Movie Round-up: Recent Movies that I’ve Seen (June 2019)

Apple TV at home
Image Source: http://www.premiumhollywood.com/2018/12/17/the-benefits-of-watching-movies-at-home/

I’ve seen two movies over the past two weeks. I don’t really have enough to say about them both to write a full mini-movie review, so I thought I’d just talk briefly about them in a single post. Unlike some other content that I’ve drafted (but may never see the light of day), this post isn’t really scholarly or high-brow. It’s just me talking about movies that I’ve seen recently.

Henry V

Image Source: https://www.amazon.com/Henry-V-Kenneth-Branagh/dp/079284615X

This is a movie that came on PBS during my 2nd year in college at U. T. Knoxville, but I wasn’t able to see through to the end because it would have went past 12:00 am and I had a ton of library books (UTK Library) due and I would have been hit with a massive fine. So I begrudgingly left the movie in the middle and didn’t get to see the resolution to go and turn in the books. Well, I finally got to see it through to the end a couple of weeks ago. I was looking for something to watch on Amazon Prime a couple of weeks ago and I saw that this movie was available for streaming, so I decided to watch (& finish) it this time. It is a stirring as I remember and it also does a a great job of adapting Shakespeare’s words and works to the screen. I like the narrator of the piece and his contemporary dress along with the way he sets the stage, but of course the showstopper is Kenneth Branagh, and his performance is amazing in this film. I’m glad that I was finally able to complete my viewing of the film as it was as good as I remembered it to be as I was watching it.

14 Blades

Image Source: https://www.amazon.com/14-Blades-Import-allemand/dp/B003Y98CZO

After watching the “drama” that was Henry V, I wanted something a little lighter for the next movie, so I went to my old standby–a martial arts movie. While these can sometimes be serious, usually they tend to be, if not downright comedic, a little on the lighter side with a combination of outrageous action combined with a storyline that (for the most part) is played seriously and not for laughs. I consider martial arts movies as “ligther” fare for the most part, however.

I couldn’t decide on what to watch, so I just chose one (mostly) at random: 14 Blades. What I didn’t realize that it was an early work (I think) of Donnie Yen, one of my favorite martial artists outside of Jackie Chan. Donnie Yen is a more “serious” martial actor than Jackie Chan is (and that just means that Donnie tends to go for more “dramatic” roles than “comedic” roles). I like them both, just for different reasons. I’ve “seen” more movies that Jackie has done (nearly all of his old collection), but I “own” more of Donnie’s movies (all of the Ip Man movies and Kung Fu Killer).

I enjoyed the movie–it was a standard martial arts movie. There were places were it was very good and there places where the storytelling was too “on-the-nose,” but overall I liked it, and the fact that I got to see a performance by Donnie Yen was just a great bonus. It took its subject fairly seriously (maybe a little more serious than I was wanting), but still it was a fun ride and I really enjoyed watching it.

Sidney

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  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19
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E3 and Me–Color Me Intrigued

Toddler with a quizzical face with the caption "I'm intrigued: Do tell me more!"
Image Source: https://memegenerator.net/instance/75937215/thinkingbaby-im-intrigued-do-tell-me-more

So, now that E3 is over and the “dust” has settled, this post will be the last one to feature me talking explicitly about the conference. I may reference games/press conferences at a late date, but for the most part, this will be the last one devoted to the conference itself. Today, I wanted to briefly talk about the “maybes” of the confernce–games that I’m intrigued about and would like to learn more information about in order to make a more informed decision as to whether or not I will (at some point) get them. If nothing else, they have my attention–which, to be honest, is the whole point of E3.

Outriders

Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoSin_yLyYI

This is probably the game I’m most intrigued about at the moment. Besides the fact that it is using a word that I’d like to use for my own project (but may not get to do so due to American Trademark laws), it has a very visual style and is something that looks unique and fun to play (based on the trailer). It is a very visual world, and characters that may have both powers along with gun play. Also, based on the number of characters in the trailer, it might also have a co-operative element where different players might be able to play together. This looks very interesting to me.

Deathloop

Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgiMSSl2rZ0

So, this one is much more of a wildcard. I’m not so sure about this one. This one only showed a trailer, so I’m not sure what to make of this one. I think this one could be good as it looks like something that could have some interesting dynamics and it is made by a designer that is very invested in narratives so we’ll see. The problem is that cinematic trailers, without gameplay, doesn’t illustrate what gamers will be doing in the minute-to-minute action. As such, it is very hard to be more than intrigued until I find out more about the game.

Marvel’s Avengers

Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZh4uQYDlsA

So this one is the one that I was most excited for when E3 started, but while the trailer is excellent (in terms of visuals), I’m much less interested in it than all the others on this list now that I’ve seen it. For one, even though it is less than a year away (11 months approx.), it has very little in the way of gameplay, which is a red flag to me. The short snippets of gameplay inside the trailer seems to be what I’m looking forward to in a game, but I’ll only know once I see more. Also, there are rumblings (rumors) that this game will be structured much like Destiny, Destiny 2, and Anthem. While (unlike some gamers), I’m not opposed to an online, co-op, Avengers game, I wish that it was structured differently.

Cyberpunk 2077

Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2bFDPWOq5A

Lastly, this game is one that quite a bit of my enthusiasm has fallen for thanks to how hard CD Projekt Red, the development studio loves Microsoft and continues to use this game as a premiere game on their stage (even though it is for Playstation 4 and the PC as well). Even without that disadvantage out of the way, I’m not sure that the first person perspective is the best for this game. I really liked the 3rd person perspective of The Witcher games, but first person doesn’t really sell me on game. Also, the female protagonist version of the main character was shown the first time the company demoed this game, but it was the male version this time and the male version was the “generic guy” that we see in many sci-fi universes. Not very interesting.

Sidney

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  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

To Begin, Begin

To begin, begin--William Wordsworth
Image Source: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/william_wordsworth_120835

Over the past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote. It is a quote from Wordsworth and it was on Duotrope’s splash page. I think they rotate those quotes monthly (or so), but this is the first time that I’ve paid attention to it this year. It struck me because of my “Year of Shadow” where I’m trying to branch out into various other mediums based on the short story that I’ve sold a while back (Ship of Shadows). What I’m hoping to do (which I’ve mentioned before) is to really understand my characters more. To me, the simplest way of doing this is to explore my the characters that I create would be to look at their lives at different stages of their live cycle. So, I’ve been brainstorming this for most of the summer and I think I’ve come up with a way to do this–now I just have to “begin.”

Living the Life

So, one of the things that I’m really hoping to do is to simply have fun with the projects. That is one of the reasons why I stopped working on DSRV Outrider because I had already “told” the story in short-story form. I was trying to simply “re-tell” it in graphic novel form, but it wasn’t working. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I needed to really “adapt” the story to fit the new format (and not just do a 1-to-1 retelling of it), so that it would be new, fresh, and exciting–both for the readers, but also for me, the writer, to work on. It’s hard to be enthused about a story that you’ve already done. I wanted to do something new and fresh and that’s where “living the life” came in. I just pretended to be both the character and the reader and what would I want to see the character do as a reader (what would be cool?), but also, what would the character logically do in this situation? This is also something that I thought about and came up with a couple of good ideas (at least, I think they’re good–we’ll see when I start submitting the script).

To Begin, Begin

I guess the reason why Wordsworth’s quote lodged into my brain is that there is no real reason not to begin. So I took a moment to write down my ideas–not just for the Graphic Novel, but for the novel, screenplay, and pilot episode for a TV episode as well. These have all been kicking in my mind, so I might as well write them down and work on them in small notational increments. Who knows where they might lead? For instance, if I’m able to do enough research in my (limited spare time–maybe in between loading a game or a level in a game), I might be able to do enough research to find a basic plot that I want the character to try to go through and if I can turn enough of those plot elements into paragraphs, then come November when NaNoWriMo is happening, I might (just might) have enough to turn those paragraphs into pages. The same with scenes. A scene can be a sentence or two long so that I know how the character will try to solve the problems in a plot. Did you know that many of today’s blockbusters have only 25-35 scenes (and some of those are taken up by intro titles and credits–and these days, mid-credits/post credit scenes). The Lord of the Rings (extended editions) movies clock in at about 50-60 scenes, but these are the exception to the rule. If I can find one major problem for my character (and perhaps one secondary one–or make it an external/internal project), then I might be able to swing a screenplay as well.) Now, all of this is contingent on my availability of time with school & work, but there’s no reason not to begin. Even if I have to “bleed” the Year of Shadow into 2020, I still feel like not trying is worse than trying and failing at it, so here we go!

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

Book Haul for June 2019

Several Fantasy novels displayed on a table with the spines and titles facing the viewer.
Image Source: https://www.nosegraze.com/january-2018-book-haul-wrap-up/

It is about halfway through the month and I realized that I hadn’t yet talked about the books that I bought for this month. I bought two books from McKay’s Used Book Store, a local used book store in the TN area (they may have stores elsewhere, but I don’t think so). I really prefer our local Friends of the Library book sale (the proceeds go back to help fund library events). I think I remarked on this previously, but as a child, I used to get an allowance and it allowed me to get approximately 2 books per month (paperback novels were about 3.95 on average, rising to 4.95, then to 5.95 at the end of my childhood).

Movies, Edited by Gilbert Adair

Film strip on a purple background framed by a gray border on the left and right sides.
Image Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/524993.Movies?ac=1&from_search=true

Movies, Gilbert Adair (Ed.), (ISBN 0141180846)

This is an edited collection of essays dealing with movies. I bought it because I really wanted to get more invested in my “specialization” field of film. While I’ll probably never be a “true” cinephile, I do love movies and (before I started the PhD program), I tried very hard to watch a film every week–either through Netflix or through Blu-Rays. The essays in the book run the gamut from theory, the pioneering aspects of movies, to the movie-going experience and even creating. It is a fairly large book (447 pages), but the essays (a least the ones that I’ve read so far) are fairly short (3-5 pages). I’d love to say that I’m going to finish the book this month, but chances are good that its going to take me at least two months to truly finish it. So, far I’m reading the theorizing section, but what I’ve read so far is fairly interesting.

It was the back cover blurb that caught my eye: “At the turn of the millennium cinema permeates all of our lives. From the Lumiere brothers’ first public film screening at the end of the nineteenth century to the technical wizardry at the end of the twentieth, it has both recorded and created our history. Its images and icons are part of our collective consciousness. We are all film buffs now.” In so many ways, this is true. While my lexicon is made up of the Force from Star Wars, today’s generation’s “Force” is J. K. Rowlings’s Harry Potter films. Those are the touchstone films that the newest generation understand and can reference–there “force” is the “Dementors” as I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of something “wraith-like” being described as looking like a “Dementor.” Films, do indeed, permeate our culture and are worthy to be studied.

Digital Fantasy Painting by Micheal Burns

A woman with a halter top and gun speaking into a communicator of some kind with two space ships at the top and bottom of the image and there is a warrior holding up a shining sword in the bottom left hand corner.
Image Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21093633-digital-fantasy-painting?ac=1&from_search=true

Collins Digital Fantasy Painting by Michael Burns (ISBN 0007160038)

This is a book that I picked up on a bit of a lark. There was another book that I wanted, but that book was far more expensive than I wanted to pay at the moment, so I got this one instead. Now, anyone who knows me realizes that art (outside of words) is not one of my strengths. I see the images in my mind, but (as we know from my writing), I often get frustrated when I can’t duplicate the images exactly on to paper. Now magnify that frustration by a factor of 10 when I try to do art. What I see so clearly in my mind, doesn’t even come close to being replicated by my fingers and it’s so infuriating that I can’t reproduce it. I did do a stint in the 11th and 12th grades where I tried to work on my artistic abilities, but the progress was so slow that I realized that, not only would it take years to progress to any decent sort of ability, but also that it would probably take away time from writing and becoming a better writer, so I slowly let the idea of art fade.

So why did I pick up this book? Well, it at least gives me insight into the processes and ideas and techniques that real artists use to create their works, especially in the “new” digital arena. Add to the fact that these are fantasy works and it was almost a no-brainer. The factor that cinched it for me, however, was the fact that there was a section on creating “maps” for fantasy worlds. As a fan of maps and a hopeful novelist one day, I feel that creating maps is something that I can do artistically. Some of my earliest “works of art” were hand-drawn maps of various countries for school “reports” about those countries. Having a book that gives me concrete techniques for doing something that I used to do as a child pretty much sealed the deal. I’ve started the book, but haven’t gotten that far. The book is short, however, and at 160 pages (many with illustrations), this is one that I do feel that I can finish sometime this month.

My goal is to get 1-2 books each month (like I did as a child). Since I probably will only finish one of these two books this month, next month might be a chance to get that more expensive book that I saw (if it is still there) so as not to get more books than I can read (I have too many unread books now, so I don’t need any more). Still, hopefully next month I can update you on 1-2 more books that I’ve added to my collection! Have a great weekend!

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

E3 And Me–2019 Edition

Final Fantasy VII Remake characters looking out at the audience--Cloud and Tifa.
Image Source: https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/10/18660638/square-enix-e3-games-trailers-announcements-final-fantasy-7-avengers-e3-2019

So, this is my annual look at E3 and the new games that are coming out over the next year. I’ll try to be more consistent in putting up the games that I’m interested in than I was last year (2018), but I won’t take over the blog with them like I did in 2017. I’ll probably just do one or two (at the max) per week.

However, based on what I’ve seen so far, this year seems to be more of a “winding down year.” Both Playstation and Microsoft have “talked about” (not formally announced, but discussed in fairly candid details) of the new systems that they are working and that are rumored (and expected) to come sometime in 2020. I think I heard one of the correspondents on YouTube refer to E3 this year as “lackluster.” However, there were some games that excited me, so I’ll talk about them briefly here.

Watchdogs Legion

Source: YouTube (Watch Dogs: Legion)

This game is a continuation of the Watch Dogs franchise. I’ve bought and played the two previous entries in this series. The 2nd game seemed a little cramped and I never finished it, although I still intend to go back at some point and seriously try to finish it. However, Watch Dogs Legion intrigued me because it shows not only the detailed open world that Ubisoft is known for, but also showed that the game allows you to recruit (supposedly) anyone from the game world to become part of the resistance. The premise looks cool as does the setting (the near future city of London), so I’m most definitely intrigued.

Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

Source: YouTube (Star wars: Jedi Fallen Order)

Okay, so this one is by EA and my disdain for some of their practices is well known. However, this one actually looks like it might be fun and interesting. I think that it really helps that it is a single player game and is focused on a strong narrative. Depending on how this development goes for the game, I’m may not pick it up immediately, but I actually may give it a look (which for a game published by EA) is an accomplishment.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Source: YouTube Final Fantasy 7 Remake

This is one that I’m personally looking forward to simply because, while I was around and knew about the original FFVII, I never played it–in its proper game form. I actually played a demo of it from a demo disc (remember those old things?). However, both my uncle and I had noticed the (unfortunate) tendency of JRPGs of the time period to follow the same “young boy who saves the Earth” motif. As such, I decided to pass on the series until FFXIII (I did also play the demo for FFX, and I really liked it and played it multiple times, but ultimately decided to pass on it). However, having put time into the Final Fantasy series, I’d like to see what this game has to offer. Yes, I know it doesn’t accurately replicate the original game, but I just want to get a sense of the story and characters (and for me, getting that in a new, shiny wrapper, just seals the deal).

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel (Sci-Fi)
    (Current Longer Work-in-Progress) 
    Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

Reworking My Writing

Chart of the Writing Process: Prewriting, Drafting, Revising, Editing, Evaluating, Publishing.
Image Source: https://www.dailyinfographic.com/the-writing-process-infographic

If you take a gander at the “What I’m working On” section at the bottom of this post (and all of the following posts after this one, you’ll see a slight change. Previously, I had been doing a poor job of trying to list the many different projects that I was working on to give you an idea of where I was in my (many, perhaps too many) writing projects. However, due to the sporadic nature of me getting to work on my writing, I’ve found it difficult to keep up with the upkeep on keeping my writing projects current.

Brandon Sanderson Effect

I really liked the way Brandon Sanderson does his “updated projects.” Now, Brandon is one of my current favorite writers. I really like how he provides a “status bar” for his projects that “gamify” his progress on his projects. I’m not nearly that savvy in terms of graphics, so I don’t know how to gamify my writing in the same way. I tried to do it in the same way as Brandon’s site (just without the graphics), but its just not working. So I’m going to change the way I’m listing them at the bottom.

The Mythic Magazine Effect

Mythic Magazine, a market that I’ve submitted to frequently in the past two years (but haven’t yet had a sale to them yet). However, they have a submissions period of twice a year. So, what I’ve decided to do is to list the projects that I’m working on for that market and how close I’m to finishing it (especially in terms of deadline). I really only have enough time to work on two projects at a time (a shorter one and a longer one). The longer one will be listed as well, but it will be the one that I’ve been working on for a while. That one I’ll update quarterly, while the other two will be updated monthly (my preferred working time-frame).

I’ll also keep readers of the blog up-to-date on projects that have been accepted and where they are in the production process. I currently have one project, HawkeMoon, that I can sort of update everyone on so far.

Anyway, its getting late, so I’ll wrap it up now. Check out the new listing down below. I hope you like it!

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

Bumblebee Mini-Review

Movie Poster with BumbleBee and two lead characters beside the Golden Gate Bridge.

Over the Memorial Day Weekend, I saw the Transformers Prequel movie, Bumblebee, and thought I’d take a moment to write up my thoughts about it. I thought that it was a pretty fun movie, although I thought that it was a little small in its scope. I’ll try to keep this review spoiler free (although I might need to discuss certain elements to talk about in regards to other Transformers movies) so I can’t promise that this will be completely spoiler-free (I’ll try my best).

Not Sprawling, But Still Good

One of the things that I liked about the movie was that it was a more contained movie. While I liked the Transformers movies, the first one specifically, I found that the later movies were just a little too long and didn’t have the same narrative coherence as the earlier movies (especially the first one). In other words, the other movies had become bloated and a bit of a mess, while Bumblebee was much more of a conventional movie with a 3 Act structure. I think that this added in my enjoyment of the movie immensely as I felt that it allowed the characters to shine, especially in regards to their motivations–something that I think was lacking in other Transformers movies.

Not Quite Enough Action

So, if there’s one thing that I could fault the movie for, then it would be the fact that while there’s action in the movie, it doesn’t really have the level of action that I would like. While an action movie, some of the elements are very much cut down or minimized. The writers, while looking for characterization and humor, downplay the action of the piece and (for me) that really made it not as fun as it could have been.

For instance, the scene in which she is goaded into diving, but ultimate decides to not do it, while revealing character, is something that doesn’t really work for me–I think it could have been revealed in a different way.

Overall Grade: B-/C+

I liked the increased focus on characterization, but not at the expense of the action of the Transformers’ movies. While more intimate and character-focused, it also lost a lot of the grandeur of the original film. This is why I think I was always so resistant to focusing on character–too much on character and not enough on the plot can leave a movie (or story) that should feel “epic” as feeling underwhelming rather than truly epic.

Sidney

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  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)