Stormtrooper Terry

Stormtrooper Terry

Monday, January 26, 2015

Goodreads Book Review - London Falling

London Falling (Shadow Police, #1)London Falling by Paul Cornell

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I wanted to like this book. I really did. I'm a big fan of Paul Cornell's work in the world of comic books, so I was looking forward to diving into this and loving it. But I sort of hated it. It felt like a generic urban supernatural story to me, like the Dresden Files and others of that ilk, but without any of the charm. I was put off by just how British it was, but I know that's just a personal thing, and I'm not really holding that against the book. What I'm really holding against it was how damn boring it was. The first hundred pages or so felt like an impenetrable snoozefest to me. And when you combine that with how unlikeable more than half the cast was, well, it's a miracle I got through this one at all. Others may love it, but it just wasn't for me.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

My 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2015

Because despite the lack of comments or interaction of any kind, I still believe you folks out there care what I think about stuff like this, here's my yearly post about what movies I'm most looking forward to this year. It's a little late, I know, but don't worry, January hasn't given us anything that would have made the list anyway. Unlike last year, not only have I managed to whittle the list down to ten this year, but I've also put them in ascending order. Anyone who knows me can probably guess what's at the top, but that doesn't mean there isn't any fun to be had, right? The list, by the way, might be incomplete as it came from IMDB's upcoming releases list, which leaves out indies and stuff like that. But what are you going to do?

Clocking in at #10 is Terminator: Genisys, easily the movie on the list I'm most tentative about. It could be awesome, but let's be honest, the last two movies weren't very good, but somewhere in there was an amazing TV series, so there's still potential. But I'm not sure about the direction this one is going in. It's very much a wait-and-see situation, but at the very least, it's got Matt Smith!

Like Terminator, I've always been a fan of the Jurassic Park series, so of course it makes the list. It would be higher, but again, I have concerns. One of the strengths of the original is that the science was as realistic as it could be for the subject matter; Michael Crichton made damn sure of that. In light of that, the idea of a hybrid dinosaur "villain" along with velociraptors that might be "good guys" is a stretch, but again, we'll see.

C'mon. How could I not?

The first Ted made me laugh so hard there were times I honestly thought I made die. So it's #7 on the list. It would be higher, but, sequelitis, you know?

The big finale comes in at #6. I've enjoyed the series so far, and not just for a guaranteed annual fix of my beloved J-Law, but I'm honestly more than ready for it to be over.

Apparently when the trailer for #5 on the list dropped, some people hated it. I'm chalking that up to the fact that there's a subset of the geek world that hates everything on sight, and another subset waiting for Marvel Studios to have their first big failure. Fuck 'em both, I say. Bring on Ant-Man!

Holy fuck do I love this series. The first one scared the crap out of me, to the point that even looking for a picture to put here creeped me out. No lie, that poster is fucking up my life a little bit. The second one wasn't as scary, but it crafted a hell of a story, and I can't wait to see where it goes next.

#3 is a gothic horror from Guillermo Del Toro. 'Nuff said.

You thought this was going to be #1, didn't you. On any other year, you'd be right. Even with the lingering stink of the prequels and some of my anger towards other things they've done since the House of Mouse bought up the property, a new Star Wars film would be the top of the list for me on any other year. But this year, unfortunately, we live in...

...the Age of Ultron.

Because come on, obviously. You've seen the trailer. I'm a fanboy. There's no way this isn't #1. Three and a half months to go...

So what are the rest of you out there looking forward to?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Newsroom Closes Its Doors

As long as it's taken me to write this (the show itself ended on December 14th), it's obvious I'm beyond behind on my writing. But there was no way in hell I was going to let the ending of one of the smartest shows of the last few years pass by without comment.

And yes, I said it was one of the smartest shows of the last few years, and I meant. Beyond all the controversy of things like Sorkin's depiction of women, which I think was mostly misunderstood, or the "rape episode," which, okay, even I can't really defend except to say we all mess up sometimes, this show was smart as hell. Which is no surprise, because it's Sorkin, and his writing has ALWAYS been intelligent, going all the way back to A Few Good Men. And it's always been snappy and funny, two qualities that were definitely in attendance here. Sorkin crafted a show that was, underneath it all, a smart, funny look at the lives and struggles of people who strive to do something noble: they strive to honestly and fairly educate the rest of us.

And yet, the show came under almost constant attack from detractors who brandished a laundry list of, in my opinion, absurd complaints. And my route to praising this show, in lieu of saying that the people who hated it just weren't smart enough to get it, will be to knock those criticisms down a little.

1.) The bumbling description of women. Yes, Sorkin wrote flawed characters. Yes, they fell in love and weren't all Miss Independent. Sorry folks, not every woman on TV can be the Scandal, Madam Secretary brand of superwoman. They're flawed. Like the rest of us. And not for nothing, but his men weren't exactly perfect either. Just look at all the ways James Tiberius Harper screwed up his relationships...

2.) The story lines meandered. So does life, but they always came back around.

3.) No newsroom is that idealistic. So let me ask, is the flaw that the show was too idealistic for reality, or that reality isn't idealistic enough? I mean, when did idealism become something to be derided instead of lauded, instead of strived for? The truth is, if more news shows were like News Night with Will McAvoy, I might actually watch the news more often.

4.) All it felt like the show was doing was chastising the modern news industry. Well, sure it was chastising the modern news industry. If you don't think that's an industry that needs to be chastised, your brain might not be connected to... well, anything. But beyond that, if you thought that's all this show was, if you didn't get that, more than anything, it was about people connecting and an utterly broken person fixing himself, I can't help you.

Because, underneath it all, the Newsroom was about Will McAvoy, played to perfection by Jeff Daniels, not trying to fix the world as it seemed from the show's brilliant, oft-replayed opening scene, but using that quest to civilize as a mask for the ways he was trying to fix what was broken about him. From his father issues to his disconnectedness to the people around him to how heartbroken he was over how things went wrong with the woman he loved, this show was his journey to heal himself. Along the way, we watched the lives of the rest of the characters grow: we watched Don and Sloan grow into an amazingly entertaining couple; we watched Mackenzie achieve everything she strove for; we watched Neal become a real newsman of the internet age; we watched Jim and Maggie finally grow together after three years of being stupid. The cast was topnotch, and they took Sorkin's legendary dialogue and positively owned it. And, most of all, we got to watch Sam Waterston play frequently-drunk news department president Charlie Skinner, one of my favorite characters of the last few years.

And he did it all while wearing a bow tie. Bow ties are cool.

I will miss the Newsroom. I could have watched this show for years and years, laughing and being touched the whole time, my thoughts being wonderfully provoked. But instead I'll settle for loving the twenty-five episodes we got. If this is, as he says, Aaron Sorkin's last foray into television, well, thanks for all the entertainment, sir.

And as one of Will's heroes would have said, good night, and good luck.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2015 Oscars, Part 1: The Nominee Announcements

The nominations for this year's Academy Awards were announced Thursday morning and, five days later after two boring days of work and a few days visiting my girlfriend's parents upstate, I'm finally ready to talk about them. So clearly, I'm not on my game this year. That being said, I'm not entirely sure what I actually can say about them, considering I've only seen one of the eight movies nominated for Best Picture, American Sniper. I will, of course, be rectifying that before the show starts. So I guess it's safe to say that so far, I know what my top pick is...

I'm not going to touch any of the controversies swirling around the film because I don't want to turn my blog into a political rigmarole, but I will say I thought it was a great movie and Bradley Cooper is definitely some tough competition for the rest of the guys in the Best Actor categories.

I have seen some of the other movies whose cast got nominations, like Gone Girl (Rosamund Pike isn't going to win), Foxcatcher (Steve Carell, while great, isn't winning, and neither is Mark Ruffalo), and Into the Woods (Meryl Streep, who, even though she' Meryl, isn't going to win), so I'm not exactly lost in the woods here. Sorry, couldn't resist. Speaking of Foxcatcher, does anyone else find it a little weird that a movie that didn't get a Best Picture nod still earned a Best Director nomination? That just strikes me as really odd. I know since they opened up the Best Picture field obviously not every movie nominated sees its director be so lucky, but it swinging the other way like this is definitely unusual.

And in other unusual matters, there's the whole Selma issue and whether it was snubbed or not. Again, I've not seen the movie. For all I know the entire cast deserves awards. Or maybe they don't. Or maybe they do, but the people who did get nominated deserved them more. I know people are upset that the actor categories are very "white" this year, but isn't it possible it isn't a color thing, but a performance thing? Isn't it possible that, as good as the Selma cast or, beyond that, other actors of other ethnicities were, that this year, the people nominated were just better? I'm not saying either side is right or wrong, I'm just throwing out the possibility that not everything is a race thing, and it wouldn't be fair if a white actor got pushed aside for someone who gave a lesser performance just for the sake of diversity.

Also, let's not feel too bad for Selma getting "snubbed;" two nominations versus the 98% of movies that come out and get zero nominations at all ain't that bad.

And zooming back to actors for a minute, how weird is it that two different Hulks have both gotten Supporting Actor nominations this year? Maybe one of them will win.

Hulk smash puny Oscars!

I'm looking forward to binging on the nominees over the next month and doing the two parts of my annual blog series that follow this one: my fully informed predictions the day of the show, followed by the scorecard of those predictions the morning after. I'm looking forward to the controversies that will inevitably grow bigger than the show. And, I'm definitely looking forward to the show itself, and this year's host.

I have a feeling it's going to be a memorable show...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Goodreads Book Review - The Demonologist

The DemonologistThe Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can't remember where I first heard of this book or what inspired me to pick it up, other than my twenty-year-old dreams of writing my own religious opus focusing on angels and demons, but I'm glad I did. Pyper's writing style is a little dry for my taste, especially in this book where dialogue is sometimes few and far between and there are blocks of description and exposition, but the story itself and the way it was framed was clever. And what interested me was that while the story is heavily built around Paradise Lost, it seemed like the main character was going through his own version of Dante's Inferno, which was a fun juxtaposition. The characters are all fully realized, with the exception of the one-note wife, and it's easy to pull for them. My other complaint aside from the writing style I mentioned above is the ending; it reached a fairly furious pace and then just sort of ended without anything that felt to me like a complete ending. I get how the character's journey ended, so it's not a matter of just not understanding it, it just felt too simple and abrupt given what had come before. Still, it was an enjoyable read.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Into the Woods Review

So, due to circumstances beyond my control, I got just a little screwed out of this being posted on the site I write reviews for. But, I figure that's no reason it should never see the light of day, right? So, why not throw it up here! Let it tide you all over until I have a chance to write my look at the recently announced Oscar nominations...

I didn't go into seeing Into the Woods (directed by Rob Marshall, written by James Lapine based on the musical Lapine wrote the book for, with music composed by the legendary Stephen Sondheim) with any preconceived notions, having never seen the musical before and only recently becoming a big musical fan in the first place (in no small part thanks to my girlfriend). So, unlike a lot of the people I’ve seen and heard talking about it, I’m not basing my opinion of it on comparisons made to the original piece and instantly deciding it’s either the best or worst thing ever.  I’m interested in the movie and the movie alone. In which case, the closest I had to an existing idea about this movie was, "Does Disney really need to do yet another version of these tired old fairy tales?"
The answer is, "probably not," but you shouldn't let that keep you from enjoying the movie anyway.
Into the Woods is the tale of how some of our favorite fairy tales intertwine during and, more importantly, after the stories we know and love. Cinderella (Anna Kendrick as Cinderella and Chris Pine as her prince), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy as the titular maiden and Billy Magnussen as her prince, who is also the younger brother of Chris Pine's character), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford as Red and Johnny Depp in a very short but deliciously creepy appearance as the Wolf), and Jack and the Beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone with Tracey Ullman as his mother) all intertwine during the movie, with the central through-story being that of a baker and his wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt, the real stars of the show, and, in addition to one name that is about to come up, probably the best parts of the cast when it comes to performances) trying to break the curse of infertility placed on their household by a witch (Meryl Streep in all her scene-stealing glory).
As a story, Into the Woods is decent, with a strong, entertaining first half that flows into a flawed, rushed climax. The cast is entertaining and mostly talented and the movie is a visual delight. The songs, for me at least, were fun but fairly forgettable (which is no surprise as I'm apparently a fan of more modern musicals like Rent and Spring Awakening). Some of the twists the tales take as they intertwine after their traditional endings are very surprising, as are some of the nuances added to the tales themselves, which is important; it keeps them fresh and not just another retread of the same old tales. But the main plot of the movie itself is predictable, especially the ending, and the climax itself feels rather rushed. All in all I enjoyed it, but it was hardly the best musical I've seen.  None of the songs resonated with me or stayed in my head. But it was nevertheless a fun enough movie. I give it three stars out of five.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Goodreads Book Review - Lock In

Lock InLock In by John Scalzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a really fun book. Scalzi writes some realistic, entertaining characters and gives them a very creative, thought-out plot to play around in. And the set-up of the plot is a very creative one. My one and only complaint about the story was that it was very exposition heavy; there were a lot of info dumps that took away from the action. I understand in a procedural mystery like this one that can be necessary, and at least here it was couched in some fun dialogue, but still, those parts dragged a bit. But otherwise, I loved it. I thought it was better than the only other Scalzi book I've read, Red Shirts, which I didn't expect to, but this one was a pleasant, fun surprise.

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"Exodus: Gods and Kings" Review - Written by Jim Herling

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Out with the Old, In with 2015

Happy New Year, y'all. Just popping in after a night of way too little sleep (five hours, maybe) and a decent amount of alcohol, junk food, and a fun night with my wonderful girlfriend and our friends to usher 2014 out the door and welcome 2015 in the only way I know how: with words.

Well, beside copious drinking, that is.

I can't really decide if I'm happy to see 2014 go or not. On the one hand, I worked pretty steadily for a good ten months out of the year, and am currently on a temp assignment that is continuing through the new year. I made some strides with writing and my movie reviews, getting things published for the first time on a site I don't control ( and joining the nominations and awards committee of a horror awards site (The Fright Meter Awards). Here's to starting the year off with shameless plugs, by the way! None of these things pay, but they're a step up the ladder. In addition, I finished up the year with 92 blog posts. That's still short of the most I've ever done in a year, 100, a number I hopped to top this year, but it's still good for my second highest year ever.

2014 was also an amazing year for fun times and events and stuff. I saw plenty of movies, obviously, a few Broadway shows, went to the Renaissance Fair for the first time, and just had some generally fun times with my friends. And of course, Marisa, my love; our life together keeps getting better. Every night I go to sleep next to her with a smile, and the smile is still there every morning I wake up next to her. It isn't always easy, and money is a struggle, but it's always worth it.

But 2014 was also the host of easily the worst time of my life when my grandmother, the most important parent I ever had, passed away fairly suddenly. It's been a little over three months now and I'm still not okay with it. I don't know if I ever will be.

So as I said, I'm torn about being done with 2014. But regardless of that, I'm ready to tackle 2015, ready to make the most of it and make it the best year I can. I wish the same for all my friends and family because, let's face it, we all deserve it.

Happy New Year!