My thoughts on: Deadpool (film)

I am not a comic book fan.

For the better part of my life – and even to this day – I’ve found comics a difficult thing to get into due to all the stories running alongside each other, weaving in and out of each other, and just keeping up with it all.

To that end, comic book movies have been spectacular for me. Easy to follow (release dates), the library is small (handful of movies vs. stacks upon stacks of issues), and they don’t really weave in and out unless you are watching the team-movies (Avengers).

One of the things that comics contain that I’ve always been envious of, however, are strong characters that don’t make it to the big screen. Worse yet, characters that get brought to the big screen in a way that is a horrible disservice.

Deadpool is one of those characters.

Originally brought to movies during Wolverine Origins, the version of Deadpool that we received was horribly wrong. There was a taste of who he was, but that’s all it was; a taste of the character drowned in a pile of “wrong”.

Fast forward a few years, we had the leaked test render of a Deadpool movie with Ryan Reynolds as the titular character. It nailed the sense of style and insanity of the character so well that fans of DP (like me) were clambering for more like it was going out of style.

Now, we have that “more”.

Deadpool is a faithful and very well done origin story that introduces us to “Deadpool-proper”, even going so far as to ret-con Origins to strike away the bad.

For those uninformed, Deadpool is smart-mouth mercenary Wade Wilson. He is diagnosed with terminal cancer and joins a project to not only cure him of his cancer, but also give him mutant abilities. He winds up with a healing factor that Wolverine would be envious of, but it doesn’t cure the cancer – it accelerates it while his body is also healing from it.

The end result? The pain and disfigurement he goes through are enough to cause his sanity to snap, while his powers cause him to become – essentially – immortal. He understands that he is a comic (or in this case, movie) character, breaks the fourth wall like it’s going out of style, is offensive to an unbelievable degree, and will not shut up.

He’s known as the “Merc with a mouth,” for that very reason. Sure, he’s highly skilled with tons of weapons, but some characters consider his rampant jabbering and smart-ass demeanor his ultimate tool.

One of the best descriptions I’ve heard is Deadpool is to heroes what South Park is to cartoons. He breaks the stereotypes, is horribly offensive and violent, yet also has some character and soul underneath.

The problem though is that the character is considered a running punch-line in recent comic runs and video games. Before, in the earlier comic runs, we saw that he actually had a lot of personality and some soul buried beneath the disfigured skin and trigger-happy tendencies.

This movie, however, understands older Deadpool. He’s not a running punch-line in the film, showing some of the character that hasn’t been seen in awhile.

Don’t take that to mean he’s lacking in the smart-ass department though. He’s lobbing snarky remarks, condescending one liners, fourth-wall breakers, and everything else all the time while cutting off heads and filling people with holes.

Oh, and trust me, this film earns it’s R-rating. The same rating fans of the character have been praying for. PG-13 Deadpool is like a lobotomy.

The story is simple but well played out, the villains are awesome in their own ways, the sidekicks and friends are great to have around, and Reynolds absolutely nails the titular “hero”. It’s fairly condensed at 100’ish minutes, but it doesn’t waste any time. The opening cast-roll alone had the theater crying in laughter.

One of the things that the film actually does extremely well to offset Deadpool’s “nature,” is the pacing. The romance really works and you feel his horror after he is operated on. They work well to offset all the other times he is telling henchmen that he is low on ammo so they all need to share or ramming a sword through their brains.

If you want something “else” from your hero movies, are a fan of the character, or just want a good action-comedy to watch, Deadpool is right up your alley. For me, this movie has been worth the wait and development hell it’s been through.

Solid and awesome, great way to spend some time this weekend. Hell, I’ll even be going back for more.

Oh, and stick through the credits. You should know this by now, but it still amazes me when people up and leave during the credits at these movies.

My thoughts on: Stonehearst Asylum.

Been awhile since I’ve done one of these, but this feels like a good opportunity to do one. So, let’s begin!

Stonehearst Asylum (formerly known as Eliza Graves) is a thriller set in 1899 that stars Kate Beckinsale, Jim Sturgess, and David Thewlis. Additional stars include Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine, and others.

Dr. Newgate (Sturgess) travels to the titular Stonehearst Mental Asylum from Oxford University to get clinical experience under Dr. Lamb (Kingsley), but things start taking unusual turns upon his arrival.

Now, how did I approach this film? Plain and simply (while showing biases), I saw it at my local Best Buy while gift shopping. I’d not seen a trailer for it anywhere (which I heard drops spoilers like a fiend), though had heard the title. Seeing that Kate Beckinsale had a starring role in it along with the description on the back of the box was enough for me to buy and watch it.

Yes, it is that easy to get me to watch a Beckinsale film. Sue me.

The film, based upon a story by Edgar Allan Poe, does little to hide the fact that it has mysterious affairs abound. Some plot points were easy to spot from a mile away, though the occasional surprise slipped in every now and then.

Something the film has in abundance, however, are themes that it tries to slip you. Some have a greater impact than others, but it’s actually both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing in that it shows an ability to try and convey a message without coming out and screaming it from the hill-tops. The curse, however, is that since there is a hefty number of ideas it wants to put forward, it somewhat stumbles on delivering any one of them with full-impact.

The movie touches on the ideas of abuse or abandonment of those mentally ill, how a deeply disturbed individual can (for the most part) pass off as a normal person, the (to our modern senses) barbarity of past psychiatric treatments, the effects of PTSD, the sometimes violent nature of a disturbed mind, and others.

As you can see, that’s a bit of a list. When you start playing with that many themes, the impact from any one of them gets a bit muffled.

(To touch on the “barbarity of past psychiatric treatment” note, keep in mind the field and period. Injecting patients with narcotics, electroshock therapy, lobotomies, forcibly dunking them in water, and many other forms of treatment were considered necessarily effective. While we’ve made some strides in the modern days, psychiatric care has a rather heavy history behind it.)

The cast does a good – even great – job with their roles. Kingsley’s Dr. Lamb is interesting, Beckinsale’s Eliza Graves is easy to sympathize for, and the list goes on. What their performances highlight, however, is the script.

Like some of the patients at Stonehearst Asylum, the script is a bit awkward at times – sometimes in its favor and against it in others. As mentioned above, the film doesn’t really try to hide the fact that it has plot twists abound, but it did keep me wondering exactly which ideas it would run with.

Some sequences also feel somewhat jarring, though usually not by fault of the cast. One scene in particular, right before the end, felt somewhat awkwardly rushed in delivery. Since this same scene is explained in clear detail mere minutes later, it felt like it could either have had the last couple sentences snipped or rewritten.

At the same time, when it does deliver a plot point, you realize that it’s been hinting at it all throughout the film. Either through lines in the script or quirks from the actors, you know that the film’s been building up towards the reveals. Nothing feels like it is coming out of left-field, which is commendable.

The soundtrack fits the aesthetic: a somewhat quirky atmosphere with an underlying Gothic creepiness. Nothing in the theme felt out of place during the execution, so my hat’s off to the crew for keeping it consistent.

Worth a watch?: Yes, I think it is. I know I definitely intend to see it again, and knowing what I now know of the story, I intend to analyze it a bit more on my second viewing. If it sounds interesting to you, I’d give it a gander. From what I hear though, stay away from the trailers – I guess they drop spoilers like they’re going out of style.

At it’s core, Stonehearst Asylum is an interesting movie that definitely has talent, theme, and ideas. It always felt like it was just a step away from truly dedicating itself to those ideas, however, and taking the final plunge. Despite this, I found it humorously quirky in spots, but able to bite back with some unsettling themes and dread.

State of the Mind: June, 2014.

… *sharp whistle*. It’s been a stupidly long time since we did a State of the Mind address, hasn’t it? Well, let’s crack some knuckles and get on with the show.

~

So, what has been happening? Well, I got out of my self-induced lull and have been busting keyboard keys trying to get new works out there. Enough so that it’s actually beginning to drive me insane with the workload.

Back on May 18th, I began work on the new version of Under a Falling Sky. I set a deadline of having (at the very least) the first 60,000 words of a first draft done by July 1st. To help track it, I wound up making spreadsheets and everything to help it along.

I’ve been, for the most part, keeping steady with the estimated requirement (1,364 words-per-day). There have been scenes that have slowed me down to a crawl, or nights where other things wound up interfering with the time I set aside for writing. At the same time, there have been weekends and days where I can make up the difference. Thus, I am still on-track to have that first 60,000 done on time.

Why 60,000 words though? A novel is classified as starting at 50,000 words, with average sci-fi novels running an average of 80,000-100,000 words. I figured that if I could get above the minimum done by July 1st, I would be on solid ground.

At the same time, while writing it, I’ve been making notes about scenes and characters to add, dialogue and interactions to better show off, or even marking where existing scenes will need severe re-writes.

Words I am living by.

Words I am living by.

Now, why July 1st? Well, that actually leads into some news that I am excited to talk about. In the next couple of months, a flash-fiction story of mine that was accepted by Fireside Fiction Company will be published in an upcoming issue. I’m still working on the exact date (I had originally heard the July issue), but I will let you all know when it comes time for release or as it becomes available.

I wanted to make sure I had something well on the way to being roughly completed by the time that story releases. Try to capitalize on any hype and all of that, show that there was something on the way and that I wasn’t entirely sitting around on my ass.

What this schedule has done is obliterate any and all free time I had. Days are spent at the day job, I squeeze in about an hour of R&R, and then I move straight on to writing through the night. It’s tiring, and it’s made me appreciate weekends all that much more (cut out the day job part for a couple days, more time for R&R), but I can’t deny the progress that has been made.

I’m slightly behind where I should be at the moment, sitting at 25,000 words when I should be at 26,000. Over the span of (roughly) 2.5 weeks, I’ve managed to pen half of the bare-minimum for a novel draft, which is good progress in my mind.

However, the progress doesn’t stop there. I am also currently working on a piece of flash fiction for another magazine submission. I have the story mapped out in my head, though I will likely have to cut parts off like it’s going out of style to condense it to fit (1,000 word-cap). I am looking forward to seeing how that goes, but if nothing else, I want it out of my head and onto paper.

What this all has done, outside of create a mountain of work, is limit my time for entertainment. Lone Survivor, which I saw in theaters and loved, came out and I haven’t had a chance to see either it or RoboCop yet. I’d normally watch it this weekend, but I am reserving that time for gaming and watching Edge of Tomorrow.

As far as gaming goes, I have a back-log of games consisting of A) more WildStar, B) more Watch_Dogs, C) Murdered: Soul Suspect, D) more Transistor, and E) wanting to go back and play the Freespace games. Yeah, not like I’m keeping track or anything.

Now, you might have noticed WildStar on that list. I have been playing since the head-start (though only level 17 due to time limitations), and have been enjoying the hell out of it. It has its own comical, action-y charm to it that soaks me in. Well, that and the (awesome!) player housing.

If anyone reading this is playing the game, you can go ahead and add me. I am currently playing on “Orias [NA]” as Exiles. My main character is “Ashayl”, though you can add my account nickname of “Darrow”.

What can I say, I tried to keep it simple.

So yes, that’s where we’re at for the moment. I’ll keep on working on Under a Falling Sky, along with work on the other project. I’ll also try and keep my sanity with some R&R, though I really can’t promise that. Until I see you guys online (or on Nexus in WildStar), see you around.

~ James.

State of the Mind: February, 2014.

Well, this has certainly been an interesting month. Be that as it may, it’s time for the monthly State of the Mind address. So, let’s kick it off.

1) Work! I’ve been pounding out progress on a rewrite of Salvaging Life (WIP title, not final). You might now be saying, “Wait, I thought you said you were going to be working on Echoes!” In which case, you’re rather observant and correct all at once. I did say that I was going to be working on Echoes at first, but that plan has since changed.

I sat down and started to reread Echoes so I could get a feel for what I had again. Keep in mind, this story is about a year and a half old by now, so it feels ancient. Upon reading it, however, I saw how bad it seemed to be. Upon looking at it, the story felt like it needed a complete and total rewrite to bring it up to snuff. Needing that extensive amount of work ultimately placed it in the same spot as a number of other stories.

At the same time, I’d wanted to revisit Salvaging Life. Originally a short-story that was around four thousand words that I had submitted to Clarkesworld Magazine, I decided that with the recent commercial release of Blood in the Machine, maybe I could go back and check it out.

When I looked over Salvaging Life and read what I had, I could easily see why it had been rejected. It wasn’t the majority of the story, it wasn’t the characters, and it wasn’t the quality of writing. What set it back was the story I tried to tell was too confined at the length I had, and the ending felt at odds with the tone of the story.

The thing was, I already knew both of those things a month ago when I started thinking about it then. Reading it now felt like confirmation bias, but I also had some ideas of how to fix it. So, this last weekend, I began enacting those fixes by rewriting the story from the ground up.

I’m now three thousand words in and the story is feeling stronger than ever before. The characters felt good in the first version, but feel much stronger now. The pacing feels about right, though some of the tricky parts will rear their ugly heads in the later sections. At the same time, I have to do some research and treat a certain topic with some delicate attention, but it’s integral to one of the characters.

At the same time, I’ve also been working on the codex and mapping of a rewrite for Under a Falling Sky, which I am also eager to tackle soon. Who knows, maybe if Salvaging Life goes well, that might be the next project I tackle.

2) Resting! I’ve actually been rather bored recently. I’m stuck in a spot earlier on in Final Fantasy XIII-2 at a boss fight, so I have to go back and grind fights to get ahead. Not exactly my idea of fun. Instead, I played the Titanfall PC beta last night, and I have to admit that I am massively impressed with what I see.

Oh, and I have Kelly Sweet’s version of In the Air Tonight stuck in my head since hearing it in an ad for a TV show. Somebody, please help me, I’ve been listening to it on repeat in effort to try and get it dislodged, but to no avail!

At the same time, Game of Thrones Season 3 comes out tomorrow, so I know what I’ll be watching. It’ll also help tide me over while I wait for Gravity to come out on the 25th, alongside Thor: The Dark World.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished reading How to Archer, based on the TV cartoon (Cobra!). Times like these make me wonder who exactly dreams up the notion that it would be a good idea to write a book in the perspective of Sterling Archer. However, it lets me get on to reading Ender’s Game for the first time. No, I’ve never read it before, but I wanted to read it before I saw the movie which is sitting on my shelf.

3) Mental Health! … Improving, slightly optimistic. Might be in need of a good sit-down and ass-kicking soon if it doesn’t clear up.

So yeah, there we have it. Things seem to be looking up and I am slipping back into my groove with some ease, which helps make things a bit easier to work with.

~ James.

State of the Mind: December, 2013.

Don’t mind me, I’m still digging myself out of the hole and rut that was November. That shall not stop us, however, for it’s time for another State of the Mind address.

So, what’s happened since the last address? Well, we’ve had a couple more segments for The Veil go live. I also ran in and completed NaNoWriMo, then proceeded to take a week-long break and get sick during it. That was fun.

When it comes to NaNo, I ran in it with a multitude of projects, basically tallying every word I could etch out. What did the end results come out to? Let me dig them up here…

Your Average Per Day: 1,687
Target Word Count: 50,000
Target Average Words Per Day: 1,667

Total Words Written: 50,636

As you can see, it was a rather close call. At the same time, this year actually proved to be monumentally helpful. Last year, I had written in Google+ Hangouts with other writers. We’d go for writing sprints and then relaxation sprints, going 15/5 minutes per cycle. It helped me get through then, keeping my focus on the work due to competition and possibly shaming myself if I failed.

This year, however, I went alone on it. I didn’t release any of my statistics constantly or consistently, didn’t use Hangouts, nothing. It was me, my word tracker, a metric ton of caffeine, and more stress than I’d like to endure for awhile.

I still crossed the finish line, however, and am better for it. Now that the post-NaNo break period is over, I’ve established a schedule of 500 words written per day, along with one scene’s worth of edits to go along with it, as a requirement of myself. It keeps me working, yet it still leaves me plenty of time to take care of my day job and allows me to relax at night.

Fastest, most efficient schedule in the history of Man? No, but it is likely to help keep me sane the longest. For now, keeping my sanity while still moving forward is all that matters.

Now, what about that work on Blood in the Machine? Well, those edits I mentioned earlier? That’s the editing I am doing at night. I’m a few scenes into it now, about roughly a quarter done with them overall. I’ll do another post-editorial sweep after I am done, but that will be all.

You know what’s always an incredibly humbling experience? Going through your editor’s notes and realizing just how much of the small shit you managed to screw up. Seriously, small changes from past content-sweeps from myself, even improper possessives. Hell, last night I found a example or two of me screwing up “Your & You’re” and such.

This is why we need editors, even if to prevent us from looking incredibly stupid with stuff where we even know better. Hiring Rachel Desilets to give my material a look over was definitely an incredibly smart move, considering all the highlights I’ve seen.

That said, this means I am not far off from releasing, right? Kinda, but not entirely. I still have yet to inquire to any artists or hire any one, so the artwork is still up in the air. After that, I have to take care of Kindle’s formatting for the work. When those are all said and done, however, it will be ready.

When am I aiming for release? Ideally, I’d love to call it good and done before the New Year. At the same time, it would require me to hire an artist who could do what I am looking for with a very open schedule. Given my current pace, I am not entirely sure that will be happening. We’ll see how that all goes.

As for where I’m at in my head, things are actually kind of good at the moment. Stress isn’t mounting too much, I’m being productive yet relaxed, so things are kind of golden for now.

Right now, however, I am actually really wanting to watch Wolverine again. I had seen it in the theaters, but picked up a copy for me and my father to take some time and sit down to watch. However, our jobs have kept us busy enough that we just haven’t had time to do so, but hopefully that will change pretty soon.

For now, however, that’s the current state of my mind. I’ll keep busy as I try and get these works ready for you all, so you just hang in there.

~ James.