Saturday, June 20, 2015

WE HAVE A WINNER!!!

I went to Inside Out kicking and screaming.

Ever since John Lassiter re-added Disney to his resume, Pixar's gone downhill in my book, plus, a touching movie about the intricate workings inside a little girl's head just didn't sound all that exciting, so, yes, I really wasn't interested in seeing Inside Out.

Okay, yeah, it's sitting at 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and yes, it's got a good cast of successful comedians, but a movie about a little girl's emotions?

Inside Out is AMAZING!  It's funny.  It's emotional.  It has so many, many insights into human emotion.  Oh, and it's probably the most creative cartoon I have ever seen.

And here's the big confession: I LIKED IT BETTER THAN WRECK-IT RALPH.  coming from an old-school arcade addict like me, that's a strong endorsement

Here's my spoiler-free synopsis.  Riley is a little girl with the embodiments of five emotions living in her head--Joy, Disgust, Sadness, Anger, and Fear.  She lives in a world in which everyone has the same personified emotions living in their heads as well.  These emotions interact with each other, and the outcomes of their interactions determine how Riley will react to the world around her.

It's all pretty swell and then things go wrong.

The voice acting in this movie is sensational.  Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) is the voice of Joy.  Phyllis Smith (The Office) is Sadness.  Mindy Kaling (also from The Office) is Disgust.  SNL stud Bill Hader is Fear.  Lewis Black (whom I really don't know) is Anger.   All of these actors played their parts perfectly.

But I want to mention one more voice actor, Richard Kind, possibly the most overlooked man in all of Hollywood by design.  Richard Kind is a character actor who plays the ready-made victim, the BETA male, the guy no one ever notices.  Fortunately, movie and TV producers have been noticing Kind for years and he's popped up in everything from the recurring role of Harvey Corman in Scrubs to Clark in the Alaska Airlines radio ads, to Max Klein in Argo... and he's always perfect.  In Inside Out he plays a strange character named "Bing Bong," and he's perfect.

Anyway, I give Inside Out an A+.  It is my pick for the best movie of the summer so far.  I will be shocked if any other movie comes close this summer or this year.  It's a lock for best animated movie in the Oscars, and I hope it gets nominated for "Best Picture" as well.

Pictures of actors all taken from IMDB.

Picture of Bing Bong taken from Big Shiny Robot.

Picture of Disgust, Fear, Joy, Sadness, Anger taken from Neogaf

Picture of Riley and family taken from Fox3Now

Picture of Inside Out poster taken from IMDB







Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer Movie Scorecard

Such a summer for big movies.  The big names just keep coming and coming and almost all of them are disappointing, not bad, but disappointing.  

Look, last summer was amazing.  It started out with a phenomenal X-Men movie followed by a decent Captain America.  Okay, yes, I have left out Divergent, Noah, and Godzilla, all memories I wish to expunge from my memory.  But just when I thought the summer couldn't get any better, Tom Cruise, surprised the world with Edge of Tomorrow, a movie I consider a masterpiece, partially because of Mr. Cruise's excellent work.

And this year, well, let's just say that Hollywood seems to have shifted gears into neutral.

For me, the summer kicked off with Tomorrowland, an incredibly forgettable Disney yarn about a futuristic society that may exist in a parallel universe or maybe in the future, who can really tell.  Like many Disney movies, Tomorrowland centers around an apparently normal kid who, for reasons unapparent to the audience, is able to make prosaic statements that help far more intelligent adults solve galactic-sized problems.
As you may have guessed, Tomorrowland includes a lot of nice visuals, all kinds of CG, and more than a few visual homages to the Tomorrowland found in Disney theme parks.  I enjoyed those homages because I adore Disney theme parks, but I found the movie a bit quaint.

I'll give Tomorrowland a C+.
Avengers: Age of Ultron

Ultron is a robot with lips.  Why in the world would anyone place lips on a robot?
I mean, in the Holy name of Asimov, why oh why place lips on robots!  The best robots don't even need lips to express emotion.  I can prove this with one word--BENDER.  Nuff said.
Ultron's egregious lips sort of sum up the entire movie for me--interesting when I watched it but ultimately meaningless.

My favorite part of Age of Ultron was actually Andy Serkis's brief but charismatic appearance as a South African arms trader named Ulysses Klau.  Serkis is amazing.  it doesn't matter whether he is a twisted hobbit, a brilliant chimpanzee,  or a mercenary, this actor always steals the show!

SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER
Skip to the next movie unless you have already seen Age of Ultron, and even then you may want to skip ahead!

About the only meaningful thing to come out of Age of Ultron are the new Avengers--Red Witch, Vision, Rhodes as Iron Man-2 and Hawk, whom we met in Winter Soldier.  As it ends, the movie drops hints that Iron Man, Hulk, and even Thor may possibly go on hiatus, and that this new B-team may be handling the action in the foreseeable future.

The B-team is powerful.  According to Iron Man, Vision is more powerful than all of the original Avengers combined.  The amazing Red Witch can levitate, control objects and mess with people's heads, but I gotta tell you, the idea of this new B-team headlining a movie sounds dull, dull, dull.

If that really is the new direction the Avengers are taking, I guess I'm through with this thrill ride.
I give Avengers 2: Age of Ultron a B.

San Andreas

Word to the wise, whenever possible, go to movies having low expectations.  You'll often be pleasantly surprised.

I went to San Andreas expecting silliness and great CG.  You know what I got, silliness and great CG... plus a reminder that Dwayne Johnson really is a remarkable star.  He may be as big as the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, but there's no denying his air of intelligence, and he has a knack for comedy.




In fact, all of the acting is good.  Paul Giamatti is great, per his usual, as the geologist who figures it all out .  Carla Gugino is good as Johnson's ex-wife.  If you ever get over Alexandra Daddario's incredible figure and distracting blue eyes, you may notice she's a good enough actress.  Ioan Gruffudd (whom I only know from the not so fantastic Fantastic Four movies) make a great step-father character.

SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER
Skip to the next movie unless you have already seen San Andreas, and even then you may want to skip ahead!

What isn't so intelligent about San Andreas is the science.  California nearly slips into the sea and guess who gets struck by the tsunami... California!  Yup, in this world earthquakes suck tsunamis in rather than sending them out.  Who knew!  Oh, oh, and once the tsunami strikes, places remain underwater.  It turns out tsunamis aren't simply waves, they establish a new and persistent water level--about ten stories up!

Growing up in Hawaii, I never learned any of this.

Okay, so the science is backwards, but do we really go to disaster flicks to learn about tsunamis?  Based on the good CG, the charismatic cast, and the fact that this movie kept me interested for the entire time, I give San Andreas a B+.


Jurassic World

I wasn't all that impressed with Jurassic World as a movie, but boy howdy are the posters ever great!

I mean, these may be the coolest and most exciting posters in Hollywood history.

Go to any theater and you're bound to see them.  There's the one with the Alluring Bryce Dallas Howard staring out a window into the nostrils of an enormous indominus rex.  There's a great poster of a young boy standing at the window of an aquarium watching a new and enormous water dinosaur eating a helpless white shark; that's pretty amazing.  There's also a poster of Chris Pratt riding a motorcycle flanked by raptors.

So the posters are great, but I found the movie is so-so.


Not everything in this movie was special effects, though most of it seems to have come out of a computer.  One fact that emerges is that Chris Pratt is Hollywood's brightest star.  He handles action better than Arnold Schwarzenegger, comedy with the timing of a Steve Carell, and, despite his new muscle-toned physique, does it all with the any-man vibe that made Tom Hanks so successful.

All of the acting was fine in this movie.  Bryce Dallas Howard was fine.  Vincent D'Onofrio was fine.  The actors playing the Mitchell boys were fine.  So were their parents.  So were the dinosaurs.


SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER
Skip to the next movie unless you have already seen Mad Max: Fury Road, and even then you may want to skip ahead!

The problem with Jurassic World is that in an effort to justify themselves, the script writers threw everything including the kitchen sink into their story.  Here are just some of the storylines this movies chucks at you:

Marsani, who has taken over all things Jurassic from the late John Hammand is a nice, good-hearted Indian answer to Richard Branson--not only good hearted, but one of the richest men in the world and a real thrill seeker.  With all of his money, he doesn't care about losing money on Jurassic World as long as he can thrill the guests of his Jurassic World theme park.  Little does he know that Dr. Wu, his chief genetic scientist, is secretly working for InGen, a pseudo-military firm with plans for turning dinosaurs into mercenaries.

In the meantime, Karen and Scott Mitchell are in the throes of a secret divorce, so they send their teenage sons, Grey and Zach, to visit Auntie Claire who runs Jurassic World while they end their marriage behind the boys back.  Zach, the older son, is a self-absorbed bully who you kind of hope will end up as dinosaur food while Grey is a more than willing victim, and Claire who is too busy to bother with nephews pawns the boys off on Zara her assistant.

Claire has problems of her own.  Not only does she have sexual tension with Owen, the former Navy man who Marasani has hired as a dinosaur trainer, but it turns out running an island resort/dinosaur theme park is actually a demanding job, especially because the profits are rising far more slowly than projected.

None of this would matter in the least except that the Indominus Rex escapes from its holding cell and uses all of the brilliant mercenary abilities Dr. Wu built into it on InGen's request meaning it's smart, camouflages itself like a cuttlefish, and hides from heat detection like a tree frog.

Ah, but don't worry.  This is Spielberg--survive the billionaire's bad helicopter driving, the industrial espionage, the rampaging dinosaurs and everything ends up GREAT!

So waht's my problem?  Early in the movie, Auntie Claire bemoans the sour evolution of her park attendees by pointing out that dinosaurs aren't enough anymore; crowds need bigger, more fierce, more scary animals.  Apparently the makers of this movie feel the same way about movie goers.  Dinosaurs aren't enough anymore.  Spielberg and company, and Claire by extension, answered our dwindling attention spans by inventing a new and more terrifying dinosaur--indominus rex.  Personally, I think a more focused storyline would have done the trick.

I give Jurassic World a B-.

Mad Max: Fury Road

I haven't actually seen this movie, but it has the great Tom Hardy and I hear amazing, and since I need to give some movie a good grade, I will give Mad Ma: Fury Road an A+.









Sunday, May 17, 2015

THANK YOU KEVIN WATTERS

Hey guys.

I've been meaning to write a bit about Age of Ultron, but these have been busy days of late.  I will post my Avengers 2 impressions, promise.

In the meantime, Sad Sam's reader Kevin Watters asked a really good question on my "Final Visit To Spoiler Town" post.  He asked:

Steve, is there any way you know of to get your Novella The Sixth Ship without having to buy the Titan version of "The Clone Apocalypse' - since I already bought the American version - reluctant to but the same book again...... Is it available in e-book format? Or- if it is I'd pay about the same as just getting the Titan copy I bet? 


If the Wayson Harris novels you have read looked like these books to the right, then the odds are pretty strong that you have not seen the Wayson Harris short stories that were published in the British version of these novels.

The British versions look like these books to the left.

You know what?  I'm pretty sure I own those stories outright.  I promised Titan several months of exclusivity, but that term has ended, so here is what I'm thinking... how about I package those stories as WAYSON HARRIS STORIES and release them all together on Amazon for $.99.

What do you think?

That would include:
How I Met Arthur Dent on a Deserted Road in Idaho (more about me than Wayson, sorry)
Not Without Honor (a coming of age story about Ray Freeman)
Your Days Have Been Numbered (a story about cloning technology)
The Last Days of White Magic (The technology used to resurrect Sweetwater and Breeze)
The Fitting End (A story that has been on this blog but is removed)
A Day At Marveland (Young Wayson goes to future Disney--a story recently removed from this blog)
The Sixth Ship (A long story that ties up a major loose thread from Clone Apocalypse)

I figure were probably looking at 100 maybe 150 pages for $.99.

What do you think?
Kevin, any opinion?
Remember, I have to make sure I have the rights free and clear.


UPDATE**UPDATE**UPDATE**UPDATE**UPDATE

I will post links once the pages are up, but here the cover


Link to purchase this book:

My apologies to those of you who, like me, own a Nook.  Despite my best efforts, I was unable to upload the file on the Barnes and  Noble website.



Monday, April 27, 2015

Wayson's Last Face

The German versions of Harris books use the artwork Titan created for the British books.  It's always possible that Hayakawa Publishing will release more books, but in the meantime, this may well be our last look at Wayson Harris--the cover of the GraphicAudio adaptation of The Clone Apocalypse.  I confess, I have been visiting GraphicAudio.net on a daily basis waiting for them to release this.

I love what Ken Jackson and the GraphicAudio gang have done with my books.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ryan and Dave (recently) and many of you long timers have asked "What's next?"

I can't tip my hand just yet, but I think it may see the light of day in 2016 and I really hope that you like it.  I confess, it's not very Wayson, but it has its charm.

Taken from Pixgood.com
(http://pixgood.com/submarine-underwater-side-view.html)

(Limited engagement) Here's a not so short Harris story you U.S. readers may not have seen

Looking for Marveland?  I've got good news and bad news.  The bad news is that I have taken it down.  The good news, barring legal problems,  is that Marveland and several other Wayson Harris short stories will be available on Kindle and Nook shortly.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

KINGSMEN: THE SECRET SERVICE--


I don't have time for a full review right now, but I want to recommend a movie to anyone out there who has not seen it.  Kingsmen: The Secret Service has rightly been described as James Bond meets Kill Bill, and I must say, the results of that meeting are outstanding.

The premise is simple enough--there is a secret organization of clothiers has created a force of international peacekeepers who dress and act like aristocrats and save the world from terror.

In this case, terror comes in the form of an internet billionaire named Valentine with a somewhat homicidal for solving the world's ecological problems.  To say the least, the bulk of humanity would undoubtedly choose global warming and weekly seminars from Al Gore to Valentine's solution.

Valentine is rich and powerful, giving the stodgy Kingsmen like Collin Firth more trouble than their used to, hence they turn to new recruits.

I won't say more about the story except that it combines James Bond cliches with tremendous storytelling to make an all new experience out of what should have been a hackneyed old chestnut.

Collin Firth nails the role Harry hart, the veteran super spy clothier, but it is Samuel Jackson who owns the show.  Playing Valentine, a rich, pampered, idealist with no qualms about mass genocide, Jackson is nothing short of amazing, particularly  as Valentine is entirely unaware of his terrible lisp.  Seeing Jackson in his over-sized baseball cap belting out, "Oh thit!  What ith he doing here?" just doesn't get old.

With this performance, Samuel L. Jackson proves once and for all that he is the heir to the great Gene Hackman--the actor who does everything perfectly, even if he's seldom dominates the marquee.












Sunday, March 15, 2015

In case anybody is looking... I've been pretty inactive for a while

So there's a site out there called "Specking Servers," as in looking at the specifications of network servers.  Here's a picture of the site:





And here is what someone posted on that site: