Category: Movies

A post-Stan Lee world

A post-Stan Lee world

I don’t know that I had anything planned to talk about today amid a storm of homework I’ve been putting off. But once I saw this news come through, I knew there was really only one thing I could do: Pay tribute.

Within the last hour or so, rumors began to trickle around Twitter that the great Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee had died today at 95 years old.

Having seen a few celebrity death hoaxes in the past, I didn’t want to succumb to the emotions that came with that statement at first.

But once I saw the Associated Press confirm it, I has to accept the truth.

Since then I’ve honestly been walking around seemingly like a shell of my former self. Hell, I haven’t felt inspired to write a tribute in death for a celebrity since Carrie Fisher passed away, so you know this one must have hit hard.

How do you quantify the life of a man that has affected culture so much? How do you live in a world that, in its innate cold-nature’s cruelty to our mortality, will just keep moving forward in time without him?

Obviously this isn’t a “surprise” beyond the fact that it’s happening somewhat unexpectedly right now. The internet has been talking about Stan Lee’s inevitable passing for years, lamenting the possibility of the older man disappearing now that he has become a ubiquitous part of our movie-going culture if nothing else.

In fact, take a look at any of the stories that have already come out about Lee’s passing and you can tell they’ve been written and on the back burner for a long time, ready to update once the day came.

Personally I really like the piece Variety put out. It captures a lot of the good and the bad of Stan Lee’s life in a degree far better than I could as an arguably fledgling comic book fan.

To be honest, that’s kind of the craziest thing about my feelings toward Stan Lee’s death right now. I’m not even a huge comic book fan — so I can’t imagine how terrible other people must feel.

While a much younger Jason had a vague appreciation for certain comic book animated shows like Teen Titans or Batman the Animated Series (both DC properties I know, but that’s beside the point), it wasn’t until the Marvel Cinematic Universe boom began with 2008’s Iron Man that I started to steep myself in the world of comics.

Also, I guess you could count “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?” from the mid-2000s as part of my early exposure to Stan Lee. But I feel like that old show is a topic for another day.

I’ve seen almost every movie put out by the studio since their cinematic universe project began (outside of, say, Iron Man and Thor 2). Having grown into my own as an aspiring writer alongside its release schedule, I’ve come to really appreciate the way they create such an extensively connected story, one that makes me more and more excited for each entry to see where it can go next.

Sure, I know the films are somewhat formulaic and arguably predictable for anyone who knows the comics… But like I said, I don’t really. Only since the movies have grown in popularity have I personally started to research different famous comic book arcs and find YouTube channels dedicated to comic book stuff so I can educate myself on the matter, like NerdSync or Nando v. Movies.

Both of whom have also become regular parts of my life through binging their podcasts on my long commutes to-and-from CSUF.

So the Marvel movies have really been my gateway into comics. And all of them have one unifying thread.

A creative giant who has a cameo in all of them.

From what I’ve read there are a few more Stan Lee cameos pre-recorded for Captain Marvel and Avengers 4 at least, but they’ll certainly be more bittersweet than ever before.

Though not any more bittersweet than never seeing him cameo again after, even if Avengers 4 seems like as poetic an end point as they come.

Rest in peace, Stan Lee. A man who will truly live in forever in his creations.

Excelsior.


Featured Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

Repeat Offenders

I’m having a strange sense of déjà vu this semester.

A couple of my class have given me assignments this week that are pretty much identical to other assignments I’ve had in previous courses — one of which I’ve seen at least three times now, in fact.

That third-time returning assignment (the one that I find more interesting right now, considering at this rate I’ll need to develop a punch card) was handed down in my Visual Communications class this afternoon. Essentially I have to take a number of photos over the next two weeks, either on my phone or with a professional camera, that represent major concepts in visual composition.

So a photo that shows a prominent horizontal line, one that shows a good grasp of the rule of thirds, one that displays the difference between the foreground and background, etc.

As an isolated assignment it makes sense. What better way to get kids engaged and learn a variety of terms by making use of that little device in our pockets to actually engage with the work.

The problem comes when, as in my case, you see the same assignment repeatedly. In Comm 202, focused on broadcast journalism basics. In Multimedia Journalism. Now, again, in Visual Communications.

Is there just some unwritten rule that in the 21st century, every visual-focused class will get students to go out and take sample photos with their phones? Was there a college teaching conference that established this staple?

Is it only a California thing or does this happen all across the country?

I’m actually, genuinely curious to know.

My Mass Media Ethics class yesterday also assigned a small project I’ve seen before. For that, we need to spend about a week keeping a media log with all the news we consume so we can reflect on it.

I had to do the exact same thing for my Comm 233 class — the one that I started this blog for.

Back then I was pretty upset with the project. The professor was kind of an old fart and quite literally used the assignment as a way to rub it in our faces that we’re all too addicted to technology.

Like sure we definitely are, but that doesn’t mean you need to be condescending about it dude.

This time around the assignment is focused more on tracing back to the corporations that own each media outlet and deciding how that ownership might create bias.

A more interesting, reasonable through-line in my opinion.

Thinking about it, those two kinds of assignments seem very intrinsically linked to modern-day students. I suppose that’s the reason why they’re showing up repeatedly, for me at least. Whether or not you guess see these particular assignments, or just other projects that multiple teachers have assigned, I guess is up to you all to let me know.

No matter what, I’m just glad neither of these two projects are due next week. Because my two essays for my Psych classes still loom heavy on my mind…


As an aside, while this isn’t related to the overall post I’ve just written, it’s something that stood out to me so much today that I just had to share it.

Over the past few months I’ve been watching a YouTuber named Nando v. Movies rewrite the recent DCEU Justice League film beat-by-beat. It has been fascinating to watch, as one of the reasons I picked up on the guy in the first place was because of his script rewrites. They show a great grasp of the comic book source material and movie structure, so it’s always a joy.

The four-part Justice League series has been especially great, in my opinion. While I enjoyed the original movie, the novel version Nando creates is vastly superior and sets up a much more compelling path for the universe to take.

It’s just too bad he isn’t actually working at DC’s movie division.

The final part of the series just released today, and I would say it’s very worth taking an hour and a half to watch each part in a row. You can check them out here.

Dude deserves the shout out, go see his stuff.

Blast from the Comm Class Past

I had an interesting experience earlier that actually relates back to the history of this very blog, so I wanted to use my post today to talk about it.

About two years ago, I started my blog because it was an assignment in my Comm 233 class. It was some kind of example to prove we knew how to use mass media, or that we knew it existed, or it could have just been the guy trying to force us to start doing something he felt the world would require of us.

In hindsight I’m not really sure exactly why we were given this assignment. But I do know it’s hilarious to remember that being forced to write 20 blog posts that semester was such a pain in the ass now that I have nearly 400 posts and am attempting to write something novel every day.

One of the posts I threw together in those early days of blogging was kind of my prototypical movie review, even before I feel like I technically started doing them with my discussion on The Post around Oscar season this year.

At the time I reviewed a little film called Merchants of Doubt, which looked at some of the methods large corporations in the tobacco and oil industries (among others) would use to try and convince the public that cigarettes weren’t harmful, or that climate change isn’t happening/isn’t man-made.

If you do actually believe those things… Well, I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree for now. Because I’m not looking to make this into a political post necessarily.

Funny enough I believe that’s also a line I used in that original post from two years ago, which you can read here if you want. Though I also made a bunch of comments in it about Trump on the campaign trail that very clearly suggested otherwise.

Amazing how much of a different world it was in that pre-President Trump era… But I digress.

The reason I bring up this two-year-old post is because I got the chance to rewatch the documentary during my Mass Media Ethics class this afternoon.

For the most part I don’t believe my opinion on the film has changed too much since the first time I saw it. Even disregarding the obvious liberal bias in the documentary, it has a lot of excellent work done interviewing various people from all sides of the issue as well as more neutral parties like reporters who have been researching the topic.

All in service of letting the audience know that sometimes corporations don’t have your best interest in mind, and may be willing to deceive you in very creative ways.

I mostly just wanted to write this quick post to reflect on how funny it is that the curriculums of both these classes two years apart both happened to include the same movie. Seemed like it would be a good excuse to reminisce and have some laughs in that end-of-an-80s-sitcom kind of way.

Especially considering most of that joy is likely going to disappear after I write this required essay about the film. My favorite.

‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ fails to live up to its ancestors

‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ fails to live up to its ancestors

While taking a break from doing my homework, reading chapters from Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” ironically enough, my family finally watched Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

Honestly? I wasn’t very impressed.

As the middle in the trilogy rebooting Spielberg’s classic Jurassic Park movies, Fallen Kingdom kicks off three years after the first Jurassic World. The park that was established in that film has been abandoned, and all of the freed dinosaurs are at risk when the island is set to explode in a cataclysmic volcanic event.

When Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) are brought back to help rescue a number of species for a philanthropic conservationist, they discover more sinister motivations under the surface and must take on both greedy human beings and powerful, ancient beasts.

While there’s a decent set-up here, it isn’t executed very well. At all.

I’ll be spoiling bits and pieces of this movie here, though not in too much detail (in my opinion). If that’s a concern of yours, here’s your warning.

Fallen Kingdom falls apart almost immediately with the introduction of some weak tertiary characters. In the time since Howard’s character left the theme park she once led, she became a dinosaur rights activist.

Which yes, is about as overt a metaphor as it sounds.

Two of her assistants, Franklin (Justice Smith) and Zia (Daniella Pineda), come along on the rescue mission. Their status as bigger players in the film are indicated with as cliché an introduction as it gets. They’re the only members of what looks to be a semi-large staff who have speaking roles, and those roles are mostly playing off of each other as bickering friends.

Then as they start to fly to the old park, their archetypes are immediately stated. Smith is a scaredy-cat technical nerd and Pineda is a dinosaur veterinarian (yeah) who takes no nonsense from anyone.

Neither changes over the course of the movie and only appear enough to help move the plot along, so they feel like one-note comic relief.

Perhaps that’s harsh, as they play their roles well. But they get a lot more screen time during the early part of the movie — which is kind of the worst part. So that might have colored my perception.

Pratt does a good job as a leading man, though his performance isn’t exactly inspired. Meanwhile, Howard’s character seems to take a complete 180 from her original role and seemed like a totally different character.

Granted, it has been a whole since I saw the first Jurassic World, so maybe I’m just not remembering her quite that well. But with that in mind, her performance seemed a bit jarringly out-of-character.

However the biggest problem with the film is the fact it’s hard to even begin suspending one’s disbelief while watching it.

For instance, at one point Pratt’s character is partially paralyzed and literally rolling out-of-the-way of a pool of magma slowly encroaching him.

The movie has next to no tension up until the finale because of things like this.

Things like this make other silly bits stand out in a bad way. At one point a character was watching footage of Pratt’s character training the main raptor from Jurassic World, Blue, while it was young.

The scene itself was obviously meant to help emphasize the larger moment, his character completing an arc from being willing to abandon the dinosaur at the start of the film to remembering how much he loves it, I was so generally disinterested that I couldn’t help but think about other strange details.

Like the fact that the footage was expertly edited together as of from a reality TV show with a confessional booth.

Instead of being engrossed in a story about dinosaurs walking the Earth again and nearly going extinct, I was too busy wondering who decided to edit together Pratt’s training footage so that someone could one day watch it as an exposition dump.

There are lots of little moments like this throughout the movie, where I was left wondering why certain things were happening.

Another issue with Fallen Kingdom is that it had a bit of a tone problem.

At one point, there are action-adventure scenes with characters escaping from an exploding volcano. Then there are times where the film seems almost unreasonably dark, with one character getting pretty graphically ripped apart on-screen. Then there were also moments of loss and other sad parts that seemed in-place only to push an environmental message.

Then there are scenes with characters evading one another that feel eerily like Looney Toons. Notably one with one character following closely behind another without noticing them.

It’s almost too silly for a movie that’s trying as hard as it is to be darker and edgier than the first. Because I’ll be blunt, the villain in Fallen Kingdom is kind of an unforgivable monster of a human being, almost cartoonishly so.

His plan is equally as cartoonishly evil, playing with themes of illegal animal trapping, trafficking and using genetics for unethical purposes.

Yet the filmmakers don’t seem to fully commit to the dark tone that otherwise could have made for a stellar overall package — even if it could scare away a certain sect of audience members.

While this review is mostly negative thus far, I will say the end of the movie is actually far better than the first two-thirds. Most of the darker stuff comes in here, and discounting a ridiculous twist in the last few minutes, everything is more engaging and tense.

On top of that, I would argue that the movie’s CGI and a lot of its cinematography is actually really well done.

There were no moments I can recall where seeing a dinosaur on-screen took me out of a moment because it looked fake. In fact, the Indoraptor creates to serve as a more environmental antagonist, is used really well in a number of scenes with lighting contrast.

Yet for as pretty and clearly well-made as the movie is, the tonal issues and a general inability to suspend my disbelief unfortunately took me out of most scenes.

Fallen Kingdom is a hard movie to place.

I wouldn’t say it’s a kid’s film because a lot of it is dark and violent.

Yet it doesn’t fully commit to that dark tone until the very end, which makes it hard to recommend as a serious take on the Jurassic Park formula — probably the darkest since the original.

It’s a confused film that seems to be trying harder to push some kind of deeper message about either scientific caution or the importance of family than it is being a fun dinosaur flick. A lot of it is actually kind of unpleasant.

But it is a pretty film, and fits into an overall story we’ve been following for a long time now. So I suppose if those kinds of things catch your interest, you can watch it on those merits.

Otherwise, it might not be worth the time. I certainly don’t think I’d go back and rewatch it anytime soon.

Also, don’t be fooled by its advertising. Jeff Goldblum barely has a role in the movie.

And that just might be its most vital flaw.

Impossible to Miss

Impossible to Miss

There were many reasons why DC’s 2017 cinematic film Justice League was a critical flop.

Amongst them was the fact that some of the CGI was kind of wonky. The fight scenes, particularly during the climactic fight against a dark red backdrop, were mostly hit-or-miss.

However, arguably the most disastrously well-known CGI mishap in the movie was Superman’s mouth.

See, as the story goes, Henry Cavill moved on to take part in Mission Impossible: Fallout after he finished recording his scenes for Justice League. The part required him to grow a bushy mustache.

Then DC decided to reshoot parts of Justice League after Joss Whedon took over as Director. By then, Cavill was full mustache mode and not allowed to shave due to Paramount stepping in.

So much money was spent digitally removing the mustache, and everyone universally agrees the effect was awful.

True story.

While that may have become one of the downfalls of DC’s big crossover event, now that I’ve seen the new Mission Impossible… I think it was worth it to save this movie.

Fallout, the latest in the long-running Tom Cruise tentpole series of action-adventure spy thrillers, is a great movie. Action-packed, well-acted and full of some gorgeous cinematography.

Yet… The whole isn’t necessarily a sum of its parts. For all of the wonderful things within Fallout, it feels incredibly bloated at its two-and-a-half hour runtime.

Frankly that was the biggest complaint my family pretty much collectively came to after leaving the theatre. Each scene on its own was pretty wonderful, but a good chunk of them could have been easily left on the cutting room floor without losing anything. Making the film better, somewhat more concise in fact.

For instance, as the trailers show, much of the movie is set in Paris, France. However, the climax of the film takes place in Kashmir. There’s an entire sequence between those two locations that takes place in London, England which could have easily been cut down wildly and happen in Paris as well.

There are also far too many action scenes. The most prevalent ones in the trailers, a fight including Tom Cruise and Henry Cavill in a bathroom, happens early in the flick. It’s wonderfully choreographed and edge-of-your-seat intense.

But then there are easily six or seven massive action scenes throughout the rest of the film which all give the same rush without a break. It’s exhausting in practice, despite the fact that each fight or chase is memorable on its own.

Peter Rosenthal puts it best in his three-minute review of the film for the Onion honestly:

But action is what’s expected of a Mission Impossible movie. Tom Cruise will always be doing his own stunts. It’ll always, always be fun and exciting — even if slightly overdone this time around.

What I hadn’t necessarily been expecting out of Fallout were the wonderful interactions between Cavill and Cruise, as well as some of the actually stunning shots in the film.

On the first point, watching Cavill come into the MI universe with such a robust, fun role actually made me mad. He is a great actor who really sells a complex (though somewhat predictable) character who fits right into an already well-established canon.

I really wish DC utilized him better. Because if I’m showing my cards, the DCEU Superman isn’t really that great in my opinion. But now I know that he could be fantastic if he was given a better set of circumstances to inhabit.

As a side note, when I mention Cavill’s character being predictable, the same could essentially be said for most of the movie. Many of the plot beats are set up well in advanced and fairly easy to read for anyone who has enjoyed their fair share of spy thrillers.

But I feel it’s a testament to Fallout’s screenplay that even when early film predictions one might have, do come out correct by the end, it’s still a wild ride getting there. A ride which takes those predictable ideas and does utilize them in ways which still have surprises and intriguing twists.

Honestly I think a good reason for that is the chemistry between Cruise and Cavill. While the other members of Ethan Hunt’s crew do still have significant roles, they take more of a backseat to Superman and he really steps it up.

The other thing I loved about Fallout were a number of the action set pieces throughout. As I mentioned, much of the movie takes place in Paris and boy do they make good use of that locale.

Fallout showcases a variety of things in Paris, from famous landmarks to smaller alleyways that paint a real picture of what can be seen.

Their use of landmarks in particular are very well done. Probably my favorite action scene in the film was a chase between a motorcycle-riding Cruise and the Parisian police. In it, there’s a long tracking shot of Cruise driving backwards through traffic in a circle around the Arc de Triomphe.

It’s a gorgeous shot and really well-paced within the scene to be exciting and cool without lasting too long as to lose its luster.

There are scenes like this all over the movie that are captivating… But like I mentioned before, falters in that there are arguably too many of them. There was enough content in Fallout to easily fill two movies, and a more hefty editor would have been appreciated.

The climax of the movie is especially bloated and honestly jumps the shark to a ridiculous degree. Which is saying something considering we’re discussing Mission Impossible.

I won’t give too much away. I’ll just say it was the clearest case of ‘they should not have survived this’ in the movie, which winds up highlighting how many times the characters should have died throughout the entire rest of the flick.

In spite of that, even the climax takes many clichés of the genre and presents them in a way that’s engaging. So I’ll give the filmmakers credit in that regard.

In all honesty, if the Mission Impossible franchise is something you enjoy, it’s likely you’ve already seen the movie. It’s certainly a re-watchable guilty pleasure of a series for my family. In that case, I’m sure you enjoyed this movie as much as we did.

Because in spite of its somewhat glaring issues, it’s still a fantastic Mission Impossible movie at heart. One with great action, stunning visuals, some well-crafted character moments and an intriguing collision of at least five-or-six different groups that doesn’t really lose focus or become confusion.

If you are new to Mission Impossible, however, just know that this particular entry in the series is very long and very draining to sit through. A good amount of it could have been cut out, even if it was great.

Basically the movie was too much of a good thing, but still good all the same.

Plus, as far as I was aware, it managed to have a number of beautiful female characters involved in pivotal action and character-driven scenes — and none of them got undressed once during the movie.

So good on you MI crew. Glad to see you had some restraint.

More YouTube Recommendations

More YouTube Recommendations

I know I basically did this exact same thing less than a week ago, so it probably seems like this is a cop-out.

But honestly just consider it a symptom of me spending the whole day cleaning the house. Don’t have too much to talk about outside of inhaling chemical fumes all afternoon, so I figure it’d be much more engaging if I talked about more content creators I’ve discovered on YouTube over the past few days that have helped make the cleaning more bearable.

That said, welcome to… That thing I just said!

Yeah. Get hyped.

While the previous ‘check out these content creators’ post I did focused primarily on people who talked about comic book lore and writing conventions in cinema, the two people I want to talk about today primarily discuss writing conventions and cinema.

But in more specific details this time around. I swear.


Lindsay Ellis

Though I initially saw her content adjacent to the Nostalgia Critic some years ago, I only just recently discovered Lindsay Ellis for her purely solo career here doing video essays.

Video essays which are wonderful and educational in all the best ways.

More than basically anyone I’ve seen before, she takes deep dives into the minutia of film studies, as well as the history and cultural influences behind media that she, primarily, seems to hate in one way or another.

Though not in a CinemaSins-style “let’s just tally up all the shitty things” kind of hate, more of an academic “here’s what works and what doesn’t” kind of hate. Which just so happens to mostly target pieces of popular culture that leave her drinking herself into more of a stupor the longer she talks about them in an unexplained but great little running gag.

Out of everything of hers I’ve seen thus far, my favorite pieces would have to be her discussion on how the live action Beauty and the Beast is terrible about remaking a classic (with additional shout outs to her other Disney-themed videos on why Hercules isn’t a huge blockbuster and why Moana was Pocahontas but better), a lengthy piece on why the Netflix Will Smith movie “Bright” was terrible, and two documentary-length multi-part series on why the Hobbit failed and how Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise can be read from a multitude of different film study disciplines.

There’s just a bunch of good stuff all around, and the sometimes dejected tone of dealing with film studio bs and expectedly horrible comment sections on videos are nice additions to really thought-provoking ideas.


Pop Culture Detective

Where Lindsay Ellis seems to approach much of her content with a clear underlying sense of love for the film industry as a whole, Pop Culture Detective takes a vastly more critical look at everything in cinema (as well as television and occasionally video games) that are problematic in relation to one subject:

Masculinity.

As a fair warning, these videos hold no punches when it comes to eviscerating popular culture for instilling often toxic values often without intending to. If you love franchises like Star Wars or actors like Tom Cruise and Bruce Willis, it may sting some to watch these sorts of analyses.

Yet, that’s clearly the point. An effective one, at that.

It’s clear throughout multiple videos that the Pop Culture Detective loved many of the movies he discusses to death as a kid. But when he began to look at them in a new light, he was able to pick apart problematic patterns that we can all learn from even if we love the original content.

More often than not I find his content most effective when it delves into those patterns which have grown throughout the history of cinema. For example, his videos on abduction and stalking as abundantly-used tropes were eye-opening in that I frankly didn’t realize just how often they are used.

His more individually-focused pieces, like a video on the backwards logic of the Jedi Order in Star Wars, are also great.

Yet he also spends time talking about more positive representation of diverse forms of masculinity, like in a video about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

In fact, no matter what’s being covered, this creator clearly spends an ample amount of time looking into the subjects for their faults and what kind of effect it has on our culture, but at the same time he isn’t just blatantly negging everything and everyone in the industry.

More often than not he at least makes the aside that there likely isn’t an intent to be a bad influence, even if it sometimes comes across that way from how he otherwise presents the material.

It’s a well-balanced, educated look at film and T.V. through a lens that I don’t often see given as heavy a focus, so definitely check Pop Culture Detective out.


So those are the two content creators I wanted to introduce you all to today. Both with very different approaches at the same goal: Educating the public on more positive ways of producing film and other media.

What do you think of these two? Are you interested in the technical and theoretical sides of filmmaking?

If so, let me know in the comments! Also, if there are any creators whom you believe are worth their weight in views, let me know about them too. I’ll certainly be on the lookout for more things to watch as I continue my pursuit of a clean house during these fleeting final summer days.

Sharknado 6 Ruined Me

Sharknado 6 Ruined Me

Today was a day where I felt pretty good about myself.

In the wake of a hangout that went past 1:00 a.m., I still got up and did some work editing for Boom. Then I went to the gym and got a nice hour’s worth of a workout before making myself a pretty sweet looking sandwich for lunch.

Good stuff all things considered.

But then. We decided to watch the sixth Sharknado movie that premiered earlier.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be the same after that. I might just be more broken by existential dread than I can truly convey through text. In spite of that concern, I shall try my best.

For those of you who are not aware of this bizarre little corner of pop culture history — Though I can’t imagine there are many people out there who haven’t heard of it considering the almost unexplainable popularity of the series — Sharknado was a movie released by the Syfy network in 2013 starring Ian Ziering and Tara Reid.

The best way I can think to describe the film is that it was one in a long line of shark-themed, low-budget disaster parody films put out by the network. Other classic examples included Ghost Shark and Sharktopus.

These are all super real. And surprisingly popular as Z-grade dumb parody fun for those of us who enjoy cheesy science fiction schlock.

But… Sharknado was different. Sharknado, by some combination of washed-up actors, a ridiculous premise and laughably horrible CGI, became a phenomenon. A phenomenon big enough to spawn five sequels.

Because my family happens to be a fan of dumb, awful movies like this, we’ve watched every single one over the last five or so years. I’m not going to say I’m proud of that, but it’s a thing we do. It’s dumb fun.

Admittedly, I don’t remember any significant detail past the third movie. Because they got increasingly ridiculous, complex and overblown with each entry. Dare I say… They jumped the shark.

The creators probably intended for that exact cliché to show up when discussing their work.

The first Sharknado was a somewhat contained story, where the hero Fin (fish joke ha ha) has to rescue his family after a Sharknado touches down in Santa Monica and starts to destroy the surrounding Los Angeles area.

The second was basically the same story but in New York. Cue hopping around on taxi cabs and other such predictable New York jokes, plus a half a billion cameos from famous people hoping to jump on the meme.

The third was more of a world-wide scale, saving the president of the U.S. and dealing with Universal Studios Florida and… Going into space I think?

Unless that was the fourth movie, which of course made a Force Awakens joke in the title. But like I said I don’t remember any of that movie, or the fifth one. Something happened in Niagara Falls, and there were robot clones and uhh… Yeah.

Then of course we come to the newest, presumably final entry in the series. Sharknado 6: The Last One.

The last one until someone decides we can bring the series back with a rebooted cast and do it all again, I guess.

Sharknado 6 took things above and beyond where we had already been by figuring if we’ve destroyed the entire planet with Sharknados, we might as well do the same thing throughout history. That’s right, it’s a time travel story. With everyone hoping to stop Sharknados in the past so they can save the future.

It’s about as contrived and derivative as it sounds, and it’s meant to be. Hell, the amount of times they reference Back to the Future is astounding.

The characters literally travel using a flux capacitor, which in at least one situation requires them to use a train to travel at 88 miles per hour.

Even though I’m 100 percent sure the conflict of BttF 3 was needing to speed up a steam train because it didn’t go fast enough, I’ll let it slide.

Most of the jokes you’d expect to appear to appear based on the periods of time they go through in the movie. First it’s pre-history, then the American Revolution, the Old West, the 1950s and eventually culminating in the early 2010s where they stop the Sharknado that started the whole mess in the first place.

Of course there’s all sorts of underlying plot with the main characters struggling to move beyond their past experiences and not use time travel to try to alter history (even though the whole plot is literally about altering history?). But that doesn’t really matter. The series has basically retconned everything at least four times so far, and characters constantly come back from the dead. The film even ends with everyone back at the beginning of the first movie but different, a circumstance where everyone is happy and alive and life is perfect for all.

If anything I’d argue it’s mostly a forgettable, lackluster romp compared to those early entries with just a sense that everything is going through the motions needed to finally end it all.

But there were at least two scenes that made me truly question my existence. So I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if you’re interested in Sharknado 6 and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read on.

The first is during a stop in ancient Europe, the 1400s or so. Whenever King Arthur lore happened because of course that’s the chief influence they’re using.

This scene of the movie has arguably the most recognizable modern-day cameos in it.

Neil deGrasse Tyson shows up playing the wizard Merlin. Which a first probably seems as strange to you as it did to me, why would you cast one of the most recognizable science communicators of all time to play one of the most famous magic-users of history?

Because time travel joke. That’s the whole reason. Merlin knows some things about time travel.

But that’s not all, folks. The drag queen Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 (also actual name, I’m not screwing with you I swear) plays an evil queen that fights with swords and shoots fireballs.

They have a moment of talking with one another in the film.

So we are in a universe where a drag queen named Thunderfuck and Neil deGrasse fucking Tyson are acting against one another in a movie about time travel being used to stop the world from ending because of tornados full of sharks.

Hallelujah, we truly are in the darkest timeline.

There’s also a scene toward the end of the movie where everyone goes to the year 20013 — because obviously someone accidentally added an extra 0 onto the flux capacitor.

That future, for being in an age where Earth would most definitely be dead and gone, looks okay. Everything’s just vaguely dilapidated.

But then. Tara Reid shows up.

Which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but for context she had died during a stop in the year 1997.

As it turns out, and bear with me on this one, the robotic clone of Tara Reid — who played a significant role in the fifth movie and then just became a severed head MacGuffin in the sixth movie who blew up Sharknados with laser eyes — survived past all other human beings and created an army of robot Tara Reids and robot sharks to ensure that she could live forever.

So the third act of the movie becomes Fin having to set the timeline right by completely fucking it up in order to stop evil robot queen Tara Reid from ending humanity so she could rule forever.

In an otherwise lackluster movie, these two moments blew my god damn mind. They’re such things that I never needed to see that I don’t think I’ll ever be the same.

If you think I’m getting to some point with this whole post, I’m not.

I just wanted to share these things with you so that you don’t have to go shatter your concept of reality by watching Sharknado 6.

It’s not worth it guys.

Actually it’s very worth it It’s definitely not worth it.

Save yourself.

Be free from the Sharknado.

That’s my public service announcement for the day.

Script Doctoring at its finest

Script Doctoring at its finest

If I haven’t made it totally obvious around here, I like movies.

I like movies a lot. A good chunk of that love comes from my dad, who was a pretty serious actor for a while and continues to work in the movie industry, currently for Fandango as I’ve discussed in the past. Thanks to him I’ve seen all kinds of flicks from throughout cinema history.

As time has progressed, seeing movies with him (and the rest of my family by extension) has essentially become a fun exercise in script doctoring. While a ‘script doctor’ may be an actual industry term for someone who consults on a script before it is put into production, I mean it more in a post-viewing thought experiment sense. Being able to walk away from a movie and discuss what could have been done to improve upon it.

Granted there are elements of hindsight involved knowing everything that happens as a finished product rather than seeing it in its fledgling development. A development that may be plagued with other problems that lead to less than stellar end products.

But we discuss things with those points aside. We have no real qualms given that none of us have any intent to create our own movie anytime soon. It’s just fun talking about how we might have improved certain things.

Superhero movies have been an excellent source of that internal debate for the last few years. Especially thanks to the Marvel and DC cinematic universes attempting to create larger, cohesive universes. That kind of large-scale project opens up tons of opportunities to pull from previously established canon in both the comics and movies to determine what might be better ways of moving in the direction those studios are going toward.

DC movies are the obvious ‘easy target.’ You’ve probably heard all of the comments: They ruin a bunch of popular characters. They’re doing everything to catch up to Marvel in too much of a compressed timeline. The dark, gritty approach to superhero storytelling isn’t utilized well.

For the most part I can’t say I’d argue. There are plenty of recent DC movies that I thought I would love just based off trailers which wound up being disappointing. Suicide Squad and Batman V. Superman come to mind immediately.

However, there’s plenty of good things going on in the DC cinematic universe. Things that we all want to work out better in an overall context because of how iconic the characters are.

The Batman and Justice League animated series’ from the 90s/00s were huge parts of my childhood. I knew Batman and Superman and all of those characters growing up because of how iconic those shows were, given the fact that I was never much of a comic book reader.

Outside of the big characters like Spiderman or Hulk, I wouldn’t know anything about Marvel until they began their own cinematic universe. Though, to be fair, as amazing as that universe is there still are flaws. It just happens that the flaws are less noticeable due to how much is going well around them.

I would also say that the MCU has been a big thing to me because of how amazing an example it is of creating an extensive universe. Of crafting stories that all tie in together and create one giant experience.

For someone who wound up becoming a writer, it’s amazing to see.

But all of that aside, I feel like I’m getting too tangent-y with what should otherwise be a simple post. Basically, I love discussing the flaws and successes of each superhero movie with my family because of their merits as good cinema and because of the engaging universes they create.

That post-movie critique is frankly as important to me as the movies themselves.

This summer, I’ve taken those interests in post-critiques to a whole new level. My realm of consistent YouTube views has expanded into more analytical channels, rather than simply let’s plays and other video game stuff.

Some notable examples, because I’m honestly using this post as an excuse to promote these people include:

  • NerdSync — A channel focused on looking at not just obscure bits of comic book stories and trivia, but looking at them through the lens of the real world history that led to in-universe decisions. Great 10-minute watches which have taught me so much more about comics themselves that also often promote other comic book-related creators on YouTube.
  • Captain Midnight — More or less the same idea as NerdSync, examining decisions in comic books (primarily their movies) through the lens of real world decisions and general tropes surrounding them. Includes interludes on every video showing commercials and media properties from earlier decades related to modern-day cinematic counterparts that are very recognizably stylized and pretty cool.
  • Mother’s Basement — Kind of does for anime what channels like NerdSync do for comic books. Examining the problematic or successful underlying writing tropes and such which go into beloved shows. Loves to bash on Sword Art Online, which I find hilarious having never watched the show but knowing just how hated it is by anime fans.
  • Just Write — If you want to be a writer like I do, this channel is a good place to spend some time. They look at popular media (be it books, television, movies or some combination of the three) to pick apart specific traditional writing clichés or innovations. Some really notable pieces on shows like Westworld or the modern-day Star Wars trilogy that I love and have been able to use as some writing inspiration for my own novel.

These guys join a pantheon of other more analytic-focused channels that I now enjoy the catalogs of, amongst mainstays like Game Theory, Cinema Sins and Wisecrack.

None of these creators are the reason I decided to write this post in the first place, however. I found a brand new addition to this list today that really pushed me over the edge.

Nando v Movies is a channel that looks at all different movie genres (though primarily superhero flicks) through an analytical realm similar to the others I listed. Picking apart tropes and clichés to see what works and what doesn’t.

But Nando does something a little different to stand apart from the crowd.

He is, essentially, a very well-researched script doctor.

What my dad and I might do just based off knowledge of the cinematic universes we’re observing after watching a new DC movie, he does using a full breadth of comic book history to draw upon.

He quite literally acts out brand new scripts for scenes that either minutely or majorly change a film in a way that drastically changes things. I don’t think I’ve seen any videos of his that misses the mark in making both good and bad films better in some way, shape or form.

He doesn’t just look at the major cinematic universes too, though his work on lackluster DC flicks are pretty amazing. He also looks at the Marvel Netflix shows and other major blockbusters. Star Wars, Ready Player One, Jurassic World. All of which are given minor adjustments with so much heart that they feel like they could be easily canonical.

Even if he too acknowledges in part one of his Justice League rewrite that he has the benefit of hindsight and no movie-making pressure. That’s sort of where I stole my own earlier disclaimer from, as a disclaimer.

Side note, investigations and fan theories for the current Star Wars films have become some of my favorite things. Because I enjoyed the Last Jedi, but I’d almost say I enjoy fan-generated ideas for the Last Jedi better than what we got in theaters.

Now with all this said, I don’t always agree with the content of the creators I’ve mentioned here today. But I feel like that’s just as big a part of the magic behind watching them as the amazing theories and insight they’ve been able to cobble together for mediums I haven’t paid too much attention to.

The Internet, for as divisive as it can be, is an excellent place to pose ideas and invite civil debate. I love having the opportunity to compare my own ideas and headcanons to their own.

So that’s essentially my pitch for the day as I finish this post seeing I’ve somehow almost hit 1,500 words. Go out and find some analytical content for your favorite things.

It’s not only an excellent way to kill time, but an excellent way to kill it with engaging, thoughtful material.

This feels gross… But Disney makes it right.

It’s no surprise that I’ve become a bigger fan of mobile phone games in recent years.

I’ve been a hardcore GameBoy/DS fanatic throughout my childhood. Yet, despite certain phone games of widespread popular fervor like Angry Birds or Pocket God making their way into my gaming lexicon, overall the app market never truly broke into my big leagues.

That is, until big companies I already loved like Nintendo started to get into the market with more substantial titles.

Marvel was really the first with Contest of Champions, which I played right around the time the first Ant Man movie came out. Then there was Super Mario Run, Pokémon GO, Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links and of course Fire Emblem Heroes. Hell, Simpson’s Tapped Out held my interest for a good while there.

However, even if the app market is getting more respectable with these kinds of big, time-intensive titles… It’s still not perfect.

Tons of games, even the ones I’ve referenced up above, still rely on gimmicky microtransaction bs that attempt to force players with no patience to spend extra money.

While many are free, to be fair, and some are even arguably worth spending money in for all the content they offer on a free model… It’s still a bit of a disgusting practice. Especially when we start to see it slip into mainstream console gaming with titles like Star Wars Battlefront II (the bad one, not the amazing PS2 one).

I bring all of this up to let you know that I recognize the flaws in the mobile gaming market despite my recent embrace of it.

Because it should give you all some context behind why I feel so disgusting with my latest embrace of Disney’s Crossy Road.

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Man I feel like I need a shower just saying that.

Yet.

Let’s be fair to the game and it’s developers before I just shit all over the whole model.

Hipster Whale, from my point of view at least, became a rather popular niche developer for the phone market by embracing the classic style of Frogger and using it to create a game full of wacky charm with Crossy Road.

It was quite literally a game where you were a chicken crossing the road. As if you were playing Frogger.

Completely silly and derivative, but honestly genius in a “I can’t believe I didn’t think of this idea” kind of way. That charm, along with about a billion unlockable characters set in a game where the goal was to obviously push little kids to spend money, led to a title that grossed well and spawned a billion spin-offs.

The games are all synonymous with that silly, microtransaction-laden gameplay of the first. I even remember the Game Grumps playing one of the spin-offs for their Christmas block last December.

Disney Crossy Road is arguably the most despicable of these spin-offs. On the one hand because it’s quite literally just the original game with a new coat of paint. But also because, well, Disney is attached to it.

If that’s not the most money-grubbing thing I can imagine, I don’t know what is.

Yet, despite seeing this much just by looking at the game’s title screen… My sister and I are hooked.

We found the game while hanging out with our friends the other day and downloaded it on our Apple TV just for the memes. At the time it was perfect for that, especially when we picked up a totally random character from a movie we loved.

But then we both downloaded the game to our phones after that. The rest, as they say, is history.

Obviously the biggest draw to this game specifically is the Disney tie-in. Collecting characters from your favorite movies to play with.

Especially toward the beginning, it’s all fun and games as they clearly give you large rewards on a frequent basis to keep summoning new characters from a slot machine.

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It’s about as blatant as psychological manipulation gets, as soon enough the “three minutes to next reward” becomes “one hour to next reward,” and so on.

Yet there’s also enough ways to get around spending money that I can inherently understand the appeal.

Coins are scattered throughout each procedurally-generated run, and collecting 100 of them allows you to roll for a new character.

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The game also frequently gives players 30-second advertisements to watch for a free 20 coins. More obvious manipulation, but easy enough to set the game aside for half a minute just to score some extra cash.

My one significant problem with the lottery system comes from the fact that you aren’t guaranteed to unlock something new each time. Even when I had only unlocked about six characters out of the near-200 across a variety of popular Disney movies, I still got a second copy of The Sultan from Aladdin.

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They do give you other collectible tickets for duplicates that can be spent on things like higher-end character lotteries, but still. I can tell it’ll be more annoying in the long-run.

Also, I just have to say it. There are also some really bad character designs. Like the single-pixel butt and breasts model of Mirage.

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And don’t even get me started on Simba’s hilarious facial expression.

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Some lame characters aside, the gameplay is simple and effective. Like I said, it’s just Frogger. But with Disney characters.

You tap to go forward and swipe to move from side-to-side and avoid obstacles.

Yet Disney Crossy Road actually stands out quite well because of how it utilizes it’s gimmick, in my opinion. There’s clearly a large amount of effort put in to make each world and each character unique to the movies they came from.

Just look at the variety in the different environments you can play on:

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Each movie set not only brings aesthetic elements into this kind of janky Minecraft style, they also have unique mechanics.

For example, the Mulan world has a lucky cricket drop that can save you from death once.

The Lilo & Stitch world is covered with fruits that can be collected and turned into an old lady to add extra points to your run length without you having to actually go those extra steps.

The Jungle Book world is literally always on fire because of frequent lightning strikes.

There’s something like this in every world, and while the same three or four overall level gimmicks do repeat themselves, each is unique enough to stand out.

Characters have unique skills as well.

The Grand Councilwoman from Lilo and Stitch can find a special Prisoner Jumba character of she travels far enough.

Meanwhile, Calhoun from Wreck-It Ralph shoots her gun at certain cars in the road to give you a big score multiplier. You can’t control when she does it, but still.

There’s also a certain amount of charm seeing each and every character face plant against the side of a car (or a person depending on the technology of a given world).

The music in the game is also noteworthy. Each movie’s world utilizes a famous song recreated in a pretty great chiptune style. Beauty and the Beast plays “Be Our Guest.” Aladdin plays “One Jump Ahead.” Lion King plays “I Just Can’t Wait to be King.”

I do wish some songs appeared over others, like “This is Halloween” instead of “What’s This?” for Nightmare before Christmas. But that’s a nitpicky complaint all things being equal.

Despite being repeated in such a short segment to become ear-grating over time, all of the songs are well-constructed. The game itself pushes its own soundtrack, and I’d argue its worth downloading.

There’s only 23 worlds in the game, with some obvious choices like Sleeping Beauty or Hercules missing in place of obvious lame tie-ins like the Tim Burton Alice Through the Looking Glass. But, and I hate to say it, I’m interested to keep going and see if they add more down the line.

I know, I know. This strange review of Disney Crossy Road is out of left field. Especially when I haven’t even written anything on Hollow Knight, like I wanted to.

Hell, it just frankly feels wrong for me to be spending time on this obvious microtransaction bait of a game when there’s some phenomenal titles I could be playing. Like the aforementioned Hollow Knight. Or Enter the Gungeon.

Or hey, I heard that Subset Games’ Into the Breach is available on Macs down and I’m so down to try it.

But no. Instead I’m here playing Disney Crossy Road.

I guess in the end this post is sort of here to try to justify all of the time I’ve spent playing this the last couple of days. As if it were my plan all along.

But the truth is that it wasn’t my plan all along. I’ve genuinely jumped into this game with both feet, and I’m weirdly enjoying it a lot.

Just going through this short analysis of the game has shown me that maybe it isn’t just a weird anomaly. The game does have its merits, particularly in aesthetic and musical aspects.

So hey, who knows. Maybe Hipster Whale is as popular as it is for a reason.

But what do you think? Have you played this game before? Or any title in this developer’s line-up?

Let me know how you feel about them, or about this game specifically, in the comments down below!

Printers, Posters and Posh Interior Design

I know I said essentially the exact same thing about two days ago, but pardon me if this post is a little bit short or discombobulated.

We may not have been sniffing paint fumes this time around, but the family has been off on a nearly 12-hour journey across L.A. County doing chores and such. So I’m a bit tired and honestly just want to rest up considering I’m hanging out with the crowd again tomorrow and want some energy for that.

You’re not here to talk about tomorrow though, are you? Especially not when we have a Herculean tale for today.

Get out your maps if you’re interested in following along our route from the day.

We started relatively close to home in Manhattan Beach, first going to our family optometrist for my dad to get an eye exam. Also spent a good chunk of time in the surrounding mall buying sunglasses at the same time as I was doing some planning for future events.

Then we hit up a nearby Best Buy. We were picking up a new home printer we had ordered because our old one was ‘donated’ to the Redondo Union band program.

Aly’s the head librarian and has to make a lot of copies of sheet music, long story short.

While we were there I discovered this gem as I perused the video game section:

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Pretty disturbing how transparent his limbs are, huh?

Felt like that was worth sharing.

After finishing up there we got ourselves some lunch, then made our way to the Fandango office so my dad could follow-up on some work that was being done in the conference rooms there.

At first I imagined I might focus this blog post on that. Specifically all of the movie posters that I snapped some pictures of all around the office while he was testing the technology.

Because they have some pretty unique, awesome movie posters. Check some of these out:

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Pretty cool stuff, right?

Of course I also considered writing something related to my own work since I was expecting to hear back about my application to the Honors Student Advisory Council at Cal State Fullerton today.

But when I did it turned out to be a no. So… Figured I didn’t want a blog post that was a total downer about that.

There was even briefly a thought running through my head that I could offset the general negativity of that idea by countering it with this neat, little milestone I happened to hit this morning:

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But uhh… Subjectively I figured 500 basically consecutive days of playing a mobile gotcha game could also be considered pretty sad as an ‘accomplishment.’

So I tabled that idea.

Soon enough a perfect opportunity for a blog post came along, however.

A little store known simply as

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By little, of course, I mean the exact opposite of little. Because anyone who has ever been to the Swedish furniture chain should know that Ikea stores are god damn gigantic.

Yet this particular store takes that idea to the nth degree. The Burbank Ikea is the largest one in the United States, you see. Big enough to be seen from space, as my mom quipped.

Can’t really argue with that sentiment, honestly. From the ground it took us probably four, four-and-a-half hours to make our way through the labyrinth of ridiculously named decor.

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The “map” here straight up looks like a subway system.

In fact, that whole adventure would probably be a little too long to enumerate in the order of how we did things. So I’m going to cop-out by just throwing together a slideshow of pictures here.

For anyone who’s curious about what it looks like in the absolute epitome of capitalism of course.

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Boy howdy that’s about a sixth of a day of furniture, ain’t it?

Luckily even when we got tired and my legs felt ready to collapse we were still having a good time.

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Seriously there’s few things as fun as a random thing to do with some friends than wandering an Ikea. In case you want something to do sometime soon.

Plus, even though we didn’t get all of the new furniture to fit into Aly’s refurbished room today, we still got a bunch of nice household stuff. Like some pillows that we desperately needed.

Or that we will desperately need after such a long day out, I suppose.

I also made a very interesting little observation while we were there. See as you can imagine for a store the size of a small country that has replicas of households built within it, all segmented into various kinds of applications throughout a maze, Ikea needed a way to direct the mass exodus of people.

From what I recall growing up, that goal was mostly accomplished by taping or painting arrows on the floor. That much hasn’t changed:

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Except that’s not tape. Nor is it paint.

That arrow is courtesy of a digital projector.

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At first I was confused about the whole thing. It seems like it would be far less expensive to use tape rather than installing all of these projectors throughout the store. There are a lot of arrows, as I’m sure you can imagine.

But then I thought about it and realized that there’s also some merit to the long-term staying power of projectors versus something like tape.

People are constantly walking throughout that store. Thousands, probably. Day-in and day-out. Seven days a week.

That’s got to wear on physical markings pretty considerably. Enough so that tape or paint might have to be re-applied every other day just to keep the information fresh.

With a projector you don’t have to worry about that. So long as the tech is working, you never have to worry about the arrows washing away under a sea of feet.

I kind of came around in my own head to recognize how good of a long-lasting idea it is to do this, is what I’m saying.

Bet you didn’t think you’d be reading a blog post that said ‘sea of feet’ in it today, did you?

Well I did it. Which likely marks this portion off as a good place to end things off.

I didn’t really have a solid idea of exactly what I wanted to write about today, so thanks for making it this far into my roadmap of our long day of chores. It seemed like as good of a stand-in for content as I could imagine.

So with that said, I’m off to go play some video games before bed. Hope you all have a good day/night/whatever it may be in your time zone!