Stormtrooper Terry

Stormtrooper Terry

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Best (and Worst) Movies of 2013... and Introducing: The Ghostie!

Happy New Year's Eve, everybody! Today it's time for one of the blogs I look forward to writing all year long: my personal wrap-up of the best and worst movies of the year. Of course, try as hard as I can, I don't see every movie, so it's not a totally comprehensive list (glaring omissions right now are The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, and August: Osage County; I might revise the list once I get to see them). Once again as in past installments, I won't be reviewing the movies, there will just be a brief word or two here and there and a link to a past blog post if I had given them a full review in the past. As always, this list is possible in large part due to the existence of the Flickster app on Facebook, on which I do mini-reviews of every movie I see all year long. So let's get the list rolling!

The Worst
Normally I just list the worst movies of the year, which I'm still going to do, but this year there's a new addition: The Ghostie Award! Last year, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was my worst movie of the year, but more than that, I really think it's the worst movie I've ever seen. In honor of that, from now on the absolute worst movie of the year will get The Ghostie Award in recognition of its sheer sucktitude. And now, the list:

Spring Breakers
The Counselor
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
World War Z
A Good Day to Die Hard
Gangster Squad

And The Ghostie goes to...
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

The award consists solely of Ghost Rider pissing fire on the movie.

Now, with that unpleasant business out of the way, the rest of the list!

The Great
Thor: The Dark World (comic book adaption of the year, in my opinion. Friggin' Loki...)
Kick-Ass 2
The Wolverine
You're Next (the best horror movie I saw this year, even though my favorite was Insidious Chapter 2)
Pacific Rim
Much Ado About Nothing
This is the End (easily the funniest movie of the year)
Man of Steel
Star Trek Into Darkness
Iron Man 3

The Best
The Way Way Back
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
12 Years a Slave (frontrunner for Best Picture Oscar, methinks)
American Hustle (what a cast!)

The Best of the Best
Usually this is the category where you'll find my five-star movies of the year, from which I'll pick my personal best movie of the year, a tradition I've had since 2007 (that initial movie in 07 was Dan in Real Life; subsequent years' winners were: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, 500 Days of Summer, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, Warrior, and Silver Linings Playbook last year). This year I only gave one movie five stars; I'm not sure why, maybe I was pickier this year. Or crankier? Who knows. Anyway, that makes this movie without a doubt the next entry in my personal best of the year:

The Spectacular Now

I'm not at all sure why I never wrote a review of this movie as soon as I saw it, because I loved it instantly. I loved the story. I loved the main character's emotional arc, a lot of which resonated very deeply with me personally. I loved the acting, Shailene Woodley in particular. Easily my favorite movie of the year. I am, in fact, eagerly looking forward to seeing it for the second time over the next day or two when I watch it with my girlfriend.

So that's my list. What's yours?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - Krampus: The Yule Lord

Krampus: The Yule LordKrampus: The Yule Lord by Brom

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Talk about an alternative Christmas story! This book tells the tale of Krampus, a mythological creature of Asgardian descent who is the Yule Lord and who hates Santa Claus for stealing the holiday season from him. The set-up sounds comical as hell but, while the story does have plenty of comical moments, it takes quite a few darker turns as well. The main character, Jesse, gets involved in Krampus' story at a particularly low point in his life, and the story itself is all about watching how Jesse's personal journey dovetails with Krampus' quest for revenge. I enjoyed the book, it had quite a lot of nice touches and fun characters, but it felt less complete to me than the other Brom books I've read. I think that's because it felt kind of rushed; the entire story takes place over three or so days so the pace is frenetic and there isn't a lot of breathing room. Better pacing would have made for a better story, but other than that it was definitely fun... and different... holiday reading fare.

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

We here at SSTAS (and by we, I mean me, cuz there ain't no one else) just wanted to take a minute to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Enjoy your day, whatever you're doing, wherever you're doing it, and, most importantly, whoever you're doing it with. For my part, I'll be spending the day with my grandmother and my girlfriend, watching Christmas specials while I wait for the Doctor Who Christmas specials, a box of tissues by my side. I'm not ready to say good-bye to Eleven, y'all. But that's a story for another time, as this is all about the merriness. So enjoy, everybody!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen MeanyA Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm definitely of two minds about this novel. On the one hand, I really like the story Irving told here. On the other hand, I don't like the way he told it; there were too many asides that seemed pointless. In his defense, some of them seemed pointless only to become important later on, but some of them were just pointless. He's also very, very repetitive, and at least for me after a certain point that jarred me out of the story. But again, I really liked the story. Likewise, for the majority of the book, I absolutely hated Owen Meany. Up until about the last hundred pages or so he struck me as an over-bearing, self-important feminine hygiene product and the package it comes in. And yet, despite my disdain for the character, Irving still managed to make me get emotional at the ending. I also appreciated the way the ending ties things together in an unexpected way, and the way both the ending and the book as a whole address questions about fate and faith. So like I said, I'm torn. I wasn't thrilled with the way the story was written, but any story that can make me upset about the fate of a character I hate deserves at least three stars, right?

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Better Late Than Never TV Reviews

Here's a blog I've been meaning to write for like a month now but have never gotten around to. Between the occasional work assignment, a newish relationship, and my all-around laziness and desire to just read and watch movies and stuff, well, I never found the time. So it's a little less than timely but still needs to be done as it wraps up my coverage of the mostly disappointing 2013 Fall TV season in terms of new shows. I've got three new ones to go through, and two of them quite frankly suck.

Atlantis comes to us from our friends at the BBC and is the story of Jason, Hercules, and Pythagoras (yeah, the mathematician) on the titular island. Except, this Jason isn't the Jason you're thinking of, it's a kid from the present who somehow ends up back in time after trying to find his missing dad. And this Hercules isn't some great, intimidating strongman, it's the fat king from the first season of Game of Thrones. And the third member of this triangle is Pythagoras (I hope you get the joke I just made...). The production value is much worse than you'd expect from the BBC and, well, let's just say I'll stick with Doctor Who. How this show is getting a second season is beyond me.

I was hyped for this series because I'm a big fan of Frank Darabont and I really liked the cast, so I was pretty saddened by the fact that the first two episodes of this event miniseries bored me to tears. Part of that is that, with a few exceptions, I've never been a big fan of the crime noir genre, and this show was clearly created as a love letter to that genre so it would be one hell of an uphill battle to really get me to like it. And while I know all too well some motherfucker's always trying to ice skate up a hill, for once that motherfucker ain't going to be me, and I passed on this show just like I passed on Atlantis.

There's a reason I chose the above poster for this show over all the other ones Fox's promo machine churned out. On its merits, Almost Human isn't all that special. It's not the first "man with machine partner" cop drama ever. It's not the first "future science" drama either (nor is it even the first from these creators, as this is from the same team that gave us the wonderful Fringe). No, on the surface, Almost Human isn't breaking any ground, but it is a fun little show, and that would be enough to make it worth watching, but it's two stars elevate it to another level. Karl Urban excels, as always, at being a growling curmudgeon. I would seriously watch him in just about anything. And Michael Ealy is just as good next to him. His robotic Dorian strikes a great balance between the efficiency of a machine and the soul of a human as he strives to be more than the sum of his parts. Yeah, sorry, I just couldn't resist that line. And when you add the fact that the stunning Minka Kelly is part of the cast...

...and the fact that they keep her lines to a minimum so her bad acting can't detract from the joy of looking at her or any of the other joys the show provides, well, Almost Human is definitely a winner.

So that brings my reviews of all the new shows the 2013 Fall Season provided to a close. Out of all the ones I gave a shot to, the only ones I actually added to my list are Sleepy Hollow, Almost Human, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and The Originals (I'm also still watching Dracula but I'm not counting that because I really am just hate-watching the shit out of that to see how absurdly awful it gets). Anyone else out there want to share what new shows they loved or hated this season? Let's hear 'em!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - The Necromancer's House

The Necromancer's HouseThe Necromancer's House by Christopher Buehlman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book up on a whim, having never heard of it or the author before, just because I really needed something to read. It's a decision I'm glad I made. The present tense narration is a welcome change from the norm, as is the way Buehlman modernizes the use of magic for his characters without beating us over the head with too much information. The novel can be a bit tricky as he juggles quite a few plot threads; there are a lot of balls in the air throughout the story but they all come to a pretty masterful head in the climax and the denouement. There are a few leaps that make things confusing for a brief second in parts, but the ship is always quickly righted. I also enjoyed all the characters and the way they're presented, good guys, bad guys, and mythical guys all. I haven't yet decided if the book was good enough to make me read the other novels Buehlman has written as I understand they aren't of the same subject matter at all, but who knows, maybe his name will come to mind the next time I'm book-shopping on a whim...

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Spinning My Own Web for a Spider-Man Movie Franchise

As you might have noticed, the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 dropped yesterday. As you may not have noticed unless you frequent the same circles on the internet that I do, there's been a lot of hubbub about the casting choices, character design choices, and most of all, the idea of including three new villains (Electro, the Rhino, and some version of the Green Goblin) at once just because Sony wants to get the Sinister Six involved by the third or possibly fourth movie. I don't have an opinion at the moment, content as I am to play "wait and see" here, but it did inspire me to re-post this column I did for a different blog three years ago in which I looked at the Raimi trilogy and reimagined it as a longer series which also had the Sinister Six as its payoff. So, for your enjoyment if you're interested or just bored, my idea of a Spider-Man film series, based off Raimi's beginnings!

The fact that I'm a comic book geek is no secret; and, like all comic book geeks, every time a comic book movie comes out, I've dreamed up what I would do for a sequel. Now, with Sam Raimi's "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" Spider-Man trilogy over and a reboot coming, I get to play armchair quarterback and tell you all what I would have done differently, not just with one movie but with the whole shebang. I figure I'm qualified. I mean, I might not know better than Sam Raimi, but I definitely know better than the studio morons who messed up his visions for Spidey 3, and whose even worse ideas for Spidey 4 are what led to the reboot happening in the first place. Just a warning, my vision for the franchise is a six-movie story, so, be prepared for a ride.

Let's start at the beginning...

Spider-Man: To tell you the truth, in terms of plot, there really isn't a thing I would change about this movie. It really was a perfect origin story. There are, however, a couple of parts I'd cast differently. Maguire and Franco are okay. As for Dafoe, nothing against him, but, well, this is how they draw Norman in the comics:Now, if that's not Tommy Lee Jones, I don't know who it is. And as for Mary Jane, well, she's supposed to be a beautiful, curvy, redheaded model. That isn't Kirsten Dunst. It is, however:As Stan Lee would say, "'Nuff said." Oh, yeah, also? The Green Goblin's costume would not have looked like a giant green pocket rocket.

Spider-Man 2: Just a few small changes here too, as this movie was pretty damn great. One thing I'd change is the thing everybody found ridiculous about this one: entirely too many people knew who he was by the end of it. Aunt May, Mary Jane, Harry Osborn, a train full of people, Doctor Octopus... that's all unnecessary. Harry finds out, and Mary Jane finds out at the end, and that's it. The other thing I'd change is that Doc Ock wouldn't redeem himself by dying. He'd stay bad and go to prison. This is an important change for later on.

Spider-Man 3: Alright, here's where I start to do the heavy lifting. The most important thing is to avoid the overcrowding that happened in the original version. There'd be no Gwen Stacy, she served no point. We'd also stay away from the "Mary Jane is a hostage" thing that happened in the previous two climaxes, Pete and MJ are still together, Harry attacks him out of revenge, Pete finds the symbiote, Sandman is in it, Eddie Brock is in it (but not Topher Grace. Jensen Ackles, maybe.He has the look and the attitude) but, and I can't stress this enough, Venom isn't. Here's how it would play out. Spidey fights Harry as the new Goblin and loses. Spidey fights Sandman and loses. Spidey finds alien symbiote. Alien symbiote turns him into a douchebag (not emo!) and he pushes MJ away. Harry manipulates MJ into dumping Peter. Peter in his black costume kills Sandman. He gets Eddie fired like in the original version and in the background we learn that Doctor Octopus had escaped from prison and disappeared. Harry then confronts him and gloats about making MJ dump him, and they have the fight they had in the movie where Spidey seriously messes him up. This is where Peter realizes he's lost control to the suit and goes to the bell-tower and rips it off, and it finds Eddie Brock and they become Venom... end of movie. Credits roll. After credits, we see Dr. Octopus, living a bit like a bum, under the radar. He's approached by a mysterious stranger whose face is never shown, who offers to help him get back at Spider-Man.

Spider-Man 4: Well, now we're blazing some new territory here. Peter and Mary Jane would still be separated, he'd be trying to get her back but unsuccessfully. Harry would be in a coma throughout the movie. Eddie Brock, now Venom, would know all of Peter's secrets and would be trying to get close to MJ to use her against Peter eventually. Meanwhile, Spider-Man would be dealing with a rash of burglaries committed by the Black Cat (which Raimi did want to do in Spider-Man 4, it was a good idea so I'm taking it.), who would be played by Anne Hathaway.
(Whoever shopped that picture is a genius. And yes, my movies would be filled with beautiful women... it's a proven formula, folks!) She would end up falling for him, and he for her a bit, but she'd only be interested in him in costume, not out of it. All that would really come out of it is a few fights/sexual banters, and he'd convince her to give up crime. Venom would attack Spidey after one of his fights with the Black Cat, beat the crap out of him, and just leave. The climax would be Venom kidnapping MJ and Peter going to the rescue, keeping Venom busy while Black Cat sneaks in and gets MJ away without Venom noticing. Spidey would then beat Venom, get to MJ and they'd kiss, while Black Cat watches from the shadows, hurt and angry. Credits roll... short scene of a beach where Sandman has reconstituted himself, and he is approached by same figure from the end of Spidey 3, and they make a deal.

Spider-Man 5: Peter and MJ would be working things out in this one. Harry Osborn wakes up from his coma, Peter and MJ go to visit him, and he says he never wants to see either of them again, and that he still wants revenge on Spider-Man. Later in the film, his butler would tell him the truth about his father and what he did, giving Harry some things to think about. There would be a scene at some point between Spidey and the Black Cat where she's pissed at him for loving someone else and she tells him to go to hell or something. The villain? Remember how, in all the movies, there was at least one scene between Peter and his one-armed professor, Dr. Connors? Well, it's about time to turn him into the Lizard. The Lizard would be rampaging through NYC, eating people and whatnot, and would kick Spidey's rear a few times. Cue the second new character, coming to America to hunt the biggest game he's ever seen: Kraven the Hunter (despite the silly name, this guy was so badass he buried Spidey alive at one point) played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan.Just change the costume up a little and he's perfect. In the end, Spidey would have to use Connors's own notes to synthesize a cure for the Lizard, while trying to keep Kraven from killing him. Of course, he'd be successful, Lizard is cured, Kraven goes to jail, and Peter proposes to MJ and she says yes, and the credits roll. Post-credits, shadowy figure talks to Black Cat about how she hated Spidey and how he could help her get back at him, and she says she's listening.

Spider-Man 6: This is it, the big pay-off. It would also be the first and only of the movies to have another word in the title, and comic book fans might have seen where I was going with this. The full title would be Spiderman: Sinister Six. One of the biggest events in Spidey comics is when a group of his enemies get together and attack him, and that's what would happen here. The movie would open with three scenes, alternating between them: Spidey fighting Sandman; Black Cat breaking Kraven out of prison; and Dr. Octopus breaking Eddie Brock out of the lab where he's being kept and re-uniting him with the alien symbiote. Sandman would just flee the battle, his job as a distraction over. He'd go somewhere secret, where Black Cat and Doc Ock had brought Kraven and Venom, and the shadowy figure would finally be revealed as Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, and you'd have the Sinister Six, and their goal is simply to kill Spidey. Meanwhile, Peter and MJ are getting ready for their wedding. Black Cat finds Spidey and warns him; she wanted to get back at him for breaking her heart, but doesn't want him dead. They decide she should stay with the Six to watch them, until the big finale, where she turns on them and sides with Spidey, making it five against two. The battle would be all over the news, and Harry would see his father still alive and go to join the battle... on Spider-Man's side! After learning the truth about his father, he wants to redeem himself by being a good guy. With the odds now five against three, the good guys manage to win, the bad guys go to jail, Peter and MJ get married, with Harry as the best man, and the saga ends!

I know having that many villains in one movie might be a lot, but, I think it would work, because they don't really need characterization time. They all already had it in their individual movies; this one is just about revenge. With this six-part structure, each villain gets their own time to shine while the danger is ratcheted up in each sequel until the most dangerous finale; the storylines of Peter and MJ and Peter and Harry have more time to develop with their ups and downs and reach satisfying conclusions.

Of course, there could always be a Spider-Man 7, but I think it's time for me to get out of the director's chair.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Goodreads Book Review - Infinite Jest

Infinite JestInfinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I majored in English in college. That means I spent an awful lot of time reading books that I was only reading because other people had picked them out for the literary value they thought they had. Sometimes I was reading three or four of these at once. Some of them i enjoyed. Some of them I never would have read if I didn't have to because there wasn't a thing about them I liked. When I graduated, I decided from then on I'd only read books I wanted to read because I thought I'd enjoy them. If I took recommendations from people, I'd only read books other people said they legitimately enjoyed, not because they thought the book had "literary value," or whatever. I broke that rule with Infinite Jest. I read it because of how it's supposed to be the greatest book in a generation or something. i don't know if it's deserving of that milestone, but one milestone it definitely has is that it's the first book in at least a decade I gave up on and didn't finish reading. The pretention behind the writing style just annoys the hell out of me. Fun ideas or not, i just can't do it. Maybe another time. But I doubt it.

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