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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Warner Bros: hit a dude up.

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

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

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

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

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

Please discuss below, share, and be civil. 🙂

Back To The Future II: A Fan Reminisces

For me personally, this week was a GLORIOUS WEEK to be a sci-fi fan.

We got a new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer.

I picked up my copy of The City: A Cyberfunk Anthology, a book that I’m loving.

I’ll have the first draft of my short story set in the world of The Crossing ready to be sent off for edits soon, which will be submitted for this awesome anthology.

And then there was 10-21-15.

Before we jump into why I feel this day held so much significance for fans of one particular movie franchise known across the world, lets hop back into the ‘ole Delorean.

It was 1989 and I was living in Chicago. My mother had taken my brother, myself, and a few cousins to the theater to see Back To The Future II. I was a huge fan of the first movie, having killed our VHS copy of Back To The Future upon subsequent viewings (an act that would also occur with our copies of Hook and New Jack City. Weird combination, I know).

Back-to-the-Future

To say the first movie blew my mind was a huge understatement. You’ve got time travel. You’ve got great comedy. You’ve got the weirdest, awesomest (not a word, I know) buddy adventure pairing of Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and past/present Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) that I don’t think has been matched since. There was a homicidal bully/ antagonist. Wrongs being righted. Timelines being changed. Crispin Glover in all of his manic weirdness. A skateboard chase sequence. Great acting. A solid story that just damn worked.

And one of the greatest ending’s to a movie ever.

“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

And to think that there weren’t any immediate plans for a sequel, that the movie was just going to end on this huge cliffhanger, is mind boggling. As a kid, your brain just starts racing with the possibilities.

“No roads?” younger Robert said to himself as the credits rolled in the darkened living room.

“Means some serious ‘ish is about to go down.”

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The moment young Robert’s mind melted.

Ok, I wasn’t cursing at the age of 7, but you get the point.

So fast forward to 1989. Back To The Future II hits, and my 7 year old mind is just ready to be blown to bits.

And it was. 🙂

Once again you’ve got McFly and Doc Brown (who just work so darn well with each other). Cripsin Glover is gone, replaced by some dude in bad old person make up. The homicidal Tannen family are still around. Time travel. Doubles. Action. Adventure. More time travel.

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And here’s where it gets crazy.

You’ve got a wacked out version of the future. 10-21-15. There was a time when anytime maybe, 30 years plus ahead in the future was seen as possibly being this crazy foreign period where things would be extremely outlandish.

Back To The Future II wasn’t an exception. You had flying cars. Interactive 3D movie ads. Crazy fashion styles. Video phone calls (yeah, not too crazy now with things like Face Time and Skype). And hoverboards.

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As a kid seeing all of this, and with later viewings, it was a fun peek into what could be. Seeing Marty rolling around on his Mattel  branded hoverboard was awesome, and had all of us debating if some shadowy government program had created this technology in the real world.

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We were kids. Don’t be too harsh.

The flying cars were great. I wanted Marty’s self-lacing Nike’s and blow dry jacket then and there. Griff Tannen and his height growing abilities was crazy. Duck Hunt being seen as a golden oldie of the video game era was a fun nod to the Nintendo games we were then playing. And the Cubs had won the World Series.

As a kid, this is what I appreciated the most. The more visceral, fun nods to what the future could possibly bring.

The movie also ends with a teaser for the third installment that was being filmed shortly after the second movie was completed. As a kid, to have a guaranteed movie coming down the line was a fun surprise, as it confirmed we’d be seeing more of Marty and Doc’s cinematic escapades.

In this day and age where such end credit teasers are common place with big budget movies, Back To The Future II was the first time I’d experienced this. Marty and Doc in the Wild West?

Take my mother’s money, because she was going to be the one paying for that shindig.

Upon subsequent viewings, as I got older, other things started to stand out.

First and foremost, I think this would have been the first time I’d been introduced to the idea of alternate timelines. Sure there were things like Days of Future Past before, and any host of other sci-fi TV shows, and films that dealt with this idea, but this was the first time I’d experienced the concept firsthand.

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When Doc Brown broke down how old Biff stealing the Grays Sports Almanac created Hell Valley (please see the movie for further explanation if you haven’t seen it) was just mind blowing as a kid, but appreciated for a cool storytelling tool as I got older. The idea that one man’s selfish pursuit of wealth destroyed the idyllic town of Hill Valley creates a dark tone for the flick , providing a counter balance to the whimsical adventure that we’d been experiencing before. And this alternate timeline confirmed for me that the Tannen’s are a group of murdering psychopaths.

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That face just screams psycho. Actually that face just screams all the time.

Another idea that continues to resonate with me is that as much as you might think you’re laying the foundations for a successful future, that’s not always going to be the case.

Case in point: where future Marty’s life winds up. He’s working a crappy job, his dreams of being a professional guitarist are out the window. His family life is kind of blah, and rather than try to rebuild what’s fallen around him, he continues to make bad decisions based on some crappy sense of bravado.

Now that I think about it, where did dude’s obessession with being called a chicken come from? That was totally out of left field.

Sorry, I digress.

Not saying that all of our lives have a tendency to turn bad or horrible, it was just interesting to see that the screenwriters sought to show that everything wasn’t so peachy keen in the McFly household. Remember, Doc’s whole reasoning to come back was to save Marty’s son from going to jail, which led to a downward spiral in regards to the McFly family. For a sci-fi adventure you could say such a concept being introduced was as Marty would say “Heavy”.

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The same could be said for the horrible direction that Biff takes with his greed filled run of murder and gambling. Biff chooses to be an opportunistic ass, who leaves nothing but pain and misery in his wake. And he accepts this, and revels in it, creating the hellish alternate timeline Marty and Doc head towards.

I know it’s a stretch to think that B2FII (as it’s known to all the cool kids) might have something to say on life decisions. But often we find that science-fiction can be used to speak to our personal experiences. Heck, I know as I get older, that as much as I may want to move things in a certain direction, that’s not always going to be the case, try as I might. But if I don’t at least try, then nothing will happen.

The thing to realize is even though the chips may not fall where you want them to, you still have opportunities to make those decisions. As long as you at least try. Roads less traveled and all that jazz.

I know I’m jumping movies a bit, but I feel the final scene from Back To The Future III sum’s this up perfectly:

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Jennifer Parker: Dr. Brown, I brought this note back from the future and – now it’s erased.

Doc: Of course it’s erased!

Jennifer Parker: But what does that mean?

Doc: It means your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one, both of you.

Marty McFly: [Marty wraps his arm around Jennifer] We will, Doc.

That scene always gets me on that ‘ole sappy emotion level.

So to round things out, I’ll go on the record and say this is my favorite movie trilogy of all time.

Watch this movie. Heck, watch the trilogy in a binge session and just enjoy some good cinema. Happy post October 21, 2015/ Back To The Future II day.

I almost ran off with this hoverboard. But that probably would've screwed up my future timeline.

I almost ran off with this hoverboard.
But that probably would’ve screwed up my future timeline.

 

Movies that I Don’t Like…

But lots of people do.

I did a blog on various movies I should have seen by this point in my life. Sadly for me, I’ve apparently spent a small portion of that time on some other movies that either other people told me I’d enjoy or are considered “classic” by the world at large. What follows is a handful of those movies, and why I never really either “got” it or just why I don’t care for it.

If these happen to be your favorites, just remind yourself that I am also the guy who likes A Knight’s Tale and you’ll quickly forgive my stupidity.

Funny Games

This is one of those critically acclaimed movies that I had never heard of before I stumbled onto it one late night. And I watched this strange horror movie play out much like many horror movies play out. Two youths who have little to nothing better to do end up terrorizing a family throughout.

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Nothing to see here, right?

Except the main villain constantly breaks the 4th wall, a twisted Ferris Bueller. And while strange, I don’t have a problem with the idea of talking to the audience. It made things a little different, and offered a little bit of spice to the viewing.

Until the villain is able to literally rewind the movie at a certain point to change the outcome back into his favor. I immediately checked to make sure I hadn’t done it myself, or just been in a dream world along with the characters in the movie, but no… that just happened. And for some reason where I was willing to go along with every other tweak or oddity… that was just too much for me to deal with.

And really, that should have been the very thing which put it over the top for me.

A Clockwork Orange

Fundamentally I don’t get the love for this movie. Oh, I get the idea of showing the future as something disturbing, a distopia where violence is celebrated by the youth of their time. And is forcing someone to not be the way they were supposed to be, “curing” them of their afflictions the right way to go about helping bad people or is it a case where you have to want to change. You have to want to be cured?

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All great questions.

But watching the movie I felt like it was an assault on my senses (and not in a good way). Violence shown for the sake of violence being shown. Kubrick certainly does his job of putting us in his protagonist’s world where feeding oneself is the only rule that you should have.

It was just one of those that I don’t think I could deal with. Too much.

Raising Arizona

Chalk this one up to seeing it on HBO on an almost daily basis back in the late 80s. At first it was this funny little movie about a couple stealing a baby and the guy’s wacky convict friends trying to get involved and then there is a bounty-hunter at the end.

Raising Arizona

And it was fine (a word my wife thinks is a 4-lettered word when I say it).

But as time has gone on it became this rallying cry for people I knew. Everyone had seen it. Fine (there it is again!). But they all LOVED it. I mean this was one of the greatest movies they’d ever seen. They spoke glowingly of this stupid movie where the convict buddies are “birthed” during their escape. It was almost like they wanted to apply some higher-level thought to what should have been a fairly simple movie.

And for some reason, with every utterance of glory heaped upon this movie, it transformed from “Fine” to “Ugh” to “that f-ing movie, really?!?”

I haven’t watched it since. I can’t do it, because while there is a thin hope I will find enjoyment in it once again, there is just as much of a chance that I’ll remember every little “glorious” idea, and it will grate on me during the entire viewing.

Airplane!

Wait! Don’t click away. I have an excuse. I had just gotten my wisdom teeth removed that day. Hopped up on painkillers my friends decided to stop by and brought something they thought I’d get a chuckle out of. Instead what I saw was a slough of things that my drug-addled mind just did not think was funny.

airplane

Nothing will make you realize how surreal things are when you are the only one NOT laughing at a funny movie. And that was my experience for EVERY joke they told.

Given the circumstances, I’m willing to give it another try, but I can never bring myself to actually do it. I’m sure if I did it would end up giving me some kind of psychedelic style flashback where I’m 18 again and worried about some high school test.

That is not what I’d like to remember, thank you very much.

 

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

Movies I Should Have Seen By This Point

This post was spurred on by a moment with my wife a few weeks ago where she mentioned she’d never seen any of the Alien movies. I had two responses:

“You haven’t seen them? What are you doing with your life!?!”

And…

“Don’t let Amanda Makepeace know, she may stop being your friend.”

We’ve all had that conversation – “You haven’t seen XYZ thing? How is that possible?”

Sometimes it is a classic and sometimes it just is one of those movies you assume that everyone has seen (unless you are talking with Chad Shonk, in which case he HAS already seen it and he’s probably shaking his head at your ignorance – and by “your” I mean “my”). In fact, once he gets done reading this post he may go Clockwork Orange on me.

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This is what I’m worried about.

Listen, I’m not being too cool for school here. I’m not pulling some weird power play and not watching them for some kind of agenda (like I’ve heard people say about the Star Wars movies “I haven’t watched them yet, so why should I bother?”). This is more to do with us all leading busy lives… and me needing to watch Office Space for the 97th time instead.

Clear?

Big Lebowski – So I’m not familiar with The Dude. What little I do know about the movie… well, now that I think about it – I don’t know ANYTHING about the movie. I know that Jeff Bridges is in it. And I know…

Uhm…

Well…

Lots of people seem to quote it a fair amount.

Sadly, I own the movie after seeing it in a $5 bin at Wal-Mart and still haven’t opened it up yet and watched it. Which is kinda strange since it is Veronica Mars’s favorite movie in the show and my wife hasn’t sat us down to watch yet.

Scarface – Al Pacino as a mobster/gangster in Miami. That could be enough.

It is my brother-in-law’s favorite movie.

I have seen the “say hello to my little friend” moment. But then again, that moment is apparently so iconic that you could be deaf and blind and still would know every beat, ever bullet which Pacino empties into his enemies.

life of brian

Monty Python’s The Life of Brian – I have seen The Holy Grail. And I like it. I figured that would be enough. But over the years I’ve heard others talk about this movie. How it is funnier than Grail (impossible). And then more and more people mention it. Very much a “yes, Grail is excellent, but what do you think about Life of Bryan?” And I have to shake my head and suffer under their disappointing stares.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High – This feels like one of those movies my sister and I should have been watching when we were binge watching the John Hughes films. But at the same time, I was fine not having seen it. But more and more time passes and now other movies and tv shows are referencing moments from it – and again, I feel a little left out of the cultural conversation.

And then I saw the other day it was written by Cameron Crowe. Now I have no excuses left.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show – I just, you know… something about this… I can’t figure out what it is about. Why should I feel like I should have watched it by now? Maybe it is really just a cult film and I’m not going to be one of the cool kids.

And then there is the idea that you need to see it in a group to really enjoy it. I mean, why would that matter?

Yet, I am intrigued. Not yet intrigued enough to have watched it, but enough to put it on this list… so that is something.

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So many Westerns – The Magnificent Seven, The Man with no name trilogy (I have seen The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but not the others), Lonesome Dove, and so on. I love westerns. I actually would like to write a western. I have a bunch in the Netflix queue as “research” (the great equalizer  – “honey, it’s research!”). And I have seen a whole bunch, but the biggest ones have mostly avoided me. But slowly I am working my way through them.

And I have some time before I’m going to write that western.

The Godfather – I think I should keep this one a secret. Men have lost their “guy card” for admitting this much. But I am brave enough to admit it. And to note that I bought this one probably 2 years ago to solve this problem. I mean, it is considered one of the best, if not THE BEST movie of all time by many. And I like movies. And I like mob movies. And this is the big one.

So it too sits on my shelf, collecting dust. This is a movie who wants to be watched.

But I also have a fear… what if I don’t like it? There have been “classics” that I have not been over the moon about. Is it better to have this image in my head of what the Godfather MIGHT be or have the real thing but dislike it?

Just another excuse, really.

 

So there they are, all my movie sins… OK, some of my movie sins on display. I promise, they are on the list to be watched.

Really.

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

The Walking Dead returned a couple of weeks ago.

But I’ll get to that in a second. And actually this is not specifically about the Walking Dead, it is just one of the latest “things” to get this treatment. I’m probably going to be all over the place with this post. Apologies in advance.

I want to talk about this thing that we all do. Well, I’m not 100% on that stat, but let’s say a fair number of internet people do and it drives me nuts.

The people who want to say one of the following:

“This show is not as good as it used to be.”

“This show isn’t as good as everyone says it is (effectively saying you are all sheep who are watching it).”

I know it is human nature to compare something to something else. We do it because it helps us identify things. Comparing helps us understand what it is we are watching. We think – this is kinda like X thing, and I really liked X thing, so I’m probably going to like this Y thing.

I do it too. There are certain shows, movies, books, songs, etc. that I am much more likely to enjoy than someone else. Time travel, zombies, anything dealing with alternate worlds, and Groundhog Day style movies/TV shows are all in that wheelhouse for me. If you have some aspect of those things I’m going to probably check you out.

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Back in college I didn’t necessarily go to see every movie that came out. I’m not saying this as a statement of pride or anything else. It just was a fact. Even without going every week I saw a good number of movies. But by trying to narrow down a little bit, be a little bit discriminate meant that I missed a lot of bad movies. And I know this to be the case because if you’ve ever been up at 2 in the morning you see plenty of the “Bad” movies on HBO or TBS or TNT or… The flip side of that was, of course, I also missed out on a lot of good movies. That was the trade-off I was willing to make because I KNEW if something was really good a friend would let me know. And if something was only “OK”, well maybe I didn’t need to see that one.

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Choosing that path meant that I saw movies that, most of the time, I didn’t have much bad things to say. Oh, maybe I wasn’t floored by the latest Tom Cruise movie, but it wasn’t necessarily a terrible movie by any stretch of the imagination. As time went on, those bad movies got forgotten or just relegated to the status of “Eh, it was ok I guess”.

Not the strongest endorsement, and I’m sure I had friends who thought that there were no movies I hated, but they didn’t realize I’d already done some level of weeding before I ever entered the theater. I mean, unless you are watching Mystery Science Theater 3000, there is little reason to watch a bad movie (note, however, I do not say there are no reasons – get enough people together and the worst movies can be the best experiences).

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But what I don’t understand is this need to tear down things that other people like. That other people enjoy. Those people who are just waiting in the weeds… they want to tell you why something sucks or that Season 1 was soooo much better, the first movie was better, book 3 was the best and everything after those things were just absolute garbage.

Note, this isn’t about discussions where something isn’t exactly to another’s tastes. I love to talk about and dissect various movies, books, tv shows, etc. A back and forth about how maybe one thing was a little bit better than something else. A talk in which you are thinking about the things you liked and the things that you didn’t like.

As a writer I love trying to figure why something was done a certain way. As a fan of the form(s) I love to think about what might have worked better from that angle as well. Sometimes those things line up and sometimes they don’t.

I’m not stupid, I know that not everyone likes everything they see.

Why do we need to tear something down? Why do we have to nitpick things?

I notice this more due to the Internet forums. And yes, I understand I should just avoid bothering with them, but I’m clearly a glutton for punishment. And I’m always floored by venom being thrown at certain things because other people like them.

When do you just get to enjoy it?

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Everything we consume has some kind of flaw. Nothing is 100% perfect. But why nitpick every last detail?

It seems like the only time this doesn’t apply is with shows that most people come in late on. Something like Breaking Bad. These things are done or almost done and we’ve consumed them in a way that maybe doesn’t allow for complete introspection. To put it another way, when you are binge watching something, you are more worried about getting to the next episode more than wondering why Walter White reacted in the way he did.

By watching a character arc in a matter of hours instead of weeks or years, everything has more weight and less weight at the same time. It means that maybe those tweaks and changes seem a bit more flawed than they need to be… because that true time to watch over the course of years is no longer needed.

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Case in point: LOST. I am unapologetic about my love for this show. Is it perfect? No, of course not, but I’m willing to live with a few warts for one of the better shows on the tv screen (at least as far as I’m concerned).

Lost-season1

So many of the genre shows sometimes take the brunt of it. I remember that when Lost was heading towards the end of Season 1. Mysteries were being laid out, shit was getting real, and I remember reading a blog where the guy said that he’s not watching Lost because he feels like it is going to do to him what X-Files did to him (not solve the mysteries they laid out). Hey, that’s fine don’t watch, but then when don’t sit there and tell everyone else why they are dumb for watching and enjoying.

Because you know you’ve seen it. That sadistic glee where someone says they aren’t going to bother with something because of some reason. But then spends the next X number of years bashing that TV show because it can’t be any good (if it was, they would like it).

But this is Season 1 we’re talking about and you’ve condemned it, without having watched, because you don’t trust the writers to answer all the questions they are asking (it is an entirely different blog post that would be needed to answer what did or didn’t get answered).

I guess what bothers me is it feels so much like the crap that we are supposed to be over. We’d rather complain about something versus just turning the channel. We sit around and hope to be right about something being bad. What the hell kind of sense does that make? Does the ability to tell someone “I told you so” outweigh everything else in your life? Is that the only bit of joy left to you is to take away someone else’s joy so that they can join you in the pit of despair?

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I’m not sure what part of the human condition this belongs to, but it has always bugged me. I don’t understand people who watch a TV show, read a comic series, and to a lesser extent watch movies or read novels who seem to take pleasure when something popular gets taken down a peg.

And don’t get me wrong, this is not necessarily a critique of when a show has jumped the shark. We’ve all seen that happen, and many times I realize it and still watch because of the investment in the characters outweighs some of the BS.

I’m talking more about those people who lay in the weeds to tell you “haha! I told you it was terrible and now you have to think it too!”

Maybe this sensitivity comes from being a writer and trying to see where something might have went wrong is a part of the process, but when you are giving feedback you are supposed to give “Constructive Critiques”. The people I’m talking about wouldn’t know how to do much more than “It’s stupid and so are you!”.

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Why do we need to hate something? Wouldn’t it just be easier to love something different? Why can’t we change the channel?

Of course the flip-side to all of this is that desperate want for someone to agree with you that something is the BEST THING EVER!

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This phenomenon is something I see mentioned in conjunction with the Walking Dead currently. It gets these monster ratings and that only seems to enrage certain people out there. But it isn’t the only thing.

Doctor-Who-logo

I decided to get into Doctor Who this season. Yes, I realize that there have been 25+ seasons and 11 Doctors, but with a new incarnation I thought this would be the best time to maybe give it a try. So imagine my horror when everyone was talking about ending their own viewing of the show with the demise of Matt Smith’s Doctor. So many people were on Facebook talking about stopping, and I wanted to write each of them to say “Hey, I’m finally ready to fall in love with something you love and… hey where are you going?”

Why does it matter? Why does it matter to me that everyone who was watching (and I assuming loving the show) still continue with the new Doctor? What does it matter to me? And why would I even allow it to possibly affect my own enjoyment of the show?

It doesn’t. And yet, just tonight I read a blog post where the writer just had a passing slam about the new version of the show. Literally 2 sentences in a blog completely unrelated to Doctor Who in any way possible. Talking about how this version is just terrible.

And then it occured to me. That little shot at something that I like, without any explanation, feels like (whether it is or not) a personal shot at me. That by me saying “I like this thing” anytime someone else comes along and says “Well I hate that thing” it must mean that they hate something about me. And I’d rather not be hated, but somehow there is nothing I can do about it.

What is wrong with me? Why should I care?

I wish I knew.

 

***

John McGuire

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

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. Each episode is only $0.99. But you can go ahead and purchase the full novel (all 6 episodes) right now for $4.99 with the above link!

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

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

Stuck in the Middle with…

*Spoilers for a 75 year old book to follow.*

I finished up my little adventure with The Hobbit a couple of weeks back. With the end of the 3rd movie I actually felt a tug a my heart thinking that there more than likely wouldn’t be any more movies. After over a decade worth of watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy and then the Hobbit trilogy that just seems wrong somehow.

Stranger still is the fact that I didn’t like the Hobbit when I read it. Even walking out of the first movie I turned to a friend and asked, “Was the White Orc in the book… I don’t remember him.”

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

This guy, right here. How could you hate that face?

“No, they added him for the movie.”

“Oh… he should have been in the book. I would have liked it better.”

It’s terrible, terrible, terrible that I say any of these things aloud. Though it might be easier to understand if I was anti-Fantasy, but I’m not. In fact, most of my early reading was on the D&D pulp fantasy of Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms. There was probably a stretch during high school where I read pretty much anything TSR put a stamp on. I borrowed books from friends, scrounged extra change to buy the latest paperback, and so on. I immersed myself in those worlds. I loved it.

And yet, I hadn’t read Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. That was wrong and something some of my friends couldn’t stand for. Here I was reading all these novels that can trace the direct line back to Tolkien and how could I say I liked fantasy when I hadn’t read the original?

(Technically I think that is an argument for a different time. I maintain that you can like something now without knowing everything about how it came to be… and it doesn’t make the experience lesser for you.)

So I broke down. I borrowed the Hobbit and set out to read this watershed novel.

hobbit cover

I got about 100 pages in and put the book down…

for about six months.

I almost NEVER put a book down once I devote 100 pages to something. But I’m sorry, I was BORED. A level of boredom that I have only experienced one other time while reading – Interview with the Vampire where they first reach Paris (nothing happens for like 30 pages). When I finally got back to the book I settled in. I mean, they were off to kill the dragon! I can get behind that.

And then this nobody, Bard, ends up killing the dragon. Who?

What a rip-off!

So yeah, that was my experience with the Hobbit. I never bothered with Lord of the Rings because of that. So when the Jackson movies were announced I thought that I would certainly see them, but it wasn’t Star Wars or something. It would be nice to see something that was Fantasy on the big screen.

And of course I loved those three movies. And when the Hobbit was announced as three movies I didn’t growl and moan because of it… I was happy because there would be three more movies. And when he deviated from the novel I was glad again, because I didn’t like the novel.

And I liked that I could put a face on Bard and at least have some understanding of who he was and why it works if he kills Smaug. The movies add a breadth to the worlds that capture my imagination in a way the book never was able to.

And maybe I was too old to read the Hobbit, being in high school rather than at age 10 or 11 (or possibly younger). After I had finished I told my friends what I thought, and their response was that I should have read Lord of the Rings first as it was the “adult” series.

Sigh.

But even if I loved the novel, I have yet to figure out the reason for the vitriol that people have against the movie(s). They don’t like that certain things aren’t brought in, but then they bitch about the extra stuff. They don’t want 3 movies, but…

I’ve read plenty of books that have been turned into movies and I treat them as different entities. Just because I think movie version of X thing isn’t as good as the book… it doesn’t ruin either of them for me. If the movie was god-awful, then I would just go back and hug my copy (or Kindle nowadays). And if the movie did something better… great.

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After Lord of the Rings I expected a bevy of fantasy movies, and I’m pretty much still waiting. Luckily Game of Thrones made it to tv and I was turned on to that series, but overall it is sad that in all these tomes and texts nothing else has been adapted and taken off. And a part of me wonders if it is the fanboys (and girls) who have complained it to death? More than likely that’s not the case.

So my journey through Middle Earth is at its end. I still do have on my to-do list a Saturday session where I watch all 6 extended versions of the movies and not leave my house for the day. Maybe, maybe after that day I might be ready to leave those movies behind.

But probably not.

 

***

John McGuire

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

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. Each episode is only $0.99. But you can go ahead and purchase the full novel (all 6 episodes) right now for $4.99 with the above link!

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

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

Let’s All Go To The Movies!

Like many of the Tessera Guild members, I love movies. I love watching them, discussing them, buying them, collecting them, etc. Being able to chill and enjoy a great flick from the comfort of your home is always great. On the flip side, catching a great movie at a theater can also be fun.

Going to the movies has always been an “experience” for me. Whether it be a crappy slog of a film, or a great, bombastic summer time blockbuster, I enjoy catching flicks at my local multiplex. Maybe it’s the high priced popcorn. The trailer’s for upcoming movies. The expectation created when the theater lights dim. Or the collective sigh, laughter, or clapping from the crowd when a movie hits its mark.

More than likely it’s a combination of all of the above, with some other things added to the mix. Whatever it is, I love heading to the theater. So if you’ve got a moment or two, sit back and read on as I do quick run through of some of my most enjoyable experiences at the cinema.

::Cue lights dimming as the projector reel starts::

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Jurassic Park, June 11, 1993

Shortly after my brother and I moved to Georgia, the summer movie season was in full swing. Standing out from the pack like an alpha-movie blockbuster was Stephen Spielberg’s adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel “Jurassic Park”.

Let me lay something out at this juncture: I was never a big dinosaur fan as a kid. Learned about them in school, thought they were awesome looking creatures, but never got caught up in the dinosaur obsession that apparently a lot of boy’s hit growing up.

So with this little nugget of personal history, my mind was still seriously blown when I began to see commercials for Jurassic Park.

Jurassic_Park_posterSpielberg had once again mined movie magic from the awesome depths of Crichton’s popular novel, and created a film that could possibly kick butt on a variety of levels. I distinctly remember going to a sold out show at the AMC Northlake Theater,in Tucker, GA.

As usual, Spielberg killed it. I remember the sense of wonder the first time I saw the Brachiosaurus grace the screen. Or the terror when the T-Rex destroyed  the roof of the SUV with Hammond’s grandchildren in it. And the joy of the numerous Jeff Goldblum-ism’s.

I primarily remember just having fun with my family, as everyone else around us jumped at the appropriate times, laughed during the light parts, and gripped their seats in nervous anticipation of what monster might appear around the next corner.

Thanks Mr. Spielberg.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phanton Menace, May 19, 1999

So we started with the good. Let’s move on to the opposite end of the spectrum.

I was in the home stretch of finishing high school, and it was a glorious time. I’d been accepted into college, I was working with my school’s literary magazine, and life was just friggin’ awesome.

And then there was The Phantom Menace.220px-Star_Wars_Phantom_Menace_poster

Not saying that this one movie destroyed my life, as many fanboys often declare. But it left a sour taste in my mouth when it came to the Star Wars franchise for a while. I’ve always been more of a Star Trek fan, but the sense of adventure and wonder that you get from watching the original trilogy is one that can’t be matched.

The Phantom Menace was billed as being the start of this generation’s Star Wars trilogy, as Episode’s 4-6 were for folks who’d been there at the series’ inception. Episode I was getting face time on MTV, Entertainment Tonight, a Weird Al Yankovic music video, and was just appearing all over the darn place. People were buying tickets in droves. It was insane.

And I’d never experienced anything like this. It was basically pop culture overload to the maxed out level.

So at the time I had a group of friends who were big Star Wars fans, and we decided to head over opening day to see it, right after school. We piled into someone’s car, swerved out of the high school parking lot like maniacs, and made it to the AMC at North Dekalb Mall with plenty of time to spare.

To say that being a part of something like this, on opening day, kind of shocked my nerd senses is putting it mildly. See, I’d always been sort of by myself when it came to such geeky pursuits. Sure I had friends who were into some of the same stuff that I grew up loving, mainly comics. But I found that before I hit middle school it was hard to find those guys and gals who were as hardcore about comics, sci-fi, cartoons, fantasy, videos games, etc. as I was.

fanslineupatSo when we hit the lobby of the theater, and I saw numerous folks dressed as young Obi-Wan, Darth Vader, or even Princess Amidala I thought to myself, “I’m home”. This was further solidified when we were let into the theater, and some of those same fans ran down the hall to get to our screening, as if compelled by the Force itself.

The geek expections were at a heightened pitch, as fans held mock light saber fights in front of the movie screen, and talked amongst themselves with excited voices.

Shortly after, the lights dimmed…….

That familiar word crawl began…….

And………

Well, you know the rest.

At least the light saber fights were awesome.

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The Matrix, March 31, 1999

It was spring of 1998. My cousin Tia was visiting from Chicago, and we’d decided to check out a movie. I’d been seeing a lot of commercials for an action movie with a lot of leather, slow motion, back flips, and the dude from Point Break. I thought it might be ok to check out, as I don’t remember anything else catching my eye. At least if it sucked, I could get a student discount on the ticket, and get a chance to hang with my cuzzo.

The movie was The Matrix.

Everyone in the theater had their collective mind’s blown. I mean, dammit, I’d never heard so much gasping, clapping, excited whisper’s, in a theater before that point. The experience I had watching that flick was a great one, and has only been topped by one other.

The_Matrix_PosterThis particular film has gone a long way in influencing my writing career, but also just kicked so much butt as a film going experience. I think that for most folks the movie was like nothing they’d ever seen before. Sure, Hong Kong martial arts filmmakers had been doing this style/ brand of fight choreography in the years preceeding The Matrix. And maybe a lot of folks saw the mash-up of the goth/ techno/ computer hacker culture hybrid and said “its been done before”.

But to get a movie of such stature, created by two nerdy brothers from Chicago who seemed to have filmmaking swagger for days, was a helluva beautiful thing to watch.

And to anyone who tells me that when they saw Neo fly away at the end of that flick, sort of saying “yeah, you just saw all of this mind bending awesomeness, but here’s a little something extra”, they didn’t collectively clap at the end of this flick, as it happened in my theater, y’all are lying.

And the biggest thing that stands out about this movie is that this came out pre-Internet, or at least pre- SPOILER era. I was genuinely surprised at what I saw, as I feel most folks in my theater were. And our movie going experience was all the better for it.

So those are some of my top movie going experiences. I’ve got a couple of others to add to the mix, but for now, I’ll leave you all with these to reminisce over, Please add your own movie going experiences to the comments below, and hope you enjoyed this.

What if… Last Action Hero was a Good movie?

I told J Edward Neill that I was going to steal his blog one of these days and today is that day. But I am going to do it in a way that would make him proud. I’m not going to use this blog for good but instead for evil.

That said, I wanted to look at a movie that could have been something more, but was tied to an aging actor and an annoying kid and only wanted to be tongue in cheek about the whole “Cop” movie thing.

lastactionhero

So What If…. Last Action Hero was a GOOD movie?

I know what you’re thinking: “John, there is no way to salvage anything within that movie!”

And you know what, random person talking to their computer screen, you’re probably more right than you are wrong… but let’s give this thing a try anyway.

Note, the one thing I am not touching is the soundtrack. Say what you will about the movie, Alice in Chains (2 songs!), Anthrax, AC/DC, Megadeth, Def Leppard, Aerosmith, Cypress Hill, Tesla, Fishbone… it is one of those albums that I still listen to from time to time.

lastactionhero2

For those of you who don’t remember, the movie was supposed to be a parody of the 80s action movies (anything with Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Russell, Gibson, etc). A kid manages to get a magical movie ticket that puts him directly into the movie he’s watching. Eventually he brings Arnold back into the real world where suddenly Arnold realizes that the rules here are not the same as they were. And worse yet, his arch-enemy has somehow made his way into the real world as well!

That’s actually not a horrible idea on the surface. That core concept of what is real and what is fantasy. And that’s what my version would focus on as much as anything else. Those little moments that appeared in the movie, but were glossed over due to the need for another catchphrase or yelling boss or even cartoon cat.

My version would still begin with Danny watching the movie, getting the magical ticket, and then getting sucked in. But our hero, Jack Slater, wouldn’t be a goofy parody spouting one-liners left and right; no, this would be someone who had seen the worst in people and still managed to keep going (think Se7en for an idea of the feel I’d be going for). He’s a person who is barely holding on to his sanity and is constantly wondering why all these terrible things always seem to happen to him.

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So when Danny reveals that he’s a character in a movie series our hero lashes out. The idea that someone has been dictating the horrors of his world, tearing his marriage apart, killing his son, keeping him estranged from his daughter… that would be too much for him. And even though Danny would try to plead with him to follow through on his latest mission, Slater ignores the kid and then goes on a spree of his own. If the world is always going to be terrible, then why bother with it, why bother with saving anyone… let it all burn… and he uses half of the ticket to go into the real world (Danny rushing in after him)…

While the second piece of the ticket manages to fall into his enemy’s hands, Benedict. This is a man that has stood by and watched Slater destroy his boss’s empire, and only by luck was Benedict able to escape. Once he finds out about the ticket he sees it for what it is – a way to go to other worlds than these – to recruit like-minded people to his cause, giving them the freedom in the real world that has been severely lacking for any of them.

In the original Benedict has a monologue where he talks about the real world being a place where the bad guys can actually win. He talks about going to get the villains and bring them out. But we never get to see that moment in the original. And I believe that is a huge missed opportunity. So in my version we not only see some of it, but these villains coming out are not treated as just randoms… no, Benedict would have begun to research who might be able to help him.  And freed them. And the Ripper would be one of them.

Now the real world is suddenly going to Hell and somehow Danny still believes in the HERO that Slater was. He convinces him by telling him that while it is terrible that all those horrific things have happened, he always knew that Slater would still try and do the right thing. That he could still be the man Danny always knew him to be.

Last-Action-Hero-Magic-Ticket-1

And that would set up an ending where Slater not only has to deal with Benedict, but with the random assortment of baddies that are out in this world. It gives Danny a chance to assist in figuring out those characters who Benedict might have contacted in the first place (what the people are like, what their weaknesses might be, etc.).

We end with Slater and Benedict squaring off, Slater run through the ringer, but somehow finding enough strength to finish his enemy off. A beaten and bruised Slater limps back to the theater with Danny helping him, ready to go back to his movie life again… Danny fires up the movie, but instead of Slater IV, it is something nicer – perhaps a romantic comedy. A just reward for the life that Slater has led.

***

John McGuire

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

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. Each episode is only $0.99. But you can go ahead and purchase the full novel (all 6 episodes) right now for $4.99 with the above link!

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

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

My Top Ten Horror Movies

Ah, October (I’m a week early, forgive me.). This month is one of the best of the year. Football season is a go and we’re beginning to see where our favorite teams stack up. Baseball playoffs are in full bloom (or for some we are looking forward to Spring as there is always next year). And yes the leaves are falling, but I am called to focus on something else:

Fear.

I’ve talked about Fear before… mostly as it relates to writing and my own personal goals. But in October I like to focus on that external Fear. Those movies and books and video games which scare me in a way that I not only don’t always understand, but that I actively search out.

These are my horror movies of choice. Some because they were the first movies to scare me, others because I was so blown away by what I saw it disturbed me for days, and then a few that I just love even when they no longer offer the scares they once did. Some I’ve seen only once and others I’ve seen dozens of times (one I might have seen over 100 by this point).

scream_xlg

Scream

I don’t think Scream ever “scared” me. From those opening minutes I wasn’t scared. Through the twists and turns of the movie I wasn’t frightened. So why is it on this list?

Because I think Scream did something for Horror movies that had never been done before. It deconstructed the late 70s and 80s slasher movies in a way that poked fun but still allowed it to cap off that era. The idea we all sat around and discussed (why are they running back into the house? why do they wander off alone? etc.) – Williamson and Craven made that movie. They made “our” movie.

I saw this twice in the theaters. The first time was an advanced screening at Georgia Tech by myself. As soon as it was over I made sure to get a couple of friends to go to its release. And after that first scene ended my buddy Lee leaned over and said “If nothing else happens for the rest of the movie, that one scene was worth the price of admission.”

jaws

Jaws

I joke and say that Jaws prevented me from becoming an Oceanographer or marine biologist, but really it is just that terror of the unknown which truly does it for me. Again, what I want to be able to see and hear – all of that disappears under the water’s surface. Every moment of control you have is an illusion, and really it is only luck that a large predator doesn’t have its way with you.

I don’t randomly go into the jungle and hope to avoid large predators, but for some reason I do it at the beach every year. And yes, I know the odds are slim… but…

That’s why, even after maybe 100 views, this movie sticks with me.

the strangers

The Strangers

“Because you were home.”

That’s why that movie frightens me on a level I cannot even fathom. Why do bad things happen? Is it luck? Is it just a matter of doing sketchy things that eventually catch up with us? Horror movies like to pose that question. And they give us the answers.

Don’t stay in the haunted house.

Don’t have underage sex.

Don’t drink and do drugs.

Don’t have your car break down in the middle of no where.

Don’t mess with things that you hear dark rumors about.

And if you follow all of those rules… guess what? The Strangers let you know that it might not be enough.

“Because you were home.” chills me like no other line could.

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The Conjuring

I was surprised by this one last year. I expected another run of the mill haunted house movie. I figured it would be ok at best, and at worst we’d get a good laugh in our annual horror movie night.

The Conjuring was legitimately good and scary.

Color me shocked.

All the tricks of other movies seem to be used to better effect in this one. All the things we’re accustomed to in “these types of horror movies” still gave me the creeps when I watched this one. They hit all the notes. Definitely one of the best in the last few years.

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The Ring

The image of the woman after she’s watched the video. That’s the one.

This movie sought to disturb me. And it did an excellent job of exactly that. And yes, I’m only referring to the American version, and that may be blasphemy, but I have to go with what I watched.

The image of the woman crawling out of the tv.

Yes, this one ushered in the J-Horror movies for better and worse, but still… something about the Ring.

The images presented in the video itself.

Maybe that’s just it. It is disturbing. And sometimes that’s enough.

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Dawn of the Dead (Remake) & 28 Days Later

The speed zombie movies. The beginning of the current zombie craze in films. The end of the world.

Post-apocalyptic movies like these show me the best and worst of humanity. They show how quickly all our work and dreams and desires could be ripped away. And while I don’t believe that zombies are going to do us in, I think ever since we discovered the ability to destroy on the level of a nuclear bomb, ever since we’ve found diseases with no cures, and space rocks that could create another extinction event… these are things outside of our control. And that’s what this is – if there is no control, no rules left, then what does it mean to be a person? What does it mean to be human?

In the mouth of madness

In the Mouth of Madness

I’ve written about this one before. Check it out.

invasion of the body snatchers

The Thing (John Carpenter’s version) & Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The idea of something not being who or what they say they are hits me in a way that I’m still not 100% sure of. It is one of the oldest fears available to us, because we want to trust those very people who we know and love. And when that gets taken away from us. When we are no longer sure who we can or cannot trust. When our hearts and minds cannot rationalize a way out… then we are truly screwed.

The thing about both of these movies is that even though they take place in two very different environments, the story is still one about isolation. Sure it is more blatant in The Thing, but Invasion pushes it to the point where surrounded by a street-full of people, you still are not sure who to trust.

These are ideas that will always be there, regardless of the current climate of life.

***

John McGuire

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

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is currently in week two of its 6-part release. Each episode is only $0.99.

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