The State of the Mind: September 2013.

Another month, another “State of the Mind.” You know what to expect from these by now, don’t you? If not, it’s simple: I rant and ramble about the things I’ve been thinking about, doing, or being entertained by, all to supplement me jabbering about the writing.

Any questions? No? Alright, let’s get to it.

First up, work-wise. The Veil is continuing on well after the recent bump into a bi-weekly upload schedule, rather than the weekly release. I personally think the last chapter was also a bit more improved because of it. The views have also been not too bad as well, so I can’t complain. However, leave it to me to not be satisfied with that amount of info. Instead, below, I’ve created a straw poll to try and get people’s thoughts on it.

If you want to participate in the poll, just click this link. It’s simple, it’s easy, and it scratches an itch of mine.

As for stuff that isn’t The Veil, there’s definitely a lot of things in the line-up. Getting back to work on Blood in the Machine is in order. At the same time, I am still frothing to sink my teeth into Dark Stars, but there’s plenty of time before that becomes a priority. I am just itching to write something new, however, and I’ve even had an idea hit me that I’d love to test.

The idea I actually want to try is a bit of a Sci-Fi horror story, though I don’t know how well I’d pull it off. It’d be more of a psychological horror attempt, using allegory about the research and creation of highly destructive weapons. Again, I have no idea how well it would turn out, but there’s also a lot of other projects to wrap-up between now and then.

On the social end, I’ve been on a bit of a silent-stretch on Google+, so I am working on changing that. At the same time, i installed and linked up Janetter for my PC and my phone, so my Twitter has been getting more organized so I can use it effectively. It’s all about that connection and such, so I may as well try and actually get connected.

On the media front, I’ve been on a bit of a binge. I finished two books (World War Z by Max Brooks and Andromeda’s Fall by William Dietz), watched three movies (World War Z due to Amazon Instant, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and Silent Hill Revelation), and finished playing through Lost Planet 3.

Both the books were spectacular, with my especially loving Andromeda’s Fall. An interesting book, even if somewhat simple in concept, that had great characters and a good idea for battlefield detail. I’ve heard that Mr. Dietz intends to turn it into a trilogy, so I am rather looking forward to future runs with it. It is, as well, an exemplary showcase for how a lack of abundant visual description can help the mind create its own mental image for what you’re reading, something I believe I need to learn to adopt better.

Movies-wise, it’s a mixed bag. I thoroughly enjoyed both the novel and the film of World War Z, even if there are flat-out contradictions to the overall story including the fact that the entire film story doesn’t happen. But hey, it’s still an enjoyable zombie film, and I personally believe it’s one of the better films of the genre.

ST:ID was better the second time around, I’ll give it that. It’s an enjoyable SciFi action movie, but not a good Star Trek film. Then again, we’ve never really had a “great” Star Trek movie, so that doesn’t mean much. Silent Hill: Revelation, however was … it was an okay horror movie, maybe even a decent one, but it’s not a good tie-in to the series. Just as well, the later games in the series haven’t been good tie-ins either, so not much has changed.

As for Lost Planet 3 … ugh. I like the Lost Planet series, I even really enjoyed the emphasis on character and story in 3. However, for all of you developers out there, please do me a favor: Optimize your damn game before you release, okay?

In this one’s case, I’m one of those guys who has a fancy headset that emulates surround sound. For a guy like me who can’t use speakers without disturbing someone, it makes everything better from watching movies to playing games, even listening to music. However, LP3‘s movie files did not mesh with that surround sound what-so-ever, so every time a movie would pop up, either the game would crash or I’d have to do some dumbass dance between Windowed and Fullscreen mode.

I only found out about three-quarters of the way through that my headset was causing the conflict, so I had to swap it out for one of my older headsets. All the crashing, window-dancing, and instability really destroyed my ability to get into the game for those first three quarters, then being forced to use inferior hardware on a modern title ruined my experience for the last part. It’s a shame too, because I actually really enjoyed my time with LP3. Once they get it patched and fixed, I’ll probably go back and replay it.

I’ve also been playing Final Fantasy XIV on-and-off, really enjoying the time I spend with it. If you’re playing it as well, I am playing on the server “Coeurl”, and my character there is “Vaerys Dirion”. Currently in the high-teens now, looking to work up the tradeskills before I take my main class a bit higher.

Well, with all of that said, I’m still wide awake and some of my work is calling. Time to get to it. I hope you lot have a good rest of the weekend, and I hope to hear from you all soon.

~ James.

My thoughts on: R.I.P.D. (Film)

This weekend, after having an absolutely spectacular writing streak, I went and saw R.I.P.D. Now, I have some thoughts on it that I wanted to share for those that either have or have not seen it.

I won’t include any spoilers in here that can’t be gleamed from the trailers, so don’t fret.

I saw the trailers awhile ago. I’ve been seeing them for what feels like forever. Every movie, radio-station, and occasional TV ad has been hawking this thing for eternity. I also wanted to see it. To me, it seemed like MiB meets Hellboy or Constantine. It looked bad, but in that fun way that makes me feel entertained enough to have enjoyed myself and considered it “worth it.”

So, come Sunday, I went and saw it. Overall, if I had to make a vocalized expression to surmise my feelings on it, it’d be “Eh.”

The concept isn’t a bad one: Talented, skilled cops are, after death, given the option of serving in the Rest In Peace Department to capture the souls of the dead on Earth that hide and refuse to face judgment. As part of their work, they’re made to not look or sound like themselves back on Earth so that friends and family don’t recognize them and to prevent them from, essentially, breaking the universal rules.

Not bad, right? Not a terrible concept, some room to work with, plenty of options for stories, ect.

The problem is that I just didn’t get that much enjoyment from the film. I split from the norm is that I actually like Ryan Reynolds as an actor and he plays the newly dead cop that signs up with the R.I.P.D. Even still, I didn’t really feel much attachment with the character. It wasn’t a fault of his performance, but more of where he seemed to be told to focus his efforts.

Jeff Bridges also brings out a performance as an old-school lawman, adding a nice “timeless” feel to the R.I.P.D., but it sometimes felt like he went a bit over-the-top with the character. Grant it, the setting is over-the-top in concept, but the character kinda went further.

If you also watch the trailers, you’d imagine that there’s a hefty amount of humor, similar to MiB and such. The problem is, outside of Jeff Bridges’s character and a couple passive-aggressive lines from Reynolds, the attempts at humor felt dry and forced.

It also felt like they spent too much time lingering on the topic of Reynolds adjusting to losing everything he had by dying. Yes, I know, that’s actually something that should be there, but it felt like they focused on it a bit too hard. In MiB, for example, the focus was more on “J” being the rookie who was adjusting to the agency and all of the strange things there-in. Kind of a situation where one film dealt more with the past, while the other lived in the now.

The effects and visuals were nice, though some of the Deado’s (escaped souls) were so obviously CG that the quality reminded me of watching Van Helsing (I actually like that movie, so don’t flip me that much crap) in style and effect.

I have mixed feelings on R.I.P.D. I want to like it, even having gone in expecting it to not be winning any awards anytime soon, but it felt like it spent its time focusing on the wrong points. It felt like if they’d re-assessed the story and changed it up a little, it could have been something that was much more memorable than it was.

As it is, I am left with another piece of media that had a pretty slick concept, and even a great cast, but it just let the pieces fall in the wrong pattern. It makes me feel like the parts are greater than the whole, and that actually disappoints me with it.

Who knows, maybe a second watching will give me a more favorable opinion of it when it comes out.

~ James.

My thoughts on: World War Z (Film)

So, I just got done watching World War Z. Figured I’d jot down my thoughts for those that might be interested. First, however, let me put out a disclaimer: I have not read the book. It’s on my list, and I know there are massive discrepancies between movie and book, but I haven’t read it yet. As such, I will not be making any direct comparisons between the two mediums.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way…

World War Z isn’t exactly your typical zombie film. The zombies are extremely comparable to Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later-style of infected, rather than the slow, walker-style we grew up with. This, in addition to the form they’re represented in, leads to one truth.

The movie isn’t about the zombies being the end of the world, it’s about a worldwide viral epidemic. If you let this realization sink in, you’ll enjoy the film much more than if you expect a Dawn of the Dead form of zombie film. While this kind of message has nearly always existed in zombie films, World War Z opts to make it the central platform it stands on.

The zombies are nearly always depicted as this, literally, unending swarm of infection that no walls can hold back, no weapon can really kill. It’s this perspective that makes the film remarkably tense and nerve-wracking, despite its PG-13 rating, as you see city after city, nation after nation fall to this horde of disease.

Despite its rating, as well, it’s remarkably brutal and violent. People commit suicide and amputate limbs in order to try and stop infection within them, infected literally flow over walls and rooftops, slamming down onto the streets, then get back up and pursue the living. Some scenes of gore and mutilation, like you’ve most likely come to expect from pieces like The Walking Dead, are forgone but you forget that as you watch the encroaching hordes.

Plot-wise, the film centers around Brad Pitt’s character, Gerry Lane, who was a former UN investigator who’s sent out across the world to find a cure for the infection. Reluctant to do so, he’s told that unless he goes out, his family will be kicked off the ship that they’ve been evacuated to. From there, he goes around the world as he pursues leads regarding the virus.

Pitt actually did quite a good job as Gerry, with solid performances by Mireille Enos who plays his wife, Karin Lane, and Daniella Kertesz who plays Segen, an Isreali soldier who accompanies him. While it may not be something you’ll be expecting acting awards to go to, it most certainly didn’t detract from the film. Due to events in the film, I actually found Kertesz’s character and performance to be quite sympathetic.

The camera-work can get a bit too shaky for my taste in some action heavy scenes, but that’s more of a personal preference than a problem with the film. The cinematography of the locations, however, is very impressive. It’s not afraid to pull the camera out and show that, “Hey, this virus is literally the fall of this entire city and this nation as a whole.”

Overall, World War Z carries two stories. The first story is about Pitt’s character and the lengths he’ll go to try and keep his family safe. The second, and far more prevalent, is simply “Be prepared.” It may not be zombies, it may not be war, but society literally can crumble down around us. In the aftermath of that, it’ll be the prepared and the dedicated who will survive.

I surprisingly enjoyed my time with the film. After hearing about how much of a departure it was from the source, along with the investment costs and ending re-shoot, my hopes weren’t terribly high. I left the theater, however, thinking that my time and money had been well spent.

Seven Psychopaths

Well, It’s been longer than normal when it comes to my posting here. Things have been chaos around my end, so time has been a very precious commodity.

I did, however, make some time to watch Seven Psychopaths last night. I went into it thinking it was going to be a dark comedy, especially given the cast. Boy, was I mistaken.

For those uninformed, Seven Psychopaths stars Collin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson. Farrel plays a writer named Martin who’s trying to write a screenplay called, you guessed it, Seven Psychopaths. Rockwell is his actor friend who runs a dog kidnapping-for-reward scheme with Walken, who also winds up stealing Harrelson’s dog. Harrelson, however, is a gangster head who doesn’t take kindly to his dog being stolen, so he goes out and starts trying to kill whoever took his dog.

The movie descends into a madhouse from there, easily living up to its own title. Each and every character (save Martin) is a true psychopath in every respect, ranging from Walken’s odd mannerisms to Rockwell’s own special flavor of psychotic. You’ve got a number of scenes (and even characters) who are nothing but Martin’s own creations as he’s trying to write his own movie, just to spice things up.

It still has a dark sense of humor, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a comedy. It’s a film that plays upon and defies a number of stereotypes and cliches, and it even admits it.  I could definitely say that it seems more like a stream of consciousness from a writer who’s projecting … or the result of a lot of alcohol (or both). Either way, the movie felt original and different, especially these days, and it actually seemed like a very good film.

Just thought I’d throw that out there, in lieu of any major announcements or anything. When the word comes down on some stuff, you’ll all be the first to know.

Prometheus.

So I went and saw Prometheus yesterday, and I gotta admit … I loved it. That said, I can also understand why hardcore “Alien” franchise fans would be disappointed. Let me break down why, and I promise not to drop any spoilers.

First off, it’s actually really well written! The last time I walked out of a Science Fiction movie with grand questions that I yearned to have answers to was … well, it’s been long enough that I’m not sure if I’ve had that problem. If you pay attention and keep an open mind, it gives you answers to various questions, but it also leaves some of the answer boxes left open and unmarked.

When you top the excellent writing with a great cast (Idris Elba, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, ect), some amazing aesthetics, and top notch sound design, you’ve got an awesome recipe. Seriously, the movie was fantastic in nearly all its elements.

Now for why you’ll not like Prometheus and /rage on the internet about it afterward. We’ll start off with the biggest reason; it’s NOT “Alien 0”. Yes it’s a prequel to Alien, but it’s not an Alien movie. Alien, in it’s most basic form, was about “Oh god, we found this bug and it’s killing our crew.”

Prometheus, however, is about the origins of Mankind and our connection to the planet (and ship on) from the first and second Alien films. Seriously, you won’t see a single Xenomorph like they were in the first and second films. There’s “stuff” going on, sure, but it isn’t the Bugs.

Second on the list of things you’ll hate: It’s not a horror movie. Yes, it has horror and some scenes are pretty damn nasty, but those are maybe 15-20 minutes of the entire film. Prometheus is more of a dark thriller in space, saving the moments that’ll get your blood pumping for the scenes that directly setup Alien.

So yes, if you want a dark thriller set in space that will get your brain spinning, rather than getting your blood pumping, Prometheus is for you. It’s intelligently written, has a fantastic cast topped with great visual and sound design, and establishes everything behind one of the longest running Horror franchises in film.

It’s not an Alien film before Alien, and it won’t answer all your questions; in fact, it’ll breed a few new ones. That’s part of its charm though, so enjoy the mystery! Seriously, go into the movie with an open mind and pay attention to it, and I’ll bet you enjoy the thing as much as I did.

Oh well, back to getting caught up on S7 of Supernatural and getting some writing done.

~ UPDATE: 6/14 ~

Well, I didn’t quite plan on returning to this article, but  can stop thinking about Prometheus. Despite my initial ravings, the reasons for which I can’t stop thinking about the film are not good.

After I wrote this first impressions review, I’ve watched a few debates and discussions on the film take place. I’ve also rewound the film in my head, giving some deeper thoughts on it.

The results aren’t good. I still enjoyed the film, yes, but I’ve developed three chief problems with Prometheus.

A) The characters. Looking back, I’d argue that while the cast is still very solid, the characters are pretty poor. As Chuck Wendig pointed out with his impressions on the film, all the characters are slaves to the story itself. Their decisions seem contradictory at the best of times, and flat out bad in others. The only real exception to this, I believe, would be Fassbender’s character, David.

B) The plot holes. Seriously, there are some pretty glaring plot holes that I can’t conceive of being “fixed” between Prometheus and Alien. I won’t go into details, for the sake of spoilers, but there are some details that are flat-out wrong on a completely obvious level.

C) The series. Prometheus serves more to give the implication of answers, rather than fully revealing anything. It’s discovered (in the first five minutes) that we’re the product of an Engineer and what I assume is some form of recombinant virus or DNA. Is it ever revealed why we were made, or exactly how? No. There are a number of things that are this way, but it only leads me to think that they intended to turn this into a new series for the Alien franchise. My suspicion is that their initial plan was to use the entire first film (Prometheus) as a lead-in to whatever else they could imagine.

I still enjoyed the movie, but the after taste is becoming a bit more bitter as time goes by.