Skip to main content


Showing posts from June, 2017

One last whine before I go...

I'm about to go join some friends for a weekend of board gaming, which is a pretty welcome break from routine.  (Steph and I are as equally psyched for the games as we are the free babysitting that's been offered.)  I feel a bit overdue for a marathon gaming session.

It was suggested that I bring Mansions of Madness, since I'm the only one of the group who owns a copy.  I've decided to bring along one of the expansion modules, which has the most clever premise I've seen for a MoM game yet: "House of Fears," in which a haunted manor is used to screen a film that has supernatural powers.

I'm pretty excited for the weekend, regardless of whether or not we get around to Mansions of Madness, and I should have no reason to complain.  But, y'know, it's me, so of course I've got to get one last shot in before the family hops in the car.


The module has another fucking cult in it.  Sigh.

21st Century Cosmic Horror

Today, as a white man, I'll do something my people have clearly never done before: talk with authority about something I've only tangentially studied and then make it all about me.  Enjoy!

Two of the three writing projects I've been juggling lately have some aspect of horror to them, so naturally my mind wanders to horror icons that have inspired me in the past.  And pretty much all horror writers today, consciously or unconsciously, can trace many of the tropes in their arsenal back to H.P. Lovecraft.  (Who himself directly traces his inspiration to Poe, but that's going back too far for what I'm getting at today.)

Now, the thing about Lovecraft is that he was insanely racist, and that racism is integral to virtually all of his stories.  It's one of those uncomfortable truths that you just have to get out of the way and acknowledge if you're ever going to enjoy his stuff.  And some of his writing is beyond the pale; there are stories that you may just have…

Hipster Holy Grail: Street Corner Justice (1996)

The Hipster Holy Grail is my ongoing quest to review an obscure movie before it becomes cool to talk about it. Good, bad, doesn't matter. It just has to be at least 10 years old and have less than 1,000 ratings on IMDb. This week, I watched....

The Short Bit for People Who Don't Like to Read Reviews There’s a halfway decent action movie hidden in Street Corner Justice. The sort of dumb thing you’d find on TV on a lazy Sunday morning and you don’t mind wasting the time on it. If only they got rid of some of the bloat and the politics, you might even want to check it out a second time.

My Rating: 2.5 / 5 (Almost Good Movie)

Week in Review: 6/25/17

Movies I Watched in the Last Week 1) Masterminds - Eh.  It's pretty dumb and has too many gross-out jokes in it.  But if I'm being honest, the gross-out jokes were almost the only parts I laughed at, kind of just as a reflex.  I'm also not sold on this idea that you can make any character funnier by simply effecting a stereotypical southern accent.  No wonder the red states hate Hollywood - if this is your attitude, you're just being a dick.  Where was I going with this?  Oh, right, this movie isn't very funny in my opinion, even though the cast is pretty good.

My Rating: 2.5 / 5

File this under "Pet Peeves" / Ramblin' 'bout the paranormal

I was listening to a spoooooooky story on a podcast the other day, and something really rubbed me the wrong way.  The story-teller invoked a trope that's one of my biggest pet peeves.  A phrase that should be banned from all discussion:

"What other explanation could there possibly be?"

It was dropped into a paranormal context, essentially framing the tale of a haunting as being definitively caused by a ghost rather than, oh, literally anything else.  And it came at the tail end of a lot of poo-pooing of more mundane explanations as to why all the creepy stuff was happening: "There was nobody else in the house, there weren't any open windows, and even if there were, it wasn't a windy day, etc."

So, according to the storyteller, if a mundane explanation isn't immediately obvious, the only possible conclusion is ghosts.  Sigh.  Y'see, this right here is where the skeptical part of me that enjoys a good debunking aligns perfectly with the creative p…

No outline

If there's any through-line to the nonsense I wrote about on this blog, it's probably, "plan before you write."  If I'm not dispensing unsolicited (and frankly, unsubstantiated) advice about coming up with an outline, then I'm complaining that I've run into a brick wall because I can't figure out my story outline.  And if I'm not complaining that I've got problems, then I'm complaining that a movie or a book I've read has problems because they didn't come up with an outline.

So, um, I've started writing a new book without an outline.  Hmm.

For fear of spoiling the few unique twists I'm bringing to the plot, I won't describe it in too much detail just yet.  I'll just say that it's a horror/comedy about an apparent abduction that leaves the protagonist stranded in a hostile environment.  A bit of science-fiction in there, too.  Maybe if it turns into a tangible book I'll post more about it.

Starting this while…

Hipster Holy Grail: Savage Justice (1988)

The Hipster Holy Grail is my ongoing quest to review an obscure movie before it becomes cool to talk about it. Good, bad, doesn't matter.  It just has to be at least 10 years old and have less than 1,000 ratings on IMDb. This week, I watched....

The Short Bit for People Who Don't Like to Read ReviewsSavage Justice is short, moves quickly, has some okay action, and includes enough arbitrary nonsense that it should keep your attention.  Unfortunately, those positives can't totally offset its flaws, so some of this still feels like a slog.  I think you could make it work for a bad movie night, so I'll give it a pass and even call it a slight recommendation.

My Rating: 3.5 / 5 (Novice Bad Movie)

Week in Review: 6/18/17

Huh, when's the last time I did a week in review?  May 28th!?  Holy crap, I really have been letting this blog slide.  Better get to it.
Movies I Watched in the Last Few Weeks 1) Runaway Train - This lived up to its reputation.  On the downside, a lot of the metaphors are pretty obvious (gee, Jon Voight's character chose to hop on the train that would eventually speed wildly out of control, hmm) and virtually all of the dialogue is the exact opposite of "subtle" (e.g., the guy at the central station who ruminates into the camera about the frailty of technology).  But never mind all that.  It's a unique anti-hero story with some of the best direction and cinematography you can find.  The nihilistic undercurrent never totally shoots the movie in the foot, and it all builds up to a pitch-perfect ending. I think if they made an alternate version with less talking, this would undoubtedly be ranked among the Great Movies of the 20th Century.

My Rating: 4 / 5

I'm too damn grumpy to watch "Trolls" (2016)

Sure, I'm picking a stupid fight.  I know it.  Complaining about kids' movies on the Internet is kinda like handing out social justice pamphlets at a Trump rally.  I don't care.  It's my blog and if there's any place where it's safe for me to grouse, it's here.

And sure, I get that most people aren't going to see Trolls for a dose of moral fiber.  I understand that the main objective is to see bright colors and sparkles and listen to bubblegumified remixes of classic Euro EDM.  Mission accomplished.  Great.

But why you gotta be so shallow, Trolls?

The main thrust of the movie is happiness.  The supposed bad guys, the Bergens, appear to be wholly incapable of happiness, whereas the supposed good guys, the Trolls, are overflowing with it. The one way the Bergens know to achieve that feeling is to eat Trolls.  To that end, they have an annual celebration called "Trollstice" where they each eat a Troll.  But then the Trolls escape.  Cue conflict.

Writer update: still jealous, still frustrated

I've been in a pretty bad rut the last month or so.  Not unlike last year when I was in a rut for the better half of the year.  But at least last year I was always chipping away at a book; this year I'm well past the arbitrary deadline I set for "Mr. Brickwell" and I haven't even started to revise or otherwise get my post-apocalyptic book ready for release.

All the usual causes are at play - kids, work, exhaustion.  The worst of it is probably my day job, which has gotten extremely stressful as of late due to a combination of factors that I probably shouldn't go into publicly.  (Note to my boss: I love my job.  Please don't fire me.)

I'd like to tell you that in these moments when I'm feeling most desperate and tired, I get a charge by digging deep inside and finding a new well of inspiration and motivation to keep going.  That does sometimes happen.  But usually I just end up getting petty and jealous about stupid things.

This time around, it'…

Hipster Holy Grail: Steele Justice (1987)

The Hipster Holy Grail is my ongoing quest to review an obscure movie before it becomes cool to talk about it. Good, bad, doesn't matter.  It just has to be at least 10 years old and have less than 1,000 ratings on IMDb. This week, I watched....

The Short Bit for People Who Don't Like to Read ReviewsSteele Justice almost scratches the dumb '80s action movie itch.  It's got needlessly convoluted villains, hyper-masculinity that teeters on homoeroticism, overblown character quirks, and more than a few oddball choices that catch you by surprise.  The one thing it doesn't have: action scenes.  Without those, it falls short.  I'd still basically recommend it to anybody planning a bad movie night - just don't get too excited.

My Rating: 3.5 / 5 (Novice Bad Movie)

Fun_Dad_82 Reviews "Independence Day: Resurgence"

Stop what you're doing and ask yourself now: what are the top propaganda film?  There would have to be three contenders.  The Great Dictator, U-571, and Triumph of the Will.  But now, you would have to add Independence Day: Resurgence, and remove another.  But which one?  Vote in the comments.

Independence Day: Resurgence, or IR4 as the kids know it, is the latest liberal Hollywood ploy to make you against alien beings.  They present them all as mindless drones who serve a Queen, but Judd Hirsch is right there!  And a lady president on top of it?  Unbelievable.

But I know from the real experiences of third encounters that aliens are not all gooey types who conquer your planet. Most don't even take over your brain.  They just are exploring the universe for common themes as man, like swimming in pretty oceans and appreciation for fine cigars.  This movie does not think so.  Never since Independence Day was there such a gross misrepresentation.

The post in which I briefly panic

Ugh, this last month has been ridiculous.  I've been tempted moreso than ever before to just end this blog so that I don't have to worry about it anymore.

Between kids, work, chores, projects around the house, and a week-long stomach bug, I've been stuck in a slump.  Not just in my writing, but also for this blog.  It feels like I keep it going just for the two or three people out there who will buy my next book purely on the basis of me announcing its availability here.

Times like these invariably come on the heels of a surge in writing like I was able to accomplish just a couple of months ago.  I guess I'm not surprised by the roller coaster of time management anymore.  Just exhausted.

Hipster Holy Grail: Cruel Justice (1999)

The Hipster Holy Grail is my ongoing quest to review an obscure movie before it becomes cool to talk about it. Good, bad, doesn't matter.  It just has to be at least 10 years old and have less than 1,000 ratings on IMDb. This week, I watched....

The Short Bit for People Who Don't Like to Read Reviews I'll give Cruel Justice credit for taking its premise in a more believable, empathetic, and relevant direction that the majority of movies like it.  I might even go so far as to say I could see it being useful from a social education perspective.  But my overwhelming feeling is that this is Lifetime Movie Syndrome at its worst, with the most over-wrought "tell don't show" moralizing I think I've ever seen.

My Rating: 2.5 / 5

A brief review of "Don't Think Twice" (2016)

I was hoping to give this movie a more full-fledged review with detailed notes and praise, but I'm working through some kind of sickness this week and need to keep it short.  So, here's the deal.

Don't Think Twice snuck onto Netflix a couple weeks ago with little fanfare. I think that's a shame, because it's one of the best movies they've acquired the rights to recently.

I'd like to say that the themes it covers are pretty universal, but that may be a lie; the subject matter is probably best appreciated by folks in creative fields.  Even so, the underlying matter is one of dreams.  More specifically: is it actually possible to achieve them?

That's a question all generations have struggled with to some extent, but certainly Millennials in particular.  The combination of shrinking job markets, high college costs, and general shitty attitudes toward pretty much everything we do means we're facing significant practical challenges. Worse: although technol…