“This is gonna take cracker jack timing, Wang”

I’ve been debating doing  a weekly (or bi-weekly) film review of films I love (or hate) or possibly films I’m seeing for the first time despite how long it has been out. Like a classic 1980’s flick that has flown under my radar or a small, indie film that came out 2014. I think it’d be fun. While I won’t have any great insight to a film (there are lots of folks who know film and pop culture way more than I) it would provide some interesting challenges to myself, such as:

  • Do I write a blog or shoot a video about it? Do I use this as an opportunity to work on my skills in that area?
  • Do I focus on just what I like or dislike about the film? Or do I give some history about  it?
  • What films should I consider? Should I take suggestions?
  • Do I keep this fairly private? Or open it up to the world, putting myself at risk for trolls?

All tough questions. But I do know this…I will do this in some form and I am going to try and have my first review posted by 2/17. And I already know what movie that’ll be…

Biggest Film Disappointments 2016

So a little over a week ago I posted about my top 10 films for last year. If only those had been the only releases in 2016. There were some major disappointments that not only t0ok advantage of my hard earned cash, but also wasted my time. There wasn’t a ton of agreement on my top 10, but I’m fairly certain this list will be very agreeable.

Note: Even if a film is on this list of disappointments, that does not mean I didn’t find it enjoyable or something in there to like. It just means my expectations were not met. 2

Star Trek Beyond – Dir. Justin Lin, Written by Simon Pegg, Doug Jeng

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Of all of the films on this list, this is the one I didn’t expect. As they were announcing the team behind this entry in to the Star Trek film universe, I was pretty happy. Simon Pegg as the screenwriter (love that guy) and Justin Lin as the director (who has produced some pretty enjoyable work.) JJ was still involved as a producer and Idris Elba was cast as well. Everything was looking aces…and then that first trailer dropped. It was like a punch in the gut as disappointment came crashing down on me. Even Pegg spoke out about how crappy of a trailer it was. Yet I still held out hope that it was just crappy marketing and was not an actual reflection of the film’s quality. Turns out the trailer was actually pretty accurate.

Don’t get me wrong, I that the crew of the Enterprise were more than fine. There were some fun action beats. I liked idea of pairing Bones and Spock together for a large chunk of the movie. But everything else just felt…rushed. Rushed as if it was a TV show having to make an episode every seven days. That impression was so strong that the first thing I said to my wife as we left the theater was “I would have enjoyed it so much more if that had been the conclusion of several episode arc on a Star Trek tv series.” Sometimes what was born on TV, should stay on TV.

Independence Day: Resurgence – Dir. by Roland Emmerich, Written by over 5 screenwriters

I was not surprised this one was a disappointment at all. I full anticipated that it wouldn’t be a “quality” movie (this was a Roland Emmerich movie after all) but I was surprised on how it wasn’t a “fun” movie. The first film in this franchise is no brains, all fun (I still get chill’s during Bill Pullman’s “Independence Day” speech.) This one was still all brains, but the film forgot to be fun too. I was promised a fun, spectacle from each trailer that dropped…that’s not what we got. Now, there is a kernel of an idea in this film that I actually really liked and would have enjoyed seeing explored in another movie, but I highly doubt we’ll get that chance.

Suicide Squad – Dir. by David Ayer, Written by David Ayer

Ok, so where to start on this one? The first glimpse we got of this film told us we were in for a ride. It made us feel this was going to inject some life and fun in to the DC cinematic universe. Harley Quinn finally coming in to live action? Jared Leto coming on board as Joker (riding the high of a recent Oscar win)? Will Smith playing the badass assassin Deadshot? David Ayer directing, who’s film End of the Watch blew me away? Sign me up! And when still’s started dropping I was feelin’em. I thought they were pretty creative while still being fairly close to the comics (I particularly loved how they a direct translation of Katana’s look.) While I had issue with the lack of clothing for Harley (not because I was offended, but because I felt it could undermine the character) I was still on board. And then…the Joker picture. Oh man. That picture. It was at that point I felt the movie was in trouble. I know Leto wanted to go a new direction, away from previous incarnations, but there is something to be said with those other versions; they all worked. They all captured the core of what the Joker is. Caesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, and Heath Ledger (I’m also going to include Mark Hamill) provided a different shade to the same character.

But Leto decided to go “F*** that” and do whatever he wanted. His interpretation of the character had little to nothing to do with the Joker of the comics; it was like a meth addict who was trying really hard to be a crime kingpin who was always going to a Halloween party who threw temp tantrums like a 12 year old who kept losing at Call of Duty. Needless to say, he ruined the whole experience for me. And I haven’t even begun on the crappy editing, story structure problems, tone issues, horrible antagonist choice, logic questions, etc. But I don’t have the time. Just know this: This movie has a crap ton of problems.

X:Men: Apocalypse – Dir. by Bryan Singer, Written by Simon Kinberg

This one hurt. After the amazing X-Men: Days of Future Past (which was tightly directed, written, and edited) I was riding high on my love for X-Men. With this film and Deadpool as well, 2016 was looking to be a banner year for the X-Men cinematic universe. And the trailers and promotional materials had  a few bumps (the purple Apocalypse controversy), but still managed to muster up excitement. I was so ready to declare this the best X-Men movie yet (as well as the most accurate in regards to looks; yay for comic accurate costumes!) but that isn’t what happened at all. The film lacked a soul; it was lifeless and paint by numbers. It was almost as if Bryan Singer and Co. didn’t really care about what they were making; they just wanted to meet a deadline. Oscar Isaac was wasted as the Apocalypse and the movie spent way too much time retreading old ground with the main trio (Lawrence, Fassbender, and McVoy.) It offered nothing we hadn’t seen before in this film universe and at about the halfway point I was begging for the movie to end. It was, for a lack of a better term, just plain boring.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Dir. by Zack Snyder, Written by Chris Terrio and David Goyer

If there was any movie on this list that HAD to deliver, it was this one. Announced to much hype at SDCC several years ago, this film was being portrayed as the epic of all epics in regards to comic book movies. Batman AND Superman in a film together for the first time? Loosely based on The Dark Knight Returns? This has the makings of something great! I was willing to give Snyder some leeway since A) I actually enjoyed MoS and his other big comic book film Watchmen and B) He has talent based upon his reimagining of Dawn of the Dead. And I was on board with the casting; Affleck as the Batman, Gil Gadot as Wonder Woman, and even Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.

But then when the day came upon us for the world to witness BvSDoJ…we saw the mess that it was. YUUUUGGGGEEE plot holes, a unsympathetic Supes, a murderous Batman, and the worst conflict resolution ever conceived (“MMMMMAAAARRRRTTTTHHHHHAAA!!!!!!”) Once the third act was upon us, I didn’t give a crap about any of the characters. Every single one of them had infuriated me beyond forgiveness and I just wanted it to be over. DC had taken characters I grew up loving and made me almost despise all of them. So screw you DC, thanks for that.

Keepin’ it Geeky,

The Oey

 

Donkey! Shrek! (Or How a true friend taught me self worth)

Time for a trip down memory lane…

So back in the day (wow, it is crazy to think I am now at an age where I can actually say that) I had a friend. A very awesome friend. An awesome friend who would become a very loving and caring husband and father who does so much for his family, often at the sacrifice of himself. I may be  a bit older than him, but I look up to the guy. A lot.

He’s been on my mind recently for a couple of reasons, but it all started due to a picture. This picture in fact —>

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Yeah, we kept it cool.

During high school we were pretty inseparable. School, after school, weekends, etc. You name it, we were always finding time to hang. What was crazy about it is that we had varied interests, we weren’t clones of each other. He enjoyed anime and Nintendo games, I was a comic book guy who loved Sony consoles. We did have the sports connection for awhile but towards the end of my time in high school I realized I lacked physical talent while he was overflowing with it. It didn’t matter though, we had a friendship that was deep. It is no stretch to say he was my best friend and our relationship at that time is the standard I use today for true friendship. Since then we have continued living our busy lives, but always staying in each other’s orbits just enough so there would be at least somewhat of a bond. But that’s life ya know? You grow up and other life priorities become more important or take more time.

Yet the reason I look so fondly on our friendship is because of something very important he taught me. Without even realizing it, “E” taught me the meaning of self-worth. Join with me as I recount the tale of his lesson…

Back in high school, I suffered from extremely low self-esteem mixed with slight depression. My close friends were very keen to this fact, while many people in the school were not. I kept my feelings and issues hidden from most. Of everyone I hung out with, probably three people total knew some of what was going on. Only one knew everything. That was E. And I didn’t have to tell him. He just instinctively knew. He never pressed the issue on trying to find out more, he just knew that the best way to help was to be the most awesomest friend he could be. He did that, amazingly.

I always admired the fact that he didn’t really put much stock in to what other people thought of him or his friends. If you were a good person and gave people their proper due, you were cool with him. That’s what made him a friend to pretty much everybody. But he didn’t let that go to his head. He had a strong sense of humility about him that was very inspiring to see.

During my Junior year and his Sophomore, we were both heavily involved in youth group together. It was during this time we would attend youth rallys and other church events. Also during this time, the Shrek movies were very popular (see, the title will finally start to make sense!) During these events a strange thing began to happen. E, due to his outgoing personality and charm, would be called “Donkey” form the movies. I, being slightly closed off and the larger of the two, would start being called “Shrek”.

That became our thing when people saw us. They’d see us walking up to them and they’d be like “Shrek! Donkey!” and we’d all laugh. However, when it first started, I didn’t enjoy it. I was not a fan. I was interpreting the intent different than everyone else. While they may have meant it in jest and were referring to the fact that the two characters were best friends and had a funny back and forth (much like E and I did), I saw it as a subtle insult towards me.

Why am I the ogre? Ogres are considered monsters in most of fantasy lore. Even in the films Shrek is portrayed as a scary monster to normal people with many flaws. Why do I have to be that character?

It weighed on me quite heavily. More than it should have. Yet E either knew this from observing me or just never viewed this nicknaming thing the same as me. It would be his approach to something as simple as a nickname that would teach me a lesson of self worth I still rely upon today.

When E and I would be hanging out, it was very much an equal playing field. Neither one of us was the leader really, we had friendship that was a lot like a collaboration. It was awesome. And when the nickname happened, I was worried the structure of our friendship would change. Yes, this name bugged me that much. Back then, I was known for letting small things bother me in big ways (just ask me about the whole signature fiasco of ’00.)

I don’t know if because E knew me well enough or that’s just the type of guy he is, but it seemed like he made it a point to show that even though there were nicknames given to us that could have an underlying meaning to them, that didn’t matter. We were still that equal partnership. And as this nickname thing continued, E would show in many ways (like a best friend does) that a nickname is just that; a name that is not your real name (sorry if that sounds silly.) To him, I was still best bud. No name or supposed title would change that. And even if someone intended for the nickname to have a deeper meaning, the meaning it was given was not determined by them. It was determined by us, two best buds who really just wanted to have a good laugh and enjoy some Buzzard’s Pizza.

While E did not do anything specific that is earth shattering or mind blowing, E showed that true friendship doesn’t have to do that. All that matters is the respect each gives to each other and 100% acceptance of who they are. It was because he was so good at this that I began to learn what self-worth was; that I wasn’t some ogre that people wanted to get away from. I was a fella filled with joy and caring, as well as a few good jokes. I admit, the lesson wasn’t learned completely that year. But the path towards it started that year. It would come to completion the day I would meet my future wife, Heather.

So thank you E. Without realizing you showed a guy how friendships really work, what it means to value oneself, and set me on the 10 year path that would lead me to eventually win over my future wife. And ya didn’t even have to try. Thanks buddy. You showed me I was a parfait, not an onion.

Keepin’ it Geeky,

The Oey a.k.a. Shrek

Careful, your idea pile is overflowing…

So on Black Friday (which shall now be referred to as “BF” going forward) I can gladly say two things: All of my shopping avoided the BF crowds and were extremely awesome buys. The only store I actually went wasn’t until the afternoon and it was at TableTop Hobby, an amazing boardgames/hobby store that I frequent as often as possible. I picked up Android: Netrunner 2.0 and an expansion pack, which I’ve had my eye on for quite awhile. (Side note: My sis and I spent most of the afternoon and early evening playing Dice Masters and Netrunner at TableTop…was an awesome time.)

The other purchases were, well, less “tangible” I guess. They can’t be physically touched but will have (and already had) a tremendous impact on my filmmaking/creative endeavors. I picked up the complete filmmaker bundle from Triune Films (the guys behind Film Riot, my fav show on YouTube) as well as their “Writing 101 by Seth Worley” lessons. To top it all off, CreativeLive was having a BF sale on Ryan Connolly’s (owner of Triune Films) Guerrilla Filmmaking class that I’ve been interested in for awhile. I am loving all of these digital goodies. Right now I’m diving into the Worley stuff. He talked about one basic idea forming method that I jumped on right away; the Idea Pile.

While I am not going to go too in depth on it (mainly because it is from a paid for product that I am sure Mr. Worley would like to see others pay for), I will see the Idea Pile is genius. It is really how to group all of those random ideas one gets for a film (for example: a random scene, a line of dialogue, a cool moment, a particular camera shot, etc.) By building up this pile until it is overflowing, you can then start placing all of these things on the skeleton of the Three Act Structure. I did this tonight for a cool scene and an interesting character I came up with last night. Several pages later, I have a pretty big idea pile. Time for the next stop, which is when the ideas stop coming. If your ideas stopped coming hard and fast like when you started the Idea Pile, this is the part that will let put some structure to everything you thought of, and then ask questions.

Questions like “what if…” and “why” and “how did this happen” could all then lead to more meat for the skeleton you’ve created. Before you know it you have a full story laid out and now you just need to take that baby and make it in to your screenplay. While I know it is a pretty simple concept, I really dig the idea of turning unbridled imagination chaos into something more concrete ya know?

Keepin’ it Geeky,

The Oey