My thoughts on “Ghost in the Shell” — No Spoilers

ghost in the shell

Ghost in the shell movie

I saw “Ghost in the Shell” yesterday, and here are my brief NO SPOILERS thoughts on it.

The good: First, I have to say that “Ghost” is a perfectly fine science fiction thriller set in a dystopian near-future. It’s competently made, and I think all sci-fi fans should support competently made sci-fi that’s not part of an existing live-action franchise. (I’m well aware of its animated and drawn history.)

The visuals are rich, the tech is fun, and the script is reasonably tight and focused. I recommend seeing the film in 3D Imax, because its greatest strengths are its visuals.

The bad: All that said, it’s not a perfect movie. The storytelling isn’t as robust as I would have liked, and the script does’t allow the story to explore the more interesting areas of the universe. Where does tech end and humanity begin? It’s a compelling question even if it’s been mined before, and, I would think, the central one for this universe, but it’s not explored in any depth here.

The movie could have used a writer and director that would have lent the story and universe the depth it deserves, and it’s sad to see Ghost in the Shell shortchanged in that way.

The climax should have been longer and more interesting. I would say more here but I want to keep this spoiler-free.

The action was surprisingly lackluster. I was hoping for some big fun action scenes. Minority Report wasn’t great, for example, but it did deliver on the action and was a more fun movie because of it. I would say Ghost in the Shell is a better movie than Minority Report but would’ve been improved by some more compelling action sequences.

I was never invested in Major’s character as much as I wanted to be. Part of this is the writing, part of it’s the acting. Why does ScarJo play Major as a robot? Her brain is human, after all — it’s not as if she’s without emotion. Sure, she can be disconnected and adrift in the world, but a little emoting would be okay, surely.

In sum: All right, I’ll stop there. I’m sounding way too negative for a fun little sci-fi movie with great visuals and a well-developed environment. I would still recommend seeing it, but keep your expectations in check and you might just have a good time.

I hope this movie does well enough to warrant a sequel because I want to see this universe explored in more detail, with a more robust script and story. I just hope that a new writing and directing team take over for the next one, and that someone tells ScarJo it’s okay to emote every now and then.


Stars Wars meets . . . Lovecraft?


I’m a very happy geek right now. I just finished reading the new standalone Han Solo arc (the graphic novel), and I can’t stop grinning. Why? Because there are now Lovecraftian horrors in the Star Wars universe.

That’s right, and without giving away too much, there does at one point appear in the story a giant tentacled monstrosity from another dimension. I could not be more excited. Star Wars already had wizards, knights, spaceships, pirates, smugglers, monsters galore, all the tropes of epic fantasy as well as science fiction, but until now it lacked that one crucial ingredient: Lovecraftian horror.

Now Star Wars has it all, baby! The SW universe has just about every cool geek thing that you could imagine. Heck, it even has fish-people.

I can’t wait to see what use they make of other-dimensional horrors now. Was it just a one-time thing, or will they try to incorporate other psuedo-Lovecraftian terrors into the ‘verse?

To be sure, the Lovecraftian element is very minor, of course. The comic is mainly about expanding on the idea of intersteller racing as introduced in “Bloodlines” — but with great art and a cool OT vibe.


You can find the book here:


Have you read the comic? What do you think?


My thoughts on “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”



I just saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Here are a few brief NO SPOILERS impressions:

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. It felt very much like a return to the world of Harry Potter, and that’s a good thing. I’m not as big into Potter as some people are, but I’m very fond of the movies and have watched each one multiple times.

Will I watch Fantastic Beasts again? I don’t know. Honestly, I didn’t love it as much as I was hoping to. I didn’t DISlike it, but I thought the plot was too scattered, with too many characters that didn’t serve the story and that weren’t fleshed out at all. The main character, Newt, was quite likable but even he wasn’t fleshed out in any depth. Hints were dropped to set up his development for the next movie . . . and that just didn’t work for me. I wanted to, ahem, root for Newt in this movie, not the next.

The most likable character in the movie is Newt’s baker sidekick. The actor playing him does a great job, even if he’s a bit too on the nose at times. I felt that character could have used just a few rough edges to keep him from being overly syrupy, but he still comes off a winner.

Strangely, although the screenplay was written by JK Rowling herself, the women in the story aren’t made terribly interesting or compelling. No Hermione Grangers here. There is one that is quite likable, but even she is a bit too syrupy for my liking.

In short, I thought the plot was thin and scattered and the characters weren’t developed enough. The world didn’t feel quite as deep and interesting as it did in the Harry Potter movies. And the ending was a blatant set-up for Part Two. Which I would be okay with if they’d made Part One a bit more robust and intriguing.

I would certainly recommend all Potter-heads to go see it, and anyone that wants a light, fun, magical time at the movies, but don’t expect it to be the new Harry Potter.

Maybe the sequel will improve on the first. I hate to say it, but I kind of hope they bring in a new scriptwriter. JK is an amazing novelist, and I can’t wait to read her next book, but as a scriptwriter . . . well. Maybe she just needs practice.

But those are just my thoughts. What did you think?


On Phantasm Ravager and the Phantasm Series



Well, I’ve completed my marathon of the Phantasm series, concluding with the final, just released fifth movie Phantasm: Ravager. And I want more. I just love this series. When you think of trippy, fast-paced sci-fi horror series that tell a continuous story over several movies, there’s really not much there. Thank goodness for Phantasm.

Eerie, dream-like, action-packed, with more WTF moments than any ten other series put together. I love it, and the series holds up surprisingly well. I look forward to seeing the revamped version of the first movie where they digitally improve some of the special effects (in some shots in the first movie you can actually see the fishing line they used to run the silver spheres on–but that’s a minor issue).

The series never does answer the question of how Reggie miraculously survived the first movie while Jody didn’t. I guess that will go down as one of the series’s biggest mysteries. And we never really get to learn the secret behind Mike’s connection to the Tall Man, although Ravager does give us a hint (I won’t spoil it).

So how is Phantasm: Ravager? Does Phantasm stick the landing?

I’ve been waiting for years (almost twenty years!) for the story to reach a conclusion, and I have to say . . . hm. It’s not baaad, but, well, it is what it is. A movie made fifteen years too late on a shoestring budget and not directed by the original filmmaker (although he did produce and co-write it). The movie gets very head-trippy, which I appreciate, but unfortunately that aspect comes in part due to an Alzheimer’s subplot. My dad died from Alzheimer’s a couple of years ago, so this hit a little too close to home for me, and it felt a little out of tone with the rest of the series, although I admired how they used it to address Reggie’s suddenly advanced age.

Gotta love Reggie. The lovable side character who somehow became the main character just because he’s so awesome. What a character! A randy hippie ice cream man who can play the guitar and wield a four-barreled shotgun. Love it. They really should have made this movie years ago, though, when he and the other actors were a bit younger. It has been about forty years since the original, after all, and none of them are young anymore.

But I digress. If nothing else, Phantasm: Ravager does indeed feel “Phantasm-y”, and I’m intrigued by how they ended it. I read an interview where Don Coscarelli talks about a possible TV series continuing or redoing the story, and I’ve got to say, that would rock! I would LOVE a Phantasm TV series, but only if Don is involved somehow and it’s done at a high level. Think Supernatural meets Twin Peaks.

I don’t know how they could ever replace Angus Scrimm, the actor who played the series’s villain, the Tall Man, so well and who made him an iconic horror movie foe complete with his own catchphrase. Seriously, try imagining any other actor saying “Boooooy”. It really doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?
So Ravager isn’t perfect, but it does tie things up in an interesting way while leaving room for some stories to come.
I really wish they hadn’t had rap music during the final credits, though. I mean, really? Rap? In Phantasm? Why? It was jarring and out of place.
Sigh. I will fix it in my fan edit.

Because yes, when Phantasm Ravager is available on DVD, I’ll add it to my fan edit combining the rest of the series into one long movie. I will have to do some judicious editing on Ravager, though, paring it down to its essentials and removing the Alzheimer’s subplot, which just seemed out of place and which hits me, personally, in the wrong way.

Okay, so that’s my Phantasm rant. Rant over. Long live Phantasm!


My NO SPOILERS thoughts on Suicide Squad























Okay, so I just came back from seeing Suicide Squad. Here are my brief NO SPOILERS impressions.
The movie is . . . interesting. Deeply problematic, but interesting. Like all of the DC films so far, it’s a mixed bag, with some really good stuff intermingled with some not-so-good stuff. Take a look at that poster, for example. What are they trying to sell us on? The Joker, right? Well, the Joker has less than five minutes of screentime, if that.
I think there was an earlier version of the movie where he gets much more time, and sadly that time is on the editing room floor. This is a shame, because Jared Leto’s take on the character is awesome. It’s not going to replace Heath Ledger’s Joker, but it stands on its own just fine. So they’ve sold us on a movie that doesn’t exist. I can’t WAIT for the director’s cut, if there is one. I want to see the Joker as a prominent character in this film, as he was (mostly likely) originally intended to be. The reshoots probably really hurt this movie, and especially his character.
The heart of this movie is the relationship between Harley Quinn and the Joker. Harley is the stand-out of the movie, hands down, and it should have focused on her and the Joker. It would have been the most twisted relationship ever given a big budget, but it would have been mesmerizing. Instead we get poorly developed side characters and clunky, nonsensical, even repetitive plot mechanics.
I know, it sounds like I’m being hard on the movie, and it really does have some huge, huge problems. On balance, though, I would recommend seeing it, unless you’ve developed a deep dislike of the DC movies (I’m wary but hopeful). Suicide Squad, when it’s working, has a lot of charm, and even some genuine pathos and heart.
Plus I LOVE villainous couples. From Drac and Mina to Chucky and his Bride, I love when lovers go bad, or when baddies fall in love. And even though this movie only gave us a hint of that, that hint was electric. So, if only for Harley and the Joker, I would say go see it. You may hate me afterward, though. I saw this movie with a group of people, and several of them truly despised the movie. So your mileage may vary.

POSTSCRIPT: In some ways, this movie is the opposite of the new Bourne movie. The Bourne movie was a bland but competently made “meh” of a film. Suicide Squad was a lovingly crafted, passionate mess.
If there’s a director’s cut, and it still doesn’t fix the movie, I might try to make a fan edit splicing together the two movies.


My no-spoilers Ghostbusters 2016 review



Well, I just saw this today. Here are my brief NO SPOILERS thoughts:

I don’t mean to bash it, I know there are some people that really love the new Ghostbusters movie, and that’s great, but it didn’t connect to me at all. While I was watching it, I wished I had a watch so I could be checking the time left till I was free. I was very tempted to get up and walk out. I didn’t hate it, I was just bored. Neither the plot nor the characters grabbed me.

Also, I didn’t laugh. Once.

It felt very much like a Paul Feig movie, not a Ghostbusters movie. If you like Paul Feig movies, you’ll probably like this one. I’ve never connected with his material, and this movie was no exception. I was really rooting for it, though. I’m a child of the 80s and I’ve been waiting for a continuation of the Ghostbusters universe for a long time.

This movie didn’t “feel” like Ghostbusters, though. Tonally, it felt of a piece with “Spy” and “The Heat”. Other Paul Feig movies. It’s not that I hate the ad lib style of comedy filmmaking — I quite like Judd Apatow movies, for example, however predictable they are — but I have to admit to a certain fondness for scripted comedy. Where there are actual jokes, set ups and punchlines.

Of course, your mileage may vary, and that’s great. I’m something of a grumpy old man, I admit, and if you liked the movie, I’m happy for you.

Personally, I’m hoping for a sequel, just like I’m hoping for a sequel to Tarzan. I didn’t like either movie, but I like the root properties, and maybe they’ll get it right next time with a different writer and director.


My thoughts on the Warcraft movie . . .

Warcraft movie

Warcraft movie

So I saw Warcraft yesterday. Here are brief my NO SPOILERS thoughts on the movie.

I’m still divided on the movie, and I’m not sure I can give it a general recommendation. But … it wasn’t terrible. There were some good things about it. It was interesting, and different, and the visuals were well-realized, although I’m still not convinced the orcs needed to be CGI. The whole thing was CGI, really, except for some partial practical sets and the human actors. But it was well done for what it was.

The main problem I had with the movie is that the characters weren’t given any time to develop, with the possible exception of the main orc character (I forget his name). He was actually pretty likable and was performed well. The other characters didn’t fare so well. The Vikings TV show star did what he could in his role, the ostensible main character of the piece, but his character was given so little definition that it was hard to root for him.

It’s been said before that he is the Aragorn figure of this movie, and I suppose he is, but Aragorn is given a great deal of screentime in LOTR . . . before we even learn his name. The Warcraft guy — I think the character’s name is Lothar — is simply one of many moving parts to the movie, and they all move too fast and too chaotically to get any emotional grip on them before the end credits roll.

The movie needed to be more focused, more streamlined, or else it needed to have been split into multiple movies so that we could have the time needed to come to love this world, the people inhabiting it, and the orcs that want to claim it.

The villain is pretty solid, and I would consider him a bright spot except that he’s constantly checked by underlings who say things like, “If you kill X, the horde will turn on you”. A truly villainous leader would be less concerned about his P. R.

Anyway. The movie is deeply problematic, and it’s not great, but is is a loud, fast good time at the movies, and if you see it in Imax 3D like I did it is a true assault on the senses, in both a good way and a bad.

So do I recommend it? No. But . . . I can’t discourage anyone from seeing it, either. Final synopsis: it’s fun when it doesn’t make you want to pull your hair out.

For further thoughts on the movie, check out Io9’s article HERE.


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My thoughts on X-Men: Apocalypse


Saw X-Men: Apocalypse last night and had a lot of fun with it. Here are my brief thoughts.


Don’t believe the negative buzz. It’s a solid movie. Not “great”, and certainly nowhere near Captain America: Civil War, but miles above BvS (which admittedly isn’t saying much). It’s a generally well-done and fun movie. It has the courage to eschew the normal action movie formula by resisting the urge to have a huge action scene every twenty minutes. Its first real action scene after the prologue is more of a comedic spectacle than a real action sequence, so it’s first REAL action scene doesn’t happen until well into the second half of the movie — and yet it’s never dull and always engaging. Good on Bryan Singer.

My only real complaint is that there are too many characters and I wish some of them had been more fully developed or that they’d simply dropped some and focused more on the ones they kept. Also, I missed the Humans Vs. Mutants theme that runs throughout most of the X-Men movies. But that’s a small nitpick.

I think the lack of character focus prevents the movie from achieving comic book movie greatness, but other than that, if you like these kinds of films, I think you’ll have a good time at the theater.

Oh, and Apocalypse was a pretty darned good villain. Poe Dameron, what happened to you? Amazing that the actor can portray both good guys and bad guys with the same flourish.


Magic & Mayhem Boxed Set

Title: Magic and Mayhem

Number of Novels: 21

Price: $0.99

Release: August 2, 2016

Synopsis: Get ready to be swept off into lands filled with magic, mystery, action, adventure and romance with these 21 full-length fantasy novels! 22 NY Times, USA Today, and International Bestselling authors have banded together to bring you this amazing boxed set, but like all good things, it’s only available for a limited time! Grab this collection today before it’s gone for good!



What makes this boxed set so special?

You might be asking yourself what makes this boxed set so special, and I’m more than happy to tell you. See, there’s nothing like this out there. Usually when you go looking for collections of books, one of two things happens, you either find the same novels you’ve seen everywhere else, most of which you can get for free, or you find a collection chock full of books filled with half-naked alphas and domineering vampires.

Now, both of those things are cool, but that’s not what this collection entails. No, the guys and girls in these novels are way more likely to punch a vampire in the face than make out with one. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with being saved, but sometimes a girl has got to take things into her own hands, like you know, a stake.

You will also find that each novel in this set is actually for sale on one or more venders for far more than the sticker price of this set. This isn’t a set filled with freebies designed to entice you into purchasing something you could find for free. No, this collection of over one million words retails for over fifty dollars, and it’s all your for a buck. If that isn’t a steal, I don’t know what else.

Some of the books within the set have sold thousands of copies by themselves, and almost all of them enjoy several four and five star reviews. Chances are you’ll find at least one of your new favorite series within, and likely more, all for only a buck. That’s a deal that’s hard to beat.

So who wouldn’t like this set?

There’s always someone who doesn’t like something, and if you’re on the fence about this set, I’ll try to warn you off right now.

  • If you don’t like kick ass men and women who stake vampires, pummel werewolves, and shoot zombies all while maintaining their snarky senses of humor, this boxed set isn’t for you.
  • If you don’t like books who will bring you into a world full of fantasy, magic, and mayhem, this boxed set isn’t for you.
  • If you don’t like books with hundreds of four and five star reviews, this boxed set isn’t for you.
  • If you don’t like paying $0.99 for 21 full-length novels, this boxed set isn’t for you.
  • If you are expecting hot, steamy romance full of bare-chested werewolves getting it on, this boxed set isn’t for you.
  • If you don’t want to read books that will pull you in and not let you go until you’ve read all their sequels, this boxed set isn’t for you.

Okay, you keep saying 21 novels, but what exactly does that mean?

I thought you’d never ask. Here’s a list of what’s included in this set:

Burned by Magic – Jasmine Walt

Come, the Dark – Rebecca Hamilton

The Sorcery Code – Dima Zales & Anna Zaires

Unbound – Emily Goodwin

Legally Undead – Margo Bond Collins

Wardbreaker – J.A. Cipriano

Quartz – Rabia Gale

Chased by Fire – D.K. Holmberg

Waterwitch – Thea Atkinson

Adamant – Emma L. Adams

The Sunken – S.C. Green

Heart of the Kraken – A.W. Exley

The Atomic Sea – Jack Conner

Rebel’s Honor – Gwynn White

Echo in Time – Lindsey Fairleigh

The Hunt for Snow – S.E. Rabin

They’re So Vein – Susan Stec

Chameleon – K. De Long

Brooding City – Tom Shutt

Death is But a Dream – Erin Hayes

Power Shift – Calinda B.

Trust me, with 21 novels from twenty-two New York Times, USA Today, and International bestselling authors, you’re getting more than enough bang for your buck. Just don’t start this set late at night if you value your sleep, because I guarantee you’ll be up WAY past your bedtime! This incredible boxed set is only going to be around at $0.99 for a limited time, so make sure you grab your copy today!