31 Days of Horror – Part 2

Continuing with a month of creepies and crawlies…

Part 1 is here.

Day 4 – Maggie

(currently streaming on Amazon Prime)

Directed by Henry Hobson – Staring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin

A slow burn with this one. To be honest, it really does take about 30 minutes for the movie to get going, but once it did I was more than glad that I’d stuck around for it. Maggie is more about the slow deterioration of a person than about the actual jump-style scares. It’s about the horror of your body being eaten away by some fiendish virus. About knowing that someone you love is slowly going to lose control, but that you need to/have to stick by them until the very end – no matter what that means.

Day 5 – The Thing (2011)

Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen – Staring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton

On a day when a different sequel to an older 1980s movie was being released, I opted to go with a different sequel… uhm prequel. This version of the Thing decided to go back and tell the story of the Norwegian Base seen in the 1982 film. It dwells a bit more on the alien nature of the creature since they are the ones who dig it up in the first place. However, because of this immediate knowledge that there is something among them, the whole aspect of “it could be any one of us” is probably not played up as well as they could have. Many times the creature seems to reveal itself when discretion might have been the better option. My guess is that they wanted to go a bit more on the monster horror movie side rather than a purely psychological one.

I still enjoyed it, and you can tell they went to painstaking efforts to try and match everything you saw in the original with what you were seeing there. Though, it had been long enough since I’d seen the 1982 film, that some of them escaped me, until…

Day 6 – The Thing (1982)

Directed by John Carpenter – Starring Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, and Keith David

A cheat, as I have seen this movie, but since I was on a Thing kick, it only made sense to watch this version. The dread of the unknown, the whole “who can I trust” is very much on display in a way you don’t always see pulled off very well. Even remembering what I could about this one, I still got to play along with the characters trying to determine who might be the Thing and who might still be human.

The ending is just about the perfect answer to the question and takes on a slightly different feel having read The Things earlier in the week.

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Not quite the 7 days worth of scares I set out to do, but I’m all for getting some of this back on track as we approach another weekend.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Power Rankings – The Top 10 Most Powerful Fantasy Characters Ever

Hey…

I know…

Let’s count down the top 10 fantasy characters of all time.

Each of the following fantastical characters appears in a popular fantasy book, movie, or video game.

Some are modern. Others are old school. I’ll rank each from 1-10 in terms of their power.

A few rules:

  • Each character is a headliner – central to the book, movie, or game in which they appear. In other words, no background characters. Sidekicks are up for consideration (as long as they’re well-described.)
  • No one too obscure, meaning we’re not gonna pull up some random side-god from Final Fantasy 700
  • Humanoids only. No dragons, Cthulu-esque monsters, or Moby Dicks. Two legs and two arms are required (even if illusory) to play this game
  • Lastly, I didn’t include characters appearing primarily in comic books or cartoons…because…well…I simply don’t know enough about ’em. Also, since comic book characters are typically made to be over-powered, it feels like cheating. We’ll avoid them…with one exception.

Feel free to argue the results in the comments section.

Let’s get started…


Top 10 Most Powerful Fantasy Characters

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# 10 

Raistlin Majere (Dragonlance)

Raistlin Majere by AkiraNao

Coming in at number ten, we have the proud and dangerous wizard from the Dragonlance novel series. Raistlin starts out as a good guy (mostly) but after his test at the Tower of High Sorcery, he becomes something else. With his eyes, he sees the effect of time on all things (powerful indeed.) Ultimately, his powers grow such that he’s able to do battle with the gods themselves.

Not bad for a woodcutter’s son.

Also considered for this spot – Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)

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# 9 

Randall Flagg (Various Stephen King novels)

Randall Flagg by Michael Whelan

*He’s understated. He looks like your average Joe (sometimes.) And he wears many, many faces – Marten Broadcloak & Walter o’Dim, to name a few. As a demon, a sorcerer, and an infamous man of malice, the seemingly unstoppable R.F. moves throughout time and dimensions with bad, bad things on his mind.

Did he kill Pres. Kennedy? Will he eventually kill everyone? Who knows?

I wonder who’d win in a fight between R.F. and Raistlin Majere. Hmmmm…

Also considered for this spot – Moiraine Damodred (Wheel of Time series) and/or Yennefer of Vengerberg (The Witcher video game/novel series)

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# 8 

Doom Guy (Doom video game series)

But…he’s just a guy, right?

Wrong.

He’s a demon-slaughtering, Hell-smashing demi-god resurrected for the sole purpose of saving humanity from incineration. In the latest Doom iteration, we learn Doom Guy hails from an ancient order of Martian soldiers responsible for one task and one task alone:

Kill. Demons.

If you’re surprised he’s earned 8th place, don’t be. I’m not sure there’s a wizard alive whose magic could stop a BFG to the face.

Or a chainsaw wielded by Doom Guy with a Berserk power-up.

🙂

Also considered for this spot – Kratos (God of War) and Darth Vader (Star Wars)

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# 7

The Night’s King (Game of Thrones (novels and TV series)

He’s the ultimate necromancer.

He raises armies of wights with a flick of his fingers.

He slays dragons. He walks through fire. He turns babies into White Walkers. He orchestrates the invasion of all Seven Kingdoms.

Do NOT F with the Night King.

Also considered for this spot – Jadis the White Witch (Chronicles of Narnia) and/or Emperor Palpatine (Star Wars)

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# 6

Ganondorf (The Legend of Zelda)

Perhaps most compelling about good old Ganon is that he keeps coming back.

No matter how many times Link rises up to banish or destroy him, the ‘Dorf finds his way into Hyrule. And by virtue of claiming the Triforce, he has far more power than many of his contemporaries.

He’s sometimes a great beast. He’s often a powerful wizard. Even now and then, he’s a living, breathing cataclysmic presence in the sky.

And he edges out the Night’s King due to having already conquered his kingdom of choice…several times.

Even though he always seems to lose it in the end.

Also considered for this spot – Dracula (Bram Stoker’s novel)

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# 5

Gandalf the White (Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit)

He once slapped a Balrog of Morgoth off a mountain.

He defeated his own boss and plotted the downfall of Middle Earth’s primary nemesis, Sauron.

And he smokes a mean pipe.

Often cantankerous, sometimes downright mean, Gandalf might seem human, and yet he’s anything but. His powers are largely un-catalogued, but so obviously formidable. Sometimes, true power isn’t just lobbing fireballs and blasting lightning bolts. It’s all in the intellect, of which Gandalf has more than most.

Also considered for this spot – Albus Dumbledore and/or Voldemort (Harry Potter series)

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# 4

Pennywise  (Various Stephen King novels, also the movie, It)

Now we’re getting somewhere.

You might think of Pennywise as just a serial-killing clown. But It’s much, much more. As a Lovecraftian horror from beyond all normal dimensions, It’s come to Earth to consume as much humanity as It can.

It thrives on fear. It can shape-change. It can move about almost at will. By virtue of Its eternal nature and Its bizarre, otherworldly powers, It beats out earthbound characters. It’s possible some of the others might defeat It in one-on-one combat, but It’d probably just self-resurrect in the Macroverse and find some other food source to fill IT’s belly.

Yum.

Also considered for this spot – Lord Haliax of the Chandrian (The Kingkiller Chronicle)

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# 3 & 2

Superman & Wonder Woman (Movie versions)

 

Yeah. I know what I said. Comic book characters are generally only special because of their bloated superpowers…blah blah blah.

But since these two are mainstream and they’ve been in a few movies, they’re fair game.

Let’s talk Superman first.

His powers (at least in the movies) are absurd. He can seemingly take limitless punishment, as long as the ones dealing out the punishment don’t use Kryptonite. He flies. He lifts impossible weights. He shoots fire from his eyes. He can breathe in outer space. No elements appear to affect him. Maybe some of the aforementioned wizards would know of a way to stop him.

But I don’t. And so he takes spot #2 on the list.

As for Wonder Woman…well…

She’s a master of hand-to-hand combat. And that’s all well and good.

But she’s also decked out in a full array of divine gear. Without it, she’d lose a fight to pretty much anyone else on this list. But with it…she’s damn near unstoppable.

Her sword can cut atomic particles. Her bracelets are completely invincible. Her lasso makes everyone else tell the truth, which is extremely powerful if you think about it.

Other characters, even the magic-wielding ones, would be hard-pressed to stop her. I’m not sure whether she’s #2 and Superman’s #3, or vice versa.

And I’m not sure it matters.

Also considered for this spot – No one in particular

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# 1

Morgoth (The Silmarillion)

Morgoth holding the Silmarils – Ron Foerster

Most powerful of the Ainur, Morgoth (or Melker, as he was once known) was the tyrant of Middle Earth long before little Sauron came to power.

His powers were many:

Shape-changing. Orc-breeding. Dragon-ruling. World-creating (and destroying.)

Tolkien describes him as having more power than all his brethren (the Valar) combined. If he hadn’t spread his power so wide in his quest for dominion, he might’ve ruled Middle Earth until the end of all days.

Alas…in his arrogance…

Also considered for this spot – Lucifer (Paradise Lost)

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Notable mentions:

Darkness (Legend) – He can permanently end the sun’s reign. He can summon fire, twist the desires of mortals, and command various evil entities to do his bidding. His one problem: he couldn’t defeat Tom Cruise in a one-on-one duel. Also, he fell in love with Mia Sara (as did we all.) Shame on you, Darkness. You almost made the list.

Sauron (Lord of the Rings) – Ah, Sauron. You would’ve made the list if not for your boss (Morgoth) and the fact that you tied up too much of your power in a tiny little ring. Do better next time.

Intentionally left out:

Queen Bavmorda (Willow) – She’s an (almost) all powerful witch. She once turned an entire army into harmless pigs. She commands a mighty army of ruthless, skullmask-wearing warriors. But…and it’s a big but…she loses her final battle to a ‘peck,’ accidentally exiling herself to the nether world while fighting lil’ Willow. Step up your game, Bavmorda.

The Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz) – You died. To a little girl. With a bucket of water. Don’t they make magic spells to stop that sort of thing from happening? Must’ve sucked never being able to go outside in the rain.


If you like powerful characters, formidable wizards, and impossible-to-kill monsters, try some of these.

Until next time.

J Edward

An ordinary guy’s movie review of Blade Runner 2049

Disclaimer: This review contains no spoilers. It does contain minor plot elements and thematic discussions.

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I’m fresh off a viewing of Blade Runner 2049.

And I’m buzzing.

Director Denis Villenueve’s latest film tackles the not-so-easy task of reviving one of the more classic cult films of the early 80’s – the original Blade Runner. And boy, does he do it in style. For those not familiar with the bleak, mega-dystopian feel of the first film, Blade Runner 2049 recaptures it…and it does so in grand fashion.

Ever present rain drips from a never-sunny sky.

No birds. No leaves. No softness.

Just hard angles, harder hearts, and possibly the most brooding atmosphere since…well…pretty much ever.

Blade Runner 2049 isn’t a remake, in case you wondered. It’s a sequel, occurring decades (in movie time and real time) after the events of the original. In it, ‘K’ (Ryan Gosling) gets down to the dirty business of hunting the last of the old model ‘replicants.’ Replicants are programmed humans – faster, smarter, and stronger than regular people – but also mostly enslaved to humanity’s will.

As you can imagine, things don’t go particularly well for K. Every time his boss (Robin Wright) rings him up on his next-gen cell phone, you know s**t is about to go down.

And it does.

‘Luv’ – played to perfection by Sylvia Hoeks. When you see her, run.

Now then, if you were to waltz into the theater expecting a bang-bang action flick, you might as well tuck tail and head right back out the door. B.R. 2049 isn’t really an action film. That’s not to say action doesn’t happen or that the fights aren’t razor sharp. It’s just that Blade Runner 2049 is a thinking film-lover’s movie. At its core, it’s about atmosphere, emotion, and tension. It’s about feeling like you’re actually walking through the stark, cold wasteland of Los Angeles 2049. It’s a look at what our world might someday become.

It’s exhilarating. And terrifying.

I felt it. I think you will, too.

Ok. So let’s go ahead eliminate one concern you might have. No, you don’t have to worry about Harrison Ford. Unlike in The Force Awakens, he doesn’t just show up as wallpaper guy rehashing a thirty-year old shtick. He’s as vivid as everything else in the movie. And yeah, he can still fight.

And speaking of vivid performances, I’m allowing myself a moment to gush about one of the movie’s most intriguing characters. Joi (K’s pseudo-lover, played by the absurdly beautiful Ana de Armas) just about won my heart over in every scene she appears in. Poor Joi’s just a hologram-girl meets Stepford wife, and she nails her performance. Hers might’ve been an easy role for movie-goers to brush off as window dressing, but in my mind, she gives us a glimpse at what the future of human relationships might look like.

Bleak. Yet fascinating.

And it doesn’t hurt that Ana de Armas is simply stunning to behold.

Blade Runner 2049 is a long movie. Let’s be honest. Some of the scenes take a good while to develop, and others take their sweet time in coming to a close. This will assuredly provoke boredom in some movie-goers. At times, I admit I found myself begging for the next scene to start. And yet…the longer the film went on, the longer I wanted it to be. The quiet moments aren’t boring; they’re allowing us – the audience – to think. To ponder. To wonder what’s next.

In this respect, Denis Villenueve does very well. Just like he did in Arrival, he doesn’t leap casually from scene to scene. There’s a thoughtfulness in his pacing uncommon to most modern film directors. Some won’t appreciate it. Others might suffer bouts of impatience. But as for me…I learned to love it.

I wanted time to think.

During a movie like this, I needed it.

Plenty of spaces like this appear in the movie. Big. Sparse. Sterile. Beautiful.

Let’s talk antagonists. The bad guy is played capably (if weirdly) by Jared Leto. He’s cool, for a blind dude. The bad girl, however, is one of the best parts of the film. Her name is Luv. And no, she doesn’t luv anything except kicking ass. Evil ass-kicking women with no remorse…well…that just floats my film-lovin’ boat. I think everyone will ‘luv’ Sylvia Hoeks’ performance.

Musically, the film score (by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch) sounds a ton like the score from Arrival. It pairs well with the atmosphere, though sometimes feels a little loud. I’m a Hans Zimmer nut, and I’ll admit this isn’t his best ever effort. It’s too derivative. Even so, it’s better than most.

In the end, Blade Runner 2049 creates one of the finest dystopian atmospheres you’ll ever see. It’s populated  with fascinating characters, most of whom continually surprise movie-goers. Even I, the king of know-it-alls, got hit with a few plot twists I didn’t see coming. In a world full of predictable movies, that’s a good thing.

Once again, B.R. 2049 is long. Maybe too long for some. Early on, things take a while to develop. And not everyone will buy into the ending. There’s questions left unanswered, to be certain.

But…

For the patient fan, for the fan who likes to wander into worlds far different than our own, and for those who wonder what humanity’s fate might someday be, this movie is for you.

Go see it twice. I know I will.

And someone please get me Ana de Armas’ phone number.

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Read my other movie reviews here.

J Edward Neill

31 Days of Horror – Part 1

Every year I want to make October something cool. I want to watch as many horror movies as I possibly can. I want to fill the excess time with scares and vampires and zombies and whatever monster lives under my bed.

Yet, every year, I look up and it’s basically Halloween.

But not this year. This year I’m determined to do something every day. Whether it is a movie or a short film or a short story or a game or whatever… I’m going to embrace it!

Day 1 – Honeymoon

(currently streaming on Netflix)

Directed by Leigh Janiak – Staring Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway

There are four characters in this movie and two of them only appear for about a total of 5 minutes of screen time. The entire focus of this movie is on the newly wedded couple who have gone to her cabin in the woods for the week. A week of isolation, and sex, and fishing and strange lights outside, and wandering around in the woods and…

But really, this movie owes more to something like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Gaslight than anything else. It is really about how much do you know the person you’re with. And if they act “strange” is something actually wrong with them or is it you, being paranoid. As the viewer, you are there with Paul, trying to figure out if there is something legitimately wrong with Bea or if we might be dealing with a situation more different than we think.

This is one of those movies where I enjoyed it right up to the end, but the coda was probably unneeded in its present form. Definitely worth watching if just for the slow build of things being just wrong.

Day 2 – The Things

By Peter Watts

You can read this short story at Clarkesworld for free here.

If you have read John W. Campbell, Jr’s novella Who Goes There? or seen John Carpenter’s The Thing, then you might have an idea of what this short story is about. But instead of a strict retelling from another of the humans, this is from the POV of the Creature.

Watts does a great job in almost making The Thing into a sympathetic character who is as confused about our world and our ways as we are of it. There is true anguish as it tries to decipher what it can about humanity’s nature, why we would choose to become stuck in one form, and all the ways it thought it could potentially survive the encounter.

If you’ve seen the movie, Watts also has an answer about who might have been human and who might have been a Thing at the end.

Day 3 – Vicious

Written, directed and produced by Oliver Park

You can watch Vicious on Youtube here.

There isn’t anything unique about the story. A girl is alone in her house… or is she? Even if we’ve seen that movie a thousand times, when it comes to the horror side it really boils down to, is this thing scary?

Yes.

Through the use of the soundtrack, slow shots, a couple of jump scares, and an occasional camera shot that is just off-center making you watch the background more than any character in the foreground.

It has a viewing suggestion that I will echo here: watch alone, in the dark, with headphones.

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Three days down, many more scares to go.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Steampunk Fridays – Short Film – Eye of the Storm

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

Technically this is a music video, but if after watching it you don’t feel like you want to see a whole movie made in this style… well, I don’t have words for you. It’s done well enough that I think it’s ok to call it a film.

“Eye of the Storm” – By Lovett, from the album Highway Collection, 2011 – Directed by Christopher Alender

The story centers around a sky captain making his way across the sky, making peace with what came before and steadying himself on what may come next. Accompanied by a large dog-sized dragon, he sees the green glow just past an oncoming storm and must make his decision on how to deal with it. Whether he should avoid it or push through to the other side.

This feels like the end of his journey. Whether that implies his death or simply his last grand adventure, I’m not entirely sure.

Using a technique that reminds me a bit of Sin City with that mixture of animation and stylized actors. His goggles remain on his face, the orbs acting as two beacons in the dark night. They are our proxy to his eyes, able to still convey emotion even without being able to see what lies beneath.

This film has no spoken dialogue, but the song itself acts as our emotional center. It builds slowly, quietly, a simple peace. And then, when the storm crashes into the ship, and he is fighting the currents, the volume raises… crashing into the listener. Once through the rain and the wind, he sees the green light in the distance and pushes his machine directly toward it.

On my second watch, I brought up the lyrics and listened to the song only, allowing my memory of the scenes to supply the visuals.

For all that it cost

In the end there was no price to pay

For all that was lost

That storm carried it away

The storm carries all the mistakes he made. It carries the past away. And then it carries him onto his next (final) destination.

Or, perhaps he rids himself of those things. And by unburdening, he allows himself to actually become truly free.

 

 

Check it out and you tell me. Is this the end or the beginning?

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You can find more music from Lovett on his website, as well as a behind the scenes for this video.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Dragon Con 2017 Recap

Dragon Con always feels a bit like coming home. Even when the numbers of attendees keep going up and up, even when more hotels are added, and even when we take over more and more of downtown, there is just something about Dragon Con that makes it feel different. Long before Georgia became Hollywood South, this was the place for those actors on the shows and movies we all loved would come by for a visit. They would gather us all around and tell their stories to all who would listen.

And for a little while, the gulf between our lives and their lives disappeared.

I hadn’t thought about it much before Friday night, but I’ve been coming to Dragon Con since 1993 when Chad Shonk’s father dropped us off at the entrance to the hotel and we made our way to see Todd McFarlane.

I still have my signed Amazing Spider-Man 300.

It was my first convention. Heck, it was pretty much my first idea that such things even existed. You mean creators of the Funny Books I love to read are coming to my town? I’m sold.

About 10 years ago I convinced my wife to come to Dragon Con for a day. Serenity either had just come out or was coming out, so virtually the entire cast was going to be there. She went, had a great time, and while it took a couple of years before she would be a regular, it has become our little vacation in the city for Labor Day Weekend.

2017

My big take aways for this year were:

  • Standing in lines is not a lot of fun.
  • Standing in lines and not getting into the panel you wanted is really no fun.
  • Being in the overflow room for a panel and then having the feed cut out is just right out.
  • Avoid the dealer’s room on Saturday if at all possible.
  • There are a lot of people in Downtown Atlanta on Labor Day weekend!
  • It never gets old to see the people coming in for the Chic-fil-a Kickoff Classic (college football game for those who don’t know) have confused looks on their faces at the various costumes running around.
  • The costumes continue to impress me year after year. I stand in awe to those people’s dedication to their craft.
  • I love listening to the actors when they are passionate about their work.
  • Catching up with friends might be the single best part.

This year took a different turn when the day before we were to go downtown, Courtney found a hotel room available within 2 blocks of the Hyatt. And we could get it for only Friday and Saturday night. Since we normally don’t go down until Friday and almost never go on Monday, this worked out perfectly.

Throughout the course of the weekend, we’re always amazed at the level of costumes and the creativity everyone has. Whether it is the Zoltar machine from the movie BIG to a robot controlled Stewie from Family Guy, people continue to push the boundaries for the next cool thing. Which is awesome to see, even if I don’t envy the amount of time it might take them to create.

Friday

Somehow on Friday morning, even after getting there at 9:30 for a 10:00 panel, we were forced to the overflow for Nathan Fillion. No biggie. He’s honestly entertaining enough that after a few minutes I mostly forgot he wasn’t in the room… until the Feed cut out for about 10 minutes, and then when they got the audio back, it was probably another 5 before we got the visual. Not anything crushing, but not the way we want to start things off. After seeing him, I realized we’re not doing our due diligence having not seen Con Men (though it was on this weekend, so I have them recorded).

After an aborted attempt to see Wallace Shawn (Inconceivable!) and a decision not to try to fight my way into the Stan Lee panel (they started lining up 2+ hours early), we decided to venture over to the dealer’s room in an attempt to see the wares before the craziness of the weekend really kicked into gear. Last year there was a line to get in by about 2:30, so we made sure we showed up closer to when it opened at 1.

Here’s the thing about the Dealer’s room that I’ll never understand: why is it people stand in the middle of the aisles and talk to each other? I don’t mean the “hey, let’s go this way” but full conversations. Given how packed the room gets, I’d think you’d want to do such things in an area where you wouldn’t be obstructing traffic.

While Friday’s trip was more about identifying potential buys on Sunday, Egg had put me on the look out for Kevin Hearne‘s Iron Druid Chronicles which my wife pointed out after about 2 minutes in the room. I ended up speaking with Kevin for a few minutes and grabbed a couple of copies of the comic.

The final panel attempt on Friday was one for the Gilmore Girls featuring Sean Gunn. Apparently, a room which holds 350 people is not enough by about 50 people and superfan that my wife is – was shut out.

I feel like this is the second time we’ve missed out on a Gilmore Girls/Sean Gunn panel… but maybe it’s just a false feeling of Deja vu?

We dropped in on TesseraGuild’s own Amanda Makepeace (and daughter) who was busy holding down her table in the art area. Prints were flying off her table and, spoiler alert, she ended up winning the “Best Space Scene” at the Dragon Con Art Show!

War for Jupiter

Saturday

Waking up on Saturday with an extra hour of sleep (due to not having to drive into downtown) was nice. I also realized that the 10 AM panels don’t necessarily fill up (unless you’re Nathan Fillion, I guess). There was no line, the Con could let you right into the room.

John Cusack was interesting as he’d never been to Dragon Con before, but he also wasn’t there to actively promote a project. So it really became a series of questions from the audience about all of his movies. I wasn’t sure if he just wasn’t as comfortable in such a setting or what. You could tell when he was really engaged with a question based solely on the length of his responses. Possibly because he’d answered the question a million time previously, some of his answers ended up being slightly longer Yes/No responses.

Though, I don’t want it to seem like it was a bad panel, far from it. Just that many times on these type question/answer sessions the worry is always “how many questions can we get them to answer?” and this was a bit more like “I’m going to get through all the questions.”

The highlight question was:

“Do you ever get stopped in real life by someone who wants 2 dollars?”

A laugh. “Every day… every day.”

The Flash panel reminded me that it is beyond cool that John Wesley Shipp is a part of the cast. To have that link to the old show and to see how much he respects these actors and the work they put in… it’s amazing. Danielle Panabaker was definitely the star of the panel as the majority of the questions went to her (many with the questions centered around her Killer Frost alter-ego).

The highlight of the evening was supposed to be The Barrowman Show. As soon as we saw such a thing existed we were set ongoing. Apparently, everyone else at Dragon Con had the same idea and it filled up completely. I can only imagine the craziness that went on behind closed doors.

Sunday

On Sunday, we began with another DC Universe panel: Arrow.

One thing about the highly entertaining Arrow panel or as it came to be called: Game of Arrow. Thea (Willa Holland) was/is clearly obsessed with the show. She had theories, she had thoughts about the end of the season. It was hilarious how she’d get going on a rant before the moderator tried to steer things back to Arrow. And then one of the others would push her to keep talking about it.

She says she wants to guest on a podcast to talk about it. I think you could do far worse than her. Plus she clearly knows her stuff. At the very least she’d bring a passion about the show!

Then it was onto a fan run panel about LEGION. If you haven’t seen the show, you can check out my review here. Lots of theories and thoughts were thrown out. I even supplied my own thoughts about the show – how maybe the reason we’re not sure of when exactly takes place is that just like any memories you have – we’re always wrong about when they take place. I mean, how many times have you thought a movie was only 5 years old when it came out over a decade ago?

In what has become a staple at Dragon Con over the last few years, I end up closing out things in the Venture Bros panel. Regardless of whether the show has a season ongoing or about to come out or nowhere near debuting… things are going to be funny and weird. This year the panel was made up of many of the voices from the show (including Dr. Venture and Wide Whale). Sadly, Doc Hammer and Jackson Public weren’t able to be there – apparently hard at work on the next season!

So I suppose I forgive them.

They showed off a book of artwork, sketches, character designs, etc. coming out in late Fall from Dark Horse which looked very cool (and something I need to add to the old wishlist). The trailer is here.

We capped off the evening with dinner with a couple of friends where we occupied that poor server’s table for far too long, but it had been far too long since we’d seen John and Jeane, so we didn’t have much of a choice!

I also attended a writing workshop session (as well as another writing related panel – at this point I couldn’t tell you what days they were actually held!) run by Michael Stackpole: 21 Days to a Novel. I still need to transcribe my notes, but I’m interested in giving the technique a proper try on my next project.

As we made our drive back, a little of the con depression began to creep in, but considering my month of Gen Con and then this convention that might have been exhaustion more than anything else.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

IT movie review

(Disclaimer: no major spoilers appear in this article. Minor thematic and a few vague plot details are discussed.)

*

I knew what I was getting myself into when I settled into my seat on a chilly Friday evening.

Twenty-seven years ago, on an eve not so different, I watched the original IT. Starring Tim Curry, it promised vast horror, and yet it only partly delivered. Tim Curry’s performance was of course flawless, but the disjointed flashbacks and clunky pacing didn’t deliver in the ways they could’ve.

After all, we’re talking about IT here.

Evil shape-changing Cthulu-esque clown invades small American city to devour children and consume oceans of human fear?

This kind of plot needs a better movie.

And perhaps IT 2017 is it.

As any good movie-goer knows, the key to setting a horror movie’s tone is to make us care about the characters. Anything less, and the most one can hope for is B-grade cheap scares and campy, gory death scenes. Fortunately, character-wise, IT 2017 delivers in a way most horror films just don’t. From the opening scene onward, we care about young (and stuttering) Bill (played by Jaeden Lieberher.) He’s vulnerable, yet strong in ways we can’t yet see. And so it goes for nearly all of the young, mostly unknown cast of ‘kids.’ Bev (Sophia Lillis) and Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) stand out in the gang of seven Losers. We meet the young gang in their early teens, and they behave exactly like teenagers. They’re funny, sarcastic, and not yet sure of themselves.

Just like we all were.

And not only are the kids believable, they’re nuanced. No cookie-cutter fears here, folks. Each young’un deals with terror in a different way…and each one has a separate reason for fearing death at the hands of Pennywise, the Dancing Clown. Best of luck to the adults who have to follow this young cast up in IT – Chapter Two (rumored to hit theaters in 2019.) These kids will be a tough act to follow.

Speaking of Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) he’s as creepy as we can hope for. I won’t compare him to Tim Curry (not really a fair fight) but Skarsgard delivers a solid performance. Modern special effects help Pennywise go over-the-top in ways 1990’s IT couldn’t. He’s not the most subtle villain, but likely one of the most powerful…and diabolical ever to hit the big screen.

Side-note: being a movie-geek and a lover of HP Lovecraft, I recommend this wiki explaining the Cthulu-esque origins of Pennywise. (Hint – IT isn’t just a clown.) Beware of spoilers.

Who wants to float?

Now…let’s be honest. The adults in IT are afterthoughts. Bev’s father (Stephen Bogaert) is appropriately creepy, while young hypochondriac Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) has a mom (Mollie Atkinson) who’s pretty much the most overbearing helicopter parent ever. And then there’s bully Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) whose dad (Stuart Hughes) shows up just long enough to make us hate him. But that’s it in terms of adult, non-Pennywise roles.

And that’s just fine.

This movie isn’t about the adults, but instead the impacts they’ve had on their children.

Now then…

It’s safe to say that an hour in, I cared plenty about all seven kids, but wanted more monster. IT runs pretty long (more than two hours) and I’ll admit at times I craved a slightly faster pace. But that’s just the thing. To really build anticipation, and to avoid some pretty common horror tropes, IT needed space to breathe. Meaning, if you’re looking for an in-and-out gorefest or a quick slasher horror flick, this isn’t your film. The expectation here is that movie-goers will be patient. After all, this film is just part one of two. It’s basically the Lord of the Rings of horror flicks.

IT is what Dark Tower was supposed to be, but failed to live up to.

Other notes:

The special effects? They’re good, but not obnoxious.

The music? Subtle, but not intrusive.

Jump scares? Only a handful, thanks to director Andy Muschietti. If you’re looking to be completely terrified, this isn’t necessarily the movie for you.

Adherence to Stephen King’s novel? Well….not exactly. I didn’t mind the deviations. Although, to really appreciate the bottomless depth of IT’s evil, one really needs to read the book (or at least hope the second movie dives headlong into the monster’s true nature.)

Ultimately, IT is a solid film. It’s not just a horror flick, but a character piece and reflective of several of humanity’s real-life fears. It’s sometimes slow, sometimes perfectly-paced, but mostly very good.

For me (and for most of you, I’m betting) the measures of a good film are:

A. Would I see IT again? The answer is yes…pun intended.

B. Am I itching to see the sequel? Yes. IT can’t come out fast enough. Pun intended again.

In other words, go see IT.

*

For my other movie reviews, go here.

To get into something just as scary (but not nearly as long) go here.

J Edward Neill

Steampunk Fridays – 5 Steampunk Movies You Should Watch

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

Maybe…

Steampunk as a genre is both a century plus old and somewhat relatively new. Arguments can be made that the birth of the form is found in the works of Mary Shelly and HG Wells and Jules Verne as much as they might be given to those who put it on the map for modern audiences: Tim Powers, James Blaylock, and KW Jeter.

Yet, as I was coming up with this list of 5 Steampunk movies, I had to admit that there aren’t as many as you might think there are considering the number of costumes I see posted all over the web (or at conventions like Dragon Con). The following aren’t necessarily the best, but these are ones who contribute in their own way to the genre.

The Prestige (2006)

Ok, I might have lied. This one is not only worth seeing, but it is worth watching multiple times. Told through a series of flashback, this is the story of dueling stage magicians who are constantly trying to one up the other through sabotage or stealing the other’s tricks.

Much like the subject matter, the movie itself is somewhat of a trick, daring you to figure out its secrets as one twist follows another. The lengths that two men will go to in order to get the last word.

And just when you think you’ve figured it all out… now comes the reveal.

What makes it Steampunk?

Stage Magic. Nikola Tesla makes an appearance and builds a machine that seemingly allows the magician to move instantly from one place to another.

 

Wild Wild West (1999)

So we go from the top of the form to one of its disappointments. The problem with Wild Wild West isn’t that it wears its steampunk roots on its sleeves, no the problem is that it never takes any of the plots seriously. Things are played for laughs, but there are no real stakes for our characters. Instead, we are treated to a series of gadgets which would make James Bond jealous. Add in an odd motivation for the villain of the piece: He’s going to use his technology to help defeat the United States as punishment for winning the Civil War… Ok, I can understand that. He’s a southerner who was on the losing side. However, the crux of his plan is to have President Grant divide the country among Great Britain, France, Spain, Mexico, the Native Americans, and, of course, himself.

What?

Wild Wild West is proof that you still need a story on top of the steam technology.

What makes it Steampunk?

Honestly, this movie is chocked full of Steampunk items: a giant mechanical spider, trains, and a steam-powered wheelchair!

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Maybe I’m blinded by Robert Downey Jr’s performance, but I really like this movie (and its sequel, A Game of Shadows). If Steampunk means Victorian Setting, then this wins as it’s set in London near the turn of the century. A dirty, crowded city trying to birth itself into the new industrial world.

The plots of the original movie follow Sherlock Holmes as he tries to figure out how Lord Henry Blackwood managed to potentially cheat death. Throughout, he’s forced to try to find the truth of things even if every new revelation seems to point to a more supernatural explanation for how the Lord escaped his execution.

Much like any good mystery, I liked following along with the characters as they made their way through the maze of lies and deceits, often wondering what the answer was going to actually be.

What makes it Steampunk?

A mixture of science and magic being used together. Secret societies. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

 

The Time Machine (2002)

Based on HG Wells’ novel, this particular version is more of a cautionary tale of what happens when you try and change the past. Dr. Hartgren’s fiancee’s death at the beginning of the film is what pushes him to complete the machine in order to try to change the past. However, in almost a nod to Groundhog Day, each attempt to stop her death is foiled in some way. Realizing he can’t find the answer to his question: “How do you change the past?” in his current time, he pushes the machine forward to discover the answer.

Around the time I graduated high school, I went on a spree of reading many of the “classics”. The Time Machine was one of the first and probably is responsible for my love of time travel in fiction. This version of the story has the strongest reason for the main character to travel in time at all (I believe, in the novel, he’s mostly doing it to show that he can). The heartbreak of losing his true love over and over… I completely bought into what he was trying to do, and how he’s literally going to the end of time if it meant saving her.

What makes it Steampunk?

If being based on one of the seminal books of the genre isn’t enough, then I’m not sure what is.

 

Van Helsing (2004)

This should be a no-brainer. You have the vampire slayer, Van Helsing, also acting as a potential “monster hunter”. You have free range over the entire Universal Monster franchises. You have Dr. Frankenstein teaming up with Dracula. You have a monster hunter who works for the Vatican. You get werewolves and gypsies and potentially angels (?).

And yet, somehow the movie just never delivers on its original promise.

This is one of those movies that I look upon as a lost opportunity. This should have been the start of a very cool franchise (which might have given us an updated version of The Creature, maybe?). Instead, it was dead pretty much on arrival.

What makes it Steampunk?

More of the gothic feel of the form to start. Many roleplaying games and novels have used the monsters are walking among us within the Steampunk framework. Dr. Frankenstein’s experiments.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

No One Is Safe

If a show sets up an expectation that anyone can die and then showcases a handful of characters… is it really being true to its core premise? To put it another way, at what point does your desire to see further main characters killed off interfere with story and enjoyment? When does worry as a viewer disappear? When is it replaced with apathy at what may come?

“I just don’t feel like any of the main characters are in real danger.”

Both a solid argument and a bit of strangeness all rolled into one. For we all have watched the serialized shows for the past twenty some odd years. And with their coming it means we are watching lives twist and change through each zombie apocalypse, vampire slayer, gangster talking to a shrink, plane crash survivors, high school teacher turned criminal mastermind… all of it. Through it all, whether we knew it or not, we were watching a show not only likely to get some characters killed off, but they might very well be people we enjoyed watching. It put us at the edge of our seats week in and week out.

Does that change as the shows go on longer? Assuming the writing quality doesn’t suffer from the weight of its own success, is the idea “Anyone can die” enough of an idea to ensure the ratings don’t suffer.

And if it does, what can the writers do to bring that… fear back to the viewing experience?

I read comics, a format where if you read the adventures of Batman or Spider-man then the one truth is pretty much universal – the hero isn’t going to die at the end of the issue (and for this argument I’d like to say that yes, some of these characters have “died” and they have come back – but you have decades worth of stories where they just go on and on). My point is that I don’t need the fear of death for my characters to enjoy a comic book. I just need the story to be compelling in some fashion or another.

I would think that in order to have a serialized show there has to be a consistent POV. And while many serialized shows have contained multiple POVs, I still must care somewhat about the characters. So a lot of times the whole idea of “No one is safe” is very artificial. Buffy killed off a potential main cast member in its pilot episode. Angel did the same about half-way through its first season. Lost killed off some characters you loved and let others you hated stick around for longer than they should have.

Odds were high, though, that Jack and Buffy and Angel and Walter were going to keep going for the majority of the show. And I would assume anyone who loved those shows wouldn’t want those particular characters to die without some huge (HUGE) reason behind it from a story perspective.

The two shows currently airing which try to walk this line (as far as the idea “anyone can die”… well almost anyone… well maybe just the supporting characters… and Sean Bean…”): Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.

From what I’ve seen and read from both series (being a fan of the books and comics), I have to believe each contains a handful of “untouchables”… at least until the final season of each. There are certain characters I expect will continue to breathe life in their respective universes. GoT – Arya, Danny, and Tyrion seem the most likely. WD – Rick and Carl… with Carl actually being the absolute last survivor from our original group (my personal theory on how that story could/should possibly end).

The Walking Dead probably has the greater burden of the two, being in the post-apocalyptic world where, if we’re being honest about it, people are just fodder. A place where every day could and probably should be your last. Over the seasons they introduce new characters and kill off preexisting ones, but there has slowly become a “core” group who have managed to stick around from season 1 through the end of this last season. Is it a bad thing this has happened? Remember, we’re not watching an anthology where the characters only are on set for the episode or two. We need to build a connection with them (thus connecting us to the show itself).

Game of Thrones goes through episodes where no one dies, and then all of a sudden, everyone is gone. It also has the benefit of being much closer to a planned ending (only 13 episodes left total between this season and last). Things are coming to a head, which means those characters we’ve grown accustomed to watching may slowly drop away without us realizing it’s about to even happen.

So is unpredictability a good thing or the only thing?

I’m not sure if past a certain point it matters all that much. Most of the time, I’m willing to forgive a show some smaller things if they’ve delivered on their promises in the past.

So obviously I think everyone can die at any instance? No. Honestly, I assume most main characters are going to make it a little while longer. I don’t expect to Sansa die anytime soon… I don’t expect Michonne to kick the bucket this coming season. And that’s the thing… I don’t need to fear for their lives… not when I can still fear for their souls.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Death of Ideas

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

 

There are no original ideas.

This year is the worst box office year for movies in forever.

The only things which make money are sequels.

Now that Marvel has led the way, everyone wants their own universe… whether it’s a good idea or not.

No one makes the comics/books/tv shows/movies/etc I want to consume.

***

This, or something like it, fills my Facebook feed and fills up blogs I frequent and dominates the headlines of various other places on the internet. Complaining about the state of entertainment currently available. Complaining that is it all more of the same and why doesn’t someone do something about it.

Complaining.

Maybe, just maybe, we’re not looking hard enough?

***

Remember when you were a kid? Assuming you were anything like me, you probably were a fan of Star Wars. And when I was 8 or 9, I remember first hearing what became an ever-persistent rumor of a Star Wars saga which would span a total of 9 episodes. Nine! On the playground, during sleepovers and birthday parties we tried to wrap our heads around the very idea of such a thing. What would that even look like? Would they come out every couple of years?

None of us say in the bedroom, stomped our feet, crossed our arms, and held out breath because “Why isn’t anyone doing something new?” It never occurred to us.

Did you imagine what those other 6 episodes might look like?

Later, in my teens, everything was still new enough that even if there was a sequel to something like Batman, it was something to look forward to… not lament its very existence.

***

The entertainment world has certainly changed the way they do things with any action or genre type movie (and some random comedies as well). They are looking for the sequel. The almighty trilogy.

The way we devour movies and tv shows have reached the point where there is enough “stuff” available that it only makes sense to try to serve some existing fan base out there. It’s just flat-out easier to get buy-in on something people already recognize.

And I don’t believe this has to be a bad thing. I don’t worry about whether there are too many Super Hero sequels or that Star Wars Episode VIII is on the horizon. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, how jazzed are you that there are more stories coming from that world.

Why does this have to be a bad thing?

***

And I know what you’re saying. The big production companies only want to make a dollar (or more like many millions of dollars) and so they aren’t investing in the smaller movies. And why would they when the next Avengers movie is going to print money?

I sometimes wonder if back in the 50s and 60s whether people were annoyed by the idea of another John Wayne Western was coming out.

Were you really put out by having all those great/cheesy/insert another adjective here for the horror movies in the 80s? I love some of them in many ways, and even I didn’t bother watching most. It didn’t mean I couldn’t watch something else if I wanted to.

***

I have a friend who talks about his current comic monthly pull list. And every few months he mentions cutting the number of Marvel comics he is reading. And then 3 months later, we’re having a very similar conversation about the exact same comics.

It’s like someone has convinced all of us that the box we live in is all we could possibly see or hear. The same people who are complaining aren’t going to see that independent movie which made $2 million dollars last year. The ones complaining certain comic companies aren’t making comics for “Them” anymore aren’t necessarily searching out more indy comics to fill in those gaps. Instead, they talk about only buying 10 comics a month, down from 30. Or sometimes even worse cuts than that.

***

Here’s the secret: other people feel the same way as you, but they are creating new things. Maybe it is a series of novels from an author you’ve never heard of. Maybe it’s that movie you keep scrolling past on Netflix because you don’t recognize anyone’s name in the description. Maybe there is a comic book which will speak to you again in a way you didn’t think was possible anymore. Maybe around the corner are new horror movies or new sci-fi things or new tv shows which don’t have anything to do with part 17 of the latest craze.

And if you’re really lucky, maybe this new thing you fall in love will spawn its own series of sequels and suddenly you can claim the other thing us nerds love to claim:

“Well, I liked it first!”

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Just Remember Me When

Sometimes these things take time. And by the time I mean way too long to actually have passed before a story leaves your head and hits the page. And sometimes you can ensure a speedier process by just outlining and sitting butt in chair. But sometimes the finish line is so close that it completely eludes you. There is nothing to do but wait patiently while it all comes together.

That’s what happened yesterday. A couple of years worth of thinking about possibly, maybe we can, no we can’t, what’s it missing, what does it need? When will it be finished?

Yesterday Courtney and I released our second Veronica Mars Amazon Kindle Worlds Novella! You can find it right here!

Because much like Pringle’s, you can’t just write one story in the Veronica Mars universe and be completely satisfied. There are too many possible characters to write about. When our first novella came out, I wrote about it here. In that, the character of Max was not only the easiest choice, but it felt like no one else would immediately use her for their own stores. This time around if you are writing during season 1 or most of season 2, you can’t avoid the character of Duncan Kane. He’s Veronica’s on again/off again boyfriend. Yet, at times you really don’t know what’s going on in his head very much. To both of us that presented an opportunity to maybe see what makes this character work or not.

No biggie, just hanging out with the Ghost of my dead sister.

His parents are controlling. His sister was murdered (and for a while, it looked like he might have been the culprit). He is best friends with the guy is now dating his ex (and rooming with the guy).The reason this one took longer was that the core story came so easily. Duncan’s current girlfriend’s car has gone missing, and he can’t ask Veronica for help (because of the whole – she’s his ex).

There some complex stuff going on in there. Add to that the summer sessions between seasons make for decent fodder in the “I want to know what you did last summer” vibe.The reason this one took longer was that the core story came so easily. Duncan’s current girlfriend’s car has gone missing, and he can’t ask Veronica for help (because of the whole – she’s his ex).

That said, the reason this one took longer was that the core story came so easily. Which seems counter to how this whole thing should work.Duncan’s current girlfriend’s car has gone missing, and he can’t ask Veronica for help (because of the whole – she’s his ex).

“Duncan’s current girlfriend’s car has gone missing, and he can’t ask Veronica for help (because of the whole – she’s his ex).”

Pretty straight forward, right?

What happened was we wrote 90% of it and then couldn’t quite figure out what the missing 10% was. Some of it was massaging what we had, but some were to add in new scenes, try some different kinds of story-telling in the B story with his therapist sessions.

What we have now is something we’re both very happy with. I’m interested to see how it does in comparison with the first one.

An excerpt from the novella:

You’d think she’d care a little bit more about what happened, but the woman is unbreakable. It is always about appearances with her. And right now, she can’t go to any of the dinner parties without the looks of pity from everyone she knows. She can’t spin it, so the next best thing is to remove herself from the equation until enough time has passed that it doesn’t matter anymore. Some new scandal will reveal itself and things will return to her version of normal.

She tries to make it all about me, but truthfully, it’s all about her.

Her image.

Her social class.

Her life.

I can’t take it anymore. Sometimes it’s better to sit there and remain silent. And then there are the other times. “Don’t you think the justice system might look poorly on Dad leaving the country given the obstruction charges?”

Her look is a mixture of astonishment that I‘d even bring up her husband’s temporary incarceration, and her defense mechanism immediately deflects. “Don’t worry about that. That’s why we pay our lawyers the immense fees.” Then, without missing a beat. “Now go pack. I want to leave early in the morning.”

“No.”

“No?”

“No.” I’m sure it won’t matter. She never listens. “I’m staying. I have classes. Finals.”

“Didn’t you hear me; you can do all of that over the computer.”

“No.”

“Duncan. This isn’t a request. You will-“

“I’m tired of being handled. That’s all you do anymore. I’m not sure if it’s because you feel guilty about how Lilly didn’t follow in your footsteps or what? Do you think if you control every little thing I do then nothing bad can ever happen again?”

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

Break out the fake hacking, techno, martial arts, and black leather! Why a Matrix relaunch could work.

I’m a huge fan of  The Matrix, and from a creative side of things, an even bigger fan of the overall universe/ concept of the property. On the other side of things, I’m lukewarm to outright “will turn the movie off because I’ve been bored to tears” when it comes to Matrix: Reloaded and Matrix: Revolutions.

The movie, along with a few other creative sources, propelled me into my career as a writer of all things super heroic, epic, sci-fi, and all around kick ass.

So when I heard that Warner Brothers was giving some thought to possibly restarting the franchise, I thought I’d just share a few opinions. Really trying not to rant here.

There’s enough of that on the internet, so call this a “calm laying out of ideas/ thoughts”.

Original Recipe or Crispy is the true answer we seek……

-In the second movie Col. Sanders, I mean The Architect, established that there had been other “One’s” in the vein of Neo.

He explained that fights/conflicts like the ones of the Matrix trilogy had happened before, suggesting that this was sort of an endless loop.

So like it or not, the Wachowski’s left the door open for more stories to possibly be told for a concept which they no longer completely own (when they sold the idea to New Line Cinema/ Warner Bros.).

Unless they signed a kick ass deal which put the complete rights of the franchise in their hands, then WB always had the possibility of telling more stories in this universe without them, and they inadvertently (or maybe that was their plan from the beginning) provided a really solid jumping off point for future stories to be told.

It would be nice for Warner Bros to bring them in on a creative front, but legally speaking, they probably aren’t obligated to. Definitely sucks, I know.

Or not, which leads me to my next point……


-As much as I love The Matrix (one of my favorite movies of all time and a trend setter for modern sci-fi film) the subsequent sequels were a’ight to just horrible. I’m not a huge fan of the Animatrix as a whole. Enjoyed some of the shorts. Others just weren’t my cup of tea.

So any other stories that could be told in this universe, which is extremely expansive, should be told probably by someone else.

I like Sense 8 well enough, and even enjoyed that Channing Tatum roller skating in the sky space opera movie they directed, but with the subsequent Matrix sequels and other movies they’ve directed since then (though I hear Speed Racer has a cult fan following) I’d rather have them on as producers, or hands off, sort of in the vein of Lucas and the current round of Star Wars.

The Star Wars franchise has hit an all time creative and pop culture high with handing off the reigns to other creators, examples including Rogue One and Star Wars: The Force Awakens

-There are some awesome creators who can tackle this material in the form of screenwriters and directors who could kick ass in this universe, and I think they deserve a chance to tell stories set in the world of The Matrix. Once again, look at the Star Wars franchise, and the hiring of such modern/ talented storytellers as J.J. Abrams, Gareth Edwards, Rian Johnson, Phil Lord and Chris Miller to continue to expand this universe.

Heck, I’d be up for writing an expanded universe comic for The Matrix.

Warner Bros: hit a dude up.

Please let this be good. By all that is holy, please let this be good.

-I think between this possible relaunch and the burgeoning Harry Potter film-verse restart with Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, I feel that Warner Bros. is trying to get a viable franchise in their hands because the DC film-verse is currently just not cutting it.

Though the Matrix movies steadily got bad in quality, they still made a crap ton of money, and that’s all these studios care about.

-Lastly, don’t do a reboot. Just pick up with another The One as suggested by Col. Sanders. Create a new story, new conflict, higher stakes, etc.

That’s about all that I have. Just a few opinions.

Please discuss below, share, and be civil. 🙂

A Thought for Today – Seventeen Years The Wolverine

Welcome to A Thought for Today, a knockoff… er, homage of J Edward Neill’s A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every so often we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, we look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

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Seventeen Years The Wolverine
OR
I’m the best there is at what I do. But what I do is… play Wolverine… for 17 years…

Hugh Jackman played Wolverine in nine films. Three in the original X trilogy, three solo Wolverine/Logan films, and three from the new X series. Deadpool is the only Fox X-Men theatrical release that Hugh Jackman did not appear in (though referenced in the movie and during the promotional tour). Jackman stated that Logan (released 3/3/17) will be his final appearance as Wolverine.* For his work on these films, he’s received modest financial compensation (only enough money to buy nations) and two awards – Saturn and People’s Choice. Putting aside the money and assuming, after 17 years, Hugh Jackman really is retiring from Wolverine, what type of recognition does he deserve? In this day and age where 17 years in any job is unique, what would his service merit? If you were the 20th Century Fox executive charged with the fond farewells to Hugh, how would you express ‘thank you for all you’ve done’? A dinner and speech? An award? Solid gold Wolverine claws? Retiring the character (likely in favor of X-23)? Your decision, what does he deserve?

· X-Men (2000) – Won the Saturn Award: Best Actor category
· X2: X-Men United (2003)
· X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
· X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) – Won the People’s Choice Award: Favorite Action Star category
· X-Men: First Class (2011)
· The Wolverine (2013)
· X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
· X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
· Logan (2017)

*Writer’s Note – I’d lay odds that Jackman will cameo in Deadpool 2. And Deadpool will sew his mouth up. And we’ll all laugh despite hating the X-Men Origins: Wolverine reference.

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If you want real philosophical questions from J Edward Neill, check out his A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

For more writing from Egg Embry, wanna-lancer, go here to read about buying a role-playing game resume.

Chad’s Favorite Fifteen of 2016

I’m ashamed that my list isn’t very esoteric. Every film on here was a fairly mainstream release and all of them have received some level of praise and success. But I didn’t find any hidden gems this year. I’m sure there were some. If you found them, let me know. But here’s my list of my favorite films of 2016, as usual broken into 3 tiers: I. Masterpieces, II. Great Films, and III. Very Good Films.

I.

ARRIVAL (Denis Villeneuve)

Sicario was my favorite film of 2015 and now here’s Villeneuve’s latest, at the top of my list once again. Needless to say he’s becoming one of the world’s premier filmmakers. I normally wouldn’t be too excited about new Bladerunner and Dune films, but with Denis at the helm, I’m now actively looking forward to them. I’m not talking about the actual film too much. I don’t want to give any of it away. Yes, it is a film about a couple scientists trying to communicate with alien visitors. But that is just one layer of this beautiful gut-punch of an onion, and I’d rather you peel it for yourself and cry your eyes out. Lois Lane, Hawkeye, and Saw Gerrera are all great but it’s Eric Heisserer’s screenplay and Villeneuve’s confidence and grace behind the camera that make this one of the best science fiction experiences ever put to film.

THE HANDMAIDEN (Park Chan-Wook)

Park’s best film since Old Boy, The Handmaiden is not at all what it seems. The poster and title and production design and costuming would leave you to believe that you’re about to watch a “serious” period drama, a Korean “Downton Abbey” or something. But The Handmaiden, while having those trappings, is a crazy-as-fuck double-and-triple-cross forbidden-lesiban-love-story con movie. It is fun and hysterical and sexy and entertaining and, shot through Park’s unique eye, a visual treat that I can’t wait to revisit. It’s not a film for everyone, I guess, but it’s definitely a film for me. Villeneuve and Park. Two of cinemas boldest voices. Right here at the top of my list. Who’d have thought?

OJ: MADE IN AMERICA (Ezra Edelman)

The flat-out most compelling thing that I watched all year. There was some debate over whether or not Made in America was a feature film or not, but, despite its 7 hour plus run time, and the fact that most people saw it on TV, it has been nominated for Best Documentary at the Oscars and that makes it a movie. And what a movie. I was a young man as the O.J. saga unfolded, and, like most of America, I was fascinated by it, but Edelman’s documentary is so much more than just a recounting of the “Trial of the Century”. The first part alone, which covers the historical relationship between the police and Los Angeles’ South Central black communities, is an Oscar-worthy piece that seems even more relevant today. Don’t know anything about O.J. Simpson or his trial? Watch this. Don’t know anything about the history of police brutality by the LAPD? Watch this. Still angry that O.J. went free, don’t understand how an obviously guilty man was found not guilty in front of the entire world? Watch this. You will understand. Filled with a dozen stunning “what-the-fuck-did-he-just-say?” moments, each episode will propel you into the next and you won’t be sated until it’s all over. This is not some exploitative true-crime documentary. This is a work of art, a film about so many things, and one of the best films of 2016.

II.

MOONLIGHT(Barry Jenkins)

Nothing I can say about Moonlight that hasn’t been said by its reviews and its run through awards season. Achingly delicate film, anchored by 3 strong actors all playing the same character, with a big assist from this year’s breakout star, Mahershala Ali, in a film that may win him an Oscar, Jenkins delivers a film that will stick with you for a long time.

LION (Garth Davis)

I knew nothing about Lion when I saw it, and I’m glad. A true story about a young Indian boy who is separated from his family and adopted by an Australian couple, this is the year’s best “uplifting” film, and if you can get through the end without crying, I welcome you as my new robot overlord.

SILENCE (Martin Scorsese)

I am admittedly a Scorsese fanboy, him being our greatest living director and all, and I think Silence is a masterpiece, the third and most likely final of his overtly religious works (Marty tends to revisit certain topics three or four times, then give them a rest), Silence is a deeply meditative, slow, quiet, and even-handed film that should appeal to believers and nonbelievers alike. I think over the years, this film my creep farther up my list. Like most of Scorsese’s films, I will watch it many more times over the course of my life.

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS (Tom Ford)

Fashion designer Tom Ford released A Single Man in 2009 and I loved the shit out of that movie. Nocturnal Animals isn’t as strong, or as emotionally resonant, but it is a work of somber fiction that matches my sensibilities well. IMDB summarizes the plot as “A wealthy art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a symbolic revenge tale.” I guess that’s true. Come for the story, stay for the Adams, the Gyllenhaal, the Shannon, and the Ford.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (Kenneth Lonergan)

Speaking of somber fiction, Manchester is driven by a challenging screenplay by Lonergan but will remembered because of the power of Casey Affleck’s soon-to-be Oscar winning performance. It’s an incredible bit of screen acting. And don’t overlook the often-overlooked Michelle Williams. She’s only in a few scenes but she fucking kills it. Not a date movie. Not a movie to watch if you want to get anything else done that day. But a movie you should see nonetheless. Although I’m not sure you’ll want to see it twice.

III.

HELL OR HIGH WATER (David Mackenzie)
Great modern western featuring great modern actors. Nice to see Chris Pine playing a character and not just relying on his Kirk charm to get him through (coughchrisprattcough).

EVERYBODY WANTS SOME (Richard Linklater)
Not a sequel to Dazed & Confused like people wanted, but this film is classic Linklater: there is very little story, it feels like nothing happens, it meanders, and I love it all the more for it.

MOANA (Ron Clements & John Musker)
Moana Will forever have a special place in my heart (it was my oldest daughter’s first movie theater experience) but it is also the best Disney animated film in years (including Pixar). And with songs by Hamilton’s Lin Miranda, I can’t even complain when my daughter wants to listen to the soundtrack over and over.

ROAD TO BUSAN (Sang-ho Yeon)
Snowpiercer with zombies. What else do you need? Go rent it now.

FENCES (Denzel Washington)
Two of the world’s best actors yelling and crying at each other for two and a half hours? Count me in. Washington does very little to “open up” this August Wilson play, but he and Viola are such pure fire you won’t care.

ROUGE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (Gareth Edwards)
It feels good to have a Star Wars film on here. And it deserves it. It was so much more Star Wars literate than The Force Awakens and I felt so much at home.

HIDDEN FIGURES (Theodore Melfi)
A film about three truly inspiring women told in a fairly uninspired way, it’s impossible to deny the importance and power of Melfi’s film, even if I wish he had found a more compelling way to tell it. But these women, though, and these actresses. Man. Worth it just for them.

Just for fun, here’s my list of the BEST TV OF 2016. No particular order, no details. Just a quick list. We all know TV is better than movies these days. Pretty soon these lists will merge as the walls between media crumble.

 

 

 

 

 

LUKE CAGE, ATLANTA, BETTER CALL SAUL, STAR WARS: REBELS, GAME OF THRONES, SILICON VALLEY, BATES MOTEL, WESTWORLD, LAST WEEK WITH JOHN OLIVER, and, yes, STRANGER THINGS, although I didn’t love it as much as everybody else did.

SHORT FILM: THE BIRCH

The Birch movie poster

The Birch movie poster

Happy 2017!

In the tradition of Amanda Makepeace’s short film reviews, I am sharing and reviewing:

The Birch (2016) – Horror Short Film

Sword and sorcery speaks to me. Those never-existed fantasy worlds and characters speak to me. In my regular blog series, I write about my quest to buy a resume that will elevate me from a tabletop role-playing game wanna-lancer to freelancer. I want to enter that field because I have sword and sorcery stories that I want to tell.

Where does The Birch fit into that? [SPOILER WARNING – The film is linked below so skip ahead, watch the short and then come back for my thoughts.] The movie takes place in the modern-day UK so you have to squint just a bit to see it as fantasy sword and sorcery. If you squint you’ll see a spellbook and magic and an elemental and the enemy uses a knife and the final battle takes place in the woods. Sword and sorcery veiled by modern clothing and backpacks and streets and a bedroom.

In D&D* terms, The Birch is about a young wizard who is given a spellbook by his dying mother in order to protect him. He is being bullied and she cannot save him but she knows a secret that can. After studying the spellbook, he uses magic to summon an earth elemental to be his protector and surrogate mother.

The Birch

The Birch

If this were D&D, it would be an excellent backstory of what drove a character to become a wizard. It delves into the origin of their spellbook, their mystical lineage, what motivated them to cast their first spell and why they can never turn back from that path.

This origin story leaves open future campaign plot points. Did the boy get away with the murder? What happened to the birch? Does it still obey the wizard or is there a darker, more tragic end to their relationship. The deepest reach might be, what killed mother? There are worlds of possibilities generated by 4 minutes and 31 seconds of story. Need a bit of horror magic for the New Year? I recommend:

The Birch (2016) – Horror Short Film
Directed by Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton
Written by Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton and Cliff Wallace
Full credits and production details at BloodyCuts and at IMDb.

4 minutes and 31 seconds of horror:

*For sword and sorcery, Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) provide so much of the glossary.

Rogue One – A non-fanboy Movie Review

* Disclaimer: This review is spoiler-lite. No plot specifics, deaths, easter eggs, or other direct moments from the movie will appear. However, themes and atmosphere will be discussed.

* * *

Before we begin, I have a confession. I want to let you know I’m going to deliver a particularly unbiased, un-fanboyish review…because I can. You see, I’ve never been a big Star Wars guy. While the first movie intrigued me and The Empire Strikes Back fascinated me, the rest of the movies (except mayyyyybe the final Darth Maul fight in Phantom Menace) bored me to tears. It’s for this reason I feel I’m able to give an extra-fair review. Because while some went into the theater with high or low expectations, I was in the unique situation of going in with neutral expectations. Rogue One is just one more movie to me, not another in a canonical series.

And so it began. On a frigid December night, I wandered alone into a packed theater. Modest cheers erupted when the opening credits rolled, and then everyone fell into reverent silence.

…as is to be expected at a new Star Wars film.

Mads Mikkelsen, the excellent actor of Casino Royale fame, opens up the action as Galen Erso, a character I’d never heard of. There’s a certain stillness to his opening scenes, and right from the start it became apparent this wasn’t like the other Star Wars films. The music cues were slightly familiar, but also somewhat new (and almost jarring.) The conversations were less stiff, and the atmosphere more mature. After all these years of watching (and reading…and discussing) Star Wars, one of my complaints has always been that the Empire felt rather unimposing. The stormtroopers couldn’t hit anything, the bad guys overacted, and my dread was never really inspired.

But in Rogue One, I finally found the fear I’ve been looking for.

The Empire doesn’t pull any punches. The stormtroopers’ aim is 1,000% improved. The rebels find a few foes (other than Vader) worth being terrified of.

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These guys especially…

Early on, we’re introduced to Jyn Erso (played very capably by Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (played just as well by Diego Luna.) These aren’t the Lukes, Hans, and C3PO’s of the early, almost goofball Star Wars realm. These characters are deeper. They give us a taste of the true suffering endured under the Emperor’s Imperial reign. Their dialogue is a cut above the other Star Wars’ films, and while each scene pays loving homage to George Lucas’s vision, there’s no plagiarism here. There’s no ‘we’ve got to fit this cornball one-liner’ in. Sure, we see several familiar faces, but only one scene (I won’t even mention it) felt forced on the audience.

After the early scenes, the action starts moving fast. Things jump from planet to planet. You’ve got to be sharp to keep up with it.

We’re treated to an excellent performance of the reviled Grand Moff Tarkin (played superbly by Guy Henry.) His is a standout role, and deliciously evil. While the main antagonist is somewhat obnoxious, Tarkin is better.

We get a taste of some truly vicious space battles. No cornball Hayden Chistensen & Ewan McGregor banter while slaughtering TIE fighters. Just dudes and chicks fighting to the death with some awesome space hardware.

And we finally get a sidekick (he’s a droid) who’s actually funny. He helps us forget Jar-Jar Binks ever existed. Thanks especially for that, Gareth Edwards (the director.)

8ebc82d4739de4441efd3a2c1b8efe68d9f3c36f

Our nemesis. He whines a bit, but works a solid amount of evil.

Now let’s talk atmosphere. Whereas previous Star Wars (and action films in general) force action scenes that tend to be juuuuust a bit too long, Rogue One gets it right. In the quiet spaces between the action, we get a little more than just a dusty desert scene or bars filled with aliens. There’s rain, beaches, canyons, and beauty. The music gets even better as the movie progresses, and in the latter half, the familiar John Williams score fires up in earnest. More importantly, we get to see the Death Star like never before. No more garbage chutes and incompetent stormtroopers here, ladies and gents. When the D Star rolls over the horizon, the effect is more powerful than all its previous viewings.

So let’s summarize. Does Rogue One have a good plot? Yes, it’s solid. Are the villains the most terrifying (and talented) we’ve seen in a Star Wars’ film? Yes, without a doubt. Do we get to glimpse our favorite historical characters without them being an obnoxious throw-in? Definitely. And is the ending good? Yes….the best I’ve ever seen out of Star Wars. I’ll be a little cryptic so as not to spoil it, but let’s just say fairy-tale endings are dull, and I wish more films had the guts to end like Rogue One.

So…did I love it? Maybe. I’m not sure yet. I will admit it had a few ‘oh come on…that’s unrealistic’ moments. And of course it has the typical Star Wars non-science science.

But…

I really, really liked it. And I will go see it again.

And I haven’t been able to say that about a Star Wars movie since a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

If this it what Star Wars will bring the table in the future, count me in.

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Read more of my movie reviews here.

And get into some seriously deep sci-fi action right here.

J Edward Neill

Arrival movie review

* Disclaimer – this review is largely spoiler free. A few small plot points and themes are revealed.

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On a cold night in early December, I saw Arrival in a nearly empty theater. Now, the theater being almost vacant isn’t a commentary on Arrival’s quality. The hour was late, the weather was frigid, and everyone (besides me) was probably huddled inside their homes, still stuffed with Thanksgiving leftovers.

I’ll confess; the only reasons I went to see this movie is that I’m writing a sci-fi novel and I’m hungry for inspiration…and I heard from a friend of a friend of a friend that the movie was right up my alley.

I’ll start by saying this: it didn’t disappoint.

From the first moment Amy Adams (as Louise, an expert linguist) appears, it’ s obvious Arrival is a character piece. The title suggests maybe an Independence Day-ish alien invasion or a Bodysnatchers-esque creep-fest. Nope. While the opening scenes share a sense of “what are these huge ships doing in our sky?” dread, every moment thereafter is unique to Arrival.

Mostly.

arrival-movie-4-e1471529984165

What’s the heck is that?? …I’m not telling.

Turns out, Arrival is a thinking-person’s movie. Maybe a splash of Jodie Foster’s Contact mixed with a tiny dash of Interstellar, but with even less action. Let me repeat that: Arrival has almost no action scenes. That’s not to say nothing’s happening, but if you walk in expecting cities full of people to die and xenomorphs strutting around with murder on the mind, this movie probably isn’t for you. Like I said, I went in purely to do a little sci-fi research, and I got exactly what I expected. A mind game. A voyage of intellect and emotion, not of violence.

Amy Adams’ Louise is the key to the movie. And when I say she’s the key, I mean she’s the only character of substance. Sure, you’ve got competent performances by Forest Whitaker and Jeremy Renner, but Arrival is one of those films in which you get to know one person and one person only. Louise is a linguist, and her job is to find a way to communicate with some pretty cool looking extraterrestrials. Her conversations with humans are short and to the point. It’s really all about what’s going on between her and the aliens, and what’s happening in her head.

Which, as it happens, is a lot.

In pretty much every aliens-on-Earth movie ever made, the real question is: Why are they here? And in pretty much every aliens-on-Earth movie not named Arrival, movie-goers know within 45 minutes whether they’re going to be killed (Independence Day) hunted (Predator) or hugged (E.T.) But Arrival makes a point of stretching the question of why until the very end. In fact, having only seen it once (so far) I’m not entirely sure director Denis Villeneuve ever actually reveals the aliens’ true intent. Which is fine if you can appreciate subtlety, but perhaps less than ideal if you prefer nice, tidy endings.

thumbnail_24771

But…does it have guns?

I will say this: if Arrival’s intent was to show the meaning of hope and the power of human perseverance, both messages ultimately faded for me. And that’s not meant as a criticism, but more a commentary on the strange turn of events near the film’s end. If you’ve seen the excellent sci-fi flick, Ex Machina, maybe you’ll understand my meaning. Things get a little dark and morally murky at Arrival’s terminus. It’s something I personally enjoyed, but not something all movie-goers will appreciate. Or even notice.

So what you’ve got is a movie that moves at a measured pace, a movie that’s sprinkled with small reveals, and a movie whose ending might leave some scratching their heads…and others a little perplexed. The themes go way beyond meeting aliens. Some moviegoers might think it’s too slow, and that’s not a point I can really contest. It is slow at times. And that’s just fine with me.

Final verdict: I didn’t love Arrival, but I really liked it. And for my part, the science behind the aliens’ reason for coming to Earth and the weird/dark situation Amy Adams grapples with at the end made it a worthwhile film. If you like thinking movies, go see it. If not, download Edge of Tomorrow to squeeze in your action fix.

It’s worth mentioning the Jóhann Jóhannsson music score (mostly strings and piano) is haunting and excellent. I’ll be adding it to my soundtrack collection.

Oh, and it’s also worth mentioning (again) the aliens in Arrival are pretty awesome. I’d take them in a fight against pretty much any other movie xenomorph…ever.

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My other movie reviews are here.

And for a book I want to make a movie out of, go here.

J Edward Neill

Horror Movies That I Don’t Like

October has come again, and again my goal of watching a bunch of horror movies hasn’t quite managed to happen just yet. Luckily we’re at the beginning of the month, so I have a little more time to go about checking some things off my list.

Prior to beginning this post I looked around at plenty of blogs who list their Top 10, Top 30, even Top 100 horror movies. As much as I’d like to be able to have an opinion on each and every one of them, I couldn’t even begin to figure out if Let the Right One In should be above or below 28 Days Later. Or where Jaws might belong on my Top Horror Movie List.

Of course, horror movies are a subjective as any other genre. And there are a handful that I just don’t get the praise for. These movies get slotted high up in the rankings while other movies, ones I find much more deserving, languish below.

high-tension

High Tension

With each of these movies I have on here, there are definite “good” portions. I understand that. High Tension was a movie that I borrowed from a friend after he praised it. I only wish he’d told me to turn off the dvd at about the 45 – 60 minute mark, because the beginning of the movie more than lives up to the name. You have all manner of scares to keep you on the edge of your seat. You have a couple of heroines to cheer for – I really wanted them to get out.

And then the TWIST happens. I had to rewind the movie at first. It didn’t actually work within the framework of the movie. Then after I finished it (annoyed the whole time) I actually tried to see what the commentary might say about why they made this BIG choice (forgive me not giving the specifics, but I’d hate to ruin things for someone who has this still on their list). Nothing. Which leaves me to imagine that the act of having a solid, scary film wasn’t quite enough for them… and it will forever leaving me scratching my head.

Oh, what could have been.

the_texas_chain_saw_massacre_1974_theatrical_poster

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

I can dislike a movie while still recognizing its place among the keystones of the genre. And I fully understand that, for better or worse according to who’s talking about the movies, without Texas Chainsaw Massacre there would have been no slasher renaissance of the 80s.

Here’s my problem: it’s boring.

That’s it. It goes on for far too long. The screaming goes on for too long. The dinner scene, while creepy, just goes on for to long.

I truly think that I saw this at the wrong time. By the point I got around to seeing this movie I was a horror movie veteran many times over. So any of the tricks that might have been invented within this particular framework was old hand. I’d been jaded by too much a of good thing, I guess.

Still, it’s not a good thing when by the end of the movie I’m hoping that no one survives, is it?

descent-final-poster

The Descent

Tight, enclosed spaces. Yep, that’s scary.

Complete and utter darkness. Yep, scary.

Creepy monsters in the dark. Yep, scary.

I definitely get why people might like this movie. It has plenty of hot buttons to push. Add in a storyline that is constantly threatening to bubble over, and you just know this one is ending in a blood-bath.

Yet…

This is going to sound odd when talking about horror movies, but I still need the characters to actually act like people. Instead some of them just became speed bumps on the way to the big confrontation at the end which wanted to tell us that people are the problem sometimes, not monsters.

But this isn’t The Walking Dead… and I just didn’t buy it.

And then was there a “false ending” thrown in for no real point? Just no thank you.

friday-the-13th-1980-poster

Friday the 13th

In the same category as Chainsaw Massacre, my problem with the very first Friday is that it has become more a trivia answer than a movie you’d want to watch. Jason doesn’t do the killing in this one, it’s his mother. Kevin Bacon gets killed in it. People have sex and then they die.

OK, but is it a good movie? Is it one that you’d watch again randomly at home?

No is the correct answer to that question.

In fact, we could make the argument that the Friday movies really are the ugly step-sister of the slasher sub-genre. It had become such a joke by the end that not only did Jason “go to Hell”, but he also hung out in “Space”.

Space… need I say more? Who the hell was going to see these movies?

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

Ten Eccentric Movies Everyone Should See

There are Hollywood smash hits.

And there are bombs.

There are formulaic rom-coms, predictable horror cheese-fare, and various deadly serious films starring Matt Damon.

But as most of us know…

There are films that defy convention, break from the mold, and flip movie-goers’ expectations upside down. Many of these, you might not have watched or even heard of. They’re not quite mainstream, but not quite indie either.

Please enjoy my list of ten eccentric movies, all of which are worth viewing:

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perfume-the-story-of-a-murderer

Perfume – Story of a Murderer

It’s possible I’m starting this list with the best movie of the ten. Perfume – Story of a Murderer is among the most eccentric, most gripping movies ever to hit the screen. It goes like this: a young man with a gifted sense of smell decides he wants to capture the scent of all things. Only…that’s impossible. So rather than continue trying to capture the odors of copper, glass, and dead cats, he steps up his game and makes it his life mission to make the most powerful perfume the world has ever known.

I won’t spoil it more than that.

Featuring Ben Whishaw, the late, great Alan Rickman, Dustin Hoffman, and narrated by John Hurt, Perfume is a powerful tale of the dark places obsessions can go.

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moon03

Moon

One must be careful when describing Moon, lest one reveal spoilers.

So I’ll say only this:

A lonely, lonely man named Sam (played by Sam Rockwell) exists on the far side of the Moon with the sole purpose of mining Helium-3. Sam’s only companion is an AI named GERTY. His journey is haunting, sometimes grim, and always mysterious.

Moon’s atmosphere (no pun intended) is different than any movie I’ve ever seen, while the soundtrack is flat out beautiful and chilling.

Just see it.

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my-blue-heaven

My Blue Heaven

Let’s go old school for a minute.

My Blue Heaven is my personal favorite Rick Moranis movie (other than mayyyyyyyyybe Ghostbusters.) And Steve Martin definitely has the best hairdo of any dude ever.

So…when Vinnie (Steve Martin) falls into a semi-ridiculous witness protection program, it becomes Barney’s (Rick Moranis) job to protect him. As expected, Steve Martin’s performance is over-the-top absurd, and Moranis plays it pretty deadpan throughout.

Plenty of critics will say My Blue Heaven’s premise is way better than its execution. To them I say, “Pfffffffft.” My Blue Heaven is good, silly fun.

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What We Do in the Shadows

Speaking of fun movies, What We Do in the Shadows is among the best of them.

The setup: four vampires living in New Zealand must cope with the everyday challenges of the modern world. This includes: wrangling new victims via a third-party, dealing with dirty dishes, bickering over whose turn it is to clean the house, etc. Each of the vampires is from a different era of history, meaning their interactions are flat-out bizarre and hilarious. It’s shot in a reality TV/documentary format, and it’s insane.

See it now.

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Ex Machina

Everything you need to know about this movie appears in my thorough review – right here.

But seriously, most people I know still haven’t seen this instant sci-fi classic, which baffles me. It’s probably among the best sci-fi movies ever made. It’s that good.

The quick and dirty premise: a megalomaniac scientist creates a powerful AI, which he lures an unwitting young man to perform a Turing Test on.

Big mistake.

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RockNRolla

Ever seen Snatch? What about Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels? Or…ever seen any Guy Ritchie movie ever?

If so, you’ll love RockNRolla. The plot is too complex to explain in just a few sentences, but I’ll try anyway:

When a Russian real estate magnate pursues big-time property in London, the worst of the city’s criminals close in for a piece of the pie. Meanwhile, the mobster’s son, a drugged-out rocker named Johnny Quid, is the key to the whole deal working out or completely unraveling. And meanwhile, meanwhile, a gang of thieves (played by Gerard Butler, Idris Elba, and Tom Hardy, to name a few) gets in wayyyy too deep.

I’ll just leave it at this – RockNRolla is top-notch Brit crime comedy.

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Pan’s Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro, fantasy and horror genius, sets the stage for something truly beautiful in Pan’s Labyrinth.

In it, a little girl seeking refuge from a horrific civil war stumbles into a web of dark secrets surrounding her (sadistic) stepfather’s mansion. In typical del Toro fashion, we’re sucked out of the usual Hollywood fantasy tropes and thrust into something eerier, crawlier, and more visceral.

It’s not really a fantasy movie in the typical sense. Nor is it quite horror. It’s about a little girl trying to escape her awful reality, meaning it’s a step above most of the fiction fare you’ll ever see on the big screen.

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The Big Lebowski

You’ve maybe/probably heard of The Dude. At least, I hope you have.

Mashing up Jeff Bridges (mellow) John Goodman (insane) and Steve Buscemi (obnoxious) to star in a movie about a missing rug, a cheating wife, mistaken identity, and bowling, was pure genius from the start. And to call it a cult classic is easily an understatement.

My favorite parts: when John Goodman goes off on John Turturro’s (playing Jesus the bowler) teammate. And then of course the big fight with the nihilists (one of them is played by Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea) at the end.

It’s a total mess. It’s weird. It’s almost without a tangible plot. And it’s awesome.

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The Prestige

“Are you watching closely?”

The Prestige (Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine) is among my all-time favorites.

The plot: when a stage magician’s wife (Piper Perabo) is accidentally killed during a dangerous trick, a cold war begins between her husband (Jackman) and the man (Bale) who may or may not have been responsible for her death.

Everything about The Prestige is a bit dark, a bit tragic, and shadowed by questions about what’s really going on. It’s not really about the stage tricks the two warring magicians pull off. It’s about the rivalry between them, and how much damage the whole concept of revenge can do to everyone involved.

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Kubo and the Two Strings

I figured I’d tie in a kids movie, because…well…so many of us have kids, and kids love movies, too.

Kubo was one of those films I didn’t know anything about when I sat down in the theater to watch with my son. We’d seen exactly half of one preview, and we didn’t really know what we were getting into.

What we didn’t know – Kubo and the Two Strings is an elegant tale about a little boy, a monkey, a giant beetle, and a tiny paper man…and all their adventures as they try to escape the boy’s dreaded (and all-powerful) grandfather. The fight scenes are somehow bloodless AND intense. The subject matter is full of quiet wisdom. And the movie itself is beautiful. My son was riveted during the action, and full of sharp questions about life, death, and love afterward.

What more can you ask for in a kids’ movie?

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Honorable mentions:

Dragonslayer – The coolest old school fantasy film you’ve never heard of

Strange Brew – Max von Sydow versus Rick Moranis? Count me in

Memento – A classic head f**k

The Machinist – Christian Bale lost a million lbs. for the lead role

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If I were to make one of my novels into a movie, I’d choose this one.

…and this one, too.

Until next time,

J Edward Neill

For My Fellow Creators Who Stay On The Grind

I’ve been a freelance writer for 10 years. I started out working for The Atlanta Voice Newspaper back in 2006, and I’ve been able to build a pretty decent career as a “hired gunslinger” when it comes to the written word. With the guidance of awesome folks like Maurice Waters, Tony Cade, Mark Stancil, and Dennis Malcolm Byron, I’ve been able to grow in this freelance world of journalism and comics.

The freelancing has provided me with some awesome opportunities, and put me in front of people that I never thought I’d ever be in the same room with. I’ve had a chance to interview such hip hop icons as Ludacris, Chuck D, and Andre 3000. I’ve had a chance to do client work on such award nominated/ critically acclaimed series like the CDC’s Kabi Chronicles: The Edge, Barron Robert Bell’s Radio Free Amerika and William Satterwhite’s Stealth: The Life and Times of Allen White.

Heck I even parlayed my love of comic books into doing a phone interview with one of my writing inspirations, the late great Dwayne McDuffie, for a story I did on black comic book creators with The Atlanta Voice Newspaper.

So when I say I’ve been blessed/ fortunate to have the career that I’ve had, that’s an understatement. I’m extremely grateful for every opportunity that has graced my pallet, not even including the creator owned comic book work that I’ve done.

But I want more. 🙂

This is what I'd love my 9-5 to be: writing full time, or something close to it. :-)

This is what I’d love my 9-5 to be: writing full time, or something close to it. 🙂

I want to do this full time, or at least close to it. I want to be able to provide for my family, and still parlay this love of the written word into my primary 9-5.

Is that greedy? Is that unrealistic? Maybe so, in today’s economic climate. But I’d be damned if I didn’t say I didn’t want more.

And you know what? I don’t just want it for myself, I want it for my fellow Tessara Guild members John McGuire, Amanda Makepeace, Chad Snok, J Edward Neill. For the kick ass poet/ rapper I know as I my little brother, Brandon Jeffrey, a.k.a OB. For my director/ writer/ Jane of all Trades cuzzo Gabrielle Hawkins. I want it for my ride or die brother in arms Sean Hill. For Barron Robert Bell. For Tony Cade. For Mark Stancil. For Takeia Marie. For Tanya Woods. For Maurice Waters. For Nicole Kurtz. For Deon Brown, William Satterwhite, Vincent Christie, Bobby NashAshton James Mason, and heck, everyone else I know I’ve missed because I’m apparently suffering early onset memory loss.

I want our collective love and passion for the fields of writing, art, comics, filmmaking, etc., combined with our strong worth ethic to parlay into something where we can do this for our 9-5’s. Because, hell we deserve it, and we are constantly putting in the work and drive to get there.

What I wanted to do with this post was give a shout out to my folks who grind at the 9-5’s that they have to work, to get to where they want to work (or at least closer to where both career’s bring in equal amounts of income).

Two songs that I love that I feel capture this idea of a creator doing what they have to do, to do what they love, are Lupe Fiasco’s Hip-Hop Saved My Life (feat. Nikki Jean), and Ace Hood’s Hustle Hard. I’m a hip hop/ rap fan so both speak personally to such a drive to find a way to do what you love, so you can take care of those you love, and still enjoy what you’re doing.

This post is for those folks like myself who would rush out at 5:00  pm on the dot to do an interview with someone halfway across the country. For those people who stay up to 1:00 am in the morning to knock out final edits on a personal project, or client work, knowing you have to be up at 6:00 am that day for your other job. Or for those who become true weekend warriors to put the final touches on an awesome piece of art, realizing that Monday brings yet another day of the main job that puts food on the table, and a roof over your families’ head.

And hey, reaching such a level can be done. I look at those creators who are doing what they love full time, 24/7 and feel driven to get to where they are, while also being extremely happy for them. Not for the reason of making a crazy amount of money. Nope, I simply want to get to a point where I actually love what I’m doing full time.

Heck, at least close to full time would be great, so I’m not choosy.

So to all my fellow “after 5:00 pm/ weekend/ up to all hours of the night/ holiday warriors-creators” I salute you with a Captain Benjamin Sisko toast. You, and all of your work is mad’ appreciated yo’.

Now get back to creating so we make these dreams a reality.

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Captain Benjamin Sisko approves this message

Star Trek… Beyond?

Or Why You’re Wrong About the New Star Trek Movies

Cast your mind back to the Spring of 2005, regardless of how you felt about the show (or its final episode – which I still don’t completely understand the backlash there), Enterprise was going off the air. Which meant for the first time since 1987 there wouldn’t be a Star Trek show on TV.

What the hell did that even mean? For almost as long as I can remember, some starship was out there discovering, searching, having a 5-year or a continuing  or some kind of mission. There were missteps and ideas that took a while to really gel. But apparently whatever ratings they were getting not only wasn’t good enough for Enterprise, but not good enough to even warrant a replacement show.

Three years earlier was the last Next Generation movie: Nemesis which barely made back its production budget of $60 million (it took in a worldwide box office of $67 million, down almost half of Star Trek: Insurrection).

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Star Trek was dead on the vine.

Here’s the thing, I’m a Star Trek Fan, but I am not a Fanatic about it. I will fully own up to the fact that I haven’t seen most of the episodes of the various series (The Original Series and Next Generation I’m probably in the 90% range, but the rest are somewhat scattered). And normally this would mean that I should probably keep my mouth shut about it other than to say “I like the shows”… but…

You see, I think I’m much more in the vein of the person that can see things as they are (and maybe not how we all might really want them to be). So when I say Star Trek was dead on the vine, I don’t take any joy in that fact. There was something very comforting about knowing I could turn on my tv any given week and have a new episode to comfort me.

That’s why I both understand the venom against the new movies (the Reboot) and can’t understand it at all. Think of it another way – clearly the fan base for the show had become numb to the lot of it. You were down to the diehards as opposed to even some of the fans like myself (who had watched 2 seasons of Enterprise and then got distracted by life). After my disappointment in Insurrection, I made no attempt to watch Nemesis (and while I know I’ve seen it – I couldn’t tell you very much about it). This from someone who loved the movies before those last two.

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But the Reboot… I get it. I personally don’t like it when DC comics keeps doing that same thing to my comics. I don’t like the idea that MY VERSION of things is no longer cannon. And I hate it when someone tells me the answer is to reread my old comics or search out old comics if “that is what you want to read about”. How insulting.  While I love to go back a reread things I loved or even find those hidden gems I never knew about in the first place. Yet, I participate in fandom because I want to experience it in new and exciting ways.

I’m not sure the old universe had much juice left in it for broad consumption. Note, this isn’t taking anything away from the numerous fan film projects (some that look flat out amazing). This isn’t taking anything away from the newer comics or books or anything else that might have still existed. This was about saving the series for (forgive the pun) the next generation of potential fans.

The Reboot. I liked it. It’s not perfect, but it did exactly what was needed to be done. It made Star Trek into a spectacle, an event again. And while money isn’t the only thing we should gauge this stuff on, it made SIX times as much as Nemesis. So I’m not wrong (at least not completely).

This was the shot in the arm.

You want to know why these movies needed to happen (lens flares and all)? Because of someone like my wife. A person who has managed to embrace pretty much all my crazy fandoms. From Spiderman and the Avengers to the Flash tv show to Star Wars and Firefly.

You want to know the one thing she could never really understand/connect with? Star Trek.

You want to know what happened when we went and saw Into Darkness? She was literally bouncing in her chair at the end of the movie. Yes, for us who had seen Wrath of Khan (still the best movie) there was a lot of switch-a-roo (and plot holes – why do they need Khan’s blood when they have a whole ship worth of guys and gals with the same blood? – I digress). And maybe that pissed you off (and that’s cool… not that you needed my permission). She really enjoyed it.

New fans. New blood.

And what has that led to? A NEW SHOW. Something I wasn’t sure was possible a decade ago. And maybe a chance for that Star Fleet Academy show to finally happen (you know, the one that always gets thrown around as an idea for the next show) (have they announced what the new show is about yet?).

Perhaps it is time to slacken up on the death grip you’ve performed with the series all these years. Let’s invite these new fans in and then show them why the old shows ruled so much… and if we have to deal with the Beastie Boys in a Star Trek movie… well, that might be the price we have to pay to still have it around at all.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Sequels That Never Were – The Crow

The Crow: The Devil’s Mask

Setting: Washington, D.C.

Time: The Near Future

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Night. A crow soars through the city streets of Washington, D.C. In the distance there are fires burning, the results of the latest riots. While the crow continues its flight, the narrator, a woman’s voice, speaks.

“Sometimes, when a person has died a horrible death their soul is too sad to cross over to the other side.  Then sometimes a crow comes to guide the spirit back to right the wrongs that had been done to it.”

The crow lands on a rooftop and scans the surroundings until its gaze rests upon the White House.  The building is only half standing. Only a few of its flags remain waving in the night breeze, and those are dirty and tattered. The crow continues on to the White House.

Interior of the White House.  A large black man sits at the head of the long hall. Beneath him is his throne, a patchwork of various pieces raided from the old seat of the Republic. Beside him, one to either side, are two women in various states of undress. Throughout the hall are an assortment of thugs and hired guns ensuring that their “King” is in no danger. Above the leader rests lays a rifle with a scope. And around the leader’s neck is a Yin-Yang necklace.

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The front door to the hall opens (slow motion style) and some measure of slower techno/metal song begins to play (only slow at first and then building throughout the scene. Through the entrance stalks our hero, The Crow, with his bird flying in just above him.

The music is in full swing as the Crow lays into the men.  Throughout the fight we cut back to the leader who merely looks at the rifle above him as if he is trying to decide something. Eventually he takes it down, raises it, puts his eye to the scope, and sets the cross-hairs targeting the crow (the bird).  The Crow (the guy) is about to pummel the last of the King’s men when the gun is fired (this coincides with the stoppage of music).

Bird and man fall as the bullet impacts.

The King brings his weapon down to his side and makes his way over to the would-be hero. “Very good.  One, two … nine of my men total you were able to get to.  I think that is well beyond the record.”

As the Crow begins to stand the King raises his weapon again and shoots the Crow’s kneecap.

Screams of pain fill the room.

Over The Crow’s shoulder, the two women walk up beside their leader.  The one on his right holds a revolver, and the one on his left holds a red mask in her hands.  The each hand their items to the Leader. He slowly places the red devil mask on.

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The Crow whispers, “I’m sorry Laura.”

The King cocks his head to one side and raises the gun to the mask’s lips.

“No, no, no.  Tell Laura that you’ll be with her in a moment.  Tell her that I sent you home.”

At that moment a crow flies up from behind the King and lands upon his shoulder.

Wide-eyed, the Crow mutters out, “You’re…”

The King merely nods and levels the revolver at the Crow.

“Tell everyone ‘Hi’ for me.”

The chamber echoes with gun fire.

Fade to black – Narrator’s voice

“And sometimes the person doesn’t want to go back.”

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Years ago, after being disappointed in the second Crow movie (after loving the original so much), Chad wrote up a pitch for a sequel to the Crow. And like many things when you get writers to start riffing on a subject, a story appeared to me. I jotted down the notes I had for it while at work, typed it up, and sent it out that next night.

But because I’m a pack rat and never throw anything out (idea or otherwise), this is one of those bits of story I keep trying to reuse in other forms… sometimes it seems like a decent fit, and sometimes it just doesn’t work and the story goes into the folder on the computer not to be looked at again…

But I was looking through that folder this evening and came across the document again, so I thought I’d share it. Not that this is all of it, just what would be in a movie right before the credits kicked in…

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Movie Casting for A Door Never Dreamed Of

Not all that long ago, I dreamed up a book.

And then I wrote it.

And loved every moment of its creation.

When it hit Amazon, the reactions were pretty much identical. “Make this into a movie,” my readers suggested. “Now!”

Gosh, I’d love to, I thought. A Door Never Dreamed Of might make an even better film than this and this. We’ve got opportunities for epic-scale fights and small, quiet moments of reflection. We’ve got beautiful women and huge, scary dudes. As long as we keep Michael Bay at…well…bay, it could be a sci-fi tale for the ages.

Ok. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.

Maybe.

No matter. Here’s my dream cast for A Door Never Dreamed Of:

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Moz

 

Michael B. Jordan (Mozelle) – Every story worth its salt needs a hero. And who better than Creed’s shredded, skillful M.B.J. to play Moz. He’s exiled to a far-off space station. He’s millions of miles from Earth, which he dreams of every night. He’s ready for the Door to open and the war to begin. Suit up, M.B.J.. Time to fight!

 

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Anjel Chloe Grace Moretz

 

Chloe Grace Moretz (Anjel) – Gosh, Chloe grew up fast. Her Kick Ass roots revealed not only her acting ability, but her confidence and badass-ness. Therefore she’s perfect for Moz’s love interest, Anjel. She’s also an exile, but she’s definitely not as ready for war as her lover. Brains over brawn, people. Remember…

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Kodi-Smit McPhee Rafe

 

Kodi-Smit McPhee (Rafe) – You remember him as Nightcrawler from the X-Men movies. But in A Door Never Dreamed Of, he’ll play the unlucky Rafe. Awakened from his perfect, plugged-In world, he’ll have to face off against impossible odds, with nothing other than the fate of the world in the balance. Get some, Kodi.

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Absinthe

 

Margot Robbie (Absinthe) – What kind of villain is worse than a maniacal, evil tyrant? A cold, calculating woman, that’s what kind. She’s stunning. She’s smarter than everyone. She has plans that stretch well beyond Earth. I’m confident Margot has the looks and the chops to pull of the cunning, sneaky Absinthe, whose plots know no boundaries.

 

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Gerrard Gerard Butler General

 

Gerard Butler (General Gerrard) – The name similarity is a coincidence. Despite his flop in Gods of Egypt, Gerard’s been awesome in pretty much everything else he’s been in. And as General Gerrard, he’ll get to set the stage for humanity’s biggest conflict. Ins versus Outs. Jacked-In dreamers versus exiles. When he makes plans, you’d best worry.

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Bautista Zamo Kosi Dalip Singh

Dave Bautista (Zamo) and Dalip Singh (Kosi) – As mentors to Mozelle and badasses in their own right, these two behemoths get to suit up and wage war alone against entire jacked-In cities. I wouldn’t want to fight either one, but especially not if they were wearing battle suits that make them weigh 10,000 kilos. Would you?

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Frigg Idris Elba

 

Idris Elba (Frigg) – Idris has some serious acting chops. This we know. He’s also got a commanding voice (Jungle Book – Shere Khan) which he’ll need in order to become Frigg, commander of the Achilles space station, and Mozelle’s big, bad boss.

 

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Yeo Gary Oldman

 

Gary Oldman (Yeori) – Is there a movie Gary shouldn’t be cast in? I mean really? Ever since Dracula, he’s been my personal favorite actor. Here he’ll get to play the cantankerous old warrior, Yeo. He’ll have to adopt a weird accept (not a problem) and he’ll get to blow up Paris. All by himself. Sound fun, Gary? Bring it.

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Emperor Gad Hassan

 

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Gad Hassan (Emperor) – A small role, to be sure. But as Emperor, the cranky, ambitious In scholar, Gad will fall in nicely. He’ll get to poke lots of fun at Margot Robbie. Brave, indeed. Or foolish…

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Kate Beckinsale Silk the Scientist

 

Kate Beckinsale (Silk) – Perhaps no one has more sympathy for our lead character than the jacked-In Silk. We’ll nerd up Kate with glasses and an ugly, post-modern dress, and she’ll fill in nicely as one of few people who really gives a rip about anything happening on Earth.

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Judi Dench Old Woman Krubera

 

Judi Dench (The Old Woman of Krubera) – Wise and benevolent. Fair and calm in the face of any storm, Judi Dench will greet all comers with her wit and utter wisdom. She doesn’t even get a name. It won’t matter. She’ll have a crucial role in all things to come, and she’ll do it all so very quietly.

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The screenplay is in the works. The book is done.

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J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy

Creator of the Coffee Table Philosophy series

Short Film: Code 8

You are in for a treat today! Code 8 is a short film that was created as a proof for a feature film. The creators ran an IndieGoGo back in March of this year–a mega successful crowdfunding campaign. This is a movie I want to see! Here’s a description from that campaign:

The film takes place in a world where 4% of the population are born with some type of supernatural ability. Instead of being billionaire superheroes, most ‘specials’ live in poverty and resort to crime, forcing the police to become more militarized.

The story follows a young man with special powers (Amell) struggling to find work as a day laborer. After a dispute over payment, he finds himself in a confrontation with a police officer (Kang) and the autonomous robots backing him up.

Why I don’t write negative reviews.

People who know me will say I’m cynical.

They’ll note my lack of optimism, my occasional indifference, and my somewhat dark view of humanity’s intentions. These observations are completely my fault. I’ve worked a bit too hard to earn a ‘cold’ reputation, and now I’ve got to live with it.

But…

Despite this image I’ve cultivated, there are traits neither my friends nor foes will ever observe in me. Things like anger, entitlement, a sense of vengeance, or a tendency to be judgmental. I’ve my share of failings, but these are not among them. I lack the genetic disposition to hate, to scorn, and to demand retribution. I just can’t do it. It’s not in me.

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I will never be this guy.

So…

Like any American, I buy my share of stuff. Some of it is awesome stuff, like my writing chair, my epic-level pancake griddle, and the billion books I’ve collected for my son. Likewise, some of my stuff sucks. Like the patio umbrella I bought that rotted within a month or the DVD copy of Devil’s Advocate which turned out to be a blank CD (serves me right for getting excited about a $0.99 DVD.) In each of these cases, I spent money. Hard-earned money. And in each case I took my new possession home and installed it into my life.

But…

No matter whether my purchase turned out amazing or shitty, I didn’t let it affect my emotional state. Meaning; my pancakes were amazing, but not life-altering. My writing chair is so very comfy, but I don’t plan on living in it. And my Devil’s Advocate DVD is…well…still blank. I figure, no matter how great or terrible my purchases are, it’s not worth getting ecstatic or depressed about stuff. Because it’s just stuff, right? So even when my umbrella fell to pieces and my Xbox told me to F off when I slid Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron inside, I didn’t get pissed. I didn’t rush to the complaint dept. And I definitely did not write any scathing reviews.

Ok.

There was one exception.

It’s story time.

Very recently, I moved. It wasn’t a fun move. I had to leave a dream home I loved for a third-story apartment in a complex with about two-square feet total of green-space. It took two weeks to complete the move. It sucked. Hell, it still sucks. But the worst part was my experience with a not-to-be-named moving company. Two guys showed up to help me carry all my aforementioned stuff out of my beloved house and into a cramped, third-story shoebox. And to be honest, these guys sucked worse than leaving my dream home. One of them quit in the middle of his shift. I’m serious. He looked at me and said, “I’m done.” The other guy was slow. As in slooowwwwwwwww. In the end, I ended up carrying way more of my stuff than both guys combined. It was amusing…in a way. If you think paying someone else money while you perform hard labor is funny.

A few days later, the moving company sent me a review request.

Oh, was I ever tempted. I could’ve crushed these guys. In the big blank thousand-character space requesting ‘customer comments,’ I could’ve named names and drilled these guys seventeen new holes in their asses. I could’ve told them everything they did wrong, and I could’ve clicked ‘No’ in the big fat box labeled ‘Would You Recommend Our Service?’

And so I did. I killed them. I slew them. The fires of their failure are still smoldering. Their manager has called me…oh…a dozen times to apologize. And I’ve ignored him. Utterly.

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It felt a little bit like this.

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…and a LOT like this.

But there’s two differences between reviewing a moving company and reviewing art, books, and movies.

1. I reviewed the moving company privately. For their benefit alone. No public slander. No single-star rating on Yelp.

2. There’s no opinion involved in reviewing someone’s skill at box-lifting. There’s tons of opinions involved in reviewing film, paint, and words.

Which brings me here…to Tessera Guild…and to my personal website, Down the Dark Path.

From time to time I write reviews. Movie reviews especially, like this one and this one, and a recent review of Neil deGrasse Tyson throwing down some science in Atlanta. If you’ve ever read my reviews, and you should; trust me :), you’ll notice one thing they have in common: they’re ALL positive. Not positive in a blow-sunshine-up-your-ass way. Positive in a I-want-to-share-something-amazing kind of way. I review stuff I love because to me that’s the only stuff worth reviewing. Sure, I pick at a few small failures, but overall my comments on other people’s creative work are glowing. Because I want to spread the love, not stifle it. Because my opinions are better served helping people than shitting on other artists’ efforts. And because, let’s face it, the world and everything in it has plenty of bad reviews already.

A few observations:

A great review of an awesome piece of creative work will do hundred times more cultural good than a horrific review of something shitty.

When I see extremely negative reviews of movies, art, or books, I find it hard not to yawn.

I have better things to do (and so do you, probably) than sling stones at other artists and writers.

Opinions of art, movies, and books are rarely objective.

* * *

Look, I get it. If you spent $12 to watch a movie you hated, you’re entitled to vent about it. If you paid $9.99 for a crap novel on Amazon, you’ve every right to give it negative 47 stars. And if your umbrella rots while your lazy movers are carrying it, go nuts and complain to everyone. Scream into the heavens. Slap the cashier in the mouth. Burn down your local Wal-Mart. You’re allowed to do all of this.

But not me. I’m not allowed. I’ve banned myself from bitching. I’ve closed off the part of my mind that wants to nerd-rage about how such-and-such movie is awesome, but another one is trash. If I want bad reviews on stuff, I’ll just visit Rotten Tomatoes or post my selfies to Tinder. Sure, it’s fun to read a good rant, but it really doesn’t entertain me as much as it used to.

So if you see a movie review, a book review, or a commentary on a piece of art, and if you see I’m the one who wrote it, maybe you don’t have to read the review at all. You’ll know it’s positive when you see my name.

Unless you work for the moving company.

Then you’re screwed.

J Edward Neill

Author of A Door Never Dreamed Of

Creator of the Coffee Table Philosophy series

What if We’re Wrong – Batman V Superman

What if all this has just been shouting in the wind? What if all our complaints about Man of Steel are flat out meaningless? What if we’re the ones in the wrong.

Every so often, DC comics likes to shake things up with their universe. This started with Crisis on Infinite Earths where they rebooted the universe and started over with nearly every character such that their adventures in the past 30, 40, or 50 years just didn’t matter to the current crop of stories being told.

One of the characters that needed to have this done was Superman. You see, he’d gotten too powerful over the years to the point that they were inventing new Kryptonite colors in an effort to keep telling new stories. I mean, what do you do to a character that can move planets? But with the reboot, they had an opportunity to scale back on those powers and make him someone who might be able to get hurt once in a while.

superman-moves worlds

FYI – Batman really didn’t get this treatment. Yeah, some stories were kind of glossed over (the more science fiction ones of the 50s) and whether Joe Chill was the one who killed his parents. Overall, they didn’t mess with him too much. He was getting darker due to the stories being told about him.

Years later they would reboot again with the New 52. And again it’s Superman who gets a complete reboot. De-aged, no longer married, lower power level… while Batman… well, his history is pretty much intact.

***

Batman Begins is really the natural evolution of where we had been with the Batman character and where he is in the process of going. And while the Nolan movies are uber-realistic (and dark), they were merely following in the footsteps of Batman 66 to Batman 89.

You see, Batman doesn’t require reboots in the comics because he is adaptable.

Superman requires reboots because he is not.

Superman is the boy scout. Big blue. He’s going to save us. But change who he is? Have him question something and everyone loses their minds. You see there are rules to Superman. Fundamental things that you cannot change. He is supposed to bring hope to those he saves. To those who watch or read his exploits.

Hope.

Only, what if he doesn’t have to be in this particular box we’ve set up for him? What if he could be angry at the world for not taking care of itself? What if he was tired of the constant struggle? What if you could present Superman in a way that had never been seen before? Would it be alright to do that?

superman kills

Is that even Superman at that point?

Man of Steel – That’s the attempt. There’s no humor in that movie. There’s no joy. It is dark and depressing until he finally ends things the only way he knows he can – by killing the bad guy.

Then comes the complaints, many by people who have actually written Superman stories.

Superman wouldn’t do that.

Superman would have found a way around it.

Superman doesn’t kill.

Yet, here was Superman who did just that. And this Superman, this version, has been seen by more people than probably have ever read an issue of the comic.

Superman used to not be able to fly… he leaps over buildings in a single bound… he jumped, no flying involved.

Kryptonite was introduced on the radio show… but no one would try to argue that wasn’t a great thing to introduce.

Things can change, right?

Why can’t he kill? I’m not talking like the Punisher, but when there is no other way out. When the threat is too great. When it will save hundreds of thousands of lives. When is it OK? Can it ever be OK for Superman to take a life?

Maybe we’re wrong. We’ve railed against Man of Steel and the darkness for 4 years now. All of us convinced that this version of Superman is not the right one to portray.

Superman V Batman made $166 million in its opening weekend. Maybe this is the version we get now. Maybe this character resonates with the non-comic book guys and gals more than big blue. Maybe it’s OK that this is happening. It may not be your Superman, but which version of the character was yours to begin with?

superman-blue-red

The goofy Silver Age version?

The original version from the 30s?

The Smallville TV show version?

The Christopher Reeves version?

The one that wears his red trunks?

The one that can move the sun?

The one that kills, but only when there is no other option?

Maybe we’re the ones who are wrong. Just dinosaurs, seeing the comet about to crash into the Earth, and paying it no mind?

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

Why I gave up watching television

I just couldn’t do it anymore.

I had to walk away.

One way to murder your creativity is to spend all your time embracing other people’s creations.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

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I can’t really remember when it started. Maybe when I moved out of my house as a teenager. Possibly even earlier. Some of the big shows of the early 90’s were stuff like Law and Order, The Simpsons, Full House, Martin, Coach, et cetera. There was nothing wrong with any of these. They were funny and engrossing, mostly. I watched plenty of them, and I enjoyed myself when I did.

But even back then, a thought process had begun to grow within me. It was subtle, but it was there. It itched, but not bad enough to apply any cream.

It went kinda like this: I begun noticing things about our culture. Small things. How people’s sense of humor seemed to start and end with whatever they’d seen on a little flashing box. How families set up their schedules in order to catch certain shows. How more and more channels sprang up, specialized channels, catering to every possible desire. How news and journalism felt engineered, not discovered.

Now this isn’t to say the shows themselves weren’t entertaining. Of course they were. Hell, The Simpsons is still funny (and Martin Lawrence still isn’t.) And yet it seemed every year more and more of each TV time-block became commercial time. An hour-long show was really only a 37-minute show. My friends’ conversations changed from being about the shows…to being about the funny new commercial, the hot new car, or the news clips they’d caught only a few seconds of but wanted to discuss as if they’d actually been on the scene.

Months went by.

Then years.

I still watched TV, but less and less. It wasn’t really a conscious decision. It was more like I wandered off. Like I’d forgotten.

And then I got married.

And TV came back into my life.

I can’t remember how that happened either. The TV coming back…or the getting married thing. Whatever. If there was a part of me that rebelled against watching TV, it got shoved aside. Suddenly I was watching game shows, sitcoms, Seinfeld, and some show about six douchebags I’d probably murder if they were my Friends. It wasn’t the wife’s fault. She was just doing what most Americans did: go to work, get home, and flip the TV on until bedtime. No biggie.

Except I hated it. I didn’t even know I hated it, but I did.

During those years, I didn’t paint much. I wrote books at a glacially slow pace. A full third of my conversations with everyone on the planet could be Kevin Baconed in two steps back to whatever show we’d mutually seen. My creativity felt stifled. My dreams were dulled. The situation wasn’t life-threatening, but even so. There was something about it that sucked. A small, dull suck. But definitely a suck.

And then one day I ‘forgot’ to pay the cable bill. The TV went off, and I awoke from a decade-long hibernation. At the time I didn’t put two and two together. I just felt…liberated. I didn’t know why. I guess I probably didn’t care. And when the wife ‘fixed’ the situation and got the TV back on, it stopped being a thing for me. Stopped dead. Shows I used to watch came on, and I walked out of the room. I heard laugh-tracks in the background, but I tuned them out. Entire wars in the Mideast came and went, and I missed the newsfeeds entirely. I’m sure this probably contributed to friction with the wife; after all, TV time had once been together time. But it didn’t matter. Not anymore. It was more than cold turkey. It was as if a surgeon had come into my bedroom one night, carved out the part of my brain that wanted anything to do with parking my ass on a couch for 2-3 hours every night and not creating, and left without billing me.

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Now it’s true this little renaissance came with its share of problems. Friends I used to talk to would start chatting about TV, and a voice inside me would say, “If you say one more thing about American Idol or Bones, I’ll kill you and all your offspring.” Coworkers I liked would hit me up for my opinions on world news, and the first thing I’d think was, “When can I slap the shit out of you?” And naturally, whenever any TV would flicker on anywhere, I’d have to check myself so as not to judge the people watching it. It wasn’t easy. I suddenly had this asshole living inside my mind who thought judgy, nasty things about totally normal people. I didn’t like this asshole. But it’s clear he wasn’t going anywhere.

And so there I was, partnered with a huge inner-jerk. Sometimes I resisted him. Other times I’d completely give up on friends because of their talking-about-TV habits. And I get it; that’s not cool. But it’s what happened. I’d shut down whenever people talked about their fav show. Or when they talked about their TiVo lineup. Or programming their DVR. And after my divorce, I’d immediately rule out any girl who mentioned ‘Netflix binging’ as an acceptable date-night. (Actually, I still stick to this rule.) Harsh, right? But like I said, the asshole wasn’t leaving. He and I had to coexist. No getting around it.

During all of this, my last island of TV-interest lay in sports. Specifically baseball, hockey, and football. I still watched them once in a while, and I hated myself a little for doing it. Look, it’s true; I love me some Chicago Cubs, Blackhawks, and Bears. And for many years I justified watching them over sitcoms, reality TV, and news. “They’re different,” I convinced myself. “Sports aren’t like other shows.” “They’re real.”

But wait a second.

How does a 60-minute NFL football game take 3 hours and 15 minutes to watch?

How many commercials will I endure if I watch even half of my beloved baseball team’s 162-game schedule?

And why the fuck isn’t hockey on TV at all?

Holy shit.

And now here I am. For the last two years, I haven’t had cable. Or satellite. Or Netflix. Or whatever the fuck Hulu is. I rarely even watch sports anymore. If there’s a huge event I have to see, I call a friend and go to the bar…and usually completely ignore the TV in favor of drinking Long Island ice teas or Balvenie 17. It’s utterly freeing. I’ve no urge to ever watch anything. I save hundreds of dollars and thousands of minutes every year. And let me tell you; my creativity has never been more alive. Removed from the electronic influence of other people’s humor, stories, and art, my imagination is free. The time I once spent watching TV is now spent creating. Hundreds of hours per year…reclaimed. Just. Like. That.

And better still, the inner-asshole is gone. Dead. Deceased. The only time I even remember him is when someone starts talking about The Walking Dead, a show approximately 900% of my friends adore.

I’m kidding. I don’t hate people who love zombies.

Mostly.  🙂

Love,

J Edward Neill

Speaking of undead, here’s something WAY worse than zombies.

And speaking of ruthlessly invasive entertainment, here’s something WAY, WAY worse than TV.

Marking Time with Movies

Like everything else in my life, I have milestones, road signs, stops, ups and downs, and everything else in between. These moments become fixed in my mind whether I want them to or not.

But there is another thing that can happen. Through the movies we watch. The best movies have a story. And I don’t mean the plot of the movie. I mean they tell a story from your own life, offering a snapshot of what things might have been occurring around the time you watched the film.

Sometimes I think that aspect can get lost in the newest spectacle which comes down the pipe from Hollywood. We rush to see these things on opening weekend that we’ll forget details of in the weeks and months that follow.

But when you can connect them to something else. Some event… they will always be there to illuminate that memory.

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Star Wars – At the Drive Through – When I was about 3 or 4 years old.

I like to think of this as my first memory. It could be that I don’t know the exact dates involved here. I have others from around this time, so it is entirely possible that it chronologically falls later than I think. What I do know is that this is the very first “movie experience” I have. It’s no surprise then that like every other kid I fell in love with the movies.

The thing is, I don’t have specifics. Oh I remember little things, but over the course of 30+ years and multiple viewings of the movie I’m no longer sure what is my memory of this event and what might just be a memory of the movie itself.

Still, that opening scene… I can hear that through the speaker perched on the driver side window.

Transformers-movieposter-west

Transformers the Movie – At home

Consider something you are ultimately passionate about. Some toy or comic book or tv show or novel or whatever. Now find out that they are making a movie about that very thing… you’d be excited. You’re friends would be excited. I mean, you talk about the show ALL THE TIME.

ALL THE TIME.

And then the day begins to approach. Yet, for some reason your mom is unable to take you to the movies opening weekend. You, being the kid, actually take it fairly well (I have no memory of complaining… I’m sure I did). Promises of seeing it the following weekend accepted, you go to school on Monday to hear your best friends talking about these characters you’ve never seen. Plus, this being a time before you even understand there is such a thing as spoilers… well, they tell you the biggest news: Optimus Prime is dead, killed by Megatron.

You have your Princess Bride moment, “You mean Megatron wins?”

On and on it goes, bits and pieces of the movie suddenly etched in your mind without having viewed the damn thing.

But it didn’t matter. You were going to see it in 5 days… 4… 3… 2… 1… and on Friday you hurried home to look at the movie times on Saturday…

And couldn’t find the movie listed. See, you live in small town USA where movies come and go in a week’s time.

Disappointment. That’s what it felt like. And you watched the new episodes where they referenced some of the stuff in the movies and you figured it out, but still… you missed out…

Until finally it came on tv, broken into 5 parts (to be shown in place of the regular episodes). And you finally connected all the dots.

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Clerks/Mallrats – Dorm Room

While it was Chad Shonk who first showed me his copy of Clerks, it wasn’t until my college roommate and I made a bootleg copy of Clerks and Mallrats onto one VHS tape that it became an anthem of sorts for those long days in the middle of the year. Those days where we weren’t going anywhere. We didn’t have any homework to do (or we just weren’t going to do it right then). So we’d pop it in and listen more than watch as we sat at our desks surfing the internet, playing video games, or just talking.

All those quotable scenes flying in the background helped the two of us bond in a way that we might not have if we hadn’t found the appropriate common language.

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters II and Who Framed Roger Rabbit – Home… and the beach

For two summers I saw these two movies every day at least once each. My sister and I watched our younger brother (2 or 3 at the time) during the summer months while my mom slept (she worked nights). Now when you are babysitting a small child with your mom trying to squeeze in 6 hours of sleep it is a lot like Fight Club.

Rule 1 – Don’t let Mark wake up Mom.

Rule 2 – Don’t let Mark wake up MOM!

Most days we could find plenty of things to keep him occupied, whether it was hanging out with me in the basement playing video games (he just held the other controller while I played)… but the all-time fix to a fussy toddler was those two movies (again bootlegged on the same tape). One played right into the other. And while he’d normally fall asleep on the couch at some point during the 3 plus hours of cinematic offerings, neither my sister or I dared to change the tape… Mark had a 6th sense about such things.

roger rabbit

However, in the last year there is a slight caveat to Who Framed Roger Rabbit for me. While at the beach with my nephew, he asked to watch a movie with me (he was 7) and we chose Roger Rabbit. Even though he had seen the movie before, it was like he was watching for the first time.

And when the Judge is revealed as a Toon… his mouth literally fell open. Just perfect.

That image will stick with me now… and so the movies change my perception one more time.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

In Defense of The Kents

A few years ago DC Comics/ Warner Bros. decided to reboot/ restart/ re-whatever the Superman franchise on the big screen with 2013’s Man of Steel. The movie was sort of a grittier take on the tale of a man who could leap tall buildings in a single bound, being styled with the tone of the previous Christopher Nolan Bat-flicks.

Was it a good movie? It’s still a point that’s debated, even on the cusp of the release of the movie’sman-of-steel-43 sequel / jump off to the DC Cinematic Expanded Universe, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Overall the film was a’ight the first time I saw it, but it’s kind of grown on me since.

One of the re-branded plot points that came out of this new tone/ focus that I found which was extremely effective was the relationship between Clark and his adopted parents, the Kents.

Played by Diane Lane (Martha Kent) and Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent), the story of the Kents fateful meeting with a downed Kryptonian life pod pretty much stayed true to the comics. Where this relationship had some detractors, or might have deviated from the source material, though was the tone struck by the Kent’s, towards Clark accepting his possible role as his adopted world’s savior.

I remember a lot of criticism being directed at the fact that the Kent’s were of the mindset that Clark stay under the radar with his abilities, in some cases, with some pretty harsh lines of dialogue.

Case in point: there’s a part in the movie where a young Clark and his classmates are involved in an automobile accident, when their bus careens off the side of a bridge and falls into a river. The kids are trapped, Clark taps into his Kryptonian roots, and saves everyone in a pretty awesome feat of superheroics.

The possibility arises that someone has possibly seen him do this, and it leads to a heart to heart with Pa Kent, as shown in the below line of dialogue.

Clark Kent at 13: I just wanted to help.

Jonathan Kent: I know you did, but we talked about this. Right? Right? We talked about this! You have…!

[calms himself]

Jonathan Kent: Clark, you have to keep this side of yourself a secret.

Clark Kent at 13: What was I supposed to do? Just let them die?

Jonathan Kent: Maybe; but there’s more at stake here than our lives or the lives of those around us. When the world… When the world finds out what you can do, it’s gonna change everything; our… our beliefs, our notions of what it means to be human… everything. You saw how Pete’s mom reacted, right? She was scared, Clark.

Clark Kent at 13: Why?

Jonathan Kent: People are afraid of what they don’t understand.

Even in the previews for the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Diane Lane has a brief line of dialogue which still sort of speaks to the above sentiment, in present day now that Clark has accepted the Superman mantle, world saving duties and all.

 

First, let me say this: this depiction of the Kent’s is one of my all time favorites.

Secondly: I wasn’t a huge fan of Man of Steel on the first viewing. I thought it was an okay movie, and there were a few things that just prevented it from being pushed into a higher ranking for me.  I still have issues with it, but its gotten a little better for me. How the Kents were handled was partly instrumental in this.

There’s been this suggestion that the Kents were at times just a bit too apathetic. Selfish for keeping their son and his abilities away from the world. Fearful. Distrusting. Etc.

There’s another side of this that I really want people to understand. In the comics, and in subsequent film/ television adaptations of Superman’s origin story the Kents have often been written as a couple who wanted children. For whatever reason they weren’t able to do that. In some instances the Kent’s have been depicted as a couple in their early 40’s, in other instances a bit older, maybe even pushing towards their 60’s, still with this yearning (maybe waning a bit) to have a child to call their own.

Without bringing the added component of whether the couple was religious or not (don’t know if the faith of the couple was ever discussed in the comics, or in other adaptations), the symbolism of the child being rocketed to Earth had to be seen as some sort of miracle to the couple.

So imagine all of this coalescing into a gift from the skies above being dropped in a Kansas field one sunny day. Your prayers/ desires have been seemingly answered. You then find out this kid is an alien from another world, and can possibly change the very course of the world as we know it.

But at the end of the day, all that you see in front of you is that gift from the heavens. Someone that you’ve asked for day in and day out, and he’s there. Your little Clark.

man-of-steel-image04-e1422553488658So yeah, I have no doubt that the Kents would probably be extremely protective of their adopted son. Especially in a world where the common line of thinking is shoot the hell out of it first, then ask questions later. Also, it seems a bit more plausible to me that even if the couple didn’t have the backstory of being childless or having that yearning to fiercely protect their “gift”, they wouldn’t be so likely to push their son out into the world to save the day.

I know a lot of parents who, even when they want to get their knuckleheads out of the house, still worry for the welfare of their child. Of course they eventually get to the point of acknowledging that their child has to become an adult, and has to experience the world. But the depiction of the Kents as not totally being on board with their son “saving the day” immediately has more of a realistic slant for me.

Man of Steel has its faults, and maybe Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice will also. But for me at least, the one thing that I can say the screenwriters/ director got right between both would be the Kent’s love for their son, and their desire to keep him protected from an often distrustful and malicious world.

Makes perfect sense to me.

 

Taking a stab at the DC Movies

There was a time… not all that too long ago where if you were to ask which of the Big 2 comic companies made the best movies, the answer would have been DC comics and it wouldn’t have even been close.

We no longer live in that time, but now we are on the verge of a true beginning of sorts from DC. Their cinematic universe truly begins this week. So now seems as good a time to rank the old movies. Note, I have only included those movies I’ve actually seen (so no Jonah Hex, Steel, or Catwoman… though, if I had to hazard a guess on where those might end up…)

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15. Batman and Robin – No doubt, just awful. I didn’t see this in the theater, and word of mouth spread pretty quickly on this one. And so I avoided the suck for so long… until one night I’m in my apartment with nothing to do and guess what’s coming on? I knew and I still watched it, trying to convince myself that there was NO WAY it was as bad as everyone made out. That worst case I could find some redeeming quality to it. Somewhere.

No. There is none. NONE.

14. Supergirl – I have seen it, but damn if I remember very much about it. I remember it being cheesy and… that’s pretty much it. Given that we never got another Supergirl movie I might not have been the only one.

13. Superman Returns – So Superman goes out into space for 5 years and only now comes back so that he can effectively redo his very first movie except that he has fathered an illegitimate child with Lois Lane? And Lex is doing a land grab? Again?

12. Superman IV – The Quest for Peace. Is that Ducky from Pretty in Pink? Oh, Lex, Lex, Lex… what happened? Oh Clark, what happened?  Has the Nuclear Man ever appeared in the comics? Yeah, I think that says it all.

11. Superman III – Why didn’t they use Red Kryptonite? Just why? I enjoyed seeing a mean Superman, but when you get right down to it, he’s really just having a Nic-fit, right?

But hey, Richard Pryor is in it. And I love Richard Pryor.

10. Batman Forever – It doesn’t hold up, I know that much. The Riddler, while way over the top (tell us something we don’t already know) is actually fine, but Two-Face… dear lord. Ugh. I don’t know who Tommy Lee Jones is playing, but that is not Two-Face.

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9. Green Lantern – I love Ryan Renolds. I love Green Lantern (not like I love the Flash, but I have been collecting a Green Lantern comic since the early 90s). So this should have been a slam dunk, no doubter. And I enjoyed the movie, but I also know that it isn’t the greatest movie either. But I don’t know what exactly to fix… it seems like there is a lot. I just can’t see it.

8. Man of Steel – A lot of my thinking on this movie will/may be changed this weekend. There are tons of things I have problems with in this movie. Pa Kent’s death, the 45 minutes of disaster porn at the end, the fact that there is very little joy in the movie. Probably the only thing I don’t have a problem with is the ending. No, Superman doesn’t kill, but I’m not entirely convinced he’s Superman just yet. I think he’s still Clark Kent playing dress up trying to figure out how he fits into this world.

7. Batman Returns – Let’s forget about the Penguin storyline. No, really. If it was just Catwoman and Batman we’d put it on repeat and never leave the house. That’s how good their scenes are (and how good Michelle Pfeiffer was). Sadly it does have the Penguin and so it doesn’t end up higher on the list.

6. Superman – The glasses. It may be the dumbest thing in comics. I can’t explain it to my non-comic book friends and family. I just shrug and shake my head. Yet, Reeves made me believe that a man could wear glasses and no one would know. There is a scene (I think it is in this movie… it may be Superman II) where he’s about to tell Lois that he’s Superman. He takes off the glasses, stands up straighter, and projects his voice… and then thinks better of himself. By the time Lois has turned around he’s back to the nerdy Clark Kent and Superman is long gone. It’s a powerful moment that Reeves pulls off that not many could have. And if that was all this movie did, it would be enough to be this high, but this movie also gives us “Otisburg”… and I will forever love it for that.

otisburg

It’s an itty bitty place.

 

5. The Dark Knight Rises – Yes, I know. Your Batman would never retire. Your Batman wouldn’t mope and cry over the loss of a woman. I get it, and I got over it. Not a perfect movie, but it wrapped up the Nolan movies in a pretty satisfying way. Bane, Catwoman, Talia al Ghul (another one I didn’t think would show up on the big screen). Flaws and warts and Joseph Gordon Levitt.

4. Batman Begins – Tell me a Batman story I’ve never seen on screen before. Show me a version of his origin story that doesn’t begin and end in Crime Alley with pearls scattering onto the ground. This is my first “grown-up” superhero movie. It is grim and gritty, but more than that it is the journey from the Batman we know and love and that little kid in the alleyway (at least until Gotham, I guess). And it introduced everyone to Ra’s al Ghul. What more needs to be said?

3. Batman – I didn’t collect Batman comics in the 80s, so my 2 biggest exposures to Batman was the old live-action tv show and Super Friends (and I guess his occassional appearance on Scooby doo). I didn’t know anything about Frank Miller and his ground-breaking update of the Bat. So when I say that Tim Burton blew me away, I’m trying not to undersell it.

Oh, and Michael Keaton is still my Batman.

2. Superman II – For over twenty years this was my favorite superhero movie. It’s cheesy, I know. And I don’t care (though I’m still not sure why they thought Superman needed new and weirder powers). This movie gave us our first super powered fight. But what seals it for me is how he wins. After all the chaos and destruction, it isn’t through brute force that Superman saves the day… no, he does it by outwitting his enemies (even the great Lex Luthor). This was no naive kid from Kansas, but a hero worthy of watching.

 

i believe in harvey dent

1. The Dark Knight – And it wasn’t even close. Not only a great Batman movie, but a great movie. Period. Nolan had updated the Batman myth in Begins, but here he provides us with not only the most worthy of adversaries, but a character who I wasn’t sure would ever get a fair shake outside of the animated series in Harvey Dent. They gave us the true fall into insanity the character deserved.

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.