Posted in Other Media

Cinema Saturday, 5/27/23


Year: 2010
Runtime: 1h 47m
Rated: R

Writers: Alex Litvak, Michael Finch, Jim Thomas
Director: Nimród Antal
Stars: Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne, Topher Grace

After watching the Prey (2022) and the first two Predator movies last year, I realized that I hadn’t seen the “third” movie in the franchise (third, if you exclude the Alien crossovers). I was mildly intrigued by the premise: a group of Earth’s most competent killers are collected and tossed down on an alien world to be hunted.

Alas, the movie doesn’t really deliver on what could be Predators v. Bournes. The group is not really what I’d call elite. The Israeli sniper (our token female character) and the Russian special forces guy are probably the only two with any particular talent or training. I’ll buy that the black ops guy and the RUF death squad soldier might know a thing or two, but the rest? A death row inmate, a Mexican cartel enforcer, a Yakuza enforcer, and civilian doctor? It might seem a little cliche, but I was hoping that those characters might contribute in larger ways appropriate to their backgrounds. (Spoiler-ish alert: one of those characters does contribute in a somewhat unexpected way, but even that could have been done better.)

Also, I recently watched Pitch Black, a movie that strands its characters on an alien world that actually feels alien. I suppose that the audience is initially meant to mistake the setting for Earth, but that notion is quickly debunked (and probably would have been more immediately evident to the characters). A more likely reason is that it would have required more money to make the hunting preserve more alien. Predators was made on a rather modest $40 million budget.

Despite its flaws, Predators isn’t a terrible movie. The cast is good, the pacing is good. It’s a Predator movie, so that comes with a certain set of charms especially if you’re a fan.

Posted in Male Author, Nonfiction

Book: Hi Honey, I’m Homo!

Hi Honey, I’m Homo! was provided to me by BenBella and Smart Pop Books in exchange for an honest review.

Hi Honey, I’m Homo: Sitcoms, Specials, and the Queering of American Culture by Matt Baume

I’ve been a subscriber to Matt Baume’s YouTube channel for the past four or five years. I enjoy gossipy “did you know” trivia about TV and movies and Baume’s work covered an area I was particularly invested in: the sitcoms that Gen X grew up on. I have a strong opinion that what was on TV shaped my generation. One of the most popular television shows during my formative years is set in a military hospital during a war—and it’s sitcom! I feel like maybe that does something to a person.

Matt Baume’s investigations are more focused. His specialty is the representation of LGBTQ+ issues in sitcoms. He looks at how LGBTQ+ characters and plots have reflected American attitudes and policies and when those sitcoms have led the way by showing queer people as, you know, people; often vulnerable people who are comedically making the best of the situations they’re in. All this is told against the background of TV history with behind-the-scenes stories about the shows’ creators, many of them also LBGTQ+. Hi Honey, I’m Homo! begins with Bewitched and secretive life its main character, witch Samantha Stephens, and the secretive lives of several of its cast members. From there, the book moves through the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s, through “wins” and “losses” for gay equality, to the 2010s’ Modern Family. Having clearer memories of later sitcoms, I was surprised by how many story lines in shows like All in the Family and Barney Miller included queer characters.

I was familiar with some of these stories from YouTube, but Hi Honey, I’m Homo! stitches themes and history together, providing more context. It was a quick read and, due to Baume’s comedic style, enjoyable even when topics get heavy. The conclusion of the book looks at the present, in which many gay and trans rights are being threatened and even abolished. If there is a lesson, it’s that there is a cycle of progress and backlash, but progress isn’t made without working toward representation, without fighting to tell stories.

Posted in Female Author, Short Story

Short Story Round-Up, 5/23/23

“9 Lies You Tell Yourself About Ghost Hunting” by Aimee Picchi
I’m always a little leery of 2nd person POV, but I’ve come across a couple stories lately that do it well. “9 Lies . . .” is one of those. The trick might be having an actual “you” within the story that the narrator is referring to. Anyway, a tight little tale from Aimee Picchi.

“Rabbit Test” by Samantha Mills
This was the Nebula award winner for short story this year. This is the kind of story that makes wonder how I consider myself a writer. Do you know what the rabbit test was? I didn’t. This story is a mix of history and science fiction—history repeats itself, for better or worse.

“Undog” by Eugenia Triantafyllou
Contains a wriggling, dog-food-snuffling personification of trauma. And is a cheerier tale than “Rabbit Test.”

Deal Me In, wk 20
J♦️ “The New Boyfriend” by Kelly Link
Girl friendships. How could the portmanteau “frienemy” ever refer to anything else. I’m glad I stuck with this story with its fun “supernatural” Boyfriends. Haunted androids are not something I’m considered much.

Posted in History

Monday Miscellanea, 5/22/23

What Happened Last Week?

After a stressful week or so, I over rebounded to being generally unmotivated. I am lucky to have a lifestyle with few deadlines of any kind.

The weather last week was downright pleasant. We had a week rainy fronts move through Arizona, a rarity for May. It was a nice reprieve because right now we’re at the bottom of the summer heat hill.

No word on summer ultimate frisbee league(s), though I’ve heard second hand that there will be a Wednesday league. I thought I wouldn’t mind some level of league break, but I already miss having a scheduled weekly game.

Random Links

Wild About Harry: You will soon be able to read Houdini’s first diary – As I said on Twitter, Houdini is not my favorite magician, but I am always interested in golden age magic nonfiction. I’m hoping the finished product gets a fairly wide release.

Genre Grapevine: On the Sudowrite Controversy and the Increasing Pushback Against AI – The issue of “AI” has been hounding creative types for a while now. I have no interest in even playing with such things as Sudowrite because, yes, it’s plagiarism software.

Past Miscellany

2021: Cinema Saturday, 5/22/21 – With thoughts on Alien and Army of the Dead.

Writing Check-In

I had a piece of flash fiction “surprise” published. Surprise because the response and posting of it occurred very quickly. This is a different story than the one I did edits on a couple weeks ago. If you have a few minutes, check out “The Aeronaut’s Wife” over at White Cat Publications.

Otherwise, my writing has taken the brunt of my shut-down mood.

Posted in Other Media

Cinema Saturday, 5/20/23

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Year: 2021
Runtime: 2h 4m
Rated: PG-13

Writers: Gil Kenan, Jason Reitman, Dan Aykroyd
Director: Jason Reitman
Stars: Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Mckenna Grace

Ghostbusters (1984) is one of my top five favorite movies. I enjoyed the cartoon and saw Ghostbusters II in the theater. I didn’t mind the concept of the all-female 2016 reboot; I just wish it had been a better film. But Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a sequel/reboot set 35-ish years after the original with kid protagonists? I wasn’t excited for it.

Franchises that decide to make sequel/reboots court disaster, especially when the plan is to directly connect new characters to original characters. Storywise, writers have to come up with a worthwhile plot with a new cast that fits the previous movie and address what has happened to the original characters. Doing both to the satisfaction of viewers is tricky, a minefield if the audience has strong opinions about the original characters. (See also, Star War: The Last Jedi (2017).)

(Some spoilers ahead.)

I didn’t care for the generational connection in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Mostly, I’ll admit, because it relies on the retconning my favorite character (though this is a chronological detail that isn’t very evident in the movie). Callie (Carrie Coon)’s bitterness over her abandonment by her father’s and her own children’s lack of a present father is . . . tiring. I wish this setup could have been handled in another way. I’m also annoyed by the quick healing of mental trauma. I’ve seen it too often in movies lately. It feels hallow that Callie forgives the father that she effectively never knew because she realizes he had been keeping tabs on her.

That said, I do think Ghostbusters: Afterlife was conceived and written with a fair amount of love for the original film and characters. That, of course, is due to the generational connection behind the scenes. Director/writer Jason Reitman is the son of original director Ivan Reitman. The use of Egon as the main connection is a tribute to the late Harold Ramis, both actor and co-writer of the original. I’ll admit, Egon as a ghost is a cool way to include Harold Ramis in this chapter of the franchise.

The plot is fine. No sequel or reboot can do the things that the original did, but I would have liked for an actually scary moment or two. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind the young cast. Young protagonists aren’t my favorite thing, but I liked Phoebe (Mckenna Grace). She is the dorky science girl that could grow up to be part of a better version of Ghostbusters 2016.

All in all, I liked Ghostbusters: Afterlife more than I expected I would, but the bar was pretty low.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Year: 2023
Runtime: 2h 14m
Rated: PG-13

Writers: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Michael Gilio, Chris McKay
Directors: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Stars: Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page

Speaking of low bars, I can comfortably say that Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is the best live-action D&D movie thus far. (I suffered through the 2000 film (Jeremy Irons, I hope you fired your representation), but didn’t torture myself with the sequels. Haven’t seen either of the feature length animated projects.)

This is a movie that I was cautiously optimistic about. Dagnabit, I’ve want a good D&D movie! But also, I really want a fantasy heist movie. Honor Among Thieves is almost that.

Honor Among Thieves has the ingredients of a heist movie: a group of questionable characters band together to, well, break into somewhere and steal things. In fact, the movie has two potential heists. Much like The Italian Job, the first sets up the circumstances of the second. Unlike The Italian Job, the first is shown in a montage flashback. And that’s sort of my problem the Honor Among Thieves: there is so much backstory. So many flashbacks. I was a little surprised by the runtime and, yeah, I think it could have lost 15–20-ish minutes. (Both The Italian Job (2003) and Ocean’s Eleven (2001) are under two hours . . .) And I think the fun of breaking into places and stealing stuff—the essence of a heist movie—gets lost under all the character’s stories.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy Honor Among Thieves. The cast is charming. Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez are a decent comedy duo. The times when things are happening are fun and, if you’ve ever played a tabletop RPG, relatable. I imagine there will be a sequel and I hold out hope that, now that everyone’s backstory is out of the way, the party can get down to some proper chaotic good shenanigans.

Posted in Male Author, Nonfiction

Reading Notes, 5/18/23


Finished two books since I last posted Reading Notes!

The Writer’s Practice: Building Confidence in Your Nonfiction Writing by John Warner

The Writer’s Practice is John Warner’s guide to, well, developing a writing practice. He presents guides for just about every type of short nonfiction imaginable, like reviews, tributes, memoir pieces, arguments, even jokes (which I’d never thought of as nonfiction, but okay . . .). Each chapter contains an “experience,” an assignment to write. The instructions might come off as a little repetitive because, well, each has a similar process. Repeating that process the practice.

This is a library book, so I didn’t have time to participate in any of the experiences, but I would consider purchasing The Writer’s Practice and working through some of it.

Masters of Make-Up Effects: A Century of Practical Magic by Howard Berger

Masters of Make-Up Effects is an over-sized coffee table book. Not the sort of thing one might checkout from the library. Well, unless you’re me. I’ve been checking out over-sized coffee table books about movies since I was in grade school.

To me, there are few things better than passionate professionals talking about their craft. Even when relating difficulties, love and enthusiasm is evident. Masters of Make-Up Effects is a collection of stories by best and biggest names in the business—and not just the creators, but the actors and performers who are under the make-ups and in the suits. It is well-illustrated with photos and includes a good history of effects, without going into the nitty gritty.

Currently Reading

I managed to score an ARC of Matt Baume’s Hi Honey, I’m Homo, a history of how sitcoms have affected and reflected the acceptance of LGBTQ+ issues.

Random Reading Thought

I keep thinking about “how many more books will I be able to read in my lifetime.” I should keep a list, I think. But then I remember my expected lifespan is another 37 years, which is longer than I’ve done anything.

Posted in History

Monday Miscellanea, 5/15/23

What’s Been Going On?

It’s been a rough couple of weeks.

There was a fraudulent charge on my Target card about a week and a half ago. That’s mostly resolved, but it’s the second time in a year. I don’t even use that card anywhere but Target!

Car problems—something’s jacked up with the truck’s engine cooling system. After troubleshooting, Eric realized the problem wasn’t one he could easily fix and took the truck to a shop nearby. Alas, the mechanics did not solve the problem. Which we didn’t realize until we pulled into a parking lot on Saturday with steam billowing from under the hood. It’s frustrating and expensive.

The above parking lot was at Pecos Park for spring ultimate frisbee league finals. Despite being short-handed, we won our first game and only lost in finals by one. I played way more points than I wanted and didn’t play very well either. An inauspicious final to an inauspicious league.

Despite good intentions, I gave up on Bout of Books on Thursday. Having a reading “goal” was one too many things on my plate. I probably really shouldn’t sign up for 20 Books of Summer. Challenges and readathons haven’t really been working for me lately.

A Good Moment

I was up early this morning and caught a random rain shower. Those will be few and far between for the next few months.

Random Links

Writing Check-In

I turned in edits on the short story I sold earlier in the year. Nothing bad about this, but it’s generally stressful. I have the fairly unreasonable notion that the editor will suddenly realize I’m a total idiot and decide the whole thing was a mistake.

Continuing with my NaNoWriMo draft.

Writing-related links: