[Review] Terminator Genisys [Hard Drive Archive]

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Author’s note: this was a review that I wrote on facebook at the time of this movie’s release. After reading this again — two years later– I still agree with about 99% of what I had to say about it.

So, yeah, Terminator Genisys…

The short answer: Not as bad as I thought it was going to be be.

The long Answer: Considering the idea that just plain not doing another Terminator film was completely off the table, a reboot was kind of inevitable. The time travel continuity of the film franchise was so mangled after T2 that people eventually stopped caring (T1-T2 has Judgement Day set in 1997, then in T3 it`s 2006, then Salvation and the short lived Fox TV series pinned it to 2011). Genisys does us the favor of at least nuking that continuity sink-hole for good, but not before nuking L.A (again) to chronicle Skynet`s rise to power.

As its own film, Genisys is much better than Salvation; the latter mentioned film really just an example of Saving Private Ryan with robots, a.k.a Christian Bale: The Movie: The “We`re Fucking Done Professionally” TMZ Freakout World Tour. And when compared to Terminator 3, Genisys was, thematically-speaking, much better written than T3. Whereas Terminator one and two took the concept of “No Fate, But What We Make” and ran with it, Terminator 3 didn`t so much throw that idea out the window so much as stuff it in a rocket and shoot it at the sun. With the world once again ending in 1997, Skynet going full-blown Doc Brown in 2029, and the themes of free will and the idea that the future can be changed being brought back into the fold, Terminator finally gets the clean slate it so badly needed.

However, there are problems…Pop`s (Arnold as the T-800) origin and his reasons for helping the protagonists are a mystery. It`s one of the biggest plot-holes in the movie, not helped by the fact that there`s now a T-1000 running around in 1984 L.A looking to kill anybody who comes out of a time-bubble. How both cyborgs got dispatched to the more distant past– and in turn, beating out Kyle Reese whose original purpose for being sent back to protect Sarah Connor in 1984 is kind of negated — raises questions that not even the writers of Genisys may know the answers to. There`s also the fact that Sarah Connor and Pops already have a time-machine built, and sort of expect you to roll with it, while they get convinced by Kyle to use it to go into the future (2017) for no other reason except that Kyle saw a vision mid slip-stream.

In the end, the movie makes a creative effort to actually bring something new to the table and play with our expectations on the movie series itself. Using the idea of multiple, parallel realities, it also helps explain away most of the changes and gives new life to a franchise that was probably better off left alone after the second film. For better or worse, however, the Terminator franchise has become something that Hollywood producers and fans alike will keep coming back to despite every rational voice screaming “NO!” at the top of their lungs. With what Genisys is offering, perhaps, people will finally realize that James Cameron is not going to do another Terminator film, Hollywood won`t stop making these films as long as we keep going out to see them, and that Terminator Genisys is probably as close to perfect as we`re going to get in the post-Cameron movie series.

B+

Story Concepts: Carmen Sandiego [Hard Drive Archive]

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Author’s note: I wrote this nearly ten years ago (prior to my first website). it was a fun, little thing that I whipped up one night on facebook when the “Notes” application was still a thing that people used. Hope you enjoy it!

Carmen Sandiego the red trench coat and matching fedora wearing grave robber is one of the most iconic character’s in education PC games ranging from Geography to History. It didn’t matter how hard you tried, no matter how many nations capitols you could name in under three minutes the woman was neigh impossible to capture. Even if you did manage to crack her riddles and make it past her henchmen all you’d get in return was a laugh and a wise latina quote just to show she was only toying with you this whole time before escaping on a jet pack or helicopter. She could solve the Da Vinci Code in less than thirty minutes and still have enough time to translate the Akkadian languages of Mesopotamia. Laura Croft and Gina Diggers have nothing on this woman. However, before she was a double-dealing diva with a taste for thievery and running scams in Scandinavia she was actually a hunter of grave robbers herself.

Though Ms. Sandiego’s origins are unknown she was for a time an aspiring archeologist with a fascination with ancient Egypt, but was recruited into Interpol because of her unique ability to infiltrate and bring down several art smuggling rings throughout Europe and the United States and after subduing her enemies she would disappear without a trace to the next job, dubbed by many in the underworld as the “Trans-Atlantic Ghost”. Crime Families and aspiring cat burglars tried to best her, but most ended up dead or driven into madness over several hours of geography questions. She even scouted out and hand picked Harriet The Spy, the dirty blond from the New York’s Upper East Side to train her in the arts of detective work and riddle solving. Later on Harriet with the help of Carmen would be recruited by the newly formed A.C.M.E Detective Agency and serve several years with Carmen.

However, as most of these stories go there was only one person who could best her in the art of hiding and infiltration. Going by the code name “Waldo” a scrawny middle aged man with an affinity for white and red stripped turtle necks, blue jeans and wearing thick glasses was a man of exceptional skill. Where Carmen’s ability to hide in the shadows was her strongest asset, Waldo could hide in plain sight. Blending with the environment around him he could track down and with the occasional help from Carmen capture the thief and bring them to justice. Many in A.C.M.E would say Waldo was Carmen’s better half and after a few years their relationship together became more than just professional.

That was until one day Waldo went missing, gone without a trace. “Where’s Waldo?” they exclaimed. Searches throughout Washington D.C and Hollywood movie sets found no trace of him. At the same time a lot of priceless artifacts were turning up missing as well. Famous works of art stolen from the London and New York Museums only to be replaced with a white and red scarf. This was a job for Carmen. After several weeks and seven continents later Carmen finally found Waldo in Siberia Russia and learned what she hoped from the beginning wasn’t true: Waldo was the one who stole all those priceless artifacts.

Carmen learned the truth that day, she learned that A.C.M.E Detective Agency, had been over the years through money laundering and other criminal elements using the artifacts to bolster the anti-crime agency and in collusion with wealthy art dealers and well funded crime syndicates drive up the prices of artifacts well above reasonable levels so that public museums would be unable to afford to keep them on display. By doing this A.C.M.E’s top brass and art dealers would in effect keep the artwork out of the public’s hands, barring them access to the wealth, culture and learning that back in Waldo and Carmen’s day was taken for granite. Only the exceptionally wealthy would have the privilege to display Van Gogh’s paints in their mansions while the people were deprived of a piece of history that should be available to all, and of course A.C.M.E would get a cut from those profits made by the dealers.

It wasn’t until Harriet and the gang showed up that Carmen learned that A.C.M.E had no intentions of arresting Waldo and giving him a fair hearing: He was to be killed on sight and the stolen property be brought back, Carmen had been sent on an assassination mission. There would be loot but no warrant. Waldo didn’t apologize for what he did. Both he and Carmen knew she had a job to do, they were both professionals. Against the protests of Harriet Carmen left Waldo to die in the tundra after one last fair well kiss. Carmen emptied the bullets in her gun, Harriet doctored the logs. Waldo was pronounced dead at the scene no body was found though, presumed buried under the snow only a white and red scarf remained.

Waldo’s death and “betrayal” shook the agency, but not as much as Carmen’s guilty conscience. Shortly after the mission Carmen disappeared as well. Carmen had thought a lot about what Waldo had told her and was beginning to see things differently now, but she wasn’t going to go into hiding like he did, she’d do things out in the open if she had to if only to get back at A.C.M.E and if your gonna steal, steal big. She went from Nashville to Norway, Bonaire to Zimbabwe stealing several artifacts and treasures from the shell companies that operated under A.C.M.E’s art dealer network, but soon she got more daring.

In a stunning display of skill and masterful thievery she managed to steal both the Statue of Liberty and the Space Shuttle in a single day claiming it for the people. Interestingly enough these acts were done a week before both monuments would be seized by a private firm working with the art dealer cartels and were to be transferred to private estates. Things were bad when A.C.M.E found out Carmen was behind the jobs in Norway and Bonaire, but now Carmen had raised the stakes. However, despite the media’s depiction of her as some terrorist stealing artifacts and national treasures, she had no interest in selling the items back through shady art houses. She was going to do anything she could to coax out the bastards who betrayed her, using A.C.M.E for their own selfish gain and sending her out on a mission to kill the one person she ever cared about. Hell hath no fury like a female scorned.

Harriet now 26 has been elevated to senior detective status at A.C.M.E and has been put on the “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego Unit” and the higher ups are breathing down her neck more than usual. It was a job Harriet never wanted, she knows the truth as well, but still has faith in the agencies original mission statement. Hopefully she thought, by staying here I can bring the agency back to its former roots. Meanwhile Carmen, pushing forty is still on the run and still at large and if you’re gonna catch her, you better make sure you bring an Atlas

First Draft of Novel: Completed

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It has been a long and grueling process. Two months of research, sixteen months of writing, eighteen months of work. 84,885 words: 126 pages single spaced, 246 words double spaced. It’s done. However, it’s not done-done. I still have editing and revising to do. There will be many more drafts before the final manuscript; but at least I can say I got this far and I’m one step closer to completing my novel…I think I’m probably going to go take a nap now, lol. Bye!

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Waves of Atlantis: A Tale of Terrible Plot Development Under the Sea [Hard Drive Archive].

Author’s Note: this review was written back in 2012 on a website that — thankfully — no longer exists. I wasn’t the best writer (or even reviewer) at the time, but there were a few gems that I feel stood the test of time. This is one of them. I hope you enjoy it!

When I first heard about “Waves of Atlantis” I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into. There was virtually nothing about this book online, except for two posts, by two disgruntled readers, claiming that this book was the worst literary piece of garbage to come out since Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kompf.” Bold words really, when you think about it: how can a work of fiction, about astronauts discovering Atlantis, be that bad? Sure, it’s probably as campy as hell, but I’ve read worse. At this point I should have wished for my future self to step out of a time portal and punch me unconscious before I whipped out my credit card to order this “novel.” Oh God was I wrong. So, so, wrong.

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Waves of Atlantis: a book so good, no reviewer ever saw a copy of this hit their desk.

“Waves of Atlantis,” written by “Professor,” of “accredited,” University (read: mail-order-degree-mill) known as American World U., Maxine Asher, is the story of two astronauts, which should be noted are written in the likeness of a young Al Gore and future VP-candidate Sarah Palin, who discover Atlantis. The first page of the book can only be described as the best, worst first page of any novel ever written. As an English major, I couldn’t help but stare at the page, utterly dumbfounded and yet extremely amused at the sheer incompetent skillfulness of its execution, while at the same time, giving off an air of proud defiance, as if to say “Yes, I don’t need an editor and you’re going to sit through 136 pages of this shit.” Miss Asher apparently, yet unsurprisingly, got this book self-published through her “University.” Probably because she thought it was so good publishers wouldn’t even bother putting it on the shelves before selfishly trying to steal this masterpiece from under her. Or maybe because it was terrible, could go either way, really. I present to you exhibit A:

“What a bust!”

“Was it that bad?”

“Listen Pierre, it was worse. We have absolutely no information to report to Houston.”

“Well whose fault is that?”

“It certainly isn’t mine. Don’t look at me. I warned you guys—I mean guys and gal—about the possible problems with the mission.”

“Hey, wait a minute…I was the one who knew from the start that this crew could never detect estra low frequency waves in the atmosphere.”

“Look Jane,” Tom said, staring at his feet, “ no one ever doubted your special abilities to understand mind control. The difficulty is that we simply don’t have the right instruments to find out where these waves are coming from.”

As the crew continued to sit around on the floor of the spacecraft looking dejected [huh?], Jane threw [threw? Like a Frisbee?] a sly smile at Tom, unaware that the rest of the men caught her look and began to snicker.

That, ladies and gentlemen is the first page of the novel. I shit you not. No context or setting that one can gather here, except something about mind control and the sexual tension of two lovers that’s about as subtle as a baseball bat.

The story, which unfortunately takes several pages of tooth-pulling dialogue to get to, is that the world is on the brink of chaos. An invisible psychic wave, known as ELF waves, are spreading across the Atlantic, affecting everyone that gets caught in it’s radius immobile, in a state of extreme depression and laziness, followed by death. The Supernatural Council under UN authority orders NASA (sigh…just roll with it) to send scientists into space to find the origin of these invisible waves. So why are they going into space to try to find the source of the problem? Because fuck you, that’s why! Maxine does not need to explain herself, the same way Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins don’t need to explain why their “Left Behind” series lasted eight books longer than it ought to. (Un)Fortunately, Miss. Asher doesn’t shrink the margins in her book and it’s only 136 pages so…great, I guess?

Either way, this book suffers from one of the major flaws of providing expulsion in long, LONG chunks of paragraphs. Most of which involve people and places on Earth with characters that you only read about once and are soon after killed off or just never mentioned again. Asher, like a bored, vengeful, uncaring God dispatches her minor characters with ease, without even providing any real backstory for them or having them even accomplish anything remotely significant in the book. Those Archeologists who get close to finding the origin of the ELF waves? Death by falling. Those secret agents who try to discover what’s behind the waves? Killed in a freak explosion. Those psychic children that the government uses to track the waves? We never hear from them again. The biracial family stuck in the city that’s being engulfed by the waves? You don’t hear from them again either, but the author assures us that they’re all dead, so don’t bother.

What you should bother with though, and Asher will try her damnedest to make certain that you do, is the not so subtle third-basemenship between the two Astronauts, Tom and Jane, and their quest for the truth behind the ELF waves. After losing fuel on their space shuttle…for some reason, the crew crash into the ocean, namely the Bermuda Triangle. Fortunately Asher decides she wants these poor mortals to live, by turning the space shuttle into a submarine. Because that’s was just some ability the ship happened to have at its disposal (Obama spared no expense apparently, giving NASA such a huge budget for that).  It is here that our two-dimensional heroes find the lost city of Atlantis.

The only thing that saves this book, if you can even consider it its saving grace, is the dialogue. Asher, if anything else, can write the most laughably bad conversations fit for only an Uwe Boll film or an episode Adam West’s Batman. I present to you another excerpt from this masterpiece trash-theater starring Al Gore and Sarah Palin.

“Ok—I’ll give it a try,” said Tom grudgingly, beginning to turn the boat at a 180 degree angle. “Somehow I always do what you want me to do and then we get into trouble. If I didn’t love you so much, I could say no but I guess I am powerless under your spell.”

“You make me sound like a witch Tom. I’m just a red blooded adventurous American girl.”

Tom chuckled at the remark. Jane was very beautiful, very convincing and very glib in tongue. He was putty in her hands and she knew it.

Man, I’m gonna need an ice-pack to stifle this red blooded American boner. Oh, yeah, that page that I cited is real and yes, this book definitely did get published. It only gets worse from here as Tom and Jane learn from the inhabitants of Atlantis that it’s being caused by crystals that they themselves created in order to keep their civilization alive. And the only way to stop it is with…meditation, eating vegetables, the power of love and Jesus. Yes, Jesus Christ, meditating, all loving, vegetable eating, superstar is going to save us, with the help of Tom and Jane, prayin’ the waves away. I almost blacked out from the sheer absurdity of this revelation. Kurt Vonnegut or Philip K. Dick wish they could come up with something this retarded.

Unfortunately (or fortunately? I don’t know if it really matters now) the plot suddenly shifts to a secret location where we find the secret cabal that plans on using the ELF waves to take over the world. These “Evildoers,” (Yes, that is what Asher uses to describe this organization) is made of who else, but scary Russians, Chinese and other questionably evil minorities. Hey, at least this organization is all inclusive, unlike the obnoxiously Aryan Tom and Jane show. So of course being the godless communists that they are in the eyes of Asher, decide to use this opportunity to mobilize their armies to attack North America and Europe. I suppose those ELF waves won’t affect their troops, or what? And how do they plan on safe guarding against these waves themselves anyway? And why North America? I mean, I know most people hate us anyway (especially America), but if they do have a cure for the ELF waves why not use it as leverage over other world nations? That’d be way more profitable than invading two entire fucking continents.

The book comes to a rather Asherian, anti-climatic conclusion, with the final show down between the United States Rangers and the “Evildoers” army. It only takes three pages before everything ends in a Michael Bay-esque action sequence involving Tom, Jane and the Atlantians saving the day. The story ends with peace restored, the waves disrupted and Tom and Jane making out under the ocean.

This book is both a travesty and a work of pure comedy. Its badness is only matched by its unintended hilarity that makes this thing a gem among trashy literary gems. Last I heard was that this book was going for $25 on amazon. If you’re willing to drop cash like that on this turkey then may God have mercy on your soul.

[Review] Game of Thrones: A Whodunit of Medieval Proportions [Hard Drive Archive]

Author’s Note: this review was written back in 2012 on a website that — thankfully — no longer exists. I wasn’t the best writer (or even reviewer) at the time, but there were a few gems that I feel stood the test of time. This is one of them. I hope you enjoy it!

A lot people have been asking me to read this novel. It has been making the rounds recently what with the T.V adaptation on HBO and the recent reprints of the books in nice, glossy covers, on display, at my local book store. Though, before I get into this review I should probably tell you something: I’m not much of a fantasy fan. Though I read from several different genres, Science Fiction has always been my corner. You could probably chock it up to bad luck as well that my first exposure to fantasy was Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series and the earlier World of Warcraft novels based on the MMO, both of which I didn’t like. Though, one can say I have moved on to greener pastures since then, having read the Narnia, Redwall and Lord of the Rings books (which are part of the modern fantasy canon anyway), none of them have been able to truly blow me away. Even J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter books couldn’t keep me interested past the second book and even supposed non-readers were going ape-shit over that series.

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Seriously, a crack dealer couldn’t sell their drugs as fast as those books did.

And do you want to know what’s even more terrible? My favorite fantasy series, if it even counts among die-hard fans, is the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer and even it starts to lose its luster by the end of the fourth book (read the next four in the series at your own risk). It’s pitiful that I have to say that that series meant for middle schoolers is one of my favorites, with Narnia and Redwall coming at a close second and I think I know why.

Fantasy never seemed to want to walk on the “dark side” as I like to call it. For most fans of the genre, it seems to be all about the escapism and living vicariously through a “Chosen One” type of character and twisting it to become some Oliver Twist, rags to riches, good guys will always come through within the last fifty pages, storyline that just did not appeal to me as a reader. Yeah, call me a glum, cynical, emo-goth, but I cannot stand those types of novels. If I know for certain that it’s going to shit smilely faces at the end, why should I read it? You honestly think I can be surprised by that? Sci-fi seemed to at least be much more willing to take a more risky route in terms of storytelling by making their genre darker and grittier for it’s audiences. It’s those reasons alone that have turned me off from the genre of fantasy for several years until this point; despite the fact that Michael Moorcock and even Richard Morgan have been breaking new ground for years trying to drag fantasy out of the rainbow room. So can Game of Thrones change my mind on that? Well, keep reading, I dare you!

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A Game of Thrones: a hard cover novel thick enough to beat a crack dealer to death with.

Game of Thrones was written in 1996 by former screen writer George R.R Martin, who participated in the writing of several short stories in the 1970s that spearheaded his writing career on T.V., even writing for the 1987 series Beauty and the Beast. The series had a bit of a slow burn in terms of gaining popularity. Though considering he’s a man who once worked in Hollywood and has two middle names to call his own, I suppose that helps.

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“Yeah, I don’t know why have two middle names either.”

The book starts with the murdering of the King’s Hand by a mysterious assassin, along with the killing of two rangers and a lord at the hands of an ancient foe, both incidents occurring on different sides of the continent and it’s off to the races. From there this medieval tale takes an interesting turn as it soon transforms into not your average fantasy novel and becomes at its core, a mystery whodoneit scenario, based in a fantasy setting. Though the book is told from multiple perspectives, it mainly focuses on Lord Eddard Stark, as he tries to help his good friend, King Robert, solve this mystery of this murder while trying to navigate the political interests and intrigues of other lords and advisers, all wanting control over the Seven Kingdoms. Being also a fan of detective noir novels, I was immediately engrossed in the story. The characters were multilayered and had several competing interests with one another, not to mention most of these characters motivations were kept hidden throughout, leaving me to guess and even second guess their true allegiance to Stark and the other major characters.

My favorite character by far was Tyrion Lannister, if only because he’s such a likable smartass, as well as being a dwarf. His cunning and intelligence seem to make him the most interesting and dangerous character since he’s basically playing off of, as well as conspiring for and against, with three different factions throughout the novel.

If there is anything bad I can say about this book, if at all, it is the pacing and the amount of characters in the novel. Like any fantasy book, this one often tends to dwell on more often than necessary I feel, on the lore and history of the Seven Kingdoms. A trope often employed by fantasy writers, mainly because I suspect they seem to have no choice in terms of providing proper exposition, but could have been edited down or expanded in dialogue. Also, since the novel is told from seven different character’s perspectives, there is a bit of difficulty in trying to follow the multiple story lines and some character story arches were more interesting than others. Especially when Martin tries to tie up his character’s journey’s at the end, with the exception of the last chapter, I felt that the story ended fifty pages ago and the rest was epilogue. There’s also such a girth of secondary characters that their appearances half-way through the novel tended to run together until I was basically assigning them a generic blank face and clothing when they made their appearance again to interact with the main characters. I’m thankful for the index that is provided on the back, otherwise I would’ve been lost on who’s who. Though like I said, minor nit-picks.

Overall this is a very great book that keeps you at the edge of your set until the very shocking conclusion that definitely made me rethink the genre of fantasy. It’s dark, it’s gritty and most of all intriguing. I’d say it might be one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read, though I’ll let you decide how much weight you’d want that endorsement to carry. I can’t wait to read the last two books in the trilogy…

Holy Seven Hells, he’s got five more of these books!?

Nocturnal Musing [1]

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So it’s been three months since started this little adventure and I’ve been loving the outreach and experiences that I’ve gained so far. Going back to my first few posts I remembered what I was feeling back then and how nervous I was when I posted my excerpt of Con Job and my first poetry review of Ghost in the Shell. I was nervous about it because I mostly thought I was giving the world the ammunition it needed to prove that I was a freak all along and that no one would be into that stuff. However, I kept going; I wrote more blog posts, a sort-of essay about how difficult it is to be prescient as a writer, my trepidation over the possibly popularity of the live action Ghost in the Shell, and then later the review that blew all those assumptions out of the water in one fell swoop.

Then I started Austin By Night, and that’s when things really took off. I can say that my greatest achievement thus far has been the fact that my visitor counts doubled in not only April, but also in May. Two months of exponential growth! THAT is something.

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I can’t be thankful enough to the people on WordPress along with my subscribers here on this site, as well as the wonderful local community of writers in my city, my home, Austin, Texas. There are many writers on twitter and their openness and willingness to help me make me a better writer have been invaluable. And there are those who are not online, but have also helped in immeasurable ways (and you know who you are and I am eternally grateful).

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I think I’m lucky that I live in a pretty cosmopolitan city that is willing to embrace and support artists like myself. Not an easy thing to be, especially in the American South, but Austin definitely deserves the accolades. Now that I’ve seen what it takes to make it as a writer, I hope to spread the signal further through here and out there.

So, what’s next? Well, I’m working on a novel right now, which I’ve posted an excerpt of over a month ago. That novel has been my off-site project as well as what I do here, along with twitter and youtube. I’ll still be posting videos and continuing the Austin By Night series for the foreseeable future and I hope you’ll still around to see the other projects that I have coming down the artistic pipe-line. Once again, thank you for your support, your subscriptions, and continue to spread the signal. In the end, it’s all up to us! See you soon!

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Night Trap Re-release Turns into Nostalgia Reloaded [Article].

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If you don’t follow my twitter account, or didn’t even know I had one, I don’t blame you. I’m not nearly that cool to warrant a large twitter following (yet). However, if you do you follow my twitter, you probably saw me have a minor fan freakout earlier this week over Limited Run Games doing a re-release of the infamous, but cheesy FMV game Night Trap.

What is Night Trap? The best point and click FMV game of the 1990s with the world’s best, worst acting money could buy for a Sega CD ROM exclusive. If you need proof just watch the 25th anniversary trailer here:

This game, I kid you not, was actually considered so violent and in poor taste, that the United States Congress held the worlds most awkward committee meeting over Night Trap’s possible ban. This threat of banishment back in 1993 was one of the catalysts that lead to the video game industry to create its own rating system known as the ESRB. Although, when you look at modern video games and consider the amount of violence that — thanks to technology — has been rendered to be as real, prevalent, and as intense as it is today, it makes Night Trap almost seems hokey and quaint by comparison.

Despite the dark premise, it’s actually loads of fun; and I remember having an absolute laughing-to-wailing, riot of a time playing this game the first time I managed to get a copy of it running. If you have a PS4, you need to give this disc a spin. You will not regret it.

Now if they can just get a Snatcher re-release up and running…

A Morning Jog With The Zeitgeist [Analysis]

I don’t have to tell you that the world is going through a bit of weirdness right now. Though, if you weren’t surprised by either the election of Donald Trump, or the latest revelations on Global Warming, or the advent of 3-D printed guns, or the Alt-right weaponizing internet memes, or Russia’s meddling in the U.S elections, or the creation of Wikileaks, or the revelations of Edward Snowden, or ghost cities in China, or even this event of strangeness, you might want to stop reading this blog and become an investment banker or leave town before your get burned for being a witch.

This strangeness has been noted by famous surrealist and cyberpunk author William Gibson in a recent interview stating that “the current situation has a current of goofy incoherence,” which is true, if not understated by the overall shittiness of recent events. Though Gibson brings this up as a man of his profession, which is writing, which seems to have become only more difficult lately. One has to be pretty tapped into the current mood and events of the world. The zeitgeist as it is often called is considered by most pop-culture seer hunters to be the catch-all to be anything and everything involving humanity’s culture in the current moment. In the world of entertainment artists, musicians, writers, and directors didn’t necessarily need a crystal ball to tap into the zeitgeist, but often times it certainly helped. Increasingly, however, as more and more pop culture stuff has crowded the entertainment space demanding our attention, that ability to predict the future through art and fiction has become the one X-factor that has proven to be a sure fire way for an artists to be elevated a step above the rest of the crowd. Unfortunately, with the zeitgeist becoming less predictable and more clowns shoes than ever, that ability to be prescient through art has become more difficult to pull off now more than ever.

The internet doesn’t seem to help things by much either, since it has also accelerated the news cycle to where we can’t really pause for more than a few days before the next breaking story or outrage hits us. Our friends and followers can hit us with breaking news on our social media feeds in the morning and it’ll be propelled into the 24-hour news cycle by lunchtime.

For me, the process is exciting, but exhausts me just as quickly as it used to when I was a adolescent information hound that soaked up the digital world like media starved cretin coming out of his cave for the first time. The Zeitgeist — ageless and indifferent to time — has evolved to keep a quick and steady pace; and with some tired resignation on my part, I’m forced to keep up.

Which is why every once in awhile, I have to catch the Zeitgeist on its jogging route and be willing to run with it while I ask it a few questions. Questions that I’m sparing with because I tend to run out of breathe eventually and the Zeitgeist has no interest in stopping, because the rest of world doesn’t want to either. The Zeitgeist is polite enough to answer my questions, but you can tell its sort of rushed for time and you can’t really blame it (though its gotten really good at running in those clown shoes).

I do recall reading how artists, particularly authors, would invite the Zeitgeist for lunch or coffee and discuss with it current events, the state of the world, and where we’re heading. It sounds nice, almost quaint, and it makes me a bit envious that the Zeitgeist had the time back then to sit down and actually chat for leisurely hour or two. However, it’s a waste of time to even be upset about such a thing, since I’m, presumably, the ones of millions of millenials who enabled this kind of fast-pace info-culture to happen in the first place.

It’s also worth remembering that us millenials came of age during a time that included the collapse of the Soviet Union, the founding of the internet, the unabomber, 9/11, the war on terror, the rising consensus on global warming being a man-made phenomenon, social media, the crash of 2008, China rising as a global superpower, the election of the first black president, and the election of Donald Trump. All of these things were seemingly unbelievable, inconceivable, and anyone who tried to argue otherwise was thought of as a weirdo or viewed with the upmost suspicion. One should also remember that, just like us, the Zeitgeist can only be as reactive as we are, for we control how weird and how adaptive the Zeitgeist truly is.

Perhaps at one point we’ll learn to slow down, or will be forced to out of some unforeseen sense of necessity. We’ll learn to take a break from the crazily, infinite barrage of outrage and information to stop and smell the roses. Maybe then the Zeitgeist can stop its infinite jog, take off the clown shoes and come to visit for a nice lunch with a side of latte. We can only hope.

The Ghost in the Shell Reboot: How Hollywood Turned Fandom Hate into Cold, Hard Cash [Analysis].

ghost-in-the-shell

I have to hand it to Hollywood, what they did with this movie was kind of brilliant. If you’re someone who had no clue about Ghost in the Shell before seeing this film, but felt compelled to see it anyway it was probably because you liked action films and this looked like something you could vaguely get into; or maybe you’re a sci-fi fan that was just looking for something different to get lost in for over two hours; or maybe you just like Scarlett Johansson and wanted to see her in something that didn’t involve the Avengers. However, if you are a fan of the three Ghost in the Shell anime films, the two season anime T.V series, the reboot to the anime T.V series, and the three mangas (graphic novels) that tie the whole universe together, then the only motivation you most likely had for going to see this adaptation was to find out if it was bad. The audience that walked in cold would get a competent, stylistic and action packed sci-fi film that seemed kind of high brow, and was pretty fast paced. Those that came in with the fan baggage (like me) were in for a condensed, mish-mash of the main plot of the first film and a story arch from a separate season of the T.V series both of which got whirl-winded together into a spark notes recap with subtle inaccuracies and stilted acting. Both interpretations are technically correct: both audiences came in with specific expectations and got exactly what they expected and (more or less) walked out satisfied that their assumptions were correct. It seems like a strange thing to take away from such a film, but it also tells you a lot in terms of how dialed in Hollywood seems to be when it comes to getting an audience to come into the theater for any kind of genre film.

Paramount Pictures hedged their bets properly when they finally decided to bring this adaptation out of development hell and into the light of day. After the debacles  that were Avatar the Last Airbender and Dragon Ball Evolution, Hollywood has more or less given up on appealing to this elusive demographic of Millenials who watch “cartoons” well into their twenties and don’t trust Hollywood with their white-washing, Americanized versions. The films appear to be “faithful” adaptations that seem to look and feel like the thing fans would love, but the nerds among us can smell its synthetic, copy-cat quality a mile away. Like a mother bird that refuses to feed her chick when it is touched by another human, the anime nerd (with some righteous anger followed by pensive mourning) must leave his or her beloved live action adaptation to die in the wilderness after being appropriated and tainted by the hands of American movie executives.

However, Hollywood has flipped the scripted and turned this particular movie going experience into a perverse game that no fandom seems immune from. Movie executives have pretty much decided that us fans will hate the adaptation anyway, but know that most of us are too tempted not to go in and see this film. They know we’ll go because we want to know “just how bad it is” and that means putting another ten to twelve dollars on top of the growing pile of monied validation to gleefully vindicate both sides in this transaction of consumerist nihilism.

I might be coming off as melodramatic, if not incredibly heavy handed, and you’re most likely right. Truth be told, I don’t see this movie as some kind of nadir that will lead to our demise culturally (American politics has made it clear that that’s their job). Nor is this film going to taint the good name of the original Ghost in the Shell and its countless other anime iterations. However, it kind of makes you wonder just how much contempt these American movie Executives must have towards these particular consumers and their niche interests.

It’s obvious that they had not intention of making a sequel for this film, judging from the amount of plot they crammed into it without so much as offering a cliff-hanger or an after credits plot Easter egg. I felt like I was being lead through a bloated, three-course meal with the wait staff, chef, and restaurant owner all leaning over my shoulder and badgering me to eat my meals, stop looking at the fly in my soup, and hurry the fuck up so I can pay my bill and get out of there without a to-go box. Of course, if they’re the only restaurant in town that serves steak dinners that you’d have to drive to the next city over and play twice as much for the experience, you can kind of expect that the owners can afford to act like assholes. And that is what it feels like watching Ghost in the Shell, except Paramount Pictures thinks that by throwing a bone to a bunch of connoisseurs –  even if it’s a literal bone – they think they can get away with calling it a four star meal. The fans are looking with confusion as the rest gnaw on these scraps with Paramount telling us to get down in the dark ally with the rest of them and chew on the morsels as if it’s some kind of privilege. They act like this because these anime adaptations happen once in a blue moon and we don’t get a lot of love unlike the DC and Marvel fans that get tailored to year after year. And while I might get flak for saying that Ghost in the Shell is an objectively better anime adaptation compared to what’s come before it, even then, it barely measures up.

It makes me wonder if there’s something horribly wrong going on in Hollywood right now. How can something as scrappy as Amazon produce critically acclaimed AND financially successful films like Neon Demon and Manchester by the Sea, while a legacy studio like Paramount pictures is stuck making sub-par reboots to better films made twenty years ago and making questionable sequels like Zoolander 2 and XXX: Return of Xander Cage? They seem to really want our money, but are loathed to work any harder than they have to in order to earn it. And just like the Ghostbusters reboot, they’ll enable an army of sycophants to blame the fans for not stepping up to the plate and giving this the support it deserves.

If Ghost in the Shell does fail, Paramount may blame the fans for the flop, but it’s not as if we all did a mass boycott, or anything. I went, and I even predicted that it might start a new trend in Hollywood. We’ll know for sure by Monday. Until then, Hollywood is still allowed to laugh all the way to the bank, while the fans nitpick, and the rest of society shrugs and goes about their business.

Ghost in the Shell – Hollywood’s $100 Million Dollar Bet.

On March 31st, 2017, come rain or shine, sleet or snow, my butt will be firmly in its seat at the local theater to watch the Hollywood adaptation of one of my favorite animes: Ghost in the Shell. It’s no secret among my friends that Ghost in the Shell is one of my favorite animes and manga series to come out of Japan since Akira. I like the anime so much, that I even posted a video on Youtube in the form of a short poetry-ode to the original animated film to the collective chagrin, troll-baiting, and amusement of several people. I still haven’t died of embarrassment over that stunt, but there’s still a chance if tags attached to the vid net any extra traffic.

There is reason to be excited about the film. Unlike other western adaptations of previous animes, this one has been given, a rumored, nine-figure budget to ensure top quality throughout the film’s production (Scarlett Johansson alone has been paid $10 Million and given top billing to star in the film as The Major). Even Mamoru Oshii, the director of the first original anime film from 1995 endorsed the adaptation, for what it’s worth (although there has been no word from the original creator of the series, himself, Masamune Shirow, which is troubling, but not suspect). And considering the source material, which not only involved action sequences that inspired The Matrix, but also included philosophical intrigues that drew from the likes of Rene Descartes, Jean Baudrillard, and Friedrich Nietzsche it also makes good on being a thinking-person’s action film. Simply put: it’s a series too cool and too clever to easily screw up.

However, this film’s success probably fills me with even more dread than its failure. After the stinkers that were the Chun-li movie and the Dragon Ball Evolution film, I’ve come to expect this to be the best Hollywood could do in terms of adapting anime for the American screen and calibrated my expectations accordingly. Having said that, Ghost in the Shell comes into the fold at a unique time in Hollywood.

The elephant in the room, which has only gotten bigger over the past year, is that Marvel and DC films have been doing okay, but not stellar. Just looking at the budgets and revenues of films like Batman vs. Superman and Suicide Squad, both made their bottom line in terms of dollars (thanks in part to China and Europe). However, both also received poor reception from both fans and critics. Not only that, but countless other superhero films have been coming in fast and furious to the point where some comic book fans can’t even keep up. Fans are getting bombarded with so many superhero films, that movie studios are now strategizing on how to combat the movie consumer’s growing “superhero fatigue.” Knowing the movie industry’s knack for marketing, I’m sure this will probably work in the short term (or as long as they can keep releasing sequels to the Avengers and rebooting Batman), but the writing on the wall is clear: some other trend is going to have to pick up the slack.

Ghost in the Shell, I believe, represents Hollywood’s first true dip into doing a legit, high-budget, and highly marketed anime adaptation aimed at America, as well as targeting the Ghost in the Shell fans who live here. If successful, there are dozens and dozens of other anime series that the Hollywood machine may be more than happy to appropriate, repackage and pass off as something fresh and exciting (because, seriously, how many people outside of reddit and anime conventions know what the hell Cowboy Bebop, Evangelion, or Gundam Wing are?). For Hollywood, Ghost in the Shell may be their quiet hope that they can start the pivot to sell “new” franchises and create new “fans” of future anime adaptations made for Westerners, by Westerners, and featuring Western actors.

They’ll do this because Hollywood knows something that most diehard fans seem to fail to comprehend which is that most people who watch these comic book films, like myself, never made much of a connection with DC and Marvel outside of the movies that got released for mass consumption. Sure, there is loyalty (I happen to be a fan of the X-Men films), but that extends only as far as theater ticket buys with accompanied Blu-Ray releases. The last time that I even bought any comic blatantly Marvel or DC was back in 1999. I wouldn’t have even known what Guardians of the Galaxy was (much less that it started as a comic by Marvel) had there not been a movie about it. I consider myself a fan of X-Men, but I can only count on one hand the number of comic issues I actually read of that series. The X-Men movies and the animated T.V series are, truly, my only way of having any real knowledge about the X-Men universe. When I admit to these kinds of things, it tends to piss off the more die-in-the-wool fans who actually did the work. Even the more polite ones often try and fail at hiding their internal eye-rolling. I usually deal with these encounters with polite indifference at best and passive-aggressive trolling at worst.

But now I may finally get a taste of my own medicine. Which brings us back to the dread that I’ve been feeling. This movie may fail, and I’ll be upset, but I’ll live. This movie may also become a success and spawn a whole new wave of fans who gush about Scarlett Johansson’s role as The Major without caring or even knowing that there were three graphic novels, four anime films, and two anime T.V series that preceded it, much less seek any of that out. I don’t know if I’m ready to confront the me that may have to face that kind of world sometime soon.

Either way, whether I like it or not, I’m just going to have to deal with it; and, hopefully, it won’t take me that long. We’ll all just have to wait and see.