My Picks – Oscars 2017

As per the rules for my Online Oscar Contest, here are my picks. It’s not too late to join in and win a book or some sweet Amazon monies! For those who enter, know that I’m going to watch the show tomorrow night (recorded), so results will go out some time on Tuesday.

I saw almost all of the Best Picture nominees this year. Tough choices. When in doubt, Hollywood loves a good movie about Hollywood. La La Land to sweep!

Best Picture (3 pts): La La Land

Directing (2 pts): Damien Chazelle – La La Land

Original Screenplay (2 pts): Manchester by the Sea

Adapted Screenplay (2 pts): Arrival

Leading Actor (2 pts): Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

Leading Actress (2 pts): Isabelle Huppert – Elle

Supporting Actor (2 pts): Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

Supporting Actress (2 pts): Viola Davis – Fences

Production Design (1 pt): La La Land

Documentary Feature (1 pt): O.J. Made in America

Documentary Short(1 pt): The White Helmets

Animated Short(1 pt): Piper

Live Action Short Film (1 pt): Silent Nights

Foreign Language Film (1 pt): The Salesman (Iran)

Animated Feature (1 pt): Kubo and the Two Strings

Film Editing (1 pt): La La Land

Sound Editing (1 pt): La La Land

Sound Mixing (1 pt): La La Land

Cinematography (1 pt): La La Land

Visual Effects (1 pt): Kubo and the Two Strings

Costume Design (1 pt): Jackie

Makeup and Hairstyling (1 pt): A Man Called Ove

Original Score (1 pt): La La Land – Justin Hurwitz

Original Song (1 pt): City of Stars – La La Land

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Can’t Wait for Rogue Two!

I saw Rogue One on Friday and now that I’ve let it digest a bit I’m ready to share my thoughts. This is going to be a spoilerific post, so if you haven’t seen the movie, please, please, please bookmark this for later and watch the movie first.

We finally have a good Star Wars prequel. Huzzah! Let that sink in. No, not my use of “huzzah,” but the fact that this is the first good Star Wars prequel. And, yes, that is a fact. We can debate just how good the movie is or isn’t, but it’s clearly leagues beyond the three of which we do not speak.

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Now for some opinion: By my tastes, this was a competently executed Star Wars movie that did a lot right. Some people on my social media feeds are saying this movie is better than The Empire Strikes Back, to which I say, “You need to re-watch Empire, my friend. That is one of the few examples of a perfect movie.”

If I had to rank the current films, I’d go with:

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. A New Hope
  3. Return of the Jedi
  4. Rogue One
  5. The Force Awakens
  6. Et al.

But–just as ecstatic as I was after Ep VII–I’m incredibly overjoyed by the little to no Prequel references (see below for a notable exception) in Rogue One and even more excited to finish my Reboot the Prequel scripts before the next movie.

What Made the Grade

Tarkin’s return. Others have debated the morality of resurrecting a dead actor, so let me just say it was a bold choice. And as far as digital humans, none have looked better.

People other than Jedi are attuned to the Force. Though I’m sure a society that can print out new hands can probably cure blindness, I’m willing to let that go because it could have been a choice on this character’s part. He did seem to have a quite useful “second sight” anyhow.

-Added to the mythology. Great sequels (and prequels) improve upon the originals. This did so by showing us the “alliance” aspect of the Rebel Alliance. Even better was taking what was essentially a bemoaned plot hole in the Death Star’s weakness and gave it meaning. Star Wars is very much about family legacy, and this movie hit those beats well.

What Didn’t

-The Force is too well-known. We could write-off Luke’s ignorance of The Force due to his upbringing on a backwater planet, but Han Solo has traveled the galaxy and still he finds the idea of The Force laughable. Yet, in this movie, all the characters seem to know the nature of The Force like something they’ve all grown up with. Pretty sure I heard “May The Force Be With You” nearly a dozen times over the course of two hours. The Jedi are supposed to be an ancient religion, and should be portrayed more as a secret society.

-Too many (pointless) Cameos. Every time a character from the Original Trilogy appeared on screen (which was often!) it felt like the movie stopped so the director could wink at me. The “tough guys” who are at the Mos Eisley cantina in Ep IV bumping into our heroes on Jedha was waaaaay over the top. So, let me get this right. They’re walking around, looking for fights, but manage to escape this city’s destruction just in time to hightail it across the galaxy and go looking for more fights in the exact same bar our next heroes happen to visit? Seems legit.

-Referenced the Prequels rather than Ep VII. Adding Jimmy Smits (Bail Organa from the prequels) wasn’t the worst choice ever, though it did reference the wrong movies. If the goal was to strengthen the brand, why not something to tie in the other Disney SW series? Here’s an idea: Instead of Darth Vader taking a bath in Sauron’s castle, he could be doing something useful. Maybe where “The Knights of Ren” are vaguely mentioned, thus strengthening Kylo Ren’s “I will finish what you started” line.

-Low stakes (we knew the outcome). I needed something else to root for. I knew that they would succeed in their mission to steal the Death Star plans, so there weren’t any stakes in that mission. If there was something else, new and also important that the characters were striving for, I might have inched closer to the edge of my seat.

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Circling back, let me emphasize that I really enjoyed the movie. It put the “war” back in Star Wars. Darth Vader against Rebel troopers was amazing. Some great actors added gravity to the story-world. And it left the grounds for a prequel reboot more fertile than ever.



Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Love the movie? Hate it? Meh?

Leave me a comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!

Oscars 2016 – My Picks

The 88th Academy Awards are tonight! As promised, below are my picks. And if you haven’t joined in yet, you have until the first award is announced to submit your own for a chance to win free books or Amazon money. Good luck, participants!

Best Picture (3 pts): The Big Short
Directing (2 pts): George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Original Screenplay (2 pts): Spotlight
Adapted Screenplay (2 pts): The Big Short
Leading Actor (2 pts): Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Leading Actress (2 pts): Brie Larson – Room
Supporting Actor (2 pts): Tom Hardy – The Revenant
Supporting Actress (2 pts): Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Production Design (1 pt): Mad Max: Fury Road
Documentary Feature (1 pt): Winter on Fire: Ukraines Fight for Freedom
Documentary Short(1 pt): Body Team 12
Animated Short(1 pt): World of Tomorrow
Live Action Short Film (1 pt): Shok
Foreign Language Film (1 pt): Embrace of the Serpent – Colombia
Animated Feature (1 pt): Inside Out
Film Editing (1 pt): Mad Max: Fury Road
Sound Editing (1 pt): Mad Max: Fury Road
Sound Mixing (1 pt): Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Cinematography (1 pt): The Revenant
Visual Effects (1 pt): Mad Max: Fury Road
Costume Design (1 pt): Cinderella
Makeup and Hairstyling (1 pt): The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
Original Score (1 pt): The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone
Original Song (1 pt): “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground

Teenage Mutant Ninja Spiderman???

So, I’ve been devouring a ton of superhero material lately as I work on my third Click Your Poison book. As such, I recently watched TMNT in theaters, and yesterday I watched The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on DVD. These were hands down my two favorite cartoon franchises during my childhood, so in a way, I couldn’t help comparing them. But since one is currently in theaters and the other just now available for rent, many of you might have missed a little something I picked up on:

The two movies have the exact same plot.

It should seem obvious, but SPOILERS will follow. Now then, let’s examine the similarities:

Our heroes, Peter Parker and April O’Neil, are both awkward young dreamers with moviestar looks who work for the local news.

Each of their fathers were tragically murdered when they were children, too young to realize that Dear Old Dad was actually destroying his own scientific work (mutating animals) once he realized that the corporation he was working for had nefarious plans for his bizarre experiments.

But fear not! For our heroes will discover old video footage (in the form of ancient video blogs that never made it to the internet) which clears dad’s name. Oh, and we learn he destroyed all but one tiny specimen that grew up to create a wise-cracking superhero (team).

That’s when our heroes must turn against the corporation they once thought was their friend, and face off against the latest in mechanized exo-suit technology.

The differences? There’s no Giant Pizza-Eating Spiders in one, and our Human Hero was not bitten by Radioactive Turtles in the other. Although, that would make for an amazing mash-up…

Why do they have the exact same plot? Good question. Let’s examine the possibilities.

  • Could it just be a giant coincidence? Yes, it could be. Parallel Development does happen. In fact, a friend of mine is doing a kickstarter for his graphic novel featuring little known x-mas legend, Krampus, only to learn there’s a Krampus movie in the works. PS — you should totally support the project, it looks awesome! (/end_friend-plug)
  • Could it be that there’s nothing new under the sun? That there are only so many variations of a story you can tell? Sure, could be. I know of the notorious Seven Storylines, but even so this seems a bit too similar.
  • Could it just be Hollywood Formula? AKA, (Repeat What Works = Money, where x = x and Money = Everything) Last couple of years the formula was “Hey villain, why not intentionally get yourself captured?” See: Latest Bond movie with Javier Bardem, Batman movie with Bane (and Joker prior to that), Loki in The Avengers, and KHAAAAANNN in the latest Star Trek.

My money’s on door #3. What do you think? Does it even matter? Or is it only story-perfectionists like me that care about/even notice this stuff? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog.

Thanks for reading!

 

Photo Credit

 

 

My Oscar Picks for 2014

If you follow this blog, you know I’m running an online Oscar pool. As per the rules, here are my picks (you have until showtime to submit your own choices).

This is based solely on my opinion. I’ve seen all the Best Picture nominees (except Captain Phillips and Philomena) and I’ve consulted no outside source. These are just what I think deserves the award, not what it most likely to win (thus, you might find it easy to beat me if you enter).

Okay, here goes:

Best Picture (3 pts): 12 Years a Slave
Directing (2 pts): Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
Original Screenplay (2 pts): Her (Spike Jonze)
Adapted Screenplay (2 pts): The Wolf of Wall Street (Terence Winter)
Leading Actor (2 pts): Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Leading Actress (2 pts): Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Supporting Actor (2 pts): Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Supporting Actress (2 pts): Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Production Design (1 pt): Her
Documentary Feature (1 pt): The Act of Killing
Documentary Short(1 pt): The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Animated Short(1 pt): Feral
Live Action Short Film (1 pt): Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasnt Me)
Foreign Language Film (1 pt): Omar (Palestine)
Animated Feature (1 pt): Frozen
Film Editing (1 pt): Gravity
Sound Editing (1 pt): Gravity
Sound Mixing (1 pt): Gravity
Cinematography (1 pt): Gravity
Visual Effects (1 pt): Gravity
Costume Design (1 pt): The Great Gatsby
Makeup and Hairstyling (1 pt): Dallas Buyers Club
Original Score (1 pt): Her (William Butler
Original Song (1 pt): Let It Go (Frozen)

Good luck to all those who entered! Now, a little more fun– Kids tell you everything you need to know about the Best Picture nominees:

As a final bonus, for those who are into drinking games, here’s a good one for this year: http://www.uproxx.com/filmdrunk/2014/02/official-filmdrunk-oscars-2014-drinking-game/

Be safe; have fun! Winners will (most likely) be announced tomorrow.

CYP#3: Origin Story

I’m happy to announce that I’m hard at work on book #3 in the Click Your Poison series, which should be out mid to late summer 2014. I know I said in the past that this would be a time-travel project, but I’m not quite ready to crack that one open. The ideas are still gestating. But, since it’s time-travel, the when is irrelevant, right?

This guy knows what’s up

So what’s CYP#3 all about? Tentatively titled SUPERPOWERED, this book is set to be a superhero adventure. Unless, of course, you choose to play the role of villain.

I’ve always loved the idea of superpowers and as a kid I would create my own costumes (usually out of roller-blade pads, soccer guards, and brightly colored sweats from the 80s) and say things like, “Dad, I need to join karate and gymnastics as soon as possible.”

While I’ve read a few comics, that’s not my main area of expertise. I never missed an episode of the 90s cartoon edition of X-men, Spiderman, or Batman. I’ve seen just about every superhero movie. I’ve read quite a few superhero novelizations.

Hello weekend!
Hello weekend!

So, I’m not going to provide a lifetime bibliography of all things super, but instead I thought I might share some of what I’ve been absorbing as inspiration for the new book:

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Virtual War by Gloria Skurzynski
Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines
I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman
Irredeemable by Mark Waid and Peter Krause
Amped by Daniel H. Wilson
Wearing the Cape by Marion G. Harmon
Masked edited by Lou Anders
The Boys by Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson
Meta by Tom Reynolds
Confessions of a D-List Supervillain by Jim Bernheimer
Hancock
Heroes
(TV)
Necessary Evil: Villains of DC Comics
Super
Wilder Napalm
Arrow
(TV)
Chronicle
Megamind

More? Maybe. Probably. If I’ve missed something, feel free to let me know in the comments. In the meantime, I’ll be hiding in plain sight as a mild-mannered writer and using my superpower of Rapid Idea Generation to come up with 3 Unique Storylines and Over 50 Possible Endings!

My Oscar Picks for 2013

If you’ve read my last few posts, you know I’m running an online Oscar pool. As per the rules, here are my picks (you have until 5:30 pst, when the show begins, to submit your own choices).

This is based solely on my opinion. I’ve seen all the Best Picture nominees (except Zero Dark Thirty) and I’ve consulted no outside source. These are just what I think deserves the award, not what it most likely to win (thus, you might find it easy to beat me if you enter).

Still, deciding wasn’t easy. Some years are filled with shoe-ins, but this time around I was split on almost every category… Okay, here goes.

Best Picture (3 pts): LINCOLN
Directing (2 pts): SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Original Screenplay (2 pts): MOONRISE KINGDOM
Adapted Screenplay (2 pts): LIFE OF PI
Leading Actor (2 pts): Daniel Day-Lewis
Leading Actress (2 pts): Jessica Chastain
Supporting Actor (2 pts): Philip Seymour Hoffman
Supporting Actress (2 pts): Anne Hathaway
Production Design (1 pt): LINCOLN
Documentary Feature (1 pt): SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN
Documentary Short(1 pt): “Mondays at Racine”
Animated Short(1 pt): “Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare””
Live Action Short Film (1 pt): “Curfew”
Foreign Language Film (1 pt): AMOUR
Animated Feature (1 pt): WRECK IT RALPH
Film Editing (1 pt): LIFE OF PI
Sound Editing (1 pt): DJANGO UNCHAINED
Sound Mixing (1 pt): SKYFALL
Cinematography (1 pt): LINCOLN
Visual Effects (1 pt): PROMETHEUS
Costume Design (1 pt): ANNA KARENINA
Makeup and Hairstyling (1 pt): HITCHCOCK
Original Score (1 pt): SKYFALL
Original Song (1 pt): “Suddenly” from “Les Misérables”

Good luck to all those who entered! Now, a little more fun– Daniel Tosh tells you everything you need to know about the Best Picture nominees:


As a final bonus, for those who are into drinking games, here’s a good one for this year: http://filmdrunk.uproxx.com/2013/02/filmdrunk-oscars-drinking-game-2013

Be safe; have fun! Winners will (most likely) be announced tomorrow.