Friday, December 29, 2017

My Top 10 Movies of 2017

So this year's gonna be a bit different. I'll still be sharing my full Top 10 Movies of 2017, with some Honorable Mentions. But truth be told, I really only feel like discussing my Top 5, so I think I'll do just that. I technically did something similar back in 2010, where I only discussed that year's Top 4 films, so it'll be sorta like that I guess.

But anyways, 2017 has honestly been a pretty weak year in film for the most part. A lot of movies that are perfectly fine and serviceable, an overabundance of movies that are merely okay, but all in all just an absolute overload of completely forgettable movies, with very, very few truly great ones released in the year, movies that really wowed me. However, I'd now like to take a look at those very few, but first, how about those aforementioned Honorable Mentions, hmm?

Honorable Mentions
Battle of the Sexes (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris)
Colossal (Nacho Vigalondo)
Gerald's Game (Mike Flanagan)
Happy Death Day (Christopher B. Landon)
Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas)
Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins)

And now, moving right along, numbers 10-6...


Megan Leavey
(Gabriela Cowperthwaite)


(Darren Aronofsky)


(Lee Unkrich)


(Kathryn Bigelow)


Blade Runner 2049
(Denis Villeneuve)

All really damn good films, all of which I don't really have a whole lot to say about right now. Very quickly, I suppose I wrote a full review for Coco that you can check out, and I just loved the batshit wild direction of Mother!, and I'm genuinely surprised that Detroit has gone completely ignored this awards season (I honestly figured it'd be an easy frontrunner for Best Picture, but what do I know apparently?).

But yeah, those are all really solid films that are among my favorites of the year, and are all well worth checking out. But now, let's move right along once more to my Top 5 Movies of 2017, the ones that especially left their impact on me, and have remained with me through the year like none other.


Power Rangers
(Dean Israelite)

Joining the likes of Need For Speed, San Andreas, and Batman v Superman from years past as this year's "movie that could", I think Power Rangers is quite possibly the biggest shock of the whole year for me. I totally went in expecting it to be crap, but was highly impressed and highly entertained by what it actually turned out to be. I wrote a full review for it, where I go a bit more in depth with how much this movie just truly surprised me, and also discuss my own personal connection to the movie as well, so check that out, and check this movie out for yourself, and see if it doesn't exceed your expectations like it did mine.


A Ghost Story
(David Lowery)

The second I saw the trailer for this movie, I immediately became jealous that I hadn't thought of this idea first. But I just really loved this movie. It's the ultimate minimalist movie, and it's truly inspiring just how much they're able to get out of so little. I've talked this movie up quite a bit when talking with my fellow filmmakers who are on my own no-budget level, as a piece of work that shows you just precisely how you can pull off some of those truly ambitious ideas with a very minimal approach. Definitely a must see for any aspiring filmmaker, and a clever and thought provoking film in its own right.


47 Meters Down
(Johannes Roberts)

I've constantly made mention all throughout the year how 2017 has been an absolutely incredible year for horror movies. And hell, even in this list alone, there are six horror movies that I felt were worth mentioning above all else. And for me, none was better than 47 Meters Down. Like Power Rangers, I really didn't expect much from this movie, and went in honestly just thinking it was gonna be some dumb silly shark movie. What I got, however, was one of the most god damn intense movies that I've seen in recent memory. Like, I honestly can't even recall the last movie that made me feel so tense watching it in the theater. And that feeling stayed with me well after the fact, similar to how one might reflect on the original Halloween after first viewing.

This film may perhaps be the most overlooked gem of the year, as I honestly have seen barely anyone talk about it. But it's one that's definitely worth looking into, especially if you're a fan of horror. 'Cause in an era where I find most horror movies to be merely creepy, if not exactly scary, this was one that definitely kept me on edge, and in a big way.


The Greatest Showman
(Michael Gracey)

Speaking of eras of movies, I honestly believe that nowadays we may be so oversaturated by movie releases that hardly any of them leave much of an impact at all anymore, and I find myself forgetting most of them almost immediately after leaving the theater. And then there's The Greatest Showman, which has so infectiously invaded my brain that I haven't been able to get a single song out of my head since first seeing it last week. Literally every single morning since, I have woken up with the music and their accompanying scenes playing out through my mind, with the relentless urge to experience it all over again, and I've since gone out and purchased the soundtrack, and already saw the movie a second time. And sure enough, I fell in love with it even more on that second viewing.

Admittedly a little light in terms of its plot and characterization, it's a movie where I can understand if not everyone falls completely in love with it like I have. However, most of the story is told through its songs, and the musical numbers in this thing are pure cinematic magic. You just really don't see musicals of this variety too often these days, and I found myself completely swept away. The dance choreography is so stunning and impressive that I've actually pulled up behind the scenes making-of footage on youtube, which is something I never do for movies anymore. But it's like, I just can't get this movie out of my mind, and I just gotta know what all actually went into it. And what I found was just pure joyous passion, which only made me grow even more passionate for the film myself.

The songs are absolutely phenomenal, and Hugh Jackman has just an absolutely incredible singing voice. I knew he was a good singer from Les Misérables, but damn, I didn't know he was this good! And Zac Efron and Zendaya and the rest also bring the goods, and that passion I had mentioned before truly shines in all their performances. The breathtaking musical numbers in this movie gave me chills on first viewing. They nearly drove me to tears on a rewatch. And I can't wait to see it again already!


(James Mangold)

Yeah, Hugh Jackman is undoubtedly the MVP in film for 2017, snagging both the #1 and #2 slots in this year's Top 10 list. And hell, director James Mangold is a big double winner here, too, as I noticed he was listed in The Greatest Showman as an executive producer. But what more can I say about this movie that I haven't already covered in my in-depth analysis earlier this year? I'll say this, all throughout the year I was waiting for something to come out that could possibly top this movie for me. Yet, by year's end, nothing even came close. Logan has remained at the top, and for damn good reason, because it is without a doubt the very best piece of cinema to come out all year, without equal.

And it's kind of a shame, as we enter awards season, that it's looking like it's bound to go ignored this year, because while most of the field consists of those "perfectly fine" serviceable yet forgettable fare that I had mentioned before, very few of them truly reached the heights of greatness that this movie managed to achieve. Even beyond its comic book genre, this was an absolutely fantastic movie, and sports the absolute best performances of the entire year at that, featuring career best performances from both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. This was precisely the sort of movie that forced the Academy to change their Best Picture category from five to a possible ten, so to see it go ignored would truly be a waste of that alteration.

The X-Men franchise has always been a bit sloppy over the years, yet this movie managed to pull everything together and close out the final chapter on the series in the most profound way imaginable. Hell, it's even retroactively impacted the franchise, as rewatching Days of Future Past after this movie takes what used to be a sappy happy ending, and turns it into something far more gut-wrenching and tragic, as the sheer emotion and stakes from this movie bleed out onto the rest of the franchise. A perfect ending to an imperfect series, and a perfect end to this year's imperfect list as well.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My Life in 2017

Whelp, it's that time of year again, where I take a look back at what all I accomplished in the past year, as we move forward into the next one. And this has been a pretty productive year for me, all things considered. I worked on a lot of writing and film projects throughout the year, while I otherwise spent a good majority of the year finding some semblance of peace in my life.

With The Masquerade newly released at the end of 2016, this year was my big jump back into the world of conventions and book signings in order to market my work.

I've made a lot of connections with a lot of locations and other authors here in the Tampa area, and I've seen a lot of success at a number of the events I've attended this year. I didn't stray too far from home this time around however, but I hope to expand back out a little bit in the next year in terms of the cons and such that I attend.

And in the meantime, I've been hard at work writing the fourth book in The Ninja Kat series, Polluted War, which I was able to finish and release last month.

I'm still waiting to hear back on a consensus for it, but I'm mostly pleased with how it turned out myself (though if I'm being honest, The Masquerade is still the best thing I've written to date, in my opinion at least). I hope everyone else likes it, and will come back for the fifth installment, whenever that may be.

As to the fifth book, I've thus far written a full outline, though I've admittedly been stalling on actually beginning work writing the actual book. Instead, I've finally had a number of really micro-budget-friendly film ideas come to mind, and I've been hard at work playing around with some of those ideas, and even have a full script written out for a new short, as well as one for a possible feature length film. As far as actually filming them is concerned, that remains to be seen when I'll be able to get to that, but I'm hoping to be able to begin work on them as soon as next year.

Speaking of film projects, I've also been involved with a couple of them this year, in an acting capacity. In the summer of 2016, we began work on what was intended to be a mini-series starring yours truly as an assassin named Charlie Temple, and helmed by my good friend and collaborator M.H. Smith.

The production stalled for some time due to a number of factors that put into question the ability to finish it in its original series format, but earlier in the year, I approached him with an idea that would allow for us to revamp it into a short film and continue production. He loved it, and we were able to film the last handful of scenes that would allow for this change to happen, and filming has finally wrapped on the project. He's now working on post-production with the project, and I've seen an early rough cut of the film, so I can't wait to see how the final product turns out and share it with everyone.

I was also cast in another series this year, too, this one helmed by another collaborator friend of mine, Andre Forbes. The project is called Not So Innocent, and in it, I play, well, another assassin of sorts? Except, this one's more of a reluctant one? Well, it's funny, but there's actually a scene in this production that almost mirrors exactly with a scene from M.H. Smith's film, and the two scenes were even filmed on back to back days. So I really can't wait til the two projects are finished and released, and I can go back and place those two scenes together in some sort of comparison video of sorts, heh. But nah, this has honestly been another really interesting and rewarding project to work on so far, and I can't wait to continue on with the project in the coming year.

One thing I've really learned on both of these projects is to have to place my trust in the directors to capture my performances as best as they can. Up until now, I've mostly been used to just directing myself in my own film projects, so I have full control of my performance and how it looks on camera. But on these projects, I essentially give up all that control, and just hope that I don't make myself look too foolish in their hands. It's been, well, different, and something I've had to get used to, but I really hope the results turn out well enough all the same in the end (they assure me it has at least).

So that's what all I've been working on at least. And in my personal life, I've gone through a number of changes in the past year to work towards bettering my quality of life as well. For one, I've finally found a job that gave me the financial means to move back out on my own for the first time in, well, way too long. And life at home has been really nice ever since, with a semblance of peace at home that I haven't really known in what feels like forever. I even live in a pretty decent neighborhood with cool neighbors who aren't too loud or anything, so that's totally a plus as well.

However, the job that gave me those financial means hasn't always been so swell. In fact, for the majority of the year, I was absolutely miserable at work, having to deal with relentless harassment and terrible management who only encouraged, supported, and rewarded this harassment after it had been brought to their attention, and who they themselves took part in publicly belittling me and treating me horribly for well over half the year. I took every means possible to escape this situation, reaching out to higher management, and corporate management, and various levels of HR, and in the meantime spent months trying to find work elsewhere that would pay me at least as much as I'm making now, to no luck.

But finally, a little over a month ago, I was able to be transferred to a different location, and my life at work has been such a relief ever since then. Like, I feel like I can actually breathe at work again, which is a really good feeling. My prior working arrangement was absolutely horrible, by far the worst working arrangement I've ever experienced in my entire life, and it was all so entirely unnecessary. I was so stressed out for so long, but now it's finally over, and I'm glad to finally be in a place where I can feel at relative peace both at home and at work.

And yeah, that pretty much catches us back up to now I suppose, as we look onto the new year and what all that may hold. I'm not sure where I'll end up exactly, but I know I have a lot of projects to continue to work on (and finally a new competent computer with which to work on those project at that. Thanks Dad!), and a lot of events I hope to attend as well. I also have some decisions to make in my personal life, which can impact some of these projects, but I'd rather keep those plans to myself for the time being. Hopefully everything works out for the best in either event though, and hopefully the next year brings its own fun and successes.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Double Feature: Olaf's Frozen Adventure and Coco

Okay, so perhaps it's a bit of a stretch to call this a double feature, but the new Pixar film Coco came attached with the new Frozen short Olaf's Frozen Adventure in front of it, which I of course have a lot to say about, so there you go. So first up, Frozen!

The story sees Olaf go out in search of a family tradition for Anna and Elsa to celebrate during the holiday season, and I really quite enjoyed how this new Frozen short played out. Something I've noticed is how both Frozen Fever and now Olaf's Frozen Adventure are essentially gift themed, which sorta plays into how the films are presented more as gifts to the fans of the series. However, while Frozen Fever may have been a bit more heavy handed on the fan service, this one ties back into the original film in ways that feel a lot more organic, and are as such a lot more satisfying.

I mentioned in my Frozen Fever review how I liked how that movie really added new layers to Elsa's character that we hadn't seen before. And I think that this movie accomplishes a similar feat with Olaf, adding a lot more depth to the character, and strengthening his bond with the other characters in a really fulfilling manner.

However, not all of the characterization feels quite right here. Specifically, there's one scene that takes place in an attic (which itself felt odd as a setting. Do castles even have attics like this?). And in this scene, Elsa speaks to Anna as if Anna's far younger than she is, and Anna in turn responds accordingly, acting about half her age. And, I dunno, it just felt awkward. Like, perhaps they'd act this way towards each other because, due to their upbringing, there's a part of them that's still stuck in that place in their life. But this is also the only time in any of these films we've really seen them act this way, which lends itself to that off feeling. That scene aside, I didn't really have any issues with the characterization, but that one did throw me off a bit. (Also, is it just me, or does it feel like Anna got just a little bit shafted in general this time around, comparatively speaking?)

Just a bit odd, that.

What I especially love most about this new short though is how they managed to fit in a full fledged musical into such a short period of time. The previous short, Frozen Fever, was just a single song, which is about what one would expect from one of these. However, with a slightly longer runtime of about 20 minutes, there's actually six new songs packed into this one. And the music is mostly great all around.

I'd say that perhaps a single song is a little extraneous, that being Elsa's brief solo reprise of "Ring in the Season". I know, shocking that I'd say such a thing about anything Elsa related of all things, but it honestly was the one musical cue that felt a bit forced, though the song is still quite nice. And really, I'm just nitpicking at this point, and probably wouldn't have felt it as out of place had it perhaps not been quite as abrupt as it was.

That said, when you listen to the soundtrack, you'll find there's an extended version of Kristoff's song "The Ballad of Flemmingrad", which is really the only time in which Jonathan Groff is given the opportunity to really show off his singing chops. However, the version we get in the film is significantly cut, including his moments where he really shines as a singer, which is really a bit of a shame. Groff really does keep getting screwed over in these movies like that, but it would've been nice to see a fuller version play out in the final film, even if it meant cutting the brief Elsa song to make it happen. At least we got it on the soundtrack, though.

As to the rest of the songs, Olaf's numbers "That Time of Year" and its more somber reprise are obviously the bulk of the film, and they're fine for what they are. But the two big standouts are the opening and closing songs, which are both duets from Anna and Elsa, "Ring in the Season" and "When We're Together", which are both really powerful tracks that'll stay with you well after the movie.

So anyways, there are some hiccups along the way, but all in all, I quite liked the new Frozen short. And the fact that it has its problems is perfectly fine honestly, and stays true to the rest of the series. I've mentioned time and again that Frozen is by no means a perfect film, and a lot of its charm comes from its flaws, being a film about such broken characters after all. So I'm more than okay with there being a handful of flaws here as well, none of which bring this film down at all.

And I'd also say that this was a perfect short to place in front of Coco, despite not actually being a Pixar short. For one, there's a lot of shared themes regarding family between the two movies, but the fact that it's a musical preceding what is essentially Pixar's own first musical is also quite fitting.

Now, I call Coco a musical, though that's not in the traditional sense. There's no moment where the characters suddenly stop and spontaneously break out into song and dance. Rather, it's one where the music comes more realistically, through performances and such throughout. So leave it to Pixar to take a different route with the musical genre, but it definitely works for what they're going for.

Hell, the main character, a boy named Miguel, doesn't even actually sing any of the songs himself until about halfway into the movie. But they spend a lotta time building up to the moment where we'll finally hear him perform, and when he does, boy is it worth it. Anthony Gonzalez seriously surprised me in the role, what a voice!

As to the film as a whole, we follow Miguel who wants to be a musician, but his family has forbidden it. So, in his quest to follow his dreams despite his family's wishes, he somehow finds himself in the world of the dead, and now has to find his way back home. And along the way, the story is beautifully told through its stunning visuals and outstanding mariachi style music, with plenty of satisfying twists along the way that keeps things interesting, and keeps the emotions stirring in unexpected ways.

And really, I honestly don't have much to nitpick about Coco. It's a real solid outing through and through. So much so that I've already seen the film twice. Though if I'm being honest, had it not been for the Frozen short attached, it's very likely that I wouldn't have gone out of my way for that second viewing. Because after all, while the movie is magnificent while in the moment, my one squabble with it is that it's not exactly a memorable outing.

You see, right after the movie's over, I've left the theater, and almost immediately it was the songs from Olaf's Frozen Adventure that leaped back into my head, as opposed to the songs from Coco. And soon enough I found that I was barely thinking about the new Pixar movie at all. And I've experienced this now twice. So I can say that, yeah, it's a bit ironic just how much of the movie is about being remembered, considering just how little I find myself able to keep this new film in memory after the fact.

Still though, I'd say it's definitely worth checking out, even if it doesn't quite have the staying power of the likes of other Pixar films such as Wall-E or Inside Out. If you're a fan of Pixar, then you'll love this. And if you're a fan of Frozen, then definitely check this out while it's still in theaters, so you can see Olaf's Frozen Adventure on the big screen beforehand.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Velcro: Polluted War - Now Available!

It's been a little under a year since we had our last Ninja Kat romp, and already we're back at it with Velcro: Polluted War, which is available now! The darkest chapter yet in Velcro's action packed tale comes at you in either paperback or e-book form, so pick up your copy and continue the fight today!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Breathe v Breathe

When I first got the trailer to this new Andrew Garfield flick, and I saw the title of the movie was Breathe, well you knew that I was going to see this and talk about it. Of course I was. After all, just a couple years back I released a short film by the same title, so of course I couldn't resist seeing this feature length remake to my own movie (though it is odd that nobody bothered to tell me about it before now). And to top it off, my film was a horror movie, and this new film was being released in October, the month of horror movies, so surely it was going to live up to the original short, right? So then, how does this new movie compare to the original made by yours truly?

Well for one thing, despite all of the budget at their disposal, not one single werewolf appears in this movie, which I'm sorry, but that's bullshit. Especially when we come to the ending credits and I see that this was directed by Andy Serkis. You're really telling me that he couldn't have put on some CGI makeup and played a damn werewolf in this thing?

Now imagine this face, but like, a wolf.

And it doesn't end there. In fact, there's very little relation between this movie and my own at all. In this movie, we follow a man played by Andrew Garfield who suddenly becomes paralyzed and has to learn how to live with this, and his wife played by Claire Foy, who does everything within her power to make life manageable for her husband. Now, notice I didn't include these characters' names. That's because this movie does so little to initially establish anything about these characters that it wasn't until well after halfway into the movie that I even learned the man's name. (Not sure I ever actually caught the woman's.)

You see, before becoming paralyzed, the movie wastes no time immediately dropping us on a scene where Andrew Garfield sees a pretty lady at some pompous rich people's gathering, and decides he wants to woo her. We then jump to him playing cricket, where they're incongruously positioned to where the ball would be hit directly at the gathering of people for some reason, and he hits the ball and breaks a dish directly behind this woman, drawing her attention.

Cut to the two driving together in a car, I assume on a date, and then cut immediately to another scene where she's on a swing talking with her brothers about the prospect of marrying him. Then we cut to the two on some outback vacation, where we learn that she's now pregnant, yet I've still yet to even learn anything about these two. Not their personalities, not their relationship, and not even their names.

Our heroes drive in a car, and we learn nothing.

If it seems like I'm just randomly hopping all over the place with those quick scene descriptions, then that only means that I'm doing an accurate job portraying what it was like sitting through the opening 15 minutes of this film. And during this entire hopping around sequence, I was just shaking my head, worried that I was in for a hard sit, and just thinking, this movie could really take note from its title and just calm down and actually allow these scenes to breathe a little.

You see, we get the opposite problem here as we do in the original short. In that film, we possibly spend a bit too much time with a couple of our characters early on, a pair of policemen who become quite engaged in conversation while hauling a masked perpetrator off to jail. And we perhaps learn a little too much about them in the process. Where as here, we really don't spend nearly enough time with our two leads, and thus learn nothing about them. So, what we get is essentially an over-correction, if you will.

Our heroes drive in a car and, we learn too much.

So really, one of two things seriously needed to happen with these opening scenes in this new movie. Either they needed to be cut, and we just open on the two already together on the day that he's about to fall ill and become paralyzed. Or they needed to be drastically expanded upon, and a solid extra half hour should have been added to the final runtime just to really give these scenes their proper breathing room. Because as is, we literally learn nothing about these characters, so nothing from these brief opening scenes carries over into the bulk of the movie.

Thankfully, after Garfield gets paralyzed, the movie finally calms down somewhat, and becomes a bit bearable. We finally get a sense of these characters and their situation, but the passage of time is still radically off. What feels like weeks passing in the film, we discover is actually years, as his child is newborn when he's first admitted into the hospital and hooked up to his breathing machine (which I bet they weren't forced to shoot their hospital scenes gorilla style like we were), and when he's finally brought home, his child is now closer to three, though it felt like maybe only a few months had passed at most.

Anyways, the movie goes on, and we see how Garfield becomes accustomed to his new life, and how his friends and family help him still find a way to actually live, as opposed to merely exist, inventing a chair that aids him with his breathing and such, and going on adventures around the world along the way. And this is all mostly fine, I will admit.

Fret not though, for the aspect of poorly developed characters is a recurring one throughout, as there's a revolving cast of side characters who just sorta slip in and out of the movie on a whim, and only a few who I was able to still even recognize come the film's end. Like, there's his one lonely friend, and their inventor friend, and the wife's two brothers. But then as he's coming to terms with his death, there's some large gentleman who comes to sit by him and express how they've known each other for all these years, and I was left asking myself, has this character even been in any of the rest of the movie? And he certainly wasn't alone in that regard, not by a long shot. Though, to be fair, this much is in keeping with the original as well, to a certain degree...

You only learn the girl on the far left's name in the credits.
As to the other two, even
I'm not entirely sure.

But anyways, as we near the end of the movie, Garfield is giving a speech to a group of people who are deciding whether or not to fund the production of chairs such as his, so as to make for a better quality of life for people like him. And as he's speaking, he says the line, "When I first became paralyzed, I wanted to die." And then, right on cue, the power in the theater went out, like someone in the back was playing some sort of really twisted joke. I mean, I didn't think this was too entirely funny, but two ladies in the back row were hysterical at this, so what do I know? We figured the movie was mostly over, but I'm glad I stuck around for it to start back up and resume, because there was still some darker areas for the movie to go to yet.

Now, up to this point, despite a handful of scenes of sheer panic on Garfield's part as it concerns his condition, you'd be hard pressed to call this film a horror movie. However, I gotta say that I was quite surprised to see that they still went with the bloody conclusion in the end all the same. Literally, he's even bleeding out from the neck and everything, just like one of my own characters does in the original short. And it gets pretty gruesome, too. So at least they got that part right.

Now imagine this face, but like, Andrew Garfield.

Otherwise though, there was very little in common between these two films. No murder mystery, no tangential police conversations, and worst of all, no werewolves. But at least we still got the bloody finale, not to mention the obnoxious constant breathing, though this movie's came as a result of a breathing machine, as opposed to someone just relentlessly breathing heavily into a mic for minutes on end. So, to say the least, while the film started out rough, I wouldn't necessarily call it a bad movie overall. It does pick up, and actually becomes quite an intriguing and heart warming story as it plays out. But as an adaptation, that heart warming feeling is a total miss, and not at all faithful to the source material (even if it may well be faithful to the actual true story this movie purports to be based off of).

But then, maybe I'm just too close to the source to really compare the two for sure. So just to be safe, while I don't highly recommend it or anything, it's not a terrible movie by any stretch of the imagination (the first 15 minutes or so aside, that is), so by all means see this new movie if you're curious enough. But first, definitely check out the original short, and see for yourself just how well the two stand up to one another:

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Look Inside Velcro: Polluted War

The next installment of The Ninja Kat series is coming soon, but in the meantime, here's a quick first glance inside the pages of Velcro: Polluted War. Just click on the image below to read the first two chapters right now!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Velcro: Polluted War - Coming Soon

Book Four of The Ninja Kat series.

War is imminent. And Velcro has begun her preparations to set out and gather her allies. First she'll travel to the hamsters hideout, then to the village of Redfield, before they collectively make their way across the border to the Country of Rath, where they intend to meet with the Elder Meow in order to request Rath's aid in the impending war with the Devil Corps.

Meanwhile, blinded by his jealousy and pride, Charlie is still in pursuit of Velcro. However, a revelation he discovers along the way will send him down an even darker path than he's already traveled, and present him with the greatest challenge of his entire life.

It has all been leading to this moment. In Velcro: Polluted War, a history of corruption has finally caught back up with our heroes. Unlikely alliances will be formed as it all comes to a head, when Velcro and Rath's Bone Army battle against the Devil Corps in a fight that will determine the fate of the Country of Widows, and quite possibly the whole world over.

Coming soon...

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hangin' With Web Show Interview

So in a rarity for me, I was actually captured speaking on camera. This past May at MegaCon, I was interviewed by Allyson Ingerham of the Hangin' With Web Show, where we discussed a little bit about my Ninja Kat series, as well as my other writing and filmmaking ventures. Check it out!

Thursday, July 13, 2017


So generally when someone requests a review from me for something, it's after I've already seen it and have shared my general reaction of it, and they merely want me to expand my thoughts. In this instance, however, this was the first time someone requested me to review something I hadn't actually seen, and honestly wasn't even planning on watching, as I don't exactly feel it necessary to watch every single new show that releases onto Netflix. So after that initial request, I was a bit hesitant to jump in. But then I learned that this series actually consisted of half-hour long episodes for a change, as opposed to the usual hour long. And honestly, that was the biggest selling point for me.

I've mentioned in the past how I'm not a big TV guy. I just think that it's generally too long, too time-consuming, and too much to keep up with. And nowadays, with these mini-series popping up on Netflix that are closer to the 10-13 episode range, that does make them easier to digest. However, almost every time, I come out thinking that they were still unnecessarily too long, and that there was so much that could've easily been cut in order to make the shows even tighter. But honestly, I didn't get too much of that feeling from GLOW, and I think a lot of that does have to do with the tighter half-hour format, which we just rarely see anymore these days in anything that's not a sitcom. So that was a huge breath of fresh air for me, as it made this such an easy sit to get through, and not at all a chore, like so many shows these days usually wind up being.

So it's a nice, quick watch, but is it any good? Well, I have my reservations, but on the whole, yeah, I dug it. Standing for Gorgeous Women Of Wrestling, the series follows the production of building a small wrestling organization centered around a colorful cast of women, and it's a pretty fun and interesting watch. I would say that my biggest initial drawback was that our main character who we follow, played by Alison Brie, starts off as probably the most unlikable character in the whole show, but then it makes sense when she's eventually cast as the main heel of this federation, as she's such a natural in the spot. So while it might start off initially off-putting, it comes together in a nice way that really works, and by the end of it, I found myself starting to come back around to this character, if not entirely able to forgive them, very similar to her co-lead in the show, played by Betty Gilpin.

Another souring element that recurs mostly earlier in the show is that there's a lot of really unnecessary nudity that honestly adds nothing and actually takes away from the show, making it feel gratuitous even, and often happening at random, so it doesn't even feel like it naturally fits in with everything else. A minor point, sure, but again, the way it was handled just felt needlessly off-putting and distracting, so thankfully they did away with this as the show continued to progress.

But as for the good, the cast is great, and everyone really gets their time to shine and let their characters grow. For as large a cast as this is and how relatively brief the show is, you really do get a good grasp on all of these lively characters. My favorite though was probably the director, played by Marc Maron. He starts off as a totally unlikable douchebag, but has one of the more complex and intriguing arcs in the series, as he battles with all of the personal demons that are haunting him in his life, and the way he allows for these elements to dictate his demeanor towards others, as well as how they influence his art as a film director.

Obviously I was able to relate to a lot of this aspect, and seeing this whole low-budget production come together really hit home for me in a lot of regards. But especially later on, after he discovers that an idea of his has already been used, yeah, that's something that I've experienced myself and have even discussed as recently as my Power Rangers review from earlier in the year (though that is not the only time this has happened to me in the past year), and it's definitely one of those things that almost make you question why you're even doing this. So to see that element play out here was sort of surreal for me, for how recently relevant it is to my own experiences.

I also really liked just the way the whole thing grew from the ground up, watching these ladies discover their wrestling personas (and yeah, taking place in the 80s, a lot of this winds up being very generic stereotypes, but it works here) and learn how to actually wrestle, featuring some decent cameos from actual wrestlers who would come in and show them some moves. Yeah, it became a bit cheesy when you could tell they could only afford some of these guys for a limited time, so there were episodes where the main cast were essentially training themselves with no actual supervision, which, what the hell? But that was easy enough to sorta shrug off.

My favorite episode though was probably as our two leads were putting together their match that was to be the main event of the first show, when they met with Carlito and Brodus Clay to teach them a few tricks in the ring. It was just really cool seeing them start to slowly grow as actual wrestlers, and I actually found it pretty motivating witnessing their undying determination to improve.

So yeah, this winded up being pretty good overall. There are some minor missteps here and there, but nothing that's not easy enough to look past. Unlike a lot of these shows, I never got the sense watching this that they were padding it out for time, so it's very well paced and easy to digest. All in all, there's a lot of fun, and while I can't say for sure how accurate a lot of this is to real life (I'm guessing most of it's not), I thought this worked on the whole, and would definitely recommend it. I wouldn't even say you have to be a wrestling fan to enjoy it either, as, similar to some of the characters in the show, I actually think the show's good enough to where it may very well win you over and make a brand new fan out of you yet.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

My Transformers: The Last Knight Review (featuring Shia LaBeouf!)

Shia LaBeouf's actual reactions to watching Transformers: Dark of the Moon
mirror my own reactions to watching Transformers: The Last Knight.

Before I even begin, I just want to remind everyone that I'm not blindly hating on this movie because it's the hip thing to do these days. I actually genuinely liked and defended the previous film, Age of Extinction, a movie that I felt was unfairly hated on, as it both addressed and corrected upon just about every single gripe that people had made about the first three movies, and yet it was somehow lambasted as the worst in the series regardless, which still annoys me even now. Outside of Dark of the Moon though, I've otherwise liked all of these movies to date. But oh boy, this one's a different beast entirely. In fact, all those gripes I had alluded to just now? Yeah, by the end of this, you'll be left wishing the movie was as remarkably tame as those films apparently were in hindsight, now that this movie exists to show us just how bad things could actually get.

So I recently watched the latest Transformers movie, The Last Knight, and I really don't even wanna talk about it. But after watching the movie, I had a bit of a notable meltdown over it on twitter, and was as such requested to please review the movie. And I have this thing where if someone actually requests a review from me, I feel determined to provide one. So here I am, attempting to relive this movie that has left my thoughts a lot more of a scrambled mess than is normal from me.

You see, normally after watching a movie, I can recall moments of it quite vividly, and describe them in great detail when it comes time to review them. But here, I was so disinterested by what I was watching and really not at all invested that most of the movie is honestly a blur to me at this point. I mean, I know that they did the big action thing, and they beat the big bad, and all that stuff. But truth be told, I'd be lying if I said that I could tell you precisely how the big bad was beat, because honestly, I was barely even paying attention by that point and just waiting for the movie to finally end so that I could just go already. Because you see, this movie reached a point relatively early on where I just couldn't even believe what I was watching, so much so that I actually wanted to leave the theater. After all, it wasn't like I was going to miss anything. (Which I didn't.) But see, theaters these days have employed this thing known as the recliner seat, and every single person in the row I was sitting on (of which I was sitting dead center), had their recliner up. So I suppose I felt a bit too self-conscious to stand up and request that each and every single person on my row put their seat down so that I could get up and leave, and as such, I felt a bit trapped in my screening. Consider this yet another reason among the many I've already exasperated as to why I absolutely can not stand the insistency for modern theaters to shift towards this format of theater going.

So anyways, like I said, this movie was a mess, and my thoughts on it are similarly messy, so I'm just going to discuss things as they come to me. And to start off, let's talk about how Optimus Prime was supposed to be the villain, only he was really only the villain for about five minutes of the movie, if that, despite the fact that his heel turn was supposed to be the entire selling point of the movie. The thing is though, when his scene came on, I was so happy, because that meant that the movie was finally almost over, right? Except, it wasn't. Because as soon as he turns good again, the true villains swoop in and steal the maguffin, and it's up to our heroes to chase after them and engage in yet another 30-45 minutes of this god forsaken movie that just wouldn't ever end. Oh my god, I could literally feel my heart sink in that moment when that realization struck me.

But let's talk about the aspect ratio of this thing, which is something that I have yet to see anyone else bring up in any other reviews that I've read and watched, which really just dumbfounds me. But to give you an example of what I'm talking about, you know when you go to see a movie in IMAX, but the whole movie wasn't actually filmed in IMAX, so there are only certain scenes where the image stretches to a true IMAX size, and the rest of the time there's black bars on the top and bottom of the screen? And you know how, when the image stretches, it typically stays that way all throughout the scene, and only resumes to its normal aspect ratio after the scene has ended? Yeah, well here, the movie keeps jumping aspect ratios back and forth all throughout. But, it's not just from scene to scene. No, the movie will do this from cut to cut. That's right, that means that in the middle of an action sequence, we'll be on, say, a cut of someone throwing a punch, which might be wide. Then, when we cut to the next shot of that punch connecting, it'll be the normal aspect ratio, only to go wide again in the following cut. And this is a Michael Bay film, which means there's lots of quick cuts throughout. Meaning that there are black bars just hopping in and out of the frame all throughout the whole movie, and this is just maddening to watch. Hell, it wasn't even just action scenes, even scenes with people standing around talking were edited together in this manner. And afterwards, I wondered if this was just my screening, seeing as how I hadn't seen anyone else bring this up. But then some of the video reviews I watched showed footage from the movie in their reviews, and I could see this rapid fire ADD aspect ratio shenanigans in action in the footage provided! So it wasn't just my screening! The movie was actually filmed and cut together this way! How? How did this happen?

(Oh, and by the way, I didn't see this is IMAX. That's the regular version that's cut this way!)

And as to the writing, good lord. I have seen some stupid, immature idiocy in my day. Hell, that's one of the biggest complaints most people have about all the previous movies in this series, is that they feel like they're written for immature twelve year old, by immature twelve year olds. But my lord, take every single immature moment from all the past films, and just multiply the sheer stupidity by about a million, and you're still not close to how ridiculous this movie gets. Like, there's a whole aspect where the movie canonizes King Arthur and Merlin and all of those characters into this series, and they spend, I shit you not, at least a good half hour or longer just sitting down and explaining how this all ties together in a scene of exposition that just went on and on and on to a mind numbing degree. And the longer it went on, the dumber it all sounded, and the dumber I felt for sitting there watching this garbage. And the thing that made it even worse is that as the characters are explaining all of this dumb stupid shit, they'll just burst into random fits where they try to spout out some lingo that some writer in their thirties probably thought sounded like something some fly, hip teenager would say these days. Only, this dialogue is coming out of the mouths of the likes of Anthony Hopkins, and it's just, for lack of a more appropriate word, bizarre. Relentlessly so. But it's not just him, it's the whole entire cast who talks and acts this way. Just spouting out belligerent nonsense at random, and saying things so immature it would make even the worst line out of any of the prior movies blush. And all the while, I was left asking myself, what in the hell am I even watching?!

Speaking on King Arthur, I guess that technically makes this the second Arthur movie of the year, and by far the worse of the two. But what's even more bizarre than that revelation is the fact that there's actually a scene in this movie that feels like it's edited almost in homage to Guy Ritchie's distinct editing style that was on display in the other film. It's replete with hopping back and forth through time as the scene plays out, with overlying exposition and even text bursting onto the screen to introduce a whole slew of new characters. Thing is though, this is the only scene in the entire series that's edited this way, and it's all to introduce a bunch of character who are immediately killed off in the very next scene anyways, meaning that it exists solely to waste even more of our time than we already have, and nothing more. But it was just weird seeing a scene like that here, and I don't know if it was done on purpose as a nod to the Ritchie film or not, or if that's even possible, given how close the two were to each other's release. But it was a scene that just stood out as a huge question mark to me. See, this editing worked for me in the Guy Ritchie film, but it was also a consistent style that they went with throughout that whole movie. But what worked in that movie totally doesn't in this one, and it's just yet another instance of me asking, what the hell were they thinking?!

Now, I know that a lot of what I've described here may well sound like it can also apply to some of the other movies with just how ridiculous and stupid it can all get. But I'm not sure that words can properly do justice to the sheer depths that this movie devolves to. Like, I'm not even scraping the surface with just how much of an insufferable experience this was to sit through, and just how badly I didn't want to be there. You're just gonna have to trust me when I say that as bad as I may make this movie out to be here, it's actually far worse, and there's so much more that I can discuss that I just really have no desire to even get into here.

Honestly, I've never so badly wanted to walk out of a movie in my life. I reached a point where I just didn't care anymore. Like, at all. A moment where I could feel my life being wasted away on this garbage, where I was literally sitting there feeling like I was just too old for this shit anymore. And it wasn't just me. When the movie was finally wrapping up (we got our cue because Optimus Prime was doing the same voice over that he does at the end of all of these movies), the people in front of me instantly stood up, only to find themselves in the same precarious situation I had found myself in, as they suddenly realized they were trapped by the recliners all around them. But they were clearly ready to leave, and as I was storming out of the theater, I could overhear others walking out discussing how Michael Bay is the worst director out there. And that last part is kind of a shame, because I mean, Michael Bay has proven capable of making a good movie. Hell, he's even made a handful of great ones. But my lord, you'd never know that watching shit like this. This was just some of the most incompetent filmmaking I've ever seen out of anyone.

I would say the one saving grace would be how, after the movie ended, some idiot in our audience tried to applaud this thing, and I was so worried that I was about to have to witness another ovation for one of these films. I mean, after Dark of the Moon, our audience applauded, which to this day astounds me (though to be fair, as much shit as I talked about that movie, after enduring what I did with The Last Knight, I owe that one a huge apology). But thankfully, on this occasion, no one else joined in, so at least there was that.

As I was walking out, there was a scene during the credits which I guess was supposed to tease the next one. But I just could not give a shit less, I was too busy finally leaving the theater to care anymore. Hell, make another one, I don't care. But after this hot mess? Yeah, you bet your ass I'm tapping out on this series. At least so long as Michael Bay remains at the helm, I've officially seen as much as I desire to see out of this franchise. But usually after seeing a movie that's this bad, my reaction is to consider it to be one of, if not the worst movie of the year. After this movie had wrapped though, it was honestly the first time in my life where I had felt that I may very well have actually seen the worst movie I've ever sat through in my entire life. Like, I have seen my fair share of bad movies, but I didn't know they could get this bad, and I'm still in a state of disbelief as to what I had seen. If ever there existed a movie where watching it was apt to give the recipient a thousand yard stare, this is that movie.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Best of Naruto Shippuden - Updated!

So a number of years ago, I released a series of posts listing my picks for the Top 5 various things in the Naruto anime, including the Top 5 Best Openings, Top 5 Best Endings, and Top 5 Best Episodes. But the anime was still ongoing at the time of all of these postings, so I knew that I would eventually have to update all of those lists. And seeing as how the anime has finally concluded, I suppose now's the time for me to actually go back and revise those lists.

However, I'm not sure I really want to actually re-do the lists entirely, as at least in certain instances, it would mostly stay the same, with me just adding an entry or two to it, and that feels just a little pointless. So instead, I'll use this opportunity to highlight my favorites from all of those categories that have released since the time of my original lists being posted, and include a handful of runner ups that I feel are worth a mention as well.

So then, without further ado, let's start off with my pick for the Best New Naruto Shippuden Opening...

Best New Naruto Shippuden Opening

Naruto Shippuden Opening 16 - Silhouette

I just really dig everything about this opening. The song is super catchy, and the imagery showing the various evolutions all of the characters have undergone is really neat to see play out. It starts off by showing a quick collage of footage from prior episodes, which shows us right off the bat the theme of this opening, that being to show us the stages that all lead to this moment. And then we see Obito burst onto the scene, just casually walking into battle as, in the corner, we see the various transformations his characters has experienced through his life, before repeating this with Madara, our two big bads.

I just love this imagery so much, the casual walks with the armies and beasts waiting in the background is almost haunting in its execution, as we see a glimpse of all of the steps that lead to this pivotal moment, almost like a reflection on one's life in the calm before the storm really hits. But then in contrast, while the two villains' evolutions are shown in the corner of the screen in a calmer manner, we see as Naruto evolves right on the field itself, carrying his past right into battle with him, as he rushes in to contend with them in his desperate attempt to finally put an end to their scheme.

Then the action showcase is just really entertaining, and maintains a high level of energy to match the music, as we see Madara squaring off in a lightning fast skirmish with Sasuke, before Naruto and Sasuke come together to take on Obito in his Juubi state, all leading to the moment when Obito sees he really is one against the world. And the tree growing above the army is almost like a dark cloud being cast on the world, as the battle rages on.

Everything about this opening really just came together and clicked in a way that it doesn't always do with other openings, which often feel a bit unfocused. And honestly, if I were to place this among my rankings compared to those that made it in my original list, this would probably place at either the #2 or #3 spot. It's upbeat, energetic, and features the sort of really stunning and awesome imagery that'll stick with you and have you putting it on repeat over and over again. Definitely not one you'll skip just to jump straight to the episode.

Honorable Mention:
Naruto Shippuden Opening 15 - Guren

Best New Naruto Shippuden Ending

Naruto Shippuden Ending 22 - Full

Not only is this my pick for favorite ending since the posting of my previous list, this is my favorite Naruto ending period. This ending just takes an already tragic character in Obito and makes it feel all the more terrible what happened to him, and what really made him the terrible person that he's become. And at the end, after the ghost of Rin walks through him, and you see the screen start to shake a bit, it's like you can feel the sheer weight of all the pain and torment that has been motivating him for so long, as he raises that monster behind him, a signifier of the monster that he's become. Just such a perfectly wrapped package that tells a full story, through both its visuals and its music, of a man whose been taken on such a dark path, and one of the most effective endings in this regard that I've seen.

Honorable Mentions:
Naruto Shippuden Ending 27 - Black Night Town
Naruto Shippuden Ending 29 - Flame
Naruto Shippuden Ending 33 - Kotoba no Iranai Yakusoku

Best New Naruto Shippuden Episode

Naruto Shippuden 478 - The Unison Sign

This is the episode the follows the final epic encounter between Naruto and Sasuke. And this episode is quite possibly the most emotionally stirring episode in the entire series.

Now out of context, this picture doesn't mean too much. But basically, what we see here is the sheer weight that Sasuke has been holding onto for so many years finally being let off his shoulders in a single moment of relief. He's finally come to terms with all of his misdeeds, he's finally accepted who he is, what he's done, and what he's become. But more importantly, he's finally accepted Naruto, and has accepted all that Naruto has striven to achieve, and how far he's gone to save him from the darkness. He's finally let Naruto's light shine into his life, and that's what we see in this image, is the sheer emotional relief of it all, a culmination of everything that had preceded it, all leading to this moment, as the sun rises into the sky on a brand new day, and Sasuke can finally put his past demons behind him and become a new man. A better man.

Now, take all of the emotion of that single panel, and stretch that over the course of an entire episode, and that's what we get with this treat of a finale. We see as Sasuke slips in and out of consciousness, and as his dream-state intertwines with Naruto's, and the two witness each others lives from a more personal perspective than they've ever experienced before. Sasuke not only sees with his own eyes just how far Naruto has come, but he experiences all of the emotional turmoil he's had to endure all the while, and how he's used this turmoil to only further motivate him to get even stronger, so that he can achieve his goals and finally save his friend.

And after all of the fighting, all of the kicking and punching and outlandishly flashy maneuvers that the two have exchanged, it's these moments flashing before Sasuke's eyes that really hit him the hardest. And even with the two lying on their backs, unable to move, Naruto is still motivated to keep fighting, even when Sasuke just wants to quit. And he sees this unyielding determination in Naruto, and finally sees the light inside of him that has been illuminating his path. And so, he concedes. And for the first time in possibly his entire life, Sasuke is finally overcome with a true, genuine sense of peace. And that's what's shown in that image above, and is also what we experience right along with Sasuke all throughout this episode.

This is a prime example of an episode that takes the source material and really expands upon it in a way that truly elevates the material to a whole other level. Most of the time when they do this, it's to expand upon some of the more notable fights, to make them even bigger and more stylish than their manga counterparts. But in this instance, it was the emotion that they expanded upon, and they did so in a big way, so much that the episode was treated as a standout special in the series, complete with an a unique ending and a post-credits stinger, to really drive the point home and end things on as high a note as possible, as the two bond in their first shared moment of true friendship since they were children.

There's very few episodes that I've gone back to rewatch multiple times, but this is one of those rare instances. And every time I have, this one has gotten just as big an emotional response out of me as ever, and has driven me near to tears. You can't fake that level of emotion. But despite the series mostly becoming a mess by this point, they definitely pulled it together when it really counted with this one.

Honorable Mentions:
Naruto Shippuden 246-249 - The Kyuubi Attack
Naruto Shippuden 322 - Madara Uchiha
Naruto Shippuden 375 - Kakashi vs. Obito

So there you are. And now, having finally updated all of these posts in one go, I can't help but feel a sense of relief of my own, like I can finally put this series behind me. Again, if you're interested in seeing my full original lists, you can check them out at the following links:

Top 5 Naruto Openings
Top 5 Naruto Endings
Top 5 Naruto Episodes

But of course, with the Boruto series having just begun, who knows, I may still have to return to these old lists and make another update again yet. But we'll get there when we get there, and for now, I'm satisfied finally saying a fond farewell to a series that I've been following for such a long time.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

These movies actually made my "best of year" lists...

So every year when I get around to forming my list of favorite movies I saw that year, there's always inevitably at least one particularly conspicuous entry that leaves people scratching their heads. In fact, I have a friend who likes to point these entries out to me each year, and I've as such come to find them amongst my favorite and most interesting additions to my lists. And so now, I wanted to share with you the movies that likely stood out the most in this regard over the years that I've been doing these end of year "best of" lists.

Granted, I don't really have too much new to say about most of these movies that I haven't already said before at some point, and in a number of instances, it's been years since I've last revisited them, so they're not exactly the freshest in mind at the moment. However, I do still hold fond memories of my experiences with all of them, and the ones that I have revisited, I still found enjoyment out of them, despite their negative reputation or any inherent flaws with the movies.

So then, let's get to the list, which will be presented in alphabetical order. But first, a few honorable mentions, consisting of movies that had all received an honorable nod from the year that I had originally made mention of them in the first place.

Honorable Mentions

The Expendables
2010, Honorable Mention

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
2012, Honorable Mention

White House Down
2013, Honorable Mention

And now without any further ado, onto the main list, where I'll also be including the original placement where each movie landed on that year's particular list...

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
2016, #6

The Counselor
2013, #4

Need For Speed
2014, #5

Resident Evil: Retribution
2012, #10

San Andreas
2015, #8

Sucker Punch
2011, #1
Best of Decade So Far, #5

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
2009, #8

So there you have it. And like I already said, I don't really have much else to add, except that I'll be interested to see what other such peculiar movies will manage to hit me in just the right way and find themselves on future lists in the years to come.