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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Movie Review: ‘A Quiet Place’

A metallic bust sculpture of an alien woman.
It has no skin! Or does it? This sculpture of an alien is said to be from the H.R. Giger Museum.
Photo Credit:

I finally saw A Quiet Place yesterday evening. It was really good in almost all aspects. The story to this film was not made to be merely an audience pleaser. This was an intelligently made movie with well-developed characters and a well-written storyline. But the monsters were designed terribly. So as not to create any spoilers I won’t go into too many details, but at many points in the film the monsters looked like they were cut open in parts of their bodies. I know that’s been a major characteristic in the creatures of horror films ever since Alien in the late ‘70s, but it’s been over done too many times.

I’m not against the design of the Alien movies’ exoskeleton creatures that’s muscle tissues seem to be exposed. In fact, the first movie has been one of my favourites among sci fi horror. But those monsters were Ridley Scott and H.R. Giger’s creations and so were unique to them. After the first movie, it seemed like monsters in every sci fi horror flick, both Alien knock-offs and films with original storylines, were skinless regardless of what environments they evolved from.

(Warning: Even though I said I’m trying not to give away spoilers, some of the details ahead may be considered by some to be spoilers. Enter at your own risk!)

It was no different with the monsters in A Quiet Place. For what reason did the producers have to use monsters, that are not zombies, that’s intestines seem to be naturally exposed? No scientific knowledge in the movie indicates any kind of evolutionary element that determines such a characteristic. Speaking about characteristics, the monsters’ distinctive feature was their extrasensory hearing. So, particularly, the intestines of their ears appeared to be exposed all the time. Well, bats have extrasensory hearing too but evolution didn’t leave the skin off of their ears to show the intestines!

I think Hollywood studio executives just had to get their way with this movie in the end in order to make the profit they always want. Gore draws the masses, especially here in the commercial-infested U.S. And so, very unfortunately because A Quiet Place was made with such high quality on almost every level, the logic of world-building has once again been sacrificed for capital gain.

Have you seen A Quiet Place? If so, what did you think of it? What did you think of the monsters?

Until next time. . .

Man wearing a germ warfare mask.
May Daze! May Daze! We're in the heart of allergy season but I'm prepared!
Credit: The blogger

Sunday, May 13, 2018

‘Black Panther’ Movie Brings Afrofuturism to the Mainstream

The Black Panther movie adaptation, based on the Marvel comic book of the same name, has been getting more recognition than I recently thought and that’s definitely a good thing! It is probably the big budget sci fi movie that stars black characters and made by a black director (Ryan Coogler) that has broken the most records. It definitely shows that people of colour are becoming acknowledged for their work in speculative genres. It’s bringing to light the sci fi/fantasy community among people of colour, breaking the too long-time impression of the genre being a white person’s. Along with that, it’s also bringing to light the speculative movement known as Afrofuturism and so making the movement less marginalised. Afrofuturism is the intellectual movement of scientific and technological speculation by people of African culture. That’s probably too simple of a definition. However, an article at entitled “Afrofuturism:Why black science fiction can’t be ignored” explains it really good which I think you will find fascinating!

Yes, I did see Black Panther when it released back in March and thought it was super! And do mind the pun—it was a super hero film that was made really good.

Afrofuturism is doing for speculative film what “blaxploitation” was doing for the same in the 1970s, only better since Black Panther is bringing Black sci fi and fantasy to the mainstream more than ever! Because of that, I think there’s going to be a lot more big budget films in the genre by people of colour and really well-made ones too like Black Panther.

Until next time . . .

Diamond-shaped spaceships float above desert pyramids.
Photo Credit:

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Book To Movie: 'Ready Player One'

Computer grid image of a landscape with a planet halfway above the horizon.

The problem with many sci fi movies today, as they have been in most of movie history, is that they are either made to amuse or they’re made to provoke thought about important issues in life. Ready Player One, however, does both.

Ready Player One is based on Earnest Cline’s ‘80s novel of the same name. It’s about a teenager, Wade Watts (played by Tye Sheridan) in a near-future Earth who competes in a VR game set in a world called the Oasis. He comes across the scheme of an evil corporate CEO by the name of Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) who is trying to take control of the Oasis in order to rule the real world. The Oasis is a kind of open source fictional world where anyone can play any character they want and anything can happen.

I have not read the novel and so won’t try to compare it to the movie. But regardless of how faithful it is to the book, Ready Player One was made really good. Even though a certain segment of the film gets a little too fairy tale-idealistic, most of the other elements out-weigh that flaw. The characters along with the actors portraying them are convincing and so is the setting of the Oasis. The characters are sympathetic although Sorrento comes across as a bit too typical of a corporate villain as much as you love to hate him. The Oasis is convincing as the setting of a VR game in that many characters within it are pre-created and so come from existing franchises while others are created by the players and game developers. For example, while we are caught by surprise when we see characters in the background such as Tim Burton’s black-costumed Batman, the characters of Ready Player One create their own avatars such as Wade’s Parzival.

The movie’s themes are conveyed good without preaching them into the audience’s faces. Some of these themes are reality versus fantasy (more specifically reality versus virtual reality), pop cultural nostalgia and humanitarianism versus profit. The producers of the movie capitalise on today’s ‘80s nostalgia through Wade’s character who is into the era yet the nostalgia in the Oasis is ecumenical: other eras are also represented such as a ‘70s disco dance scene between Wade (as Parzival) and his fellow gamer Art3mis (pronounced ‘Artemis’, played by Olivia Cooke), and the ‘60s campy Batman television show’s Batmobile is seen charging by in an auto race segment.

The theme of humanitarianism versus profit is played out in the rebellious characters’ fight to protect the open software-produced Oasis from corporate conquest. This conflict suggests social commentary on today’s net neutrality debate. The theme of reality versus fantasy is seen in the characters trying to determine how much of virtual reality is part of the real world, an attempt that includes the question of how much of a person’s true personality is conveyed by their game avatar.

As with any blockbuster movie, Ready Player’s special effects and cinematography are super! However, what distinguishes this movie from most sci fi flicks is that it both gives audiences a fun time with loads of action scenes and otherworldly settings while showing the social impacts of technology and what can happen if it is abused. And so this movie does what all cyberpunk and any other kind of -punk should do—warn and speak against future technological abuse.

Ready Player One is directed by Steven Spielberg and screenwritten by Zak Pen.

Until next time . . .

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Are the Events That Inspired ‘Stranger Things’ Copyrighted?

An alien stands inside a bio tank of fluid.

I saw Ready Player One last Sunday and it was a real trip! I know, I said I would have a review of it for you this week, but I decided to postpone it because I felt that something else was more important. It’s concerning the infringement lawsuit filed against the Duffer brothers, creators of the Netflix series Stranger Things.

Filmmaker Charlie Kessler filed a lawsuit against the Duffer brothers claiming that they stole his idea for his short film, “The Montauk Project”, to make Stranger Things. But the Duffers’ lawyer said the brothers never saw Kessler’s film or talked about any projects with him. There are some similarities between it and Stranger Things. Stranger Things is centered around a teenage boy who goes missing in connection with a military laboratory, the top secret experiments performed there and strange phenomenal activity. In “The Montauk Project”, according to the Los Angeles Times, a boy also goes missing after he approaches a closed-down military base that a mysterious force leads him to.

However, neither Kessler’s movie or the Duffers’ series initiated the idea for their stories. Variety reports that the events in both projects come from real-life claims of mysterious activity involving a government facility in Montauk, New York. So is Kessler trying to claim ownership on other people’s claims and alleged experiences? Unless the specific events in both stories are depicted similarly using similar characters, there isn’t much of a case.

I’ll review Ready Player One in the next post. In the mean time, do you think Kessler will have enough evidence to sue the Duffer Brothers?

Until next time . . .

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Book-To-Movie: “The House With a Clock In Its Walls”

An open book, a skull, clock and beaker of foggy liquid.

In this age of Harry Potter, when the YA novel rules, especially in the fantasy and sci fi genres, and when Hollywood exploits the opportunity to adapt it, it should be no surprise that another movie based on a young readers’ book will be coming to theatres soon. This one is called The House With a Clock In Its Walls. The book, by John Bellairs, was published in 1973. However, not until now has a full-length feature film been in the works. The thing that came closest to a movie version of this, unfortunately, little-known novel was a short film which was actually a segment of a late ‘70s made-for-TV Halloween special, Once Upon a Midnight Scary, hosted by Vincent Price. But the book has too much in it to tell the full story in only a less-than-half-hour segment of a one-hour TV special. So it will be very interesting to see how this movie plays out the whole story. Also, there will be plenty of room for more magic and monsters than the TV special could have possibly shown.

The story to House With a Clock: 10-year old Lewis goes to live with his wizard uncle, Johnathon, whose next-door neighbor and lady friend, Ms. Zimmerman, is a witch. Lewis soon discovers that his uncle’s house has a continuously ticking clock hidden in one of the walls. But the loud ticking is the least of the problems with this clock—the clock has been set by an evil force to bring a deadly fate.

I can hardly wait for this movie to release but actually prefer to since, as with the book, there’s a Halloween theme to it. The movie is due for release on September 21st, according to the Internet MovieDatabase (IMDB), just before the season begins and so is near-perfect timing. I just hope it does as well as the trailer makes it look so it can stay in theatres through October.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls Trailer

The House With a Clock In Its Walls is directed by Eli Roth, screen-written by Eric Kripke and stars Jack Black as Uncle Johnathan, Cate Blanchett as Mrs. Zimmerman and Owen Vaccaro as Lewis.

I’m planning to see Ready Player One tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll have a review for you here next week!

Until then . . .

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Alien Easter Eggs, New Life and New Stories

Three aliens standing on a beach and two flying saucers and an egg shaped planet in the background.

One of the funniest Easter moments was when I was six and painted an egg to look like the title character of the movie, Phantom of the Paradise (the ‘70s rock version of Phantom of the Opera). When my family had the Easter egg hunt for us, a cousin of mine, who seemed to always find the most eggs out of all us kids, found the egg I painted. I got mad at her because I wanted to find it first, so I yanked at her basket and shouted, “Give me that! That’s mine! That’s my ‘Phantom’ egg!” My parents stopped me from snagging it, though, thank God! That egg must’ve been my first geeky Easter egg before I even new what a nerd or geek. Unfortunately, no one took a picture of it so I can’t show it to you. But one of the sci fi “Easter Egg” articles in the list I’ve provided below has a photo gallery of some very groovy and geeky eggs!

The egg in both Christian and Pagan cultures has traditionally represented new life. But, in a way, it’s beginning to represent new movies, at least in the term “Easter egg”. The two newest sci fi flicks, Pacific Rim: Uprising and Ready Player One, contain plenty of hidden references and cameos, both known as “Easter eggs”, which are the subjects of the other two articles listed.

A cartoon of a one-eyed, egg-shaped alien head with the narrow end on top.

A List of Geekster Egg Articles

Ready PlayerOne: The Complete Easter Egg Guide” by Andrew Dyce, I haven’t seen the movie yet nor read the book by Earnest Cline. I’ll be sure to see the former, but I’m not sure about reading the latter since it’s over 500 pages and I normally don’t have the attention span for a novel that runs that many pages or more. But if the movie really impresses me (which, based on the trailers I’ve seen and what I’ve read about it, it’s already doing that) I may just tough out the long read. The fascinating thing about this movie is not just the other-worldliness of the VR world called the Oasis, but the big number of Easter eggs it contains. According to this article at Screen Rant, that number is more than 100! Screen Rant even mentions the possibility that the number “could rise into the thousands” since they admit they may not have counted all the eggs. With a possible 100+ number, it makes a person think this movie is perhaps the first blockbuster mashup. So this guide was a clever idea.

9 Easter EggsIn Pacific Rim Uprising” by Blair Marnell, When I started writing this post earlier this afternoon, I didn’t dare read this article because it’s full of spoilers and I hadn’t seen the movie yet. Now that I just got back from seeing the movie I was able to read the article without a problem. And the flick was a way better than most critics have been saying it is. But I have to admit that I didn’t find any Easter eggs in it but that was probably due to me and not the Nerdist’s article. First of all, it’s been several years since I’ve seen the first movie. Second of all, I’m not as robotics nerdy as I thought I was, as much as I love robots. If you haven’t seen the sequel yet, then you may want to wait and then compare what you’ve seen to what the article lists, and not just to make the egg hunt more fun.

12 Sets ofSci-Fi-Themed Eggs That’ll Make Your Easter A Geeky One” by Carol Penchefsky, The above two articles talk about figurative Easter eggs in movies. This article talks about literal Easter eggs that depict characters from movies! And from TV shows and comic books! This is the article that features a photo gallery of these eggs. Many of these are so beautifully painted and creative that you wouldn’t want to eat them, especially the Alien egg (which you probably wouldn’t want to eat to begin with if you’ve seen any of the movies).

New Life, New Story

If Easter eggs represent new life and even new movies in certain cases, maybe they can represent new fiction? I’ve been working on a new short story this past week that I’ve been struggling to find an ending to. And so my goal is to find that ending tonight which I think I already have, I just have to write it out. I won’t go into the details of the story yet but I’ll tell you this much: It’s a retelling of an Edgar Allen Poe story.

So, what’s the strangest or nerdiest Easter egg, literal or reference in a movie, you’ve seen?

Happy Geekster and until next time . . . !

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Do Authors Read Their Own Published Work?

Of course authors have to read their own work in order to revise it. But do they read their own work after it’s been published? To put it another way, do they become one of their readers? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. However, I’m one that doesn’t. I may have only read one of my published stories once and that was probably the first fiction work I published. It’s entitled “Strange Phenomena” which now appears in my short fiction collection, The Fool’s Illusion. Before that, I published it in an anthology of myth themed stories and poems, called Leafkin, Volume 2, which is unfortunately out of print. If I read it in that anthology, if I’m remembering correctly, that’s because I wanted to see how it read in its published format. Since then, I haven’t had time to read my own work post-publication.

In my experience, by the time your story gets published you know it too well to where you don’t want to read it anymore. After the numerous revisions you’ve gone through on a single story, you want to just move on to writing the next one. You nearly know the characters by heart; you are tired of reading their verbal and gestural responses to each other and to situations to the point where they sound phony after you’ve done so much just to make it sound the opposite. Not to mention, you notice all the story’s shortcomings (the few that may had been left behind in the revision process). While this may be a good thing so you can avoid those mistakes when writing your next story, noting them is what book critics, both pro and consumer (such as Amazon customer reviewers) are for.

I was reading a New York Times article the other day that interviewed Steven Spielberg, director of the upcoming film, Ready Player One. He says in the article that he never watches his films after they’ve been made, regardless of their level of success. He says he’s too busy to “look back a lot” and so simply moves on to making the next movie. It’s very true that we should learn from our mistakes and let our successes encourage us to not only move on to attempting more successes but to even better ones. So an author should remember the mistakes of past stories to avoid them in future ones but not put him or herself down over them. When they do that they only set themselves up for failure the next time around and so discouragement from writing more stories.

I’ve had a lot of stories fail and so were never published. When I look back, I think to myself that if I were an editor I probably would toss them in the garbage by the third sentence of each. There have been times when I’ve resented them so much that I wanted to burn them. But my poorest, most rotten of writing is what got me to better writing today. In a certain sense, an author has to fail to succeed. So if one story or book you wrote does bad as reflected in critics’ comments, or low sales, whatever, you simply learn what you did wrong and then go on to the next story or book and make it better.

It may help some authors to read their work after it’s been published so they can do better in their next writing project. But, whatever an author does, the most important thing is to write the next story. It’s the only way you will get better at writing stories, by continuing to write them.

Fellow authors, do you read your stories after they’ve been published? Readers, do you know whether any of your favourite authors do this? If so, which ones?

Until next time . . .

A four-eyed alien humanoid grins while a man walks from a landed rocket.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons