Saturday, December 31, 2016

Movie Reviews : Presidential Apocalypse Edition

Greetings, imaginary readers.  Long time no et cetera.  Shall we?

So I'm pretty sure Adora and I only saw one movie in 2016.  I think that's the lowest count since... ever.  And who do I blame?  Society.  Also: Donald Trump.  [Deep breath.] TRUUUUUUMMMP!!!!

Moving on...

The one movie we did see in theaters this year was a good one.  So let's talk about it.

Rogue One : * * * *

I also gave The Force Awakens four stars, which in retrospect feels a little generous.  I'm not going full South Park on this or anything, but most of what I really loved about that movie was that I was basically watching Star Wars again.  Rogue One, despite the fact that it is essentially a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead-style behind-the-scenes story that runs parallel to the original Star Wars, is vastly more original.

This is not to say that Rogue One doesn't lean heavily on  the source material.  As astute critics have pointed out, RO completely depends on you having seen SW-- it never attempts to explain things like the Force, and the ending would be deeply unsatisfying if you didn't already know that this is not the end.

But, whatever, I have seen Star Wars, so I do know that the Rebels succeed in blowing up the Death Star. (Oops!  Spoilers!)  So to me this was a wonderful companion piece that took nothing away from the original and filled in some holes-- even some that I never really thought about before.  (Like: Why isn't there a big old Rebel fleet at Yavin 4 when the death star shows up at the end of Star Wars?)

There is definitely some of the usual Hollywood baloney in that the film often makes the choice to show a big cool explosion instead of having people (on either side) do something smart.  But this is the nature of the medium-- movies are more explodier and less smartier than books.  I had a great time, as did HRH.


5. Finding good ways to use previously unused footage of Red Leader and Gold Leader from the original trilogy.  Very cool.  This is the kind of recycling I can really get behind.

4. Warwick Davis playing a little alien dude with a BFG.  I wanted more of this guy.

3. The sarcastic killbot and the we're-not-jedi monks.  Make this a TV show, in the vein of Kung Fu or Scooby-doo.  Throw in Warwick Davis.  To hell with continuity.

2. Darth Effing Vader striding down a dark and smoky corridor, cutting down rebel after rebel.

1. Five year old in the movie theater behind me asking aloud, "Are they dead?" during the final scene when our heroine and hero are nuked into radioactive vapor.  Hilarious.


5. Zombie Leia.  Her lines were good, but I just couldn't stop wondering if she was a cartoon or a Cylon skinjob or what.

4. No Bothans.  And, yes, the internet did remind me that the Bothans died to get the plans for the second death star-- not the first one.  And, no, I do not care.  This movie should have killed a Bothan every three minutes.  Two, maybe.

3. Zombie Tarkin. Shudder!  Seriously uncannied my valley. Definitely knocked off a half star for this.  Maybe a whole star.

2. Forrest Whittaker dying for absolutely no reason at all, other than he didn't want to jog down to the spaceship. Lame.  I mean, I would definitely die in that scene for the same reason, but I go to the movies for an escape.

1. Tarkin and Leia.  So terrible.  I can't stress this enough.

Anyway, thanks, J.J. Abrams for a great Star Wars movie.  It was tons of fun.  And I look forward to handing over my money to see the next standalone Star Wars flick: OLYMPUS MON: THE MOTHMA STORY (coming in 2018).


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Movie reviews: 2015, the year in review edition

Okay, so it hasn't been quite a year since the last movie reviews post, but I'm going to go ahead and jump in anyway.

Why? Because my lady is at the grocery store and the boys are asleep. And I don't have anything else to do. Apparently.

Ant-Man : * * * * 1/2

Soooooo fun. The science is completely inconsistent and silly even for a comic book movie, but I enjoyed the heck out of this flick. The Thomas the Tank Engine sequence perfectly encapsulates everything that makes this movie tick: thrilling action, light-hearted comedy, believable characters, and a blithe disregard for the immutable laws of physics.

For the first ten minutes of the movie, I wasn't sure about Paul Rudd. He reminded me of Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern in all the wrong ways. But I ended liking his Scott Lang almost as much as his Brian Fantana or Bobby Newport. The real scene stealer, though, was Michael Peña as Luis. Hilarious!  Every line he delivered was pure gold.

Bottom line: Even though both the last episode of Lost and the last 200 hours or so of The Hobbit greatly depleted my reservoir of like for Evangeline Lilly, I still can't wait to see Ant-Man and the Wasp.

The Martian : * * * 1/2

Not nearly as good as the book, but still very good. And Matt Damon was much better than I expected. I completely believed him (and liked him) as an astronaut. Not so much Jessica Chastain. Removing her from this movie entirely would bump it up at least a half star. Maybe a whole star. The same for the execrable two minute epilogue at the end. Blecch.

Hey and Michael Peña again! And he was great! Boy am I ready to see everything else that guy is in. Hollywood, take note.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens : * * * *

Yeah, this is pretty much a remake of the original in lots of ways, but who cares. It's a pastiche, an homage, and it comes from a place of love (and fanboi squee).  So yay Han and Chewie flying the Millenium Falcon!  Yay tough old Grandma Princess Leia! Yay emo Kylo Ren!  Yay Finn and Rey and BB-8!  Yay stormtrooper Daniel Craig! Yay Star Wars!

But just to prove I am not just enraptured to be reliving my childhood, booooo pretty much all the CGI aliens. Especially that refugee from the Hobbit heptalogy Maz Kanata. Booooo. In addition to looking awful, Yoda she is not. And booooooooo Supreme Leader Snoke. Seriously, that is the worst villain name in the history of the universe.

Anyway, that's all for now. Until next time, my imaginary readers, feel free to form your own opinions about movies.

I will correct you later if you are wrong.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Movie Reviews: Babysitters are expensive edition

We have not seen a lot of movies lately. Not sure what the problem is. Maybe time, or maybe the cost of getting a special snowflake to come watch our little perpetual motion machine. Either way, the arrival of our second little bundle of boy will not make things easier.

So I'm going to make sure these reviews are extra good, by including a special BONUS PRO TIP with each one-- absolutely free! You're welcome, Hollywood.

* * * The Hobbit 3 : Five armies is pretty good, but couldn't they have made it six? This movie just didn't feel like it had enough going on. The plot structure was too coherent and the movie itself was far too short. But the good news is that they can fix all this when they make the Silmarillion-- preferably as a series of 10 movies, each 10 hours long.

BONUS PRO TIP: PJ, you spent the whole last movie building up the dragon, and then killed it ten minutes into this one. Next time you chop a single children's book into three mega-movies, have the scary monster's death be the awesome climax of film 2 instead of the rushed and meaningless opening scene of film 3.

* * * * Cinderella : Utterly charming! Great costumes, picturesque scenery, and they even managed to make Cinderella's choices sensible within the context of the story. We could all do a lot worse than to make "Have courage and be kind" our motto.

BONUS PRO TIP: If you're going to remake a classic, don't miss the opportunity to showcase the dark horse scene-stealing star. Here I speak, of course, of Gus-Gus. How is it, in this age of shameless and unoriginal exploitation, that we do not have a Gus-Gus movie yet?

That's all for now. Sorry, imaginary readers. But if you want more movie reviews, you could always come watch the kids.


Saturday, August 02, 2014

We all fell in the pit

 * * * * *  Guardians of the Galaxy : Andy Dwyer leads a gifted ensemble cast in this unblinking look at the harsh realities of the contemporary space pirate.  Based on the experimental but critically acclaimed counterculture text, this starkly serious arthouse film is the century's first true masterpiece, although it may never achieve mass popularity.

[Cross-posted on my new AUTHORIAL WEBSITE WHAT WHAT.]

Monday, March 31, 2014

Movie reviews: Winter of our discontent edition

Okay, so I've had a few disappointments lately at the movie theater. And the only thing for me to do is to air my grievances.

* * 1/2 Ender's Game : Less than the sum of its parts. The happiest surprise was a delightfully competent Harrison Ford. Should have been based on the short story, not the novel. But OSC had final say over everything, so what do I know?

* * * 1/2 Hunger Games: Catching Fire : An Empire Strikes Back ending would have been better than the jarring cliffhanger that we get, but that's the way the book does it. But a fun ride to get to that drop. The best part: Avery Jessup's crazy outfits and hairdos.

* * * * * Gravity: The saddest, scariest, most beautiful movie I have seen in a long, long while. A sparkling jewel in the heap of putrescence that is contemporary cinema. I loved every minute of it.

* * Hobbit 2: Good grief. Made me wish for the in-depth attention to character of the first over-inflated CGI extravaganza. If the last one is as dumb as this one, Peter Jackson will have used up all the good will he banked with the first trilogy.

Hollywood, please make better movies.


[UPDATE: Just saw The Lego Movie. Thank you, Hollywood!]

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Okay, so it's been a million years since I updated this blog. Imaginary readers, I am sorry to have disappointed you. But I have at least three good reasons why.

First, we had a baby!  He's adorable! (Seriously, check my Facebook page for pictures. But only if you're ready to think that the Gerber baby looks like garbage.)

Second, we moved! Like three times!

Third, I wrote a book! And it's published!

The book is called The Crown and the Dragon, and it's the novelization of a fantasy movie by Arrowstorm Entertainment. The movie is coming out later this year from Vivendi / Universal. I'll post more details about this as they become available. But for now let met just say that it was super fun to be a part of this project.

The novel has been published by WordFire Press, and is now available in trade paperback and ebook formats from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Baen, and other retailers.

At Comic Con in Salt Lake, they premiered the film and I did signings at the WordFire booth. It was a blast, and not just because of all the crazy costumes. We actually sold out, which left me apologizing to people who came by on Saturday afternoon. But that's not such a bad kind of problem to have, in the end.

Anyway, I think that's the only place I'm going to do a book signing, but if you would like to have your own signed and personalized copy, you can click this PayPal button, and I'll be happy to send you one.


Anyway, that's all the updates for now, but there's more to come. In the meanwhile, check out the baby pictures on Facebook, and pick up a copy of my book. :)


Friday, September 27, 2013

2013 Movie Rreviews: Before the Fall edition

Here's what we saw this year before school started up again.

* * * 1/2 Les Miserables : Anne Hathaway's lovely white teeth puzzled me, but her singing was unbelievable and so all is forgiven. Russell Crowe also sang. Highlights include: Wolverine's harrowing prisoner beard, the despicable Msr. and Mme. Thenardier, and the always-heartbreaking Eponine. I was singing the whole score for weeks, although often with improvised lyrics. "But the diapers come at night...!"

* * * * Iron Man 3 : Ben Kingsley is just so delightful. Everything that comes out of that man's mouth is gold. He's a treasure too rich for any one film to contain. Thank you, Mandarin, for making our lives wonderful. (Everybody else was fine.)

* * * 1/2 Star Trek Into Darkness : Benedict Arnold Cumberbund is no Ricardo Montalban-- but then again, who is? I can't really hold that against them. And there are some spectacular visuals here, including the Enterprise literally jumping hundreds of sharks. But this movie loses a full star for the use of Cylon baby blood to blaspheme Leonard Nimoy's sacrifice. Shame on you, J.J. Abrams. Don't pull that crap with the new Star Wars, okay?

* * * * * Monsters University : This movie made me laugh so hard. More importantly, it tricked me. I bought the fakeout hard, thought that they were taking the easy way out. But this is Pixar, so they didn't. They played out the trope, then turned it on its head, then blew it into a million pieces. I walked out of that theater reexamining my ideas about how the world works, and how it should work. Well done.

That's all for now!


Monday, December 31, 2012

Movie reviews: Mayan y2k edition

Here are all the movies we saw in 2012, and thus all the movies we will ever see. Because of the end of the world.

* * * 1/2 Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol : Okay, I already reviewed this, but let me just say that I think that each new movie in this series has had shorter co-stars than the last one. For the next one, I predict that he does it Smiths-style with Suri. But he'd better hurry, because it won't be too long before she hits puberty and rockets up past him.

* * * * Brave : I would happily pay any amount of money that Pixar can imagine to see a movie just about the two little brothers.

* * * * 1/2 Marvel's The Avengers : Whedonesque, in all the best senses of the word. The only silly thing is Hulk's big wham line, which I genuinely do not get. But his Loki-smashing was a pure joy.

* * * * The Dark Knight Rises : Here's how this is calculated: three stars for Bruce and Selina in a cafe, four stars for Gordon, two stars for a surprisingly whiny Alfred, three stars for Scarecrow as the Jacobin judge, four stars for Bane, and ten stars for Bane's voice--which deserves its own talk radio show at the very least. Who would not listen to that?

* * * 1/2 Skyfall : Every single James Bond movie since forever is about how 007 is off the reservation and on his own. So the conceit is not really new. But it had a new feel, somehow. In places, it was actually quite moving, in no small part thanks to Dame Judi Dench.

* * * 1/2 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey : Peter Jackson still owns me, and I will fork over my money to see the rest of this trilogy. But come on, did it really need to be a trilogy? I'm pretty sure the audiobook of The Hobbit is going to be shorter than the films. That's ridiculous, and it doesn't make for a better movie. In fact, for every half hour they could shave off this film, I would give it another half-star.

That's all for now, imaginary readers. And perhaps that's it for the planet earth and/or the human race. No tears, now. We had a good run.

So long, and thanks for all the fish!


Friday, April 20, 2012

It's not easy being Stan Lee

My friend Alice posted a thing on her blog called the 7-7-7 challenge. This sounded like a taste test for a new soda from Herman Cain, but in fact it is also something else.

The 7-7-7 Challenge:
Flip to page 77 or page 7 of your current work in progress.
Find line 7.
Post the 7 sentences that follow.
Tag 7 more writers.

I'm not doing the last part, because that one 7 too many. (Of course, if any of my imaginary readers want to consider themselves tagged, they may respond to this challenge in the comments. Never let it be said that I am not magnanimous.) But I will do the first bit, which means putting up a bit from my current work in progress.

This actually comes at an interesting time for me. On Monday I submitted the manuscript I've been working on for the last eight or nine months. But I didn't want to rest on my laurels. Did Stan Lee rest after he created the Hulk? No! He made up hundreds of other heroes, most of which were truly awful.

With this in mind, on Tuesday I decided I wanted to keep writing fiction while waiting to hear back about that manuscript. I will have to scale back a lot, but it's surprising what can get accomplished in 20 or 30 minutes a day if you're really consistent.

For my next project, I have chosen my previous project. In 2008, I took a class from Brandon Sanderson (with Alice!), and started a novel. I haven't finished it, although I've workshopped my way through the beginning a couple of times. So my new project is to write through to the end.

So here's 7 sentences from p. 77 of what I am still calling "Love of Money in Time of Cholera" for lack of a better title.

“Helping me out?” said Mazoon. “That’s what you call this?”
“I’ve saved your life three times today,” said Surt. He extended one finger and stuck it very nearly in Mazoon’s face. “I stopped the men on the tower from shooting you when you and your pals were running out on the rest of us.”
“Wouldn’t have hit me,” grumbled Mazoon.
“Yes, they would have,” said Surt, “if I hadn’t stood up and put an end to it.”

I think that speaks for itself. And what it says is, I am a huge nerd and the people in my books have silly names. Like 'the Hulk.'



Saturday, March 17, 2012

Immortality watch, part 2

While in Utah for a wedding (Congrats, Jason and Stephny!) I attended the 2012 Writing for Charity conference. Brandon Sanderson was one of the presenters, and as I waited to talk to him, he said, "Hey, John, what's up?" Somebody famous remembered my name! Gleeeeeeeee!

I was one of 40 people or so in his fiction writing class at BYU in the spring of 2008, which was just a tremendous learning opportunity. (One of the many mini-tragedies of the Great Laptop Theft Disaster of 2009 was the loss of my copious notes from this class.) The next time I saw him after that, I think, was in the spring of 2011, when he was in Barnes and Noble at the same time as our writing group. He came by the table and answered our questions about writing.

Anyway, in this most recent encounter, I shared my news about finishing the first draft of the novelization, and my hopes for publication. He gave me lots of encouragement, and some practical advice. What a mensch! He also asked to see the movie trailer, and pronounced it awesome.

I get to see Brandon again in May at the Superstars Writing Seminar in Las Vegas. I hope to have some word back from the publishers by then. But either way, it just feels great to be making progress on my writing career.

If all goes according to plan at the seminar, Brandon and Kevin J. Anderson, and the other big names will invite me to join the Secret Society of Famous Authors. I hear when you're inducted, you get a time turner, which is of course the only explanation for how a human could possibly produce so many pages.

I should have a Hugo and a Nebula by fall and be at the top of the New York Times bestseller list before the year is out. Then the Princess of Power and I can finally afford to get our own washer and dryer and say goodbye forever to the laundromat, the worst place in the world.

Wish me luck!