2013: Movies of Interest

The first of the two big Movie Seasons is almost upon us… indeed I daresay it starts rather soon.  Last year, I wrote about the upcoming flicks that had captured my interest.  I thought it would be a fine idea to do so again.  In fact, if I can remember in time next year, maybe this’ll be an annual feature.

Here are the movies that have caught my interest this year, in a sort-of-order of my interest:

  1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug With a few relatively minor caveats (Storm Giants, anyone? What the Helsinki was that, and how, exactly, was it even remotely necessary for the movie?) I thoroughly enjoyed the first of the planned Hobbit trilogy, as I had expected to.  Being a huge fan of both the Lord of the Rings books and movies, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the next Hobbit movie is my top flick-to-see in 2013.
  2. Man of Steel Only one comicbook superhero ranks higher on my all-time favorite list than Batman, and that is his boyscout, super-powered, primary-color-clad sometimes friend and rival Superman.  So yes: I plan to see the latest incarnation of the cinematic Superman, and I have very high hopes.
  3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Dear Wife and I quite enjoyed first Hunger Games movie (well, I did; I can’t really speak for Dear Wife, but it is my belief that she enjoyed it).  I finished reading all three books last year, and I’m quite looking forward to the second installment in the film franchise.
  4.  

    Those are the movies that I expect I’ll actually see in the theaters.  After that… there’s a big drop in the likelihood that I think I’ll manage to catch anything else on this list.

     

  5. Pacific Rim I think I’ve mentioned before how much of an anime geek I am.  Not the hugest one around, but still… enough of one that I totally grok where this movie is going.  Giant Robots (called “Jaegers“, no less) versus Giant Monsters (“Kaiju“).  This is totally live-action anime.  And so, I’m excited for this movie.  I figure, though, that this could go one of two ways: this could be this year’s Inception… or this could be this year’s Prometheus.  With Guillermo Del Toro directing, I’m hopeful it’s more like the latter… but then again, Ridley Scott carried a lot of cache into Prometheus… Assuming the sci-fi and fantasy community tends to lean more toward the former than the latter, then you can be sure, even if I miss this in theaters, I’ll queue it up on DVD as soon as I’m able.
  6. Star Trek: Into Darkness I saw and enjoyed 2009’s Star Trek reboot – although a few things about it left me unsettled. (Red Matter?  And really, [Spoilers] did you need to blow up Vulcan?  And with all that time-traveling going on, you really couldn’t, you know, travel back in time and save the planet?  The last fact really miffed me fiercely.  Once you’ve established that time travel is an option, you better have a dang good reason why it can’t be used again to undo later events in the story.)  Regardless of those snafus, I enjoyed the Star Trek reboot enough that I’m very interested to see the next in the new series.  Added to that the mystery of who, precisely, Benedict Cumberbatch is playing – is it Kahn Noonien Singh? Is it Gary Mitchell? Is it some other dude who combines the attributes of Kahn and Mitchell? – adds to the intrigue and interest in this film.  As I expect this movie will skip the time travel plot problems of Star Trek, I expect this will actually be a better movie.  Still… I figure I’m unlikely (all things considered) to catch this in theaters.  So, as with Pacific Rim, I’m sure I’ll be queueing this up on DVD as soon as available.
  7. Oblivion The trailer for this flick has at least intrigued me – it’s hinted that not is all as it seems for Tom Cruise’s character, nor for desolate planet Earth in the far future.  But what really catches my interest: Morgan Freeman as some sort of Resistance/Rebel leader.  Is there any role that is not automatically cooler when played by Morgan Freeman?  That gives me promise that this film can live up to the ideas presented in its trailers.
  8. After Earth ‘Tis the Year for “In the Future, Earth has been abandoned by Humans”, isn’t it?  The attraction of this particular version of that story is in having real-life father-and-son acting team Will and Jaden Smith play a father and son stranded on an inhospitable future Earth struggling to survive.  The downside? It’s directed by M. Night Shyamalan (whose last few movies have not exactly been great, and who lost whatever remaining goodwill he had left as a director when he miscast and ruined the fundamentally un-ruinable big screen adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender) – so don’t expect the trailers to pint that little fact out.  The possible saving grace? This is Will Smith’s baby more than it is Shyamalan’s.  Regardless, I’m interested, but I’ll see what the critics have to say.
  9. Ender’s Game This one very nearly snuck up on me.  There’s very little buzz about Ender’s Game that I’ve seen so far.  Many, many years ago I read (and enjoyed) the novel as well as the companion novel (Ender’s Shadow).  I have yet to read (and not a terrible great interest in reading) the supposed sequels to Ender’s Game. (My understanding, for the most part, is that they diverge in some pretty radical ways from the story, characters, and world presented in Ender’s Game.) Anyway… I’m interested to see and hear more about this before casting judgment.
  10. World War Z Funny… I think I saw this title on a list of movies I made somewhere, once before.  Oh yeah: It was last year’s list.  Obviously, World War Z didn’t make it out in 2012.  But I find myself more interested now than I was then, thanks to several trailers that have given me a better idea of the film.  On the other hand… long delays and changes in release dates usually don’t bode well for a film.
  11. Elysium What was that I said above about the year for desolate or abandoned future Earths? Okay, so the Earth of Elysium isn’t really desolate or abandoned, but it may as well be: it’s a place where the poor and downtrodden are confined while the rich live high above.  (And the meek shall inhereit the Earth?)  What Elysium has going for it is a top-calibre cast, including Matt Damon and Jodi Foster.  Again, however, other than this, I know relatively little about the movie.  So I’ll take the wait-and-see approach.
  12. The Wolverine Remember when I said Superman was the superhero who ranked just above Batman at the top of my personal superhero pantheon?  The guy right below Batman is Wolverine.  And yet… I did not see the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie.  I heard the reviews were pretty bad.  But I’m open-minded.  I’ll wait and see what the buzz says about Logan’s second solo-outing.  On a semi-related note… I’m still keen to catch X-Men: First Class on DVD some time.

Honorable Mentions:

These are the movies I feel like I want to see (in theaters, where possible). But a few other movies have hit my radar, too. Some of these I have no interest in seeing theaters, but may be interested to catch on DVD later, some it’s practically too late to catch in theaters, and some I just don’t know enough about.

Oz the Great and Powerful There’s no way I’ll find the time to see this before it makes its way out of theaters.  I’m interested in it, but not enough to try to make the time, and especially not enough to to press the issue when there’s a brand new wee bairn at home.

Frozen Frankly, I don’t know enough about this movie yet.  I think it’s an animated Epic Fantasy sort of movie.  But… I’m not really sure I’ve read about it right.  If and when I hear more, I’ll make a judgment at that time.

Monster’s University It’s Pixar and it’s not Cars.  So that’s a good thing.  On the otherhand, while I enjoyed the previous Monster’s Inc., I didn’t love it enough to want a sequel.  This movie seems… I dunno… gratuitous.  But because it’s Pixar and, Cars and Cars 2 notwithstanding, Pixar has a lot of goodwill with me, I can almost garauntee I’ll watch it on DVD at some point.

The Lone Ranger I was convinced, when I heard about this, that it had “Epic Flop of John Carter Proportions” written all over it.  I thought: Johnny Depp (no matter how good an actor he is) in a racially insensitive portrayal of Tonto?  This thing is going to get cremated in the blogosphere!  Now I’ve seen the trailers and I’m… less convinced.  And the buzz is actually pretty decent.  And word is Disney has done a lot of legwork (enough? I don’t know) to make good with Native Americans over the casting and portrayal of Tonto.  (I’m that mythical “1/16th” Native American, which basically doesn’t mean anything, except that a deep respect for Native American peoples has been passed down in my family, owing to that ancestry as told in family legend.  I haven’t done the genealogy work to back up that claim.  But the end result is that I’m a little sensitive to the question of how American Indians are portrayed in stories.)  So… If all that holds true… well… you can expect The Lone Ranger to do bonzo at the Box Office.

Iron Man 3 I have not seen Iron Man 2 (nor, for that matter, The Avengers).  So I know there is Zero Percent chance I’ll make it out to see Iron Man 3.  I at least owe it to the movie to see the two preceeding flicks (even if I still manage to avoid Thor because I think the idea of “Thor” as a superhero character is basically a bit cheesy and overwrought).  I did see and enjoy the first Iron Man movie, though, and I enjoyed Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Stark.  So, whenever I get around to picking up Iron Man 2 and The Avengers, I’ll eventually follow that up with Iron Man 3.

What happened to 2012’s Movies?

As for the 2012 movies that I had listed previously?  As alluded above, I did see the first Hobbit movie and the first Hunger Games movie.  I also caught Dark Knight Rises and Brave at the theaters.  I did not get a chance to see The Secret World of Arietty, but that’s okay, because I’ve always consumed anime on the small-screen in the past.  (I love Hayao Miyazaki, but I’ve never seen a Miyazaki movie in theaters.)  Prometheus was… well… based on all the reviews I heard, it wasn’t what I wanted it to be.  And life’s too short to waste a few hours on a basically dumb movie.  The Amazing Spider-Man, as predicted, I did not see.  I still expect I’ll see it on DVD eventually.  Also didn’t see The Avengers, so no, I did not contribute to that massive box office haul.  John Carter, I heard, was actually better than many gave it credit for.  But, again… well… my own sense of it was not super-positive from the trailers.  (I said it looked “vistual-tastic”, but I also worried, based on the trailers, that there wasn’t much “there there”.  I still sort of feel that way.)  Again, life’s too short. 

So, that’s where I stand on movies in 2013.  How’s about you?

Tidbits of Inspiration: Quantum Entanglement

I read this today.

Don’t worry if you don’t get it.  I’m no physicist.  I don’t really get it either.  My highest education in the field of physics came in my Undergrad career when I took the slightly-more-difficult and rigorous Calc-based Physics as my required Science class instead of the mushy, cake-walk Physics for Dummies class.  (I did well, by the way, getting As in both semesters.  But that was somewhere in the vicinity of a decade ago, or more, now.) 

Anyway, Quantum Entanglement was one of those high-class physics concepts that was mostly beyond the scope of the classes I took.  But it’s a pretty important concept for the development of future technology.  Basically, it means this: two particles can be “entangled”, which means that the state of one effects the state of the other, even if the two are separated by a great distance.  In effect, this can theoretically allow for faster-than-light transfer of information, because changing the state of one instantaneously changes the state of the other.  Or something like that.  I may be misstating this, so if this piques your interest, I suggest you educate yourself from someone who’s actually knowledgeable and an expert.

But what I read today?  It blows that idea out of the water and takes it further than I thought possible.  Basically… in this experiment, there were two pairs of entangled photons: Pair A and Pair B.  One of each of these pairs (one from Pair A and one from Pair B) was sent to separate machines (Machine A and Machine B) that measured the state of the photons.  Machine A and Machine B are independent and do not share information with each other.  The second photon from each entangled pair was at a later time sent to a third machine, Machine C, which decided either to entangle the the two or not to entangle them, and then measures them.  Of critical interest here: the decision made by Machine C to either entangle or not entangle is made after the measurements at each of Machine A and Machine B were made.  Also to note: if Machine C decides not to entangle then you have two independent pairs of entangled photons.  If Machine C instead decides to entangle the second photon of each pair, then you have a chain of four entangled photons: the first photon of pair A is entangled with the second of pair A which is entangled with the second of pair B which is entangled with the first of pair B. 

And the result?  When Machine C decides not to entangle, then there is no measurable correlation between the states of Pair A and Pair B.  But when C decides to entangle, the state of Pair A and Pair B are correlated.

In layman’s terms: the entanglement performed by Machine C extends backwards in time to affect the states of the first photon of each of the newly entangled pairs.  Or in other words: Machine C sent information into the past!  I am probably overstating things somewhat.  But still.  Into the past!

This is truly mind-boggling.

Back to the Future, anyone?

Holiday Fun: The Gingerbread House Cometh

These are fun: a series of Gingerbread creations in the shape of icons from Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction.

My favorites (with added points for technical accomplishments): the Gingerbread Burrow and Gingerbread Hogwarts, but they’re all quite fabulous.

Dragon*Con, Decatur Book Festival and Parade Pics

This weekend I almost went to my second-ever Con.  I was all mentally-prepared to go.  I assumed that was my plan for the long weekend.  What a great chance to exercise my writerly-networking skills, right?

And then Dear Wife asked a couple leading questions: not saying I shouldn’t go but asking what I was going to do when I went…  Which got me thinking: what would I do if I went to Dragon*Con this weekend?

The 2011 Dragon*Con Parade

The start of the 2011 Dragon*Con Parade

Dragon*Con seemed like a no-brainer.  It is a major convention in a reasonable proximity to where I actually live.  Lots of major editors, authors, agents, and pop-culture F&SF heroes would be there.  What’s not to love?  Except the sticker shock.  (A weekend pass costs how much? I sputtered.  And a day pass isn’t exactly cheap, either.  I know major theme parks that cost a lot less for a few day’s fun.)  But what really got me thinking was my lack of a real plan.  Sure some authors and other luminaries would be there.  But did I know who those were?  How would meeting them, if I knew who they were, benefit my writing career?  What was the point of meeting them?

In fact, I had answers to none of these questions.  So what if I met an editor or agent at the con?  That’s assuming I even knew of any specific editors or agents at the con and where I could find them to meet them.  I don’t have a book finished, so I can’t sell them anything.  I don’t have any major short story publications, so I can’t point to anything I’ve done.  I’ve got nothing by which they will even be able to remember they met me.  At this stage in my development as a writer, I realized, it was an exercise in futility.

There was the possibility that I could attend the writer’s panel track and learn something about the craft of writing – except I’m slowly finding that after a decade of absorbing generic writing advice there isn’t much that’s news to me.  I’ve mostly heard all these things before.  I still appreciate getting those lessons refreshed, periodically, but I can do that for a lot less than the ticket-price at a major convention.  On balance, I realized, Dragon*Con was turning into a somewhat over-priced F&SF-flavored theme-park ride.  Under my immediate circumstances, it just wasn’t an expense I could presently afford or rationalize. Continue reading

“The Story of G” First Draft: Complete

Yesterday evening I finished a rough draft of my new short story, “The Story of G”.  As I’ve mentioned here before, “The Story of G” is my follow-up to last year’s Writers of the Future Honorable Mention “PFTETD”.  (I mean follow-up as in it’s my next short story and next potential entry into the WotF contest.)

“The Story of G” is not the actual title.  I’m not indicating what the real title is, yet, because I still haven’t decided on it.  That’s one of the bits of feedback I’ll be looking for from first readers (I have a few options I am mulling).

Dear Wife has already read it.  She says she likes it better than “PFTETD”.  That’s encouraging news.  There are some caveats, of course, but I won’t publicly share the specifics of her feedback – in part because the specifics of feedback are a private matter, and in part because I don’t want to taint future beta readers.

So… if you’re got a little free time and don’t mind lending a helping hand, I’m looking for beta readers to provide a little feedback.  It’s a fairly short story – a little under 8,000 words, which is quite a bit longer than my target of 6,000 words, but it’s still not terribly long.  Let me know if you’d be willing to help.  I’ll try to make myself available for beta reads and feedback in return.

Thanks everyone!

The Depths of Genre, the Heights of Audience Expectation

I regularly read the Magical Words blog, whree a group of speculative fiction authors joined together to offer writing advice and stories from the word-mines.  Over time, I’ve become ever-so-slightly more active a commenter on the posts, sharing my own thoughts and experience.

One recent post got me thinking about Genre.  In it, fantasy author Misty Massey begins a series of genre-definition posts similar to what you’d find on fellow writer-blogger T.S. Bazelli’s blog.  The post and ensuing discussion made me think about genre a lot (so much so that I was accused of overthinking the matter; I deny the charge as I don’t generally think it’s possible to overthink anything, and more likely to underthink something; I’m guilty of the latter as often as anybody else, but I’d rather be guilty of the former, which I think is no sin).  So, this is going to be a long post.  I’d split it up, but I think I’d lose something salient to my point in doing so.  My intention is to inspire deeper thinking on this topic – maybe even overthinking.  So put your thinking caps on.

Misty sets off on this whirlwind tour of the many genres and subgenres and subsubgenres of Speculative Fiction by discussing high and epic fantasy.  But before launching into discussion of individual genres, she says this:

When you’ve finished your manuscript and are ready to send it out into the world, one of the most important things to know about it is what genre it belongs to. Once upon a time, if a book had magic in it, it was fantasy. Period. Tolkien was fantasy, Tim Powers was fantasy, Glen Cook was fantasy. That’s no longer true. Genres have split and split and split again, becoming more and more specialized as the audiences demanded. Where once agents said they read fantasy, now they say they only want comic paranormal romance, dark epic or dieselpunk. Which puts the writer into a quandary – how do you know what you’re writing? Continue reading

You Vote: NPR’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy

So, you may have already heard, but NPR is taking nominations for an upcoming Top-100 list of the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy books.

They have a few rules: no YA fantasy or science fiction (which cuts out Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, and my personal childhood favorite, the Prydain Chronicles), no horror and no Paranormal Romance (which means no Stephen King or Stephanie Meyer) – although that last rule seems, to me, to be a bit unclear, because the line between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy is pretty thin and fuzzy, and the latter is definitely SF&F…

Anyway, the excluded genres and subgenres they intend to cover in later Best-1oo lists, so they say that’s why.

If you haven’t already, you can go and nominate your five favorites in the comments here.