Monday, May 28, 2018

The Han Solo Movie

So, the Han Solo movie is the Star Wars movie that no one really cared about.  Honestly, I wasn't expecting much out of it.  It was not a movie I really needed to see.  In my opinion, there are far more interesting Star Wars characters to make a prequel movie about, far more interesting Star Wars stories to tell, and all kinds of new and original movies they could be making with the Star Wars name and universe.  And I was somewhat following the troubles with production of the movie with mild amusement as well.  My expectations for this movie were so unbelievably low, that when it turned out to be ok-ish, I was pleasantly surprised.  Is it a great movie.  Not really.  Is it a movie that needed to be made?  Nope.  Is it a story that needed to be told?  No, especially since there are several books/comics that already exist, telling the Han Solo origin story.  Did it entertain me for a couple hours?  Yeah.  There were a few pretty good jokes.  A few good action scenes.  The train heist and the Kessel Run are probably the best.  Did it add anything to the character, show any new sides, give us something new or interesting to think about while watching Han Solo in the movies that take place after this one?  Not really.  They played it very safe, and that was kind of boring, really.  Why tell a Han Solo origin story, if you're not going to add any new dimensions to his character?

My biggest problem with the movie was that it never did anything unexpected.  The Force Awakens, that did some pretty unexpected things.  Rogue One, that did some pretty unexpected things.  The Last Jedi, love it or hate it, did some pretty unexpected things.  Solo... Solo was a pretty by the numbers heist movie that took no risks, and didn't try to be anything new or original.  It's a movie I've seen a thousand times before with different titles.  Honestly, heist movies are so done to death that you kind of really need a bit more than Han Solo, and a Star Wars setting to make me care much about it.

Through most of the movie I was thinking, well, this is okay, I guess, but why does it exist?  Money.  that's why it exists.  Just so Disney can get more of my money.  But, judging by the box office performance for its opening weekend, that is sort of backfiring in their face.  No one is really going to see the movie.  There are several reasons why this could be, but I think the biggest is that Disney REALLY overestimated how much people were going to care about seeing a Han Solo movie.  They didn't really do their research and just sort of assumed that everyone was going to be lining up to see this one, when, as the box office numbers are reflecting, no one really cared to begin with, and would probably have preferred a different Star Wars movie.  The trailers didn't really do this movie justice.  If you look back at Rogue One, a lot of people, myself included, were pumped to see that movie.  The marketing for that movie showed off all of the things I was hoping to see in a Star Wars movie.  This one, the marketing was pretty subdued, and never really showed off much that looked very interesting in the movie.  Solo is a lot better a movie than it looks, going by the marketing alone, but still, I just don't think there was enough audience interest to begin with to justify making the movie in the first place.

That being said, I did enjoy it.  Donald Glover is PERFECT as Lando, he even gets the voice down eerily well.  Guy whose name I couldn't spell to save my life as Han Solo was okay.  I mean, there are better actors out there.  I think the problem with his performance is that he is supposed to be the center of the movie, but he is surrounded by people who steal every scene from him, because they just have more presence as actors than he does.  Woody Harrelson and Donald Glover pretty much steal every single scene they're in, which leaves very little for Han Solo to shine through in his own movie.  The movie has a lot of cool action scenes that are really well shot.  But the love story is pretty weak, because, well, Amelia Clark is kind of a terrible actress.  She's definitely the weakest link in the cast, and her character just doesn't have much going for her other than generic love interest because reasons.

Anyway, going back to my post on Star Wars movie rankings, I'd probably put this one at about equal to Return of the Jedi or The Last Jedi.  It's not great.  It's not horrible.  It's just kind of average as far as Star Wars movies go.  It's maybe a little bit better than The Last Jedi, if anything, but by such a miniscule amout that it doesn't really matter.  It could have been MUCH worse, but it also could have been better too.   I hope Disney learns from this experience, and starts making some more original Star Wars movies, and maybe listens to fans when they collectively say "meh" at the announcement of your next big thing.  Star Wars has a pretty large built in audience, BUT you still have to make movies that the fans want to see, and, well, they kind of didn't with this one.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Spires of Infinity rewrite Draft 4 done

Yes, it has only been two days.  I'm on vacation this week.  So, yeah, I finished up the fourth draft of my Spires of Infinite rewrite.  If you feel the overwhelming urge, you can find it at the bottom of this page.  Blah blah blah manuscript format blah blah.

Mostly this draft was just a read through aloud to make sure all of hte wording feels natural.  I also made sure all of my capitalization, spelling, and hyphenation was uniform throughout the entire manuscript.  There were a few very minor edits I made when I ran across something that tongue tied me while I was reading it aloud, which is a clear sign to me that it needs a bit of work put into it to polish it off.  There were also some very minor dialog additions I made, and a few small details that I missed adding in on previous drafts.  I ended up adding about 400 words to this draft, still keeping in just under 100k total.  By this point I've probably read through this book about 15 times since I wrote the first draft back in November.  Sometimes it's easy to miss minor things like capitalization, spellings on words you made up, and other such stuff in the tedium of reading a book 15 times in 7 months.

One more draft should do it on this one, and then I start trying to sell it.  I have a bit of editing software that I usually use on my final drafts, but it does cost a $30 a month subscription fee to use it, so I'm going to get Memories of What never was all ironed out and ready for a final draft first so that I can cram running both of them through the software  into the same month and only have to pay for one month of use.  Which means I'm not going to finish off the final draft of this one for a couple months or so while I work on that.  At the moment, though,  it's pretty close to being finished.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Spires of Infinity rewrite Draft 3 done.

Soooooo, I've finally finished up the third draft of my Spires of Infinity rewrite, and if you feel the great urge, you can read it at the bottom of this page.  Like other recent projects I've posted, this is written in manuscript format, because converting it to something more normal looking to post on my website takes way too much time and effort.  This means 12 point font, double spaces, all itallics are underlined instead of itallicized, and all blank lines are marked with a #.

Anyway, my goal with this draft was to tighten up the writing, remove any unneeded repetition, fill in a few plot holes, and shave the word count down to about 90k words.  I have to say, that this draft was pretty mind-numbing.  I had to reread every single chapter in this story 5-6 times, going over every single little word and thinking to myself, hmmmmmm, is there any way I can say this in fewer words until I was satisfied I'd done as much as I could.  There were a few instances of repetition that I removed, a bunch of adverbs, because as Stephen King so aptly says, the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I did my best to shave the word count down as much as possible, without hurting the integrity of the story, or the characters.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to cut the word count down as much as I wanted to.  I was hoping for 90k, and ended up at 99k.  The writing was actually pretty tight to begin with, and there wasn't much I could shave off, plus filling in some plot holes required adding text.  Things are about as tight as I can get them now, and it IS still 4k words shorter than it was, so I feel like I did well with this draft, if I didn't quite end up with exactly what I wanted.

I've got to say, this story has come a LONG way from the story I first envisioned 6 or 7 years ago.  I basically threw out the entire premise the entire story was revolving around, and that turned out to be exactly what it needed to be a better story.  I'm really happy with how it's turning out.  I think I'll probably only need another quick draft or two before it's done, and I start trying to sell it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

My Star Wars Movie Rankings:

So, the Han Solo movie comes out in 2 weeks, so I figured I'd do a post giving my rankings of Star Wars movies.  Because I'm bored, and I need a break from editing Spires of Infinity.  Just a little up front, I'm not exactly looking forward to the Han Solo movie.  I feel that there are far more interesting stories in the Star Wars universe to tell.  Han has never been my favorite character, and I've always felt that he was the least interesting of the three main characters.  I'm also a little apprehensive, having heard some of the troubles there have been with production, and with the lead actor's complete inability to do anything resembling acting.  The first trailer was kinda meh, but the second one looked better.  I hope it doesn't suck, but I'm not going to be hugely disappointed if it does, because, like I said, I never really cared all that much about this movie to begin with.

These are ranked best to worst.

1.) The Empire Strikes Back
No real surprise there, I guess.  I love this movie.  It's my all time favorite movie.  It is the first movie I can remember ever seeing in a theater.  I remember when I first saw Star Wars.  The opening scene blew me away.  The rebel ship being chased by this massive behemoth that flew over the camera and jsut kept going, and going and going.  Then I saw Empire on the big screen, and one of those ships was flying along, and this huge shadow falls over it.  I was like OMFG, HOW BIG IS THAT SHIP!!!  The acting is the best out of the original trilogy.  It improves upon the mythology of the Force in a meaningful way.  It has a very epic battle at the beginning, which is amazing considering the limitations of special effects technology at the time.  They basically invented the special effects required to do all of the effects shots on a white background, something thought to be impossible at the time.  And it still looks amazing even today, almost 40 years later.  Plus, that climax, man.  The duel, the plot twist, and the escape from Cloud City are all really great.  On a general filmmaking, storytelling, character development, technical/special effects, and acting level, this movie is by far the best of the bunch.  I feel, however, that , of the original trilogy, this movie suffers the most from the Special Edition.  It completely removes the tension at the beginning with the snow monster, and it utterly ruins the entire pacing of the escape from Cloud City at the end, by adding in extra Vader scenes.

2.) Rogue One
Okay, I realize that the characters are a bit flat, and the movie does jump around a bit before things get going.  But I don't care.  The last hour of this movie is exactly what I've been wanting to see in a Star Wars movie my entire life.  The space/ground battle, with the Death Star plans as stakes were just awesome.  It reminded me a lot of old war movies, which I used to watch with my dad.  And Darth Vader's 3 minutes of screen time made Darth Vader great again, after three prequel movies of him being a whiney, angsty teenager.  I saw this movie opening night, and the moment Darth Vader turned on his lightsaber, practically the entire sold out theater was on their feet cheering.  It was so loud you couldn't hear the movie over it.  I also like a lot of the music, even though it wasn't John Williams.  It blended a lot of the old Star Wars music themes with new themes that I quite enjoyed.  And the special effects were kind of mind-blowing.

3.) Star Wars
When I was growing up, this movie was not called A New Hope.  It was called Star Wars.  I'm not calling it anything else.  This is the first movie I can remember ever seeing.  My parents rented it, and a VCR because we didn't own one at the time, for my birthday.  I was three or four, maybe five, but probably not.  I was blown away by it.  Some kids have that favorite Disney movie they watch over, and over again.  Or some other movie or show that just drives every adult crazy.  Mine was Star Wars.  Whenever we rented movies, we had to get Star Wars.  I watched it 73 times before it had to go back, and then the next time, we had to get Star Wars again.  It's just a really good movie, and for the time, the special effects are pretty awesome.  It basically changed the way movies are made forevermore.  In general, I feel that most of the changes made in the Star Wars special editions make the movies worse, not better.  But the addition of the scene with Biggs, and the completely redone Death Star battle really do make the movie better, in my opinion.  If only I could pick and choose which Special Edition changes I could keep and toss.

4.) The Force Awakens
Yes, this movie is a remake of the original.  So what?  It was still great.  It also has my favorite lightsaber fight in the entire series.  It's the only lightsaber fight in all of Star Wars that looks like the characters were actually trying to kill each other, which the exception of maybe the part at the end of Jedi where Luke loses his temper, and even then, it seems more about him hitting Vader's lightsaber, rather than hitting Vader himself.  Old Han Solo steals every single scene he's in.  Chewie actually seems to have a personality for the first time.  I really liked the new characters, Finn, Rey, Poe, and Kylo Ren.  Finn, especially, because he's an actual, likable character, not just the token black guy.   And it has a very, very well shot death scene at the end, which, in case someone hasn't seen it, I'll not ruin.  A lot of people seemed to think Rey was a Mary Sue, but, I mean, they establish in the movie WHY she can speak so many languages, WHY she knows how to fight, and WHY she's good at fixing things.  And people complain about how she's perfect at flying the Millenium Falcon.  Uh, seriously, count how many things she crashes it into.  I just really enjoyed it, and felt that it was a great continuation of the story into a new generation of heros and villains.

 Okay, #5 is a tie

5.) The Last Jedi
No, this is not the best Star Wars movie ever.  No, this is not the worst Star Wars movie ever.  In my opinion, it's just average.  Right in the middle.  I didn't hate it, but I didn't really love it either.  I liked it.  I'll watch it again in my life, but it's not one of my favorites.  What I do like about this movie is the development of Kylo Ren's character.  This movie is REALLY brutal to him as a character.  And he becomes a really, really terrifying villain by the end, with no hope of redemption.  I also relaly liked the protrayal of Luke in this movie.  To me, where his character is at the beginning of the movie is a logical and interesting progression.  A lot of people seem horrified by it, because he's not book Luke.  Well, here's the thing about book Luke... HE'S FREAKING BORING!!!  And Mark Hamill just NAILS his performance, too.  It is a great pity he was not recognized for it at the Academy Awards.  This movie also brings up some interesting questions about the Star Wars universe.  I also really liked the visuals and music on the end battle, even if it felt too much like a rip off of the Hoth battle in Empire.  The desperate charge against overwhelming odds across a pristine white battlefield that turns the color of blood as they fight, all with John Williams' March of the Resistance playing over it, and the return of the Millenium Falcon, with the Millenium Falcon's theme music, which was suspiciously absent from The Force Awakens, depite the perfect opportunity to use it.  All in all, it was a decent movie, but there are better movies in the series.

5.) Return of the Jedi
This movie has some problems.  I'm not gonna lie.  I felt like the Han Solo rescue at the beginning was boring and dragged on forever.  I will also admit that I had a picture of golden bikini Leia on my bedroom wall for years as a teen.  And the Ewoks man, the Ewoks.  Just, FU Ewoks.  I do really like the Death Star space battle.  It is really awesome, the wall of tie fighters, the Death Star firing on the rebel fleet, flying into the Death Star.  That's all really, really fun and awesome, with great visuals for the time it was made, that still hold up today.  The ground battle is not very good, in my opinion.  The special effects are a little lacking on the ATSTs and, again, the freaking Ewoks.   Plus, I really like the Luke/Vader/Emperor confrontation.  It's not about the lightsabers.  It's about the characters, the emotion, and the temptation.  Luke wins the lightsaber fight, but he LOSES the confrontation.  Vader's redmption DOES seem like it comes a bit out of nowhere, even after having seen the prequels, but it fits in with the schlockyness of the rest of the movie.  This movie probably suffers the least from the Special Edition, but man, that Jedi Rocks musical number, that is fast forwarded EVERY time I watch it.  Again, all in all, it was a decent movie, but there are better movies in the series.

7.) The Clone Wars
Yes, that's right, I actually went to see The Clone Wars in the theater.  Was it a good movie?  Well, no, not really.  It was basically just the first four episodes of the TV series edited together to make a movie, at George Lucas' wallet's behest.   But it's not exactly a bad movie either.  Despite pacing issues due to the fact that it wasn't meant to be a movie, and the fact that the story is a little more kiddie than the rest of the Star Wars movies, it was still fun to watch.  Mostly, I like The Clone Wars because it gives a look at what the charactesr COULD HAVE BEEN in the prequel trilogy.  You know, likable, well written, given logical character progression without winking at the audience too much.  This is something that continued on into the TV series.  They took the prequels, and said, okay, we're going to fix this.  And they did.  They made real, sympathetic, likeable characters out of boring, wooden, unlikable characters.  There are some REALLY stupid and boring episodes, but a lot of them are really good.  They take something that was boring and laughable in the movies, the Clone Wars, and make them the horrifying, destructive war that shaped the characters' lives that Obi-Wan makes them out to be in the first movie.

8.) Revenge of the Sith
This movie is the best of the Prequels.  Some might say that of three hot pokers in the eye, this one burns a little less, but, eh, it's not terrible.  The acting is bad, the way dialog scenes are shot is boring.  But at the same time, the opening battle and lightsaber fight are great.  The drama between Anakin and Padme is competant, especially when you compare it to Attack of the Clones.  It has some fun action scenes in the middle, to break up the monotony of characters boringly talking in shot/reverse shot, and the ending, despite having some very bad pacing and editing issues, and dragging on a little too long, is pretty good too.  When Obi-Wan wins the lightsaber fight, we're treated to the only scene in the entire trilogy between Obi-Wan and Anakin that actually has any real emotion in it.  Also, Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor is just plain awesome.  He's evil and he freaking loves it.  Him and Jimmy Smitts are really the only actors in this entire prequel trilogy that seem to be having any fun, or actually be trying to elevate the material.  This one is fun for what it is, but I would literally watch seven other Star Wars movies first before picking it up.

9.) The Phantom Menace
No, this is not my least favorite movie in the series.  I recently rewatched the entire Star Wars movie series, leading up to the release of The Last Jedi.  I was surprised to find that I didn't really hate 2 out of 3 of the prequel movies as much as I remembered hating them.  Revenge of the Sith, and The Phantom Menace are not good movies, but they're definitely not as bad as I rememeber them being.  My biggest problem with this movie is that there is too much Jar Jar in it, otherwise, I probably would have swapped it places on this list with Revenge of the Sith.  Every character in this movie is flat and boring, save Qui-Gon Jinn, mostly due to Liam Neeson being the only actor in the movie trying to give a decent performance.  The CG has not aged well, unfortunately, but there isn't as much of it as I remember there being in this movie.  Unlike Revenge of the Sith and Attack of the Clones, they actually built real sets for this movie, instead of CGing all of it.   Anakin is annoying, and he wins completely by accident, but that lightsaber fight, despite being obviously choreographed within an inch of its life is pretty sweet, and the Dual of the Fates music is the perfect accompaniment for it.  but again, there are 8 Star Wars movies I would rather watch before this one.

10.) Attack of the Clones
I do not like this movie.  There is nothing in it that I enjoy.  The acting is terrible.  The chemistry between LUKE AND LEIA'S FREAKING PARENTS is non-existent.  It's boring.  It drags on forever.  There is WAY too much CGI that has not aged well at all.  The dialog is painful to listen to.  And, I mean, come on.  These are Luke and Leia's parents, and they look at each other like they can't stand to be in the same room.  I hated this movie just as much as I remembered hating it.  The end battle is just way too cartoony.  Yoda fighting with a lightsaber, really?  REALLY?  Just, no.  The entire love story plotline is a chore to watch.  The entire Obi-Wan investigation plotline is a chore to watch.  It's just a very boring, not very well made, terribly written and acted mess of a movie.  Although, Obi-Wan vs Jango was pretty cool.  But that's what, 3 mins of a movie that's over 2 hrs long?  Jimmy Smitts seems to get a lot of hate as an actor, but I don't really know why.  I want you to watch this movie, and really pay attention to Jimmy Smitts' performance.  He is the ONE AND ONLY actor in this ENTIRE movie that gives a genuinely good performance.  Especially, watch the scene in Palpatine's office where they're debating creating an army.  If he can take the script and direction on Attack of the Clones, and put out THAT GOOD of a performance, he's okay in my book.

So, there it is, my Star Wars movie Ranking, and why I chose to rank them as such.