Lost Season 1 Re-watch : White Rabbit

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We get another “eye-opening” opening (there’s our official motif for this show) of a young Jack being told to stay down on the ground while some older bullies beat up on another kid.  Young Jack-o doesn’t listen and gets popped in the face before older Jack’s name is being called out while staring out into nothing on the beach.

Jack realizes someone is calling out for help in the water and he dives into action (pun uh-thank you).  Once he gets out deeper, he goes under water and comes up with Boone.  Starting to swim back, Boone says he was trying to save her and Jack sees a woman further out calling for help.  Alas, Jack gets back to shore with Boone and goes back out to save the woman.

Turns out a woman named Joanna went out for a swim and couldn’t stay above water pulled out by a riptide.  Jack tells Kate he didn’t try hard enough to save Joanna and while he’s talking to her he sees the man in the suit standing out in the water, waist deep.  Kate can’t see the man though.  So creepy.

Our Plot B storyline focuses on the dwindling water supply and the group’s need to find drinkable water.  We get some minor moments worth calling out:  Sun and Jin continue to be on the outs due to the language barrier; Claire and Kate gab a bit (I hope that’s not insensitive to say; I’ll use it for all genders just in case); Shannon tries to bargain with Sawyer for insect repellant (side note:  Sawyer’s reading Watership Down; books are a big part of the show and appear from time to time with the plot of the book having some kind of influence on the show).

Jack is inundated with people looking to him for leadership and he’s struggling to embrace that role.  Hurley and Charlie get the ball rolling by asking about the water supply.  Add in a brooding Boone telling Jack he could have swam back on his own and Jack should’ve gone after Joanna and Jack’s close to the edge.  The man in the suit appears again and Jack runs into the jungle to confront the creepy apparition.

Flashback:  We’re with young Jack again and he talks to his dad, Christian, who is a surgeon (a son following in his father’s footsteps) and tells Jack he doesn’t have the stuff to be a hero after Jack tells him what happened with the fight at school.  Dad of the Year award nominee right here.  Shift to adult Jack who is told his father’s gone by his mother and is asked to locate his father’s whereabouts.  They haven’t talked for two months due to a falling out, which Jack is alluded to being responsible for.  Where is his dad?  Australia.  Aha!  Jack gets to his dad’s hotel room in Sydney and finds out he hasn’t been there for three days.  There’s plenty of medication bottles and liquor bottles in the room along with his wallet.

Jack reaches the man in the suit who turns around, falls onto the ground, and says, “Dad?”  Uh wut?  How is that happening?  A very creepy-staring Christian says nothing turns around and walks deeper in the jungle and Jack gives chase.

Claire collapses and while Charlie runs to get water, he realizes the stash has been stolen.  After Kate and Sayid take over leadership duties, determined to find the stolen water, Locke offers to go find Jack saying he knows where to look. Sawyer becomes the prime suspect because he’s determined to be the most-hated person in the group.  Kate follows him to where he has his stash of looted goods hidden but discovers he wasn’t behind the water pinch.

Jack’s running like a crazy man in search of his ghost-like dad until he slips and nearly falls to his death off a cliff, grabbing a tree vine for dear life.  Lucky Locke shows up to save him just in time.  We get a great exchange between Locke and Jack here which I’ll try to recap though it’s better on screen.  Jack doesn’t want to be the leader, saying he doesn’t have the stuff to succeed.  Locke asks why Jack’s out in the jungle and finds out Jack is chasing after something to which Locke mentions the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland (our second literary reference!).   Locke says the island is special and different and they all feel it but won’t talk about it.  He says he’s looked into the eye of the island (whatever that means) and he saw something beautiful.

Left to contemplate his predicament, Jack hears the sound of ice clinking in a glass, runs in the direction of the sound, and comes upon a cave where there’s running water and what appears to be items from the plane crash.  Surprising enough, there’s a coffin which happens to be belonging to his father, which he identified in Sydney.  Jack opens it and finds it empty which only extends the mystery of his seeing his father in the jungle.  We  know the island healed Locke’s spinal injury but did the island bring Christian back from the dead?  Difficult to say at this point.

The episode closes out with Claire getting water from Boone of all people and he’s caught by Charlie.  The group starts to turn on Boone, realizing he stole the water but not to be a jerk, instead seeing it as an opportunity to take charge seeing as how it was left out in the open.  Jack shows up before the mob can string up the noose (not really of course) to tell everyone Boone risked his life for Joanna that morning and now they’re ready to crucify him.  He tells them he found water and shelter.  He delivers his famous, “If we can’t live together, we’re gonna die alone,” speech and assumes his role as leader, somehow coming to the conclusion that he does have the stuff to lead.

A very solid episode and one I really like.  The mystery of the island expands and we get more character beats that help define who these people are.  The Jack and Locke interaction alone make the episode strong.

Next we look at Sun’s first centric episodes.  I originally thought I would cover two episodes in each of the following posts until we got to the end of the re-watch.  This isn’t likely to happen unless I want to extend my capacity and write three thousand word posts.  So, I’ve decided to do one episode a post until the end.  That means I’ll be writing about Lost until the end of November.  Hope you’re in it till the end with me!

Lost Season 1 Re-watch: Walkabout

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Things start with another eye opening (one more time of this and we got ourselves a motif!).  This time it belongs to our backgammon-loving bald man, John Locke.  We’re back on the beach with him during the first minutes of the crash on the island.  Locke seems perplexed by the situation and pays special attention to his foot for some reason.  We’re pulled back into the present at night with some kind of ruckus taking place in the camp.  Turns out the island has a boar problem and now the survivors have to deal with it.

After four days of no sign of rescue, Jack leads the discussion of burning the fuselage along with the bodies of the dead inside.  He gets some push back from Sayid who believes it would be disrespectful to the dead to treat their remains in this way but Jack is not swayed knowing the boars will continue to be a problem along with the bodies getting nice and rotten inside.  Burning them and the fuselage seems to be wise both for health reasons and doing so at night makes for a very large fire that could be seen from the ocean.

Things are getting bad in the group as the food supply has run low save for peanuts which Hurley and Sawyer are arguing over.  We get a fun exchange and while Sawyer takes a seat in some plane seats, a rather large knife flies into the seat next to him.

Turns out, our good friend, Locke, has checked a case of more large knives and managed to recover them from the crash (that’s lucky and convenient!).  Locke reveals he’s got quite the bevy of knowledge about boars and how to hunt them which leads us to believe he’s quite the hunter/adventurer.

In what I’ll call “Plot B” of the episode, Sayid has a plan to set up antennas to triangulate the source of the French woman’s distress signal.  He believes there must be a significant power source in order for the signal to be playing for 16 years.  Kate agrees and wants to help him so she offers to go with Locke on the boar hunt.  Jack makes an observation that Kate doesn’t appear to like to stay in one place too long which makes sense from what we know of her life before the island.

Michael joins the hunt in order to get to know Locke better since Walt has taken to calling Locke his friend.  Michael asks Sun to watch Walt in a pretty comedic way of using hand gestures and talking slowly hoping she’ll understand.  The rest of the survivors are collecting what they can of the wreck in preparation to burn the fuselage.

Flashback:  Locke answers a phone and talks with another person as if they are involved in some kind of military operation.  He is interrupted by what appears to be a supervisor and we see Locke is actually sitting in an office cubicle that appears very common.  Locke and a co-worker are playing a Risk-like game during their lunch break and the supervisor from earlier, whose name is Randy, shows up and mocks Locke, asking what a “walkabout” is after taking a brochure from his desk.  We learn that Locke has scheduled to go on a walkabout in Australia and Randy questions his ability to do so.  Locke tells Randy, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do” which will become a motto for him in episodes to come.

Locke talks to a woman named Helen on the phone and he invites her to go with him to Australia but we learn quickly that Helen is part of some kind of call service and Locke pays $89.95 an hour (yeesh, that’s costly) to talk to her which apparently he’s been doing for several months.  She refuses his invitation and we’re left with a bereft Locke and a man who seems to have very unhealthy relationships (as far as we can tell).

Some very minor threads are taking place on the beach in which Claire asks Jack to speak some words while they burn the fuselage but he refuses, Sayid gets a letter and pictures of a woman he thought were lost in the crash, Shannon tries to prove she can fend for herself and manipulates Charlie to catch her a fish (we also get a great comedic scene of him recruiting Hurley to help him), and Boone asks Jack to go speak to Rose, the woman he saved on the beach, as she sits off in the distance staring out into the ocean.

Locke gives Kate and Michael a lesson in boar hunting.  We learn Michael wasn’t a part of Walt’s life until two weeks prior when his mother passed away (this explains the lack of relationship between the two).  They are surprised and attacked by a boar.  Michael gets wounded while Locke is on his back in shock before he looks at his foot again (okay…why?).  Kate tells Locke they need to stop and get Michael back to the camp but Locke continues, giving us his favorite line, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do.”

Kate and Michael stop so she can put the antenna up in a tree but drops it when the monster roars and notices the trees moving in the direction of Locke (I swear this thing is a dinosaur).  Just as Locke comes across the boars, the monster arrives and while we don’t see it (sneaky sneaky show.  Not cool), we do see Locke’s bewildered reaction to it (such a tease).

Obviously wanting to stay away from the fuselage and people’s requests, Jack spends time with Rose and while he thinks she can honor her husband who was on the flight but in the tail section that broke off midair, Rose denies her husband being dead.  Jack struggles with this but they agree to head back to the others as the sun sets.  In the distance, Jack sees a man in a suit off in the distance watching him.  Freaky…

Kate gets back with Michael but believes the monster got Locke.  The antenna is broken and Sayid is frustrated but willing to try again.  While talking to Kate, Jack sees the man in the suit again and runs into the jungle but he finds a blood-covered Locke instead who has bagged himself a hefty-sized boar (bacon in the morning!).

The fuselage is burning and the group honors the dead the best way they can (mostly saying names and sharing whatever info could be found in their luggage).  Michael asks Locke if he saw the monster and Locke says he saw nothing (such a liar!).

Flashback:  Locke is in Australia and being told he cannot take part in the walkabout.  He argues and is told he neglected to speak of his condition and cannot take part in the experience.  As the bus leaves, Locke turns around in a wheelchair.  WHAT?!  He screams about destiny and “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”  Shift back to the plane crash on the beach and Locke is somehow healed of whatever injury confined him to a wheelchair.  Amazing!!!

Okay, I love this episode.  Please watch it if you haven’t.  My recap and review don’t do it justice.  We get a great introduction to an amazing character who has an interesting backstory and while his previous life has some questions that need answering, we also learn that the island has somehow healed Locke.

Next episode focuses on Jack and we get some info on the man in the suit.  Feel free to watch ahead and remember to leave comments about your favorite moments in the episode!  Thanks!

Lost Season 1 Re-watch: Tabula Rasa

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Before I get started with the episode breakdown, I wanted to point something out.  This show has a lot of characters and a lot of plot lines.  Throw in the Flashback scenes which come and go, interwoven throughout the episode, and there are a lot of things to cover and call out.  I am going to play with how I format each episode depending on the focus character, which in this episode is Kate, and the other sub-storylines.  I want to avoid a play-by-play format (I know I did this for the pilot episodes but that was intentional to introduce characters) and make the post an easy read.  Onto the episode!

As I said, this episode is Kate-centric.  We know she’s a criminal of sorts being handcuffed on the plane and being escorted by a U.S. Marshall.  We get some answers but are left in the shadows a bit as well.  Jack is told she’s dangerous by the marshall who is in a bad way due to his injuries.  Told to go through the marshall’s pockets, Jack finds a mugshot print out and Jack’s got some obvious conflicting feelings towards Kate.  Hurley finds the mugshot because Jack is the worst hider ever and warns Hurley that it’s none of their business and not to be worried (oh those feelings are gonna bite you, Jack-o).

Kate’s still with the hiking party and as darkness falls, they decide to set up camp.  These scenes were good for character dynamics as we see Sayid try to make sense of where their island might be in the world.  He’s a smart guy and also knows that if they share what they discovered, they could erase the hope of the survivors which could be detrimental in the long run.  Sawyer on the other hand is more concerned with what the French woman’s distress transmission means.  He also aptly gives Kate a new nickname: Freckles (we’ll see that Sawyer has an affinity for nicknames and some are not so nice).

In the middle of the night while everyone’s asleep, Boone decides he’s going to take watch but makes a mistake by taking the gun off Sawyer and the bullets off Sayid.  Bad blood brews and Shannon suggests Kate should be the one to hold both gun and ammo (remember, none of them know what we know about her being a criminal).  Quick note:  We also learned Oceanic flight 815 was bound for Los Angeles, which isn’t that important but good to know.

Flashback:  This episode’s flashback reveals Kate was nowhere near Sydney (where flight 815 took off from) and sleeping in a sheep pen.  The farmer, Ray, gives her a job and a room to help him work the farm, which she does for an undisclosed amount of time.  Kate isn’t the type to stay in the same place for too long and tries to leave in the middle of the night before Farmer Ray offers to drive her to the nearest train station.  It’s a ruse though as our good friend the U.S. Marshall shows up during the drive.  Turns out Farmer Ray couldn’t pass up a $23,000 reward for turning Kate in.  Kate grabs the wheel of Farmer Ray’s truck and they wreck.  She could have got away from the scene but Kate saves Ray, gets caught, and we’re left wondering how bad she could be for doing such a selfless act.

When the hikers arrive at the beach, Sayid tells everyone they need electrical equipment to boost the signal of the transceiver.  He takes charge and begins to organize groups to collect water and ration food.  Kate feels the need to tell Jack the truth about the French woman’s transmission and he gives her a chance to come clean about her outlaw life but she doesn’t give in.

Still focused on saving the marshall, Jack goes into the fuselage to search for stronger antibiotics.  While in there, we get our first one on one interaction between him and Sawyer who was looting for what he thought valuable: cigarettes, alcohol, and other accouterments.  This exchange is valuable because we see something between both men and Kate.  There’s a dynamic there that offers up a noteworthy love triangle in the making.

Some of the minor threads of the episode focus on our other survivors.  Claire and Charlie seem to be forming a bond.  Jin shows affection towards Sun, which is surprising given his previous moments with her.  Michael and Walt continue to have their issues which Walt attributes to Michael’s inability to find his dog, Vincent.  Probably the most interesting thread though is Locke’s carving a whistle (that’s some ingenuity right there), calling Vincent to him, and then letting Michael get the credit for reuniting a dog and his boy.

The end of the episode intensifies as Kate confronts the marshall, he wakes up, and tries to strangle her.  Jack arrives just in time to stop the struggle and tells Kate he saw the mugshot.  Kate presses Jack asking him to put the marshall out of his misery but Jack refuses saying he is not a murderer and off-handedly insinuates to Kate that she is (a curious implication since he doesn’t know for sure what her crimes were).

Hurley warns Jack he saw Kate strapped with a gun and Jack rushes to the tent but finds Kate walking away.  However, a gunshot rings through the night, which is followed by Sawyer leaving the tent, making it clear he did what Jack wouldn’t.  Then come the sounds of the marshall coughing inside.  Sawyer failed Anatomy 101 because while aiming for the marshall’s heart, he missed and the poor man is suffering worse than before.  Jack, thankfully, ends the marshall’s suffering and man was that heavy drama.

The episode closes out with Jack telling Kate that their old lives don’t matter.  They all have a clean slate (tabula rasa) so to speak.  That’s a curious statement because if a rescue comes, you can be sure she wouldn’t be suddenly forgiven of her crimes.

All in all, I liked the episode.  We get some answers about Kate and we see relationships building.  No real mysteries were raised or solved.  A solid episode nonetheless.

Next time we get our first Locke episode “Walkabout” and it’s by far one of my favorite episodes of Lost all time.

Lost Season 1 Re-watch: Pilot Part 1 and 2

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Eye opening!  We see a man in a suit waking up in a jungle, surprised by a labrador (golden retriever?) who eventually runs off.  Obviously confused and likely injured, the man in the suit moves his way out of the surrounding jungle—the camera stays ominously on a single shoe hanging in a tree.  Creepy.

Once out of the jungle, the man in the suit finds himself near a beach.  Screams and the sound of an engine draw him to a scene of chaos where part of the fuselage of a plane has crashed on the beach.  Our unnamed hero goes into action helping those he can including a pregnant woman and another woman who’s not breathing.  After quite a bit of action and an explosion we learn the man in the suit’s name is Jack.  (Side note: while we learn the names of characters throughout the episode, I’ll be naming them as we get to their scenes and interactions.)

Jack searches for needle and thread and heads off away from the other survivors as things calm down a bit.  Pulling a little bottle of alcohol from his jacket, we see Jack’s got himself a nasty cut along his ribs.  A woman—Kate—stumbles out of the jungle and he asks her for help.  They banter a bit and she helps sew Jack up.  Dare I say a romance could eventually bud between the pair?  We also learn Jack’s a doctor but this seems obvious after he talked to the pregnant lady and saved the woman not breathing.

Kate mentions to Jack that he doesn’t seem afraid and Jack tells her about how he messed up a spinal surgery during his residency and fear crashed into him as he realized his mistake but he decided in that moment to give fear only a few moments before counting to five and fixing the surgery mistake.  How can you not like Jack after this?!  We got ourselves a natural leader.

We are introduced to more characters next as Sayid is building a signal fire and asks Charlie for help.  Charlie writes F-A-T-E on pieces of tape around each of his fingers and Sayid mentions a rescue should have come by then as night falls.  We are also introduced to Boone and Shannon where the former thinks they could be on the island for a while and the latter mentions the plane having a black box and a rescue will arrive at any moment.  Next comes the lovable Hurley who gives food to Claire, who is the pregnant woman.  Finally, we meet Michael and his son Walt, followed by Korean husband and wife, Jin and Sun, with Jin instructing Sun not to interact with the other survivors.

Jack is examining a wounded man whose unconscious and has a gnarly piece of shrapnel in his gut.  Kate mentions that he was sitting next to her in the plane.  Jack talks about the turbulence and blacking out before waking up in the jungle but Kate describes how the plane broke apart in midair.  Jack tells Kate that he’s thinking about going to find the cockpit to find a transceiver.  Kate says she saw smoke deeper into the jungle and a mission is afoot!

As the survivors wait in the dark, a loud, alarming sound comes from within the jungle and yeah, it’s a freaky sound.  Trees are moving and automatically it’s hard not to think of the T-Rex from Jurassic Park.  What’s stranger about the growls though is that it sounds mechanical at times.  (Side note:  There were commercials for the show seeing as it ran on ABC so it definitely takes advantage of stops and starts.)

We get our first flashback (coming out of the commercial break) and it takes place on the plane before the turbulence hits.  Remember, flashbacks are a big part of this show.  Jack is interacting with a flight attendant getting his buzz on with those little bottles of alcohol (he got an extra one from the flight attendant which might have saved his life as he put that one in his jacket pocket and later used it to clean his rib wound).  He gets up from his seat and Charlie moves past him rather quickly while being pursued by the flight attendants.  Jack talks to the woman, Rose, he saved who wasn’t breathing.  Next, the plane goes all shaky shaky.  People fly out of their seats and this flight is going down.

Back on the island the next morning, the survivors are discussing the scary jungle sounds and whatever the “monster” is that was making them.  Jack and Kate are getting ready to leave to find the cockpit but first Kate has to collect shoes from the dead.  She gets a very creepy smile from another survivor who smiles with an orange peel in his mouth (more on him later).

Michael is sitting around with his son Walt joined by Charlie, Shannon, Boone, and Hurley.  The group is talking about random things before Hurley brings up doing something about the bodies of the dead which he hilariously misspells to save young Walt from the horror of the dead.  Jack and Kate show up and mention their mission and ask the others to keep an eye on the wounded while he’s gone.  Charlie mentions his going with Jack and Kate, not wanting to sit about all day (what else is there to do on a beach waiting for rescue?).

Our three heroes head off and Kate recognizes Charlie from somewhere where he reveals his being in a band called Driveshaft, which has a well-known hit.  Jack’s less impressed (he doesn’t strike me as the rock music listening type).

Back on the beach with the others, a downpour occurs and the trees start moving again, announcing the monster is back.

Jack, Kate, and Charlie find the cockpit propped up against the trees during the downpour.  They investigate and find the pilot alive who tells them they were off course and any rescue attempt is looking in the wrong place.  The pilot tries the transceiver but it doesn’t work.  We also learn there were 48 survivors and they’ve been on the island for 16 hours.  Just to call out a point of interest, numbers are a big deal in this show.  They show up often and act as references and connections, which we’ll see more of as we get deeper into the show.  I’ll do my best to call these out when they happen.

The monster arrives, making its strange sounds and in a very gruesome way, the pilot is killed, ripped from the broken windshield as he (stupidly) climbs out to see what the monster is.  Jack, Kate, and Charlie make a run for it (Jack wisely grabs the transceiver) and get separated (a recipe for certain death in any horror movie).  Kate hides in a tree and counts to five before trying to find Jack and Charlie.  She finds Charlie and they see something in a reflection of a puddle after the rains stops.  Jack arrives and says its the pilot and they see the pilot’s bloody body has been left up high in the trees (not Predator style but pretty close).  Gross.  But at least they have a transceiver!

Except it doesn’t work…

End of Part 1.  Onto Part 2!

Jack, Kate, and Charlie are returning to survivor beach, seeming to be in no real rush which is odd considering what they just encountered with the monster killing the pilot.  To each their own, I suppose.  Kate asks what Charlie was doing in the bathroom (I failed to mention this happening previously) while they were in the cockpit and he says he got sick and was a bit of a coward.

Flashback:  In the plane before the crash, Charlie is acting very antsy and not looking all that great, sweating and fidgeting.  He sets off some alarms in the flight attendants and he proceeds to the bathroom where he moves past Jack (remember when we saw that last episode?) and crawls over Shannon and Boone in their seats as well.  Once in the bathroom, Charlie removes his shoe and grabs a baggy of something.  Drugs (good job TSA!).  He gets his fix just as the turbulence strikes.

To the present, Shannon is sunbathing (because why not) and her and Boone argue about helping around the “camp”.  Claire is there and we find out Boone is Shannon’s brother.  Claire mentions she hasn’t felt the baby move since the day before (bummer…).

Jin is fishing for sea urchin (is it still considered fishing if he’s just collecting them from shallow pools?) while Sun watches.  Michael shows up asking if they’ve seen Walt.  Sun speaks in Korean and Jin says something to her and she buttons up the top button of her shirt.  This marriage dynamic is raising a few flags.  Walt is out looking for his dog, Vincent, and finds handcuffs (uh oh! that’s not good!).  Michael finds Walt soon after and we get a good look at their relationship and there’s some contention there between them (the show does a good job of introducing these character relations and providing answers slowly rather than all at once).

Sayid and another survivor—Sawyer—are fighting (fisticuffs in action).  Bad blood  between them is due to Sayid  being blamed for the plane crash by Sawyer because he is of Middle Eastern descent (reminder, the show started shortly after 9/11).  Jack and Kate get in the mix and Michael tells them about the handcuffs and Sawyer accusing Sayid of being the one handcuffed. Jack and Kate tell everyone they found the cockpit and the transceiver omitting the part about the pilot being alive and then killed by the monster.  They ask if anyone can fix the transceiver.  Sayid says he can and Sawyer is quick to question trusting him.  Hurley talks to Sayid away from the group and we learn Sayid was a communications officer with the Iraqi Republican Guard during the Gulf War.

Kate and Sayid talk next and he shares that the transceiver needs to be used on higher ground.  Queue the adventure music as they look to the mountains of the island, knowing a hike is in order.

Kate checks with Jack about the man with shrapnel.  Jack knows time is running out for the man if they don’t get rescued.  She tells Jack that a hiking expedition is going to take place and Jack tells her to run if she hears or sees anything (probably referencing the monster).

We get a brief moment between Jin and Sun and see Jin’s quite the jerk to her.  There’s still a sense of mystery involving them, which we will get answers to soon.  Jin takes prepared sea urchin to Hurley as food.  Hurley refuses leaving us with a comedic moment (Hurley provides a great deal of comedic moments in this show).

Walt is looking through a comic book (looks like a Justice League comic with a polar bear in it) but can’t read it because it’s written in Spanish.  Michael approaches and tries to have a conversation and tells Walt that they can get another dog when they get home and Walt takes off (it’s sore subject).  Jack is searching through some baggage and asks Michael about Walt and we find out that Michael isn’t so sure of Walt’s age at first (interesting…).  Michael mentions the dog and Jack says he saw it in the jungle.

Shannon and Boone get into a fight and Shannon decides she’s going to go on the hike with Sayid and Kate to prove she’s not worthless to the group.  Boone tags along and so do Charlie and Sawyer who we see is reading what looks like a letter of some sorts before joining (more on that later).  Cue the adventure music!

Walt comes across the survivor who smiled at Kate with the orange peal in his mouth (remember him) playing backgammon (somehow that survived the crash).  The man’s name is John Locke and they have a conversation where we learn Walt’s mom died (we also learn that the plane was traveling from Sydney, Australia).  Locke tells Walt about backgammon and how it’s the oldest game in the world.  Locke explains that there are two players and two sides—one light and the dark.  Finally, Locke asks Walt if he wants to know a secret.  This exchange comes off creepy at first but trust me there are no ill intentions here.

In a small moment, Jin continues his offer of urchin to the other survivors and Claire agrees to eat some.  This causes the baby to kick!  Yay!  Jin has a priceless reaction too.

Jack asks Hurley to help him find antibiotics and also lends Jack his help with the man with shrapnel.  We get some more comedic moments with Hurley when Jack pulls the shrapnel out and Hurley passes out.

Back with the hikers, an argument ensues in the jungle and the group is interrupted by a very loud growl.  Is it the monster?  Doesn’t sound the same but something is coming closer to them and at a fast speed.  Everyone runs except Sawyer.  Gunshots sound off and everyone discovers that Sawyer killed a polar bear.  Yep, a polar bear in the jungle.  The shock of the dead bear wears off as Kate asks Sawyer where he got a gun.  Sawyer reveals he took it off a U.S. Marshall.

Sayid thinks Sawyer is the prisoner on the plane and while he’s distracted, Kate takes the gun.  She asks how to unload it and Sayid instructs her.  Kate gives the gun back to Sawyer and he grabs her saying he knows her type—girls just like her.

Flashback:  Kate and the passenger—shrapnel man—sitting next to her are talking but not as friends or even acquaintances (she made it sound like they were strangers to Jack).  Big reveal!  We learn that Kate was handcuffed and shrapnel man is the U.S. Marshall.  Turbulence starts and we see the plane break apart in midair.

The marshall comes to while Jack is working on him, grabs Jack by the collar, and asks “Where is she?”

The hikers finally turn on the transceiver and get a transmission that blocks them from sending anything out.  It’s a recorded message with a strange robotic voice saying “iteration” and then a number followed by a French woman speaking.  Shannon knows some French and translates the message as a distress call saying everyone’s dead, something killed them, and the French woman needs help.  Sayid does the math and estimates the recorded message has been on a loop for 16 years.

Charlie aptly asks, “Guys, where are we?”

End of episode!

Okay, so if you watched the episodes or are familiar with them, there are very memorable moments, which I try to call out in the pics I use.  I’ll be doing this quite a bit because these are also things that become symbols and/or motifs in the show.  Very important as we explore the mysteries of the island.

The mysteries are big.  What’s the monster on the island?  What happened to the French woman?  How has her message been playing for sixteen years?  Then we have the mysteries with the characters.  What’s Kate’s story?  What’s the story behind the contentious relationships between Michael and Walt and Jin and Sun?  Mysteries are important to the show’s appeal and the characters themselves.

Let me know your thoughts and please remember to keep these posts SPOILER FREE.  I’ll remove your post quickly if you let anything slip.  Focus your comments on the episode itself.

Forever Rewatchable: Dumb and Dumber

posted in: Film/TV, Sunday Levity | 0

Want to hear the most annoying sound in the world?How could I not include this 1994 comedy gem in my “Forever Rewatchable” movies?  As with any of the movies I like to focus on in these posts, quotability seems to be a must.  Dumb and Dumber, directed by the Farrelly Brothers, almost dares you not to quote the film while viewing.  Side note: This acts as a Sunday Levity post as well.


I’m pretty sure I saw Dumb and Dumber in the mid-90s at my aunt and uncle’s.  It was not a movie my parents would have condoned so it’s very likely I saw it while hanging out with my cousin or other friends.  At that time, it had what I needed to be entertained, introducing me to more adult humor than I was accustomed with.  There was enough silliness that a teenager could be entertained but the older I get, the more I appreciate the comedy overall in the film.

As with Tommy Boy, this is a road trip adventure and serves up an awesome blend of wit and physical comedy.  Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels embody the dim duo, Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne.  Down and out of luck having lost their jobs on the same day (how convenient), they set out to return a lost briefcase to Lloyd’s last client, Mary…eh, starts with an “S”. Swim? Swammi? Slippy? Slappy? Swenson? Swanson? (checks the briefcase) Samsonite! I was way off.  Anyway, as he drove her to the airport he sees that she left a briefcase in the terminal.  Lloyd retrieves it but unbeknownst to him and Harry, they actually have in their possession ransom money for Mary’s husband.

The plot is simple and filled with hilarious situations.  Jim Carrey steals the movie throughout but that doesn’t mean Jeff Daniels fails to keep up.  Known more for his dramatic roles, Daniels has a sweetness and charm that plays perfectly against Carrey’s selfish stupidity (think about it; he’s pretty much all about himself).  Throw in a great 90s soundtrack of songs you’ve never heard of and memorable supporting characters and Dumb and Dumber doesn’t disappoint.The legacy of Dumb and Dumber can be found in any number of clips and memes.  Enjoy!

Lost Season 1 Re-watch Schedule

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 1


As I prep to re-watch season 1 of Lost, I want to give a layout of what it will look like.  The first post will cover the two-part pilot and be released on September 12th.  The next three post will cover a single episode allowing us to focus on learning who some of these main characters are and their “back stories”.  From there on each post will cover two episodes until we get to the two-part season finale, which will be separated.  The last post for the re-watch will be on October 27th.

The structure of each post will look much like my Stranger Things Season 1 Re-watch posts last year.  I’ll talk about the characters and plot and call out interesting choices and mysteries about the island.  Don’t get thrown off by the lack of answers to these mysteries.  It’s season 1 and some answers don’t come until later seasons.  (If I succeed, you’ll be chomping at the bit and watching season 2 and onward on your own.)

I’ll also be calling out many references, easter eggs, and connections.  These are the fun things about the show.  If you watched it while it was still airing, there were whole websites devoted to solving the show.

I will do my absolute best not to spoil anything.  I feel that I’m familiar enough with the show to abstain from spilling the secrets of the show.  This means I’ll leave quite a few things vague and also probably play devil’s advocate in a few instances just to be punk.

How you all enjoy the re-watch and my musings.  Lost remains a favorite of mine despite my love for other shows since.  It truly was a phenomenon when it released in 2004.

Finding Harry Potter Late in Life

posted in: Books, Fantasy, Film/TV, Reading | 0

We discover things at various ages in life.  Where I discovered Star Wars at a very young age, someone else of my same age may have discovered it in their twenties or, God forbid, their thirties (what a tragedy!).  However it happens, we experience things differently.  For me, I discovered Harry Potter later in life (my mid-twenties) and even then, my child-like wonder was opened to the magical world as if I were a kid again.

You may ask how this happened.  Let me tell you!  Being a 90s kid, you’d think I would have been exposed to Harry Potter as soon as it was released.  Well, not so.  I was absolutely aware of it but due to my upbringing in a religious home, Harry Potter was viewed equally as Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering (I’ll toss in Pokémon too though I’m failing to see why at this moment).  These were all viewed as bad things for my young mind to consume.

Now before you think I had horrible parents, I’m going to come to their defense.  If you grew up in the late 80s through the 90s and were part of any evangelical Christian church, then there was a constant stigma on anything that had to do with magic or witchcraft.  Churches believed these things could lead children and teenagers down paths deemed hazardous for their lives.  My parents agreed with this, believing that certain morals and/or standards could be threatened.  It was the culture of that time and I don’t blame them one bit for exercising that parental check.  Having a son now, you can bet I will be very in tune with what he watches, reads, and listens to.  (Note:  I wasn’t keen enough to argue that Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia were okay.)


Jump back to my mid-twenties and I can’t recall what led me to finally watch the first Harry Potter film but I did and while it was obviously geared towards a younger audience, I was intrigued.  This led me to watch the next films one after another pretty quickly (yeah, I binged them hard).  All of a sudden, I found myself completely mesmerized by this world.  The last film, The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 had not been released yet but I was determined to get more.  This led to my reading the books pretty quickly as well, using any free time I had outside of work and other obligations to finish Harry’s story.

What also helped provoke this wanting to consume this world is my own writing of fantasy.  As an author, I was able to learn from J.K. Rowling’s ability to craft a complex story.  She was able to weave a tapestry of plot and subplots that interconnected in ways the films could not fully weave.  I actually consider my reading of Harry Potter the main contributor to the way I outline and plot my books.  I look for the layers.  Books do not have to be a simple, single layer cake but more like baklava: layers of flavor, texture, and ingredients.

In my mind, the books and films stand up well on their own.  I find that enjoy both for some of the same but also different reasons.  More than a few times now I’ve considered returning to the books.  There is a true magic to how stories can impact our lives.  I actually think Harry Potter is responsible for making many kids in the 90s readers (I see and interact with many of these on social media).  There’s a good reason the books have sold in the millions in worldwide.


While I came to Harry Potter later in life, I find it a great joy of fiction and story to immerse myself into.  My wife and I try to do a full marathon every other year (though I’d be okay with every year) and we look forward to sharing these books with our kids when we deem them old enough to handle the subject matter.

Forever Re-watchable: Tommy Boy

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 2

I can’t say for certain the first time I watched “Tommy Boy” but I can tell you I’ve seen it more than a couple dozen times.  For a guy who grew up in the 80s and 90s, there was no better comedy combo than Chris Farley and David Spade.  They may only ever be on the back end of comedy duo lists but for me they are number one.

“Tommy Boy” was released in 1995 serving as the latest installment of Saturday Night Live’s grab bag of films.  SNL creator and this film’s producer, Lorne Michaels, was counting on the up and coming popularity of SNL’s young cast members to strike gold at the box office.  Alas, by industry standards, “Tommy Boy” was barely successful in the theaters.  What time tends to do for some films though is gather a following that reaches cult status.

I was not prone to watching SNL as a kid.  I am pretty sure I was barely aware of it up until my later teens.  However, I came across “Tommy Boy” and instantly took to it.  I’m sure I first watched it at a friend’s house (it was not necessarily a movie my parents would have allowed) and its impact hit me like a fat guy in a little coat.


Chris Farley was brilliant as the lovable son, Tommy Callahan, of an auto parts industry tycoon.  Taking eight years to finish college, he returns home to celebrate his new position as vice president in the family company and his dad’s remarrying after years of being alone.  David Spade is the equally brilliant sarcastic assistant to Tommy’s dad who finds himself connected to Tommy’s hip.  Hilarity ensues when the pair have to go on a sales trip to keep the company going after Tommy’s dad dies unexpectedly.  Road trip movies are their own subgenre (see Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Dumb and Dumber, and more) but Tommy Boy carries a charm and impression that makes it easy to come back to.

This film is forever re-watchable for me simply because of its memorable moments and one-liners.  Here’s a fun fact: my wife upon watching for the first time realized quickly that much of my sarcasm simply mimicked the biting power of David Spade’s own in this movie.  That’s right.  While I can’t help but walk through the door when a moment for sarcasm opens, most of my arsenal is accredited to my hero, David Spade.  She became less impressed with me but then she started quoting the film as much as I do and that’s as they say is that.


When it comes to comedies, “Tommy Boy”, is in my top five easily.  It has heart and laughs up the wazoo.  Turn it on and I’ll quote it throughout still laughing all these years later, forever thankful that the late Chris Farley was immortalized in this comedy classic.

Remembering Robin

posted in: Film/TV, Life | 0

My wife and I recently watched a new documentary on the life and career of the late Robin Williams.  From his humble beginnings to his elite stardom, interviews with family and friends revealed more than just the comedian.  It was sobering to watch despite our laughter up until the very end.

As a kid, I knew Robin as Mrs. Doubtfire, Peter Pan, and the genie in Disney’s “Aladdin”.  He made me laugh with his ability to do impressions, able to do voices I recognized (and some I didn’t).  He was easy to recognize whenever I saw his picture on a movie poster or VHS (oh yeah, dating myself) cover.  All too often, though, I didn’t realize he was not limited to comedy.  Later in my life, he was also Mr. Keating, Adrian Cronauer, and Sean Maguire.  These men were teachers of life still capable of making me laugh but provoking me to consider living and all its nuances.  These are the roles he embodied that I gravitate more to as an adult, finding the gold that I don’t think I would have been able to understand or appreciate as a kid.
While his talents far-exceeded his ability to improvise on the stage or on the set, Robin Williams had a range as an actor that is beyond applause.  To make his audience laugh until they cry and then to make them cry until they laugh is a rare gift.  One of my favorite stories I heard about him came from director, Steven Spielberg, who said he would call Robin in the evenings while he made his film, “Schindler’s List”.  He would feel the heaviness of this film and its tragic story and call Robin requesting to laugh.  Robin would oblige and one can only imagine the healing factor administered in those private calls.

My appreciation for Robin Williams as a person is fully realized now after his unfortunate passing.  I watch him on the screen and even if it’s one of his lesser known roles, I’ll watch in awe.  The documentary I mentioned before revealed a man tormented but still able to put the joy of others before himself.  He connected through laughter and thankfully, we’ve been given decades of conversations with him.  And I cannot wait to introduce his amazing abilities to my son (we’ll start with “Aladdin” and go on from there).

20 Year Anniv: Saving Private Ryan

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 0

Sobering is the best way I can define Saving Private Ryan for myself.  Usually, I write about films I enjoy and find entertaining but to put those words to SPR seems off.  It’s a film that showcases the horror of war and also the humanity of soldiers.

It’s been 20 years since the release of SPR and I was not allowed to watch it in theaters seeing as how I was fourteen when it was released but I wanted to without truly understanding it.  I can’t say for sure when I finally watched the film but I actually think I saw it in a history class I took as a junior in high school.  We watched it in parts, discussed, and did an assignment to discuss WW2.

From what I can remember, the film’s infamous opening of the beach landing in Normandy struck me as horrifying.  There was no glory.  There was no sense of patriotic pride either.  It was a depiction of war, showing the true limits of the human body when bullets and explosions are inflicted upon them.  Fathers, sons, and brothers endured the immense hammer that was the war.  They did so out of duty and service to their country, families, and each other.  There are no greater heroes than those.

I don’t think it can be argued that SPR is one of Steven Spielberg’s top films.  For message and filmmaking, it has few equals.  He brought to life fictional characters thrust into one of history’s greatest conflicts and depicted real people faced with continuous trials and trauma.  Again, sobering.

It’s easier to consider the film as I’m doing now and critique it from a storyteller position when I’m not watching it on the screen.  I can explain how I appreciate the characters and their relationships amidst chaos and death while carrying out a mission to send one of their own home after his three brothers were killed elsewhere in the war.  I appreciate the storytelling Spielberg was able to portray through the film but I would be remiss to say this film is enjoyable to watch.  It wasn’t the first time I saw it and hasn’t been any other subsequent time I’ve watched it either.

Spielberg did not look to entertain his audience with SPR like he has with say Jurassic Park or more recently Ready Player One.  Much like Schindler’s List or Amistad, Spielberg cares more about portraying a story difficult to watch but important to experience.  His message is, “this is a difficulty of our history but there were good people thrust into the horrors humanity can inflict upon one another and it’s these people who should be recognized and honored”.

I found this video recently and loved the dissection of Spielberg’s brilliant filmmaking.  Enjoy!

Sunday Levity: We Built This Schmidt-y

posted in: Film/TV, Sunday Levity | 0


“New Girl” is one of my favorite shows and I was sad to see it end this year.  While I struggle to name a favorite character, I believe the ensemble was one of the best.  It was Zooey Deschanel’s show, but I believe Max Greenfield as Schmidt was the show’s linchpin.  So for today’s Sunday Levity post, here are some great Schmidt moments.  Definitely check out the show for much more.

Forever Re-watchable: The Goonies

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 0

There are those movies you grew up with and then there are those movies that made you grow.  “The Goonies” came out in 1985 which means I did not see it until I was at least seven or eight years old in the early 90s.  My earliest memory of the movie is it scaring the crap out of me.  Thanks, Sloth, for the nightmares.  As I got older, though, I found the movie to have a strong affect on me as a lover of storytelling.

If you are unawares of the plot of “The Goonies,” it follows a group of four friends (Mikey, Mouth, Chunk, and Data) in Astoria, Oregon searching for the pirate treasure of local legend, One-Eyed Willy, to stop the foreclosure of their homes.  Adventure ensues once the Goonies come across a family of criminals who pursue the kids after they learn of the treasure hunt.  Throw in hijinks (that’s a fun word to type) and the theme of friendship strengthened by conflict and you’ve got a quality film that is memorable and has become a cult classic from the 80s.

Mikey is the every man we can all relate to; Mouth is the sarcastic butthead who provides the laughs; Chunk is the chubby kid who is scared of everything but finds courage by the end; and Data is the techy of the group who has an affinity for gadgets that don’t always work but when they do, they prove useful to the group.  None of these characters feel trapped in a box but have depth that is brought out in their actions and dialogue throughout the film.  It’s this friendship that I admire.

Getting our first looks at Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee!) and Josh Brolin (Thanos!), I always feel like we get introduced to the foundation of things to come for “nerd” culture in cinema.  “The Goonies” is one of the influences for “Stranger Things” and if you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know how much I love that show.  There’s also a Spielberg touch to the film even though it was directed by Richard Donner.  You can’t help but wonder how much Indiana Jones was an influence.  Iconic continues to be a word I come back to.

My appreciation for this film came much later in life especially after I realized it isn’t as scary as first experienced.  Getting past that, I found the humor within the dialogue to be there and quite memorable.  There are physical humorous moments as well (slick shoes!) and these play more to younger audiences (like myself when I first saw the movie).  It’s in the dialogue that I think the film holds up beyond the “children’s appeal”.  It’s a dark film that I think I would hesitate to show my son until I deem him old enough and able to handle the content.  I would not hesitate however to watch it with him and get his thoughts on everything from the sense of mystery/adventure, the scarier elements, and the friendships of the Goonies themselves.  I look forward to this day, in fact.  He may never appreciate it as much as I do, but I can hope, hahaha!

Call to Action:  Seriously, I don’t know how you could not enjoy this film if you grew up in the 80s.  But if you hear the word “goonies” and you wretch, I hope you’ll clean up and check it out again with some friends.  You never know, your tastes may have changed.

Summer Days

posted in: Books, Film/TV, Life, Music, Review, Sports | 2

Summer is here in full tilt (poker reference) and beating down us weirdo’s who choose to live in the Mojave Desert.  Triple digit temperatures just about every day make you long for the mountains or beach.  While we endure it though, we’re having fun, remaining cool by whatever means necessary.

I don’t talk about it much, but I have been fully invested in baseball this year.  I am a San Francisco Giants fan (I admit, I am a newer fan thanks to my brother-in-law and have slid head first into the fandom—pun!).  As most people will say, they don’t like watching baseball games on tv because it’s boring.  I am the exact opposite.  I love watching the games whenever I have the opportunity.  I find it relaxing and a great thing to listen to in the background if I’ve got other things to do.  I’ve been quite prone (much to the chagrin of my wife) to listening to the radio feed while doing dishes and preparing dinner most nights, hahaha!  I’ve pretty much abandoned my childhood love of basketball for baseball.

I am reading a few books, finding quite a few non-fiction ones that I’ve enjoyed.  I don’t know if I’ll include these in my next newsletter but if I do, I’ll go a bit deeper in a full review.  Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel is renown and award winning and not at all a difficult read.  It explores civilization and its evolution from very grounded foundations.  I’m always intrigued by history and how we’ve got to where we are.  Another book I recently finished is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, which serves as a memoir from his time in the Vietnam War.  It explores men he served with and their struggles both during and after the war.  I appreciate the vulnerability offered, letting the human side of these men be remembered.

Like sports, I don’t talk much about music but I’ve been stuck on a few albums as of late.  As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t know how to really review music.  My tastes are what they are.  I can listen to hardcore melodies and screams of bands like Alexisonfire and Dance Gavin Dance while at the same time throw on some Tracy Chapman.  For lighter listening, The Paper Kites album, “twelvefour”, is beautiful and soothing.  I need to get it on vinyl.  It’s just one my favorites right now.  For a little “harder” sound, I recently found a band called Hands Like Houses.  No screaming but they are similar to the Hardcore Alternative styles that I enjoy.  Let’s just say I showed them to my wife and she liked what she heard (she’s not a fan of the screaming types, lol).

Our tv viewing has been mostly comprised of Chuck now that it’s on Amazon Prime.  When I find the time though, I am trying to get through season two of Westworld and plan on getting into season two of Legion after that.  Still waiting on Stranger Things Season 3 news.  I bet we’ll see a trailer at Comic-Con San Diego in a few weeks.  I’ll announce my plans for Stranger Things Month here on my blog when I get that info.

Okay, movies.  I’ve got two I recommend if you just need to laugh.  “Game Night” you can rent and “Tag” you can go see in a nice air conditioned theater right now.  Both are hilarious.  We laughed a lot.  “Game Night” was a pleasant surprise, surpassing my low expectations.  “Tag” was just fun.  Great characters who had great chemistry carry out a tradition that promotes friendship.  You’ll laugh a lot with these two so make sure you watch them with friends and family (neither are for little kids so get a babysitter).

Call to Action:  Anyone have any big plans for the summer?  Trips?  Concerts?  Having a newborn, we don’t have much planned beyond getting extra sleep on the weekends but once our son gets a little older, we are gonna hit that open road!

2017 Film Watchlist Update

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 0

Over the last few weeks, I managed to watch a few of the movies from 2017 that I put on my “To watch” list.  Let’s go!

“I, Tonya” is an interesting film that explores the life, career, and downfall of ice skater, Tonya Harding.  If you grew up in the 90s, you know about the infamous story of Harding’s fellow ice skater, Nancy Kerrigan, being “knee-capped” by some stranger after a practice session.  Tonya was implicated in the attack and the whole world witnessed an infamous case of jealousy and personal vendetta that jumped over the line to criminality.

The film has an interesting structure, “interviewing” many of the main players like Tonya, her abusive mother, equally abusive husband, and several others.  Tonya’s tough upbringing is explored while spliced with these interviews sometimes making us wonder if we’re dealing with multiple unreliable narrators.  There’s a lot of he said/she said moments that bring about comedy and tragedy making us feel for Tonya.  There are many historical moments captured from her performances and the most impressive is her landing two triple axel jumps in one competition, making her the first female figure skater to ever accomplish such a mark.

All of this however takes a drastic fall into chaos as Tonya feels the full weight and pressure of her success overshadowed by the more “likeable” Kerrigan.  The film doesn’t stray from the infamous clubbing of Kerrigan and makes no excuses for Tonya’s role in the plot carried out by her husband and his friend.

What struck me most in the film are the performances.  Each actor and actress embodied their role.  Margot Robbie as Harding is memorable.  Many times, I forgot I was watching the same actress who brought Harley Quinn to life.  Robbie did an amazing job and I kind of feel like she was over-shadowed by Allison Janney who played Tonya’s mother and stole every scene she was in.  Vindictive and downright cruel, I can see why Janney took home the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award.

While hard to watch at times, the film definitely superseded my expectations.  It’s not one I would add to my personal Blu-ray collection but worth watching at least once.

If you’ve never heard of Tommy Wiseau and his feature film, “The Room”, which has been dubbed by everyone who’s ever seen it as the worst film they’ve ever watched, then don’t feel bad.  I’ve never seen “The Room” myself but I’ve known of its existence for awhile and seen quite a bit of footage that I am quite familiar with it’s “quality”.

“The Disaster Artist” is the film that chronicles the unlikely friendship between Wiseau and Greg Sestero who met in an acting class in San Francisco and eventually moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting careers.  They do so and fail to land any jobs before deciding to write their own film.  Wiseau writes, produces, directs, and stars in the film.  “The Disaster Artist” film directed and starring James Franco takes much of its lead from Sestero’s memoir which chronicled the making and production of “The Room”.

Once again, the performances are what make this film.  Tommy Wiseau is for lack of a better word, “interesting”.  No one knows his true age or origin.  He has what many believe is an Eastern European accent but says he’s from New Orleans.  The other mysterious thing about him is his wealth.  He paid for the entirety of the film from equipment, production costs, and actor’s and crew salaries.

Based on the memoir, it’s hard to believe Wiseau is the real deal and not a grand conman.  Watch any interview with him and you’ll be convinced he’s not real.  It’s been long enough now though that it’s very likely he is who he is.  He continues to make films and has a cult status in Hollywood.

Back to “The Disaster Artist”.  James Franco as Wiseau is outstanding.  He could have very likely won the Best Actor Academy Award if not for sexual abuse allegations made against him.  All you have to do is compare Franco’s performance to that of Wiseau (the film does this during the end credits) to see his full range of dedication.  You do not have to watch “The Room” to enjoy this one.  You will ask more than once if this guy is for real.

Call to Action:  While these films are dramas, you will laugh while watching both.  I recommend both but just know these are not “normal” films.  They both approach storytelling in different ways than other biopics out there.

Always Be Learning

posted in: Books, Film/TV, Reading, Writing | 0

When you start out as a writer looking for any and everything that could give you guidance and help, one thing you consistently see is, “Read, read, and read more”.  This can be bothersome for some or at least it was for me because I wanted to respond, “But I want to write…”.  What should be added to that direction is:  Read, read, and read more because you will learn how to write.

Cognitive absorption (I have no idea if this is an accurate term or even used properly but I like the sound of it and it’s my blog so…yeah) through reading is how I like to think about my ability to read different kinds of books be it fiction, nonfiction, biography, etc. and subconsciously collect sentence structure, characterization, inclusion of theme, setting tone, and several other important literary practices.

I always want to be learning.  Whether by reading, listening, or being observant of the world around me, I cannot be the best storyteller I can be if I already think I know what I need to know.  To this day, I find myself stashing away nuggets of info I come across.  I’ll notice descriptions in a book about a people, places, or things and think, “That’s really good. I need to remember that detail or method”.  I’ll be listening to a podcast and a topic will weave between two speakers and I’ll pick up on conversational threads that I think can be implemented between my own characters as they talk to one another.  I’ll see something in a show or movie and make a note of the shape, color, and/or texture.

The notion of always learning can seem daunting and might make you feel overwhelmed.  Learning doesn’t have to be reading historical tomes of 1500 pages one after another.  Find a subject and explore it by whatever means.  Books are not the only option.  Podcasts, articles, and documentaries are all great mediums to absorb whatever it is you’re interested in.  There is no test at the end, so go your own speed and remember you learn what you want to learn about once you’re out of school.  Focus on those and you’ll enjoy it far more than when you were cramming for a test the night before.

Call to Action:  I want to encourage two sources that I love learning from.  The first is Joe Rogan’s podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience”.  He talks with all sorts of people about all kinds of subjects from entertainment to deeper philosophical issues.  The second are the shows “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown” by the late Anthony Bourdain.  The passing of Bourdain last week came unexpected and is tragic.  His traveling shows have been consistent staples for me because I always learn and find his approach to people through food a rare art.

Forever Re-watchable: What About Bob?

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 2

I’ve enjoyed returning to what I consider my favorite movies in these posts.  These are films I have seen more times than I can remember and usually watch at least once if not twice a year.  Today’s movie is an early 90s gem featuring the brilliant Bill Murray at his prime.

My greatest recollection of this film is it always seemed to be a part of my family’s movie nights.  We watched it a lot.  Also, my extended family enjoyed the movie so much that we would watch it during holidays or major get-togethers.  To this day, quotes from the film are exchanged as if they are family mottos.

The film follows Bob Wiley (Murray) who is a troubled man with a laundry list of phobias and social anxieties.  According to him, “As long as I’m in my apartment, I’m fine.  But when I go outside, I get…weird.”  He is referred to a new psychiatrist, Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss), and offers what Bob considers to be a true breakthrough.  His hopes of being helped further are dashed when Dr. Marvin announces he will be on a family vacation for a month, leaving Bob in instant disarray.

Through what can only be described as borderline manic desperation, Bob learns where Dr. Marvin is vacationing with his family (this sounds more like a horror film, doesn’t it?!) and makes the long bus ride with his pet goldfish, Gill.  As Dr. Marvin struggles to deal with his new patient, Bob quickly assimilates into the family gaining love and friendship, which inevitably cure him of his struggles.  Hilarity ensues as you can imagine with Murray’s skills as a comedian.  There are far too many great moments to list but I have to share a few favorites here:


Now that I’m a father, I look at these films I am so fond of and cannot wait to show them to my little boy (when he’s old enough of course).  I think figuring out when he will appreciate such an “old movie” will be a challenge but I often hear from friends with older kids when they share their own childhood favorites.  It’s a time I’m looking forward to.

As I said before, the quotability of this film makes it not only fun but memorable.  I don’t know how many times my memory is triggered whenever I hear someone making “yummy” sounds during a home-cooked meal (apparently I did this at my in-laws before my wife and I even started dating and I was just her brother’s drum teacher coming for dinner) or see someone sailing on a boat and “I’m sailing!  I’m sailing!” comes to mind.  My favorite though is the laughter produced whenever someone says they’re taking baby steps and I imagine them walking around the room taking actual baby steps.

What About Bob? is a classic family comedy that tugs at the funny bone and heart strings.  It’s good clean fun and will always be a movie that makes me think of my family and the laughter in the room when Bob Wiley comes on the screen massaging his face while saying, “I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful,” over and over again.

Call to Action:  Watch it with friends and enjoy laughing for an hour and a half.

Sunday Levity: Deadpool Edition-ioso

posted in: Comics, Film/TV, Sunday Levity | 0

So I know Deadpool is not everyone’s cup-o-tea.  He’s vulgar, violent, and childish in every sense of the word.  However, his zaniness is a breath of fresh air (figuratively speaking) in light of so many “serious” super hero films.

I wanted to share some of his better qualities (and tame ones) today.

I couldn’t agree more… I love pancakes.

“I’m invincible!”

Deadpool’s interactions with other Marvel heroes and villains are sometimes spot on as he makes keen observations.

If you’ve watched the movies, you know about Deadpool’s love/hate for Wolverine. It goes deeper in the comics.

Classic.

Call to Action: While I’ve used this post for levity, I do want to express my gratitude for the men and women who have given their lives for our nation. There is no greater sacrifice and whatever your affiliations, we should honor and respect those who have given everything to preserve our rights and freedoms.

Marvelous

posted in: Comics, Film/TV, Storytelling | 0

When you’re a late 80s/whole 90s kid, you are very much shaped by what movies, cartoons, music, video games, and even toys were popular during those years.  I have an affinity for Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe, Transformers, The Goonies, Indiana Jones, Nintendo, and comics.  This latter one is what I want to talk a bit about today.

With all the Marvel films and shows coming out every year (mainly the MCU and Netflix shows), I wanted to talk a bit about how I’m more of a fan of Marvel Comics than DC Comics.  Honestly, it comes from the FOX Kids X-Men animated series that ran from 1992 thru 1997.  I loved this show growing up and watched it every Saturday morning (it has quite the kick ass theme music by the way).  Much of my education about the characters and world created by Stan Lee and others came from this habitual watching experience.  This extended into comics and while I was busy spending my allowance on basketball cards rather than comics, I did buy a few (there were only a few I was allowed to buy and it depended on the level of weird and violence depicted on the cover; parenting 101 won out every time back then).

As I got older though, I read and got into other marvel characters like Spider-Man, Darkhawk (there’s a deep cut), and the Fantastic Four.  X-Men continued to be my first love though and while I’m lukewarm on most of the movies (Days of Future Past still remains my favorite), I have dived deeper into the world and mythology over the years even as an adult.  X-Force and X-Factor were extensions that introduced more great characters like Deadpool and Cable (I’ve seen Deadpool 2 twice now! So good!).  For whatever the reason, I loved this imagining of heroes and villains differentiated between abilities they were born with.  As a kid, I had no idea mutants were a parallel allusion to civil rights born back in the 60s.  To a kid, they are colorful customers with superpowers.  That’s all you need!

All I know is we love what we love.  Nowadays, there’s no shame in being a nerd and comic fanboy.  For that, I am grateful.  Who knew that in 2018, you could get away with wearing a Marvel-themed t-shirt and not be ostracized.  Even in grade school, I don’t think I ever wore a comic book-related t-shirt (nor did I own any to be honest).

This is not to say I hate DC Comics and it’s brand of characters.  In fact, I’ve always loved Batman.  Whether it’s Tim Burton’s “Batman” or the “Batman: Animated Series”, I’ve always thought Batman was one of the better super heroes out there.  As I’ve gotten older, the complexity of the character and his inner demons make him even more captivating to me (you all know I’m a sucker for a conflicted character).

I’m excited to see where the future goes with all these Marvel properties, though.  So far, I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed many of the recent adaptations.  Go back and check out some of my reviews to get more in depth looks.  It really is refreshing to see the care to detail the film industry puts towards these characters I grew up with and devoted a great deal of time and money towards.

Call to Action:  If you have a chance, find interviews of Stan Lee (there are several on YouTube) and listen to the pride and joy he has in his creations.  It’s amazing the success he had on writing and drawing masked and costumed characters.

Avengers: Infinity War (Part I) Review w/ SPOILERS

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Writing | 1

This is your first and only warning that the following post contains SPOILERS for the latest MCU film, “Avengers: Infinity War (Part I)”.  If you haven’t seen it yet, run away!  Actually, go and see it and return.  That’s it.  Now let’s continue.I feel the need to point this out from the start because I’ve heard too many people make a minor complaint after seeing the movie.  This is part one of two.  Of course it ended the way it did!  There’s more coming next May.  Rest assured, you didn’t just watch half of your favorite heroes “mist” away forever (hint: just check Marvel’s film forecast for the next couple of years).

Rather than writing a long-winded re-cap and critique of the film, I want to focus on what made this film of great magnitude work in a somewhat up and down film franchise.  Not all MCU entries have been pristine (let’s be honest with ourselves).  For every “Captain America: Winter Soldier” (2016) or “Black Panther” (2018), there is a “Thor: Dark World” (2013) or “Iron Man 2” (2010).  Some are very good and some seem to have missed the mark wide left.  Many times (in my opinion; that’s all it is) the downfall or lacking element of these weaker films is the villain.  Go back to my post last year about antagonists to see what I look for in a believable and compelling villain:  http://adamhenderson.net/2017/02/08/vilest-villainy-vowed-to-venture/

“Avengers: Infinty War” is about Thanos.  Plain and simple.  It’s not about our huge lineup of heroes.  They are secondary.  What “A:IW” did and quite well was establish a villain we first got wind of in the post credit scene of the first “Avengers” (2012) film.  That means we’ve had six years of anticipation and minor mentions in the films leading up to the big showdown.

Who is Thanos?  We need to know this in order to feel the full weight of the character.  What drives this galactic entity to attack Earth?  Well we don’t really know until we step into this film, which starts with Thanos and his Black Order after they’ve attacked and killed half the people on Thor’s ship after the events of “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017).  We learn that Thanos has a tragic past, seeing over population destroy his home world of Titan.  From that, he has sought to bring balance to the universe by going from planet to planet, wiping out half of populations to establish peace.  This is his goal and if that was all it was, then I would say we are dealing with another one dimensional villain bent on destruction.

Nay nay!

Thankfully, this is not all there is to him.  In order to accomplish his goals of ushering in the same balance and peace to Earth, Thanos has to fight Earth’s mightiest warriors.  Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and so many of the heroes we’ve been introduced to and following since the first “Iron Man” (2008) film band together and take on Thanos, his Black Order, and lesser minions.  Thanos has faced defeat already and he knows he needs more to combat Earth’s heroes.  Enter the ultimate McGuffins of the MCU: the infinity stones.

To wield all the stones (space, time, reality, mind, soul, and power) and become truly invincible, he needs something to contain and harness each power.  That containment cannot be accomplished unless it be forged from a dying star, much like Thor’s hammer.  Hence, the Infinity Gauntlet was made and Thanos is able to place each collected stone in the gauntlet.  The film follows his collecting said stones and every time he manages to add one to the gauntlet, we feel the impending doom, hoping he fails.

Alas, he does not fail.  Thanos collects every stone but there is a cost and this is where the film convinced me and made me proud as a storyteller.  While most of the stones seem to be “easy” for him to gain, one in particular is not.  The soul stone has been elusive and hidden from everyone (even from us in the audience because there have been no clues as to its whereabouts).  One person does know however of its location and that would be Thanos’ adopted daughter, Gamora, who we were introduced to in “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014).  Sent on a mission by Thanos to locate it, Gamora knows where it is and is forcibly persuaded to tell him the location.

Once there, Thanos learns he must trade a soul for a soul.  In the most poignant, humanizing scene I could have hoped for, Thanos tragically sacrifices the life of Gamora for the soul stone.  My heart twisted as I watched the pain and tears in Thanos as he did so.  There it is.  There is the moment I didn’t even know I wanted.  Give me an antagonist I can sympathize with and you’ve given me a character with depth.  Thanos pays the ultimate price and even confesses at the film’s ending that in order to accomplish his goal, it cost him everything, revealing that his love for Gamora was real.

So, yes.  Our heroes not only failed (another important part of this story because we need to see heroes fail in order to be reminded that they are not invincible) but they are greatly weakened and diminished as we see Thanos destroy half of the universe’s population with a snap (literally).  Remember, this is part one.  Part two should bring everything back around and I think I can most assuredly postulate that we will see the atrocity of Thanos’ actions against the universe be righted or at least partially restored.

In conclusion, “Avengers: Infinity War (Part I)” is about Thanos and his main conflict.  His rise and fall moves the story forward and we are treated to a villain I actually found myself liking as much as I liked the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”.  For different reasons, of course, but it’s all the same.  Give me an antagonist who is more than a surface-level psycho and I will be engrossed in the complexity of their conflict and goal.

Call to Action:  Seriously, I shouldn’t have to say go see it but if you did and didn’t notice this aspect of Thanos, I encourage you to go see it again.  Do not think of it as a movie about our heroes but about the tragic character that is bent on bringing balance to the universe, unaware that to do so will cost him everything.

Sweet Summer Heat

posted in: Film/TV, Life | 0

As I’ve stated before, I live in the Mojave Desert in Southern California where the sweltering temperatures of summer unapologetically push the thermometer up into triple digits.  We can usually expect seeing 99 hit 100 and beyond before midday.  If you are unaccustomed to this daily punishment, then I envy your gift of comfort.

You might ask, “Why not just invest in air conditioning?”  Well, you see, my friend, that is not always financially feasible.  And when you live in an apartment, the landlord doesn’t quite care if his or her tenants are comfortable.  We have swamp coolers for the cheaper option and while they work so long as humidity is absent (dry heat my left foot!), we often find ourselves in single layers, sipping ice water, and dreaming of rain.

One saving grace is the movie theater (yep, we got one of those!).  With the influx of summer blockbusters coming every Friday starting two weeks ago (Avengers: Infinity War post is coming soon), my wife and I hope to find ourselves in those old cushioned seats basking in air conditioning we don’t have to pay for.  But what about the baby you might ask?!  No worries.  He has grandparents that are more than willing to watch him for a couple of hours and allow mom and dad some alone time with strangers.

All this is to say you should expect some posts about said blockbusters throughout the summer.  Avengers, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Deadpool 2, Ocean’s 8, Incredibles 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and probably some others to name a few.  Should be a fun summer despite our feeble attempts at trying to keep our apartment cool.  Also, whoever said drinking hot coffee in the heat helps “cool” your body deserves a pox on their soulless body!  For me, I’ll stick with ice-cold beer.  Cheers!

Call to Action:  Throw out some films you’re looking forward to this summer.  Doesn’t have to be a blockbuster.  I’m a huge fan of indie films as well.

Coming-of-Age Thoughts/Lady Bird Review

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 2

There are certain stories I’m drawn to (more so in movies than books in this instance) where a young person’s journey from adolescence into adulthood is magnified.  They be best described as “coming-of-age” stories.  Usually in these films, we get a glimpse into a select moment and are shown who this young person is, what they desire, what they fear, etc.  These have a way of grasping my full attention for reasons I’ll explain if you so choose to keep reading.

The most recent experience I had was with the film “Lady Bird”, directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Saoirse Ronan.  The film takes place in Sacramento, CA in 2002.  Normally, I relate more to coming-of-age stories of boys (see “The Way Way Back” and “Boyhood”) but I found myself enjoying watching this young woman going through her senior in high school and preparing to go to college.  Mainly, my enjoyment has to with the fact that I was a senior in high school in 2002-03 in southern California (not Los Angeles) also.  Much of her struggles with school, classmates, and parents felt very visceral to me all the while the war in Iraq had just started and was often playing in the background of settings.  I remember those days so clearly.

Suffice to say “Lady Bird” gripped me instantly and since it was on my “Movies of 2017 to Watch” list, I was able to look past the immaturity of the main character and pick out subtle things I loved.  Most of those were references to the time and culture but they were enough to keep me engaged.  I don’t know if I’d recommend the movie to be honest.  It was okay but not grand (it absolutely reeked of whatever it is the Academy Award’s consider award-worthy).  I think 2016’s “The Edge of Seventeen” was far-superior film and much funnier (also having a female lead).

I don’t know why these kinds of films draw me in.  I don’t consider my own “coming-of-age” experience to be all that impressive.  I went to high school, graduated, went to college, delayed graduation by slacking and feeling uninspired, and then met my wife, finished my degree, established a career, and now have a baby.  It’s all very simple yet fulfilling.  These films however have much better highlights that involve conquering fears or making decisions not to be part of the status quo.  Then again, a film of my life would not attract much of an audience so I understand and appreciate the screenwriters who add drama and tension in order to push the main character a little closer to adulthood.

I think that’s the reason I am drawn to these kinds of films.  I enjoy watching the maturation of an individual especially when they realize adolescence is such a small part of life and the horrors of high school fade quickly.  Experiencing life is sweeter when stepping out from the social constructs of narrow expectation.

Call to Action: I threw out the names of a few coming-of-age films I like but I also recommend these as well:  Stand By Me, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Kings of Summer, and my favorite of all time:  The Breakfast Club.

Life’s Subtle Snaps

We are two weeks away from the due date for our baby boy to join us.  The wait has been both fast and slow depending on the day.  My wife and I are anxiously being patient.  I feel like bragging on my wife a bit (I enjoy doing so whenever I can).  She has been amazing throughout the whole pregnancy.  Not only has she not experienced any morning sickness and barely any nausea (I keep my hard-boiled eggs far from her, hahaha!), but she has maintained a continuous healthy lifestyle throughout.  I have not made any midnight runs to Taco Bell or Baskin Robbins (honestly, if you know her, it would be the end of the world for her to even have the slightest bit of temptation for these things).  Besides her being too hot at night and eating all of our almonds and cashews, there have been no problems.  She’s been amazing in every way.

We think we’re as prepared as we can be all things considered.  The nursery is mostly put together and I still need to assemble the bassinet and install the car seat in the car, but we’re getting close to the finish line.  Life is good and this new season for us is strictly reserved for devoting ourselves to being the best parents we can be.  Everything else is taking a bit of a backseat on the priority list.

Even in this though, I need to maintain sanity and peace.  I find these best in doing the things I love.  Books, movies, and music remain my points of solidarity.  Writing is in there too but you all know that.

I’m currently reading a few books that may or may not end up on my April Newsletter (sign up if you haven’t yet).  Included in this list is Nicolas Eames’s Kings of the Wyld, which is a fantasy book I can only describe as part grimdark and part humor.  Eames does some interesting things with the genre and my lack of details should tell you it will more than likely be reviewed in full in my newsletter.  Other than that, I’ve gone through a few audiobooks that were okay but nothing that blew my hair back.  I do have an audiobook that I am extremely excited about called Cardboard Gods and deals with the author’s telling his story through his collection of baseball cards.  If you don’t remember, I have been collecting sports cards most of my life and I have a great desire to listen to his story.

For movies, I’ve still been trying to watch several films from 2017 that have gotten a lot of attention during the awards season.  I haven’t seen very many that I thought lived up to the acclaim.  One I did recently watch though that I thought was an amazing film was Wind River.  It is not an easy film to watch and recommend you be aware that the content is for adults.  The acting is superb by all the actors and the cinematography is exquisite.  If you like crime drama/thrillers, I highly recommend it.  Other than that, my wife and I have been revisiting movies from our youth.  Steven Spielberg’s Hook brought us back to childhood bliss and we quoted the movie, recalling how much Robin Williams was a master at what he did best: bringing joy and laughter wherever he went.

When it comes to music, I am all over the place.  Sometimes, I get pulled into a particular genre or artist and do not stop listening for weeks.  Recently, I’ve been glued to Haim’s “Something to Tell You” album as well as anything X Ambassadors puts out (I am counting down the days until their new album “Joyful” is released).  I can never pin down what in music captures my heart.  Believe it or not, I don’t think I could ever review a song or album, which I’ll simply explain is due to my lack of music theory understanding.  I like what I like.

Other than all this, I’m staying busy with my day job and various other things.  My wife has been good about keeping me patient and encouraged with my book, reminding me that I shouldn’t put pressure on myself to do things that would prevent me from being present with her and our son.  I agree and will continue to work, being okay if my plans get pushed out.  I still have time.

Call to Action:  Just a reminder that I will be stepping back from writing after this month.  I will do posts every five days with the first coming on the 5th of the month.  However, I will be taking two weeks off from writing anything when the baby is born.  So, if the baby is born April 4th (his actual due date), I will not post until the 20th.  Make sure to sign up for the newsletter though.  I fully intend to send that out April 30th to subscribers.

Godless Review: No Spoilers

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 0

I have a strange relationship with westerns.  I didn’t grow up watching them and would probably consider Kevin Costner’s “Wyatt Earp” (a whopping 3 hr film) my first real exposure to the genre (I still have a love for this film that most people don’t.  I blame it on the fact that Tombstone was rated R and therefore I was not allowed to watch it back in the early 90s).  Over the years, though, I’ve watched more westerns and grown to enjoy the genre as a whole, but only if it has a few key elements.

Netflix’s “Godless” encapsulates everything I want as a viewer.  It has grit and grime of what I consider a great western.  Sometimes, westerns don’t feel right to me.  I expect and imagine frontier life was not clean or easy.  Sometimes, westerns feel too…shiny.  Instead, I want to feel every piece of granule of discomfort that I believe life was back during that time.  Few luxuries could be found.  “Godless” delivers on all fronts.

Set mostly in New Mexico back in the late 1800s, we are introduced to territory that is for lack of a better word, godless.  The law is sparse as the military is spread thin over the west and outlaws run rampant.  The most notorious is Frank Griffon.  With a group of twenty plus men, he is searching for Roy Goode who betrayed him and stole a great deal of money from the group.  Frank is injured and forced to hold off his search while Roy runs.

Most of the story takes place in the small mining town of La Belle where the population was cut in half a year prior when all the men who worked in the town’s mine died due to an accident.  Made up now of mostly women, children, and a few older men, the town is struggling financially.  We are introduced to a great many characters who round out a strong cast.  Aside from the beautiful cinematography and great casting, it’s the weight of the conflict that drives the story.

Every major and even some of the minor characters are fleshed out very well.  You sympathize with several (good or bad) and find yourself engrossed in what will happen.  The show takes several twists and turns, leaving you shocked that what you expected of a western is not the case.  Like I said, I want to feel every granule of sand and gunpowder and “Godless” throws it at you.  The action is felt more than just watched.

As for inspiring me as a writer, there were small elements for character building that I latched onto.  Just small details that I noticed and even if I pointed that out as something that is perfect for characters development, some people might look at me like I was a nerd (and I am but that’s besides the point).

I would be absolutely fine and satisfied with only one season of “Godless” and it ends in a manner that closes out the show in a satisfying way.  However, I would not hesitate to watch more of this unforgiving world.  If you are a fan of shows like Deadwood or Hell on Wheels, you’ll enjoy this one.

Call to Action:  I’m looking for beta readers for my book.  If interested, please let me know.  If you know of anyone who has done good work as a beta reader for other writers, please pass the word along.  It helps if you are well-read but you do not necessarily need to be a huge fan of fantasy.  Thanks!

Forever Re-watchable – When Harry Met Sally

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 2

When Harry Met Sally is a film I never watched as a kid (for good reason since it’s subject matter is best reserved for adults).  All I knew about it was the infamous restaurant scene (you know the one).  So it was never on my radar growing up but I eventually found it when I got older and once I did, I have faithfully watched it at least 2-3 times a year.

Let’s go over the premise.  Two newly graduated college students who don’t know each other but are moving to New York City to pursue very different career paths wind up driving from Chicago to the Big Apple.  Along the way, they realize they are very different and do not foresee any chance of a relationship.

Over the next several years, they cross paths, catch up on life, and separate once again.  After they both have failed long term relationships, they cross paths in a bookstore (there is no better place to meet people) and begin spending time together, letting a friendship grow naturally.  There’s a mutual understanding that neither is interested romantically as they each pursue separate relationships.

Well, as fate (and a bit of natural biology) would have it, things change and love blossoms.  Honestly, if this a spoiler, it’s your own fault that you haven’t treated yourself to this gem of a film.  Love comes and we see these friends we’ve been rooting for the entire film finally end up together.

I can’t remember my exact age when I watched this great movie for the first time but I’m sure it was during my film revival era (see my previous post O Brother Where Art Thou?).  I remember being captivated by the characters and their journey to love.  The acting by stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan simply make this film work.  The direction by Rob Reiner and writing by Nora Ephron are just as superb but without the chemistry of Crystal and Ryan, this movie doesn’t last and maintain its longevity.

On rainy days, this is the movie my wife and I turn to.  For whatever the reason, the setting of New York City always seems like Fall.  This aesthetic is like a secondary character.  The colors of Autumn lead us along the advancement of Harry and Sally’s long season of friendship.  All you need is a blanket and a hot beverage (preferably coffee) to cuddle and laugh.

Quotability.  This film is rife with quotable lines.  If you know me and spend any long amount of time with me, then you know I love to quote movies (I’m not the greatest at the quote game but I love to play).  From the obscure quotes like, “You know, I have a theory that hieroglyphics are just an ancient comic strip about a character named Sphinxy,” to the best known, “I’ll have what she’s having”, there are too many moments to mention without just putting the movie on.

Call to Action:  If you haven’t seen When Harry Met Sally, I highly recommend it.  If you have, then I highly recommend you watch it on a rainy day.

Black Panther Review – No Spoilers

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 0

Every year, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) expands further and deeper.  We are currently in the thralls of Phase 3 with the end of that phase, Infinity War (Part 1 and 2), fast approaching.  Since Iron Man hit theaters in the early 2000s, we’ve received new characters with unique and interesting back stories, conflicts, and victories each new year.  Some of these stories delve heavily into the Infinity Stone arc, which will act as the finale of Phase 3 and toss us into Phase 4 (however it all ends, who can say?).

Black Panther is the most recent of the MCU titles and we are launched into a fascinating world that has not been seen but has been alluded to.  In Captain America: Civil War (or Avengers 2.5 as I like to call it), we are introduced to T’Challa who is the son of the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda.  T’Challa’s father is killed in an explosion and we get our first look at the Black Panther as he pursues and looks to apprehend the man responsible for killing his father.  We don’t get much else of a backstory for Black Panther but the introduction does what it needs to: get us excited and interested in the new character.

My wife and I took in Black Panther opening weekend and we both really enjoyed the film.  It was not so much an origin story as it was a continuation of what happened in Civil War.  We were introduced to a beautiful and vibrant world in the Wakanda setting.  Several tribes of distinct peoples allow us to see the inner workings of the history and culture.  We see technology that has been widely kept secret in order to keep the countries resources from being spread to the outside world (mainly for military purposes).  Finally, we are exposed to a power struggle of self when a new king is forced to make difficult decisions and question whether or not the way of the past is the right way to proceed into the future.

Visually, the movie is stunning.  We get both strong and conflicted characters (male and female are equally portrayed, which is always a pleasure).  The action is fast and visceral.  Humor falls in place when needed and does not feel forced to add levity when it’s not needed.  The villains are memorable and just as conflicted as the heroes.  My only gripe has to do with the CGI.  Sometimes, it does not feel as seamless as you would hope in the final cut of a film of this caliber.  Maybe a bit nitpicky but I did notice it a few times)

Overall, I really enjoyed the film and messages it conveyed.  The importance of family and fathers was especially poignant.  Just like last year’s Coco, I cannot help but be drawn into a story that explores the need for family and remembering where you came from.  As we gear up towards Infinity War with stories focused on broader levels, it is always refreshing to see these more condensed stories.  We need more of them and I hope they continue to be made and shared.

Call to Action:  You know what I’m going to say here!  Go see it!  Judge for yourself.  Don’t be led one way or another on films just because of critics.  If you’re initially drawn and interested, take a friend or loved one to the cinema for a few hours.

Keeping Focused Through Busyness

posted in: Film/TV, Life, Writing | 2

Yes, it’s February and I’m “behind”.  I need to be better about not saying I want to have X finished or done by X.  It doesn’t seem to work for me and I feel like a fool afterwards.  I should simply state my goals without dates attached.

I am still working on my book and finishing up the final polishes while preparing my list of agents to query.  Everything is moving forward on that front and I’m still going through the “read out loud” stage of the book but it’s a slower process than I realized (shocker, I know).

Other than all that, I was a bit busy towards the end of the month helping relocate my grandparents from my hometown to Vegas.  This was not emotional at the time (I had the mindset of it needing to be done and I wanted to help my parents out as much as I could, which called for me to go to Vegas).  Now, it is a bit more emotional as I look at their house (the only one I’ve ever known) stripped of everything that was them.  All the furniture, wall décor, etc.  I might need to do a separate blog post about my relationship with my grandparents.  That one will be even more emotional and would require some personal details (no promises, but maybe).

The move went smooth but it also meant my wife and I were not able to work on the apartment purge and preparation we’ve been working on for the baby.  Speaking of the baby, we are two months away!  Whoa…  How?

Have I mentioned yet that getting everything you need for a baby is a daunting task for first time parents?  All you parents out there are nodding and saying, “Just you wait.”  I get it!  Well, we are having a heck of a time with this but I trust in our ability to prepare.  My wife is an amazing researcher and very good at finding the best quality (seriously, why would you not want to find, get, and hope for the best for your kids?).  I admit, I’m not the best when it comes to researching for products.  I look at consumer reports and I get a headache pretty quickly.  But I’m baby stepping (pun!) through this process.

The baby shower is also fast approaching, which will be fun.  Then my sister will be coming into town at the end of the month and that’s always a good time.  The obligatory Nacho Libre quote comes to mind:  “My life is good. Real good.”

Call to Action:  While in Vegas, I found the time to watch Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.  It’s up for Best Picture and seems to be a frontrunner for the award.  It’s a rough movie at times but very well done.  Beautiful and graphic.  I get why it’s getting praise and recognition.  I would not put it in my Top Ten of 2017 Movies list but I will say it was an amazing film with powerful performances.

Another Superb Owl Watched

posted in: Film/TV, Life, Music, Sports | 1

I’ve been a fan of sports ever since I can remember.  I have vivid memories of watching Michael Jordan and the Bulls winning the NBA Championship in 1993, the 49ers (my favorite football team) winning the Super Bowl in 1995, and the Atlanta Braves winning the World Series in 1995.  I’ve followed all the major sports at one point or another in my life and depending on the decade, have a ridiculous amount of sports trivia logged away in my brain where math and science should be stored.

I watched the Super Bowl this last Sunday and found myself feeling okay with the outcome either way.  This was mostly because neither team is the 49ers so I’m not invested.  The game was exciting and I enjoyed the commercials (more funny and apolitical make for better ads in my opinion).  I drank 805 and had some very tasty chili a friend of mine made (I’ll happily mention she requested my own chili recipes for guidance).  What’s better than that?

I haven’t talked much about sports on my blog, focusing mostly on writing and storytelling but I want to branch out more this year.  I’m fairly certain those of you who come to read my blog posts won’t mind if I stray into other topics.  As I’ve said before, to know me is to read me.  I don’t think you can know me unless you understand sports have a special place in my heart.  I played basketball in a city league and in school most of my life and while basketball was my preferred sport, I have strayed more to football and baseball in recent years.

I love talking sports with others.  I take pride in my ability to understand the rules, history, and cultural impact sports have in our lives.  I’ve often joked that there is nothing more divisive in the world than religion, politics, and sports.  You know them.  Those people who are such die-hard fans that they ooze fandom, secreting love for their team and vitriol for every other team.

I admit, I was one of these fans a few years back when the 49ers became very prevalent and had a great team again.  I have apologized to my wife since then because I was quite the turd if my team lost and far too emotionally invested in their success.  After a few bad years recently, I’ve realized my unhealthy fandom and hopefully righted the ship.  That is until they’re good again…and they might be this next season (Jimmy GQ!).

What I find so interesting is how sports shape us.  As children, the game is fun and we learn how to be team players (hopefully).  We get to run around outside and compete and learn some valuable social skills in the process.  In adulthood, many of us realize we will probably not play professionally and we live vicariously through our favorite players and/or teams.  For me, sports can serve as more than entertainment and I hope to teach my kids that once they’re old enough to make a decision to play sports or not.  Until then, I

Call to Action:  Those fricking Tide ads won the Super Bowl.  Watch and enjoy one of my favorites!

Forever Re-watchable: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 2

I love talking about movies (if you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you’ll have guessed that).  One great thing about movies for me is how re-watchable they are.  There are some that I can watch once (looking at you Fight Club and every Tarantino film ever) and be fine with never seeing it again.  Then there are those others that are gems in my eyes.  I can always watch them.  It doesn’t matter my mood or the day, throw it on the flat screen and I’m willing to lend precious hours of the day to it.

This kind of post will likely become a new monthly staple because I think the movies that are your favorites say a lot about you.  The movies that are most re-watchable for me can be for any number of reasons and it’s not limited to popular comedies or action movies.  If you were to look at my movie collection, you’d nod in agreement, shake your head in bewilderment, and want to smack me at the sight of too many Michael Bay films (13 Hours is a brilliant film that I will never apologize for having in my collection).

As you already know by the title, “O Brother, Where Art Though” is one of the most re-watchable movies for me.  It might surprise you though that I avoided it when it first came out in 2000.  There were multiple reasons for this.  I was a freshman in high school and truly lacked any sensible taste in movies, I was not a fan of George Clooney who I had only previously seen in the nightmare that was Batman and Robin (holy bat-nipples Batman!), and I didn’t like the “Man of Constant Sorrows” song (my taste in music was up there in my taste of movies in the year 2000:  Sour and bitter, lol).

So, it wasn’t until after high school circa 2004-05ish that I finally saw the film.  I was at my grandparents’ house while a bunch of extended family was in town for a holiday (probably Thanksgiving or Christmas) and the decision was made to watch a movie.  Now, my grandparents didn’t have many movies.  In fact, I am fairly certain they possessed two movies in my entire lifetime:  Fantasia and O Brother, Where Art Thou?.

The latter movie was picked and I grumbled under my breath because I was a punk (sour and bitter).  The movie’s going and I realize pretty quickly that I’m actually enjoying the movie a lot.  The dialogue is quick and fluid, the humor is subtle and on point, and the music is unlike anything I had really heard up until that point.  What was happening?  Well, I was acclimating to a brilliant film.

The Coen Brothers are masterful storytellers.  I will eventually write a blog post just on them as filmmakers but for now, I have to sing their praise for just this single film.  I know it’s strange but I truly do believe that they had a hand in what I will call my cinephile birth.  Thinking back now, I can truthfully pinpoint this experience with “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” as the moment when I began to appreciate film for more than just entertainment value.

For me, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” is forever re-watchable.  I love the pace, the quotability , and cinematography equally.  I think you have to love every aspect of a film in order to be able to always be in the mood for it.  There has to be this sense of, “I will feel better if I watch this.  It will make me happy and last with me the rest of the day”.  And this film does this every time.

Call to Action:  Let me know what you think of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”  If you haven’t watched it before, I highly recommend you do so now.  Is it a favorite or one that’s just okay in your book?

The Greatest Showman Makes the Top Ten List

posted in: Film/TV, Music, Review | 2

Well it didn’t take long but I’ve got to amend my Top Ten Movies of 2017 list.  My wife and I took in The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman and an amazing, talented cast this last weekend and I came away extremely happy.

Musicals were not my thing growing up.  I was never a fan of Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, or The Sound of Music.  After thinking about why that is, I came to a somewhat simple conclusion: I didn’t like show tunes.  My tastes in music were never great as a kid.  Like most kids, you listen to what your parents like because they have control of the stereo and tape deck (yep, antiquated) in the car.  I have memories of country music, Amy Grant, and Paula Abdul.  Straight up.

It wasn’t until I got older that I started exploring music and finding what I liked.  I’ve got some truly cringe-worthy periods of music in my younger years (I’ll still argue that Creed’s first album is a great post-grunge alternative album to this day).  But, I digress.  Back to musicals.

Every once in a while, I did run into some musicals that I liked and could tolerate thanks to my sister.  Newsies being one of them.  Nowadays it’s a bit different.  I watch Grease and don’t hate it.  I watched the most recent Les Miserables and I didn’t hate it.  I’m intrigued by other musicals like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen.  Then there’s films like La La Land, Sing Street, and Begin Again.  I’m drawn to music and when it’s combined with film, I am like a moth to the flame.

So, The Greatest Showman was amazing and captivating.  I found myself smiling throughout the entire film and appreciating the production, acting, singing, and choreography throughout.  Man, do those songs stay in your head days after too!  I kept hearing the positive reviews and became more and more interested in seeing it.  So glad we went (we almost didn’t due to an already busy weekend).  Like I said, this has entered my Top Ten Films of 2017 and means something has to come off the list.  At this point, I don’t know which movie is being bumped but it’s got to be done.  Err…  Sorry, Gifted…  You’re being moved to the Runner-ups.

Call to Action:  Other than saying you should go to see The Greatest Showman, I’m curious which musicals people enjoy.  Film or stage doesn’t matter.

My Top Ten Films of 2017

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 2

I always see top ten lists of films at the close of the year and I thought it would be fun to do the same.  Granted, I haven’t seen every major release so I can’t give those a rating or even consideration.  For example, I haven’t seen “Get Out” or “Split” so I can’t include those, though I have heard great things about both films.

My taste in movies can be odd at times.  Sometimes, I will fall in love with a film for a very simple reason, which stands out and makes a lasting impression in my extensive film mind-vault.  Lists are subjective, so if you disagree or think I’m plain crazy, that’s cool.  Send me your list and I’ll give it a read and tell you why I think you’re crazy.

Note: I’ll avoid spoilers with each blurb.

10. It

A horror movie is in my top ten?!  Yes.  Yes it is.  Let me explain.  Despite being a genre that I don’t prefer, this was a very well-done film.  The acting was great, especially considering the child actors who were the heartbeat of the story.  Without their amazing performances, this would have flopped hard.  Pennywise, the villain, is not enough to make this a top ten movie.  He’s there, he’s the antagonist, but it’s how the kids band together to defeat him that makes this work.  You can check out my full review here: http://adamhenderson.net/2017/09/24/why-i-watched-it/

9. Gifted

To be honest, Gifted did not seem to be on a lot of people’s radars when it came to movies in 2017.  From the trailer, we see a precocious little girl being raised by her uncle who has a knack and ability to solve difficult mathematical equations despite her age.  It’s not really an original story idea but the reason why it made my list (besides just being heartfelt and well-performed) is a particular scene in the middle of the movie.  As the little girl is having a difficult time adjusting to the attention she’s getting for her genius, her uncle takes her to a hospital and they’re waiting and waiting (she doesn’t understand why and neither do we, the watchers) when a new father comes out to the waiting room and announces the birth of his child to his family who has been waiting for hours.  Excitement ensues and the little girl joins in.  Seriously, this kicked me in the feels and tugged the heart strings.  Check this one out if you haven’t yet.

8. Logan Lucky

Under-rated and under-the-radar.  Logan Lucky is not only fun but has great, subtle moments that you miss upon first watch.  It’s directed by Steven Sodenberg who directed the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy.  This has a similar feel but involves West Virginia, NASCAR, and Daniel Craig with a hilarious accent.  How this movie was ignored by people, I don’t understand but it is absolutely worth your time.

7. War for the Planet of the Apes

I never cared for the older Planet of the Apes films.  I was an 80s kid but only saw the first and it didn’t grab ahold of me like other sci-fi properties.  However, I have been a huge fan of the newer films.  The motion capture technology plays a big part in the performances of the “apes”.  Andy Serkis is a Mo-cap master.  Just look into his career and it’s impressive.  This is the third installment and surprised me on many levels.  Not only does it progress the story, which leads into the original PotA movie but it brings true depth to the Apes and their will to survive and find peace.

6. Coco

Vibrant and beautiful.  Coco is a stunning film with so much heart, you can’t help but walk away feeling like you did not waste your time.  It’s visually amazing as the animation continues to push the bounds and it has an amazing message of family and honoring those from the past and those in the present.  Check out my previous blog post for more: http://adamhenderson.net/2017/12/06/how-pixar-and-disney-help-me-appreciate-different-cultures/

5. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Tobey Maguire was good.  Andrew Garfield was okay.  Tom Holland is perfect.  Yes, in my mind, this version of our friendly neighborhood Spider-man was and is the best of the roster we’ve seen in films.  Keeping Spidey in high school is a must.  Not rehashing the origin story is the best decision of the story.  Having Michael Keaton as the main villain brought weight and actual conflict to the plot.  Hands down, I am most excited to see where this franchise goes more than any other Marvel property in the cinematic universe.

4. The Big Sick

This was a pleasant surprise.  I watched the trailer and thought to myself, “I have to see this movie”.  For those unaware, it’s based on a true story of how the main character met his wife.  Some things were changed for the flow of the film but the basic plot is the same.  It’s a pseudo-rom com that focuses more on how the main male protagonist sacrifices his time to be near the girl he cares greatly for while she’s in a coma (not a spoiler if you’ve seen the trailer).  What I loved most about the film is the relationship formed between him and the girl’s parents in the middle of this horrible situation.  It has heart and humor by the fistfuls.

3. Wonder Woman

I don’t know what more I can say about Wonder Woman than I already have in my previous blog post review, which you can read here: http://adamhenderson.net/2017/06/15/wonder-woman-thoughts-and-impact/

This movie gave me chills.  The No Man’s Land sequence is probably my favorite of any movie in the last few years let alone 2017.  Gal Gadot is mesmerizing and embodies the character of Wonder Woman perfectly.  Even though I did not like the climax (#bossfights), I would still give this film a high score and I can’t wait to see what they do in the sequel.

2. Baby Driver

Surprise film of the year for me.  I saw the trailer and thought it was worth watching.  Could be good.  I like director, Edgar Wright, who did Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.  Should be a fun watch.  What I got though was a fast action caper synced to the second thing I love most behind storytelling: music.  Action, comedy, and drama.  All of it is there.  Throw in slick editing and production and you’ve got what might be a universal top five film on most lists.

1. Logan

My favorite movie of 2017 is hands-down Logan.  Confession time: I cried during the trailer.  That two and a half minute video soaked in the age and conviction of Johnny Cash, covering “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails just broke me.  And yes, I did tear up during the film itself as well.  The reason, though, that Logan was my favorite movie was the finality of the character and his struggle through life.  In my opinion, there is no more tormented super hero than Logan aka Wolverine.  For almost two decades over several films, Hugh Jackman brought the titular hero to life.  Due to the nature of the film industry, it’s inevitable to see someone else don the adamantium claws but I remain convinced that Jackman brought the depth needed so we got a legitimate Wolverine and not some campy nonsense that left a bad taste in our mouths.  Go here for my complete review: http://adamhenderson.net/2017/03/06/logan-reaction/

Runner-ups: Thor: Ragnarok, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Free Fire

Call to Action: This list is prone to change since there are about a dozen movies I still need to see: The Shape of Water, Hostiles, Downsizing, The Greatest Showman, I, Tonya, The Disaster Artist, Blade Runner 2049, Battle of the Sexes, etc.  If I do make some updates, I’ll make sure to let you all know by a blog post.  I have a feeling the list could be impacted.

The Last Jedi: Quick Thoughts (No Spoilers)

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 2

After avoiding any potential spoilers for The Last Jedi, I was able to watch it at the end of last weekend.  There will be no spoilers here but I will make references to key plot details in a vague manner (no exact details).

Overall Plot Direction.  TLJ definitely surpassed my expectations when it came to the plot and moving things forward in this Skywalker Saga.  I had read and heard some popular theories about what could happen in the new chapter and while there were hints of these theories coming true, the story went in various directions that were both surprising and refreshing.  There were key moments that I thought to myself, “Yes!  That’s great writing!” and then there were things I had to process after watching and say, “Okay, I like that and I’m curious to see where it goes from there.”  Now, there are also elements that did not work, leaving questions and making many people (I’m sure you’ve seen the bad reviews from people you know) unhappy with the direction of the plot.

Star Wars Spectacle.  Star Wars as a property is synonymous with Jedi, Sith, The Force, etc.  It’s very much a fantasy set in space (something I’m sure that has been covered, debated, and discussed in the past by many a fanboys).  There are aspects to the Force in the film that enrich an enhance what the Force is and how it can be used as a power/weapon.  It’s very much a magic system that doesn’t always have defined lines or rules but that is why the balance between the light and dark side are so important as thematic elements.  How far can one go to either side before being able to come back?  I am excited to see more with the characters who can use the Force.  There should be some fun to be had with our Force users.

Characters.  Character motivations can make or break a story.  Too often, it feels as if a character’s choice is only meant to push the story forward.  Where TLJ works for me is the characters make choices throughout the film where their motivations are clear (after some extra thought and contemplation, there are some instances where this is not true but I’m focusing on the majority).  There is desperation and a time limit in play.  This makes the characters act and do so sometimes recklessly.  However, it felt right and there were consequences to those choices.  My writer brain was once again saying, “Yes, that worked”.

I get some of the points of dislike and contention.  There are viable gripes to some of the plot points that may not land for some.  However, it’s not enough for me to give this film a bad review.  It’s not a perfect film but it’s better than most.  Where The Force Awakens came up short, I feel like The Last Jedi exceeded my expectations.  I felt the weight of the conflict and did not mind the smaller sillier moments (Porg nation is real).

Overall, I put TLJ in my top five Star Wars films (1. The Empire Strikes Back, 2. Rogue One, 3. Return of the Jedi, 4. The Last Jedi, 5. A New Hope).

Call to Action: I’m curious to see what others think of The Last Jedi and how it stacks up against the other films in the series.  Please DO NOT post spoilers in the comments.

Christmas Movie Guide

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 0

We have a rule in our house: no Christmas movies until December.  For my wife, this is easy but for me, I could throw on one of my favorite Christmas movies any time during the year.

We have our favorites that we watch every year leading up to Christmas and then we have some that we watch every other or few years depending on how fresh they are in our mind.  Last, there are the movies I watch by myself because my wife doesn’t care for them (totally fine, not complaining).

As I mentioned in my previous post about traditions, Christmas movies have become a staple for me during the season so I’m looking forward to these films both as entertainment but also as a means for evoking memories.  Rather than listing all the movies on “watch list”, I just want to call out a few that I always recommend and love.


The Santa Clause

I grew up watching this one (like many others).  I was ten years old in 1994 and Home Improvement was always on in our house so I was familiar with Tim Allen and his brand of humor.  To this day, I can always watch the sitcom.  The Santa Clause is solid both in humor and the importance of faith, believing in what cannot always be seen.


Home Alone 1 and 2

More of what I grew up watching.  Kevin McCalister was quite the brat and I remember thinking every time I watched the movie that if I said or did the things he did, I would be grounded for life.  Other than the ingenuity of his traps to take down the witless house burglars in both films, it focuses heavily on the importance of family.

 
Scrooged and The Muppet Christmas Carol

It’s unlikely you’re not familiar with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  It’s a classic and has many films based and influenced by it throughout cinema history.  I put these two together because one is for kids and one is for adults.  We were Muppet fans growing up and I maintain there’s solid humor in any Muppet’s production.  And how can you go wrong with Bill Murray as “Scrooge”?  Kindness and compassion towards others pokes you in the feels for these.


Christmas Vacation

For me, there is no better quotable movie than National Lampoon’s holiday treat.  This is also the reason why many people love the movie but are okay if they don’t watch it every year.  Not me.  I want to watch this movie at least three times during the holidays.  Sure there’s a message in this one too but it’s just so dang funny that I’d watch it even if there was no inspiring lesson by the end.


Love Actually

This is the movie my wife and I adore every Christmas.  Ever since I introduced it to her during our dating years, it became a staple.  It’s essential to our viewing pleasure because it’s pretty much a perfect Christmas movie that focuses on several different people and their struggles during the holiday season.  It hits the spectrum of holiday cheer and will forever be a part of our Christmases (the kids won’t be allowed to watch it until they’re 18 though because it is rated R).


Honorable Mentions: Elf, The Family Stone, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, The Family Man, Serendipity

Call to Action:  Share with me!  What Christmas movies are staples for you?

December Update/Christmas Traditions

posted in: Film/TV, Life, Review, Storytelling | 0


My plan is to keep the normal schedule and format for the blog this month. 
The next flash fiction for the ongoing Shoals to the Hallowed series will be released on 30 December (this also happens to be my bday so I expect high praise in the comments section. If you don’t want to give that, I accept Amazon gift cards).  The third and last newsletter of the year will be released on the 31st.  If you want to sign up for that, please do so when prompted on the website or send me your email address and I’ll add you to the list.

For the month in general (we’re half way done already!), you’ll see a lot of Christmas themed posts.  I’m a big fan of Christmas.  The season (I prefer cold to hot always), movies and music (there’s just so many good options), food and drink (nothing like carbs, coffee, and whiskey to keep me comfortable), and traditions.   It’s these last that I want to explore a little today.


I can only speak for myself and my heart goes out to those who don’t care for the Christmas season for whatever the reason. 
I understand and get it.  However, I have pretty much nothing but good memories of the weeks and days leading up to Christmas.  My family never did anything crazy or outlandish (far from the Griswold experience).  We did the tree and lights.  Maybe a few other decorations around the house.  What I remember best was going to my grandparents’ house Christmas Eve to eat dinner and exchange gifts.  My grandpa would read the Christmas story from the Book of Luke and we’d all go on our merry way (no pun intended).  Christmas morning was getting up way too early (I was one of those kids who could not sleep no matter how late I stayed up), getting into our stockings first and waiting the appropriate amount of time before waking up my parents so we could get to the good stuff.

After we made a mess of the living room, we would eat breakfast and get ready for the day.  Usually we were out the door after noon and heading to the gift exchange locations with friends and families.  Dinner was usually at my grandparents’ house again with or without other family members who came in form out of town.  We ate, played games, and had the 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story playing in the background.  All in all, it was an easy traditional holiday season that I have fond memories of.

Now that I’m married, my wife and I have our own traditions that we’ve put in place and hope to carry on the rest of the way.  Our children will grow up with these and even have a part in adding to our family’s plans and activities from December to December.  Traditions are one of those things I really enjoy and Christmas allows for them to be focused and anticipated every year.

I’ll leave you with some do’s and don’ts:

Don’t spike the eggnog

Don’t stand under icicles

Don’t sit on Santa’s lap in an alleyway

Do spike your coffee

Do bundle up if it’s snowing

Do watch Christmas Vacation with a room full of friends and strangers (if you can)

Call to Action:  My hope is that you all have a great Christmas this year.  Even if past ones have not been worth remembering, I hope this one is.  Be with the ones you love.  Make sure to let them know how much you appreciate their being a part of your life.

Reviewing the Punisher

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 2

Gut punch.  That’s what it felt like to watch and experience Netflix’s The Punisher Season 1.  Before I go into my review and impressions of the show, I need to say this is not a show for everyone.  Definitely not for kids and probably not for some adults.  If brutal scenes of violence are not your cup o’ tea, then don’t drink.

We got our first dose of the vigilante antihero of Frank Castle aka the Punisher in Netflix’s Daredevil Season 2.  He’s a mysterious figure fit with an arsenal befitting a small army who crosses paths with our friendly blind lawyer Matt Murdock aka Daredevil.  The latter doesn’t kill, feeling morally and spiritually convicted by his choices to fight crime whereas the Punisher pulls the trigger first, contemplating morality after the fact.

Actor, Jon Bernthal, gave a performance as Frank Castle that took everyone by surprise.  There have been previous feature film adaptations of the Marvel skull-symbol wearing badass.  Those have been somewhat true to the source material but lacking in impact.  Bernthal gives us a full drenching that embodies the Frank Castle of the comics.  He’s a US Marine vet whose family is murdered as collateral damage depending on the origin story of the comic run.  In all though, Frank’s birth as the Punisher is consistent.  He loses his family, battles the guilt and pain of losing them, and takes on a personal code to eliminate those responsible and any other scumbag who may cross his path.

The themes in the Punisher (I’m talking both broad and in the Netflix show) center around vigilante morality, PTSD, grief, etc.  The show does this extremely well.  The first season fully features Frank as he searches for those involved in the deaths of his family after he learns that the CIA is behind some shady practices involving drug running and assassinations.  All throughout his mission, he is faced with questions of right and wrong, family, healing, and justice.  His interactions with friends and allies help ask questions and explore these themes, making the viewer question if rooting for Frank is just or not.

I’ve watched all of the Netflix Marvel shows up to date and the Punisher is by far my favorite and I think the strongest entry in the growing catalogue.  The acting and plotting are superb and where I think the other series’ wane and struggle is weight and believability.  The Punisher is visceral (such a good word).  You feel the impact of every emotion, punch, and bullet impact.  There are no “superpowers” in this show which helps it immensely.

As I said before, this show is not easy to watch.  The violence goes where other shows do not.  It’s rough but true to the comic and character of Frank Castle.  What the film, Logan, started is a trend to see these superhero properties move from a place of PG-13 action to one that makes us feel the weight of the choices and lives of these people.

Call to Action: So while I highly recommend this show, be advised.  Try out the first few episodes and see if it’s something you can handle.

Sunday Levity: The Swanson Way

posted in: Film/TV, Sunday Levity | 4

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Sunday Levity post so I jumped at the chance to offer one.  There are an abundance of tv characters that I enjoy but none is quite like Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec (may it rest in peace).  Whenever I need some humor to bust away at the drudgeries that like to cling to me, all I need is some Parks and Rec.  Enjoy these small examples of the Swanson Way at work.

  

Call to Action: What are your favorite moments from the show?  Please share!

Stranger Things Season 2: More of the Same but Better

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 0

I did not expect to be disappointed by the second season of Netflix’s Stranger Things and I can honestly say I was not in any way, shape, or form.  To be honest, I’ll probably do a rewatch/review like I just finished for season 1 and do the same for season 2 before season 3 comes out.  So, knowing that, I will do my best to keep this blog post “short” and focused.

Without going into specifics and not wanting to spoil the season in any way, I’ll keep my thoughts vague and limited as best as I can.

Everything about Stranger Things Season 1 that gripped me as a fan, writer, nerd, 80s kid, etc. continued in the new season.  There were references so on the nose that you just find yourself smiling when you catch them and then there were subtle ones that poked at your memory and made you trace back through childhood until you found the source.  All of these were present and added, never diminishing the story and/or characters.  I found myself calling out references to my wife as she watched with me and realized by episode 6 that I should tone it back.

I’m always paying attention to characters in these shows and I found the perfect amount of expansion of growth, knowing the events of the first season could not leave a lasting affect on these people.  Then you have new characters who either have suspicions or do not know what happened in Hawkins a year earlier.  All of these have to handled delicately in order to create believability.  Once again, I was not disappointed by the directions the characters went in.  They made choices (both good and bad) and found consequences for those choices.  For me, if these characters had not been handled well, it would have ruined the season for me.  On more than a few occasions, I found myself saying, “Yes, that is exactly how I would have written that response or character’s choice if I were writing this show.”

While the references are there, the world of Stranger Things is its own and we were introduced to an expanding world, making it feel more real.  The Upside Down in itself felt more fleshed out and not just a shimmer or shadow we get only glimpses of like in season 1.  By the end, we know that the Upside Down is as important to the progression of the show as the characters themselves.  It is the antagonist for it seems bent on connecting to the real world.

Nothing felt forced.  This is important with any sequel.  Think back to movies that had sequels you just didn’t feel were as good as the first film.  The magic that was captured in the first one could not be expanded on but seemed duplicated and shoved right in your face.  There are too many sequels to name that do this.

The latest example I can think of is the recent Kingsmen movie.  My wife and I loved the first film and its new world and originality.  We were excited by the idea of a sequel but after watching it, we walked away more disappointed than anything else.  Where Stranger Things succeeded and Kingsmen failed is the ability to trust the audience.  Nothing felt as if it were an exposition dump for us.  Instead, it felt as if the Duffer Brothers (Stranger Things creators and show runners) trusted their audience to remember elements from season 1 or to be able to connect the dots by simply being observant.  Here is where successful shows/movies set themselves apart.  A storyteller should be able to trust in the intelligence of their audience without patronizing.

Not wanting to stretch this too long (and not wanting to kill my love for the show by over-analyzing), I’ll leave my thoughts to this: Lost is no longer my favorite show.  Stranger Things has taken the lead at the top of my short list for favorite tv shows.  Superior writing is the kicker here.  While Lost was great (in my eyes), it did have too many instances of bad writing whether related to the plot and/or characters.

My great hope is that Stranger Things continues this strong until it’s finished.  Last I heard, the Duffers are planning and mapping out 4-5 seasons.  I think that as long as this show keeps moving in this right direction, it will easily sit safely atop my list.

Call to Action:  Let me know what you thought of season 2!  Please don’t include any spoilers.

Stranger Things: Rewatch Final Thoughts

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 0

I won’t go into further rehash of the first season of Stranger Things (I’ve exhausted that enough, I think).  I apologize if those first few episode posts were too play-by-play also.  I wanted to avoid that but felt I needed to call out a lot of important moments and details as we moved deeper into the story.

With the first season finished and moving into season 2, I think this show was primarily successful due to several factors.  The nostalgia and call backs to our favorite 80s pop culture memories definitely act as a foundation but I think to recognize the direction, production, acting, and storytelling of the show is equally important.  The show never feels like a parody of the decade but instead, it’s a heavy hitter in its own right that could have been developed and given to us by Spielberg himself back in 1983.

Much like the recent IT movie, the child actors kept this experience grounded.  They are not only great actors but they represented what early 80s preteens were (based on my memory of older kids).  I feel that I could safely argue that without their stellar performances and believability, the show would have been sub par.

Looking forward, Season 2 has a lot to live up to but if we are to go by the trailers and clips released, I think this show will continue to be strong (I’ve also heard good things from people who’ve seen early screenings of the first few episodes).  It will delve deeper into the characters and their struggles having to adjust to the incidents and experiences of the first season while opening ways into more mysteries and oddities that we love and cannot wait to experience.

Part of me is curious as to how they will keep up the nostalgia without touching upon the same ones they’ve already referenced.  Some that I noticed based on the info we’ve been given, we can expect Ghostbusters, Mad Max, Dragon Lair (the arcade game), and even Michael Jackson (Thriller primarily) all to come into play.

What to expect from me regarding Season 2 is most likely a review after I’ve seen all the episodes.  Whether or not I do another rewatch for next year (as far as I know, there will be a season 3), I haven’t decided yet but I’ll definitely consider it.

In all, this was a fun month of blogging.  A bit exploratory and experimental but still enjoyable.  I’m not sure there’s another show I would want or be able to this type of rewatch/review with to be honest.  Netflix has a great format for their tv seasons, keeping episodes at a low number.  Thank you for sticking around and reading.  Hope you enjoyed it and if you did (or didn’t), make sure to leave a comment.  I’d love to see more activity here on the blog and interact with everyone!

Call to Action: Check out the awesome Season 2 trailer below!

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 8

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 2

The Upside Down

Recap:

We’ve come to the last episode finally!

Joyce and Hopper find themselves separated and questioned by the Lab folks.  Brenner does his best consolable routine and Joyce ain’t buying it.  Meanwhile Hop is getting the less than cordial treatment and gets the business end of a tazer.  Hop has a plan though.  He makes a deal with Brenner and makes it so he and Joyce can go into the Upside Down to rescue Will.  Brenner tells his people he doesn’t expect them to live and we find out Hop’s deal included telling the Labbies where Eleven is so long as the boys aren’t hurt (not cool, man).  He’s putting a lot of trust in these people but I guess it makes sense so they can get to Will.

Nancy and Jonathan are at the Byers house going full Monster hunting, rigging up traps and preparing for the encounter.  This has shades of Nightmare on Elm Street again as the teens realize they have to pull Freddy Krueger (the Monster) into the real world to defeat him.

While Joyce and Hopper are in the Upside Down, we get our best view of the alternate dimension of Hawkins.  We also get flashbacks of Hop with his daughter, Sarah, and his ex-wife, finding that Sarah got sick unexpectedly and that has taken a traumatic toll on our cop Hop, making him the man he is today.

Nancy and Jonathan draw blood to gain the Monster’s attention and guess who shows up?  Stevo.  Oh, Stevo, do you have the worst timing ever.  He’s there to apologize to Jonathan for being a royal douche and is surprised to find Nancy there too.  Stevo forces his way inside, totally confused and not sure what to make of what’s going on especially when Nancy pulls the gun on him, urging him to leave.  The lights start going crazy and the Monster breaks through the wall.  This is such a great sequence because we get Stevo’s freaking out while Nancy and Jonathan are keeping calm and trying to kill it so Hop and Joyce can navigate through the Upside Down without encountering the Monster.

The Monster leaves but not for long.  Nancy tells Stevo to leave and he does but at his car, he hesitates.  The Monster attacks again and pins Jonathan to the ground, getting a decent supply of Demagorgon saliva on him.  But, we get a great surprise as Stevo returns grabbing a bat with nails pounded through the end.  He swings away and this is when Stevo becomes Steve, redeeming himself completely (at least to me).  The Monster ends up in the hallway, caught by the bear trap where gasoline has been poured.  Jonathan throws in a lighter and the Monster gets roasted (or so we think).

While all this happening, the boys and Eleven are waiting in the middle school.  Dustin continues his win streak, finding hoarded chocolate pudding (isn’t that always the case).  Mike and Eleven share a kiss (awww) but the calm tender moment is short-lived when the Brenner and his cronies show up.  Everything goes full red dawn and the kids are running for their lives.

Back to Joyce and Hop, they are on their way to the Byers house (Upside Down version) when they cross the path of some very ominous egg-like things that look as if something has hatched from them (yep, Aliens reference here.  Thank God there are no facehuggers running around).  They find Will’s fort empty and we get another Hopper flashback that shows us Sarah had cancer.

The Monster is injured from its confrontation with the teens and leaves a trail of blood.  This leads to the middle school in the Upside Down where they find Will cocooned to a wall with something in his throat (gross).  Hopper pulls it out and it looks like some kind of worm/snakelike creature (nope!).  Between more flashbacks where Sarah is dying and attempting to being resuscitated by the doctors, Hopper is doing the same for Will.  The whole sequence is intense but after Will breathes to life, we not only get the great reunion between Joyce and her son but there’s this triumph for Hopper, finding closure and not losing another mother’s child.

We’re not done yet though.  Things intensify at the middle school as the Lab folks catch up with the kids.  Eleven saves them by making many of the baddies die by brain scramble or something (they all bleed out of their eyes and noses).  However, lights flicker and the Monster is drawn to the school.  It shows up and attacks killing many of the remaining Lab folks, including Brenner.  Eleven is extremely weak and the boys take her to a classroom.  The Monster finds them and the boys do what they can as Lucas uses his wrist rocket (again, reminiscent of the Losers Club wounding Pennywise in Stephen King’s, novel, IT ).  As it gets closer, one of Lucas’s shots sends the Monster flying back into the chalkboard.  The boys are surprised and then realize Eleven made that happen.

She holds the Monster against the wall as it fights against her.  She says goodbye to Mike and screams (which my guess is intensifies her telekinetic strength) before the Monster disintegrates into flecks and “ash”.  However, Eleven disappears while this takes place and we are left to wonder what happened to her.

In closing, we get some resolution to the strange events in Hawkins.  The boys are back to playing D&D, finishing a new campaign that may or may not hint at Season 2 happenings (remember the name Thessalhydra).  Will returns to the normalcy of life as “the boy who lived” while Mike is sad, missing Eleven.

Hopper is a hero but it looks like he has dealings with the Lab, though we don’t know to what extent yet.  He takes eggos into the woods, making us think Eleven may in fact be alive.

Steve buys Jonathan a new camera and has Nancy give it to him.  It’s strange to see Nancy and Steve together again but we have to wonder if in the future things change.  It’s hard to imagine Nancy and Jonathan not ending up together at some point.

Will is the boy who came back to life.  But things are not as they seem.  During a Christmas dinner, he goes to the bathroom to wash up and he coughs up smoe kind of slug-like thing into the sink and the environment around him flashes to the Upside Down, leaving us to wonder…

Things are in fact NOT back to normal…not at all.  But we won’t find out anything until October 27th!!!

Reaction: Lots to say about this episode but I’ll keep it short and concise.  Any time we get a final episode of a season, we know there are character resolution, answers provided, and possibly new questions offered.  We get all of that in this episode.  The biggest questions however are, I think, the most important things we’re left with.  First, is Eleven alive?  And second, what is happening to Will?  The latter is key to the future of the story because the tear into the Upside Down has obvious affects on Will since he was exposed to it for so long.  What does that mean for him?  What does that mean for Hawkins?

80s Refs: Aliens, A Nightmare on Elm Street, D&D, IT

Call to Action: I hope you enjoyed this month of returning to Season 1 of Stranger Things.  I enjoyed writing these posts a lot and hope my format was pleasing to readers.  My CTA is to rest and get ready for season 2 which will be released on the 27th.  I have a final thoughts post coming that day as well.  Keep on the lookout!

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 7

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 0

The Bathtub

Recap:

We get a sweet moment between Mike and Eleven, finding there are growing feelings there.  Then comes Dustin to ruin their preteen romance in hilarious fashion.  No time to laugh though as they hear Lucas frantic on the other end of the walkie talkie.  They can’t figure out what he’s saying until they finally hear him say the bad men are coming.  Out the window, Mike and Dustin see vans fast approaching.  On their bikes they flee with Eleven and while we get some great action and tense moments, you can’t help but think that infamous sequence in E.T. when Eliot and his friends are riding their bikes to keep E.T. out of the hands of the government.

Then as they think they’ve escaped capture, another van turns the corner in front of them, blocking them off.  Then Eleven makes their bikes fly over the van!  Except she doesn’t!  No, instead we get our expectations subverted and Eleven launches the van over them, making it land upside down on the street to block off the pursing vans.  Another great iconic moment from this show!

The boys and Eleven get to the junkyard and hide out. Lucas joins up and apologizes to Eleven. Friends again!  As helicopters fly overhead, Lucas tells them what he saw at the Lab and they determine the gateway to the Upside Down must be there.

Hopper and Joyce show up to the police station to get Jonathan, learn from the bully whose arm was broken that Eleven is with Nancy’s brother and the group comes together.  Jonathan and Nancy explain why they have the monster hunting gear.  They all go to the Wheelers, see the Hawkins Lab folks there and then go to the Byers house to locate the boys, grabbing Will’s walkie talkie and reaching out.

We get a good moment of Stevo tired of his goober friends, ditch them, and go to the theater to help wash off the marquee.  Good on you Stevo!

Nancy makes contact with Mike on the walkies and after some back and forth, Hopper does enough to convince them to tell him where they’re at.  Somehow, Labbies show up with tranquilizer guns and just as they are about to find the boys and Eleven hiding out in a bus, the Unstoppable Hopper shows up with his fists of fury!

Everyone’s finally together (whew! It’s taken awhile) at the Byers house and after they catch each other up, Eleven tries making contact with Will or Barb in the Upside Down.  It doesn’t work and she eventually realizes she needs more than a walkie talkie.  She needs water.

Dustin comes through again when he calls Mr. Clarke, who is on a date watching John Carpenter’s The Thing (another 80s horror/sci-fi classic!), and asks about sensory deprivation.  Getting the details, they all head to the middle school to set up a kiddie pool and fill it with 15,000 lbs of salt.  Yay science!

Eleven goes in the water, floating and entering the blackness.  There, she finds Barb’s body and then finds Will hiding in his fort in the Upside Down.  After she returns from the blackness, Hop has a plan to enter the Upside Down to find Will.  Joyce goes with him where they get instantly caught by the Hawkins Lab security after getting onto the grounds.  Meanwhile, Nancy is saddened by Barb’s death and tells Jonathan she wants to finish what they started and kill the Monster.

The boys and Eleven hang out at the school and before the episode is over, we see Will in his fort and hear the Monster close by before the wall explodes and we’re left wondering what happens.

Reaction:  Another solid episode that really rides the emotion of our main characters all finally coming together.  The van launch by Eleven in the beginning is definitely a high point.  We want to see our “heroes” succeed and find Will.  Barb’s death is one of those series deaths that bummed out a lot of watchers.  She seemed to have become an instant favorite despite not being in the show very much.

80s Refs: E.T., The Thing

Call to Action:  I want to say The Thing should be revisited.  It’s a weird, crazy sci-fi flick that is in a lot of ways iconic.  I saw it as a teenager and while the practical effects don’t hold up in many cases, for the time, it was a very well done film.  Totally up to you if you want to watch it but if you’re a fan of 80s classics and haven’t seen it, you should set aside two hours, turn off the lights and chomp on some popcorn.

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 6

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 0

The Monster

Recap:

We pick up right where the last episode left off with Jonathan looking for Nancy while she crawled into the Upside Down.  Their calling out to each other, voices all weird and distant, while Nancy is hiding from the Monster.  Just as Jonathan comes across the hole in the tree, Nancy’s hand bursts out for a pretty good jump scare that got me (I feel like I should have called out some of these jump scares in previous episodes.  My bad).

Stevo and his gang of jerks are driving to Nancy’s house so he can see her but upon looking through her window, he sees Jonathan on the bed with her and jumps to conclusions.  Nancy is definitely traumatized by the experience in the Upside Down and the Monster so she asks Jonathan to stay and we get some funny awkwardness between them (I seriously have to ask where her parents are at because this is twice that she’s had guys in her room at night).

In the morning, Jonathan wakes to find Nancy looking at a kids book of animals–predators to be exact.  She tells him how she thinks the Monster has predatory tendencies and makes the connection between the it and being drawn by blood (we’ve known this since Barb was taken but the injured deer gives further proof).

 

Hopper shares his findings with Joyce and when he mentions the kid’s room in the Lab, Joyce asks if a drawing on the wall was “good” because we’ve seen in some flashbacks that Will’s got a decent artist’s touch.  Hop eventually comes back to the story he read about Terry Ives (remember her?) and that she claimed to have had a daughter taken by Dr. Brenner.  More investigative work and Hop gets an address.  He and Joyce drive to Terry’s sister’s house to talk to Terry but find she is not all there after years of drug use.  Some background information from her sister reveals that Terry was pregnant when she was a test subject for Brenner.  We get a direct mention of Stephen King from Terry’s sister, which makes me think of Carrie or Firestarter, which are two stories about girls with telekinetic powers.  They leave without much else to go on.

There’s a quick scene with Mr. Clarke being visited by the lady who killed Benny back in episode 1.  Don’t worry.  Our favorite science teacher is not harmed but we know the Hawkins Lab folks are on the trail of the boys and Eleven.

Dustin is the voice of reason, doing his best to bring peace between Mike and Lucas.  As boys do, they fight and make up.  At Lucas’s house, he listens to Mike and Dustin but he’s not willing to search for Eleven ahead of searching for Will.  So while Dustin and Mike set out to find Eleven, Lucas goes on a solo mission, looking for the gateway to the Upside Down to find Will.

A flashback of Eleven going back into the sensory deprivation tank, assured by Brenner she can’t be hurt, is cut off when she wakes in the woods.  She goes to a nearby grocery store, steals some eggos and causes a scene as the store manager tries to confront her.

 

Jonathan and Nancy are at a surplus store and buying all kinds of supplies including: gasoline, ammo, and a bear trap (all the things you need).  They tell the clerk they are going monster hunting, which is such a good line and moment.  As they’re leaving, someone drives by telling Nancy they can’t wait to catch the movie.  Nancy rushes to the nearby theater and finds that someone spray painted her name and a less than cordial term.  She finds the perpetrators, Stevo and his cronies, in an alley and confronts them.  Jonathan shows up and eventually a fight between him and Stevo ensues.  Jonathan is the clear winner and we get a great Karate Kid moment where one of Stevo’s friends tells Jonathan that Stevo’s “Had enough, man!” (Cobra Kai!)  The cops show up and Jonathan and Nancy get taken to the police station.

This episode finishes strong.  Lucas is off on his solo adventure only to come to the fence line of the Hawkins Lab where he sees military personnel on the facility grounds.  Meanwhile, Mike and Dustin are on their bikes, come across the grocery store Eleven just made a scene at, and immediately figure she had something to do with the cops there.  The mouth breathers (the bullies) show up and the boys are forced to run, eventually ending up at the quarry.

One of the bullies has a knife and catches up with Dustin (this reminds me of Henry Bowers in IT and the horrible act he commits against Ben).  The bully tells Mike to jump off the ledge and into the quarry lake or he will hurt Dustin.  Mike complies because he’s just a good friend.  He jumps, shocking them all but when they rush to the ledge, they find Mike suspended in air.  He rises up and we find that Eleven has come to save the day!  She knocks one of the bullies over and breaks the arm of the knife wielding mouth breather (so satisfying…is that bad?).

 

As Mike, Dustin, and Eleven have themselves a group hug, she tells them she thinks she’s the Monster and we get a flashback where she finds the Monster in the blackness facing away from her.  She approaches it from behind and eventually touches the Monster, drawing its attention to her.  Everything in the lab goes crazy and we realize that this action caused the rent in reality.  Her making contact opened the gateway in the lab basement! What?!?!

Reaction: A solid episode once again (I don’t think there’s one that’s not necessarily fast moving, progressing the story).  I remember the revelation of Eleven’s touching the Monster in the blackness causing the gateway to be very satisfying.  I just liked that it was that simple.  Brenner was playing with fire and brought this phenomenon to the real world.  It’s a solid story plot element that doesn’t “reach” and the fact that Eleven thinks she’s the monster is heartbreaking and a great character moment for depth.

80s Refs: Carrie, Firestarter, Karate Kid.

Call to Action: Just because, go back and watch Karate Kid.  Such a classic.  Sweep the leg!

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 5

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 0

The Flea and the Acrobat

Recap:

We’re half way through season 1!  I really consider this episode to be the turning point.  At least for me, it was here that the show took a turn that I wasn’t anticipating and it was for the good.

Hopper breaks into the Hawkins Lab accompanied by some epic synth. You kind have to wonder what his background is before Hawkins because he’s got a knack for sleuthing about.  Security eventually catches up to him at a locked door but you can’t stop the Hop!  He punches his way to gain access through the door and finds himself in a quarantined area where there’s a room that’s clearly a kid’s room.  Security is on his tail though and he takes the elevator down in to the basement where he gets a big eyeful of the portal on the wall before being knocked out.

 

Joyce is being “comforted” by Lonnie and we can quickly tell this guy’s up to no good.  He tries telling Joyce she’s grieving from Will’s death and she’s delusional.  Jonathan comes home to find the house in more disarray and Joyce’s recent axing of the wall doesn’t shake him as we might expect now that he’s leaning towards believing her.  We get a quick exchange between Lonnie and Jonathan where Lonnie tells Jonathan to remove an “Evil Dead” poster from his wall because it’s “inappropriate” which I find humorous and poignant as it’s a classic film about evil crossing into the real world.

The boys and Eleven are back in Mike’s basement discussing what they heard Will say over the ham radio.  Two distinct descriptive things were that he was in a place “like home” only it was “dark”.  Eleven tells us what that means by saying “upside down”.  Still confused, Mike recalls Eleven flipping the D&D board and placing Will’s wizard figurine and the Demagorgon on the black field.  Dustin, whose much smarter than people give him credit for, calls it the Veil of Shadows and gives us an explanation of a bleak and desolate place that mirrors the real world (sound familiar?!).

Will’s funeral takes place and then a wake and while the majority of the attendees are sad and grieving, we see all our main players putting on a show because they know or at least are convinced Will is not dead.  Jonathan and Nancy are especially not interested in the event, steal a gun from Lonnie’s glove compartment, and prepare to search Mirkwood, believing the sightings of the monster will lead them to find “something” that will help them locate Will and Barb.

We get my favorite part of the episode when the boys find Mr. Clarke and ask him about alternate dimensions.  Always willing to teach, Mr. Clarke explains to them the metaphor of the flea and acrobat, explaining how an acrobat can only go backwards and forwards on a tightrope.  A flea, however, can go along the sides and upside down (wink wink) on the rope.  The boys ask how they can do what the flea does and Mr. Clarke explains that a lot of energy would be needed or in this case a doorway or gateway would need to be opened in order for them to access that point of entry.  Such a portal would mess with the gravitational field of the real world and the boys have their lead!

Hopper wakes up in his place, not knowing how he got there.  He goes full paranoia and begins searching for a surveillance bug, breaking, ripping, and cutting his way until he finds one in the ceiling light.  His deputies show up to tell him more people have gone missing in Mirkwood and that Barb’s car was found at the bus station.  Something stinks like last years gym clothes…

Joyce finds some legal paperwork that looks like Lonnie wants to cash in on suing the quarry company for negligence and Joyce’s suspicions are confirmed.  She kicks his butt out of the house.  Hopper shows up later, telling Joyce to say nothing.  They check the Christmas lights (all of them apparently) and find no bugs.  After the all clear, Hop tells her he’s being watched. He tells her he went to the morgue and “Will’s” body was fake. She was right the whole time!  Hop’s on the scent.

 

The boys try to explain the flea and the acrobat to Eleven but she doesn’t know where the gateway to the Upside Down is.  Led by Dustin’s testing of compasses, they set out in Stand By Me fashion, following train tracks as they follow the compass.  During this time, we get a flaskback where Eleven is fit with a diving suit and descends into a water tank that reminds me of James Cameron’s Abyss.  Back to the present, Dustin says they made a loop, cutting through a junkyard and Lucas blames Eleven of sabotaging their efforts, saying he saw her wipe her nose.  Fresh blood on her sleeve confirms she was messing with the compass with her powers and an all out fight ensues between Lucas and Mike.

Eleven uses her power by screaming (eh what?) to keep Lucas from hurting Mike, launching him backwards and hurting him.  Back in the sensory deprivation chamber, Eleven finds herself in a strange place that is all black with water on the ground (not the Upside Down but I’ll call it the blackness).  She finds the man she’s supposed to find for Dr. Brenner and his words transmit into the lab. Next, Eleven hears the Monster, knowing she’s not alone and runs, waking in the water tank.  Lucas comes to and he’s extremely pissed off, storming off.  Mike and Dustin notice Eleven has disappeared and we see our group fractured.

Nancy is in her garage swinging a Louisville Slugger around (choke up, Nancy!) when Stevo shows up.  He’s trying to make amends and asks about Barb but Nancy’s in no mood as she prepares for her and Jonathan’s plans that night.  Not even Stevo’s saying he looks like Tom Cruise and singing Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock n Roll” will make her budge.

After Jonathan shows us he can’t hit the broadside of a barn with the gun and  Nancy can shoot the wings off a fly, they go off into Mirkwood with some kind of a plan (I’m still trying to figure out what their goal was even if they found Will or Barb).

 

Night has fallen and they come upon a deer that looks like it was hit by a car.  Wanting to put it out of its misery, Jonathan aims the gun but before he can pull the trigger, the deer is ripped away into the brush (one of the better jump scares in the show).  They follow the blood and look around before they get separated and Nancy notices what can only be described as a hole at the base of a tree.  It’s got some oozing grossness happening and like an idiot, Nancy crawls in (watch a horror movie, Nancy!).  Bad idea.  She finds herself in the Upside Down and comes across the Monster chomping away at the deer.  She steps on a branch and the monster jerks around opening its face which is reminiscent of a flower’s petals opening.  But this isn’t your traditional daisy.  No this things got rows of teeth!  We end on that chilling note.

Reaction: This is probably one of my favorite episodes.  The flea and the acrobat metaphor is one of those iconic things about the show and something I think will be relevant throughout the series.  I can’t help but think characters just do dumb things though.  Nancy crawling into the opening at the tree base into the Upside Down is one of those brainless things writers have characters do to move the plot.  I would have written it different. I haven’t had any moments of that so far but this one makes me mad as a writer.

80s Refs: The Evil Dead, The Abyss, any teen horror slasher, All the Right Moves with Tom Cruise

Call to Action: Watch Mr. Clarke’s explanation of the flea and the acrobat.  Such a great moment! (Sorry about the spanish subtitles…)

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 4

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 0

Episode 4: The Body
 

Recap:This is a sad one because we fall into the emotions of Will’s body being found in the lake at the bottom of the quarry.  Hopper does his best to deal with Joyce and her continued downfall into supposed insanity.  She remains convinced she’s talking to Will through the lights.  He uses the loss of his daughter as a means to assure her that she’s grieving and should do so.  The addition of saying the monster with no face coming through the wall (there’s no evidence of this as it looks like the wall “repaired” itself) does Joyce no good either.  Once the cops leave, we see Jonathan dealing with everything in his own way (trapped in music like teens often do) while Joyce is grabbing an axe from the shed, ready to protect herself if the monster returns.

Mike is grieving in his own way down in the basement, pushed further into anger as Eleven sits off in her makeshift tent, messing around with his walkie talkie.  Things change rather quickly though when Will’s voice breaks through the static, singing “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”.  Eleven’s nose bleed suggests her powers go beyond just the telekinesis.

Mike stays home yet again (good thing he has such understanding parents) and reaches out to Lucas.  After some effort, Lucas agrees to get Dustin and bring him over to Mike’s who knows Will’s alive.

Police Chief Hopper is at the morgue and discovers state police performed the autopsy on Will’s body which doesn’t fit and prods his suspicions.  Joyce and Jonathan are there too to identify the body.  Jonathan gets sick and leaves while Joyce asks about a birthmark.  Hop and Jon talk a bit about Joyce and her strength before she storms out, screaming that that “thing” on the observation table is not her son.  We see a heated argument between Jonathan and Joyce out in the street (for all to see!) and they’re at definite odds about the body and what to do next.

The boys are altogether and listening for Will on the walkie talkie as Eleven tries locating him again.  Dustin compares Eleven to Professor X (this kid’s the best with his moments of levity) as she tries to connect to Will but as she’s unsuccessful, they form a plan to take her to their school to use Mr. Clarke’s ham radio.  Paying homage to E.T. once again, we see Eleven dress up like a “normal” girl with a blonde wig and dress in order to break her in.  When Eleven looks in the mirror, you can see the joy in her face as she says she looks pretty, a compliment she gave when first seeing Nancy’s picture.

Things go Poltergeist yet again when the Hawkins Lab folks send one of their own, a guy named Shepherd, into the fungal portal in the basement.  Fit with a retractable steel wire get-up, he goes in and things get weird fast as he runs his hand over the portal opening, tearing away the “gunk” only to see it reform on its own.  He goes through, loses communication with Dr. Brenner on the other side, only to finally report in, be attacked by something, and we never see him again.  All that’s left is the bloody harness at the end of the wire as it retracts.  This sequence also kind of reminded me of Dallas going into the venting system of the Nostromo in Ridley Scott’s “Alien”.  I think if we could have seen Shepherd in the portal dimension, we could have got some good old fashioned suspense!Nancy tells Stevo about seeing a guy with no face in his yard, to which he’s more concerned about the cops investigating and finding they had booze at the party (way to go with those priorities, Stevo).  Nancy leaves him angry and unable to concentrate in class when Hopper’s deputies question her about Barb.  Nancy’s mom is there too and tries to get more information out of Nancy afterwards.  Full meltdown sees Nancy confess she and Stevo did the deed but the more important matter is Barb.  Alone in her room, Nancy puts the torn picture of Barb on the diving board back together and notices something strange behind Barb in the photo.

Copper Hopper puts on his detective garb after talking to the Hawkins mortician about the state police showing up to do Will’s autopsy.  He notices a state trooper on tv giving an interview about finding Will’s body.  Hopper finds the guy in a bar (not sure how but he’s a small town cop with big city cop skills) and strikes up a conversation, gathering info before going to far and spooking the guy.  Outside the bar, Hop uses his fists to get straight answers before noticing a suspicious car nearby and driving off once he goes to confront whoever is in the car.

The boys and Eleven make it to school but can’t get into the ham radio room before Mr. Clarke shows up and promises the boys can use the radio after the school assembly taking place in light of Will’s body being found.  Mike is not happy about the bullies making fun of the situation and confronts them afterward, growing a pair and pushing one from behind.  Before retribution can be delivered, the bully freezes in mid-stride.  Humiliations galore follow when the kid pees himself so the gym full of students can laugh at him.  Mike turns to see Eleven wipe blood from her nose (straight up gangsta!).Jonathan is alone picking out a coffin when Nancy shows up.  She shows him the picture but he’s not sure what the form is standing behind Barb.  She tells him about what she saw at Steve’s place.  Jonathan asks what he looked like and as she struggles to explain, Jonathan completes the description by saying he didn’t have a face.  Connections happening!

They go to enlarge the picture of Barb in the darkroom at the high school and we get some angsty awkwardness between them.  The picture shows the monster and Nancy says that’s what she saw at Steve’s.  They think if Will’s alive (based on Joyce’s claims) then so is Barb.

The boys and Eleven are at the ham radio.  Cue a flashback and Eleven is being told by Brenner to locate a man and relay what the man is saying.  To Brenner’s surprise, the man’s voice comes on over the PA system in the room.  Her nose bleeds yet again and the lights start doing weird things.  This girl just gets the raw end of a childhood, doesn’t she?

All the while, Joyce is blasting The Clash and calling for Will to talk to her.  This is intercut with Eleven doing her thing and Will’s voice coming through the ham radio. The boys call out to him but he doesn’t hear them as he’s talking to Joyce.  She tracks Will’s voice to one of the walls in the house, pulls back the wallpaper and tada!  Will is there behind some pinkish translucent wall.  He says he’s home but its dark and different (different dimension theory coming more and more true).  He runs when he hears the monster is coming.  Joyce goes full Jack Torrence from “The Shining” and takes the axe to the wall but there’s no Will on the other side.  Just daylight.  So, Will’s alive and Joyce and the boys know it to be true.Jump back to Hopper and we see him punch his way to the morgue room where Will’s body is.  Conflicted and maybe somewhat sickened at the idea of cutting open the body, Hopper touches the body, finding something wrong.  He cuts into the chest and finds the body is stuffed with cotton.  Conspiracy alert!  Can’t stop the Hop goes to Hawkins with bolt cutters and begins to make his way through the fence when the episode ends.

Reaction:  There’s a lot happening in these episodes now and you can easily get lost in the craziness.  For me, this episode showcased great emotional performances.  From Eleven’s seeing herself dressed up to Hopper’s struggle to cut into fake Will’s body.  Nothing has to be said in these scenes.  Read the characters and you see so much happening internally.

80s Refs: Poltergeist, The Shining, Stand By Me based on Stephen King’s novella, “The Body”, Alien, Professor X.
Call to Action: The title of this episode, “The Body”, is the same title as a short story written by Stephen King.  Four friends hear about the body of a kid hit by a train and go out into the wilds to find it.  Sound familiar?  Well, it would since it’s the amazing film, “Stand By Me”.  You can find many similarities in the boys of the movie and those in Stranger Things.  There’s this idea of adolescence lost and friendship strengthened that speak volumes.  Revisit it if you have a chance!

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 3

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 2

Chapter 3: Holly, Jolly

Recap:

Poor Barb… We start off with her in a place that looks like a gloomy nightmare, reminiscent of what the xenomorphs do to the colony in James Cameron’s “Aliens”.  There’s strange fungal, creeper vegetation all over like what we see in the basement level of the Hawkin’s Lab.  What’s more is, we can clearly see that she’s trapped at the bottom of an empty swimming pool.  Let’s recall she was taken by the monster while sitting on the diving board of Stevo’s pool.  Interesting…

Something is there with her and we get our first full look of the monster for a brief moment.  Cue Barb’s survival instincts and she does all she can to escape her nightmare situation.  Meanwhile, Nancy is losing her religion to Stevo with Foreigner serenading them.

Again, I say poor Barb because the last we see of her is trying to climb out of the pool and being pulled back in, screaming for Nancy and for help.

 

Jump to Jonathan waking up the following morning and he hears his mom talking to someone, which he thinks is Will.  What does he find instead?  His mom talking to the lights in full belief that Will is communicating with her similar to the adults talking to the little girl through the tv screen static in Spielberg’s “Poltergeist”.The boys got a plan, thinking Eleven knows where to find Will.  Lucas goes on the offensive with supplies, most notably the wrist rocket, which calls back to Stephen King’s IT (the novel).  Dustin, however, is quite the practical one, gathering food supplies, providing some levity in a show that could use quite a bit.

 

We get more levity from Dustin as he asks Eleven to make a toy Millennium Falcon float in the air (reference to Luke Skywalker making the X-Wing levitate in The “Empire Strikes Back”).  She does but only after the boys leave for school.  Alone in Mike’s house, Eleven begins to snoop about, which is what any of us would do–let’s be honest and truthful here.  She goes to the tv and we see her exposed to President Reagan, He-Man, and a Coke Cola commercial that triggers another flashback, showing us her ability to crush a can with her mind but also causing her nose to bleed.Eleven continues to explore and finds herself in Nancy’s room.  There’s a lot happening in this moment as Eleven looks at the life of another “normal” girl.  Lots of emotions are taking place.  She has no idea what it is to be a girl in the real world.

Nancy at school reveals she’s somewhat self-conscious about her night with Steve and also worried about Barb after she doesn’t show up for class or school for that matter.  Jonathan is developing film from the party night, gets caught by another student, and runs off with the pics.  That, however, doesn’t stop Stevo and his friends from finding out, confronting Jonathan and breaking his camera.  Nancy shows up during this, tries to stop it, but fails only to find a picture of Barb on the diving board and taking the ripped pieces, leaving Jonathan to mourn the loss of his camera (maybe don’t be a creeper taking pics of Nancy while she’s changing… yeesh).

Hop the Cop and his deputies go to Hawkins Lab to see what’s going on there.  Hop does the cop thing and gets in to talk to the head of security.  They assure Hopper there’s no way Will came through a drain pipe to access the grounds.  Security cameras show nothing but Hop is suspicious after the video feed does not show the storm of the night they searched for Will.  He knows they’re lying and gets his investigation on.  He goes to the library and goes through old newspaper clippings looking for leads on the Hawkins Lab.  He gets the names of a Dr. Brenner (white-haired Matthew Modine) and a woman named Terry Ives.  More on those two later.

The boys collect rocks at school but not before getting bullied; Mike is tripped, cutting his chin open on the ground.  They catch up with Eleven after school where she learns a new term “mouth breathers” for the bullies who hurt Mike.  Before she leads them to where Will is, Eleven has another flashback after seeing a cat that shows us the Lab folks were trying to get her to kill a cat with her powers.  She refuses, gets hauled off to the dark room but manages to hurt one of the orderlies and kill the other (mental neck snap!), which garner her some affection from Dr. Brenner, which just makes us all hate the guy.

A lamp just isn’t enough.  Joyce decks the inside of the house out with Christmas lights in order to better communicate with Will.  Mike’s mom shows up with a casserole (WHY IS IT ALWAYS CASSEROLE!!!).  And things get creepy as Mike’s younger sister, Holly, walks around the house, following the lights and gets super close to being swiped by the Monster through the wall (that Freddy Krueger in the wall effect is crazy!).  I did not like watching this part.  Too freaky!  But nothing happens to Holly, thank the Lord.

Nancy ditches Stevo and finds Barb’s car where they left it.  She checks Stevo’s back yard–just in case, I guess.  She doesn’t find any sign of Barb but she does get a nice glimpse of the monster before running away.  She’s convinced now more than ever that something horrible happened to Barb.

Coming to the end of the episode, we get a lot of cuts between story lines.  Hopper gets a call while in the library and he hurries off.  Eleven takes the boys to Will’s house leaving them confused while she says he’s hiding there.  They see and hear the sirens of the cops and follow on their bikes.  And Joyce is talking to Will again through the lights (great call back to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the communicating through lights in the Spielberg classic).


She fashions an alphabet on the wall so Will can spell out words to her and we come to my favorite part of the episode.  Joyce’s talking to Will with the alphabet is one of those things that becomes iconic to the show.  He tells her he’s “RIGHT HERE” which confuses her and then when she asks what she should do, he tells her to “RUN” and she does after the monster manages to burst through the wall this time.  Such a great suspenseful moment!!!

The episode closes however on a very sad, heartbreaking note as the cops and the boys get to the bottom of the quarry to find Will’s body being fished out of the lake.  Mike is furious at Eleven, believing she lied to him while Lucas and Dustin can only try to console their friend.  Hopper is just as defeated as he looks upon the body and knows things have changed dramatically for them all.

Reaction: So I don’t think I can talk about my reaction to this episode without talking about the beginning and end.  Barb’s situation and apparent demise is one of those sequences where you just want more.  She’s in this crazy place that looks like a nightmare inverse of the real world and I want to know more about it.  Then at the end, I have to go with the tragedy of Will’s body being fished out of the bottom of the quarry.  At this point, you want to believe Joyce is indeed talking to Will yet here is his body.  You can’t help but push play to watch the next episode.

80s Refs: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Poltergeist, IT

 

Call to Action: I want to recommend revisiting Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  I was too young to “get” this movie as a kid but I think if I watched it now, I would appreciate it so much more.  I’ll see if I can track it down online.

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 2

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Chapter 2: The Weirdo on Maple Street

Recap:

The boys bring Eleven out of the rain and into Mike’s 80s kid’s dream room basement.  The interaction is full of humor as the boys try to talk to Eleven and learn what they can.  While Dustin and Lucas think parents need to be brought into the loop, Mike has the decency and good sense to hold off on the notion, directing them all to the possibility that the inclusion of parents would get them all confined to their houses (isn’t it always the case) and no longer able to search for Will.

Also, we should be asking, “Why does Eleven have the tattoo of the number?  Are there ten others who have similar markings?  If so, where are they?”

The next morning Mike snags some Eggo waffles for Eleven, which becomes a staple for her and slightly reminiscent to E.T. and his love for Reeses Pieces.  Most of these interactions with Eleven early on are similar and pay tribute to E.T. with more to come in later episodes.  Mike’s plan to have Eleven sneak out and ask for help is shot down once Eleven convinces him that bad people are looking for her, making the universal gun hand sign very clear to him that she must remain hidden.

This leads to Mike staying home from school where we once again get some great moments between him and Eleven as their friendship grows.  He introduces her to the norms of life and she struggles to understand.  Mike shows Eleven his awesome 80s action figure collection.  These were the best growing up.  Quality, lol, and I was a fan of 80s action figures.  Don’t judge.  When Mike’s mom shows up, he hides her in a dark space which she’s not a fan of and leads to a freaky flashback of her in the Hawkin’s Lab hallway dragged and thrown into a dark room with no explanation while a white-haired Matthew Modine looks on.

Poor Jonathan.  You really start to feel for the kid as Joyce falls deeper into hysteria and what some might call frantic frenzy.  Our favorite Police Chief, Hopper the Copper, shows up with no Will and no belief that Joyce actually heard Will on the other end of the zapped phone.  Tensions rise when she jabs him with another reference to his deceased daughter that hits him hard.

Good Jonathan.  He takes it upon himself to go to his estranged father’s house in search for Will, not wanting the cops to show up, knowing Will could bolt if he sees a black and white pull up.  But first, he goes to school to put up some posters.

Nancy and Barb are at the school and get invited to a party (always a bad sign in 80s slasher flicks) by Stevo.  He and his friends notice Jonathan and prove their cliché douchery by making fun of him while he puts the posters up.  We’re all thinking it: “Let Stevo and his goons be the next victims of the monster!”.  Nancy, however, has a heart and goes to assure Jonathan that everyone wants Will to be found (duh, Nancy, duh).

So, is Jonathan the “Weirdo on Maple Street”?  You get that sense throughout the episode though I missed whether or not the Byers house is on Maple Street or not.  Yeah, he’s awkward and totally shoulders the brunt of responsibility helping his family with finances, going to school, and helping take care of his little brother.  We get another flashback where he is showing Will the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go”.  Once again, this show (if you haven’t noticed so far) does a great job of establishing characters and their relationships.

Meanwhile Joyce will not be swayed.  She heard Will on the other end of the phone before it was zapped and will do everything she can to make the connection again.  She goes to get a new phone and we find out the Lab folks have been eavesdropping on phone call and get a lead to go to the Byers’ residence where they do shady government work in their trusty HAZMAT suits and are led by Ghostbusters technology to the shed to get positive readings.

(Yeesh… there’s a lot that happens in this episode!  Almost done)

Hopper the Copper and his deputies find Benny’s body in what looks like an apparent suicide (shady Lab folks pulling no punches!) but Hopper’s not convinced Benny would off himself.  After some interviews, he finds that some kid was found stealing food in Benny’s diner kitchen and automatically wonders if it was Will.  It’s inconclusive but Hopper seems convinced Will was there and things just got more drastic.  Eventually, the search party leads them to Hawkin’s Lab.

Back to the boys and while they think Mike is nuts for believing Eleven, they realize she’s more than what she seems when she closes a door with her telekinesis.  Freaked out now, they decide to tread lightly around her but do explain to her what friends are as she continues to try to understand the norms.  This all leads to what is my favorite part of the episode.  She goes to the table where the D&D board sits with their figurines scattered about.  She flips the board over and places Will’s wizard figurine on the black surface of the board and then places the figurine of the Demagorgon alongside Will’s.  I can’t explain the significance of this yet but we will be getting there.

The great intensity and creepy factor of this episode comes full throttle as we return to Joyce, having installed a new phone, gets a call from who she thinks is Will again and is confirmed when he says, “Mom?”.  But then the dang phone gets zapped again!  The Clash goes on full blast in Jonathan’s room which leads Joyce to do what you don’t do in horror movies: investigate the strange thing or sounds coming from another room in the house!  All the while, lights are going nutty in the house and once in Jonathan’s room, something presses against a wall and we’ve got a Freddy Krueger moment!!!  She freaks and runs outside, ready to drive off, but when the music starts up at full blast, Joyce goes full crazy mom and heads back inside.  Fate unknown (for now).

Nancy being the great friend that she is convinces Barb to tag along to Stevo’s totally rad party (come to think of it, there’s only five people at this party so…not really a party).  Shenanigans take place with what you would expect.  We’ve got loud music, shotgunning beer from cans, and jumping in the pool fully clothed.  These 80s good times draw Jonathan to the unfenced yard of Stevo’s house while he is out in “Mirkwood” looking for Will with his camera (why he has a camera in the dark taking pictures, I’ve yet to figure out but you know, be the weirdo, Jonathan.  Embrace it.).

Barb is not having the time of her life and cuts herself badly while taking part in a shotgunning of her own.  Nancy is drenched from the pool and decides to go upstairs with Stevo and partake in some underage coitus.  Jonathan exemplifies his weirdo creeper vibe by taking pictures of all this (why, man, why?!).  Barb is alone and sitting on the diving board of the pool, still dealing with the cut she suffered.  A droplet of blood hits the water which is far too reminiscent of Jaws for my liking.  Something approaches from behind, the Monster, and snatches Barb away.  Jonathan is messing with his camera while this goes down, hears a sound but doesn’t see Barb anymore.

This show is going to end on creepiness every episode, isn’t it?!

Reaction: So my reaction to this episode was vamped to an 11 (no pun intended, lol).  So many great moments for the characters and understanding them better in light of the tragedy of Will’s disappearance.  More mystery enshrouds Eleven, the Hawkins Lab, and whatever else is happening in rural Indiana.

The moments with Joyce and Barb at the end of the episode totally freaked me out.  If you’ll remember from my “Why I Watched IT” blog post, I’m not drawn to horror but man there were some scary intense moments in this episode.  Things pressing against the wall, trying to push their way out are not something I want to see.

 

Best 80s References: Title similar to The Nightmare on Elm Street, Eleven is like E.T., The Clash send us a message.

Great Storytelling Moment: The moments with Eleven and Mike were my favorite in this episode.  Her innocence and naivety are done so well by Millie Bobby Brown and you see the world through her eyes in a way that tugs at the heart.  She has no one and you want to see her protected, while at the same time wondering if she can protect herself with her telekinesis abilities.  She needs friends and family.

Call to Action: Go back and watch E.T.  I admit I haven’t seen it since I was a kid and I need to revisit it.  I do remember the relationship between Elliot and E.T. and the love between them.  True friendship!

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 1

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Chapter 1: The Vanishing of Will Byers

Oh happy day!  We’re here in October with Fall on the horizon and Stranger Things happening.  So here’s how it will go down through the month here on my blog.  I will give a recap of the episode that should not read like a play by play but a “what’s going on here” portion with plenty of my thoughts mixed in.  Then I’ll give an overall thought of the episode followed by a list of my favorite references and maybe even some trivia if its warranted.  The Call to Action will be the last bit of the post.  Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading!

Recap:

We start with some “no namer” running through a creepy lab/hospital-like hallway which makes me think of a scene from Joh Carpenter’s “Halloween” where masked-killer Michael Myers is casually in pursuit of one of his victims.  Our “no namer” gets to an elevator safe and sound about to get away from whatever he’s running from.  We learn quickly what this show is going to be when we hear creepy sounds of what makes me think of gremlins above him.  Then…no more “no namer”.

Strange and creepy.  Here we go!

Meet the boys.  They’re the Goonies, the boys of Stand By Me, the Losers Club, etc.  Except not.  Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will are in a basement playing Dungeons and Dragons.  Now, I was not allowed to play D&D growing up.  By the time I could even conceivably sit at a table surrounded by Coke and Dorritos for twelve plus hours rolling dice and collecting hit points, D&D was of no interest to me.  As I grew up, I was told it was forbidden to play for “religious” reasons.  I don’t blame my parents for this line of thinking.  It was pretty common if you were a church-goer in the 80s/early 90s.  (That’s okay, my role playing experiences came later with RPG video games and I preferred those to any game board experiences I’ve had as an adult.)

However, the use of D&D in the show is essential which we will see throughout the series.  There are elements that act as allusion and metaphor but we’ll pause on that for now.  Just remember the name, “Demagorgon”.  It’s important.

This first episode introduces a lot of characters and sets up relationships.  I’ll try to hit on all these as best as I can without becoming droll.

Keeping our focus on the boys (they don’t have a name like the Goonies so I’ll be calling them “the boys” throughout these posts).  The D&D game ends without a resolution to the attack by the Demagorgon and they all leave Mike’s basement to return home for the night.  Things get creepy as Will takes a route home through the woods the boys call “Mirkwood” (Lord of the Rings reference!) but he doesn’t encounter Legolas or some other elven character.  Instead, something tall and lithe is in the road and causes him to crash his bike and run for home.

Whatever the “thing” is, it follows Will and a whole bunch of creepiness happens.  Lights are affected by the presence of the thing (let’s just call it a monster) and Will does the only thing a twelve year old boy should do in this situation: run to the shed and grab a rifle.  However, the monster gets in somehow and the next thing we know, Will is gone.  No scream or nothing.  Just gone.

Cue perfect title sequence! (The synth music here is reminiscent of Carpenter’s iconic Halloween theme.)

More introductions happen after this.  We get our favorite police chief. Hopper. who shows us plenty of things: he likes pills and beer in the morning.  We also get to meet Will’s mom, Joyce (Wynona!), and brother, Jonathan, who realize Will’s gone and that’s not good.  Mike’s older sister, Nancy, and her best friend Barb (#savebarb) let us in on the high school scene and all those fun instances of angst and conformity (I blame the clothes and hair styles personally).

We also see that Nancy, the smart girl, is in a budding relationship with Steve Harrington (whom I will call Stevo), the popular boy, reminding us of John Hughes and most notably “Sixteen Candles”.  More or less, we get a pretty picture of fictional Hawkins, Indiana where things are peachy keen until strange things start happening.  Typical but nostalgically amazing!

Nefarious dealings are happening in the lab we first see at the beginning with the “no namer” as we go back to the Hawkins Laboratory.  HAZMAT wearing dweebs (these guys are always at fault) go to the basement and find spores in the air and nasty, gross fungus-like growths on the walls.  One of these is extra big and pulsating looking far too much like an infected wound.  Gross.

Police Chief Hopper does the appropriate police work and begins to investigate Will’s disappearance at the frantic request of Joyce (she and he have obvious history together).  It takes a while but Hopper eventually realizes this is not a kid who ran off and is hiding somewhere.  He’s gone without a trace.  The search commences and the town begins to band together to find Will.  Also, we are told Hopper had a daughter who died but that remains a mystery.  Joyce and Jonathan do their best to console one another and when the phone rings, Joyce hopes for good news.  Instead, she hears weird sounds, which includes breathing she believes is Will, but before she can get an answer, the phone gets a level-10 electric zap.

And now your star of the show arrives walking through the woods shoeless and in a hospital gown.  Eleven!  This girl’s got spunk.  One kid vanishes and another appears.  We know things are not good for her as she steals food and can unabashedly stop an annoying floor fan with her mind.  Telekinesis powers is always bad-ass.  I don’t care who you are, it would be an awesome super power to have.  Suffice to say, someone, Benny the diner owner, tries to help her and dies in the process but at least she gets away, forced back into the woods while the appropriate 80s cliché of a rain storm hits the night.

Back to the boys and they want to find Will, thinking like boys do, and wonder if the previous night’s D&D game had something to do with his disappearance.  Will had a choice to cast a protective spell against the Demagorgon or cast a fireball.  He chose fireball but his di roll was inconclusive.  This comes off as strange but this is how boys think (trust me).  They go full Goonies and hit the night, enduring the storm on their bikes to look for their lost friend in “Mirkwood” where they eventually run into Eleven!  Episode over.

Reaction: I remember first watching this episode last year and being gripped by it immediately.  There was so much of my childhood wrapped into those 50+ minutes that I had to keep watching.  Also, the music is perfect.  You have to watch the episodes a few times but you truly appreciate the tone of scenes when you focus on the crazy synth sounds produced.

Best 80s References: X-Men 134 (First appearance of the Phoenix that takes over Jean Grey who is a telepath like Eleven), Mirkwood, Goonies, Sixteen Candles, E.T.

Great Storytelling Moment: It won’t come into full affect until later episodes but the use of D&D in Stranger Things Season 1 actually plays important roles as a foreshadowing device.  As a writer, these are the things I love to see utilized and done well.

Call to Action: Here’s the first 8 minutes of the episode for your enjoyment!  If it’s not your cup of tea, then I’d advise against watching the show but you can definitely keep reading my episode rewatch posts!  Far less creepy but plenty strange.

Stranger Things Are Coming

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We’re almost there!  We’re a month out from Stranger Things Season 2 and I have been so excited!  I figured I would take a moment to explain how this is going to work.  Here’s the schedule:

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 1 – 03 Oct

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 2 – 06 Oct

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 3- 09 Oct

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 4 – 12 Oct

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 5 – 15 Oct

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 6 – 18 Oct

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 7 – 21 Oct

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 8 – 24 Oct

Stranger Things: Rewatch Final Thoughts- 27 Oct

Each post will cover my impressions of the episode from a few perspectives: as a nerd, 80s kid nostalgia, and a writer.

I’ll say here that I love this show.  It hit me in so many ways and I truly felt it was a show made for me and my generation.  I was born in ’84 but watched so many of the movies and tv shows referenced that I completely related.  I remember the technology, music, and culture of the US.

What’s funny is there are elements to the show that I did not understand or experience in that time period growing up but was later drawn to just because I naturally drifted towards those influences by some way or another.  I’ll go more in depth in the episode reviews, of course.  You’ll learn more about me from these blog posts.  That’s for certain.

If you have not watched Stranger Things, then I encourage you to give it a try.  It has some creepiness and definitely crosses into horror/sci-fi at times but overall, the show is a cross between The Goonies/E.T./Alien with many shades of other 80s films.  If it’s not your bag, I don’t blame you.  To each their own.

Call to Action: Brush up on your 80s pop culture!  So many of the references in the show depend on that (at least in my opinion).

Why I Watched IT

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 2

I will start by saying this is not an open endorsement to go and watch Stephen King’s “IT” in theaters.  Instead, I want to explain why I had the desire to watch it.I watched the 1990 miniseries (more like two made-for-tv movies to be honest) back when I was probably close to ten years old.  At the time, it was creepy and definitely had moments that scared me.  However, this was back in the time when tv would edit out a lot of mature things, which is no longer the case.  Nevertheless, the miniseries still had its moments.

The book of “IT” is extremely violent and has some very mature themes that could not be put on tv.  Looking back now, the miniseries has various levels of campiness and the acting is subpar save for Tim Curry’s performance as the iconic clown, Pennywise.  His performance has remained a staple of his career and also in the horror genre.

Twenty seven years later, we are introduced to the film adaption of the novel and it is more true to the book despite many liberties being taken.  The horror and gruesome imagery in the book translate to an R-rated film much easier and the director, Andy Muschietti, did not hold back.  Believe it or not there are scenes in the book that even by today’s standards could not be filmed and put on the screen.  I won’t go into the details but King introduced some troubling things and to this day people are not keen to (as well they shouldn’t).

Now, why did I want to watch this film?  I am in no real way a horror fan.  I have tons of memories of scouring the tv as a kid and finding horror movies (all edited for general viewing, of course) and daring to watch them even though I was not allowed to.  Why?  Mostly because I was curious.  I never had nightmares from doing this but those images do stick with you.  Part of me definitely did it to get the rush of adrenaline one gets but I’m not a junkie for that sort of thing.  I’m more a fan of suspense than horror.

For “IT”, my draw was partly due to nostalgia because I remembered the mini series and I also remember reading in-depth synopses of the novel (I never dared to read it) so I was curious as to how this film was going to turn out.  I paid close attention to the trailers and tv spots whenever they were released and watched them on YouTube and I even watched the breakdowns of these clips.  Again, all out of curiosity more than anything else.  After listening to reviews from multiple critics, I gauged their response to the film as well and the high regards for it tugged at my interest more.  If they had all said it was crap and not worth their time or money, then I’d probably be like, “Eh, maybe I won’t see it then.”  Alas, that was not the case.

When it came time to watch the film, I was apprehensive but knew plenty about the source material and even heard some spoilers that I felt prepared.  Hahaha, I know, I know.  Why watch it then?

I have to say the film is well made and the acting performances by the young actors are spot on great.  Bill Skarsgard’s portrayal of Pennywise the Clown was different than Tim Curry’s previous portrayal and every bit intense and scary.  A very good job.  The creepiness factor is there throughout and at times so subtle that I only knew what to look for because of some of the reviews I listened to.  Some seemed specifically aimed at the theater goers.  Was it scary?  Yes and no.  Was it violent?  Yes and yes.  Was it worth my time?  I think so.

Let me explain why.  As I’ve done this whole writing thing, I’ve been drawn into storytelling no matter the medium.  Whether its movies, television, comics, video games, etc.  If there’s a great story with even better characters, I am interested.  It doesn’t matter the genre either.  I kind of equate my experience watching “IT” to my experience of playing “The Last of Us” which I reviewed in a prior blog post.  “The Last of Us” was an intense experience!  There are so many moments where the intensity of the environment and situation have my adrenaline up and flowing.  If you’ll recall, I loved the experience of the gameplay but even more so the characters of Joel and Ellie.

For “IT”, the kids make the movie.  Yes, Pennywise and all of his eerie creepiness are more spectacle than anything else because he’s a shape shifting other worldly entity of evil that feeds on the fear of children.  What they fear, he becomes, which as you can imagine produced some frightening things.

I think what draws myself and audiences to “IT” is essentially the kids and their banding together to beat this evil that adults cannot see or even sense.  And this threat is very real since we see at the beginning that it preys on children, feeding on them once their fear meets its needs.  There is a very real sense of danger to them and we cannot help but root for their survival and defeat of evil.

Call to Action: Don’t watch “IT” unless it’s your brand of entertainment.  I can honestly say that while I enjoyed the film for some reasons, I don’t feel the need to see it again.  One and done until the sequel comes out (yeah, I forgot to mention it’s a two-parter film as well).

On This Day – 22 Sept 2004 – Premier of Lost (TV)

posted in: Film/TV, On This Day, Review | 1
Wow!  On this day, thirteen years ago, I sat in front of a tv at my parents house and watched the Lost premier!  Amazing how much time flies by.  I can’t believe it.  If you want to read about my review of the series of Lost, go here:

What I didn’t know at the time was what Lost would become: a phenomenon.  All I knew of the show was that it was about a plane crash and the survivors were stuck on a strange island.  Below is the promo trailer:

 

I wish I could say I was hooked from the beginning but I quickly forgot about the show and didn’t watch it again until the second season began to air.  From there, I never missed a week, and I became a bit obsessed with the theories of the show and all its mysteries.  I remember so vividly as I was right out of high school and taking classes at the local community college.  I worked in the computer lab and had several websites I would visit throughout the week to read about theories or go over screen caps of things showcased in the show, hoping these items like numbers, historical events, and books would shed light on the secrets.  Let’s just say I was a committed fan.

I remain a fan to this day and while there are plenty of things wrong with the show, I choose to love it for the good things it did.  Many great characters and fun, memorable moments, twists, and surprises keep me enthralled by the awesome show.  Many other shows have come and gone trying to recreate the enthralling experience of Lost.  They all fell short.

For myself, Lost opened some doors in my own creative mind that has definitely paved the way towards story structure.  As I said before, there were many times in the show where it seemed like the writers were writing as they went, answering questions but then opening the doorway to two or three more mysteries.  This was not the best method because by the end of the show, some of the answers to the mysteries were not truly satisfactory.

However, I believe that the serial structure of the show is far more superior to the otherwise opposite procedural in that continuous story lines help keep characters grounded but also available to grow.  I’m not saying a procedural cannot bring character growth (many do) but these lingering story lines help us look back at the beginning to see how far the character has come once they reach the end.

Case in point, Jack Shepherd (played by Matthew Fox) is one of the main protagonists in the show and the focus of the pilot episode.  The show opens with his eye opening (a common theme in the show with many characters) and he finds himself surrounded by trees in a jungle.  He then proceeds to discover the plane he was on has crashed and he has to act instantly (that’s the doctor in him) to start helping the other survivors.  That’s his sole goal throughout the first season and onwards in the series: to help people.

I won’t spoil it but to consider the character of Jack from the beginning and to see his journey until the end of the show (minor spoiler but, yes, he survives the entirety of the series), you can truly appreciate the writing.  There were missteps along the way but my love for the show can easily be captured in the overall arc of Jack who is a tormented, broken man but one of quality and ability that supersedes his faults.

Call to Action: To watch Lost is an endeavor.  It’s a long show with all kinds of twists and turns and highs and lows.  I still think the two-part pilot is one of the greatest episodes of television to date and always recommend watching it.  Do you agree?  Tell me what you thought about Lost when you first saw it.  I can always talk about it and watch it no matter what!

Book Thoughts: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Something I rarely do (pretty sure I’ve never done it in fact) is finish a book of decent length in a week.  It helps to have 16 hours of driving shotgun from Colorado to southern California though.

Initially, getting in to Ready Player One was easy.  The main protagonist, Wade Watts, introduces himself in first person and quickly begins to describe the world in which he lives and his personal struggles.  Not to get into the weeds of specifics, he lives in a dystopian future that has resolved itself to log into a virtual world called the OASIS.  Here in this virtual world, people forget the trials and hardships of their real life and become whatever they want by creating an avatar and remaining anonymous by using an alternate user name by which celebrity can be attained.

Wade or Parzival (a play on the name Percival), is what is called a gunter (fun word), which stands for egg hunter.  Already, you’re thinking, “Does that mean he’s some kind of chicken farmer in this virtual world?”  No, unfortunately, that is not what he is.  Gunters are those OASIS users who are searching for three keys (copper, jade, and crystal) which will open three gates that will eventually lead them to the Easter Egg hidden within the vastness of the OASIS by its creator.  Whoever finds it, inherits the creator’s wealth and more.  The problem is, it’s been years since the contest to find the Easter Egg was announced and no one has made headway to discover the location of the first key (copper).

There, I have to stop because otherwise we get into spoiler territory.  Honestly, the book is a fun read with plenty of sub context our society can grab a hold of as we become more advanced in our technology and move into this virtual otherworld.  VR technology for video games is getting better by the year and soon enough, I would not be surprised to see us “plug in”.

A major plus in the book for me is the references to late 70s and 80s pop culture.  The creator of the OASIS was a teenager during the 80s and therefore his difficult home life was medicated through the movies, music, video games, and comics of that decade.  I was born in the mid-80s but I have held onto that decade more than I did the 90s when I was an adolescent/teenager.  So many of the 80s references in the book hit home for me.  From classic arcade games to Rush lyrics, I found myself trying to decipher the clues to the keys and gates, thinking of the 80s and what they could mean.

Ultimately though, the characters were spot on.  Wade and his friends were strong and fun to go on the adventure with.  Anonymity is a huge theme in the book.  People perceive avatars through the OASIS but personality comes through despite appearances.  Wade learns this along the way.  There’s this desire to know who his friends are in reality but the fear that to do so might affect their relationships after being “exposed”.  How much do we see in our society today people striving to fix imperfections and form their identity by any means possible?  Identity is a major theme in the book and by the end, I really felt I understood it and was able to think about it on a deeper level.

In closing and here’s your “Call to Action”, give Ready Player One a read.  If your a fan of the 80s and all things pop culture, you’ll get a kick out of the references.  Plus, Steven Spielberg is directing the film adaptation and I can’t wait to see how the movie turns out!

Happenings: Life as a Writer

Hello all!  Life continues as it does without giving so much as a moment’s break.  I’ve been actively keeping up on all of my projects and won’t rehash any of it here (busyness is a real thing for a writer).

I do have a slight announcement to share.  I am featured on another writer’s blog in an interview that you can click over to read here: http://jamie-marchant.com/blog/

Hope you enjoy that little bit of a tidbit.  It was a fun experience and I hope to do more in the near future.  Yes, that was an actual excerpt from “So Speaks the Gallows” and a great deal of fun to finally share.  (I think I’ll share it here on the website as well over on the So Speaks the Gallows page.)

I am working on the second newsletter set to be released at the end of August.  If you haven’t signed up yet for it, I highly encourage you to do so.  It will contain a “Shoals to the Hallowed” short story that will fill in some gaps and provide additional information to everything what has transpired so far.  I know there’s a propensity to provide exposition but I really try to avoid this while writing.  The information is there but lines do need to be made.  I trust you all as readers to do that.

Also, I wanted to take today’s blog post to recommend a movie to all of you.  Baby Driver (the title of the film may be the only thing I don’t like about it) is such a great film and done so well from a direction perspective.  I know I mentioned it in a previous post but I cannot stop promoting it!  You’ll find today’s Call to Action devoted to a video that dives deeper into the filmmaking that I found fun to watch.

Game of Thrones started back up, so I’m watching that as well as other shows.  Some are guilty pleasures but not things I recommend for their storytelling.  I will say, though, that I’m always looking for new shows.  I avoid procedurals like the plague and really only like those in comedies.  For drama, I love a good serial that has twists and turns.
I’m still behind in my Goodreads reading challenge but trying to catch up.  I find myself in a weird place though as I’m listening to an audiobook of Christopher Moore’s “Lamb”, which is the fictional story about Jesus and his best friend, Biff, as they travel in search of the three magi who delivered gifts to Jesus as a baby.  They go on quite the adventure that is absolutely speculative fictional, not always…kosher.  And, I’m reading the book, “Good Omens”, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, which has a rather satirical take on the apocalypse with the coming of the Antichrist but things are not quite going as planned.  Very strange dichotomy of reading that I did not plan but both stories have crossed over.  I’m not quite sure I’d recommend either book at this point.

Not a main writing focus for today’s blog post but I like to pause and share the things I’m doing and enjoying.  All of these affect my writing in some form or another.  I’m not one of those writers who is always writing/editing/revising or working on my projects.  Breaks are good for my sanity, which is essential for writers to maintain (though, I guess there are some writers out there who would argue the opposite).

Call to Action: Watch the video and enjoy!

Wonder Woman: Thoughts and Impact

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review, Writing | 2

I’m juggling and shifting my blog post schedule around to bring you all my take on the film, Wonder Woman, which Leesie and I went and saw this last weekend.

This is not a review but rather an initial impact on me as a writer and storyteller.  Have no fear, there will be no spoilers shared here!

I went into the movie expecting it to be good based on reviews I’ve come across.  I have not been the biggest fan of the DC comics movies so far (I enjoyed the first halves of Man of Steel and Suicide Squad) but I have held out hope that the trailer I saw for Wonder Woman would hold up for the entire film.

We watched the movie and my first comment to Leesie afterward was, “I am amazed that it took until 2017 for us to get a movie like that.”  Now, what I meant was, “Holy crap!  Why have we not had a movie centered on a woman super hero?!”  Seriously, I loved the film.  It had so much good in it that I’m still processing everything to this day.

What’s more is I truly loved hearing Leesie’s take on it.  In case you all don’t know, I’m a straight white male and that has…interesting connotations in today’s society (let’s leave that ditty for another day though).  My wife’s opinion means a lot to me as a storyteller and I often expose her to movies or shows that impact me as a writer and I want her take on it.  This doesn’t always go over well though because she doesn’t see what I see but that’s not really a bad thing.  I’m just a nerd who gets inspired by things not everyone else does lol.  So, not a knock on her, I just really like to hear her reaction.

But for Wonder Woman, I absolutely wanted to hear her reaction.  To listen to her talk about how it evoked emotion in her to witness a woman who was both powerful and compassionate lead the charge (not a spoiler since it’s in the trailers but that “no man’s land” scene was one of the best I’ve ever seen) tore at me.  As a man, and I like to think I value women pretty well (all thanks to my mom), I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman.  I don’t know how women feel or think.  I don’t know what their experiences are in the workplace and other social constructs.  I just don’t but I love that I can talk to my wife and listen to her talk about these things that are inspiring to her and for different reasons than they are for me.

One other aspect she brought up to me (after reviewing this blog post) was the fact that Diana did not devalue the men she encountered (for the first time mind you) but came alongside them, learning about them as people and valuing what they had to bring to the table.  This idea of co-value is what seems to be missing in a lot of the discussion between men and women’s roles in society.  We are different.  Biologically and mentally there are differences but in action we can carry out the same goals.  I am always thinking about this as a writer and even putting it up against other stories in any medium of media.

Already, my mind is going back to the female characters of my stories.  I’ve never wanted to write ones that feel inferior for the sake of a plot device.  I truly don’t want to tell the story of a damsel in distress who can only be saved by the knight in shining armor.  It’s been done to death and it’s not an interesting story to tell (at least not to me).

As I write and revise the first book of the Ravanguard series, I’m reassessing my main female protagonist’s scenes in which I explore her thoughts and actions in the conflicts she faces.  Yes, she has help from both male and female counterparts but I truly desire to write her stronger than I previously had.  Will she make mistakes?  Yes, because that’s believable and makes her grow as a character but I don’t have to write her into corners or the tallest, darkest tower with way to escape lest their be some chiseled Fabio chump to scale that tower to free her.

Wonder Woman was an amazing film to experience and I highly recommend it to everyone.  I came away extremely impressed with the direction of the film by director, Patty Jenkins (keep an eye on her as a director) and Gal Gadot’s performance as Diana aka Wonder Woman.  Gadot was mesmerizing and embodied a hero with a clear vision of purpose and power.  Ignore the naysayers and pompous twits who feel the need to gripe over sensitivity issues (most of these are results of their own biases).  Form your own opinion and let that be enough.

Call to Action: Go see it.  In fact, if you’ve already seen it, go see it again.  I don’t often watch movies twice in theaters but I would absolutely jump at the chance to see Wonder Woman again.

My Cup Runneth Over

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Music, Review, Writing | 2

Couple of things to go over first before I get into the trappings of my mind today.  This is going to be kind of subject to subject type of post but a good overview of the happenings in my fun-filled life.

Business first.  There may be some changes coming to my blog posting schedule.  If you’ve paid attention, I post on every even day of the week (2nd, 4th, 6th, etc.) unless the “On This Day” post lands on an odd day.  Roughly, that means I’ve posted about 14-15 posts a month.  After five months of this, I’m beginning to wonder if I can keep up that kind content production for the foreseeable future.  So, starting in June, I’ll be switching it up.  My plan is to begin posting every three days instead of every other day.  That means blog posts will likely be on the 3rd, 6th, 9th, and so on of every month.  There will be variances of course depending on when the “On This Day” post falls (maybe that will be a bonus post for the month).  Everything else will stay the same though.

Still nothing on the book art for “Dim the Veil” but I’ll let everyone know once that happens.  No progress on the method for savings towards the professional edit either.  I’m going to be looking into some options soon though and hopefully come to a decision.  Again, I decided against gofundme and kickstarter because if someone decides to give anything over $5, I fear that I cannot offer them anything in return besides the novella once I release it and I don’t believe that’s ethical.

Viewing pleasures.  I recently watched the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and I have to say I truly enjoyed the film.  It did not quite go in the direction I expected and I was pleasantly surprised by the more sentimental parts and its focus on family.  It hit the heart strings on a few occasions.  And the music was awesome of course!  No other movies I can think to bring up but I am watching the new seasons of Better Call Saul and Fargo.  Both are great television shows that continue to hold strong in their narratives and character explorations.  I’ve wanted to get into the American Gods show based on Neil Gaiman’s novel but I haven’t had the time yet.  I can’t say I loved the book so I’m not uber-drawn to the show.
Soothing Sounds.  As both a writer and musician, I’m naturally drawn to music.  My musical journey has been interesting to say the least.  I may have to do a separate blog post on that soon because I’ve gone from genre to genre over my life and settled recently on pretty much a place where I didn’t think I would.  One of my favorite bands is Cold War Kids and their latest album “LA Divine” has been a constant whenever I have music on in the background (heads-up, I’ll be working on a blog post soon going over some of the lyrics from that album in a sort of semi-review).  Also, freaking Paramore (probably one of my top-five bands ever) has released their fifth album “After Laughter” and that will be played out in no time between myself and my wife (her favorite band).

Bookworming.  Recent reads include a bevy of books.  A couple of fantasy tomes were “Heroes Die” by Matthew Woodring Stover and “Shadowmarch” by Tad Williams.  Both were good for what they were but did not blow my hair back.  “Heroes Die” was more an original idea with sort of a pseudo-sci-fi element to it.  “Shadowmarch” reminded me of “Game of Thrones” and some of the other books of that ilk.  I also finished Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” which I will probably review in the next newsletter.  Definitely a fun “read” as I listened to the audiobook.  I’m a little behind in my reading challenge over at Goodreads so I need to get on it and read some shorter books I think.  It’s these 500-600 page fantasy epics that really slow me down :/

Fun Stuff!  So, we’ll be going to Colorado to visit family in September and I was lucky to find that my baseball team, the San Francisco Giants, will be in Denver playing the Rockies while we are there.  So, I jumped on the chance to see my team play  for the time live and bought tickets for one of the games!  Super excited!  I haven’t been to a baseball game since I was in my early teens.  Should be a great experience with my dad, uncle, cousin, and brother-in-law.  The great thing about baseball games if that they don’t cost an arm and a leg to go.

And that concludes your quick update of my life.

Call to Action: I’m curious to know if anyone has any thoughts on how often I post blog posts.  One every other day was really a challenge to myself to see if I could do it but also provide enough content to gain readers.  I can’t say for sure if this has really gained people interested in reading my content though.  I don’t get much feedback besides from friends and family (am I even doing this right? lol).  Maybe switching it up will help.

To the Screen

posted in: Film/TV, Writing | 2

As I’ve stated before, I’m a big fan of films.  Movies and television shows are a pastime I truly enjoy.  Whether visual spectacles or great characters, I continually gravitate towards that medium to experience storytelling.  I actually think I get a bit jaded because of this.  There are movies that are not necessarily good or praised by critics but I love because there’s a story element that grips me.  If you look at my Blu-Ray wall, you would definitely wonder why movies are there to which I enthusiastically explain why I love it.One of my desires as a writer is to write screenplays.  Now, it might be just for fun at this stage in my life but I do think I have stories that could be told and translated to the screen.  I often think about this and the embers are usually stoked once I’ve watched movies I have a special affinity for (anything by Cameron Crowe is often the instigator).

If I wrote a screenplay (something I may start working on just because I need one more thing added to my writing buffet), it would explore people in such a way that I identify with.  People love, hurt, and have dreams that satisfy their joys and desires.  In this, I would want to explore flawed characters who need to learn or have a revelation about themselves or others to find healing, peace, success, etc.

We can blame my recent viewing of Cameron Crowe’s “Elizabethtown” on today’s blog post.  I know it’s not his most acclaimed film but there is something about it that draws me in and makes me want to tell a story both visually and with the accompany of music.  I often joke that Crowe is my patronus (a little word play Harry Potter humor thrown at you).  He tells the stories I think need to be told.

I actually do have an idea for a movie that I’ve been rolling around in my mind for a little over a year but it needs a lot of work.  I have the resources to write a script but I don’t have a process for developing the story yet.  I’ve thought about doing it in novel/novella form first so that I know how it will go from beginning to end but I’m not quite sure if that’s the right method for me at the moment.  Maybe…  I don’t know.

If anything, the idea for this story that could potentially be developed into a screenplay just reinforces my desire to tell stories and explore new characters, settings, themes, etc.  There’s no way I could go day to day and remain sane without writing.  Even blogging has helped me keep up my imagination because I’m always thinking, “What should I write about next?”  I think exploring this movie idea may be something worth investing my time in.  More stories!

Call to Action: I’ll throw a couple of movie recommendations at you that are not Cameron Crowe films.  To name a few that I absolutely love and recommend you watching are: Little Miss Sunshine, The Hollars, This is Where I Leave You, and The Way Way Back.  Each of these inspire me to explore what I want to write as a potential screenwriter.

Recommended: Breaking Bad

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Writing | 4

Vince Gilligan’s “Breaking Bad” is by far one of my favorite television shows ever.  But not for the reasons people might think.  So, let’s jump into it.  I should note that this is not an effort to convince people to watch the show.  It is wonderfully written, acted, and produced in so many ways but it also deals with some very difficult subject matter.  I’m simply explaining why I enjoy such show.

For those who are unfamiliar or only slightly so with the show, I will try to provide a basic rundown.  It follows the transformation of chemistry high school teacher Walter White to the notorious meth cook, Heisenberg, who is diagnosed with lung cancer and sees the end of the tunnel, which would leave his pregnant wife, unborn daughter, and teenage son without much once he’s gone.  Working a car wash job in addition to his teaching gig, Walter is put up against a horrible situation and is desperate to not only pay for treatment but leave his family with more than debt and hospital bills.

By chance, his brother-in-law, a DEA agent, shows a video at Walt’s birthday party where the DEA has busted a meth lab where the evidence gathered reveals a stash of cash to which Walt instantly wonders about.  It’s this event that eventually leads to Walt’s being on a ride along with his brother-in-law to bust another meth lab where he sees one of his former students, Jesse Pinkman, avoiding arrest.  Yada yada, Walt and Jesse join together to go into business and embark on a whirlwind of danger that affects them all in sorts of ways that have them constantly making choices that would keep them safe and out of jail.  Unfortunately, they do not come out unscathed all the time and suffer both physically and relationally throughout.  Whether its the DEA or rival drug lords, Walt and Jesse have to trust each other and their wits to keep ahead of the danger.

Suffice it to say, this show is never dull (even the bottle episodes are great).  It explores characters and the transformation of said characters in ways most shows avoid or don’t know how to execute.  Obviously, no spoilers here but you will often be conflicted, not knowing who to cheer for from season to season.

The reason I love this show and recommend it purely from a storytelling aspect is that Vince Gilligan and his writing team are famous for stating that they purposely wrote Walt and Jesse into corners just so they (the writers) could find a way out for the pair.  Storytelling is the best part of the series while the characters are a close second.  (Aaron Paul’s performance as Jesse is amazing.  He is my favorite character throughout the show.)

Again, this is not an easy show to watch.  It deals with very real subject matter from family drama to the high cost of drug usage.  I do not take these things lightly and never want to insinuate that.  I have spoken with friends who have actually dealt with others in this regard and it’s sobering to hear the stories.  I am not disillusioned by this to say the least.

In my mind, compelling stories are best when they deal with true and difficult aspects of life.  Sure, a lot of the scenarios of “Breaking Bad” are embellished for the small screen to be dramatic and hold our viewership but in reality, life is not easy and we face difficult decisions every day.  I pray it not so for everyone but things happen and livelihoods are put to the test.  Walter White’s livelihood and that of his family are tested so much so that you truly wonder if his choices were worth it in the end.  He makes his choices in order to see his family taken care after he is diagnosed with cancer.  However, his dive into the criminal underbelly costs him a great deal and affects his personality in ways that make you wonder about his overall psyche.

There’s a quality of storytelling here that provokes me as a writer to not just be the gardener but push more towards being the architect when planning and writing my books.  Honestly, I’m drawn to great writing and it’s hard for me to stay away or ignore it when it’s in the form of a show like “Breaking Bad”.

Call to Action: If you’re willing, check out the pilot episode of the show.  If you get through it and are kind of interested to see where it will go, I’d recommend trying another episode and so on.

Recommended: Lost

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Writing | 2

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42

Never trust the numbers, ha!

From time to time, I’d like to go back and give you all some of my recommendations when it comes to movies and TV shows.  You’ll definitely be getting book recommendations but because I’m a bit of a film nerd and a lover of great storytelling, I want to share my thoughts on my favorites of the screen.

This is all subjective, of course, and I don’t expect everyone to agree.  That’s totally fine.  You have the right to my opinion.  I would even say these are not for everyone.  Some are a bit on the edgy/grim side when it comes to content.  To each their own.  Everyone has their limits and preferences and I respect those of you who would rather not invest their time in something they choose to abstain from.  Good?  Great!

Onto the show!  Lost.  Such a divisive show now that we’re years removed from its run.  From 2004 to 2010, this show was number one.  For those not initiated, it involved a mixture (a potpourri if you will) of plane crash survivors who ended up on an island in the South Pacific.  The first season focused a great deal on these survivors doing all that they could to survive and hope for rescue.  If you read that and you’d never heard of the show before, I’m sure you’re saying, “Oh, so it’s Gilligan’s Island but with drama”.

Not so.

Throw in the wrinkles of strange things happening on the island and the fact that each episode focuses on one of the survivors and presents flashbacks to the days before the crash and you’ve got compelling stories about individuals and their interactions when faced with a horrible dilemma like being stranded on a mysterious island with a bunch of strangers, not knowing how quite to adjust.

So here’s the thing…  I watched the pilot episodes (it was a two-parter if memory serves right) of Lost back in 2004 when it first aired.  I remember thinking it was interesting and a fun new show.  Then, I didn’t watch it again.  It’s been over a decade since then so I can’t say for sure why I stopped.  Jump a year into the future (so 2005, not 2018) and I was working at Hollywood Video (ah, remember the home rental experience?  That sweet sweet memory) and I had free rentals as an employee perk.  The first season was out on DVD (Blu-ray was not there yet) and the second season was either going to start soon or had already started.  Well, I was always looking for something to watch and I came across the first season while putting recently returned rentals back in their proper places.  I thought sure why not see what happened.

And that’s how I became a “Lostie” which is the dumbest name for fans of the show but what can you do.  I missed the day where we all voted on that one.

To talk about the show in any kind of great detail would be to give away a lot of the greatest parts of the show so I won’t be doing that.  What I will do is tell you why this is and remains one of my top three favorite shows ever.  If you’ve been reading my blog since I started, you’ll probably be able to guess or at least not be surprised by why I love this show and barely care that the entirety of its run divides a lot of fans.  I love this show because of the exploration of people.

Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Locke, Charlie, etc.  These are the people that were introduced in 2004 and whose lives were so well written in six seasons that I still go back and watch this show from time to time.  Most are tragic characters who lack any kind or semblance of happy upbringings, yet they grow throughout their time on the island and become favorites who grow, mature, love, win and so much more.

I could take any one of the characters listed above and go into a long dissection of the character beats they go through both on the island and in their flashbacks.  Without them, the show would have fizzled out really fast.  Yeah, I know all about the problems with the show and some of the writing when it came to the plot.  I don’t disagree.  I hate some of those directions and choices just as much as the detractors.  I get it but there is absolute satisfaction in watching these characters find redemption and closure at multiple points throughout the series.  This is what makes the show better than the problems.

Call to Action: It would be easy to encourage you to watch the series but its quite the endeavor nowadays.  We’re talking hours upon hours.  I guess I would encourage you to try out a little at a time.  So, instead, tell me who your favorite character is.  NO SPOILERS!  I’ll delete your comment (I’m making my serious face) if you do.