More Guardians!

I’ll be honest, I’m not the most well-versed person when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’ve only seen one Thor movie, I’ve never seen Age of Ultron, and even though I’ve seen two Iron Man films, I don’t remember much. That’s not to say they’re not all bad. I enjoyed Captain America: The First Avenger, I think Black Panther looks awesome after seeing the trailer, and I enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy.

And that brings me to my watching and subsequent posting of my thoughts of Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2. In this movie, Star Lord finds himself learning about his past, and the rest of Guardians are along for the ride as the whole movie starts once Rocket Racoon steals from a planet’s government they were hired by. Yeah, it’s pretty insane, but still believable from this team.

I consider Guardians of the Galaxy to be my favorite part of the Marvel universe. The first film I remember as a great mix of humor and music, with some pretty good action. This movie, on the other hand, didn’t have as many jokes in its quiver and it actually presented more emotional moments because this was a movie that really helped to develop mainly Star Lord. Though that’s not to say that this movie is devoid of jokes. I found myself laughing at some of Rocket’s antics and a bit of Groot, albeit with some eye rolling. What this movie lacks in humor, it makes up for in action in what’s kind of a flip from the previous movie. I really think that writer/director James Gunn sees this series as his baby, and I like how he handled this sequel.

And now the thing that makes Guardians of the Galaxy pretty awesome: the music. This movie didn’t have the big hits that the last movie had, but at the same time, there’s a good sense of using the songs to make a good soundtrack. That is something that I like a lot in a good movie and it’s something that I do when I write, mainly for fight scenes. The way the songs play, you see how the songs make the world tick, as if the songs are specifically chosen for a particular thing. Maybe that’s how soundtrack songs are, but it’s probably one of those things that you have to talk about when it’s done very well.

Guardians of the Galaxy is my favorite part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s currently the only thing out of Marvel I put a mental note to try to go see in the theater, or watch it on Netflix or TV the first chance I get. That being said, this movie wasn’t as good as its predecessor. It’s not really knocking the movie, I just think between the two, I’d pick the first Guardians film over this one.

I’m going to give Guardians of the Galaxy: Vola 7.5/10. Good action, great music selection, just not as good humor, which is kind of a letdown when these movies are what I feel the comic relief of the MCU.

What’s going to happen when the Guardians of the Galaxy return? I’m not sure, but it’s going to be hard to be a better Marvel path for me than the Guardians of the Galaxy series. Your move, Black Panther 

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Hiatus Time

So, a lot of shows that I enjoy have gone into their “winter finales” last week or 2 weeks ago. While The Good Doctor is slated to come back in January, shows I follow such as Designated SurvivorEmpire, and Star will be coming back in March. I have no idea when this thing started where shows are split into what are essentially two seasons in one separated by the months on the calendar. It may make sense with how much TV goes on and having to make room, but it’s still baffling.

There’s a problem with this in my opinion: It’s going to just go crazier and crazier in terms of shows. I won’t go through spoilers, or at least I’ll try to be as vague as possible when I go through my grievances.

Empire started off as Game of Thrones for music, and the story of the Lyon family and their record label was a pretty cutthroat one with Lucious and Cookie seemingly being at odds more often than not. But when an antagonist outside the family started to emerge, it got crazy. A bit too crazy for me. I still watch from time to time but I’m not religiously watching as much as I did when Empire first began. And when they should what’s coming in March, I thought, “Ugh.”

Star, the story of three girls who head to Atlanta to make it big in music was pretty level headed for the time I was watching, while having a subplot that made sense. However, the fact of the matter is that with the recent fall finale, it’s gonna get pretty crazy, and I’m a bit worried about the future.

And then there’s Designated Survivor. My show. My jam along with The Good Doctor. The story of how Tom Kirkman became the leader of the free world is making me nervous thanks to the last fall finale. This is because the super intricate and complex workings of the subplot is making things kind of crazy. And given what happened, the subplot and the main plot is starting to be on a collision course. I think that this show has the potential to weather this storm, but it can get violent very easily.

And if you’re wondering  why I’m not including The Good Doctor, it’s the first season, so we’re still trying to figure out what’s making this show tick.

My main concern is that as a result of the constant season splitting isn’t that shows will jump the shark to stay relevant. My fear is that shows will do nothing but go crazier and crazier as if it’s trying to one up itself to the point where I have no idea what the show was originally about. I’m scared.

Here’s hoping every TV show I get involved with in the future doesn’t suffer this fate.

Hack Writing

As someone who tries to think of himself as something resembling a writer, I have a lot of things going around in my head. And one of them was Wrath. As my mom talked to me about changes I made regarding my story before we went to go see The Last Jedi, a thought came to me: I’m in over my head, and once I’m exposed, I’ll be known as the hack writer I am. My mom immediately said that I should be more confident in myself in my work and myself and stop being negative. Here’s the thing though: I’m not being negative. I’m being honest with myself. The reason being is that when it comes to writing, you’re not just making a story. You’re creating a world out of basically nothing. And then you’ll get questions about things about your world. And here’s the thing about questions as a creator: You have to have answers because you’re going to be pushed and pushed and pushed. And if you hesitate, you’re fucked because you’ve just exposed yourself as someone who has no idea what they’re writing. Congratulations, you’re a hack just like me. I can show you some places where we can get some great pizza.

And if you have answers, you’re not out of the hack woods yet. If you go ahead and give an answer, only for the person to

  1. Say, “that makes absolutely no sense”
  2. Ask what drugs were you on when you wrote whatever it is you wrote
  3. Asks a shitload more questions upon your answer

Congratulations, you’ve achieved hack writing skills. Again, I know some great places for pizza. At the very least, I can Yelp very well.

You’re probably asking why I’m going in something regarding depth about this? Well, I wrote a movie script, and I think that may be the ultimate destination of my work in some way. And the fact that I’m a hack that doesn’t write about big things or write scripts that can be handed to a director and make it fit into that director’s style and have it look amazing and be thought-provoking and  captivating and in a way where each and every shot is taught in a cinematography class means one thing: I am a hack that shouldn’t be in the business. Sure, directors are the ones that people care about, but I think it could also apply to screenwriters if you’re in tune enough with movies.

If you go into film circle, especially on the Internet, you’ll find that they don’t have very nice things about Michael Bay. The reason being is that he doesn’t make movies that make you think or have you appreciate the art of movie making, Instead, you get hot girls and explosions and over the top action for the sake of having those things without any thought. And that’s what pisses off film critics and filmgoers alike. And that’s what people hope guys like Michael Bay end up having no influence in the long run. Think about The Fast and the Furious movies. Do people remember it for how it shows how the power of friendship can withstand any test and friends can be like a family…or do they remember it for in Vin Diesel, The Rock, and their friends, allies, and enemies doing impossibly and crazily stupid stuff in cars? Same principle: The fact that people will pay money to see these stupid, IQ-draining films instead of something profound like Baby Driver or Get Out or whatever’s gushed about any given week on r/movies shows that I am in a company that every filmgoer loathes.

And that is where I am with Wrath and perhaps the stuff I’m going to write. When you approach me and ask about what my inspiration was or what’s the takeaway, and I struggle for an answer you’ll feel I pulled out of my ass, you’ll know the truth that any writer, director, or anyone who watches movies regularly and know what goes into making a movie knows: a hack writer is just writing what they think would look cool on camera without thinking about anything resembling story structure or plot or themes or character development or character motivation, and I’m part of the plague ruining the film industry.

So, I say: Hello, fellow hacks. I want to make sure you know that everything I write I wrote while clean and sober.

Fun in Western PA

If you guys were wondering where I was the last week, I was celebrating my birthday. And Thanksgiving. Where was I? In Pittsburgh because my sister just moved there and my mom and I needed to get her settled and all that. And I had fun. I got a lot of pictures.

For starters, I went to the John Heinz History Center, mainly because it was on the same street as the hotel I was staying at. I’d say the highlight was their Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, where they immortalize greats of Pittsburgh and the region at large, such as Franco Harris:

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Mario Lemieux:

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And even Joe Paterno (although nowadays, I don’t think anyone thinks of him as “Joe Pa” anymore):

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Also, there were these things that I thought were awesome:

It wasn’t just the sports (although the sports is what drew me there). There were also more historical tidbits, like the history of Heinz ketchup. And learning something I didn’t know before: The Lewis and Clark trail started in Pittsburgh. And the Rooney family (AKA the people that own the Steelers) recreated the trail 200 years later.

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In addition to that, I also managed to go out to the West End Neighborhood and got a great view of the city.img_0272

Other things I did is head to the famous Primanti Bros. for a sandwich after I heard it was stacked with fries and coleslaw (it was amazing), and shopping at some of the great markets in the Strip District.

As for my final thoughts on Pittsburgh, I’d say that it’s a pretty cool city. I can see myself living there, mainly because it’s probably a bigger sports town than Philadelphia. I’d attribute that to Pittsburgh having a history of their teams being consistently good, or at least when one team is bad, another team is just amazing to distract from the sucking.

And after seeing all of Pennsylvania, I can safely say that the way you picture the state is pretty accurate. The two big cities aren’t as bustling as other big cities, Pittsburgh gives a blue collar feel, Philly seems pretty homey, and in between the east and the west is a lot of farmland. You’d like it. I certainly do.

So, that’s how how I spent my birthday and Thanksgiving. Thank you for all the wishes, by the way. I got them while I was in the car.

 

Dickens. What a man.

It’s been a while. Too long, some of you may be thinking. I really need to do something to make this have a set schedule before I think about apologizing, should I? Well, I know one way to make up for the lack of material: a movie review! And boy, do I have a movie for you. Today, I’m going to review a movie that I’ve wanted to see for a while with The Man Who Invented Christmas.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is a movie about Charles Dickens and the process he went through to write his enduring classic A Christmas Carol. As somebody who tries to write often enough to consider himself something of a writer, I can say that this movie tried to speak to me. Seeing the characters come to Dickens as he struggles to write is something that I think most writers go through. I haven’t been fortunate to see the characters come to me, so maybe that’s something that only happens when you’re in a situation Dickens is in in this movie: on a deadline and having to deal with the fact you’re reeling from flops.

The thing that makes this work the most is Dan Stevens, who plays Charles Dickens. He’s having so much fun in this role and you can see him just beaming like this gigantic ball of kinetic energy in every scene he’s in. While I haven’t heard anything about Charles Dickens in his personal life, I feel that this may be something that’s just for the movie. I guess this may be one of things that falls under “it is what it is”. Also, there are some things that Dickens does in this movie that made me go, “You can’t spell Dickens without ‘dick’.” Another great aspect is Christopher Plummer as Ebenezer Scrooge. He and Stevens play off each other really well and you get that character/creator relationship coming off well. He’s also got some funny lines as well. One character that struck as entertaining is Tara, one of Dickens’ maids. Keep an eye out for her, because she was really cool.

If there was one thing I had a problem with this movie, it was how they had some of the A Christmas Carol aspects may have been a bit too on the nose for my liking. One scene has Dickens see a kid with a crutch similar to the one Tiny Tim has and you’d probably know where that goes. They also have the line “God bless us, every one” line a few times, and that’s not the only thing that they take from the book. Having only seen small adaptations of it (read: vague memories of reading it in picture books as a kid, and one of them was with Disney characters) so I can say I know the story. It feels like some lines were taken verbatim from the book, but as the movie went on, I felt myself not being bugged by it.  I think that has to do with me having seen Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, I can safely say that when it comes to taking direct lines into a work, you can do much worse. Also, the fact that the dialogue fits the time period helps a lot.

Another issue I had was that in some parts, it felt like it was going for the typical second act low point that you see in a lot of movies, and Dickens had to get out of it. However, the way that that’s resolved is actually rather clever, and if you’re a fan of A Christmas Carol, is pretty damn cool.

And now the score. I’m a fan of historical stuff, and a fan of learning how creative things are made, I was excited about this movie when I saw the trailer for it. And I can safely say I wasn’t disappointed. Even the problems that I had made were persistent which is admirable in that it can correct its problems quickly. However, those problems are still there, as small as they may be. Me nitpicking? In the long run, maybe.

I’m going to give The Man Who Invented Christmas a 9.5/10. If you’re a fan of Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, that fluffy holiday feeling, or if you’re just looking for a great movie this season, this is a great movie for you. It’s an amazing story of how a classic came to be.

Crash Landing back to Earth

So, I finally got to read some feedback on Wrath, months after I got it. It was pretty good feedback, and I hope to revisit it soon. The main thing was that I had something going in terms of ideas, and all I need to do is develop the world and characters.

And with that, I was exposed. It made me realize that putting it up for sale on Amazon, even for a contest, was a stupid idea. It was, to them, something that read as an undeveloped, hastily made mess. And developing my characters is going to be a challenge and a half because I can’t develop characters if my life depended on it because I barely know anything about relationships, if at all.

Let me explain. I spent a lot of time by myself growing up. Didn’t hang out with friends, didn’t invite anyone to the house, never really went out with anyone, never had a girlfriend…and even when I was with a group, never ate with anyone during lunch, I just felt like the odd man out, like I was hastily taped to a picture as an afterthought. And now, choosing to be something resembling a recluse for pretty much my entire life has come back to bite me in the ass.  How can I be able to make characters like actual people and give them depth if everything I’ve done makes me come across as an antisocial loner?

Oh sure, I could go out and try to make friends and try to connect with people…if I wanted you to feel bad for me with how pathetic I am with trying to connect with people. Let me explain.

When I was in college, and I saw all my classmates with their friends working like teams to make their senior projects and hanging out together like a little family, I started to contemplate and worry about what I was doing with my life, and one of the things I contemplated over was why I didn’t have those connections. Then it clicked to me: They have something I don’t. I firmly believe that when it comes to being social butterflies and easily making friends and being really good roommates to the point where the dwelling runs like a well-oiled machine with amazing efficiency and developing relationships that last, there’s a kind of gene that you’re either born with or you aren’t.

My mom was born with it, my sister was born with it, my grandmother was born with it, and I wasn’t born with it. My psychologist had to tell me that the skills necessary to form relationships and make friends can be learned and just need to be worked on to be both maintained and developed. And to that, I say this: even if I can learn how to develop relationships, it is a pathetic imitation that’s just painful an awkward to see in action. That’s why I say this “social gene” is something you’re born with or aren’t born with. And honestly, I feel like it’d be a better way if you just have to deal, kind of like that time when I was contemplating that first time. You’re either born with the ability to be social and make friends and make lasting relationships or you aren’t. And if you aren’t, you have to deal with that for the rest of your life and your best course of action is to embrace being a loner, not giving a damn if you come across as antisocial, crazy, or whatever. Just be wary that being with people for extended periods of time in a situation like being roommates can cause you trouble, up to and including being classified as “does not work well with others” or “dangerous to self or others”.

And that is why the biggest problem is character development, and that is why this method of improvement petrifies me. I have no basis on which to develop characters and establish relationship dynamics that are based on anything resembling real life, mainly because of trying to avoid anything resembling human to human interaction for years. And that’s not the only fear I have, nor it is the only problem that I received feedback on, but the way I develop actually has the potential to make my stories worse because it’ll only further give an impression that I have no idea what I’m doing.

To any aspiring writers, I have this advice: Make friends. Be social. And hope to God you were born with a social gene. It’ll help you a lot.

Response #445 on the USMNT failing to qualify for the World Cup

I took a while to respond so it’s not too knee-jerky. I’ve heard a lot about missing the World Cup and what it’ll mean. Let’s go down the list:

* I always saw Bruce Arena as a Band-Aid to get the Yanks through the Hex and after 2018 we can do a status report. But now that the wheels have fallen off prematurely, we can just blow it up and just rebuild for 2022 (or 2026 if we decide to boycott Qatar for some reason). Who the coach will be I don’t know, but the fact that we have nothing but friendlies and Gold Cups to build on should probably help you feel better if you don’t spend too much time contemplating on what could have been. I’m not sure how buyouts work, but I have a feeling we’re stuck with Arena for the foreseeable future.

* Yeah, it sucks not seeing Pulisic on the big stage. Everyone saying that he’s the greatest thing since Landon Donovan to the point where he was on 60 Minutes are deflated that he won’t have a coming out party in Russia. He’s still at Dortmund, and if he continues to tear it up in the Bundesliga, he still may get that big money move.

* Taylor Twellman said that everyone in Germany made a big rebuild plan after their failures in Euro 2000 that led to a World Cup win. I can tell you right now that’s not going to happen. The US Soccer landscape is irreparably divided now because of all the lawsuits going on, from pyramid structure to the way that youth development is implemented. And then there are the fans. The only thing that fans seem to agree on is that Sunil Gulati needs to be fired and put in a boat to be set adrift. If US Soccer was to burn to nothing, there will be keyboard fights if not fistfights over how to build from the ashes. The fact that the pro/rel discussion alone has gone from the message boards and subreddits to the courtroom just amplifies just how much division there is. Hell, the NASL case is in my opinion just the NASL trying to take US Soccer and MLS down with them as they go down in a flaming heap.

As for what’ll happen to the popularity…okay, I’ll concede that it sucks not being able to see the Stars and Stripes in Russia next year, and that may affect how much of the World Cup I watch. But it’s not like that we’ll see MLS regress to Version 1.0 and all the cavernous NFL stadiums and gridiron lines, countdown clocks, 35-yard penalty shootouts, and appealing first and foremost to soccer moms and their families that come with 1.0. I’m still trying to absorb the game and the hot takes coming from the Panama goal.

Either way, this dumpster fire of a qualifying campaign is over. Everything that’s on fire should be left to burn if only to see if something, anything, can rise from the ashes.