Rebellions are Built on Hope

rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-logoI just got back from seeing Rogue One for a second time. While this won’t necessarily be a formal review of the film, I will try to keep this post spoiler free and a sort of thought journal about the movie. If you have not yet seen the film I highly suggest you go see it. Especially if you are a fan of the Star Wars franchise. As a stand alone film, Rogue One does serve well for action and drama. However, the plot and character development may feel a bit lack luster without the context of the episodic films. Being that this is the first in the Star Wars Anthology series, it makes sense that it does not spend too much time building up back stories or motivation for the characters. We know that it is about the rebellion against the evil Galactic Empire. As I’ve said, I will try to keep this as spoiler free as possible. The film starts without a crawl unlike previous Star Wars movies. This is because it is not an episode, but rather a catalyst between Episode III and Episode IV. Some people are saying it is like Episode 3.5, but in all reality it is more like Episode 3.99. Rogue One ends, without me giving too much away, in a perfect transition into Episode IV.

The theme of the film is hope, and as mentioned in the movie – and as the title of this post declares – rebellions are built on hope. I would have to say that Rogue One carries this theme well from the opening scene all the way to the end. The cast does an excellent job in portraying a rag-tag group of rebels that won’t take any of the Empire’s political shit. As the main character, Jyn Erso played by Felicity Jones, says “I’ve never had k-2so-in-star-wars-rogue-onethe luxury of political opinions.” With her childhood mostly spent in solidarity, we can see how this would be true. Knowing that it was the Empire that created such a hostile environment which forced the Ersos apart, Jyn’s vendetta plays out on screen in an explosive way. That’s to be taken both figuratively and literally. While all of the cast could fill their own countless tomes of depth and detail, to save time I will point out one other hero we are introduced to in Rogue One. K-2SO, a reprogrammed imperial security droid, voiced by the wonderful Alan Tudyk, is by all means the comic relief that is peppered so perfectly throughout the film. He is consistently dropping one liners that often get a roar of laughter from a packed house. This movie is a little slow at first, but with good reason. We are getting into a movie with (mostly) all new characters and do need some sort of set up. But after the first act the drama and action are just about nonstop. The final battle on tropical planet Scarif is one like we have never seen before in a Star Wars film. I use the word “on” loosely here. I can’t say anymore in order to keep it fresh and unspoiled for those who have yet to see the blockbuster of the year. Go out and see this movie as soon as you can while it is still in theathres. You will be totally immersed in it. Both times I saw this film, I felt a strong disconnect once the credits began to roll and I walked out of the auditorium. A good movie will do that to you. It will take you away from your own reality so much that when you return it is a bit of a shock to the system. I highly rate this film two thumbs up. It is tied with Episode VII: The Force Awakens in my personal ranking of the franchise. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back will always be the best, or maybe… for now anyway.

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Stranger Than Fiction

I sometimes think I’m more of a journalist than a narrator. Don’t get me wrong, I really love creative writing. Fiction. Creating characters out of thin air and making them say and do things. I would like to hone my writing skills in this area a bit more. I have often come up with ideas that I think would make for really original, and interesting movies or television programs. But I have no idea how to fully form the ideas and adapt them for the screen. I don’t even know how to properly plot a story. I know the terms, but don’t fully grasp what they mean or their significance in great storytelling. But I can express what I’m thinking and feeling well enough. I can talk about things. I can do the things any mediocre blogger can do. But what I want to do is blow the socks off of anyone who cares enough to read my work. More than that, however, I would love to make things that I want to read or see on the big screen. I’m a little disheartened by the trend in Hollywood of making movies to make money instead of for the sake of sharing an art form. Art is such an invaluable and priceless privilege to behold. If you are lucky enough to be able to appreciate art, then you are also free enough to create it yourself. I’ve always wanted to make movies but have always struggled with believing in myself, and still do to this day. I have very low self-esteem and confidence in many areas. The few strengths I believe I do have I would love to use in order to build up my weaknesses. That’s basically what growing up is, right? I say growing up as if I’m 6 years old. I’m 26 and going on 80. Or so I feel at times. I think I’m losing my train of thought here. I’m going off the rails on a blogging train. God, that was stupid.

So I want to write for movies and T.V. and stuff. I would also enjoy having some novels published. However, there are some problems with that plan. I’m a lazy perfectionist. I procrastinate and beat myself up at the same time when whatever it is I’m trying to do doesn’t come out the exact way I see it in my head. Be that with painting, or music, or writing. I have ideas, feelings, and things to express and I have a set idea on how I’d like to express them but when the time comes and it’s not quite right I just see shit and give up. This is not healthy, but I feel this is the same with many artists and creative types. I’m hoping that school will help me down this path to being a writer or screenwriter or what have you. But I know I will need to discipline myself just as much as schooling will. Right now I’m on the precipice of the beginning of my college years. The first 2 years are all I have planned for right now. I’m going for an associate of arts degree in general studies. Basically most of, if not all of the stuff I am required to do before I can obtain a higher degree in pretty much any field of study. I have not yet decided on what I want to get my bachelor’s degree in or where I would like to attend school for said degree. It’s looking like UCF at the moment as I still don’t drive and my current school, Valencia Community College, has a transfer plan that guarantees admission to UCF. That seems like a reasonable thing to do. But that’s still 2 years away. For now, I will be focusing the time off from my full-time job on school. I’ve mentioned on the blog before about how I will be taking all of my classes online. I also work from home. So when spring break and the winter break comes rolling in I really need to get the hell out of the house for a bit. As much as I love this place, never leaving it can drive you mad. Welcome to the Hotel Groveland… You get the picture.

Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll look back on this blog and smile knowing I didn’t give up. Maybe my readers, or fans of my movies, will treasure these pre-fame posts. Not as if fame and fortune is important. It really is not. What is important is to keep making art and expressing yourself. I want to make movies for myself and my friends and family to enjoy. If other people enjoy them and want to give me money for them, okay sure. Why not, right? But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about being true to yourself and your art. You can’t paint a million dollars but you can tell a million stories. And that is worth far more to me than any studio deal could cut a check for. So now I just need to keep my nose to the grindstone with school, work really hard, and maybe I’ll get a chance to make some wonderful art.

Something’s a little… strange…

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The year? 1983. The place? Hawkins, Indiana. The things? Stranger. By now you’ve probably already heard of the Netflix original series Stranger Things. If not, how much do you pay to rent that rock you’re living under? The series is packed full of 1980’s pop culture and exudes the film making styles and story telling of the great directors and writers of that period. Mainly the style of Steven Spielberg and Stephen King. The plot revolves around the mysterious disappearance of a boy, Will Byres, and the sudden appearance of a girl who is later named Eleven, or El for short, due to a tattoo on her that reads: 011. El is somewhat of an enigma. She does not speak very much, if at all for most of the series. Oh, and she has telekinetic abilities. These come in very useful as the story progresses. There is a heavy, conspiratorial government presence throughout the show. These are the “bad men” as the young characters call them. They are very reminiscent of the government infiltration in Spielberg’s E.T. and just as intimidating. Winona Ryder plays the missing boy’s mother. Her performance is quite exquisite and really helps to drive home the feeling of despair and steadfastness of finding her youngest son. The cast in whole really work together quite well and provide excellent pacing and storytelling during the course of the marathon binge that almost always happens when people begin to watch Stranger Things. I just finished the first 8 episode season today. I cannot wait until season 2 is released. There’s some speculation that each season will tell a different story entirely, much like the hit series American Horror Story. But either way, I have total faith in the show’s creators, the Duffer Brothers. If you have not seen the show, and have a Netflix streaming account, then what are you waiting for?! Go watch Stranger Things right now. I’ve only scratched the surface of what the show is about. Things definitely get stranger, and stranger.

Trumbo – A Rave Review

trumboposterI just finished watching this wonderful film on Amazon Prime. I have the student trial. I’m certainly going to purchase a membership once my trial ends based off of this film alone. Well, this film and the free shipping. Can’t beat that shipping. Trumbo, if you weren’t aware, is a 2015 film about infamous screenwriter and novelist, Dalton Trumbo. As infamous for his brilliant works as he was controversial for his affiliation with the Communist party in the late 1940’s, Trumbo was a part of the ‘Hollywood 10’. A group of mostly screenwriters, along with a couple of directors and producers, who all became blacklisted in the industry for refusing to testify during the trials held by the House Un-American Activities Committee. They were investigated for their involvement of Communist influences in Hollywood pictures. A self-admitted Communist, Dalton Trumbo stood for equality for all. The film starts off with Trumbo, played brilliantly by Bryan Cranston, leading a strike for studio workers to earn higher wages. Set builders, assistants and various crew on the sets of big budget film projects were making very little money in comparison to the directors, actors, and screenwriters like Dalton Trumbo himself. Though Dalton was well off in the beginning, it did not always stay this way. I don’t want to get into too much of the plot because you really ought to see the film for yourselves. I will say this, Bryan Cranston is a chameleon. Not once did I picture Walter White, or Hal from Malcolm in the Middle, or any of his other iconic roles. No… Bryan did the Trumbo estate a great justice by taking on this role. Not only will I be purchasing this film on Blu-Ray, but it has inspired me to keep writing. Like one of the characters in the film mentions to Trumbo, I’d love to get paid very well for making shit up. The film also stars one of my all time favorite comedians, 48f94550-5f00-0133-4d29-0e3f8b958f63Louis C.K.. Louis’ character is Arlen Hird, another blacklistee of the HUAC. Though the film has been criticized for some dramatization of the truth, Trumbo is still a fantastic period piece that any fan of history or Hollywood would do well to have in their collection. This film is definitely one of the best I’ve seen this year. It has not only inspired me to write, but I will be ordering a copy of Dalton Trumbo’s 1939 book Johnny Got His Gun. I give this movie 5 out of 5 stars. Definitely worth buying, not just watching, in my opinion. The film stars some top notch entertainers and the direction is fantastic. It gets me into the film making mood. Not many movies do that these days. They don’t make ’em like they used to. Trumbo is the exception to that rule.

Great Sh*t: An Audiobook Review

toughshitA few days ago I redeemed a free Audible.com credit for Kevin Smith’s Tough Sh*t: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did GoodFor those not privy to the “View Askewniverse“, Kevin “Silent Bob” Smith is a writer/director/actor/and all around nice guy from ‘The Garden State’, New Jersey. His 1994 debut film, Clerkshas inspired many young filmmakers from the time of its release and continuing to this day. I, myself, have often flirted with the idea of movie making. I used to make little, random videos with a camcorder I begged my dad to buy me when I was 12 years old. I wanted to create something that people could watch and I could devour their reactions. But this review is not about me. Tough Sh*t is just as inspiring a book as Clerks is a film. The breed of originality, humor, and creativity spewed out by the mind of Smith is a kin to one of his personal heroes George Carlin. Kevin Smith narrates this audiobook, and there literally could be no better a voice lent to the words of Smith than that of his own. Fans of Kevin’s podcast, or rather “Smodcast”, created with and co-hosted by Smith’s longtime pal and producer Scott Moiser, will love Tough Sh*t. It is very much like an extended cut of the podcast, minus the input from Moiser. The book covers many specific events in the life and career of Kevin Smith. From the time he was in his dad’s nuts, to the time Bruce Willis went nuts, Kevin covers many years of ups and downs throughout his life. He talks about meeting his beautiful bombshell of a wife and an awkward, albeit painful sexual experience that eventually followed. Smith also mentions his many successes and few failures in terms of the box office with his various films. He offers a refreshing look at critics and what they do and stand for. Ironic, as writing a book review is technically critiquing a work. But I do so with nothing but love for the man and what he does best. For someone who often plays a silent character on screen, Kevin Smith has a lot to say in Tough Sh*t and he most certainly has earned the floor. If you’re a fan of Smith’s work, or even just a fan of a humorous, vicarious walks in the footsteps of another person, I highly suggest you pick up a copy of this fantastic book. I think rating systems are an old tribe but if you were to force me to give Tough Sh*t one, I’d have to give it a 5 out of 5. I may have downloaded a digital audio copy of the tome, but I do plan on ordering one of the signed paperbacks available at the link above. Perfect gift for that fat, lazy slob in your life. You’ve done good, sir. You’ve done good.

Merely Players

Lights! Camera! Action!…

are words to live by. As I sit here and type this I am listening to the incredible soundtrack to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The legendary John Williams and his orchestra score this film, along with all the others in the saga, so perfectly. Having recently purchased The Force Awakens on Blu-ray, I have watched it a handful of times, in addition to seeing it in theaters twice. This is one of those films that apparently inspires a blogger to blog. But more than that it inspires me to become more infatuated with the idea of acting and film making in general. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always entertained the idea of one day being an actor or director. Actually, I really wanted to be a child actor on a Disney Channel show. I believe I’ve mentioned that before on this blog. But now as my 26th birthday approaches, I can’t help but notice that this feeling has not gone away. In fact, as I’ve gotten older and exposed to more and more art in the world around me it has only gotten stronger. But what do I do with that? Blogging at 4 in the morning isn’t going to take me anywhere near a set or even an audition.

I think Sylvia Plath said it best; ‘The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.’ And boy how true that is. Probably the biggest reason I haven’t gone anywhere or done anything with this desire to act is because of my increasingly abundant supply of self-doubt and exceedingly absent self-confidence. They always say fake it ’til you make it. At first you wouldn’t think that applies to acting but when you really start to think about it, isn’t that what acting is? I mean, on the surface anyway. You’re pretending to be somebody – or something – other than yourself. It’s make-believe and we’ve all done it from an early age well into adulthood. It’s human nature to act. Old Bill was on to something. All the world really is a stage. That’s not to say that real life doesn’t exist or that there aren’t consequences to every action. But when there’s so much horribleness in the world around you, you have to put on a brave face – a mask – and push through it. It’s something you react to, just like acting. And I don’t want to come off as if I know what I’m talking about. I really don’t. Anybody reading this who may be an actor or another person of experience in the field may be able to see my naivete on the matter. And to those of you who fit this profile, I ask you to leave your wisdom in the comments. How does one best break out of their shell? How do you stop the negative thinking and pessimistic outlook on the creative endeavor? If someone has talent but no confidence do they really have talent at all? This reminds me of a Green Day lyric from the song “When I Come Around“; ‘You may find out that your self-doubt means nothing was ever there. You can’t go forcing something if it’s just not right.‘ But by the same token, Mr. Armstrong, you also can’t find out that you’re forcing it if you don’t even try it. And that’s where I am at the moment. I want to try it. I want to break out of my shell and step on stage. I’ve been on stage a few times in my life. And each time it has been an incredible feeling. I’ve never done hard drugs but I feel like being on stage or performing in anyway gives you the same high that one might have to chase from drugs. It’s exciting and sends chills down your spine. And you want that feeling to continue, so you do it again and again and again. What a healthy drug performance art can be. Art in general, really.

So I guess the point of this post is to express how I’d like to try acting. I don’t really wish to “make it” so much as I wish to just do it. (Nike, your check is in the mail). I know it’s a hard business but as a passion, as a craft it’s a labor of love. I just need to figure out how to place faith in myself and manifest the necessary gumption to go out and audition. There are many things that I must accomplish before that process can even begin. But I feel as though if there’s a will, there’s a way. My will is strong, it’s just getting the confidence to match it that’s the trick. You never know what’s out there waiting for you until you get off of your ass and make things happen for yourself. So be true to your passions and interests, folks. Don’t wait for something incredible to happen. If it’s worth your passion, it’s worth your time and effort as well. Be good out there, and break a leg!

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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Check out that spiffy new TOTAL ANNIHILATION MACHINE!

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Check out that spiffy new satellite dish!

HOLY FUCKING SHIT. I remember when the teaser for The Force Awakens came out. When you see the infamous Millennium Falcon flying into frame…
it was something magical. Well they’ve done it again with the teaser for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
I’m not going to say another word until you’ve seen the trailer. If you’re one of those purists that avoids everything until the film’s release then first of all what the hell are you doing reading this? Secondly, I commend your willpower, but you may want to go back to Facebook or something. Oh and sorry for the first screenshot in this post. For those of you who are just as excited as me, or anyone who loves Star Wars and hasn’t seen the teaser released this morning yet, here it is:

I think, hands down, the “magical” moment in this teaser, at least for me, has got to be that shot of the Rebels v.s. the army of AT-AT’s on the tropical looking planet location of what I’m assuming is a Rebel base:

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What do they expect is going to happen? How can they possibly win this battle?

This shit just got real. I feel like this new era of Star Wars films is going to be, pardon the pun, epic. I’m so glad that I’m in my 20’s while these films are being made. I have so much appreciation for the direction they are taking them. Rogue One will definitely be enough to hold me over until Episode VIII is released in December of 2017. For now I’m going to stop being a gratuitous fanboy and not re-watch the trailer 5+ more times. Oh who am I kidding? This shit is just too good.

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“Thank the maker!”