Monday, June 29, 2015

Movie Review: Jurassic World

 Jurassic World
(2015) on IMDb

Went to see this one Saturday night with my wife, sister, and brother-in-law. I hadn't planned on seeing it in theaters, but they struck up the desire and I went along. We got there early, nailing the best seats in the house (imo) which are the very backrow, center stage. The backrow is best because it's more difficult to hear people talking throughout the movie.

That didn't stop one parent's toddler from shouting and babbling throughout the movie, but hey, that's the 10% rule: There's always 1 out of 10 who will screw something up for everyone else.

But about the movie . . .

Positives: Jurassic World made the striking effort to both recreate the old (1st) movie's feel and pull off something totally new. To bring back the old, they recreated shots from the first movie, made reference to the "old" park, and even the ending battle scene had strong ties to the first film. As for the new, that's plastered just about everywhere, which is Chris Pratt controlling raptors, which I was pleasantly surprised to find that they didn't totally botch that! I mean, really, I think they walked this fine line between old and new quite well, and I can't think of any points that would balance this out further.

The raptor control thing, too, I thought was going to be just horribly lame, ended up being a strong point of the movie. I won't give up too much for spoilers sake, but dinosaurs are basically animals right? You can't mind control an animal, right? Well, thankfully, the film's writers, producers, and directors all managed to remember that! Good on you guys!

The Bad: Never surprised. Never felt in suspense.

No deaths surprised me, nor did any death happen unexpectedly. That dread I first felt when the water shook in the glass on the 1st film? Never felt anything even remotely close to that for the first film expect perhaps the part where the Big-Baddy first escapes and searches for Pratt under the car. Otherwise, I knew who was making it out and who was going to become dino food.

And oh yeah, about those deaths? People dying in this movie was practically comical. Strong dislike for how casual the death of humans was. Meanwhile, we were supposed to character about a dino's death, but just shrug at the British intern forced into babysitting duty? Lame. Lame, lame.

Still though, it was positive enough I gave a 6/10. Worth my time and money, but I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it to anyone nor would I bother seeing it again.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hike to Cloud's Rest

So, yesterday, Ken and I hiked to the top of Cloud's Rest in Yosemite National Park. Per the info on Yosemite Hikes website, that was a 14.5 Mile (23.3 km) round trip in distance and an elevation gain of 1776 feet (#freedom?). It wasn't exactly a strenuous hike, just long with a slight acrophobia test at the end. Not much to look at along the way, either, but the view from the top was excellent.

Here's a short slide show of the trip. Pardon the picture quality. All were taken with my (free) cellphone.

Firstly, you have to know where we were headed. Because we took off at 3am to get to the trailhead at sunrise, I didn't actually snap this picture until we were on the ride back. This is a picture of the ridge we hiked to. It's the one in the center left, at the very top:

Like I said, we took off at 3am to get to trailhead at sunrise and ensure a parking spot. We hit the trail while there was still frost on the grass and the mosquitoes were sleeping. Neither lasted long. We didn't mind, though. This hike was all about the destination, but there were still some cool sites along the way. There was a huge fire in California last year, and some of that devastation was still apparent as we hiked along. We came across a burn-out tree that looked like a set piece for some horror flick and also saw from the top the stark difference in trees from where the fire was stopped.

Just before the top, we got to cross the ridge of acrophobia I'd mentioned. It was certainly narrow, but my fear of heights had been purged a year ago when I decided to pay someone money to throw me out of a perfectly good airplane over Oahu. Here's a look back at that ridge. Remember to take into account we're near 10,000 feet in elevation:

I wasn't happy with that though. Just to test myself further, I went and dangled my feet on the side of the ledge. Not a single tingling sensation. I do believe I'm cured.

Here's our grand picture from the top, looking down on Half Dome and the rest of the valley:

And of course, as promised, the first person to fall asleep got their picture taken. Ha!:

Overall, good hike but I wouldn't do it again unless I was bringing someone who hadn't been before. View from the top was amazing, but I didn't get that real since of accomplishment I felt when I crested Half Dome. Not sure why, but I'm on to other challenges now, looking to climb all over Yosemite and whatever else I can!

Then again, maybe I would do this hike again but instead start from the Valley floor. That's a 20 mile, hike, that is . . .

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Looks like we're headed to Europe!

So my wife and I love to travel. We have a particular desire to travel to places we've never been before, make some memories alongside a little video montage of the event paired along with whatever popular song we feel fits our mood at the time. This is a somewhat new thing, as we've only recently become financially stable enough to truly peruse this passion of ours, but hey, whatever. Better late than never.

And hell, we're not even late. We're in our late twenties!

Long story short, we had planned to travel to Europe next year but after planning out what we'd liked to do, we realized we could actually afford to do it this year! So we're packing our bags and headed out. Here's our itinerary or at least the places we intend to visit!

First stop - Paris!

This was at the top of my wife's list, and also just so happened to be the top (northerly) place of our travel path. We'll be starting our trip off with a bang in this lovely city, all within walking distance of the lovely sights. We'll obviously be hitting the big touristy spots here, seeing the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, and Arc de Triomphe. I hear the wine is cheaper than water here, so you know, I'm all about saving money . . .

Stop 2 - Munich

Gotta have something to wash all the wine down with. Might as well be beer! Hello Oktoberfest 2015!

Stop 3 - Fussen to check out the scenes and castles!

Who doesn't love an old castle, right? Well, being from America, I haven't exactly seen one yet, so this was a definite stop along our trip. I'd like to one day see an old, old castle, but the Neuschwanstein Castle will do for now! If you didn't know, this is the castle the Disneyland one is based off of. One look at this place and my wife said, "There! That one!" I know just what my wife likes . . .

After a long, night train ride, we'll be stopping in Venice next.

Don't worry, we've been warned about the crowds. That's why I think this place will be more enjoyable for us in the evening, but still, the trip just didn't seem complete without it. We'll be spending a few days here, getting off our feet and taking in the sights while enjoying many beautiful sunsets. Also recovering from the cumulative hangovers, probably.

Back on our feet! Florence is up next!

Just a part day here, which truly will not be enough. Still, though, we'll take what we can get. We may return here another trip in the future, but we'll enjoy what we can while we have the time for it now! I here the art in this place is astounding. Will keep you informed.

Pisa, just a touch . . .

Yet another city that won't get the love and attention it deserves. You know what Europe's problem is? Too much history per square kilometer! Still, we'll hit the highlights, snap our pictures, and splash in to see what all the fuss is about!

The beautiful Cinque Terre makes its appearance!

This place you don't see advertised as often as the rest. It lacks a major statue or old church that everyone seems to go crazy for. However, as you can see, this place has the landscape and the setting! Two things my wife and I love! Can't wait to visit these five (seven?) little towns and take a dip in their blue waters, hike among their many trails. I'll certainly need the break from city life by the time we get here.

Last but not least, quite possibly the best - Rome

This is my contribution. I told my wife if we're headed to Europe, then our vacation will include Rome. She had no objections, of course. I'm fascinated with Roman history, cultural, and well, pretty much everything else about the ancient civilization. There's a reason this is our last stop because I'm pretty certain that after seeing this place, nothing else will compare.

Needless to say, I'm stoked.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Where I was at on June 3rd of 2015

I'd completed the writing of the World of Myth series novels 1 through 6. Book 1, Beyond the Plains, had both the editing and the cover completed and was set in stone. Book 2 had its cover complete and the editing was underway. I, meanwhile, had my eye toward the future.

See, I realized when I finished Book #6, A Legend Ascends, I could easily (well, maybe not easily) write another 12 books in this series. I had intended on stopping there, but now I look at the story and it seems incomplete to me. I left the story off with so much more to tell, and I am eager to get underway! However, there's a few issues.

One is the money:

Editing and drawing covers takes money. Sure, I have a steady job and I could easily pay for these services, but it just doesn't make any logical sense at this moment. I haven't started selling any of my first 6 books, and so I don't yet know if any will buy these first 6 books or any of the books I'll write that come after! As much as I enjoy this whole writing thing, I don't want to wrack up debt doing it. If editing and covers were only a hundred bucks or so, then yeah, sure, I'd go for it, but that's not the case. Editing and cover work is a $1000 altogether, so that's a lot to blow on 12 more books when I'm already going to do 6!

Solution: I can write these next 12 books, sure, but I won't pay for them to be edited or have covers done until I make enough money selling the first 6 books to pay for themselves.

Two is the time:

Theoretically, at a rough 100k word-count per book, I could pump out 1 book every 3 months at writing 2k words per day on my first draft. . . theoretically. In truth, however, that's a hard number to stick to and the quality of my writing is going to suffer if I do that. It'd probably be for the best though, in all honesty. If people feel so inclined to read my first 6 books, then want more, they probably love my work and won't notice a dip in quality if that means they get their books sooner.

Solution: do it. Write 2k words per day and pump out these books like they're nothing. I already know how they're supposed to go, I just have to write them. Besides, they might not even be published if the first 6 never sell! I can always go back and polish these bad boys up another time.

So yeah, here I am, writing writing writing like it's going out of style.

Possibly because it is.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

 Avengers: Age of Ultron
(2015) on IMDb

So I was one of the billions of people who watched or will watch this movie. My particular time was Monday at 2:45pm, May 25th 2015. I have to say I was exactly excited to see this movie; I just went like any good sheeple would, feeling the weight of the world bearing down on you that you must go and see this thing because, well by Odin, everyone is!

I should have been excited. I have a minor interest and knowledge into the background of these characters, but I honestly had nothing more than a shallow desire to watch Age of Ultron. Overall, I thought the movie was actually really good, but the problem was that I felt like I'd seen it all before. I wasn't actually shocked at anything in particular or overly stimulated or felt particularly vested. I felt like I was sitting in a different seat of a familiar roller coaster that had long since stopped being a thrill-seeker for me.

The characters didn't really evolve or change much, but nor were they left shallow or untouched. The characters acted along their tried and true strong points, doing as one would expect (and some would say demand) to see. Captain America the good guy, the Hulk the monster, and then Tony the dramatic. Now, don't get me wrong; these guys did their parts well and they get full marks for truly bringing these characters to life, but at that particular moment I was not craving to see the same old thing no matter how well done it was.

The best and biggest positive points for the movie go to the love interest between Black Widow and the Hulk, followed quickly by the witty Ultron.

Love scenes and romantic conflict are hard to do right. I'm an honest believer in that because love is awkward, especially new love. Two people walk on egg shells near each other as they try desperately to close the gap between them and yet hold back for one reason or another. It's usually painful to watch (hence why we all hate PDA unless it's an old marry couple who got their shit down) and thus watching it is usually awkward and cringe-y, too. However, Hulk and Black Widow made their awkward dance fun to watch instead of painful. They were honest, like adults should be, and let their emotions express true through body language as well as words. Also, this was one of the very few areas where character change and development occurred over this movie, and thus I soaked it up at every opportunity.

Point 2: No movie is can be called good with a great villain. Ultron, although not particularly threatening, was interesting to watch. He was witty, like his creator, and had a very human touch to his AI. Most of us expect robots, even "self-aware" ones to lack a personality. They should all be plain, dry, and monotone. However, as I suddenly remembered while watching Ultron, if something is truly an AI, then it should be unique by some degree. It should be able to learn and apply things on its own, thus coming to a different conclusion than another AI given the same data. It should have a personality.

Ultron follows in the footsteps of all the great AI's before him. Cortona from Halo and EDI from Mass Effect, Ultron had humor as well as goals, and I liked him a lot. I almost wanted to see him succeed!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Movie Review: Crank (2006)

By invoking the power of Thor, my sister's cat has finally had its soul cleansed. The ice giants battling for her heart have been driven out by the might of Mjolnir, and in the coming battle of Ragnarok, I intend to ride her as mount that will rival the ferocity of Fenrir himself.

This also means that my nightly binge of Netflix movies is coming to a close.

This last night, I had the pleasure of watching Crank (2006), which is yet another cult classic long on my to-watch list, and yet another title deserving of its status.

The story follows a hitman who is poisoned and forced to keep his adrenaline running at full power to slow his death long enough for him to enact revenge on his killers. It's a singular type of movie focused around one concept of constantly getting the main character jacked through ever increasing demands of craziness, all the while speeding towards certain death. Watching this movie was like watching a train accelerating toward a wall that was constantly moving back. The faster the train went, the further away the wall got, yet you knew that inevitably the train would ram full speed into that wall, and here you are strapped in the driver's seat just clinging onto the armrests white-knuckled, jumping back and forth between "Dear god just get it over with!" and "No No No! Not yet!"

So yeah, it was one really interesting ride well worth watching once through.

No life altering or genre altering stuff happened in this movie. I didn't go cry myself to sleep or rethink my life, nor did I leap up and go "Hell yeah!" However, I had to hand it to this movie on creating a truly unique experience for me none-the-less. It was a wild ride from start to finish that avoiding being shallow, glossed over, or over done. I mean really, with a movie like this, it could have gone wrong so many times and yet it didn't! I'm mostly shocked that the director and writer didn't botch this movie with such a simple and focused plot element.

I know that doesn't sound like high praise, me saying "Hey! Nice job, dude! You didn't mess up when I totally figured you would!" but you have to realize that not-messing up is how you get it right. Crank was supposed to be a wild, crazy ride, and it avoided all the pitfalls that would stop that from happening and delivering an action-packed movie still full of more character development than one sees in over half the romantic comedies and shoot-em-up's that get churned out every summer for chicks/bros to drag their boy/girl-toys too.

I wouldn't watch Crank twice, but I'm really glad I watched it once. If you ever find yourself cat-sitting one of Satan's brood, I'd highly recommend this movie.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Movie Review: The Blues Brothers (1980)

My sister's cat is still possessed by Cthulhu's unholy spirit, though his power over the tiny creature seems to be waning. As consequence, I have been confined to her cage we affectionately refer to as the Spare Bedroom or the 9th Pit of Hell, depending on if the beast is asleep or not, watching old movies on Netflix that are truly amazing and make me wonder why I ever waited so long to watch these awesome things.

Case in point: The Blues Brothers (1980)

The plot follows two brothers who are trying to put on a concert to save their old orphanage. They are both musicians and small time criminals though, so they are trying to do this while also running from the law and the many other people they've managed to piss off on their mission from God. And I gotta say, what a damned good ride it was! This movie was awesome!

With such a wacky plot, The Blues Brothers doesn't take itself too seriously either. There are more than a few cases where the scenes slide into a sort of epic-fantasy-esc telling, including a beam of light shining down from the heavens, doors that close on their own, and the characters serving being thrown several stories up in the air while in a telephone booth. Along the way, jokes and music a plenty keep the story moving forward without missing a beat. Things slowly escalate so subtly that by the end of the movie (and show) the army is rolling in to catch these two crooks while they raise to pay their taxes, and I'm laughing my ass off because I'm so enjoying this ride that I don't want it to end!

Without a doubt, The Blues Brothers earned its cult classic title. It's a little on the long side, being over two hours in length, but well worth the ride. This is the kind of movie I'd re-watch and also the kind of movie that I won't soon be forgetting.