so.)

Casting Call: Chris Pratt or Nathan Fillion?

Who will play the Jack of Spades? film

Honestly, probably neither of these guys, but that’s the fun of a fancast, right?  Today I’m going to cast the would-be movie of my new book, One-Eyed Jacks. (Which you can still pre-order at a reduced price until Halloween…)

Here’s the book description:

Rails End, California. 1980s. As a former Vegas magician, Jack knows the world is full of shallow illusions. That’s why he’s grinding out a new life for himself as a smuggler, counterfeiter and debt collector for a local crime boss, and trying to stay off of everyone else’s radar.

Unfortunately, keeping a low profile just isn’t in the cards for the Jack of Spades. After a little trouble in Chinatown, Jack’s employer decides to send him on a working vacation. He’s to retrieve some stolen museum pieces on the island of Saipan. But Jack’s not the only person on the job and the other interested parties are more than they appear.  Hell, they may even be more than human…

Urban fantasy, crime-noir, and Asian myth merge in this darkly entertaining novel of pulp adventure.

jacks-mama-miniThe story takes place sometime in the 1980s, and Edgar casts Steve McQueen and Tom Selleck in the two top roles.  (McQueen passed away in 1980, but Edgar refuses to accept that.)  If this book were being made into a movie today, here’s how I see it breaking down…

(Images omitted, unfortunately, because I’m not sure where the world stands on copyright and the internet at this point.)

JACK:  Our hero and narrator, the Jack of Spades.  He’s calm and collected with a sense of humor and sense of adventure.  He’s also the Wanderer, the Dark Stranger.

My top two picks would be Chris Pratt of Guardians of the Galaxy and The Magnificent Seven (although their names were different, as far as I’m concerned, Pratt played Steve McQueen’s character from the original movie).  He’s funny and charming and has a good disposition for this role.  Though, honestly, he may be a little too beefy for Jack’s part.

Not that Nathan Fillion is out of shape either, but I think he’s got more wisdom and subtly.  I can definitely see Jack being more akin to Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly than Star Lord on Guardians of the Galaxy.  I think Fillion might be the better pick for this role.

EDGAR:  Eddie is Jack’s partner in crime (literally) and the comic relief of the book.  He’s also a Mexican American who thinks he’s Magnum, P. I.  Therefore, Edgar would like to see Tom Selleck play his part, but…  He’s giving himself too much credit.  I’m thinking Michael Peña, who provided great comic relief in Ant-Man.  I can definitely see him as the tough but not tough looking sidekick to the Jack of Spades.

FELIX:  Felix Caterina, also known as Felix the Cat on the street, is Jack and Eddie’s employer.  He’s a relatively small crime boss, an older guy with a fast temper but a good heart underneath.  Let’s put Clint Eastwood in that part.  That would go great with one of his lines and make it very ironic: “You think you’re Clint Fucking Eastwood, Jack?”

I can’t tell you much about the rest of the characters without ruining the surprise, so these will be quickies.

ALMA:  Just a casino girl or more than meets the eye?  I have to admit that I don’t know any Filipina actresses off the top of my head, so I asked Google for help.  And they gave me many choices, but I picked the lovely Angel Locsin.  (I hope she speaks English…)

NAGASHI:  The mysterious Japanese man who seems to be watching everybody.  There are only a few Japanese actors I can think of, one of whom has that eerie quiet down to a science.  Hiroyuki Sanada, from SyFy’s Helix series.

PETEY JACKSON:  I wrote this story before I knew director Peter Jackson was a person, okay?  Just so you know.  And this casting is overkill for the role, but who cares?  We have an infinite budget!  Forest Whitaker of the up-coming Rogue One would make a cool cigar-smoking scoundrel!

MING & POH: Felix’s underworld contact from Hong Kong and her bodyguard. Lucy Liu can be both tough and sexy.  And Ken Wantanabe, from The Last Samurai and Batman Begins, has a nice, threatening presence.

All right, get those agents on the phone and let’s get this thing moving!

In the meantime, here are some places you can find One-Eyed Jacks.  Give it a read and let me know who you would cast in the movie!

Amazon

B&N

iBooks

Kobo

Smashwords

 

Suicide Squad v Star Trek: 200-word movie reviews

Two quick bits about a couple of summer movies.

Before I talk about Suicide Squad, though, a funny story:

There are two movie theatres here on opposite sides of the base (Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan).  My wife and I were running late.  When we arrived at the theatre, we saw no one waiting for tickets or buying popcorn—the movie had already started!  Or at least the previews had.  We jerked the car into a spot, threw it in park, and ran inside.  While I bought the tickets, she got the hotdogs, popcorn, and drinks.  She then dressed the dogs, I filled her cup at the fountain machine, and we hurried into the dark to find seats.

Once we were seated, I noticed that the preview running was for Suicide Squad.

“What?” I mumbled aloud.  “An ad for the same movie we came to see?”  I told my wife I’d be right back, ran back out to the ticket window, and asked the kids working there what movie we’d come to see.

“Uh, Star Trek…?” one said.

“Shit!”

I ran back down the dark aisle to where my wife was sitting: “We’re in the wrong theatre!”

We gathered up our goodies and ran laughing and cursing back to the car, drove to the opposite side of the base (only about 5 minutes drive), slid into a parking spot, and ran inside.  There was a line, which I cussed about some more, then by-passed them all and went straight to the guy checking tickets.  Here’s me and my wife, coming into the theatre front door with our arms already loaded with hot dogs, drinks, and a big tub of popcorn.  I explained what had happened and showed him our tickets from ten minutes earlier.  Confused but convinced, he let us in.

The movie was in progress, but I’m pretty sure we only missed a minute or two of anything significant.

So after a good but desperate laugh getting there, we sat down, pigged out, and enjoyed the movie.

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Despite the generally bad reviews I’d heard about, I enjoyed this movie way more than expected!

It may be that, unlike some other flicks that I went into with high expectations, I was only hoping for something fun and comic booky here.  And that’s what I got.  Actually, not even as comic booky as I’d expected.

One of my fears was the there’d be too much Will Smith to this movie.  Don’t get me wrong, I generally like him, but I’m sure you know what I mean when I say that, somewhat like good ole John Wayne, you generally get a lot of the same Will Smith in a Will Smith movie.  And this was supposed to be a comic book flick, not a Will Smith flick.  Thankfully, there was not an overdose of the trademark too-cool-for-school attitude portrayed in the commercials.  In fact, a noticed some of the scenes and lines I didn’t like in the ads didn’t make the final cut of the film.

So contrary to my fears, this was a fun, action-packed, colorful movie, maybe even with more character development (I felt) than the other big DC movie that had come out earlier this year.  Everyone got a moment in the spotlight to paint their character, and they were all a little different.  And since our heroes are villains for this, we even got to see the not-so-villainous side of some, which made us more able to root for them.  Batman and Flash also made some quick but cool appearances, and Leto’s Joker was expertly done.  He made a great Joker, though I won’t speculate on who was better, him or Ledger (that’d be comparing green-haired apples with white-faced oranges).

It wasn’t all fantastic, and I think some of the bits that were supposed to be funnier than they played out fell kind of flat.  And if you’re looking for a complex plot, look elsewhere.  The storyline was pretty straight forward, though I did like the “good guys” and “bad guys” all generated from the same batch of characters.  And what a fun bunch they were.

I can honestly say (at the risk of vicious backlash) that I enjoyed Suicide Squad more than Batman v Superman.  (Possibly because that clash of the titans would likely never meet expectations, no matter what.)  I was able to have fun, rather than going in already set to be disappointed.  If you haven’t seen it, do so!  But plan for a good time, not a come-to-Jesus realization of all your comic book dreams.

 

…Yeah, that 200-word goal I set for myself, not working out.  Oh well, onward!

 

star-trek-new-movie-postersStar Trek Beyond

Should have stuck with the Klingons…

The first several minutes were very promising.  Captain Kirk told his log about being 3 years into their 5 year exploratory mission.  About the hardships on the crew of being out in space for so long, so far from home.  There were character development points and nods to the real world: the time-traveling, older version of Spock (Leonard Nimoy) had passed away; Kirk was considering giving up the captain’s chair for a “shore command;” young Spock considered taking his other self’s place on New Vulcan to cultivate their dying culture; Sulu appeared to have a male companion and daughter (hinting that he might be gay, a nod to the original Sulu, George Takei, who really is gay).  Also a not-so-great nod to William Shatner’s original hairstyle from the 60s…  Plus there was humor and relationship stuff.  All good things in the first ten minutes or so.

And from there…  I enjoyed it less.  The movie seemed rushed to me, too eager to throw us into action and foregoing any decent explanations of what and why things were happening.  Finally at the end I thought, “Ah, a little pay off,” when a secret about the bad guy was revealed, but it was still weakly done.  I hadn’t even realized there was a mystery to reveal because it was never dwelled on—we were too busy rushing about to “keep people from getting bored,” I imagine.  Though I think Star Trek fans like myself wouldn’t have gotten bored with a little more plotting at the expense of constantly flying about.

Overall, for me, this movie was a disappointment.  I was really hoping for some redemption after the 2009 reboot just blew us all away, followed by Into Darkness, which was a tribute to the previous Star Trek II, but not as great as we’d hoped.

 

200 Word Movie Reviews: Tarzan and Independence Day: Resurgence

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We see a lot of movies here on-base in Japan.  For one thing, we’re married with children, so it’s about as much excitement as we get.  And we desperately need a reason to escape from the house every other week or so.  It’s also cheap as hell: $3 for most movies, $5 for 3D shows.  One of the amenities for being far-flung from home.

I’m going to start doing quickie movie reviews on here.  I could make them long and in-depth, but I don’t think your average cyber-reader needs all that.  Most just want a quick overview to see if it’s worth their hard-earned dollars.  Should they see it at the theatre, wait for the rental, or just avoid it all together?  I think 200 words are enough to say something worthwhile, while still keeping it brief.

Of course, everyone’s tastes are different, but if you find over time that our sensibilities align pretty well, then you might just check here before forking over a big wad at the box office.

This past week we saw two movies:

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Independence Day: Resurgence

I didn’t go in expecting much, just a couple-hour escape from the house.  And that’s about all I got.

Basics: Bigger and meaner aliens return to attack an ill-prepared future full of pretty boys and girls.

In 20 years’ time, you’d think they’d have come up with something better.

One thing that stood out to me was that just about all the main players were young and pretty (especially Liam Hemsworth), which automatically sticks in my craw.  If it looks like 90210, it probably is.  There were a few players from the first movie called back into service, all of whom were probably waiting for this for 20 years, as they haven’t been in much else since.

There was a little bit of characterization and a redemption storyline, but like just about everything in the movie, it was pretty shallow.  A lot of the science of it seemed wonky to me, too.  It is science fiction, but at least get gravity right!

On the plus-side, it was a bubblegum summer movie: lots of pew-pew and ‘splosions, with a little romance between beautiful people.  Don’t expect more than that, and you won’t be disappointed.

2.5/5 stars.  “Rent it.”

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The Legend of Tarzan

It was good.  Though I wanted this to be more epic than it was.  Even though it pretty much had all the elements and the approach needed, there was still just something missing for me.  (Or maybe I’m just becoming a cold, dry-hearted curmudgeon in my old age.)

Basics: Lord Greystoke, famed Tarzan of the jungle, is called back to the Congo into a trap against some historically-accurate evil-doers.

I liked that this story takes place after he’s been Tarzan and returned to life as an English lord (which doesn’t appear to agree with him too well).  We still get the Tarzan story but in a series of flashbacks, which is way better than spending the whole movie on something we already know.  And it gives us a more complex story that really is based on the history of Belgium colonial exploitation.  So it mixes true history and social awareness with fantasy and legend (realistically done, as much as swinging like Spiderman and communicating with animals through mating calls can be). Most of the acting is good; Jane’s okay.  And Tarzan mostly naked through the movie is a bonus for the ladies.  (Worked for my wife.)

I’ll round it up to 4/5 stars. “See it.”