Spider-Man: No Way Home Trailer Thoughts

I must admit… I watched the leaked version a few hours before the official release of the trailer. However, I’m not sorry. The version I saw actually had subtitles which helped me comprehend everything I was seeing a little better.

Anyway, in light of the trailer being released, I’ve noticed this thing that fandom loves to do is happening now with Spider-Man: everyone is playing guess the movie. They are picking apart things that don’t make a ton of sense in the trailer while relying on 2 minutes of randomish footage. In fact, I always find it is best to enter into watching trailers with an eye towards doing exactly that. I mean, how else are you possibly going to make up your mind about something coming out in December. Better to make a ton of snap judgments on this rather than wait to see the actual movie and then, if the inconsistencies which were hinted at in the trailer do manage to remain without a satisfying outcome – hey, feel free to rip it apart.

What’s strange about this phenomenon is I pretty much only hear it in these big genre movies. Star Wars certainly gets held under the microscope. Marvel has graduated to this level as well now. But otherwise, with most movie trailers the only things people might bitch about is a casting choice or the special effects or dialogue. I don’t seem to remember people tearing apart the trailer for something like Bill and Ted. Or maybe they do, and I’m just hanging out in the wrong corners of the internet.

Still, the trailer is something that is supposed to excite you. To get you hyped to see the movie in question. It is certainly there to make you ask questions. With this movie in particular, the rumors have been running for some time about what the plot would be about or who might show up in the movie. The trailer certainly delivers on the first part (at least the broad strokes) and by a couple of reveals lend additional credit to spoilers regarding the cast.

First, the plot appears to be that after the results of Far From Home, Peter Parker has been outed as Spider-Man. This single fact causes his whole life to turn upside down to the point that he ventures to see Doctor Strange in the hopes that there might be a spell to undo that knowledge from the world. Something goes wrong in the casting of the spell, and off we go into the greater multiverse.

In comics, normally a hero makes the decision very early on whether to have a secret identity at all. Most tend to opt to keep their lives separate for the very reasons we’re seeing play out in the trailer. The sudden super-stardom which accompanies it. The idea that there may have been crimes your alter-ego committed that your true identity is now responsible for. And the biggest key piece is that your enemies now can target you through your family and friends. This last reason is the most important one, and in those stories where the hero is outed, it never goes well.

In the comics, Spider-Man once chose to reveal himself to the world. During the heroes’ Civil War, in an effort to convince others to register with the government, Peter Parker revealed himself on live television. Reading at this time, I both knew that this change in status quo wouldn’t/couldn’t be a long-term thing, and I also knew it was a terrible (just terrible) idea. Soon enough, the Kingpin of Crime set hitmen to target Mary Jane (which resulted instead in Aunt May getting shot and led to things we do not speak of).

So for the purposes of the movie, having a portion of it showing how bad things can be for Peter should be cool (though, I am extremely interested in seeing how Flash Thompson reacts to this knowledge given how much he appears to hate Peter Parker but loves Spider-Man).

The second big piece of this is traveling to other versions of reality. In the comics, characters have been meeting alternate versions of themselves for decades (starting with DC’s “Flash of Two Worlds”). Heck, Into the Spiderverse did an excellent job with exactly this idea.

Whether they are going to lean into this being a situation where he is actually visiting these other worlds or if those other worlds are threatening to overwrite our own, I can tell from the trailer.

But it leads us to the other members of the cast and the big reveals near the end of the trailer. We see a Goblin Bomb and William Dafoe’s laughter. We see lightning in the sky conjuring thoughts of Electro. There are a couple of other things people are speculating might be The Lizard or Sandman, but the one, concrete person we do get to see is Otto Octavious, Doc. Ock not only makes a big appearance but also knows Peter (even this version) which is as curious as anything else to me making me wonder is this a world where Doc. Ock didn’t die? Maybe he is a redeemed version?

Or are we actually going to get our big fight against the Sinister Six in this movie? And the only way to potentially defeat them is to find a little help from some fellow Spider-Men?

I half expect that in the final trailer they release (probably around Thanksgiving) we’ll get some shot with our 3 versions from the last 2 decades all standing together. And while it might not be Endgame level, that should be extremely cool.

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John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Movie Review: Parallel

The idea of other versions of ourselves… those who might have made very similar choices to the ones we have made so that their reality and ours aren’t that much different. If that were the case, and you found a way to reach across the veil of our reality into theirs, what could you do with that ability?

That’s the fundamental question at the heart of Parallel.

A group of four post-college adults who are struggling to make their business (app development) a success, find that there is a secret attic space in the house they are renting. More curious than the secret room is that it houses a mirror which when passed through, can lead the traveler to a world nearly their own, with subtle differences to be sure. However, the more important aspect of this parallel world is that time moves much much slower there. Hours can go by in the alternate world while mere minutes pass on our own. Armed with this knowledge, the group of friends begins to use this “extra time” to their benefit allowing them to finish projects in days when it should have been weeks. When they later discover that even though the world at large is pretty similar to their own (down to their own doppelgangers), they find that artistic choices aren’t always the same.

And with those minor differences, they recognize an opportunity to effectively plagiarise these alternate worlds for their developments in technology to increase their own stature in our world.

Opportunity becomes a chance at excess, and the movie begins to change. As these types of stories often do, the darker side of having this power begins to fracture the group to the point that they are no longer sure they can trust the others.

To say more would be to give away some of the middle and last acts twists and turns, but the thing about most movies about the parallel worlds (or tv shows for that matter) is that they normally go for the bigger changes to the timeline. It’s not enough to have a world that is virtually the same, minus some historical footnotes, those films would have us in a world were Rome never feel, or Germany won WWII, etc. This movie focuses more on the characters’ reactions to this newfound power. Really leaning into the whole “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” theme.

What makes this interesting is the idea of these nearly identical doppelgangers from the other realities. While our group uses their mirror to ensure their own successes, very little is given to those versions of themselves they are potentially screwing over by: committing crimes, spending their money, and even living out their own fantasies with others. It’s a movie where the mirror is merely a way to tell a story about how easy it is to lose your own identity. As the movie progresses towards its ending, the characters no longer resemble themselves from the start of the movie, making us ask the question of whether or not they’ve effectively become their own doppelganger.

It’s those character moments which will drive the movie once you strip some of the sci-fi aspects of things from the story. What happens when a group of friends discover something to make them rich? How long does it take for that money and power to drive a wedge between them? And at the end of the day, are they even the same people they were at the start. Parallel takes all of that and then adds that bit of science fiction to tell that story while showing us that the grass isn’t always greener.

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One other thing, the poster at the top of this blog makes me think more along the lines of a spy vs. spy movie than something to do with parallel worlds. Just an odd thought.

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I enjoyed the movie, but then again alternate worlds and living different lives is right in my wheelhouse. In fact, I wrote a book that is definitely in that same vein where a man has to figure out what his own personal reality actually is as he experiences worlds very close to our own, but not his original one.

It’s called The Echo Effect and you can get it here.

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John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

My Comfort Movies

If any time has expressed a need to sit back with some comfort watching, this last year (and a half) have certainly answered the bell. I used Firefly as a part of that process by watching a couple of episodes every Friday night (and lamented that we only got the partial season). But when it comes to movies, I certainly have cycled through ones throughout my life where the amount I saw them was in direct correlation to what kind of mood I might be in.

A little Depressed as a teenager – Pump Up the Volume was the go-to for that version of me. I’m not sure exactly why as the movie isn’t really a “feel-good” movie. I’m sure it had more to do with Christian Slater and pretty much loving any movie he was in for the longest time.

Enjoying a night in during college attempting to destroy people in Duke Nuk’em? – Clerks and Mallrats to the rescue. My college roommate and I watched those two so much that I doubt we really needed to have them on, we could have pretty much done the movie dialogue in our sleep.

So when I go to my comfort movies it doesn’t necessarily mean happy-go-lucky or something that has a happy ending. Instead, I think for me, it has to be something that I simply find joy in. Something that puts me in a better mood through the skills of the writers/editors/directors/actors/etc working their crafts to perfection for those couple of hours.

Rounders

I probably watch this about 2-3 times a year. Aside from the fact that I love playing and watching poker, so a poker movie was a no-brainer. With Rounders there is an ease to the characters, to the story, and to the idea of overcoming one’s own shortcomings. At the end of the day, it really is about placing your faith in someone and having them not live up to your expectations. But really, all that does is cast a light on our own issues. How can we ask someone else to be someone they are not when we aren’t exactly sure who we are?

That struggle feels all the more real at 2 in the morning as I try and write or edit. While I’m not one of these people who can crank out a book in a few weeks, and while I should challenge myself with lofty goals, I shouldn’t lose sight of what I have accomplished and what I’m accomplishing.

Office Space

When you need to reflect on the idea that people weren’t meant to sit at desks for 40 plus hours a week doing various jobs until our brains begin to melt and all our motivations slip away. There is the fantasy at play here that we’ve all wanted to do in some form or fashion. Maybe you want to tell your boss off? Maybe you just want to quit? Or maybe you just want to get a game of Tetris in before your meeting with the Bobs…

This one features in pretty heavy rotation on Comedy Central. It has the sort of gravitational pull on me where I end up stopping on it and before I know it, I’ve watched the whole movie again. It genuinely makes me realize that all those times when you just want to call out sick to work: You don’t need to tell them what you are sick of.

Waiting…

This is one that I came upon because of the actors involved. Somehow, it slipped under my radar for a long time, and though I’ve never worked at a restaurant, watching this movie lets me know that was the correct decision to have made for my life. Even if the situations behind the scenes are over the top, we’ve all been in a restaurant when someone begins making a huge deal out of something with their food. Those moments ring true in more ways than I can even count.

The thing about this one, aside from the absurdity or its crass nature, is that it shows us a day in the life (much like a Clerks or Mallrats). Our lives can get this way very easily. The mundane becomes routine and before we know it a month has passed. For me, this is about enjoying the moment as best you can, even if they take place somewhere you might not want to be.

Tombstone

Wait. This is basically a tragedy. A tale of woe where Wyatt Earp loses almost everything dear to him and goes on a hunt for the people who perpetrated the crimes on his family. So how can this be a comfort movie? And my answer is that it probably comes from that simple idea of one man who just wants to get away from his past and start a career in this new town. Be in on the ground floor, as it were.

But our past is always there. It helps to shape the person we are today. The challenges from those earlier times allow us to have a better idea on how to prepare for the next obstacle. I don’t know why it helps ease my thoughts and any burdens I might be carrying. Maybe it is the power of friendship? Family? Revenge?

Or perhaps I’m just a sucker for a good western?

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things – A Review

This past weekend I conned my wife into watching a Time Loop movie. Now, I normally have to qualify this in a way because she isn’t a fan of Groundhog Day. This in and of itself is beyond blasphemous, but I think it is because she hasn’t actually sat down to watch the movie. Oh, she thinks she’s watched it, but even then she claimed that she fell asleep during it, woke up in the middle, and then felt like nothing had changed. Like there were portions of the movie she missed, but because of the Time Loop, she really didn’t need to watch it at all.

So, when it comes to Time Loop movies I have a little bit of an uphill battle.

It’s a good thing that the last novel I wrote didn’t have anything resembling a time loop or repeating lives or anything (check out Echo Effect here!).

However, I have recently figured out the secret sauce to getting her buy-in on such things. You take a simple (or maybe not-so-simple) Time Loop movie, and then add young adults to it. She’s a sucker for that. Which is how we ended up watching The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (based on a short story by Lev Grossman playing on Amazon Prime).

So the thing with Time Loops is whether we get to see our main character’s first Loop or do we enter it in after they’d already done dozens (or perhaps thousands). Groundhog Day shows us his very first day and then he is stuck in that Loop. In this movie, they very quickly show you that this isn’t Mark’s first time through the day. In fact, I kind of wonder if he’s closer to thousands. We watch as he makes his way through his day only to see he is trying to have a good interaction with a girl. Trying to replay the day to set up these moments in the hopes that she might like him.

It goes about as well as you think.

But those attempts are what cause him to run into Margaret… who turns out to be stuck in the same Time Loop as Mark. And that’s where the beauty of this little movie begins, because Mark, in an attempt to try and impress “the girl” begins showing her some of these Little (Perfect) Moments he’s discovered in his time going through the day. And he’s not alone in noting them as Margaret has a few of her own.

Thus begins their attempt to document all those great moments that happen in a day. The little things we might not notice as we go about our lives. It’s the shape of a cloud. It’s a moment between two people when they think no one is watching. It’s the interactions that occur every day for each and every one of us.

That’s the key to this movie. Where other Loop movies are about improving yourself or discovering/atoning for something you had done. This movie is about showing the viewer they don’t have to ignore the small, seemingly insignificant moments. Instead, those should be the very things that make up a joyous life. And that doing those things alone might not ever be as good as when you have someone beside you, experiencing those same instances… bonding the two of you in those moments.

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John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Movie Watch

There was a post going around Twitter this past weekend where you are asked to name 5 movies you’d seen at least 10 times. Considering the people I follow, I saw many of the usual suspects mentioned (Star Wars being the big one). Of course, this got my mind going on those movies I could claim that I’d absolutely seen at least 10 times. Now I think for it to count, you would have had to sat and watched at least 90% of the movie. So if Shawshank Redemption is on TNT this weekend and you catch it shortly after Andy arrives in prison, I think that counts, but if they are well into him doing the taxes for the guards… then that doesn’t count.

The weird thing about this little exercise is not so much identifying the greatest hits of my own life, but trying to determine those movies that I have really and truly seen 10 times. Fundamentally, viewing a movie ten times is a lot. When you think about it, it’s a bit harder to do, especially as you move from your childhood into adulthood. Back then you had summers and random weekends and probably random afternoons where I decided to watch Young Guns for the twentieth time. As the list builds, anything that came out in the last decade or so is almost immediately eliminated. There are movies I feel like I’ve seen 10 times, but do I really know that I’ve seen The Replacements 10 times (I mean, I pretty much watch it every time it pops up on TV)? I love A Knight’s Tale, but I gotta be honest, it’s probably more like a 7 or 8 time movie for me at this point. Even something like Avengers is around 6 or 7 times, but there is almost no way it is 10.

But really, what does the list tell us about ourselves and our friends? There is a comfort in rewatching something over and over. I see it in my own household constantly as my wife has certain TV shows on a continuous loop (Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls, Lucifer being only a few). You’d think she’d rather watch something new (and we do), but she uses the shows as a way to unwind and de-stress. She also uses them to fall asleep, training her mind to shut down as the episode plays on in the background.

There is also something to the idea of needing those familiar movies (or TV Shows) to help us through certain times in our lives. They can be a bonding mechanism or just a way to appease the next generation.

During last year, I definitely found it helpful to get a level of comfort in the familiar by watching something like Firefly on a weekly basis during the summer (about 2 episodes every Friday to really have a sort of throwback to “better times”). Revisiting those characters that I’ve loved through their handful of adventures is always a nice way to spend some time. I don’t have to worry about following every word since I nearly know all of them by heart. Even more than that, on first watch of nearly anything you are going to get caught up in the big moments (whether it is a small comedy or a big blockbuster). A single rewatch allows you to see what you missed in the first place.

Back in college, Clerks and Mallrats played over and over from the same VHS tape. It was a beat-up version copied from a rental so on my old-ass tv we had to turn the volume to its limits in order to hear it (even in our small dorm room).

Also during college, whenever I returned home for Quarter breaks, my sister and I would make a point to watch The Breakfast Club and Weird Science. Those movies became our way to bond in a real way that we didn’t or hadn’t been able to do when we were living together 24/7 and annoying each other day in and day out.

Casting my mind even further back, rewatching the pair of Ghostbusters 2 and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was the only thing that would calm my younger brother down enough to let my mom sleep (she worked nights, so during the summer we babysat). Again, it was a VHS copied from HBO with both movies on it. Over the course of two summers that tape was played nearly every day. It got so bad that my sister hid the stupid tape… but my brother found it time and time again.

Much like music has an ability to recapture a moment in time for the listener, I think movies can remind us of who we were when we first watched them, and then later, on the rewatches, we are able to glean different and new things from those same stories, finding a way to apply them to our current lives.

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John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

You Haven’t Seen It – Karate Kid Part III

As Cobra Kai fever grips my house (I think my wife has watched the first 2 seasons around 4 times now since we discovered the show on Netflix), we decided to take a nostalgic trip with the movies as well. Now, we’ve seen the first two movies many, many times, but still decided to watch the first movie again before we even watched one episode of Cobra Kai. And just last week, with the announcement of certain Part 2 characters showing up, we went ahead and watched the second movie. So that only left some small piece of the saga to catch up with: Part 3 (and maybe The Next Karate Kid at some point, maybe).

Now, to be fair, this was not Courtney’s first time ever seeing Part 3; however, watching the movie with her this time around it might as well been her first time watching it. There was plenty of stuff she didn’t remember about it. In addition, we ended up watching it in two settings because… well, it isn’t the greatest movie. But more than that, the… well, I wouldn’t call them plot holes, but there are just lots of coincidences required to make the movie go the way the bad guys want it to go.

And speaking of bad-guys…

John – I love how Terry Silva is basically a cartoon villain.

Courtney – I know… it’s just over the top. He was talking about dumping toxic waste earlier.

John – He could be the bad-guy for Captain Planet!

The thing is, Mike Barnes is this badass karate champion who they enlist to beat up Daniel, and he just owns Daniel. He’s a solid villain if Part 2 never happens.

John – I don’t understand how this guy… Daniel never lands a punch really. I mean, he’s only a few months removed from fighting for his life in Okinawa.

Courtney – And they never call the cops? Really?

John – Think about all the stuff that has to fall into place for Terry Silva’s evil plan to work. Mr. Miyagi has to refuse to train Daniel. Daniel has to seek out Terry. Then he has to not leave in the middle of the training. Then at the end, when he’s decided to quit, Terry and his evil band have to be waiting for Daniel at the dojo.

Courtney – I just… it’s a lot to believe, right?

So we watched it in two parts, and the second part is a little better. But then you get to the tournament…

Courtney – Wait, Daniel only has to land one point and he wins the whole tournament?

John – Yep.

Which, that was always my biggest problem with the movie. One of the best things about Part 1 was the tournament. Learning how things worked. Watching Daniel and Johnny on their collision course. But with this movie, we only really have the end of the semi-finals and then the championship match. So you remove the best stuff with some crazy new rule that says a defending champion only has to fight one fight? How in the world does that make sense on any planet. We’ve all heard of byes, but to get a bye through, what, maybe 6-8 rounds? You take no wear and tear?

Just makes no sense.

John – Final thoughts on Part 3?

Courtney – I think watching the first half of this one… hurt me. It kind of took something away from the first two (this one being so bad). But as we talked about the characters and how they acted. Basically, the need to have some depth and it created a conflict between our leads that we’d not seen. But over-the-top characters… wow. If you are Mr. Miyagi you justified the previous tournament because he was being bullied, but now you won’t even though Daniel is getting bullied because… reasons? I thought the bonsai tree story was a little over the top (even if it gave us a nice little moment between them at the end).

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I somehow don’t think this movie is going to enter the replay list for her… Cobra Kai season 3 though…

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John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Worlds Upon Worlds

The Crossing deals directly with parallel worlds where all that we’re limited by is what crazy idea Robert, Sean, or myself can come up with. I’ve said before that it is truly our love-letter to shows like Sliders and… well, really anything that deals with a world not quite your own one. I just got done with the second issue script which has my mind going a million different directions on what other worlds we can visit, which ones help to tell the story we want to tell, and what aspects of them might just be cool to draw!

This year has kind of felt like we are in the wrong timeline, but writing the script has me mulling over parallel worlds in television and movies. Those stories can only show us our own flaws and the paths not taken. Sometimes because we knew that wasn’t the way to go and other times because we felt like we had no other choice. Those worlds give us a glimpse into what might have been, but can just as easily become true horror stories for the heroes.

Rick and Morty – Rick Potion No. 9

“Cronenberg World”

The thing that gets me about this episode is not even that Rick would screw things up to the point that everyone on the planet would become Cronenberg style creatures, but that his solution isn’t to find a way to fix them (at least after a couple of tries). No, he’s willing to just write the whole damn world off and start fresh on another Earth where his and Morty’s doppelgangers had recently died.

That’s both a hardcore and extremely practical way of looking at parallel worlds.

Fringe

The show that started as a pseudo-X-Files, but then evolved into something much, much more. Even as they hinted at the possibility of another Earth, it wasn’t until they showed the airships on Earth 2 (I can’t recall exactly what they called it) that it was truly revealed for all to see. At that point, it became a story about how the characters interact with this new world and how they interact with their doppelgangers.

Star Trek – Mirror, Mirror

If I strain my brain about this, I have to assume that this might be the very first thing I saw that dealt with a parallel world. The ideas presented here might not feel as groundbreaking today when viewed through a modern-day lens, but when it premiered and even more importantly to a young kid watching the rerun of it many decades later, it introduced an earworm of a concept that I still can’t get enough of.

 

Yesterday

I’m a long-time fan of the idea of changing one thing in a world and seeing what happens. You can take the most minor things and have it butterfly effect into something huge or you can take an idea that is already huge given our musical history – What if the Beatles never existed.

Not only does this movie do just that, it does it in a way that makes me smile at the craziness of such a world while also feeling for our hero who has finally found a way to get out of obscurity and the guilt he carries because he knows that he has just become a cover artist.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The Wish

Normally you wouldn’t immediately jump to a wish being granted suddenly causing everything to go sideways… unless you’ve played Dungeons and Dragons… in which case you are assured of that very thing happening. This Buffy episode got to take liberties with our well-known characters and flip the script with them so that some were now vampires, others were hardened warriors suddenly without a Scooby Gang to keep them grounded, and has one of the best moments where bad things happen to the very person who caused the world to change (to the point that when I was first watching I was like “well how the heck are we getting back to our world?”).

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There are so many more worlds that have caught my imagination over the years. My hope is that with The Crossing, some of the cool ideas we have can inspire others to view our world in a little different way.
By the way, The Crossing is now available for sale here!
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John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Where To Begin and Where To End

Over this past week, I was with family on our annual beach trip. It’s a great time for everyone to get together, see the nephews, and just enjoy each other’s company around the pool or beach or both. During the course of the trip, my dad and I talked about various things, everything from life to politics to religion to movies to comics and anything in-between. It was in those conversations that we came to talk about movies over the last few years that really resonated with us. He’s a big sci-fi guy and much of my love for the genre comes directly from him. One of the movies we talked about I thought was interesting from a writer’s point of view:

Passengers (2016)

If you missed it (spoilers to follow), it tells the story of Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) after he finds himself awakened from a hibernation sleep on board a colony ship about 90 years too soon. Much of the first part of the movie is about how he deals with being completely isolated (there’s no way to get back to sleep). After more than a year alone, he decides to wake someone else up, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence). The movie proceeds as a love story (and according to wiki it is an “American science fiction romance”) where they fall in love… and yet we know eventually this big lie will drive them apart once Aurora finds out Jim woke her up (as opposed to the “malfunction” he leads her to believe).

When I watched it a couple of years ago, I enjoyed it, but it was also one of those movies that felt like it could use something else to help push it from a decent movie to a good or maybe even great movie. I remembered reading something in a blog or a post or something where the person reviewing the film posited one change:

What if we started with Aurora’s awakening instead?

You suddenly get a very different movie. One that might be a bit more on the thriller… or possibly even the horror side of things. You see, when you are with Jim from the beginning, he’s our POV. We understand his growing loneliness, so when he makes that decision to wake Aurora up, while we know it is wrong, we get it.

But if she’s our POV, now he’s this weird guy who may or may not be on the up and up. It lends a bit of creepiness to the movie.

Check out this Youtube video for more detail on this idea/theory.

Because as much as I would like to see that version of the movie, the idea alone really got me thinking about beginnings and stories. It’s potentially a very strange thing to rearrange a story and completely change it’s meaning… or is it? Techniques like Flashbacks or Flashforwards or limiting our POV to one character for a story are just some of the ways that an author can try and get the reader to feel a certain way. Maybe they want you to be sympathetic to a character, so they show you bits and pieces of their history so you are drawn to them. But just as easily they could eliminate those very things and suddenly we have 180 degrees of difference in our opinions.

Think about another Chris Pratt movie, Guardians of the Galaxy. The very beginning of that movie shows Peter Quill as a young boy with a mother who is dying of cancer. It shows us how important she is to him, true, but it also helps to ground us with the character. Because most of the early part of the movie, he is a fairly arrogant d-bag. Without that first scene, we might not like him as much because we wouldn’t know why he was the way he was (can’t let people in because they’ll die on you).

Context is key.

This makes me think about how I structure my own work too. In something like Hollow Empire, I began Vadim’s story with comedy. I wanted to convey that this is someone who didn’t want to take things seriously. He is very fly by the seat of his pants type of character. But I also knew that overall his story in Season One was not going to be a pleasant one and that the humor early on would hopefully help the reader sympathize with him as things get worse and worse.

And even in my upcoming book, The Echo Effect, I have an opening section of the story that accomplishes a couple of things for me. One, it sets up my main character, but it also sets up the world that he’s living in (and it also introduces a secondary character that is extremely important to the overall story). When those things change for him, it needs to be jarring for the reader because it is jarring for the character. And while I could have not included this first section and instead jumped to the “something’s gone wrong”, I think it is stronger for the reader to be able to see that indeed, “something is wrong”.

Hopefully, when people read it, they will feel the same way!

***

To read the first chapter of The Echo Effect, sign up for John’s Mailing list.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

You Haven’t Seen It? – The Godfather

There comes a time in a man’s life where he must step up and stop living the lie. He needs to know that people view him a certain way, and he needs to be comfortable with that. Or he needs to do something about it.

It’s long past time for me to watch The Godfather, one of those classic movies where until you see it, you can’t get the stamp on your Man Card.

Pre-Movie

We didn’t really do a pre-movie portion. It was more that we had time on a Friday to watch this three-hour movie without too much threat that Courtney would fall asleep due to it being too late in the evening (not that it still couldn’t happen, but just that it WOULD happen if we tried to start watching as the sun went down).

For my part, I knew it was a mob movie of some sort, but expected it to be less Goodfellas and more of a slower-paced movie.

Mid-Movie

I want to say that Courtney did nod off in the wedding scene for a half a minute. No matter how much I tell her to sit up, she just doesn’t listen to me. After a verbal scolding that included the remark of “Well, this is going to be another movie we finish two weeks from now and not have a clue what it is that’s going on!” (see our Have You See It? – The Big Lebowski edition).

One other thought I had about 30 minutes left in the movie was that I wasn’t 100% where we were going to end up. I assumed it was with Michael winning, but I didn’t entirely know who things were going to go down.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Post-Movie

Both of us liked the movie, which isn’t overly surprising. Things don’t get called classics for no reason (most of the time, at least).

Courtney – I was surprised at how many of the BIG MOMENTS were so early in the movie.

John – Yeah, like I didn’t know the whole “You come to me on this, the day of my daughter’s wedding” bit was in the first 5 minutes.

Courtney – Or the horse’s head in the bed was really quick, too. I just figured those were things we’d get more toward the end.

John – I tell you what though, this is a movie unconcerned about its run time. They lingered on scenes for a few extra seconds. The horse in the bed had like 3 or 4 establishing shots of the house before we even get inside.

Courtney – There were a couple of odd scenes that didn’t make much sense. Like where the girlfriend shows up at the house while Michael is in Italy. It’s like 2 minutes and there is very little point to it and then we are onto something else.

John – I wasn’t sure if the next scene was a few minutes later or a few days later. I also can’t quite figure out the Michael in Italy scene. I liked it, but I was actually expecting him to disappear from the middle part of the movie and then get called back. But I’m not sure if you couldn’t have just cut that whole section out and still had a great film. They never reference it again. He doesn’t say anything to anyone about his now-dead wife. It’s as if that whole time doesn’t matter anyway.

Courtney – Sometimes it was a little hard to understand Brando.

John – Yeah, I thought we might need to turn on the close captions for him. He is phenomenal in the role, but you definitely need to really focus on what he’s saying.

It was a trip to see Pacino so young in the movie. I’m used to him from his Devil’s Advocate and Any Given Sunday time frame.

Godfather is one of those, I can see why everyone should see it. Without it, the modern mob movies don’t exist. But, I don’t know that it will be a rewatch movie for me where something like Goodfellas can be seen over and over.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

In A World

The Crossing Kickstarter is LIVE

Go here and check out the Kickstarter for the Crossing (Co-created by Robert Jeffrey II and Sean Hill and in conjunction with 133art).

***

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The world being where it is at right now makes it weird to talk about anything other than the virus. I don’t know whether to hide away in a bunker or what these days. I just hope everyone out there stays safe. We’ll push through this and come out stronger on the other side.

***

Given that the Crossing is still going on its Kickstarter, my plan this week was to write about Parallel Worlds and those instances in media that originally drew me to them. Now, many of us would rather be in one of a million different timelines other than this one…

I’m not going to list Sliders here because The Crossing is a love letter to that show. Robert even went so far as to live commentary the pilot while waiting on the side of the road for a tow truck. But it isn’t the only thing that I’ve found over the years that makes for good watching.

Coherence

The basic plot is that a group of friends is having a dinner party when a comet passes overhead. They soon discover that the comet has split their reality so that there are other versions of themselves.

Now, that’s the overall story, but watching the movie it is really about paranoia. How do you really know the person beside you is who they say they are? How do you know if their version of reality is the same as your own? The movie twists and turns so that the audience is a part of the process, trying to discern not why this has happened, but how to get back to their own house before the comet finishes its path, potentially trapping them in a reality that was never their own.

Coherence deals with the parallel worlds idea on a close to the ground level. There are no crazy worlds where dinosaurs still exist or one where the Ice Age never ended. This is our world… the one just outside our window.

Maybe.

Sliding Doors

Sliding Doors takes the idea that one moment, one decision, can change your entire life. But the interesting thing is that you get to see what happens in both timelines as the story progresses. We all ask What If questions all the time. In fact, so much of our lives are based on decisions we made without knowing what the outcome might even be. We trusted our past selves to get it right and hoped for the best. Yet this movie doesn’t shy away from showing you that life not only can be very messy, but that being able to ask that question of What If, may not always give you the result you were looking for in the first place.

The nice thing about Sliding Doors is that it doesn’t dwell into the science fiction aspect of things. One might say that there is no parallel world but only a story-telling device. Either way, it is a movie that does the path not taken in a way not normally seen.

Exiles

Not a movie but a comic book series. It takes the many-worlds concept and builds a superhero team (with a focus on X-Men characters) to world-hop throughout the infinite realities trying to fix something in each of them that was broken. If you are a long-time reader of Marvel comics, some of the scenarios they play out are things you might have read… that instead went very wrong in this world.

One of the other bits I really enjoyed was the slightly rotating cast of characters. Throughout the series, there are normally 6 members of the team, but through the 100+ issues, aside from Blink, the rest of the team is filled in with other refugees from these other worlds. This gives the writers the opportunity to tell a complete story arc with these superheroes in a way that a normal comic rarely can. They live, love, and in some cases die in the course of their adventures.

***

If you are a fan of this stuff like I am, you could do worse than to look up the movies or the comics and spending some time in another world(s).

Take care of yourselves!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

You Haven’t Seen It? – The Big Lebowski

 

 

This series is based on movies that my wife should have seen at this point in her life but somehow has failed to do so…

Until now.

However, I’m in a similar boat as she is on this one. Even if it is one of those movies that all my friends seem to know. But, I must confess, the real reason this is going to be watched is because it is Veronica Mars’s favorite movie.

Pre-Movie

So what do we know about this movie?

I really don’t know anything.

Yeah… I think he’s a slacker or something. And then shenanigans occur?

That seems right.

I press play.

I just hope this isn’t a Napoleon Dynamite situation…

 

1/2 way through the movie

Courtney was falling asleep – not due to the movie, that she was enjoying, but just too long a day. Which means we’ll be picking this up next weekend!

Flash forward about 2 weeks actually…

After not getting back around to watching the movie the following weekend, we picked it up again. Courtney requested that we rewind a little bit, so we ended up backing up to the point that Sam Elliot makes his first appearance. At which point we have the following conversation:

John – I don’t think Sam Elliot has aged. Like he was this old since he started acting right?

Courtney – It’s the mustache. If he didn’t have that cowboy mustache, I wonder how his career might have gone.

John – Does he have a mustache in Road House?

Courtney – (Thinks) I don’t know.

Note – after we finished this, I noticed that either HBO or Amazon Prime has Roadhouse for free. So we fast-forwarded until Sam makes his appearance. He does not have that trademarked mustache but instead has a kind of scruffy not quite a full face of hair, but not just a couple of days stubble.

So crisis averted.

Back to the movie.

Which we actually finish in this session.

My wife during pretty much any movie once the sun has gone down.

Takeaways

I think it was a big no-no to break the movie up onto not only different days but different weeks. Which, anyone watching just about any movie would agree with, but sometimes the ole wifey gets sleepy and I know that when the eyes start closing it is well past a losing battle. When we restarted, I had to give Courtney a quick catch-up on where we were. Plus, given the nature of the movie which is a quintuple cross (I think, there is a lot of BS being spit during various portions of the movie).

We also had a minor discussion about the fact that White Russians and Caucasians were the same drink (remember, we don’t drink, so we know literally nothing about alcohol).

Personally, I liked the movie. It is so random and weird but had a ton of funny moments. However, I would say that the two (I believe there were only two, though you might make the case that the whole movie was one big drug-induced dream) hallucination scenes didn’t do anything for me. They didn’t last very long, but I honestly felt like they could have been skipped and the movie would have been better for it.

I don’t know what to say. I think the big thing is that it couldn’t hold my attention in the second half of the movie.

Well, you were kind of nodding off.

Exactly. I liked what I saw, but it was… hmm… it just didn’t hold my attention that well.

I am a little shocked this has become such a cult classic.

Yeah, me too.

So this is where you and your girl have your first disagreement.

Veronica Mars and I are fine, but I think it might be Rob Thomas’s favorite movie more than hers. Veronica and I are just fine.

***

I have a Kickstarter beginning on Saturday, February 29, 2020 for The Crossing Issue #1. It is a story about multiple parallel earths, and about how far a father will go.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

You Haven’t Seen It? – Alien

This series is based on movies that my wife should have seen at this point in her life but somehow has failed to do so…

Until now.

Plus, with it being October and all, a proper horror movie was needed to cross off. Which brought us to seeing Alien as part of Turner Classic Movies’ 40th anniversary showing last night.

Pre-Movie

What do you know about this movie?

It has Sigourney Weaver… it has an alien… doesn’t an alien come out of her stomach?

I can neither confirm or deny any of these things.

(The pre-movie was running Alien trivia) Do you know what the tag line was?

(She looks at the 4 choices.) In space, no one can hear you scream.

Nice.

 

About 10 minutes into the movie

I’m a little worried about the cat.

Post-Movie

That was really cool. I thought it was going to be more about it hunting them, but it was as much about them hunting it. And I thought it was going to be Ripley vs. the Alien for half the movie.

So let’s talk about it. What did you like? Didn’t like?

Lambert. I didn’t like her. I don’t think we’re supposed to like her though. She seems super pissed at the world. Someone who remains on edge the whole time. She seemed to know bad things were about to go down… even when they first arrive.

Yeah, she says multiple times while they are out there “ok, let’s go back to the ship”. She’s a real fraidy cat.

Oh, I loved that Parker got in a lick on the alien.

Before he died?

Yeah.

Overall, I thought it was excellent on the suspense. It kept a good balance that so many horror movies don’t do a good job on. It had big moments and then the smaller moments.

Favorite character?

You’d think it’d be Ripley. But I really liked Dallas. His whole demeanor with Ripley. Do you think he was hitting that?

Huh, I had never thought of that.

Maybe it was more of unrequited love? There were looks he gave her. There was underlying respect with a tinge of passion. Would they have been together back on Earth?

Well, he did put himself in harms way over her multiple times… so, maybe?

So how about the big stomach scene?

It’s my favorite. Fantastic.

Did you know what was about to happen? I mean, you kinda knew something with a chest-burster was coming and it is such an iconic scene.

No, I wasn’t thinking that at all. I didn’t think Kane had ingested it. But then the baby comes out.

Baby?

Well, that’s what I’m calling it. We know what the alien looks like fully grown, but you can see it this creature.

Plus he had a cuteness to him.

Disturbing.

That entire scene, them having to hold him down. That’s family right there. No matter how much they scabble in the first scene, this is their people. So it is agonizing.

Did you think it was over there at the end?

No… mostly because of the score. I felt like there was something up. Something else was going to happen. What about you? When you first saw it, did you know there was another scare?

Hmmm… I probably was 12 and watching it on tv. I don’t think I thought there would be more. So it was a big surprise to see this thing that blends in so well, and then to wonder how in the world she was going to get out of that.

Any last thoughts?

Just that this might not be the most epilepsy-friendly movie there at the end with all the flashing lights and whatnot.

Oh, and I’m looking forward to Alien 2-

It’s not Alien 2.

Right, Aliens. But let’s not wait until 2026 to see the 40th anniversary of that one.

Deal.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

You Haven’t Seen It? – Neverending Story

While at Dragon Con a few weeks ago, I caught sight of a group of three people in costume. I quickly realized that one of the women was dressed as the Empress from The Neverending Story. So I looked across the table to where my bride was eating her lunch and said:

“Cool. Neverending Story.”

And she replied:

“Never seen it.”

I immediately posted on Facebook that my world had been shattered by this type of news. How in the world could she not have seen that classic from the 80s? We’d just finished season 3 of Stranger Things and there is a whole thing with the Neverending Story song… it never occurred to me that she might not get that reference.

I had to fix this situation. So on that Monday night, we found that Vudu had the movie for free (with limited ads – honestly it was better than watching it on tv. There were probably only about 6 to 8 minutes of commercials total for a 90-minute movie). So we watched it. And of course, because she’s not a crazy person, she loved it.

But it got me thinking about the various movies I grew up on that for some reason Courtney had never seen. I mean, there was a point where she was 20 years old and had never seen Star Wars (blasphemy). For a long while, she’d never seen The Wizard of Oz (what was happening on Spring Break – they show it every year).

I had an idea. We made a list of movies that either she hadn’t seen but probably should have by this point or just movies that she hadn’t seen but kinda wanted to see. Then I would talk to her about the movie and get her thoughts as an adult. I did this with Neverending Story, but it’s been a couple of weeks so it isn’t quite as fresh.

You Haven’t Seen It?

 

John – The Neverending Story is a classic. I joked that perhaps you were spending time playing outside while the rest of us were watching movies, but then one of your best friends mentioned she’d seen it (and thought she’d seen it with you). So what gives? Why didn’t you see it back then?

Courtney – I actually wasn’t sure if I’d seen it or not. Images from the movie pop up every now and again, so sometimes I think I’ve seen it and then other times not so much. I will say that you know I’m not a big fan of LONG movies, so if you’re calling it The NEVERENDING Story I’m probably going to assume it is going to be a very long one.

Of course, when we started watching it, I quickly realized I hadn’t seen it at all. When did you first see it?

I was 8 when it came out. I think I saw it in the theater, but it is just as likely that I saw it on HBO. They’d run the same movies over and over and over during the summer.

Prior to our watching it, did you have any clue what it might be about?

All I knew was that it was in the fantasy genre. Maybe some kind of quest. I had no idea it was a story within a story.

How about the movie itself? Did you end up liking it?

Oh, I knew right away that I was going to like it. Immediately the whole bit with the characters like the Rock Guy-

Rock Biter.

Yeah, and the elf-guy.

The Bat Rider?

I don’t know his name. Turn it on.

I load it up and fast forward to the scene with the Rockbiter, Snail Rider, and Bat Rider. Courtney immediately picks the Bat Rider as her favorite of the trio.

Rewind it to the beginning, with the bullies.

Did you notice that Major Dad was eating 3 raw eggs? He was hardcore from the beginning!

<10 minutes pass as we watch the scene with the bullies and Bastian hiding in the bookstore and then stealing the book.>

So let me ask you this: do you think the bookstore owner wanted him to take the book?

Of course.

So here’s a thought that will wrinkle your brain: did the bookstore owner know Bastian was going to come into the store?

What do you mean?

Well, he was reading the book as he comes in, but later we find out that Bastian is a character in Fantasia’s larger story. So was the whole beginning of the movie stuff that was actually in the book already?

Hmm… I don’t know…

<The swamp scene appears on the tv.>

I loved the fact that he could live through Atreyu, who was young and underestimated. Both people who lost someone close to them.

The horse!

You kinda spoiled that scene for me. I mean, it still got me, but you dampened it a little bit.

Sorry.

It’s OK.

But you can see that was something that could have scarred you as an 8-year-old. Good lord.

That was the scene that made me definitely know I’d never seen the movie.

Alright, other favorite characters? I personally like the turtle!

The Luck Dragon is absolutely my favorite. I love that he’s a big dog. It just takes any potential fear you might have of this massive beast and puts it to the side. The ear scratching moment! He was great!

And how about the story within a story aspect?

It was awesome. Just like the bookstore owner said, he had real stakes within the story and wasn’t just a bystander.

Finally… what did you think overall? Did you like it?

Yes! Yes! Yes! I actually would love to see it with our 8-year-old niece and see it through her eyes. But, yes, it was great!

***

So a success! I’m hoping to get a horror movie in at some point during October. She’s never seen Alien…

 

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Stories From Our Future, Youtube Series Review

Now called Stories From Our Future

Stories from our Future is the official name for something that was originally going to be Little Black Mirror. Released on June 10, 2019, to help celebrate the release of Season 5 of Black Mirror, it took three short films (each less than 10 minutes each) that were all told in the vein of the television show.

One thing about these shorts: there is no spoken dialogue. The music, the beat, or soundtrack helps propel the stories along. In addition, there is a bit of text here and there to help push the narrative along. The other thing I just now realized is how the themes of these shorts mirror (Black Mirror?) the episodes of the season.

EP 1 – Getting to Know You

A virtual landscape to escape the drudgery of your daily life. Who hasn’t seen the video games that end up sucking their players into a life that effectively ends up being wake up, work, and then get online to interact with people you may or may not really know. Unless you meet them in real life, what do you really know about their people? How much might you have in common with them? Are they someone you could see yourself with in a relationship?

And what happens in your real relationships? When does your digital world become more real than your physical one?

And does it even matter?

EP 2 – The Healthy Alternative

Addiction comes in all forms and flavors. It could be a type of food, sodas, alcohol, drugs, sex, and just about anything else you could possibly think of.

And while it is very easy to recognize many of the bigger ones, that doesn’t mean the companies who make and sell this stuff aren’t trying on a constant basis to tweak your mind ever so slightly. They are trying to get their names burrowed within your brain so that you don’t see it as something bad or good. It becomes almost background noise to you.

The sneaky thing is if they can convince you that what they are selling is not only good for you but literally can improve your life in ways that you might not even realize.

And in this future, they can always upgrade the system to make sure they are dealing with your every ailment.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

EP 3 – Cure for Loneliness

The rut of our lives. The constant sameness. Day in an day out. You wake up, go to work, maybe you have a hobby or distraction, and then bed before doing it all again. It makes it where you have to wonder if you actually do see time in a linear fashion, or maybe after a few years of this routine, those days do not fall in a real order.

Throughout all of that, if you are doing it by yourself, then comes the loneliness. Being with someone else. Having them share in some of those experiences, no matter how mundane they may be. That is how humans were supposed to see this world. Not through their own eyes, but through someone else’s eyes. That is how we grow and love and make our days just a little better.

This was my favourite of the three.

***

To see these episodes, check them out on Youtube here. I’m not sure if this is a one-of experiment or if it something we can expect to see more of in the future. I hope so.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Beefing with Avengers – Endgame

Yeah. You all loved Avengers – Endgame.

We get it. It scored 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. 

It’s the second highest grossing film of blah, blah, blah.

You cheered. You wept. You held your bladders for the movie’s entire 17-hour runtime.

Fine. 

As one woman told me, I should shut up and eat my popcorn.  A valid point, and yet…

…for those few among you who are objective, and those few who went into the movie hoping to actually be surprised, shocked, or stunned, this is for you.

Warning: This list contains spoilers. Lots and lots of spoilers. 

*

All the arguments I have with Avengers – Endgame


 

When Thanos’s ship fires a massive volley of missiles into the Avengers’ base, not a single Avenger suffers any significant injury. Not. One. Why even bother with missiles? Would a nuclear bomb hurt them? I mean…even the non-superpower Avengers just shrug off cruise missiles. Wow. Impressive.

Also, why not use the ship’s giant guns and even more missiles on the army of good guys as they assemble in one big easy-to-shoot, ‘hey, look at us assembling‘ block? Why wait until the battle’s end…when doing so means shooting your own soldiers?

Speaking of which, did one single blast from Thanos’ ship…I mean, even ONE…take out a single good guy?

If time travel is now a thing, doesn’t it mean the Avengers can now resolve any possible threat simply by retrieving the infinity stones as needed? Doesn’t that negate the need for every future movie?

Time travel is lazy af. The ultimate deus ex machina

Speaking of time, does everyone have plenty of it to pause and have lengthy conversations during a giant battle which will decide the fate of the Universe…or is it just the Avengers?

When using time travel, does everyone randomly meet a key person from their past…triggering long and needless exposition, or is it just the Avengers?

It took Thanos a lifetime’s worth of dedication to finally retrieve all six Infinity Stones, but it takes drunk Thor, a trash panda, and Scarlett Johansson just a few hours to traverse the galaxy and do the same? Hell, give me a few days and maybe I’LL collect all the stones. (When I snap my fingers, I’ll do something more interesting than murder everyone, I promise.)

Oh Hulk…you said Doctor Strange did what? I completely believe you. Here’s the Time Stone.” Get the f**k out of here.

Captain America can use Mjolnir to create lightning? Breaking your own rules, Marvel.

Whenever I’m creating giant time-traveling machinery that has never before been made, I always have the materials needed to build it readily available.

Please never use time travel again. Unless you’re Back to the Future or the original Terminator. Just. Stop.

For the love of god, Thanos, when you have an Avenger weakened and on his back, f__king finish them. Don’t just punch them a few times and start monologuing. For the smartest villain in the world, you sure aren’t….oh never mind.

Is it really sacrificing someone (for the purpose of claiming the Soul Stone) if that person commits suicide against your wishes?

Hey Marvel (or any filmmaker for that matter) if we ALL know how the movie ends, that’s not good storytelling. That’s called, ‘We know this will make money, so why take any risks?

My kid fell asleep. Twice. Five-hundred previous movies, and this is the first one to make him zzzzzzzzzzz. Impressive.

…mostly because of the heavy-handed scene with Tony Stark and his daddy. And the other one with Cap’n America and Peggy. Unsubtlety, thy presence is strong in this film.

Pretty convenient footsteps, Mister Rat who frees Paul Rudd. If not for you, this whole movie wouldn’t have been possible.

At least Ken Jeong showed up. Best part of the movie.

Lastly, Nebula sucks as a good girl. Borrrrring…


Ok. I’m done.

My other movie reviews are here. They’re mostly positive. Please enjoy.

 

 

 

We’re In the End Game Now

At some point, there was an idea. An idea to take those comic book characters who only lived in a 2D world and bring them to life on the Big Screen. Marvel Comics licenced out a handful of their characters and we got our first taste of what comic books in a live action format was going to look like.

It was clearly a hit or miss situation.

At the same time, there were cartoons to be watched where your favourite characters could actually swing through the air on a spider’s web or fly around completely on fire. It was bringing the characters to life in a way that was both faithful to the comics and… well… wasn’t cheesy looking.

Nothing wrong with this!

I remember thinking that Marvel wasn’t ever going to get it right on the movie front, maybe they should just concentrate on making good cartoons. Heck, there had been a couple of cartoon movies here or there that did alright (I was thinking Transformers and later on the Batman: Mask of the Phantasm movies that both were released to the theaters). Maybe that was the way to go for them?

But you’d hear rumors of them working behind the scenes to get this movie made or that character a try-out. And we still got this:

Although, in light of the movies we ended up getting, maybe this wasn’t soooo bad.

As I continued to read the funny books into my college years, I’d given up much hope for anything great to show up. For whatever reason, the Marvel characters just didn’t seem like they were ever going to work. Even if DC had managed to somewhat crack the code with Superman and Batman, Marvel always seemed to just lag behind.

And then it happened…

Ok, maybe not that one…

This guy. Here was where they got it right.

And you know how sometimes all you need is a little bit of success and that will generate more successes for you. Like a snowball rolling down the hill, you pick up speed and suddenly you’ve got it going in the right direction. Suddenly we get an X-Men movie. And a Daredevil movie. And a Spiderman movie.

Even if you didn’t think they hit every beat or story or special effect just right, the fact that those movies existed at all was mind-blowing.

When the first Spiderman came out after the credits rolled it was like you could have had to use a jackhammer to get the smile off my face. This character I’d read for so many years looked like I wanted him to look, he sounded right… he could swing through the air!

A few years later, Marvel decided that since all their big name properties were with other studios, due to those 90s deals, they needed to reach out and get another one of those characters from the toy box. Being a big Avengers guy, I knew who Iron Man was, but most people would have had no clue. In fact, the Avengers weren’t the A-Listers at Marvel at the time. They might have had one comic series for the Avengers and then one for Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor… and that was it.

Yet, the Iron Man movie worked.

And now, here we are after 21 some-odd movies the culmination of 10+ years for the studios will be on the Big Screen. But more than that, those characters who I thought only would ever work in a 2D environment are living, breathing people. Everyone in the world seems to know who they are. It’s crazy that these movies not only exist but are actually pretty good.

I always wonder if I could talk to my younger self and let him know these things were coming, what he’d think. All those days spent with my nose in the colorful pages, watching the Avengers defeat Doctor Doom or Baron Zemo or even Thanos… those toys are out of the sandbox for everyone to get a chance at.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Review – Shakespeare Tavern’s Romeo and Juliet

I don’t know if I was any different than anyone else in class the first time we were “forced” to read Romeo and Juliet. The language was strange. The story felt too familiar – like I’d seen it a hundred times if I’d seen it once. And the idea that they needed to come up with some elaborate plan of faking death in order for the two lovers (who’d known each other about an hour before Romeo proposed to Juliet). It was just… too much.

But I didn’t hate it. I’m not sure I can fully remember how I felt about it. Just one of those things that you have to do in school. You read it, take a test or two on the material, and move on to the next classic. Occasionally they will lead you to someone becoming a favourite author (thank you Jack London for “To Build a Fire”). Sometimes you realize how much of a non-fan you are (Mr. Dickens, I’m looking at you).

 

 

Weirdly, it was the 1996 version of the play starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Claire Danes where I think I started to understand the story. Whether it was the modern setting, the delivery of the lines… maybe just hearing the words rather than reading them. Or maybe I was just in a different mindset 4 years after I’d initially read the tale. Maybe I had more knowledge about the idea for the reason I thought I’d seen the story over and over… it was because everyone was using it as a basis to tell a certain kind of story.

And with watching, the nuances of the actors’ performances lend themselves to seeing how even if I didn’t catch every word, I knew what the characters were trying to convey. Those little pieces that are completely missing from a read through.

I probably haven’t seen that version of Romeo and Juliet in over a decade, at least. But the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta puts on the play for the month of February. Courtney and I had been threatening to go and see a play there (lived here how many years and never went, what’s wrong with us). So we finally made it this past weekend.

Have you ever had one of your favourite songs come on and for some reason, it has a slightly different context than it ever had before? Maybe you hear a group of lyrics for the first time or just are in a different moment in your life… and suddenly the song is different for you. That was this performance this weekend. It was the same play and yet little moments caught me by surprise.

  • The dialogue of Juliet’s Nurse. Multiple times she stole the scene she was in just with the energy she had at the beginning of the play. Later when she has news about Romeo, Juliet calls her old, so she has fun at her expense. Previously I’d thought of the character as someone who toys with the two main characters, but in this, I truly felt the affection she had for Juliet to the point that she put aside her own grief for Tybalt’s death because Romeo was now Juliet’s husband.
  • Mercutio is my favourite character in the play. The movie version is ever in my mind with every line of his dialogue, but in this performance, the role was further defined as someone who loves life, someone who loves Romeo, and someone who would defend his friends until the end. “A plague on both your houses.” resonates with me. The futility of the war between the families.
  • I was struck by seeing the split of the Acts of the play. Romeo is the star of the first part with Juliet not appearing for a few scenes. It was enough where at the intermission my brain was thinking “wow, I thought Juliet was in more of this play.” Of course, the second half is Juliet’s time to shine. The split makes for an interesting compare/contrast that I hadn’t expected to see going into the play.
  • Lastly, Paris and his death in the crypt. I’m not entirely sure I even knew that scene happened prior to Saturday night. So when he appeared, in grief, it adds a bit of weird context to the story. Here was a man who appeared to be fond of this girl he sought to marry. So much so that he asks that Romeo lay him beside her… perhaps he’s not the villain or idiot I’d often taken him for?

Overall it was a great night with the words of the Bard ringing in our ears. I look forward to visiting another of his timeless tales there in the future.

***

By the way, did you know that I was participating in a Kickstarter for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons focused on Love, Knights, and Enchanters? It is called Love’s Labour’s Liberated. The Kickstarter runs through the end of the month. If you are a fan of roleplaying games, give it a look!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

 

Unbreakable Glass

I got the call from my former roommate. He kept telling me that I needed to go see this movie. That it was actually killing him a little bit that I hadn’t gone to see it yet. And it was on my radar, life just had gotten busy. So my future wife and I sat down on a weekend night in late 2000 to watch this movie he was absolutely sure I needed to see. I’m not sure if Courtney knew what the movie was going to be about… I didn’t have a clue aside from maybe one trailer.

And then the following text greeted us:

“There are 35 pages and 124 illustrations in the average comic book.

A single issue ranges in price from $1.00 to over $140,000.

172,000 comics are sold in the U.S. every day.

Over 62,780,000 each year.

The average comic collector owns 3,312 comics and will spend approximately 1 year of his or her life reading them.”

Courtney looks at me and says, “What have you taken me to see?”

“I don’t know.”

See, this isn’t like it is now, with a new superhero movie coming to theaters every couple of months. Or that a new tv show premieres every year (and sometimes on multiple networks). It had been a couple of years since the last Batman movie (the less said about that one the better) and X-Men had come out earlier in 2000. But this wasn’t something to be expected.

If you’ve seen Unbreakable you either love it or you just didn’t care. And after all, M. Night Shyamalan had just come off of The Sixth Sense. Unbreakable wasn’t exactly what people were hoping for.

For a guy who was a part of the stats above (only 3,312 comics though? Lightweights!), the movie was this idea that just felt perfect. In fact, when others said they didn’t like it, I was ok with it because it was something for ME and not them.

***

Flash forward some 16 years later and his new movie Split comes out. And it looks interesting enough, but I hear a little mixed reviews. Maybe I’ll catch it on HBO at some point.

And then I read a spoiler about Split: David Dunn (from Unbreakable) is in the movie.

$#@$!

So it’s in the same universe?

And then they announce Glass.

So the week before we see Glass we watch Split. And I get the initial mixed reviews. MCAvoy is amazing in the role. Taylor-Joy gives an excellent show as our eyes and ears. Frightened and fearless at the same time. The movie itself feels like it wants to be bigger. And when we get to the scene that connects it with Unbreakable… it feels right.

 

***

Glass was unexpected. And expected. And everything I didn’t know I wanted.

Glass is something that we’d been asking for since Unbreakable, even if we didn’t know how it could be done. Something a couple of friends could talk about. Come up with potential ideas for storylines that they might follow. But then you’d end the conversation the same way: acknowledging that it might be better to not have anything else. To let this movie just stand on its own as this powerful thing.

And it may be something that needed 18 plus years to cook. For the characters to grow older. For the son to be an adult.

I don’t want to spoil anything in Glass. Like any M. Night film, there are twists and turns. Some hit me with the same force that the ending of Unbreakable did all those years earlier. That understanding which comes with a revelation that is both out of the blue and so obvious at the same time. McAvoy is truly the missing piece to their puzzle.

And much like all those comics upstairs, it did what the best of them always do… it stays with you in the hours and days after you have finished with it. You look forward to when it will be time to give it another viewing. When those pages with burst forth from your hands and burrow into your brain. You’ll look at each moment to see if there was anything you’d missed.

In the way that Glass connects to a time before comics took over everything, you get to relive a smaller world. Maybe even connecting to the you of a decade earlier as you began your journey down the path with that very first comic.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

PRESS RELEASE – Fan Buzz Builds as The Fantasy Network SVOD Launches Founders announced early access at Gen Con Indy 2018

Fantasy Network

Fan Buzz Builds as The Fantasy Network SVOD Launches
Founders announced early access at Gen Con Indy 2018.

Seattle, WA. (December 2018)— The Fantasy Network, a joint venture of Arrowstorm Entertainment (The CW’s The Outpost), The Forge Studios (The Rangers), and Zombie Orpheus Entertainment (JourneyQuest) invited their audiences to early access at Gen Con Indy 2018. It is now available to the public.

The Fantasy Network is a freemium SVOD service with a mission to make creator-owned content accessible, shareable, and discoverable across the web, rather than locked behind a paywall. Subscribers receive first access to new releases and to a host of unique features, including the ability to contribute to wikis for each show and to help greenlight new seasons of their favorite shows for production.

The Network is positioned as a global hub for independent fantasy films and series, including syndicated, new, and original content. Each partner has contributed their own libraries of content to the network, including the Mythica series, The Rangers series, and The Gamers. They have licensed award-winning fantasy content from dozens of other independent creators, notably fan favorites Ren: The Girl with the Mark, AFK, and One Hit Die. They also feature a special channel dedicated to original digital programming from Gen Con LLC, the biggest gaming convention in the United States.

“Think of us as your first destination for original Fantasy Content”, says Ron Newcomb, owner of The Forge Studios. The network offers a premium subscription membership, as well as a significant library of free content. As a fan-supported and creator-distributed endeavor, the network not only directs support from subscriptions to the production of new content, but actively runs crowdfunding campaigns for the network’s content providers to empower fans to keep the stories that they love alive. They most recently worked, in parallel with Telus, to renew Canadian comedy One Hit Die for a third season.

But, what else makes them different? They invite content creators and fans to create their own commercial spin-offs in many of the worlds they have brought to life, via their opt-in Shared Cinematic Universe License Agreement (http://scu.la). Third-party films and series created under this license, beginning with the Strowlers Shared Cinematic Universe, will be eligible for distribution and revenue share on the network. Inspired by the Open Gaming License and the Creative Commons phenomenon, the SCULA is a filmmaker-friendly copyright alternative that empowers interconnected global storytelling and cultural exchange.

“Stories want to be free. By enabling storytellers to remix and reimagine the intellectual properties participating in the SCULA, we keep stories alive and relevant, rather than creating copyright orphans. This active and collaborative dialogue empowers fans and creators to set their imaginations free,” says Ben Dobyns of Zombie Orpheus Entertainment and CEO.

The trio of established production companies have each found success in the indie film world and are looking to bring their experience and skills together under one roof for the benefit of all. “We waited around long enough for someone else to do this, it’s now our time,” says Jason Faller of Arrowstorm Entertainment.

The network has launched with the proven streaming platform established by Zombie Orpheus and is now available on many IPTV apps. No matter the device or browser, they want you to have easy access. The Fantasy Network is currently available on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Chrome TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire.

As in many fantasy stories, this is about a journey against the odds. But as fantasy teaches us, we’re stronger together. The Fantasy Network looks forward to inviting more producers, subscribers, and contributors into their active community.

The Fantasy Network, LLC, is a privately-owned, Seattle-based independent film company. It looks to be a one-stop shop for all things fantasy. For more on the network, go to www.TheFantasy.Network.

###

Who Goes There?

While we do spotlight many different RPG and comic Kickstarters on Tessera Guild, we don’t tend to focus too much on board games. Mostly that’s because (at least for me), I don’t end up buying very many board games through the platform. However, last year I saw a game that intrigued me to the point that I had to contribute:

Who Goes There?

If you’ve seen John Carpenter’s The Thing or the original The Thing From Another World then you should know that the story originated from John W. Campbell, Jr.’s novella: Who Goes There? The novella sets the stage of researchers in Antartica who come upon an alien creature who has the ability to consume and replace those it comes in contact with. Paranoia runs rampant. And the big question is who do you trust?

 

That’s what the game is focused on as well. That idea of having a game begin to capture whether or not you can trust the other players or if perhaps you are the only human still alive. I watched some of the play videos where players were having to make game decisions based on whether one person or another could be trusted or not.

And for the first time since it arrived, I was able to break it out for a few friends.

While I don’t want to get into a full play by play of the game itself, the breakdown is that each character has different strengths and weaknesses. McCready is better at surviving the cold. Kinner (the cook) is able to subsist on snacks as opposed to full cans of food. Others might have a dog companion or be able to heal injuries sustained in the game. Throughout your turns, you are gaining items (cards) to build weapons and other supplies to help you survive.

And through it all, you have to be on the watch for The Thing. Up until the first person has to draw from the “Vulnerable” card pile, everyone is human and can be trusted. But as soon as that first Vulnerable card is drawn, you no longer are able to know if that person might be infected or not. It takes the game from a cooperative love fest to a game where you might just be on your own until the end game – where you have to board a helicopter and hope you haven’t allowed any infected to go with you back to humanity!

On this first go through, we actually didn’t get to play a full game (ran out of time and had a prior engagement). However, even playing about 1/2 a game, we could all see the potential for certain strategies and how we might end up playing on a second time through.

In addition, we couldn’t help but talk about the inspiration for the game. Which intrigued my wife (who hasn’t seen any of the versions). Which leads us to tonight. While we hand out candy, we will be watching Carpenter’s The Thing. I’m hoping that we haven’t built it up too much for my wife. Fingers crossed.

To learn more about the game Who Goes There? click here.

In addition, if you want to read the original novella, there is actually a Kickstarter for the original full-length novel that was trimmed down into the story we all know. You can find Frozen Hell here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

The Last Jedi – Thoughts

I don’t think I’m the right person to review certain movies.

Back in college my wife and I went to the movies about every other week… so we saw our fair share, but compared to some of my other friends, it was merely a drop in the ocean. Add to it the idea that we were only going to see the top end movies… and by that I mean we’re seeing mostly the big movies. The summer blockbusters, or the movies that… well, the ones people have actually heard of.

Obviously, this limits your exposure to some hidden gems, but it also (sometimes) helps to avoid really bad films. You know the ones I’m talking about – terrible comedies with the latest sitcom actor or some romantic movies with no discernible plotline or most of the disaster movies or most of the “Big Giant Animal attacks” movies.

If we saw a trailer that showed a movie we didn’t think we’d like… we didn’t go see it. It wasn’t a moral imperative to make sure to hit all of the movies.

This means, most of the time, I’m predisposed to like movies I got to the theater to see. It means I’m not trying to nit-pick things to death, but am really trying to enjoy the ride.

And hey, people go to the movies (or watch them at home) for any number of reasons. Maybe you just really like the experience. Maybe it’s your trade and you feel like you have to keep up with them.

The reason I even start this with all of the above is that when I like something, I’m “in”. I’m not waiting in the wings to shout “Aha! I knew you would screw this thing I love up!” No, I’m “in” for as long as I possibly can be. I love with my whole heart these bits and pieces I grew up with. And if you want me to not love it any longer, then you have to do a TON to push me away.

So I have to watch the commentary about The Last Jedi over these few days since I consumed it with a bit of a raised eyebrow. I’m never sure where any of the people who poke at their so-called loves are really coming from. Unless I specifically know you, I have to believe that perhaps you have been jaded by something else and you were waiting for this movie so that you might just say bad things about it. That maybe, long ago (in a galaxy far, far away) you might have been “In” for Star Wars. Maybe the Prequels did it. Maybe it was Disney buying the franchise. Maybe it was the wiping away of the extended universe. Maybe it was Han shooting last. Heck, maybe it was Rogue One. Maybe it was JJ Abrams. Or maybe it was just that you only want to love the original trilogy.

And that’s all ok.

 

I liked The Last Jedi. Like I said above, I’m predisposed to liking it. Heck, I may love it, only future viewings will inform that emotion.

I liked that there were certainly call-backs, but many times those call backs were slightly subverted. I liked that Luke had changed in 30 years. Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi is a million miles away from what he was at the beginning of A New Hope, so to think he’d still be in the same headspace never occurred to me. Do I agree with every little aspect of how he got there? I don’t know. I’ve only had a couple of days to digest. I’ve only talked it over with a couple of people

Rey’s parents reveal – perfect.

Snoke’s big scene – I really dug it, but then again, I haven’t been obsessed with trying to figure out who this guy really was.

Leia – Moreso than The Force Awakens I understood that she is the Rebellion and the Rebellion is her. That she is the one person who will never give an inch, never surrender, never give up, and she will always be that true north star for the Rebels. If you are ever confused about what you should do in a situation within the Star Wars Universe, figure out what Leia would do and then do that.

Finn – I like that he’s always running. He’s human and unsure of himself and scared of his past.

Poe – I like that he’s brash, but he’s not Han Solo. He makes mistakes (big ones), but he’s trying to do right… as best as he can. I like that he got more of a chance to be a real character.

Rose – I like that she gives more of an every person viewpoint of the Rebels. She sees these people as the heroes they can be.

Kylo Ren – For the people confused about whether making Rey the main hero of these movies means they are not about the Skywalker family… I don’t get it. Episodes 1-3 were about the fall of a man. Episodes 4-6 were about his redemption. And it feels like Episodes 7-9 might just be about his legacy.

All of that doesn’t mean there aren’t moments that felt a little clunky or a little out of place… it just means the good outweighs any bad. These movies don’t have to be perfect (I mean, there is only one Empire Strikes Back).

A friend on Facebook wrote that The Last Jedi may not have been the movie you wanted, but it was the movie you deserved.

That may be the truth.

***

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.

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

SHORT FILM: DEAD ISLAND – TRAILER (2011)

Before the review, let’s get the two elephants out of the room.

  • Elephant One. This is not a short film. It is a video game trailer. That said, for a video game trailer, it does an amazing job of being a well-considered short film.
  • Elephant Two. I’ve never played the video game because reviews indicate that it does not live up to its trailer’s potential. This review is just for the short film/trailer.

***SPOILER WARNING***

If you broke this film down to hashtags, they would read:

  • #FamilyVacationGoneZombie
  • #FamilyThatSticksTogether
  • #NotWithoutMyDaughterUntilDadThrowsHerOutAWindow
  • #LastFamilyPhoto

Dead Island Logo

A young mother, father, and their tween daughter are on an island vacation when zombies!

[If you type “zombies” is there a need to type “attack”? What else will zombies do? “When zombies text.” “When zombies channel surf.” “When zombies vote.” No zombies do those things!

… er… hmm…]

The film’s premise is straight-forward which allows the storytelling to be intricate.

The film is wordless but not mute. The emotion is built by the soundtrack and well-acted characters (“well-acted” within the limits of six year old CGI. What looked triple-A in 2011 looks unpolished today). The storytelling is a reverse chronological order tale – it literally runs backwards – intercut with flashbacks.

It’s an unfolding action-horror sequence but the amazing part is, for so brief – 3 minutes and 6 seconds – a tale, it pulls hard at the heartstrings with more skill than many productions. That’s because of the star of this film, the editing. The editing elevates the storytelling from a straightforward horror scene to an emotional story worth seeing.

Dead Island

Not sure I’m right about the storytelling and the editing being the stars? Compare the original cut to IGN’s chronological edit that runs from the logical start to finish. Seeing the story from different perspectives triggers different emotions. Watch them both and you decide which is better?

The movie has one glaring plot question (not a plot hole, just a question that goes unanswered) – Why was the tween daughter out of the parent’s room while the zombies were rampaging across the resort? The parent’s room only has one bed so it’s easy to assume they got their daughter her own room to sleep in but… where? That answer may be way the girls was running down the hall in the first place.

Dead Island – Trailer (2011)

Original cut:

IGN’s chronological edit:

 

 

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Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com and Amazon.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

* * * * * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Steampunk Fridays – Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

A quick one this week… as the Holiday Season gets its full weight down on us.

Years ago there was this comic called Gotham by Gaslight. It featured Batman living in a turn of the century style world where Jack the Ripper had come calling to Gotham.

If you went down the checklist of comics that I should read, this one might have checked all the boxes:

Elseworld – If you are a Marvel fan, this is DC’s version of What If where they showcase alternate timelines or alternate stories from the main ones. It means they can do pretty much whatever they want and not have to worry about Continuity of why Batman might be in the early 1900s.

Jack the Ripper – There is something about Jack that makes him this fascinating figure from history. The fact that no one knew who he was. The various theories over the years about his identity. The gruesomeness of his crimes.

Batman vs. Jack – Take one of the greatest characters, a detective, and put him against this one person who apparently had us all fooled.

So how was the comic? I don’t know. I’ve never actually read it.

I don’t know why. Even as I’m writing this all out, I don’t know why. I always meant to pick it up… it is a comic fail for sure.

Soon though, I can potentially make up for my egregious error (or at least partially make up for it) as they are going to release it to DVD next year! And I think now would be a perfect time to visit that world and enjoy the movie before finally reading the graphic novel. I won’t sit there the whole time comparing it because I’ll watch it first!

It’s kind of a win, win… right?

Ok, it’s kind of a cop-out, but at least I’ll be righting my own 20-year error!

You can check out the trailer here:

 

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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.

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

 

The Top Thanksgiving Movies

My office mate, Ian, has a theory that if you can come up with the quintessential Thanksgiving movie you could be set for life. There are tons of Christmas movies and plenty of Halloween movies, but Thanksgiving is kind of left out in the cold. So I thought I’d try to find some Thanksgiving holiday movies to hold you over while you recover from the turkey coma we’ll all surely be in sometime on Thursday.

Instead, it seems Thanksgiving mostly allows for the other classics to be watched or series of movies to be binge-watched. I fully expect that the Rocky series will be played in its entirety at some point this week. Maybe the Karate Kid or just a series of 80s movies rounded out by Ferris Bueller.

So how about some “Thanksgiving” movies?

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

I didn’t even realize this was a Thanksgiving movie until I started writing this blog. In my mind, it is snowing and he’s got to get home for the holidays = Christmas. But no, he’s getting home for Turkey Day!

This is John Candy at maybe his best (probably just behind The Great Outdoors for me) and Steve Martin nails the “straight guy” in their duo perfectly. The idea of two complete strangers needing to depend on each other in order to get home… and hijinks ensue from there.

Seriously, even if you aren’t trying to find Thanksgiving movies, this should be near the top of your comedy list.

Son in Law

This movie only exists because the girl feels sorry for Pauly Shore “Crawl” and invites him home for Thanksgiving (as otherwise, he’ll be by himself on the holidays). One of those movies where I had no desire to watch… much like many of the Saturday Night Live movies of the early 90s. But this is one where you assume it will be Shore running around on a farm for 90 minutes acting stupid… and it totally is, don’t get me wrong. Somewhere along the way, this one shows that it has a little bit of heart – as he tries to help his friend become the person he knows she can be.

Yes, a “Weasel” movie where he helps someone come to their senses. Crazy.

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And I’m out. Oh, there are others – The New World, where we get the story of Pocahontas, Home for the Holidays, that I recognize the name and nothing else about the story it presents, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving – which is beyond a classic, and yet I remember The Great Pumpkin and the Christmas Specials and not really that one. And so on. I found a list that mostly just has movies on it because there happens to be one moment that may or may not be Thanksgiving related.

Maybe Ian is correct? We apparently NEED a solid Thanksgiving movie so that we know exactly what we’ll be watching on Thursday or Friday or whenever during the week.

I mean, secretly I’m still waiting for the Eli Roth “Thanksgiving” movie, just to get the list into some level of respectability.

 

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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.

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.

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.

***

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 Melkor, 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.

***

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.