Star Wars The Last Jedi

 

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This is another shorter blog today–I have a feeling that this will be the case until Fall Break next week, but a couple of big trailers dropped over the past couple of days.  Today, I want to (briefly) talk about Star Wars The Last Jedi (SWTLJ) and my feelings about it.

I’m including a link to the trailer below, in case you haven’t seen it, but I’m going to be honest here.  From a flat out fan of ALL things Star Wars (even the Prequels–which I dislike), I’m not really excited by this trailer.  Now, there are elements of the trailer that are really exciting–such as the apparent fight between Finn and Captain Fasma, a look at Supreme Leader Snoke, a new (furry) alien, and space battles–lovely, lovely space battles, but on the whole, I’m not really interested in where the trailer seems to be heading: Luke tries to teach Rey, fails because of her immense power, and she joins with Kylo Ren, the most angsty teen villain I’ve seen since the Twilight movies.

Ugh.

Now, I’ll reserve judgment until I actually see the movie, but this trailer did nothing to get me truly excited to see it.  The music wasn’t epic, Rey’s journey/Finn’s journey didn’t come through, way too much Kylo Ren–I mean, he is the villain isn’t he.  Why the heck do we get to see his journey?  He isn’t the heart of the movie; that honor goes to Finn and Rey.  I could go on and on, but I just don’t have the time.

From a life-long Star Wars fan, here’s hoping that the movie is much better than the trailer.

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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!

(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.

 

 

Comic-Con Week: “IT” (Stephen King movie)

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Pennywise from IT (Image Source: Pinterest)

Okay, so I’m cheating a little with this one.  “IT,” the upcoming movie based on the Horror novel by Stephen King did make an appearance at Comic Con, but it was in a panel session and did not release a trailer to the public over the weekend (I think they called it the “IT” Experience).  However, yesterday they released a super-creepy official trailer to go with their super-creepy teaser trailer from earlier in the year.  So I’m going to feature it in Comic-Con week even though the trailer released afterwards.

So this movie–IT Movie Trailer–looks to be a full-on horror movie.  I don’t really like horror movies, but having said that, I may try to see this in the theaters.  I’m still undecided.  The thing that I like about this one is that, like Stranger Things, it follows a cast of children trying to overcome the “Big Bad” in the small town of Derry where they live (in this case a clown).  Stranger Things was influenced a lot by the works of Stephen King and I really enjoyed the themes and way that ST turned out.  From the trailers, this movie seems to have been inspired by ST, but wants to amp up the scare factor.  And that’s where I may have to “tap out.”  I may have mentioned it before, but I’m more into suspense than pure horror in that I prefer a mystery (it can be a creepy mystery), but I like there to be a problem to be solved rather than feeling horror and dread for characters.  I can’t quite tell which way this movie is leaning as there are aspects of both the creepy mystery angle and horrific jump-scares in both of the trailers.

Another thing is (again) the nostalgia factor.  I have read the novel (it’s been some time ago, however) and I have watched the TV movie version from the 1980s(?).  So I’m fairly familiar with the characters, plot, and conflicts, but I’d like to see the 2017 take on the work to see how it stacks up to the other forms that the story has taken.  And even if I don’t see it in the theater, I will probably see it at some point just for “completeness” sake.

Comic-Con Week–Stranger Things Season 2

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Image Source: SDCC Blog

So the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) or Comic-Con as it is usually referred to, happened this week and this is a celebration of all things comic book related, but also it is a huge intersection for Science Fiction and Fantasy.  While I’m not really a “con” guy myself, I still have found myself drawn to Comic-con because of all the announcements and trailers of upcoming Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Comic Book movie properties in the past few years.

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Stranger Things Season 2 (Image Source: CNN)

So this week, like E3, I’m going to take a moment to highlight some of my favorite announcements/trailers from the convention.  Today it’s going to be Stranger Things, Season 2.  My understanding is that this series (Netflix only) appears on Halloween (Oct. 31) and I’m pretty stoked about it.

Even though I’m linking the trailer in this blog post–Stranger Things, Season 2 Trailer–I haven’t watched it all the way through.  In fact, I’ve only seen about the first 10 seconds (the very first scene in the trailer).  If you watch those 10 seconds, you’ll see the kids peering into an arcade cabinet and playing a video game, Dragon’s Lair (pictured above).  That video game is one that I played when I was a kid (& bought on my PS3 when it was offered for sale digitally). To steal a line from popular culture, “They had me at Dragon’s Lair.”  I’m in.  I’m hoping that it won’t veer too far into the realm of horror and that it will stay creepy and thrilling without getting to gory, but we’ll see.

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Image Source: Steam

I’m excited for show and based on just the first 10 seconds of the trailer.  Job well done, Netflix marketing department.  Well done.  *Slow clap.*

Interesting SubTitled Films

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Source: Yourlocalcinema.com

So sorry for being away, but I really wanted to make sure that I was completely immersed in my classes before I continued posting, writing, and doing all the things that I normally would do.  In the English class that I teach, I was showing parts of a foreign film and we were analyzing it, when one of the students asked what prompted me to watch this film that has subtitles.  For me, subtitled films are not a consideration.  As long as the film has elements of the fantasy, sci-fi, or (more rarely) horror genres, it doesn’t matter to me whether the film has subtitles or not.  I simply watch it for the story, no matter the need for subtitles.  This, however, got me thinking about some of the movies that I’ve watched with subtitles and I thought I’d list some of the more interesting ones.  Now, these aren’t ones that I think are the best–the first two on the list aren’t very good (from a narrative point of view), but they are interesting examples subtitled movies that make you appreciate them even though they use subtitles.  There are many more and I may (depending on time) update this list from time-to-time to reflect movies that I find interesting that use subtitles.  Below you will find the trailers and a brief description of the movie (from IMDB).

NIGHT WATCH (Russian)

A fantasy-thriller set in present-day Moscow where the respective forces that control daytime and nighttime do battle.

DAY WATCH (Russian)

A man who serves in the war between the forces of Light and Dark comes into possession of a device that can restore life to Moscow, which was nearly destroyed by an apocalyptic event.

KUNG FU KILLER (Chinese)

A martial arts instructor from the police force gets imprisoned after killing a man by accident. But when a vicious killer starts targeting martial arts masters, the instructor offers to help the police in return for his freedom.

DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME

An exiled detective is recruited to solve a series of mysterious deaths that threaten to delay the inauguration of Empress Wu.

ONG BAK (THAILAND)

When the head of a statue sacred to a village is stolen, a young martial artist goes to the big city and finds himself taking on the underworld to retrieve it.

THE WAVE (Norway)

Although anticipated, no one is really ready when the mountain pass above the scenic, narrow Norwegian fjord Geiranger collapses and creates an 85-meter high violent tsunami. A geologist is one of those caught in the middle of it.

Why I Write Fantasy . . .

So the trailer that I’m posting is for Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls Online game.  It is long–it clocks in over 23 minutes, but if you have the time, it is well worth the investment as it helps to illustrate the reasons that I write Fantasy stories.  Go ahead, take a moment to watch it, I’ll wait . . .

Finished?

I hoped you liked it as much as I did.  But in case you didn’t, here are my reasons that I found it inspired:

  1. Larger than Life Characters – There were 3 main characters.  I don’t know their backstories, don’t know their histories, don’t know much about their motivations (other than they seem to want the city/citadel for conquest).  However, you do learn a lot about their personalities through this trailer.  You get a sense that guy with the beard is a “rough and ready” sort of person, the kind of person you’d go drinking with, but definitely not the type person you’d invite to tea with the Queen. There is a gruff, down and dirty feel to him that is emphasized by his headbutting, spitting, and all around mean/callous disposition.  The Ranger of the group seems to have a nobility about him.  He kills with precision, but is never cruel about it in the same way the bearded warrior is and that makes his “corruption” all the more tragic.  His most poignant moment comes when we see him holding the cloth of a presumed paramour as his eyes implore the female elf to end his suffering.  And speaking of the woman elf, she is no damsel in distress.  She is more than capable of holding her own and giving just as well as she gets.  In fact, I would argue she’s the main hero of the trailer in that it is her actions that ultimately save the group from outright death at the hands of the “evil” forces.  Without her quick thinking, the entire group would have mostly likely died on the field of battle.  No, they do not have the emotional depth and growth of characters in War and Peace, but even from this short vignette, we can get a clears sense of who these characters are and what makes them tick.
  2. Stunning Visuals – Computer graphics and imagery are wonderful.  Having grown up in an era of practical effects and now watch CGI, I can see how far the effects industry has come.  However, I would argue that NO visual effect can match the mind’s eye.  Being able to describe on paper all of those cool things that were in that trailer is both my challenge and my reward.  I SEE the stories in my head just like I see these trailers–as movies.  They progress and then they finish just as the trailer did.  My challenge is to find a way to replicate what I see in my Mind’s Eye into words on the page.  Rarely, I get it right the very first time.  More often than not, I get only bits and pieces right while others don’t come out correctly–as that image was “fuzzy” when I was trying to replicate it on the page.  I sometimes have to do 2 or more drafts for the story to come out like I wanted.
  3. Insane World-Building – So what’s on the other side of that Rift that held the anchors?  Why do they want the city/Citadel so badly?  What is the Elf “King” hiding in that city?  Just where did the bearded guy end up at the end of the trailer?  There are so many avenues of exploration for world-building here that one spin stories out for a long time.  That’s what good characters and good world-building gives you, a way to tell stories.  Now, because it is Bethesda’s property, there is already a history and backstory to this world.  If you’re at all interested, check out the YouTube video below (clocks in @11:00 mins).  But just imagine that YOU were the writer of this vignette and the Possibilities that could come from fleshing out this world.  Awesome!
  4. Dramatic Action – This is my final reason and is also my most personal.  For me, History is not a dry thing learned from textbooks and recited from rote memory, but rather a living breathing thing.  It is alive and active.  It moves, it adapts, and it is something that requires action.  Right now, we live in a world of drama (and I mean that in both its formal and slang definitions).  Readers and writers today seem to want to see things that are dramatic, but not necessarily filled with action.  For instance, I find myself rereading an older Fantasy series called the Belgariad and the Mallorean by David Eddings or newer series such as The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson because they are trying to save their worlds from destruction using the tools that they have available.  I personally cannot read popular works such as Game of Thrones because it is “Mean People doing Mean Things to each other and Mean Things to Non-Mean People.”  I tried to read The Game of Thrones but couldn’t get past the first few chapters–not because of the writing, but because they weren’t doing anything but being mean to one another just because they could.  I want to see/write action, where the goals can be large or small (but are usually large) where they struggle and strive rather than bicker, wench, and murder just for the sake of it.  Now, I realize this is probably just me, but to me, action defines a story, not limits it.  Just because there are beautifully choreographed fight sequences, doesn’t make it resonant any less than a story that lacks those same scenes (and the inverse is true as well–a story that lacks action is not inherently more of a story).
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Well, that’s all I have for today.  My next post will *probably* be a post on why I like Science Fiction.  If not, it will come later on this year.  Now to the Weekly Updates:

APPLE ROUTER WEEKLY UPDATE

Soooo, I thought I was over/past the hump on this problem, but it seems not.  On Tuesday, wi-fi began to work properly without me doing anything.  It stayed up through Friday, so I thought everything was fine.  Yet, when I just started to write this blog, Wi-Fi went down and would not let me connect to my laptop.  I had to plug in my ethernet cable and restart in order to write this blog post.  Uggghhh!  So frustrating.

WEEKLY WRITING UPDATE

Soooo, I made a mistake.  As a teacher, I find my body HATES Mondays., trying to get back into the school schedule really does a number on me.  I usually crash 1-2 hours earlier than I do for the rest of the week.  So I don’t even try to write on Mondays.  I start writing on Tuesdays.  Since school started on Tuesday, I  did not write on Monday, but tried to keep to my normal schedule, but found that I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  I did manage 4-5 strong paragraphs on HawkeMoon, but was not able to complete the section, so I’m going to say .5.  Did not get to work on any other projects this week. 😦

  • HawkeMoon (.5 of Section 2 = Total Progress on Story – 1.5 sections done of 4 total sections)