Thursday, January 31, 2013

Movies 2012, Top 5

            After the power went out last night I decided to just postpone writing my Top 5, but here there are, just like I planned I did my reviews for the movies of 2012 before the end of January just like I hoped.  Now to stop reviewing things for a while cause my brain is tired.

5. Award for Best Soft Science Fiction: "Looper" (Trailer)
            Time travel movies are a pain in the ass from a scripting/plotting position.  By their very nature they are trying to express a metaphor for life without coming out and saying it, but people get so bogged down in the details of the mechanics (and really that is part of the fun) that they miss the point.
            Take "Back to the Future" (Trailer), a big thrust of that Franchise is how the more things change, the more they stay the same.  There are restaurants catering to nostalgia; there are campaign vans doing announcements; in each movie there are similar instances of the main character, Marty confronting bullies, in the 1950's he soundly defeats them, in 2015 he barely gets away unscathed, in 1885 he is nearly murdered.  The point is to illustrate how certain world views would come into conflict in different eras, but there is a sense of repetition and contrast.
            "Looper" has a very different message, one that has to do with the cyclical nature of one's decisions and how they affect others.  If you could go into the past to kill your hated enemy as a child, would you try to change the path your younger self is on, and how would seeing what you eventually become change your view on the world.  There is a lot that can be said about trying to kill your own future self, not just through bad decision making but by actually trying to shoot him/you.

Okay, I know where this is going!  Let's just get it over with!

4. Award for Best Horror Movie, and Arguably Best Comedy: "Cabin in the Woods" (Trailer)
            I am the first to argue that Horror as a genre needs some fresh perspectives on itself.  They (as well as much of Hollywood) have begun the horrific act of self cannibalism as they reuse old franchises, old tropes, and haven't gotten anything "new" in recent time outside of going more and more extreme with violence.
            And I understand why, it is hard to come up with a new idea, design it, produce it, and then sell it.  Even making something classic well is difficult because trying to put a new spin on something like vampires or werewolves isn't possible because they have been run so far into the ground.
            "Cabin in the Woods" is the ultimate destination for horror, and I would go so far as to say that it kind of broke the whole genre down to its core.  It vivisects the idea of people being in the middle of nowhere under assault by monsters.  "Cabin" addresses the soulless machine that produces the movies, it addresses the audiences, it addresses the element of escalation.  This movie is great.
            Let me leave with this, at one point the heroes are cornered, and they concoct a plan.  Logically what happens would require slightly more effort but I don't think anybody should care.  This movie gets to a point in which you do not think it can go any more insane, and then they hit (what I will call) THE AWESOME BUTTON and the whole thing just takes off into new levels of HOLY-SHIT.

3. Award for Most Awesome Dystopia: "Dredd" (Trailer)
            I like dystopias, they are some of my favorite social commentaries as they mostly just reductio ad absurdum a current trend in the modern world.  "Blade Runner" (a movie I do not really like) in which you can buy and sell androids that are more human than human, leaving the audience to question what happened to the dumb masses as they are literally buying people.  "1984" was the totalitarian regime of history re-writing fascists, a world in which... well, I guess we can all debate which political ideology won the Cold War in that universe, in my opinion it could have been anyone.  Or "Mad Max" when the world is slowly creeping toward depletion and nobody has a way of making civilization sustainable again.
            "Dredd" is a simpler commentary than that, it is about the escalating nature of the war on crime, the problems that a future of urban sink will cause, and the possible necessity of much more draconian police work.  Whoo-boy is this movie fun: violence is not toned down, a guy's head is melted in the cold opener, numerous people are burned to death, skinned, shot, exploded, or die choking on their own crushed throat bones, frequently this violence is shown in slow motion, and the slow motion is not gratuitous, but is actually a plot point.  This is the sort of violent dystopia that "The Hunger Games" (Trailer) was supposed to be, and couldn't attain because of its market.
            I pray to Metztli this movie sells enough on DVD to get its sequel because the theater release was not strong enough even in 3D.  When this thing hits 15$ I think I will snap it up because it really needs to be bought and supported, like its brother in arms, "Kick-Ass". (Trailer)

2. Award for Most Cathartic Violence: "Django Unchained" (Trailer)
            While "Dredd" has violence against criminals that are law breakers and violent monsters in many cases, and the violence feels good when it is exacted on the bad guys, the truth is, "Dredd" is commenting on a future that has not happened yet and uses its style to explore a very strange and dark future that is rather easy to avoid.  "Django Unchained" is a very clever and powerful exploration of an era in history that already happened.
            The violence in "Django" is not against law breakers and crooks, it is against the plutocrats that have grown rich and fat off a monstrous civilization wide failure.  The villains have their own twisted perspectives, they have their own beliefs, they have there own families and histories, they love and hate different things, in short, the bad guys are more human and believable, and as such their monstrous behavior ending in a chaotic over the top explosion of violence on the part of the hero feels good on a deeper level.
            "Django" has smart dialogue, human characters, powerful scenes, and a full and dark exploration of slavery that juxtaposes so well with the almost cartoon like levels of violence to produce a very rich and thought provoking movie that is so worth the time to watch it.

1. Award for best Realization of my Dreams to Date: "Avengers" (Trailer)
            I like superheroes.  This is no secret, I have written more than 50 blog entries on the topic of comic book super heroes (of which I have only migrated 3 onto this particular blog, but that is really more of a house keeping issue than a strike against my favorite hobby), I have hundreds of comic books, I have read probably more than a thousand (I have never really put together a good estimate) I have created my own characters since I was a kid, and I have had any number of contacts with the genre of superheroes my whole life because I love it.
            "Avengers" rocked my socks.  Yes there are little things in it that don't make sense (except most of the ones people cite do make sense if you think about things from the perspective of the character doing the action) but those are few and don't matter.  Things build and build and then release in the best action scene of the year.  The whole movie is filled with good dialogue and interesting characters interacting.  The thing is just excitement and fun and it makes me feel like a kid watching the characters I treasure so much come to life to fight a villain that I really like and understand and feel somewhat sorry for.  This is the stuff young Josh would have loved to get growing up and the idea that it exists for current Josh to appreciate and that more of the things I love will come to life in time makes me feel good about the cultural future I get to be a part of.  We collectively are looking up to big heroes and big ideas and in the long run that is important, we should think big, we should dream big, and that should be what our biggest and best movies should be.

Hole in a Field, Chap 24

A little while ago I wrote a short story for the L. Ron Hubbard "Writers of the Future Contest".  I did not win, and I know why, my story is really more horror than Science Fiction or Fantasy.  But I decided that I will post each chapter here on my blog.  There are 37 very short chapters, for a total of 15,000 words, about a fifth of a modern novel.  Here is the start.

Chapter 24:
“Can you tell me what is going on?”  Maxwell knew he couldn't trust what was sitting next to him, and probably for however long he went on living he would never again trust a clown, but answers (truthful or not) might be able to send him in a direction outside the pointless circles he had been making through the park.

“Maybe,” replied Ernie the Clown with a sort of forlorn tone to his voice.  “I was eating at a diner, or at least I was sitting in a diner, and as I was going to storm out because of the bad service. I decided to go complain, so I pushed open the door to the kitchen and…” Ernie the Clown paused before laughing loudly and powerfully about the whole thing.

When Ernie the Clown had stopped his boisterous laughter, which had caused Maxwell to cradle his bat quite closely, Maxwell asked: “And?”

“Oh, yeah, well I stood there, dumbstruck. The kitchen was empty except for one girl in a waitress outfit, but it was an over the top outfit, giant bows, lots of mismatched dots and plaids.  Her face was all painted up, with a huge red smile and white face, and just as I decided that I was scared enough to try and run, she was on me, and had stabbed me straight through to the back of my skull.”  Ernie the Clown then began to laugh again, and punctuated the laugh by saying: “Hurt like hell.  Sure am glad I’ll never have to worry about anything like that again.”

Maxwell moved one hand to the handle of the knife in his pocket, the other to his handgun, which he didn't know if it had a round chambered or not, another thing he was cursing himself for.  “Well, what are you doing here?”  Nothing Maxwell had heard made him feel any more at rest, any more at peace with his surroundings, or had given him hope of an exit.

“You know, I’m not sure if it was like falling or being carried.  Maybe it was like being dragged. But when it was over I remember being here, and being told by someone to talk to you.”

“Who told you that, Ernie?  Who told you to talk to me?”

“The guy in the Crooked House told me to go to the knife throwing table afterwards - said that with my looks it would be the attraction for me.”  Ernie the Clown began laughing again, and ended with an odd smile.  “Did you happen to pass that both on your way around? I’m not sure where it is.”

Maxwell pointed to where he had been a few hours before. He had remembered the sight because it mostly had consisted of a sign, a bloody table, and a basket of blood stained knives.  “Think I saw it back that way a while ago. You’ll know it if you see it.”

“Thanks.”  And with that Ernie the Clown got up, and began a strange and disjointed walk/skip/frolic toward his own little corner of this place, leaving Maxwell sitting on the bench, holding his bat, and wondering where and what the Crooked House was.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hole in a Field, Chap 23

A little while ago I wrote a short story for the L. Ron Hubbard "Writers of the Future Contest".  I did not win, and I know why, my story is really more horror than Science Fiction or Fantasy.  But I decided that I will post each chapter here on my blog.  There are 37 very short chapters, for a total of 15,000 words, about a fifth of a modern novel.  Here is the start.

Chapter 23:
Todd’s phone rang, and in doing so caused his focus on the universe to tighten. He saw the reflection in the glass of Allison stalking up behind him.  He turned quickly with a sweeping move of his forearm and dropped his center into a fighting stance.  Allison stood there, back overly straight, eyes still discolored and opened far too wide. She was smiling brightly in a cold and threatening manner.

“What are you?”  Todd asked, not conceding any of his alertness in doing so.  His phone continued to ring.

“Here,” answered a rasping voice through Allison’s clenched teeth.

Keeping on guard, Todd shifted away from Allison, who turned to keep staring at him but made no more movements to close the distance between them.  He then reached for his phone, eyes remaining fixed on Allison.

“Don’t mind me, just going to get this,” said Todd to Allison as he pressed his phone to his ear.  He heard a hiss, then the plink and plunk of an old instrument grinding itself to life… a merry-go-round. The music played into Todd’s ear as he stared intently and with growing unease at Allison.  Then the music disappeared and he heard distant whispers, Allison’s whispers… The phone went dead.

“What is your name?”  Todd growled the words.

“Allison.” Again through clenched teeth the words hissed out.

“You’re lying.”

“You caught me.”  The color was draining from Allison’s face.  “Come on, smile. Doesn’t hurt me, and it won’t hurt you.”  She hissed longer and deeper.

“Tell me what is going on.”  It was all Todd could think of to say.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Movies of 2012, Fantasy & Animation

            I don't think it is a secret that I watch a lot of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and animated fair.  Most of my top 5 fall into those categories, this is the grab bag of other movies that also fit.

Better than the Marketing would have you Believe Award: "Wreck it Ralph" (Trailer)
            "Ralph" is a movie about self acceptance, and strangely carries an odd endorsement of caste based lifestyles.  That we all have roles in life that we need to accept and live by and should not be begrudged by others by filling those roles well.  Not a blending of messages you would typically pair: be yourself and know your role.
            It is not as funny and reference driven as the commercials make it seem and I really like the original characters in it, it is an easy place to build a franchise from, and honestly the fact that there were not 2-3 XBLA releases of the fictitious games in this movie is baffling to me.  One of the few films in which a video game tie in would be entirely appropriate and I don't really see anything.  A very well made and fun movie about... Either self acceptance or not lamenting one's lot in life... I am not sure.

The Award for the most Organic and well timed Opening all Year: "ParaNorman" (Trailer)
            This movie definitely is about being an outsider and trying to get along in life while the world fails to understand you.  It has a lot of emotional strength with perhaps the best movie climax of the year, and definitely the best start to a movie in which the entire supernatural premise of the movie is laid out without a single voice-overed word of exposition.  Other movies have very strong or complex cold opens for the audience to be taken in by, but this one blows those away by just being very smooth.
            Not to mention the gorgeous animation.  Stop Motion has pretty much hit an insurmountable peak at this point, with movements that are so expressive and alive.  This movie is ART and I regard it as the strongest movie this year marketed toward children, beating out "Wreck it Ralph" if for no other reason than the themes of this movie are more coherent... Same arbitrary numeric score though, because I don't want to do halves.

The Deserves the be Epic-a-fied Award: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (Trailer)
            "Lord of the Rings" is the most important film franchise since the Original "Star Wars", and while "Harry Potter" was longer and more financially successful it had less quality and pushed far fewer envelopes in the technology of movie making.  "The Hobbit" is a return to one of the richest and most well produced universes in the history of film.
            The movie is very pretty, and much of the special effects technology pioneered in "LotR" has now been mastered, with a dozen people on the screen, all of them scaled down to various sizes, all of it seamless.  Sure there are bits of edges showing when a brand new effect appears, but overall it just glistens.  I have no opinion on the additional frames per second thing, but it is worth trying out (and abandoning if it doesn't work).
            The only real issue is one of tone, while I thought it moved rather fluidly from one emotion to the next and I felt comfortable with the moments of comedy and drama in the action I think that other people who found "LotR" too meandering might find this quite uncomfortable to sit through.  I just wanted to spend more time exploring Middle Earth and am glad this movie, and its sequels exist for me to do so.

The New Gold Standard in Found Footage Award: "Chronicle" (Trailer)
            Found footage is a production style that does two things well: saving money and lowering audience standards.  It is less expensive to film with a handheld which the actors are both aware of and can acknowledge while performing because you don't lose takes to them looking into the camera, the cameraman's presence is part of the scene.  This means you don't have to hide a small part of the film crew in the sets or maneuver hoping not to harm the environment, the cameraman is allowed to stumble and shake a little.  The lower standards come on the part of the audience who will take as part of the production lower film quality and with it lower special effects quality... Fun fact: this movie doesn't really need lowered expectations to work.
            The camera's presence makes sense, as does the title, a group of friends want to document (or Chronicle) their gaining of super powers from some mysterious crystal entity they discovered in a pit outside of a rave.  The story moves at a good clip, you see the protagonists react to what is going on, you feel bad for the main "villain" as he falls into destructive and dangerous behavior.
            There are some missteps: a needless B-plot love story; a weird choice by one character to classify himself as an Apex Predator which robs him of some sympathy; but that crap falls by the way side by the time the final super-brawl at the end kicks into full gear and rips up the city pretty well.  The final action sequence could be used as a really good example for Zach Snyder to follow when he inevitably has Superman start punching stuff, the flight in it looks really natural and cool.  It is a cool movie.

The Award for being Alright even though it Squandered Opportunities for a much more Impactful Narrative: "Rise of the Guardians" (Trailer)
            For a movie in which Santa and the Easter Bunny team to fight the god of fear this movie is shockingly average.  I wrote a rather long and detailed pick apart of this thing which is riddled with spoilers.  So if you would rather read that. (Other Blog)
            If however you have not seen "Guardians" yet and want an overview without spoilers here are a few things: the Villain's plan moves too fast and is too effective; the background has a lot of gorgeous little touches, in fact most of the art and animation is good especially the Tooth Fairy (Santa's beard is a notable exception, because it doesn't look like hair at all); the main character is not optimal for this story; Much like "Wreck it Ralph" the message is a little unclear; and lastly you will leave feeling just mildly entertained.  I have actually cooled on this film more and more since seeing it, my opinion now is lower than when I first wrote my longer analysis.  So I can't say it will grow on you.

The Award for a Main Character that got lost on its way to a Better Movie: "Lockout" (Trailer)
            This movie has a lot of problems, not the least of which being: The main Character is the only person who knows how to make good decisions.  It helps that he is played by Guy Pierce, one of my favorite actors.  If an action star with less charisma had been chosen this movie would have been a train wreck, I can just envision this thing starring John Cena or Taylor Lautner and being an unwatchable direct to DVD or Sy Fy network release.
            There is some good action, some obviously forced scenes to move the plot along, a lot of poor writing decisions regarding character relationships in order to justify moving the plot along, and I guess it helps that the plot was ripped off from "Escape from New York" (Trailer) (in fact, if it had been called "Escape from Space" and had Snake Plissken in it the movie might have been totally forgiven and lovable as pure gonzo Science Fiction action romp).  In fact that is what I will call my biggest complaint, this movie keeps having to make up reasons to get the plot going as it otherwise feels like it is about to go stale.
I need to get back on Christopher Nolan's good side.  I could play a magician.

Hole in a Field, Chap 22

A little while ago I wrote a short story for the L. Ron Hubbard "Writers of the Future Contest".  I did not win, and I know why, my story is really more horror than Science Fiction or Fantasy.  But I decided that I will post each chapter here on my blog.  There are 37 very short chapters, for a total of 15,000 words, about a fifth of a modern novel.  Here is the start.

Chapter 22:
Maxwell continued to wander the carnival. Lost and without real direction, he would pick arbitrary points of reference to navigate.  Get to the Ferris wheel, and he did.  Get to the Log Flume, and he did.  Get to the Super slide, and he did.  But no matter how much he managed to map out in his head, how good a grip he got on the place itself, he couldn't formulate a plan, a meaningful place to look.  He called their names for a while, called for help after that, until eventually he just sat down on a random bench in a random set of shops, and thought.

He was there for a short while, beaten and tired, and holding his head in his hands.  Then Maxwell felt someone sit down beside him.  He was nervous, and angry at himself for not being aware, for letting himself be stripped of his edge because he hadn't run into anything.

“You can look at me, you know,” the voice was friendly it seemed, and very different from the clown Maxwell had killed, and so he looked at him.

The figure that sat next to Maxwell looked like a rich guy who had been going on vacation, but somewhere along the way had decided to put on clown make-up to audition for the circus.  Failing to be accepted into the circus fold, he had then stabbed himself in the eye with a kitchen knife, right up to the handle, then a little further.  “Hi,” Maxwell said.

“Hi,” the clown said,   “My name’s Ernie.”

Monday, January 28, 2013

Movies of 2012, Historical Awards

            History serves as a good source of story ideas, some of which live on as such important and impactful events that they are burned into the cultural zeitgeist ("Titanic") (Trailer), others are so insane that they just sound like movie ideas ("Charlie Wilson's War") (Trailer), and then there is the third category of events that are mostly forgotten because they just don't stand out in spite of the drama in them ("Thin Red Line") (Trailer), so you spice those up with a lot of musical numbers.

The History is Complex Award: "Lincoln" (Trailer)
            "Lincoln" is basically like an episode of "The West Wing" circa 1864.  It has a lot of really good work by a lot of really strong actors, including the greatest of living actors Daniel Day Lewis, who I think was possessed by Lincoln's ghost through most of this movie.  Everybody is on their A game and while I found myself caring about the strength of the narrative and the portrayals I can't say it was my favorite movie of the year.  It in many ways shows the inner workings of politics, a struggle between the deep held beliefs of those who know what is right, those who are in it for the work and prestige, and those who are on the wrong side of history.  "Lincoln" shows how dishonesty and compromising values can sometimes be necessary in order for a much more substantive long term game plan of greater liberty to foster even when beset by the small minds of a very evil time in history.  It is a really good movie.
            There are some instances I found odd, like the ending, anyone who saw the movie will agree it should have ended with Lincoln walking out the front door as his assistant and friend watches him go, quietly admonishing him for leaving his gloves behind.  That image had a lot of sad but at the same time hopeful meaning in it, that Abe did leave the world with his work not yet completed, that more can be done and it is left to us.  Then the movie keeps going.  Little odd.
            Overall it is my pick for what will win Best Picture, even if I think "Django Unchained" (Trailer) is an overall better movie and should get the award.  I should also say, this is not a movie I feel a need to ever watch again, I would like to see a making of, and I will probably read "Team of Rivals", but this is a story that is rather too heavy to pop in on a sleepy Saturday for fun.  Probably could watch it on President's Day though.

I actually sort of hated this scene.  The Gettysburg Address was not a well received speech in its time and it serves only to wank the one thing people know about Lincoln before the rest of the movie totally subverts the popular myth.

The History is Weird Award: "Argo" (Trailer)
            This movie is genetically engineered to appeal to me.  It has one of my favorite Writer/Director/Actor, Ben Affleck at the helm, banks a lot on the complex and stressful aspects of political intrigue and espionage, it shows the ins and outs of a convoluted scheme so awesome it has to be real, and it is frequently funny as hell.
            And when I watch it I can't really point to anything wrong with it.  I know they take some liberties with things and make the threat of discovery far more Sword of Damocles-ish for the sake of Hollywood, but I don't care.  There is even a really good juxtaposition at one point, pairing a script reading of the fake movie, with the Iranian press conference talking about the hostages, it shows the importance of theatrics and gaudy images to push a frequently disingenuous message.  But much like "Lincoln" I don't feel a need to watch it again, I feel that I got all I needed out of it and that is all I want.
            It is clever and smart on a lot of levels and it is highly recommended, and I don't know why I don't think even more of it.

The History is a DRAMA QUEEN Award: "Les Misérables" (Trailer)
            Not History per-se but certainly based around a historical era, I choose to lump it in here with the rest of the Historical movies because I can.
            This thing has structure problems out the melancholy kazoo.  It seems almost like three movies (as they enter the Belly of the Whale 3 distinct times) with linking characters and themes... And it should have been multiple movies, with scenes of spoken dialogue to allow the actors room to act instead of just singing.
            I also take umbrage with the amount of cliché's in it (and it is unfair to call them cliché because this story probably helped pioneer them as story devices), but much like I appreciated "Citizen Kane" for what it had been in its era, I have to say that since this story was penned narrative has evolved, and having two young people fall in love at first sight, or having the virgin-whore complex on full display irks even my most forgiving mentality.
            I do like a lot of the visual metaphors, the first one I really took notice of is a scene of Hugh Jackman, as a slave, being forced to retrieve a snapped flag mast which has fallen to the ground.  So you have a slave carrying a heavy burden, attached to the French flag which is drenched in muddy water; the symbol of the oppressive regime that rules France right now, dirty and burdening a people unjustly oppressed maybe?  That is smart and serves to elevate the material.
            There is also the issue of most of the music being rather awful, and really jumbled too, I have no idea what the lyrics were for many of the characters through the group sing-alongs.  This again underlines the need to let them speak some of their lines, let the film be broken up for the purposes of allowing the audience to digest and mull over the huge sweeping, decades spanning narrative.  As is you the audience end up feeling really tired by the end.
            And another thing I dislike: Russell Crowe plays my favorite character, who has the best outfits in the whole thing, and one of the more interesting perspectives on the world.  He doesn't go to heaven.  I hate that.
            And one more thing: Anne Hathaway is in the movie for maybe 15 minutes (I literally forgot she was in this movie at all till her ghost showed up in Heaven at the end) and she is nominated for best actress; she's good, but she isn't a main character, this sort of trophy dispensing bugs me.

The History is a Slow Build to a Big Finish: "Zero Dark Thirty" (Trailer)
            Just because it is modern history, doesn't it mean it didn't happen.  There are moments in this movie in which I am flabbergasted by the extreme stupid on display by the Central INTELLIGENCE Agency but I take it as either the manufactured reason for a massive security failure, or possibly that human beings are human and make stupid mistakes with some frequency.
            I like how even handed it is with the portrayals of torture, surveillance, and ultimately the military op that killed Osama, I even like the acting by the guy who does the deed, reacting like he can't quite believe it, and probably lamenting that his name won't appear in history books until he is 80.
            I suppose it can be a little boring at times (nearly any scene in an office) and really unpleasant other times (all the torture) but it does have a pay off at the end, and I like the realism of it, when movies show a military operation in a fictitious scenario it always goes off without a hitch, but showing people how the experimental helicopters, compact explosives, and other complex equipment can fail and teams have to roll with those punches is really interesting and tense, and gives the viewing public a much needed perspective on how even the most elite of teams still has to deal with complications.
            It, like all others on this list, probably won't get a re-watch from me.

Hole in a Field, Chap 21

A little while ago I wrote a short story for the L. Ron Hubbard "Writers of the Future Contest".  I did not win, and I know why, my story is really more horror than Science Fiction or Fantasy.  But I decided that I will post each chapter here on my blog.  There are 37 very short chapters, for a total of 15,000 words, about a fifth of a modern novel.  Here is the start.

Chapter 21:
Todd sat in a local doctor’s office, empty aside from himself and the bed which Allison rested on. He didn't remember the ride over aside from the old-time ambulance, anachronistic in its own quaint way.

Todd sat next to Allison’s bed, facing the opposing wall. Through the window he could see the sign that overlooked the office, and it was blank.  “That’s weird.”  Todd narrowed his eyes, thinking hard about the blank sign. He turned and started, “Ali…”  Reminded of her condition, Todd turned away from her and looked back at the sign, then down at his feet, and back out at the sign.  “No history,”  he said.

Todd began to pace the room, thinking back through all of the things that had led to him being there.  “Farmer falls into a hole.  Agents fall into a hole.  No history of holes.  No history of anything.  No legends, no celebrities, and no landmarks really…”  He had gotten that last bit of info from the town library, but he didn't remember how.  He didn't remember talking to anyone there.  He didn't remember the name of the library.  What was the name of the park they had been in?  There weren't any names on any businesses; they all just had “Laundromat” or “Antiques,” he didn't remember any Pizza Hut, or McDonald’s.

“What about the paramedics?”  Todd said to himself; he tried to remember how Allison had gotten to the Doctor’s office, the faces of the guys who had helped them… or were they women?  Was there more than one?

Todd was at this instant lost in thought. Bits and pieces were falling into place in his mind and the as they did so the gaps became all the more clear and distinct to his sight, but unfortunately that sight did not take notice of the slinking shape twisting its way across the floor.

The shape moved like mist rolls, twisting like the shadow cast by a wind mobile, moving toward the unconscious Allison.  As it neared the bedstand it contorted to be tall rather than long, and took hold of the bed where she laid unprepared. It moved upward it its strange fashion, up the side and across the bed, over Allison, and then it was gone.  And Allison was awake.

She was silent and her eyes were still distorted in color. She sat up, all while Todd remained looking out at the blank sign outside.  She rose then, still silent, and crept up behind Todd, who somehow remained lost in thought.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Movies of 2012, Action Awards

            For some reason modern action movies have decided to imitate 2 other movie franchises, the first is "The Bourne Identity" (Trailer) and the other is Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" (Trailer) franchise.  Those are good movies to borrow from, I have no issue with that, but an interesting side effect of this imitation is you end up with movies that could all conceivably be happening in the same universe.  All of the martial arts and gun violence have roughly the same effect, all of the technology is on the same level (with some stupid exceptions), and nearly all of the villains could work for the James Bond bad guys, Quantum from "Quantum of Solace".

The Award for best Vanity Project: "Jack Reacher" (Trailer)
            I actually really liked this movie, but if the title had been "Tom Cruise" I don't think it would have experienced an appreciable drop in ticket sales.  The dialogue is smart, the concept is very modern and cuts to the core a very troubling issue, mass shootings.  Each character is shown to be competent, and while they may make rash or stupid decisions it is not poorly handled, you can see why they would make the decisions that they do, they act like real people and that is a good thing.  It also has the best car chase in a crowded urban metropolis since "The Town" (Trailer) had bank robbers fleeing police in creepy nun costumes.
            The only real issue is that this movie ruins its own mystery right from the start.  To explain, the movie begins with a guy in latex gloves shooting 5 seemingly random people, you see the guy's face, so you know who the shooter is.  The person the police arrest moments later is not the shooter, and they use a fingerprint to lock him up.  So you know it was a frame up, which means you do not get to see the mystery unravel the same time the characters do... That is a weird choice for the narrative, and easily fixable with maybe 3 camera angles getting changed.  I have no idea why they did that because it causes a lot of the discovery and who/why done it element for the audience to be lost.
            There is another issue too that is a lot less substantive because it is just one poorly done scene.  There is a tonal shift that happens at the start of the second act (roughly) for all of two minutes and it hurts the movie, like a speck of something floating on the surface of a drink.   What happens is: Tom is looking over a scene and figuring out that a guy was murdered, he is then ambushed by two thugs, that sounds like a tense scene because Tom has no weapon, the guys have the drop on him, and they have baseball bats... what follows is retarded.  The fight happens in a really small room and like the freaking 3 Stooges these guys keep pulling back to hit Tom and knock each other in the head or miss because their swings are so wide that they catch on the walls of the tiny room.  Tom Cruise is borderline unconscious for the first 30 seconds of the fight in which the two goons beat up the room and each other in what can only be described as a scene from another movie.

The movie could almost be summed up with this image.

The Award for being the best Batman Movie released this Year: "Skyfall" (Trailer)
            I really cannot fault this movie for being anything other than what it is, James Bond being Batman.  For fuck's sake, the phrase "Skyfall" means "Dark Night Rising".  The whole third act takes place at Stately Bond (Wayne) Manor.  There is an Alfred.  There is a Batcave.  The main bad guy has a scene in which he is in a holding cell and practically utters the phrase, "Wanna know how I got these scars?"  The whole movie has these sorts of Batman echoes.  It is easy to see why, both are dark wish fulfillment characters, rich playboys who are impossibly good at everything, and covered in good fashion and pricey gadgets.  It isn't really something to be lamented, Bond and Batman are both potentially good characters, and this movie shows how good Bond is by actually exploring who he is and why he does what he does.
            There are some stupid things in it though, like the palm reader handgun in the trailer, think about that from a logical standpoint, what are the odds that a bad guy (who probably has their own weapon) using Bond's gun against him and being foiled by the device (yes it happens, but how it happens is so unlikely that using that as an example makes you sound dumber for the effort).  Then look at it another way, how long does it take the gun to read his palm and unlock?  Cause if it takes longer than 3/10's of a second, that is longer than it takes a person to draw and ready a weapon, which means the gun could potentially keep Bond from successfully drawing and firing his weapon at an optimum speed.  It is the most modern bit of sci-fi in the movie, and by far the most impractical.
            If I were to say this movie had a symbolic turn, it would have to be this: Bond is dead, and this is his personal hell.... stay with me on this.  Spoiler: at the beginning of the movie Bond is shot in the chest and declared KIA, he flees off to a tropical paradise to recover and then returns when a terrorist attack in London demands his attention.  For the rest of the movie Bond tours a lot of the old spy movie tropes.  He journeys to exotic locals, is nearly fed to some strange animal in a pit, fights of a team of goons, one of which looks a lot like Odd Job from "Goldfinger" (Trailer).  He goes to a deserted island fortress hideout.  There are repeated images of descent, in the subway, MI-6 in the underground bunker, falling through ice, the escape route out of Skyfall later in the movie; the only image of ascent, when he holds onto the bottom of an elevator to keep up with an assassin is treated as extremely difficult and he nearly falls to his death.  There are all of these elements from previous movies that get brought up, used, and destroyed, (the old car being the best example) it's like they are the sins of Bond's past getting burned away by hellfire.  The main bad guy is a fallen MI-6 agent, like a fallen angel who has come to rule his own underworld kingdom.  M is treated very much like a divine mother figure.  And the final confrontation takes place in a freaking church.  Bond died at the start of the movie, and came back from heaven to fight the devil, and his reward for success is that he gets to be reincarnated down the line by a new actor who will continue the fight.
            Hell, read this bit of dialogue from the trailer:
            Bond: "Everyone needs a hobby."
            Someone Else: "What's yours?"
            Bond: "Resurrection."

Though, I suppose if you wanted someone to play Satan in a James Bond movie, Javier Bardem is a good pick

Most Unnecessary Voice Over Award: "Premium Rush" (Trailer)
            Okay, this movie is very style heavy, they chop up the timeline, they have a lot of graphics displaying the New York geography, they have a weird effect to show how the main character can quickly plot out the options for where to go and how to avoid being crushed to death in stressful fast moving traffic, if I cared about any of the characters or thought the dialogue or narrative was any good I might appreciate these things... I do not.
            This movie is insultingly dumb and has the audacity to start off with voice over explaining what a bike messenger is... I know what a fucking bike messenger is.  Voice over is used to explain complex premises to stories, premises that just require too much back story otherwise and the movie would be too long.  For instance, the movie "Looper" (Trailer) also stars Joseph Gordon Levitt and begins with him explaining what a Looper is, it is an assassin that works to kill time travelers, it is a hard thing to swallow unless it is explained... Guys delivering shit via bike is not complicated, and explaining it is insulting to the audience.
            The action is actually boring, goes on far too long, and since they are on bikes it is actually kind of slow paced even with the style and shifting obstacle course that is New York City traffic.  Also, there is a massive plot problem: the villain is looking for a lotto ticket with a distinct symbol on it, the villain has not seen the ticket, Levitt has, so why doesn't Levitt just buy a lotto ticket from a quick stop, draw the symbol on it and hand it over to the bad guy, then deliver the correct ticket to where it needs to go?  That is a huge out for the protagonist.  It is a plot hole.
            Also, the acting in this, with the exception of Joseph Gordon Levitt and Michael Shannon, is just awful.  Everyone has bad lines to read, poor motivation, bad scenes in general, it is a waste to watch.  And what is funny, the criminal organization in this, which is basically a Chinese Mafia, would still fit into the James Bond shared universe I described earlier.

            A word about "Alex Cross" (Trailer) and "Taken 2" (Trailer) who could also be in this category, and probably could also take place in the same universe.  I didn't see these movies.  "Alex Cross" stars Tyler Perry and is considered by many to be one of the worst movies of the year, it looks like a mess and I have no desire to see it, if I hear good things about its sequel (as I imagine there will be one) then I might go back and watch this one, but for now...
            "Taken" (Trailer) was a well structured action movie with a tight script that had only a few plot holes and structure issues, it is a good movie about a guy doing violent and asshole things to save his child.  However, "Taken" is a jingoistic and stupid movie, it is somewhat disgusting in its own way.  So I will not watch "Taken 2" which exists it seems to give old guys who are scared of foreign countries a sense of, "I could totally do that", rather than do anything interesting with the narrative or comment on anything going on in the world.  It seems like an offensive movie to my somewhat cosmopolitan look on the world, and I don't want to watch it.

Hole in a Field, Chap 20

A little while ago I wrote a short story for the L. Ron Hubbard "Writers of the Future Contest".  I did not win, and I know why, my story is really more horror than Science Fiction or Fantasy.  But I decided that I will post each chapter here on my blog.  There are 37 very short chapters, for a total of 15,000 words, about a fifth of a modern novel.  Here is the start.

Chapter 20:
Maxwell stood in the booth brandishing his bat like a sword, staring at the clown with all the menace he could muster from deep within his terrified frame.  “Where did he go?”

“No where in particular.”  The clown let it slip out with a half-wheeze at the end, like he was waiting to deliver a punch line.

“What did you do with Clair?”

“Nothing,” He smirked, and gleamed, and beamed. The clown was a-twitter.  "Really… I don't know what you're talking about."

“Why are you doing this?”

“No reason.”  The clown shook with silent laughter.

“Do you believe in God?”

The clown stopped his laughter, “What?”

Maxwell then cracked the clown across the jaw with the bat.  With a sickening thud, crunch, oh-I-bet-that-hurt noise, its jaw twisted and snapped in numerous places as blood flew from its mouth.  The clown dropped motionless and dead at Maxwell’s feet. The blood from its mouth splattered across the previously muted black and white booth and did nothing to change the décor. It bled black.

“Well, now it isn't a matter of belief anymore.”  Maxwell then lifted his bat again and smacked it down across the face of the clown until it was mangled and pulped.

Maxwell picked up the kits.  “Hope you guys are still alive.”  Maxwell pried at the trap door until it finally sprung loose, revealing a solid stone floor. It was clearly evident that in spite of the clown’s lifeless form sitting several feet from him, there was a significant amount of unexplainable supernatural goings-on in what he had just witnessed.  He was somehow unable to wrap his head around it regardless of how prepared he thought he had been. This was outside of his reach, and now he was alone.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Movies of 2012, Horror Awards

            Scary movies are not really my bag.  I am frequently too far from the characters in the story (because they are assholes) to really care if they live or die.  But occasionally a horror movie comes along and really works for me.  One of those made it into my top 5 this year.  Here are the other three horror movies I saw, some awards I chose to give them and the arbitrary numerical score to help express my complex opinion.
            There is a movie missing from this list because I have decided to throw it into a different hopper (for what I would normally call a bad reason to do so), unless you know to look for it you won't notice it is missing but I am mentioning it now because I want to.

The Award for best Unlikable Protagonist: "Sinister" (Trailer)
            A washed up alcoholic writer moves his family into a potentially dangerous situation, but at the same time he has a really valid perspective on his life and you commiserate with him about his plight.  As he sees more and more grisly images and is drawn into what appears to be a series of cult murder/kidnappings you wonder if he is being haunted or is going nuts.  Yeah it is pretty good, and I really liked the ending.  There is graphic content that is shocking in subject matter and presentation.  There is good pacing.
            The only thing that is really of issue is that there is no mystery, at no point does the main character appear to be homing in on some sort of answer or manages to change the course of things through his actions.  He and his family are ostensibly doomed and at no point do you feel they can escape.  I compare this to "The Ring" in that there are haunted movies with disturbing images, but "The Ring" (Trailer) had the main character unraveling the history of the video, the little girl ghost, and then takes proactive steps to save herself and the audience follows her on that journey.  What I am saying is, in "The Ring" the characters have agency, in "Sinister" they don't.  (They both even have a scene in which the main character dramatically burns a movie in a fire-place/fire-pit and is unsure if such an action has any impact), though to be fair, in "The Ring" the cause of the murders is obviously magical in origin and the idea of undoing a curse makes some sense, in "Sinister" you are unsure if the main character is cursed or just losing his mind, that helps defuse the sense of helplessness.
7/10 (Worth seeing as it is a better than average movie of its type)

The Award for Ruining Good Tension with a Jump Scare: "The Woman in Black" (Trailer)
            This movie has style in spades, there is a good 10-15 minutes in which this thing has next to zero dialogue and is just Danny Radcliffe running through a haunted mansion nearly shitting his pants as truly tense and creepy things happen, and he acts his heart out, even though he still looks in the range of a 15 year old I kind of bought him as a single father trying to be a professional.
            The movie has lots of scary images and disturbing scenes that have very little blood and instead have just a very creepy vibe to them.  However, all that good stuff out of the way, it has issues all over the place with structure (I really have no idea what the timeline looks like for this haunting; the ghost that seems to be causing the problem is of a woman who killed herself in the mansion, or was she away in a nuthouse, was her son being kept from her, or did he die and they not tell her until later, there is a lot of confusing stuff in there).
            And the Award winning flaw is the jump scares, some work, but the one that I really remember and hate has to do with Danny Radcliffe looking out of a window and a handprint appearing on the window, then a screaming face appears, it is loud and effectively blows the tension load all over the place.  I guess it was supposed to be the payoff, but it just sucked and retroactively poisoned a lot of the good stuff that led up to it, which is too bad.  The ending is also rather bit of a letdown as it is sort of telegraphed and "tasteful" in its own way, which makes it a little tonally confused.
            Also, if you are one of the fuckwits yelling expecto-my-dick or whatever at the screen, you are not funny, you are a child, grow the fuck up and respect that he is not that character.  He is an actor, you diminish for yourself and all others Danny Radcliffe's ability to work his trade by stupidly tying him to that boring ass character.  GROW UP.
4/10 (still worth watching if you like ghost stories)

There, now that I have in part ruined your childhood, let's all move on.

The Award for Worst Cinematography: "V/H/S" (Trailer)
            I will give this movie many props, it is not afraid to be bloody, nude, and frequently shocking, it is not in any way shy.  It has a lot of good ideas chief among them is the framing device, a group of guys break into a house to steal a bunch of VHS tapes that they are told are very valuable, each part of the movie is a tape they are watching.
            All that good stuff being said: "V/H/S" is offensive to my eyes.  The entire film is done in a level of shaky camera that made me actually ill.  "The Hunger Games" (Trailer) did this to hide violence, these guys do it because... for whatever reason... they decided to be too "realistic" with how these video tapes would look.
            I am a bigger lover and defender of "Cloverfield" (Trailer) and the style of found footage than most people and I think it can add to a movie's sense of immersion.  A really good movie that came out this year was "Chronicle" (Trailer) and it is basically the gold standard for found footage movies.  BUT, while I do not mind the found footage concept of many movies, this was so rocky, so ugly that I had to cover my eyes numerous times. This film really needs to be remade with a lot of tweaking, a lot of artistry, and some stronger casting in a few roles.  But if I had to choose one thing to fix: at the very least don't have the framing device be found footage, you can have each of the movies-within-the-movie be found footage, but have the overall framing be in a traditional style, if for no other reason than you would get a chance to rest your eyes.
3/10 (Don't watch this movie, and warn others away from it)

Hole in a Field, Chap 19

A little while ago I wrote a short story for the L. Ron Hubbard "Writers of the Future Contest".  I did not win, and I know why, my story is really more horror than Science Fiction or Fantasy.  But I decided that I will post each chapter here on my blog.  There are 37 very short chapters, for a total of 15,000 words, about a fifth of a modern novel.  Here is the start.

Chapter 19:
Ernie was not from town. He was there for no particular reason.  Driving through because he decided not to go via highway or free way to his vacation spot (a bed and breakfast in the middle of nowhere), he had decided at some point to stop, have some lunch, take in local color, and do very little.  But for some reason this village seemed quieter than he was used to and, aside from watching a young woman getting loaded into an antique of an ambulance a few minutes ago, nothing had been anything other than a bore.

The village was quaint; a few stop lights, businesses and cafes built into ancient brick structures built to last in an area that didn't have weather powerful enough to force a renovation in local architecture, as it lacked tornadoes, hurricanes or even wildfires.  All the store fronts seemed to denote themselves as the sort of stores he never visited and never heard of, nor seen anyone else visit, and couldn't figure out how they stayed open.  He had wanted Taco Bell for lunch. Instead he got this empty diner.

Ernie liked remote places. He had his own cabin, he went boating in the Gulf of Mexico, hunting in Canada, and he did most of his business over the phone when he wasn't skiing by himself. But in this place, Ernie felt lonely.

Being unable to remember the last time he had seen the waitress, Ernie decided abruptly to leave, the empty coffee cup and plate signaling that he was done trying to get any local color and wanted to part ways with the place.  “Check, please.”  Ernie had decided he was getting the hell out of this town.  But after several minutes of sitting and not seeing or hearing a waitress, his thoughts began to focus more on deducting money from the tip.

“I’m looking for a check here,” he was a little more aggressive now, being the only person in the restaurant he should be getting first class service, being rich he half expected the waitress to be hitting on him in hopes of him taking her away from it all.  Nothing moved.

“I’m just going to leave some money on the table.”  What’s a twenty, he thought.  Then he heard something, a giggle, from the door leading to the kitchen, and decided to put on his angry you-treat-customers-with-such-little-respect face, and complain.

Ernie walked up to the door, puffed up his chest slightly, pushed the door open and then, not believing what he saw, let the door slowly close.  He then pushed the door open again, saw again what he could not believe, and shut it anon.  He shuddered, looked back on a life full of accomplishment in the field of business and travel, wished he hadn’t lost contact with his brother so many years ago, wished he hadn't signed away his son in the divorce, and tried to run as fast as he could out the diner.

Ernie never even made it to his third step.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Movies of 2012, Comedy Awards

            I want to give out some more awards before I count down my Top 5, so here are all the non-animated "comedies" I saw this year and the numerous complaints I have about them.  I gave each a numerical rating out of 10... but as time marches on those numbers will probably drop as my tastes continue to change.

Possibly the only funny movie I saw this Year Award: "21 Jump Street" (Trailer)
            This was not a good year for comedy.  In my own way I am to blame, I failed to catch "Ted", "The Dictator", or "7 Psychopaths" each of which showed promise (especially "Ted"), but I saw five comedies and none of them really worked for me.
            I have no nostalgic connection to "21 jump Street" and my expectations were so low that they communed with a lost city of Mole-people.  I do feel that this movie had some good stuff, but none of it seemed totally realized.  "21 jump Street" was just okay, there were parts that made me laugh loud and hard, but mostly it was really stupid.  I don't hate it, so I will damn it with this faint praise, "It is better than watching nothing."

 The Who was Clamoring for this Award: "The Three Stooges" (Trailer)
            Who wanted this?  I guess there is a stupid appeal to it, and the idea that the idiots of yesteryear beating the crap out of moronic reality stars of today highlighting how the Stooges existed to be laughed at and not imitated, unlike today's moron freak show which seem to exist in a limbo of being vilified by some and imitated unironically by others.  But the movie isn't smart like that, its just the Stooges doing there thing in the modern day without irony.  That doesn't work anymore.
            So, it can't be poignant because it commits too much to the source material, and it can't be timeless slapstick because of all the instantly dating pop culture references.  It is just pointless.

The Who Needs Subtlety Anyway Award: "The Campaign" (Trailer)
            When watching this movie I thought back to a better movie called, "The Other Guys".  During the credit sequence of, "The Other Guys" (Trailer) a presentation on white collar crime and corruption is displayed, explaining colorfully and intelligently the current financial plight of the Western World.  "The Campaign" is the disgusting pile of after birth that followed that credit sequence.
            It has its moments, but almost nothing in it has any grace in delivery, they throw jokes like knuckle balls, sometimes they are right down the pipe.  Mostly though it is just blunt and un-clever bullshit that fails to connect over and over.  It doesn't even piss me off, it is just wasted time.  You would be better off watching nothing.

The Award for trying to be Edgar Wright and Failing: "Detention" (Trailer)
            "Detention" is an obscure bit of junk with a cluttered narrative trying to spoof every Teen-(Genre) movie in existence and ending up with a cluster fuck.  It does have one really strong quality: it shows that one of my favorite directors, Edgar Wright, is having an effect on up and coming directors.  The pacing, camera work, and dialogue all try to have the same snap as "Scott Pilgrim versus the World" and each fails in turn.  There are funny parts, but as I look back on this movie it slowly moves away from mediocrity toward shitty.  Don't bother watching this.

The Worst Movie I saw all Year: "Madea Witness Protection" (Trailer)
            Before I start, I will say, "I am open to things, and want to be surprised and delighted by everything in life, I watched this hoping that it might serve to introduce me to a humorous character that had previously evaded my interest.  I will continue to give movies chances in hopes of finding diamonds in the cast off.  This movie is no diamond."
            I have no idea how Tyler Perry keeps getting money to make his terrible fucking movies.  This is the first Madea movie I have seen.  This will be the last Madea movie I will ever see.  Where to begin?
            Plot points are brought up and dropped without follow up, chief among them the mob death threats, which happen at the beginning of the movie and never reappear in the movie.  Scenes are poorly edited, going on for several seconds too long like an awkward silence in the middle of a boring conversation.  The culture clash that the movie seems to be built around (a white family forced to live with Madea, oh wacky high-jinks will ensue) is flaccid, slow, and ultimately resolved in a harsh and clunky fashion.  The third act has no conflict at all, they decide they are going to steal mob money from secret accounts, and they do... that is it, where is the conflict?
            In a normal film the third act would have a couple different antagonists closing in on the hero; take for instance, "No Country for Old Men" (Trailer).  In "Country" the hero, Josh Brolin has millions in stolen drug money; cops, drug cartels, and a psychopathic hitman are closing in.  Brolin has to figure out a plan, and after dodging through Mexico, getting suited up, and his wife having told the sheriff where to find Brolin, he is killed by the drug cartels.
            In Madea the FBI should be after Madea and crew to arrest them for fleeing protective custody, the Mob should be after them to take back the money, the original lenders should be trying to move the money before the heroes can secure it, and there should be some kind of ticking clock!  But instead there is nothing, they just move the money and the movie is over.
            This "movie" is just bad.  I will concede only to the fact that it is a movie (images and sounds forming a narrative), but should not be watched, and Tyler Perry should not be given any more money for these projects.

Not even exaggerating, "No Country for Old Men" has more comedic scenes in it than  "Madea".

Hole in a Field, Chap 18

A little while ago I wrote a short story for the L. Ron Hubbard "Writers of the Future Contest".  I did not win, and I know why, my story is really more horror than Science Fiction or Fantasy.  But I decided that I will post each chapter here on my blog.  There are 37 very short chapters, for a total of 15,000 words, about a fifth of a modern novel.  Here is the start.

Chapter 18:
Allison was breathing, and for that Todd was grateful, but regardless he remained rattled.  He held her, jostling her in his arms. Light phrases like, “Come on, Ali,” and “Please, Ali, please talk to me,” were repeated again and again until his phone rang.  Todd clawed into his pocket for it, holding Allison to his chest with one arm, her head resting on his shoulder.

“Todd, this is Jenna with Hat Rack, we have some ideas for you. Is Allison with you?”  Jenna had worked with Todd and Allison before. She was nice and knowledgeable, but really hated the hands-on work, so she dealt with the computers and phones.

Todd was slowly coming to grips with how he was sitting with a motionless colleague, talking to a distant source of help about a problem that was becoming all too real.  “She’s here… mostly.”


“Allison came under some kind of attack or something," said Todd, biting his lip.  "I don’t really know enough about her… powers to give a real assessment.”

“How bad does she look?  Do you need an ambulance?”  Jenna’s voice had the distinct creep of extreme worry and the sound of fingers moving across keys played in the background.

Todd looked at Allison’s limp form and realized that he had no idea what to do. “Yeah, you need to send one. I’ll call you back once we’re at the hospital.”  He hung up.

“Todd wait-” Jenna had already been trying the local dispatch and couldn't get through. Jenna sent in the message to the local 911 dispatcher via email, phone, fax, and then slumped.  She hit dial back to Todd and got nothing. She was out of contact.

A hand patted her shoulder, “Relax Jenna, he'll call back. Then we’ll give Todd some options, and things will begin to turn back in our favor.  Everything will work out.”  The man was slight and smart, he had the reassuring sound of experience in his voice, and so Jenna felt better.

Movies of 2012, Honorable Mentions

            I did not watch a hell of a lot of movies in 2012.  I was busy, worried about money, and was not drawn in the way I have been in years where my brother and I motivated each other to go see more movies.  But in the later half of the year I got a little bit more of a drive to see more and I think that (overall) this was a really good year for movies.  There is also a lot of crap too, but I think I mostly dodged those, aside from my "Worst Movie of the Year" which I will talk about later.  So there are some holes in my analysis, this is just my own limited perspective on what movies I liked and hated this year.  For the next couple days I'll go over them, but before that I want to give out some tiny awards that I think need to be given out.

Most Overrated Movie of 2012: "The Dark Knight Rises" (Trailer)
            While good (here is a longer blog about it), this thing is a mess and doesn't measure up to its predecessors.  There are issues with character development, scene placement, timing, and just real world logic on how things work.  For instance, "Who would have known, Bane's one weakness was getting hit in the face really fucking hard; who would have guessed that mask was his weak point like a video game boss".  Or, "Well, of course all of those financial transactions that happened during that terrorist attack went through and cost Bruce Wayne his money."  Or most egregiously, "Why is Batman keeping that power source from public consumption?  We already have atomic bombs and mustard gas, what makes this thing so uniquely powerful as a weapon?  Iron Man uses the power generator in his chest as both a life saving device, cheap power source for his company facilities, and as a weapon... Wouldn't Batman get real use and have better security for the device if it were up and running?  This doesn't make any sense."
            To be fair though, while I do not think that it deserves all of the love it is getting, it also does not deserve all of the hate.  People have too strong a reaction to this film over the entire emotional spectrum, and it really just deserves to be the mediocre final chapter to an overall very potent film franchise.  If I were to offer a suggestion on how best to fix it, make it two two-hour movies instead of one movie that runs for not quite three hours.

Most Disappointing Movie of 2012: "Prometheus" (Trailer)
            I like science fiction.  I like the idea of Ancient Astronauts, lost knowledge, and the drive to discover god.  I also believe that people who are supposed to be scientists should act like scientists.  I believe that movies advertised as prequels to other movies should resemble the other movie thematically.  I think that this movie made numerous stupid mistakes to the point in which it just stopped working.

Best Performance in a Bad Movie: Michael Fassbender in "Prometheus" (link is to a longer previous blog)
            For all its faults, Fassbender was not one.  The android character, David was hard to pin down, but his motivations, his plans, his ultimate goals are all very mysterious and intriguing.  Fassbender made this character come alive with his rigid movements, his not quite human reactions and voice, the subtle wrongness of how he behaved that belied a character who acted human, but was not human.  If "Prometheus" had not been such a mess, I think this performance would have landed a Best Supporting Actor nomination by the Oscars.

This movie fell so short of what it could have been, it makes me kind of mad.

Missing the Point because of Marketing: "The Hunger Games" (Trailer)
            This might be the first movie I have ever had to look away from because the constant shaky camera made my stomach turn.  There is no moment in which this movie is not shifting and twitching and otherwise making me ill, the reason for that is so they can destroy the whole point of the movie.
            This movie is about the mass ritual killing of children for the political oppression of the weak, and the entertainment of the powerful.  More than 20 teens are murdered by other teens.  And I will say this unequivocally: if you can't show children being murdered by other children then you can't make this movie.  "The Hunger Games" uses shaky camera to hide the blood and death that is the whole message and point of the story.  Without that visceral punch the movie is just weak and flaccid bullshit.  It is at best bland and unfocused.  It totally missed the point.

The Deserved More Respect Award: "The Amazing Spiderman" (Trailer)
            This movie has gotten shit on so much, and really isn't that bad.  What leaves people with a bad taste in their mouths is that the movie was made in a rush by Sony or they would lose the rights to Spiderman back to Marvel, who would then be able to put Spiderman on future installments of "The Avengers".  The movie has a very simple story, doesn't do enough to distance itself from comparisons to the Sam Rami trilogy (they could have easily replaced Oscorp with another fictional Marvel company like Roxxon), but overall I really liked how funny Spiderman was, how they show visually how he evolves from a vigilante out for revenge, and then step by step into a hero; all of which is done by having his costume evolve from Pete, to Pete in a mask, to full on Spiderman.  Martin Sheen does a great job as Uncle Ben, playing a father rather than just a too nice to be real old guy, when he yells at Peter I felt as if he was behaving like a real dad would instead of just being "disappointed" in a soft spoken and condescending way.

The Really Not all that Bad Award: "Snow White and the Huntsman" (Trailer)
            For whatever reason, I actually have no idea why, people have decided that Kristin Stewart is a bad actress.  I don't know how they reached that conclusion as she so rarely acts.  In this movie, she did fine, so did everyone else.  This movie has an interesting world filled with cool set pieces, mostly in the form of a very toned down fairy garden, and a rather Tim Burton-esc haunted wood, nothing in it really fails or offends, it is just sort of okay.  A little slow in sections I suppose, but it overall works, it deserves less hate and a few more viewers.

Making History for the Worst Reason: "John Carter" (Trailer)
            This movie wanted to be "Avatar" so much.  It might have the worst marketing so far this century and is the single biggest financial disaster in the history of film costing hundreds of millions of dollars utilizing state of the art movie making technology, and making roughly enough money to cover catering and maybe gas enough for a beer run.
            And what is really sad, this movie could have totally worked.  The source material is very rich and kind of messy, written in an era in which modern science fiction tropes and conventions did not exist.  The source materials predates "Star Wars", "Star Trek", "Flash Gordon", "Conan", and the entirety of the Superhero genre, it has an odd perspective on space travel and science in general, it could be great if it did not take itself so damn seriously and cut down on the weird stuff.  Pull a "Lord of the Rings" and film a trilogy, cut out the unnecessary stuff, and explain in elegant fashion the more esoteric.  As is it is messy and over stuffed, but really, it just did not meet its potential.  And it paid the price by being a legendary money loss for Disney, which is sad.