Tuesday, November 17, 2020

What would a Velcro the Ninja Kat movie look like?

So the Velcro the Ninja Kat books have been out for some time now, yet in all that time, I've never really given my own thoughts on them. Not that I intend to review my own books or anything like that, but I would like to just give a little insight here or there, and perhaps provide just a little peek behind the curtain, so to speak. And to start off, I'd like to discuss the first book in the series, Velcro: The Ninja Kat, and specifically one reaction in particular towards that book that was perhaps the most prevalent when it originally released.

When the book first came out, there were actually quite a number of people who read it who came away with the reaction that they'd love to see it made as a movie. Now, I have to admit that I was a little confused by this reaction at the time, as I personally felt that the story played out more in a manner suited to something like an ongoing anime series, as opposed to the confines of a two hour long film. But then recently, it actually clicked with me how the first book actually could work as a stand alone feature.

See, most of the first book takes place within a single location, that being the military brig known as The Web, which also acts as the base of operations for the villainous Spider. The Ninja Kat breaks into the prison along with her hamster allies in order to free their friends who had been imprisoned after their home village had been attacked by the Devil Corps, and the majority of the book sees them making their way through the Spider's lair and all of his various traps he's set for our heroes along the way.

Now, in certain regards, this set up might sound somewhat similar to a couple of films that had released some years back (the same year as when Velcro: The Ninja Kat released, now that I think of it. I guess everyone had their own different take on a similar idea at the same time), those movies being Dredd and The Raid. Both of these films saw their heroes storming into a building where they find themselves trapped inside and having to fight their way back out in some manner. Only, unlike both of those films, my story deals with anthropomorphic animals. And, well, as we've seen with the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films from the 90s, it is in fact possible to convincingly pull off anthropomorphic animals in an action film, even in live action.

The writing would of course have to be tweaked in certain regards from the novel in order to make the transition into this new medium seamless, but there's honestly not too much that would need to be changed, and the end result could definitely work. And in fact, I already tried to do this very thing on a much smaller scale in the short film, Kip, which does in many ways visually resemble the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, and which was precisely the look I was trying to go for. Now, imagine taking that more gritty look of that initial Ninja Turtles movie, and placing it in a setting not too dissimilar from something such as Dredd or The Raid (and perhaps toning down the action to more of a PG-13, as opposed to a hard R), and you've more or less got what I envision a live action feature length adaptation of the first Ninja Kat book to look like in a movie. So basically, the Ninja Turtles meet The Raid.

Personally, I would definitely want it to be done as practical as possible, meaning actors in full costumes performing on screen, and to avoid having to rely on CGI as much as possible. I'm not exactly looking to use last year's adaptation of the theatrical production CATS as any sort of inspiration, for instance. And I have to emphasize that the look from the original 90s Ninja Turtles movies would be a most ideal approach, as it's sort of crazy just how much those movies still hold up visually today, especially compared to the newer movies from the 2010s, in which all of the turtles are done in CGI. I think this just comes down to the fact that what you're seeing on the screen is actually physically there, and it looks and feels organic, it looks more real, because in a sense, it is real, whereas the CGI characters don't quite have the same effect.

Pictured above: NOT what we're going for!

But anyways, this is definitely a goal of mine to achieve one day, though I still need the resources to actually pull off such a project. I believe it could definitely be done on a low budget, but not quite the micro budget the likes of which I'm more used to on my own films. The Kip short still cost several hundred dollars, and most of that money went into the costumes. So having to expand that to a full cast of characters in a full feature production, yeah, that would definitely add up to more than I can personally afford out of my own pocket right now, though it does still feel like something that's realistically achievable someday.

Of course, I still feel like the Ninja Kat is ripe for the likes of comics and animation (and in fact, a brief comic book run does currently exist), but it's nice to think that a feature length live action adaptation could be realistically achieved. And hey, who knows? Should we make this initial project and it actually succeeds, then there's plenty of more material to work off of for the sequels, such as Velcro: The Green Lion, where we can further expand the story and this world, similarly to how The Raid 2 opened up its own world quite drastically as compared to the single locale of the first film. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here, and perhaps stop it there, as we look ahead to what may yet come. And as for now, feel free to check out the short film Kip to get a bit of a better idea of what a live action Ninja Kat film might look like:

Now available:
Velcro: The Ninja Kat
Velcro: The Green Lion
Velcro the Ninja Kat presents: Kip


Sunday, November 8, 2020

On the state of online discourse as it relates to film

It's been a while since I've really posted something here. In a sense, I sort of feel like my Best of the Decade in Film post was more or less a retirement from me blogging about movies. But a part of the reason I fell out of talking about movies, was because I had become discouraged with the state of online discourse. And this is in a much broader sense as well, which should become quite apparent as the post goes along, but for the purposes of this essay, I'll just discuss my thoughts on the state of online discourse specifically as it relates to film.

To go back some years, around the time when social media was still in its infancy, I recall how sites like myspace and livejournal existed mostly just to congregate with friends you knew in real life online, and as facebook opened up beyond being exclusive to college students, and eventually twitter came around, soon the pool of friends and feeds also expanded to people you had met online. And in those earlier days, I remember how these sites mostly existed just as a means to share humor and post about our hobbies or our day to day activities. And I also remember how politics was still generally regarded as a taboo subject, and people would actually get called out for getting political, no matter which affiliation their arguments may be swaying.

Cut to today, and you'll find much the exact opposite to be the case. It's almost entirely politics, and divisive politics at that. And if you choose not to participate, well then now you're the one who's shunned. And again, I've found that political affiliation doesn't matter in this regard either. I know both right leaners and lefties who choose to stay out of the discourse, people who used to get quite a bit of traction once upon a time, but who now, as a result of choosing to stay out of politics, get completely ignored by just about everyone.

Now, how this relates to film, is that even in the confines of discussing film, the same has become the case. Nowadays, I've found that films are largely no longer discussed based on the content therewithin, but rather, based on our political interpretations of them. In fact, I'd argue that the state of film criticism in the past couple of years has been some of the most dishonest discussion on film that I've ever seen transpire, where oftentimes people would straight up lie about a film in order to gain political ground.

There's a number of films I'd like to discuss in this regard to make my case, the first being Bohemian Rhapsody. Now, I understand if people didn't want to support this film because they took issue with its director. However, rather than just dismissing the film and moving on, they chose to instead torch it, and to do so by lying about it. Almost all of the criticisms I've seen about the film are just factually false, and are claims that anyone who's actually seen the movie could attest to. The big ones that still stand out to me are how people claim that the movie completely disregards Freddie Mercury's heritage and sexual orientation, which I'm sorry, but not only is that not the case, but these factors are indeed major aspects of this film, and to say otherwise is just completely dishonest.

As bad as Bohemian Rhapsody got it though, it was nothing compared to what we'd see with the reaction towards Joker. People had already determined that they knew what the film was about months prior to release, and were already deriding it for being "problematic". But then, sure enough, the movie comes out, and it's quite literally not the "racist, incel rallying cry" that so many had proclaimed it to be. And in fact, it's actually a fascinating film with a lot that's actually worth dissecting and having an actual discussion about, but I found this to be an impossible task due to all of the political activists online who had completely hijacked all conversation on the movie with their BS agendas that, in fact, had nothing to do with the film in question. Hell, I'd even argue that had this film released in a different political climate, say even just five years ago, almost everyone who so unfairly attacked it would be singing a radically different tune about it. But here we are.

And there's other examples, such as how some corners of the internet had a complete 180 on La La Land after it had swept at that year's Golden Globes, and thus they now viewed this movie as being "overrated", and some even took it a step further and attached unfair labels to it as well, such as being supposedly racist. And then I could write an entire post on just how dishonest the criticism for Frozen II has been, almost as if everyone in the "Frozen is overrated" camp wasn't even willing to give this film a fair shake, but even so, they felt the need to straight up lie about it and make things up in order to justify their disdain for the franchise and its popularity. And speaking on films or franchises we deem "overrated", I mean, if a film isn't for you, why isn't that enough? Why feel the need to constantly rag on it? Hell, there's plenty of hugely popular franchises that I'm not that big a fan of, and that I personally consider to be "overrated", such as Stranger Things or It. But you know what I don't do? I don't raise a big stink about these films when a new entry comes out. They're not for me, and I'm not here to rain on anyone's parade who does like these things. So I just ignore them, and go about my day.

But that's the thing, is that I've noticed the internet becoming more and more of a place to just take a massive dump on everything. Discourse has become a competition on who can have the hottest take, or who can make the snarkiest remark. And I get it. I used to partake in this. Especially when I was younger, it can be kinda fun going on a rant about a really bad movie. And at one point, I even used to put together "Worst of the Year" lists at the end of the year to go along with my "Best of the Year" counterparts. But even back then, I always felt a little weird putting together those lists, and I only kept doing so for so long because, for some reason, they consistently generated the most conversation. And I've even recently discovered a similar case in real life, where at work one day, we were talking about movies, and I had gone on a brief rant about Jurassic World, which had come up in the conversation. And my coworkers were so entertained by it that they asked me what else I didn't like, but I just shook my head in response, and said no, I don't actually really like talking about the things that I don't like, and that I'd much prefer to speak on what I do like. And I'd like to think that I've come to carry this same mentality in recent times online as well.

That's not to say that I feel all film criticism should go away. Not at all. It certainly still has its place. And that's even in regards to the films I just discussed. For instance, one of the more fair reviews I saw for Frozen II actually did come from someone who wasn't so high on it, but at least he was honest in his overall assessments and didn't resort to making stuff up in order to plead his case. And that's the thing, I just wish that we could be more honest about it all, and also perhaps not place so much emphasis on what we don't like, and maybe focus a little more on what we do. Because there's just so much negativity out there, and after a while, it just gets old, and it becomes exhausting. Like, I follow accounts who still only ever criticize things, and at some point, I just shake my head and wonder, do you even like anything? And if so, why do you never talk about that instead? Because honestly, some of my favorite reactions to films in recent years come from people just being so passionately moved by a film, even if it's one that didn't necessarily have so strong an effect on myself. For instance, I recall a video where a man was driven to tears recalling the "Martha" twist from Batman v Superman. And while I do quite enjoy that movie, I have to admit that even I found that twist to be a bit silly in its execution. Yet even so, seeing just how strongly it affected this person really warmed my own heart.

Or one of my favorite reactions I've seen for a film came from a poster on a film forum I used to frequent, in regards to Kubo and the Two Strings. He shared his immediate reaction to the film, in which he turned to his friend in the theater with tears still streaming down his face, and he audibly expressed, "holy shit, dude," at the sheer euphoria he had just experienced on screen. Now, I personally wasn't as thrilled by this movie, but even so, that reaction thrills me to this day, and it's one that especially comes to mind whenever I revisit Frozen II, as I feel my own reaction to this film mirrors his reaction to that one (the poster in question of course wasn't so thrilled with Frozen II himself, however).

Hell, one of my friends who mostly stays out of the politics and discourse uses her social media solely as a means to express her passion for Doctor Who and One Piece and such. And these aren't even franchises that I follow at all, so I have no opinion on them one way or another, and often have no idea what she's even talking about when she goes on about them. But just seeing somebody actually being positive for a change, and just really moved by their passions is enough for me to consider it some of my favorite content on the internet these days all the same, and it often leaves me reflecting on franchises I do personally hold dear in a similar regard, such as Babymetal or Naruto or Frozen.

Sadly though, this sort of content I've found to become fewer and farther between in recent years. Because everyone's a critic, and as I've already discussed, much of online criticism isn't even honest anymore, so everyone's a dishonest critic at that. But the internet has become so inundated with negativity, I actually considered putting together a show of some sort, like a podcast where we would bring on guests and just talk about our favorite movies, just dive deep into what about them really affects us so. I was inspired for this idea after hearing a number of people expressing their personal all time favorite movies, and hearing a number of really interesting responses, such as an online journalist I follow claiming his favorite film to be Doctor Strange, or a gaffer from a short film I worked on in New York saying his all time favorite movie was Blade Runner 2049. And hell, seeing how my own all time favorite, Frozen, is one I'd consider to be an interesting pick as well, and one that I can definitely dive deep on, I'd similarly like to just talk about some of these movies with some people and really get their thoughts on them, even in cases where it's a film that I wasn't personally a big fan of (Doctor Strange).

Of course, I never did get around to doing that, and I'm not positive that I ever will. Though I do have a friend who's doing something similar recently, where he's got a vlog series where he just sits in front of a camera and talks about movies that he likes. The show's even called "Movies I Like", so maybe check it out for yourself if you want some good positive content in your lives in these dreary times.

Though as I've said, this sort of content is becoming harder and harder to find, and actual film discussion feels as if it's become near impossible without becoming some sort of heated debate. And this just grows tiring after a while, and often reminds me of online political discourse, where in the end, nobody really "wins", and everyone just comes away feeling more bitter towards the other side. However, you'll oftentimes not find quite such heated reactions when discussing these topics in person, but then, that's sort of the sad thing about the state of film discussion, because I don't recall debating the merits of a film ever feeling similar to having to defend a political position. But in this day and age, it very often feels that way, and it's certainly not helped when the reasons you're defending a film are in order to thwart unfair political associations being attached to the movie, so that you can get past that nonsense and actually discuss the film itself. But nowadays, with how overly politicized everything has become, as with politics itself, the over-politicization of film I've found has honestly just made even attempting to discuss certain films just uncomfortable from the outset, which really just sucks.

I just really wish we could all stop talking about politics all the time. I miss the days when not every single thing was politicized. I miss the days when not every single person felt it necessary to share their political takes on every single issue. I miss being able to follow a filmmaker, or a musician, or an author, or another artist on social media and just getting content related to their art, not their politics. I miss following friends and family online, and just seeing them post about their daily lives and hobbies, and not just their politics all of the damn time. I miss when we all sorta understood that this platform was just about the least ideal place to share and express our political views, as we oftentimes do so from behind the safety of our screen where we can allow our emotions to run out of control, much like experiencing road rage while driving behind the wheel, and that such topics are best left to in person where we can more calmly and rationally come to an understanding on the matter.

But that's where we are now. And all of the above is a nice concise way of explaining why I don't enjoy talking about films as often these days, and why I've in a sense "retired" from blogging. I am kind of depressed with the state of film itself, which is another topic entirely, but more than that, I'm depressed by the state of film criticism and discussion, and how dishonest and overly agenda driven it's all become, where half the time we're not even discussing the film in question itself, but rather, how it relates to the state of modern politics, relevancy be damned. Which, as if it hasn't become apparent by this point, I am absolutely sick to my soul of.

Thinking on heated online discussions though, while the one person I managed to find who would actually discuss Frozen II with me online got pretty out of hand and quite heated and ugly, it does make me recall another time in which I was discussing the first movie with a friend who took a lot of issues with it some years back. I was just hanging out at his house while we were going over ideas for one of our shorts we were about to film, and we started talking about movies, until the topic got to Frozen somehow. And while I let this friend vent about some other movies that I liked that he wasn't as big on, I found myself actively speaking up in defense of Frozen, but doing so in a manner that really came from the heart. And my friend could clearly see just how passionately I spoke on it, and he actually chuckled and asked, "you're not gonna let up, are you?" Our conversation wound up ending on a positive note after that, with him saying that perhaps he'll give the movie another chance, and that maybe he had missed a few things when he watched it. However, had our conversation taken place online, I can almost guarantee that the end result wouldn't have been nearly so nice and satisfying for either party.

So yeah, I guess I've kind of been holding on to these thoughts for some time now. But this is largely why I'm not so active in a lot of arenas online anymore, such as blogging and social media, because quite frankly, a lot of it is just discouraging at this point. But in the meantime, as you've perhaps been able to see, I've still been keeping busy producing my own art, and finding other ways to bide my time. But will I be back online full time? Maybe, but most likely not in the active capacity that I have in times past. But who knows for sure, we'll just have to see how things pan out, and hopefully someday things can take a turn back towards the positive.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Velcro: The Egg Hunters - Now Available!

Book Five of The Ninja Kat series.

The epic conclusion to the Ninja Kat's journey. Following Tails Mask's widespread fiery attack that had brought an abrupt end to the Polluted War, the world has fallen into chaos. And in the ensuing confusion, many key players have gone mysteriously missing, including the villainous Tails Mask, as well as our hero, Velcro the Ninja Kat herself.

Having now seen just how powerful and dangerous Magic can be in the wrong hands, war has once more been reinvigorated, as a new military faction known as the Phoenix Corps has arisen with the express task of eradicating all remaining Magicians the globe over, and have set their sights on those harboring solace in the Country of Rath. And meanwhile, several bands of bounty hunting Egg Hunters have also set out in order to cash in on the heads of the Magicians that have gone into hiding.

The Red Easter has passed. The Egg Hunt begins now!

Read the first chapter right now in this special preview, then buy your copy today in either paperback or ebook form!


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Velcro the Ninja Kat presents: Kip - Now Available on DVD

Now available on DVD, Velcro the Ninja Kat presents: Kip!

Also featured are three bonus short films:
• The Red Scarf (remastered!)
• Dream Girl
• Sianostra

Pick up your copy today!


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

My Top 15 Movies of the Decade (2010-2019)

It's the end of the decade, so it's time to take a look back at the past 10 years in film and highlight my favorites that stood out from that time. Now normally, I might take a little more time to let the most recent year settle in a bit more. But I figured, it honestly doesn't matter when I decide to do this list, I'm going to change my mind on it at some point anyhow (which will be highlighted through various stats along the way), so I may as well do it now!

I've spent quite a bit of time compiling this list, and at one point, it actually existed as a Top 50 list. However, I realized that after a certain point, it felt less like I was listing off my personal favorite films of the decade, and more like I was just naming a bunch of movies that had happened to release throughout the decade. And so I went with a Top 15, because that's honestly around where the actual ranking order still felt solid, before it began to feel a bit interchangeable after that. But I did still have a number of movies that I felt were worth highlighting all the same, even if they didn't quite get ranked and made it into the final list, and so here are my picks for the movies that I'd like to give an honorable mention to from the past 10 years:

Honorable Mentions:
A Ghost Story (David Lowery - 2017)
Avengers: Endgame (Anthony Russo, Joe Russo - 2019)
Carol (Todd Haynes - 2015)
Cloud Atlas (Tom Tykwer, The Wachowskis - 2012)
Creed II (Steven Caple Jr. - 2018)
Maggie (Henry Hobson - 2015)
Predestination (Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig - 2014)
The Raid: Redemption (Gareth Evans - 2012)
The Raid 2 (Gareth Evans - 2014)
Tangled (Nathan Greno, Byron Howard - 2010)
Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins - 2017)
Zootopia (Byron Howard, Rich Moore - 2016)

And I could honestly keep going, as there's plenty of movies that it almost breaks my heart to have to leave off, movies such as Tron: Legacy (Joseph Kosinski - 2010), The Avengers (Joss Whedon - 2012), It Follows (David Robert Mitchell - 2015), Captain America: Civil War (Anthony Russo, Joe Russo - 2016), Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan - 2016), and Detroit (Kathryn Bigelow – 2017). But I had to cut it off somewhere, so that's what we're left with. All fantastic movies that are easily among the best that I've seen in the past decade, which all told, has been an absolutely tremendous decade in film (even if I haven't been the biggest fan of the last couple years specifically). And so with that, let's move on to the main list, starting things off with...


Blue is the Warmest Color
(Abdellatif Kechiche - 2013)
Previous Rankings: 2013 Honorable Mention
Theater Viewings: 1

While an all around excellent movie overall, the thing that's stuck with me the most about it, which has in turn left me finding myself thinking about this movie quite a bit over the years, is just how much of a feat of pacing that it is. At three hours in length, this is an epically lengthed foreign language romance film that somehow doesn't feel a minute longer than two hours, and I seriously don't know how they even accomplished this. Like, I'd love to just break this movie down to a science to try and figure out how they managed to pull it off, but this movie is seriously one of the best examples of pacing I've ever seen, which has helped this one stand out as being among the most impressive films I've seen this decade.


Guardians of the Galaxy
(James Gunn - 2014)
Previous Rankings: 2014 #2; Half Decade #10
Theater Viewings: 3

Great character work and ingenious use of music propel this to the top of the heap for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I love how the Guardians films feel more secluded from everything else happening in the expanded MCU, granting them a freedom to explore their worlds and characters without having to worry too heavily about tying back in with everything else happening in the grander scheme. And this film's use of soundtrack is done in such a way that makes it feel as if we, the viewer, are truly tagging along with this strange band of heroes, as everything that we hear is also being heard by the characters on the screen, making for a more immersive viewing experience unlike anything else in this 20+ movie series.


(James Mangold - 2017)
Previous Rankings: 2017 #1
Theater Viewings: 2

Perhaps the best proper film in the superhero genre since The Dark Knight, this is one of those rare movies that elevates an entire genre to something that's worth taking a little more seriously. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart not only give the best performances of their lives in this film, they quite frankly give two of the best performances seen this whole decade. This is an absolute gut punch of a film, and a fitting send off to both an iconic character, as well as the X-Men franchise as a whole.


Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
(Zack Snyder - 2016)
Previous Rankings: 2016 #6
Theater Viewings: 2

On the polar opposite end of the comic book movie spectrum, this movie is just a beautiful disaster. It's ambitious to a fault, but I can't help but dig the hell out of this movie all the same. Snyder's signature style is all over this thing, including awesome action sequences and an infectious use of music, and it's refreshing to see that at least someone was trying to incorporate theme music in a modern day superhero film. It also introduced Wonder Woman into the fold in a big way, whose scenes are definitely a highlight of the film, and who would go on to become one of the most bad ass characters in the modern era of comic book movies.


(Christopher Nolan - 2010)
Previous Rankings: 2010 #1; Half Decade #6
Theater Viewings: 2

And now we get to our first non-comic book movie of the list, and a true game changer of a film at that. Its booming score is iconic, and would go on to influence countless other films and the way they're marketed. But I just love in particular how in addition to being a phenomenal piece of music, it's in fact also just as much an active a participant in the story as the characters on the screen themselves. And the movie is loaded with imaginative ideas and action and imagery throughout, all presented in Nolan's token grounded style that almost makes this fantastic world seem like it could really exist. This is a modern day classic, and one that definitely ingrains itself in your mind.


(Pete Travis - 2012)
Previous Rankings: 2012 #1; Half Decade #3
Theater Viewings: 4

This was one of the biggest surprises of the decade for me. I expected just some dumb fun action flick, and what I got instead was one of the most clever and kick ass action films I've ever seen. It quickly became one of my highest recommendations, and dragging various friends out to see it in the theater so they could experience this movie's awesomeness for themselves helped make this the first time I actually saw a movie in the theater more than three times. Sadly, it may have ultimately bombed in the theater, but I more than did my part to try and help it out!


Inside Out
(Pete Docter - 2015)
Previous Rankings: 2015 #1
Theater Viewings: 3

I simply adore this movie's existence. This is one of the most brilliant films I've ever seen, and it's in fact the first time I ever referred to a movie as being a miracle of a film. The vibrant ways in which this movie breaks down the inner workings of the mind and the various emotions we feel are nothing short of genious, and make for one of the most emotionally satisfying movies this decade.


Mad Max: Fury Road
(George Miller - 2015)
Previous Rankings: 2015 #3
Theater Viewings: 1

An absolute masterpiece of a film. It's a simple enough premise, but accomplished in a big and bombastic way that sets it apart from everyone else. It's one of the few examples of actual good progressiveness in modern films done right, both from a social standpoint, as well as from a filmmaking and artistic one. It's sort of insane to even think about how much of this movie was filmed using practical effects as opposed to green screens and CGI. And like other entries on this list, I simply love how this movie's score, in addition to being one of the most glorious film scores of the decade, is one that truly immerses us into this post-apocalyptic world, as it's blasted out at times by the characters on screen themselves, performing it amidst all the crazy action, meaning it's literally the soundtrack to said action even within the confines of this movie's world itself. This film is truly a work of art.


(Nicolas Winding Refn - 2011)
Previous Rankings: 2011 #2; Half Decade #4
Theater Viewings: 2

Speaking of soundtracks, I love how listening to pop music on the radio acted as inspiration for director Nicolas Winding Refn on how to tackle this movie, and you can see that inspiration in the finished product itself. This is one of the coolest damn movies I've ever seen, backed by one of the chillest damn soundtracks, and brought to life by some seriously great performances, including Ryan Gosling in perhaps his most stoic and bad ass outing to date. This is a movie that'll mesmerize you early on, only to turn around and shock you at various points along the way. A movie that's both super stylized yet super gritty, this is one that instantly made Refn one of my favorite modern directors.


Sucker Punch
(Zack Snyder - 2011)
Previous Rankings: 2011 #1; Half Decade #5
Theater Viewings: 1

Every time I rank both Drive and Sucker Punch, I flip flop back and forth on which should be ranked above the other, and here you can see I've done it yet again. Truly, if ever there was a year where I should've made my #1 pick of the year a tie, it should've been 2011 between Drive and Sucker Punch at the top of the heap.

But I simply love this movie, and feel it's perhaps one of the most underrated and most misunderstood movies of the whole decade. An absolute celebration of escapism, of getting lost in one's imagination and just letting it run wild, it's no wonder why this movie clicked with me so well. I was a big fan already of Zack Snyder prior to this film, but I'd personally say that this is easily his best yet, and it's one that makes me wish he would do more original work, as opposed to just working on big franchise properties all the time, so we could see what other wondrous ideas he's got for us.


La La Land
(Damien Chazelle - 2016)
Previous Rankings: 2016 #1
Theater Viewings: 5

What a wonderful movie. As can probably be assessed by a lot of my entries in this list by now, I'm a big proponent for music in film, and the ways in which it's used. And this movie hits all of the beats, featuring musical numbers that are both pre-recorded or at times even performed live on set, memorable uses of classic songs, and full on orchestral moments that allow for the music and visuals to tell its story, almost like watching a live action Fantasia. The plot and characters are charming and relatable, and the visuals and use of lighting feel inspired. This movie is like a dream, and one that I just couldn't get enough of.


(Christopher Nolan - 2014)
Previous Rankings: 2014 #1; Half Decade #2
Theater Viewings: 4

This is just such a massive movie. And it's one that in turn will leave you mind feeling as vast as the universe itself by the end at that, a phenomenon that I've never experienced with any other film before. In addition, add this to my list of the best paced movies that I've ever seen, as like Blue is the Warmest Color above, this is a three hour long epic that, yet again, doesn't feel a single second longer than two hours, even after four different viewings in the theater. This is Christopher Nolan at perhaps his most ambitious yet, with overwhelming visuals, an intense score, and grandiose ideas, as he takes his characters on a journey through space that goes big and hits hard.


The Neon Demon
(Nicolas Winding Refn - 2016)
Previous Rankings: 2016 #2
Theater Viewings: 2

One of the most stunningly gorgeous yet dementedly dark films of the decade, watching this movie feels like Refn letting us in on some of his deepest, darkest secrets, which is part of what makes this movie resonate so much with me. On the one hand, you can argue that the movie is little more than surface level deep. On the other though, there's something personal on the screen that I can't help but latch on to. It's a hard movie to recommend, as it's truly one of the most messed up films of the decade, and it's definitely not going to be for everyone. But for me at least, it totally clicked with me, and I loved it.

Also, this movie acted as my introductory point to Sia during its ending credits, so it scores bonus points for that, too!


Frozen II
(Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee - 2019)
Previous Rankings: 2019 #1
Theater Viewings: 8

So this was one heck of a last minute wrench that got thrown into things. So much so, I actually debated putting off sharing this list, to allow for more time for this movie to really sit and see how confident I was with its placement. But alas, as I mentioned in my introductory passage above, I figured screw it, we're just gonna move forward with it anyways. After all, as you can see by the theater viewing count, I've already seen this one eight times so far. When I saw La La Land for the fifth time, I definitely felt like I had seen it enough, and I honestly found it improbable that I would ever see another movie so many times in the theater again. Eight viewings of Frozen II later though, I've obviously shattered that previous record, and I could still easily go for more. Movies that are this good are seriously a rare, rare breed.

It's actually a bit disconcerting to see that virtually nobody outside of the core Frozen fanbase has anything much to say about this film though. You won't find people discussing this on social media or film forums like they did with the first, and most people appear to be seemingly dismissing it. Which is a shame, because this is a movie that I feel has so much worth discussing about.

Like, the poetic writing in this film is seriously master class stuff, made all the more impressive by the fact that it never draws attention to what it's doing, but is more focused on telling its story and taking its characters on these emotional journeys. But the poetry remains there all the same for anyone looking to dig deeper.

And that's what else I love about this movie, is that it doesn't hold the viewers hand or dumb itself down for the lowest common denominator, like almost 99% of all other movies seem to do nowadays. I've seen so many movies that treat me like I'm an idiot, that's it's almost become expected by this point. But in a refreshing change of pace, especially coming from a big franchise film such as this, this film instead has a genuine respect for its audience, a trust it places in them to be able to fit all the pieces together, without having to put the movie on hold to spell it all out for those in the audience who were too busy playing on their phones to pay attention throughout.

And that's not even touching on the emotional core of this movie. Like, I can't recall any other movie where by the end of it, I seriously just wanted to give the movie itself a warm hug. Hell, my review of the film felt more similar to my review of a Babymetal show, where I spend most of my time discussing how much of an emotional ride it took me on, and how much it made me smile throughout, and how much of a puddle of tears it left me in.

And these are tears of pure joy, I feel I need to stress. I've seen so many movies that can make me cry tears of sadness that it almost doesn't even feel like a feat to be moved in that way anymore. Those are emotions that are in fact relatively easy to manipulate, and some movies aren't even subtle with the manipulative tactics that they use. But tears of joy? Of pure, overwhelming happiness? Yeah, those don't come easy. Those are the levels of emotion that one has to truly earn, and oh man does this movie ever. I've seriously never been so thoroughly wrecked by a single movie in my life.

The fact that on a technical level, it's a solid improvement over the original is just icing on the cake. And even after so many viewings, it never even begins to drag, and I'd lob this up along with Blue is the Warmest Color and Interstellar for champions of pacing as well. It may not be a three hour long epic like those films, but at an hour and forty-five minutes, this movie honestly goes by so quick, you'll think only a single hour has passed, even after so many viewings. And as a pure musical experience, this might be the single greatest outing I've seen in the theater this whole decade.

Seriously, this movie is simply a miracle. Heck, I honestly find it to be a rare example of a "perfect" movie, as I personally don't have a single word of criticism that I can say about it. Yet even so, it still gets outranked by one last film.


(Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee - 2013)
Previous Rankings: 2013 #2; Half Decade #1
Theater Viewings: 2

I mean, is this even surprising by this point? Anyone who's been following me for even a little bit of time by now should've easily seen this coming. Obviously Frozen tops the list. It's not just my favorite movie of the whole decade, it's my favorite movie of all time, period. In fact, when that realization hit me that Frozen was my all time favorite, it was actually quite satisfying, as I don't believe I've ever had one single definitive answer to that age old question before, "What's your favorite movie?" I always had a number of movies that I'd say might be one of my favorites, such as Independence Day, or The Dark Knight, or Revenge of the Sith, but no one specific answer that I could reply with confidence. Until Frozen.

That's not to say that I think it's the "best" movie I've ever seen, as it's certainly got a number of technical flaws to it, which I've discussed quite a bit over the years. Yet even so, its flaws don't ever break the movie, and I've actually come to find a certain fitting charm to its imperfections. Because what this movie has going for it is its characters. And the depths that this movie goes to, and the magical ways in which it explores these character depths, is unlike anything I've seen.

I mentioned that Frozen II is the better movie technically, but the reason I can't rank it higher than the original is because, quite frankly, deep as that movie goes, it doesn't go nearly as deep as this one does. And that's not a knock against that movie either. Quite frankly, it can't go to those places again. And if this one hadn't gone to those places, that movie couldn't even exist as it does. But it is the reason why this one ranks higher for me, and why it affected me so deeply.

Elsa is seriously one of the best written characters I've ever seen in a film. And she's also the single most personally relatable character I've ever seen in fiction. She may be able to use magic, but in terms of her personality and her emotional demons and how they're portrayed, she genuinely feels like the most realistic character I've seen depicted in film. And you can really tell that the screenwriters truly understand what she's going through internally, her anxieties, her fears, her generally introverted nature, and the different ways this plays into how she acts around others depending on the setting or who she's around. She's not "movie shy" or "movie anxious". Her emotions are portrayed in an incredibly realistic way. Just with, you know, a little bit of magic sprinkled in, which is often used in creative ways to even further explore her psychology.

You hear a lot about people saying that they want to see themselves being represented in movies. Well that's what it was like watching this movie for me, was seeing myself being represented in the realest, truest form, as if the filmmakers themselves had spent some time following me around in my life and my various interactions and turned it into a fantasy.

I spoke about Elsa, but honestly, Anna is the opposite end of the spectrum from a personality standpoint, and while I may not personally see myself in her on the level that I can Elsa, I can still very much relate with her and what all she's going through. Like, I recently saw an interview where Kristen Bell mentioned how she put a lot of herself into the character, because she had a desire to see someone like herself represented on the big screen. And that mentality totally comes through in the end, which is why I feel these characters connect so deeply with so many. And I think that's a big part of why this movie took off and became such a big hit, wasn't just that the music was as fantastic as it was. But the character work was so relatable to so many, because it was executed in such a personal manner. And this movie's messages were so universal, that it was truly a movie for anyone.

Now, there was eventually quite a bit of a backlash against the film, which has since garnered a reputation for being "overrated". Personally, I'd actually argue that the film is in fact quite underrated, and perhaps also quite misunderstood, which is a conclusion I've been able to come to in my many interactions discussing the film both online and in person with those who didn't like it. And I've also realized that in fact very few people actually got to experience this movie in its rawest form, outside of those who saw it opening weekend like myself. For instance, almost everyone goes into the movie now already knowing that Elsa's not the villain. But if you went into it having only seen the theatrical trailers on opening weekend, Elsa's arc totally plays out like a classic villain's descent. And that she doesn't ultimately become the big bad is in fact one of the biggest twists in a movie that's filled with them.

And speaking more on those twists, I'm also still a bit baffled that to this day, nobody can bring up Frozen without feeling it necessary to assert that they're a bigger fan of either Tangled or Moana. The irony there being that, while Tangled and Moana are both Disney Princess musicals, Frozen actually probably has more in common with a film such as The Cabin in the Woods than it does with either Tangled or Moana, as it exists as a complete deconstruction of the Disney Princess genre. I believe this likely also plays into why it's so especially popular with adults (there were far more adults in the audience than there were kids at pretty much all of my screenings for Frozen II, for instance), who are bound to get a lot more out of it than younger audiences, having grown up on earlier Disney films and their various tropes which proceed to get turned on their head in this go around.

But yeah, this movie just speaks to me, like nothing else before. It's a wickedly deep and clever experience, with some of the best character work I've ever seen, and featuring some of the most outstanding musical numbers that've ever been graced on the silver screen. The Let It Go sequence is perhaps still the greatest and purest scene in any movie this decade, and its existence helped shape the rest of the movie and transform it into the beautiful monster that it is. It may not be perfect, but that's okay, because there's beauty in its flaws, and its the pure love in which it was all put together with that seeps through those cracks.

So there it is then, a whole decade of film wrapped up! I've been thinking about how this list would turn out since the beginning (and in fact, my very first post on this blog covered my list for the best movies of the previous decade at that), so it's cool to finally sit back and see how it all turned out, what movies stood that test of time, and which ones that I was super high on early on didn't quite make the cut in the end. And like I said, on the whole, it's been a tremendous decade for films, and I just hope that we see another upswing in the general quality of the films being released soon, so that the new decade may be even nearly as good as this one was.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

My Top 5 Movies of 2019

So without further ado, now presenting my personal picks for this year's best in movies, or what I'd like to call, the films that to me felt like a true breath of fresh air in the modern landscape of film.


Doctor Sleep
(Mike Flanagan)

A total Frankenstein's Monster of a movie, this is a film that in the hands of a lesser director would've been a complete trainwreck, but it's a testament to just how good Mike Flanagan is that he manages to make this film work all the same, and only further serves to prove just why he's become one of my go-to directors. It's a sequel to the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film The Shining, and totally feels it. Except for when it doesn't, and instead feels like a YA supernatural film, only an exceptionally good one thanks to some creatively stylized choices in the way it handles its more cerebral aspects, and with odd horror elements that are executed in such a way that feel like they shouldn't work, seeing our villains oftentimes on the receiving end of the horror at play, and yet it remains as compelling as ever throughout anyways.

Excellent performances throughout from the likes of Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, and Jacob Tremblay help elevate the material, as does certainly the best use of music I've heard in a Flanagan film yet in the form of its beating heartbeat of a score. And a scene at the bar of the Overlook Hotel may be among the simpler scenes in the entire film, yet in its execution, it also manages to be one of the most gripping pieces of cinema this whole year.


(Todd Phillips)

Perhaps the most unfairly hated on movie of the year by some circles of the internet, this movie truly exceeded all expectations I had of it, and is probably the best movie one could hope for based around the origin story of the Joker. And while he may never come close to matching Heath Ledger's take on the character, Joaquin Phoenix is an absolute force in this film, and gives a performance that's layered and, at times, truly terrifying.

I really just dug how despite being a big franchise comic book film based on an incredibly popular character, this movie is the furthest thing one could think from the typical modern blockbuster, taking an old school lower budget approach that really helps ground the film and gives it a much more refreshing feel, and backed by a script that's honestly a hell of a lot more clever than I think a lot of people are giving it credit for. This is a true standout film in the genre, for sure.


Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
(Quentin Tarantino)

At least one review that I've seen referred to this movie as feeling like a warm blanket in the modern landscape of film, and I don't think I could come up with a more apt description of this movie myself. I just loved spending time in this era that Tarantino brought back to life, and really taking our time to breathe in the scenery and this world.

And we follow yet another gathering of some exceptionally compelling characters, with Leonardo DiCaprio giving an emotionally vulnerable performance that honestly may be his best work in a film yet, and Brad Pitt proving to be the MVP of 2019 after giving us stellar performances both here and in Ad Astra. This is a movie filled with great characters and great moments, in a Hollywood retelling of a tragic moment in time that once again changes history in satisfying ways, not unlike how he did with Inglourious Basterds, and which may well be his best work since that movie at that.


Avengers: Endgame
(Anthony Russo, Joe Russo)

Unlike all the other movies on this list, I wouldn't necessarily call this one a breath of fresh air or anything, as it is still just another big and bombastic modern day action blockbuster superhero flick, if an especially good one. But even so, it was still a completely satisfying and emotionally thrilling experience all the same. Basically a three hour long celebration of this 20+ movie series that's been spanning over 10 years by this point, and I can't think of a better way to wrap up such an epic achievement.

The Russo brothers have surely outdone themselves here, once again managing to balance so much story and so many characters, and all so seamlessly, and all while still managing to get out some of the best performances out of their cast. Following Civil War, this is now the second time the Russos have gotten a career best performance out of Robert Downey Jr., and Chris Hemsworth similarly gives a career best performance of his own, bringing a stunning range of emotion and depth to a performance that could've easily been written off as just comic relief in lesser hands.

This is a movie full of moments. And this movie earns its moments, and sends off this massive series of movies on the highest note possible.


Frozen II
(Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee)

This movie was everything. Everything.

So there you have it, may Top 5 Movies of 2019. But we're not through just yet, as next, seeing as we've made it to the end of the decade, I'll be counting down my picks for the Top Movies of the Decade. So keep an eye out for that coming soon!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Looking back at the last 10 years...

Most years at the end of the year, I take a look back at the past year and sorta reminisce on my achievments from that year. But seeing as this year comes at the end of the decade, I thought I'd instead like to take a look back and see what all I've accomplished in that time, and sorta see how far along I've come since the start of it. So, without further ado...

2012 - Release of my first short film, and my first novel

I spent the earlier years of the decade still doing a lot of writing, including novel length works and various script ideas, and gradually working towards something that I could actually put out and release to the public. And the years of work finally paid off come 2012, as it saw the release of my first short film, The Red Scarf, as well as my first novel, Velcro: The Ninja Kat.

Click image for link to book.

2013 - Release of my first comic book

Shortly after the release of Velcro: The Ninja Kat, I was approached by one Trevor Tee about the possibility of collaborating on a comic book adaptation of it, and we officially released the first issue in the following year, which ran for almost two years before life got in the way of production.

Sadly, the site we used to upload the comic online has since shut down, so I'll still have to get around to re-uploading it all at some point.

2014 - Release of Velcro: The Green Lion

While the comic book adaptation may have gradually lingered away, my work on the novel series hadn't wavered, as the following year saw the release of the first Ninja Kat sequel, Velcro: The Green Lion.

Click image for link to book.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned as a writer was that you learn more by finishing projects. And after seeing my first novel all the way through to completion, I learned so much more through that experience than I ever did through attending any writing workshops or reading any "how to" writing guides, and I feel that definitely showed in the finished product this time around, which I was a lot more pleased by.

2015 - Release of Dream Girl and Breathe, and on stage acting debut

After focusing so much on the novel side of things for so long, I decided to shift focus back to filmmaking again in 2015, finally getting around to filming a couple of scripts that I had been playing with for a little while by that point.

This year also saw me making my on stage debut as an actor in the play Splintered Judgement.

Prior to this point, I had acted in all of my movies, yet I still hadn't yet actually considered myself to be an actor. After working on this play though, I suppose I technically couldn't make that claim anymore.

2016 - Theatrical debut, and release of Velcro: The Masquerade

Both of my shorts I had filmed the previous year made their theatrical debut the following year at Tallahassee Premiere Nights.

So that was a pretty cool experience, finally being able to show some of my work to an audience on the big screen, and get some live reactions to them.

And the third entry of The Ninja Kat series also released in 2016, and I still maintain that it's the best thing I've ever written to date. At least, it's the piece that I'm the most personally satisfied with how it turned out. Hopefully I'll be able to best it one day, though!

Click image for link to book.

2017 - Release of Velcro: Polluted War

I wasted no time this time around hopping right onto the next entry, and the following year saw the release of the fourth book in the Ninja Kat series, Velcro: Polluted War.

Click image for link to book.

It's been two years since this entry released, and this one ends with a real harsh cliff hanger, so you all have been real patient with me. But I assure you, the fifth entry is indeed coming along!

2018 - Release of Sianostra and Kip

I had once again been working on a number of screenplays in the meantime, and once again felt that itch to bring some of those scripts to life.

Sianostra saw the first time I filmed a script based on someone else's idea, so that was a neat little challenge. And then Kip is my first go at an on screen adaptation, as it's the first film to adapt some of the story elements from my Ninja Kat novels into live action. Kip may in fact be my favorite of my movies to date (it's between it or The Red Scarf at least), and it's certainly the one I think turned out to be the coolest of the bunch so far.

2019 - Other film productions I worked on

While I didn't manage to put out any new personal projects of my own this year, there are a number of other projects I helped collaborate on that came out, including the web series Not So Innocent.

Not So Innocent, directed by Andre Forbes
My role: Actor, Editor

I also spent some time working on a number of projects in New York at the latter end of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019. And while some of those projects are still undergoing post-production, others have since been released, and a number of them have been accepted into film competition, and even won at that.

Swiped., directed by Dan Couri
My role: Assistant Director

The Will, directed by Duan Duan
My role: Production Assistant, Boom Operator

Crazy for the Blonde, directed by Mark Clauburg
My role: 2nd Assistant Director, Actor

The Way Out, directed by Lindsay Katt
My role: Production Assistant

Disavow, directed by Alex Hughes
My role: Camera Production Assistant

And those are the projects that have actually seen their debut this year, and there's still more that are ready to make their debut in the coming year as well, so that's pretty exciting.

Other than that though, as to my personal projects, like I said, I'm still working on the fifth Ninja Kat book, and I promised that I was going to have a DVD out this year, but it's looking like this is going to be maybe the first time I won't be able to make my promised deadline. It's been a bit of a rough year honestly, and a lot of my plans have gotten pretty derailed, and I've just been dealing with a lot of personal issues lately, which has in turn seen a lot of my productivity suffer as a result. I'm hoping to be able to address some of these issues sooner rather than later though, and hopefully get things back on track.

In the meantime though, while this last year might not have been my most productive, looking back on the past 10 years, I think I have a lot to be proud of. I've released five short films, four novels, and a comic book, traveled around doing book signings and runnings tables at conventions promoting my work, saw my movies screened in theaters, and collaborated with other artists on films that have been screened and won at various film festivals.

And we're still just getting started.

So hopefully by this time come the next decade, there'll be a lot more for me to look back on and be proud of yet!