Doctor Who: Series 1 Mini-Review

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So, I’m re-watching Doctor Who again from the beginning as I would like to do an academic paper on it in the near future (especially in light of the casting of Jodie Whitaker as the first female Doctor).  I finished the first season of the show’s reboot from 2005 with Christopher Eccleston playing the Ninth Doctor and this is a mini-review of the season (full disclosure–I’ve seen this season already, back in 2005, although as I’ve noted before, this was before I understood how British TV worked and so I thought I’d missed episodes when in fact, I hadn’t).

Series 1 Grade: A (Excellent)

Is this season perfect?  No, it isn’t, but it re-established Doctor Who in the public consciousness and brought a clever, fun, and sometimes dour Doctor to the screen.  I’d only seen 1 or 2 episodes of the Doctor before this (I distinctly remember a story involving K-9), but as I was a child and had little reference for a time-traveling alien who changed his faces, I wasn’t able to become a “Whovian” until this reboot hit the air waves.

Eccleston has a pluckiness that he infused into the Doctor’s personality.  Eccleston’s Doctor could be dour and serious as the situation called, but there was an attitude of irrepressible joy (almost puckishness) in the delight that he got from traveling time and space in the TARDIS, captured perfectly by his catchphrase of “Fantastic!”  Billie Piper as Rose was also a great companion.  It is been note that the audience sees the Doctor and the world the eyes of the companions and Piper’s Rose has both that wide-eyed wonder and plucky demeanor that allowed me to become part of the Doctor’s circle.  The stories were varied and (mostly) hit for me, with only the odd episode just out of tune here or there.  While there were a few “dark” episodes, they mostly tended toward the lighter side during this first season with a recurring “motif” linking the episodes (I won’t spoil it in case you haven’t seen the show).

In closing, I really liked what they did with Series 1 of the show and watching it again reminded me of why the show managed to grab me as an adult in the way it couldn’t when I was a child.  More emphasis on characterization, storytelling, and special effects were able to pull me deeper into the story than ever before.

Writing a new Screenplay

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The Black List Logo (Find Screenplays. Get Found.) http://blcklst.com Image Source: linkedin

I “accidentally” started a screenplay on Saturday night.  I say accidentally because I wasn’t planning on it.  However, a scene came to mind that seemed to be both a cool action scene at once as well as a way to visually tell the backstory of the character.  I’ve only started the scene, but I wanted to fix the image in my mind on paper before it got away.  I wrote several paragraphs and then went back and outlined what happens in that scene.  When I get through writing it, I’m hopeful that it will be completely self-contained with no dialogue from either the main character or any other characters.  It should be 3-5 minutes (pages) long, but in that time you should know who the protagonist is and why he is doing what he is doing.

This is for a project that I’ve already published a short-story for and this is part of that “working smarter, not harder” paradigm that I’ve been trying for since spring of this year.  This is the 2nd script that I’ve attempted–I finished my first script (FREEFALLING–a short script of about 6-8 pages).  That one also did not have any dialogue, but it does have a beginning, middle, and end.  I was going to put it on a website that features short scripts called The Black List, but balked as you’d have to join the Writer’s Guild of America.  Registration is cheap, but I don’t like being forced into things (if you can’t tell from my other blog posts). However, most agents won’t look at anything less than a feature length script, so if I want exposure for FREEFALLING, The Black List is my only real option.

I haven’t decided how long this new script will be.  If it turns out to be a feature length script (120 pages), then I’ll send it out to agents, but if it is a shorter script, then I’ll put it on the Black List and see what happens.  While it wasn’t what I was intending to write over the weekend (I have both school assignments and a Graphic novel script that I needed to work on), it was what demanded to be written at that moment.  I really hope something good comes out of it!

The Dark Tower

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The Childe (Apprentice Knight) Roland holding up a sword.  Book Cover.  Image Source: GoodReads.com

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The Man in Black vs The Gunslinger (Stephen King’s The Dark Tower). Movie Poster. Image Source: Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A movie version based on Stephen King’s Dark Tower series releases this weekend and the reviews are not favorable.  It currently stands (Aug. 4) at 18% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I’m actually ambivalent and conflicted about how I feel about this development.

On one hand, I’d like to see this movie be successful because it stars a Person of Color (Idris Elba) in a lead role playing someone other than a “drug dealer”/”gangster”/”any other stereotypical roles” that people of color are generally relegated to in movies.  Also, I’ve read quite a few books of this series and I know how the story ends, so even though this series isn’t one I’m invested in, I do have familiarity with the material, so I’d like to see a good adaptation of it just for that reason.

On the other hand, everyone seems to forget that Stephen King didn’t “invent” the “modern” conception of the Dark Tower.  That honor goes to Robert Browning in his poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.”  And even he wasn’t the first as the title appeared as a line in Shakespeare’s King Lear.  And even though we don’t where it originated, we can assume that Shakespeare borrowed it from an even older source.  My point is that the Robert Browning poem is old enough to be in the public domain and ANYONE can write stories based on it.  Stephen King didn’t invent the Dark Tower, he only popularized it and moved it from the realm of English Literature classrooms out into the general public.

Yet, whenever someone mentions the Dark Tower, immediately the discussion turns to Stephen King’s universe.  For me, as a lover of the Dark Tower mythos (remember, I even had a board game called the Dark Tower as a child), this is more than aggravating.  It would be as if Disney’s Snow White was the ONLY version of Snow White being talked about, when we know that there are a multitude of versions out there.  Yes, Disney’s version gets the lion’s share of attention, but there is still space for other stories based on the fairy tale to exist and thrive, which is NOT the case with the Dark Tower.

I guess I’m writing all of this to say that a part of me is glad that the Dark Tower failed as a movie.  Not for any malicious intent or even to make Stephen King any less rich (it won’t), but rather that now, perhaps, other stories based on the “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” can find purchase in the public consciousness and that Stephen King’s version of the Dark Tower doesn’t become the only version of the Dark Tower that exists in the world.  “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” is a remarkably rich and varied poem–other writers should be allowed to formulate successful stories and worlds with the Dark Tower as a backdrop just as King was allowed to do by the publishing industry.

Reaction Videos

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Two ladies reacting (laughing) at a video of dancers. Image Source: blogs.wsj.com

I’ve recently (since last year) become enamored with “reaction videos” on YouTube.  This is a sub-genre where people watch various media (usually trailers) and film their reactions to them and then usually they give some sort of impression of what they think after the trailer & reaction is over.

Usually YouTubers do the: 1) because trailers are short (generally anywhere from 2-3 mins. long), 2) because they don’t generally run afoul of copyright laws per se as the works are copyrighted, but the whole goal of a trailer is to be a sort of “commercial” for the movie, game, or whatever media, so generally speaking, publicity and legal departments are okay with the sharing, reediting, and remixing of the trailers (longer content is trickier as you have to limit your use to small clips of the content), and 3) they’re a popular sub-genre on YouTube.  They can bring in tens of thousands of views for really well done reactions and can help a fledging YouTube “channel” get off the ground or stabilize the viewership (& add new subscribers to a mid-sized channel).

The process is fairly simple–I’ve thought about, but so far, discarded the idea of doing reaction videos myself and posting them to YouTube as you really only need picture-in-picture software as most smartphones and laptops have the other necessary equipment (video recording, audio recording, and video editing).  The iPhone has all of that and I’m pretty sure Android and Google phones have them as well.  If you interested in a slightly more better set up, be sure to visit the following link for more information on making a reaction video: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/how-to-make-reaction-video/

The reason why I’m writing a blog about this is two-fold.  Well, actually tri-fold, but I’ll get to that in a minute.  1) I would like to start doing scholarship on this particular sub-genre.  I’m going to try to see if I can’t somehow pick a reaction/group of reactions and break down some of the rhetorical implications of what is going on in the video.  I have Narratology class coming up in the Fall, and while I know that I probably won’t get to pick movies and TV shows to do, if at all possible, I’m going to see if I can’t find some way to work a reaction video into the scholarship (paper, discussion post topic, whatever) and then see if I can build off that, 2) I think that I’m going to assign this as some sort of project in my freshman classes.  I haven’t decided if I’m going to make it a major project, or as something that we do along the way (like a two-week project that we do in addition to the normal classwork), but I’d like to have the students get comfortable with “producing” using video/audio techniques and understand the rhetorical implications behind their choices, and 3) (maybe) I’d like to actually add in reaction videos for this blog (& YouTube) for things like E3 videos and Comic-Con trailers (& Super Bowl trailers/commercials).  I haven’t decided if I’m “going to go there,” but if I decide to do so, then that would be the obvious places to start (& as they happen yearly, it wouldn’t mean too much of a time investment for me).

I’ll consider it.  In the meantime, here is a trailer reaction to the upcoming movie, “IT” by Stephen King that is particularly creepy.  The YouTuber is Grace and her channel is one where I watch content regularly.  Here is her Reaction to the IT “Teaser” Trailer and here is her Reaction to the IT “Official” Trailer.  Hope you enjoy!  P.S.  This reaction IS for a HORROR movie–you have been warned!

Let’s (not) talk about CBS All Access

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So one of the new TV shows that I was all set to talk about was the new Star Trek show that will be debuting in the Fall.  New Star Trek show, you say?  Wait, why haven’t I heard of this new show?  Because, instead of being rational and putting this show on CBS or a traditional streaming service such as Netflix or Hulu, CBS is going to leverage this show and only put it out in the US and Canada on its new fledgling streaming service, CBS All Access for $5.99 a month. 😦

That’s right, instead of going the traditional route and having commercials pay for the program, or a distributor (such as Hulu or Netflix) pick up the show and pay for it, they are going use it as the backbone leverage consumers to pay for yet another online streaming service in order to get access to their programs.  Not only do they want advertisers to pay them (for the programs on CBS), but they also want consumers to pay them as well.  Just like HBO Go, CBS executives see consumers as a pot of gold that they want “access” to, but unlike HBO Go, CBS isn’t a premium service.  The only way you can get HBO is to be a cable subscriber–HBO Go was designed for “cord cutters” like me who wanted just the content they want and nothing extra, which is something cable companies still in 2017 won’t let you do.  CBS has no legitimate reason to withhold content except profit, or in this case greed as they have a channel on “free” TV as one of the big 3 networks–ABC, NBC, CBS.

Why is it greedy, you might ask?  They’re a company and they are in business to make a profit, right?  Then I ask you, why, oh why, are they allowing Netflix to show the new Star Trek show a day after it premieres on CBS All Access all over the world EXCEPT in the US and Canada?  Two words, “online piracy.”  CBS knows full well that pirates all over the world are not going to stand for “locking down of content” in this way.  So this it their bet, give everyone else an opportunity to get it legitimately, but force consumers in the US and Canada not to have an option to get it anywhere but though our All Access service.  There is no reason why CBS could not have included the US and Canada in their negotiations with Netflix other than the desire to use the show to launch their own streaming service.  Netflix would love to be the premiere player in the streaming world as is in a two-way dogfight with Hulu and Amazon.com Prime streaming.  You know that a new Star Trek show on their network would be a feather in their cap (esp. since Amazon won the rights to the Grand Tour with the former hosts of Top Gear).

Much like the AMC foolishness with Spider-Man Homecoming, companies continue to shoot themselves in the foot through outlandish schemes to increase their revenue streams.  Here’s an idea (one that I’m ardently trying to follow myself as a writer): put out a high quality product that is so good that it gets people excited and talking about it and makes them want more in that universe and makes them look forward to the next project that you’re working on and the next after that and so on and so on and so on . . .

That (in my opinion) is a truly sustainable business model.

(Belated) Comic-Con Post: Blade Runner 2049

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This was the post I was planning to write on Saturday before the world went all topsy-turvy on me.  It will finish out the Comic-Con announcements that I was most interested in.  I will return to a couple of Comic-Con based news items that I want to touch on briefly, but I will save those for later posts.

Blade Runner 2049Blade Runner 2049 Trailer–features a new “detective” and a return by Harrison Ford as the old “detective” in a world of Replicants (human-like androids).  Featuring a new villain, this is a sequel that will probably also serve to bring the “Blade Runner” story to a new generation.

I saw the original Blade Runner on cable as a child.  I liked it, but it wasn’t a favorite.  Although it achieved cult status as one of the first visions of what a “cyberpunk” society might look like on the big screen, it was never more than just a simple Sci-Fi movie to me (just as LadyHawk was a typical Fantasy movie of the time).  I was much more into the more mainstream franchises of Star Wars and Star Trek and the Alien/Aliens duology out at the time.

It will be interesting to see the reception to the film.  Outside of quirky films like The Fifth Element, cyberpunk as a genre doesn’t seem to really do all that well in the film media (as evidenced by the lack of success of the movie version of Ghost in the Shell earlier this summer).  However, where cyberpunk really shines is in the realm of anime. Many of today’s generation grew up on anime shows, while I, unfortunately, was about 5 years before the boom of anime–I saw some early anime, but the real revolution happened while I was in college and during the first years of my first job, so I missed out on a lot of shows that contained a heavy amount of cyberpunk influenced narrative.  It will be interesting to see if movie-goers embrace this new attempt or if it, like it’s predecessor, will also only be cult hit.

 

 

Sometimes the Bear Eats You :(

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To say this weekend has been a total and utter loss would be pretty accurate.  I had a big project to do and to turn in for today, but little did I realize the amount of crap that life has in store when you are only trying to do the right thing.

Car: First on the list was my car.  I went in for a simple oil change, but the check engine light came on, so I asked if they could check it, but a full diagnostic was over a hundred dollars, far more than my meager budget would allow.  They did give scan the computer and my car has some serious issues that I’m going to have to repair as soon as possible.  I asked them how much they charged to fix a slow leak in a tire and they said they’d do it for free, but then they recommended I replace the tire (I was going to do it when I got the other work done), and since I didn’t replace the tire, they apparently didn’t plug the leak as I had to fill it with air before my drive to school.  That was my Saturday done and dusted.

Project: So I have a project where I have to remediate (change media) of a book that I read for class.  The book was on video games and learning and literacy, and I decided to do screenshots and short video clips to illustrate the book’s points, so it was just playing games all weekend.  Well, yes and no as I had to specifically look (or set up) game play elements matching the scholarship for the book.  Not to say it wasn’t fun, but there are games that I needed to play for the assignment that I wouldn’t have played normally and vice versa.  The PS4 let me save screenshots and clips and then transfer them to a USB drive, but that was my Sunday.

Student Loan: So, Monday was assemble the project, right? Nope–student loan issues came to fore.  I won’t bore you with the details, but needless to say I had to seek alternate funding after a loan that I was approved by my bank for was nixed by MTSU at the last minute.  I spent most of Monday afternoon in a loan office and then had to drive up to school after dinner.  I’ve had 3 hours of sleep and I worked on and finished my project at about 4:00 am this morning (Tuesday).  So, everything’s copacetic, right?

Project x2: Well, it would be if I could actually send the professor the project.  I can’t!  It is 2.95 GB in size, far larger than most email programs will handle.  Free Dropbox access tops out at about 2 Gigs and their are places that will handle large files, but they are “sketchy” at best.  OneDrive will handle 15 GB, but when I tried to upload it, the time-frame was 3 hours.  So I’ve got this nice, multimodal Presentation with screenshots and video clips and a podcast, and no way to get it to the professor.  As I type these words, I’m trying to get it on to a flash drive, but the program is still working even after over 30 mins and I think that it is frozen.  I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do.  It’s here and finished and I want to send it to him, but I can’t and it is so frustrating!