Sunday, March 18, 2018

Concept Corner: Operation Mindcrime

The media we use to tell stories are often just as important as the stories themselves. Books are fundamentally different than films, which differ from theatre productions and so on. They present characters, environments, and feelings in new ways, and being taken in by each can be a completely unique experience. One medium that's got me hooked is the concept album. Put simply, it's a musical album with a plot. Each song advances the story, introduces characters and the world, but works as an album in its own right. The plot can be lightly referenced, it could have dialogue segments between songs, and some have plot details written in the liner notes of the lyric book. Sometimes artists come out with just one concept album in between their usual fare and others build their entire brand on concept albums. They can even be adapted to the stage or screen, as Jesus Christ Superstar was; first a play, then a film.

What I'm trying to say is: I love them. Especially the ones that go full-bore with odd dialogue segments and cheesy lines all throughout. You can enjoy them as a normal album or listen a little more intently and figure out what's driving it. We're going to take a look at some albums worth looking at, starting with a prime example of the genre.

Concept Corner: Queensryche - Operation: mindcrime

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Annihilation Review

I just saw Annihilation, and I wish I had seen it sooner.

Based on a book of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer, which I didn't read, Annihilation is a sci-fi/horror film that reminds me very much of H.P. Lovecraft. The basic plot reads as this: A meteor falls out of space in what I think is Florida, which then creates some shimmering field around itself (called the Shimmer) that is slowly expanding. Anyone sent in never comes out, save for one man, Natalie Portman's husband, Oscar Isaac. Natalie Portman's character, Lena, after ending up at the facility tasked with researching the Shimmer, decides to join with the researching team about to go on an expedition. They enter the Shimmer, but only Lena returns.

With themes, the film shared a lot in common with my favorite Lovecraft story, The Colour Out of Space. A meteor begins a strange transformation in the landscape and creatures, and is essentially incomprehensible. If you had told me this was an adaptation of that story instead of Jeff VanderMeer's, I would have believed you.

It starts slow, but the buildup just raises the tension until the real action starts. And by "action," I don't mean fighty Avengers action, I mean suspenseful, nightmarish, body-horror type action. The effects are great, you can tell they used practical effects when they could, and the CGI was something they spent a lot of time on. One effect near the very end of the film mesmerized me.

The film is overall surreal and terrifying. Even when there's not a big monster doing something, things just seem off enough to grab your attention. It takes its time, doesn't try to rush any reveals, and you don't learn everything about everyone right off the bat. To avoid spoilers I won't say much more, but the ending was more nightmarish and uncanny than anything before. I had a hard time figuring out exactly what was happening, and I loved it. It was stunningly creative in its design and concepts, it's definitely one where I want to listen to the director's commentary when I have the chance.

One minor point that I'm surprised hasn't gained any traction, but all the main characters are women in scientific fields. It's the sort of thing they tried to market Ghostbusters 2016 with, but in this film it's not just a cash-grab move. I wasn't even aware of the cast before going in, but you would think, especially given the tone of the most recent Oscars, that somebody would be making a big deal out of it. I'm just sort of bewildered that this isn't getting any attention, I thought this was what everyone wanted...?

Sadly, looks like the film ain't doing too well in the box office, which is a real shame. I guess this is the kind of thing that happens when you're out the week after Black Panther, the most popular movie ever made. If you're a fan of the surreal, sci-fi, or want to see something you haven't before, I highly recommend Annihilation, as long as it's still in theaters by the time you read this. Or if it's on Netflix, I guess, which is the only venue it's being released in outside of the US.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Venom Teaser Trailer

Did you guys know there's a Venom movie coming out? It hasn't really become reality to me yet, everything I've been hearing about it sounds like rumors from a soon-to-be-cancelled project. But I guess it is actually happening, 'cause we got this teaser trailer.

In contrast to the other Sony Spider-Man film being made, Into the Spider-Verse, I'm not super excited about this one.

It just seems weird to me to have a Venom standalone movie without him being introduced with Spider-Man. Is Spider-Man gonna be in it? If not, why does he have a big spider on his chest? I'm almost afraid they would just get rid of that, but more than likely they'll just make up some bullshit reason.

From the looks of things, the film may have Eddie Brock's cancer as a prevalent story element, which was made a part of his history well after he was introduced in the comics. There's a lot of shots of hospitals and stuff, including an MRI, but then again, it could be he's subject to some kind of experiment involving the symbiote.

Speaking of the symbiote, the teaser shows what looks like a crashed spaceship, and afterwards a shot with a bunch of scientists with a tube of goo, so it doesn't look like they'll do the space shuttle thing from the 90's Spider-Man animated series.

I just don't know about Tom Hardy playing Eddie Brock. He was good in Mad Max, but Bane left a bad taste in my mouth I can never wash away. If this is meant to tie in with current Homecoming Spider-Man, the age difference between them would be really weird. Brock is supposed to be a contemporary of Peter Parker, which ties in with the whole evil double thing he's got going on.

It may be even more odd if the rumors currently circulating are true, and that this is less a retelling of the classic Eddie Brock Venom and more like Agent Venom, the newer iteration with Flash Thompson. I'm wary of that, since Agent Venom only worked because it had two characters' histories to work from, both Flash and the symbiote's. If Eddie Brock in this film has no connection to Spider-Man or Peter Parker, is he even really Venom?

It can't be judged too harshly based on a single teaser trailer, but I'm gonna dial down my cautious optimism to thinly veiled pessimism. There's no way I'm not gonna see a Venom movie when it first comes out, but at this point I'm expecting less Amazing Spider-Man, and more Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Let's Watch Woody Woodpecker

The self is a nebulous concept. Our identity, though seemingly concrete and continuous, shifts constantly throughout our lives. Things we believed were permanent facets of our personality alter considerably and until confronted with the difference we hardly notice. Like the Ship of Theseus, parts are replaced again and again, until the only point of reference is our physical appearance. We look back and find ourselves strangers, with confusing decisions and incomprehensible demeanor.

If such a thing goes unnoticed within ourselves, what about those we know? What changes could they undergo if we haven't seen them in years? Our memories betray us, giving us no indication of what they could have become. What changes lurk unseen behind their facade? How much of one's mind can you see through their eyes?

And what a pair of eyes this is.

What has happened to you, my old friend? You look so similar, and yet... You fill me with dread. Who are those people? Why does that woman look so aroused? There is only one way to know. I shudder at the thought.

Let's Watch: Woody Woodpecker