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.