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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ghostbusters 2016 review

So much potential, so little reward.

I really debated whether or not I would you review this movie. As I'm getting the blog back up and running I realize I should do more movie and book reviews. I have not seen a lot of movies this summer but this is one that friends insisted that I see. In short, I was not impressed. To put it bluntly, the movie had good bones, but just wasn't good. It focused on the wrong things.

In general, I'm not a big fan of Hollywood's endless reboots of late.  For every reboot that goes well, Christopher Nolan's Batman, there are reboots that are just horrible, Terminator Genisys.  Ghostbusters Falls somewhere in between.

From the day it was announced, the movie seemed to want to generate controversy.  I had no issue with an all female Ghostbusters, though felt that a more integrated cast would have been better.  I don't know Paul Feig's work very well, the few movies titles of his I recognize, I never saw.  They just didn't look like something I or my wife wanted to see.  I find Kristen Wiig hilarious in almost everything I've seen her in.  I'm not a fan of Melissa Mccarthy, though I know many people who are.  Rosie Jones is somewhat hit or miss with me, but I found her to be the funniest member of the cast.  Erin Gilber, I don't know if I've ever seen her before, but then I haven't SNL in years.

This movie ultimately failed because it was a reboot, I think.  People are sick of reboots.  Audiences want original content.  And in cases where a reboot or delayed sequel does come, they want it to respect the original.  After the original creators of Ackroyd, Reitman, and Ramis (RIP) spent years trying to make their own reboot / continuation / hand off movie, a reboot without them bordered on insulting.

I think one of the large reasons that this movie failed is because most of the characters were one-dimensional or two dimensional at best. Let's start with the one-dimensional characters. Every male character in the movie, with the exception of the bad guy, was a one dimensional prop. Chris Hemsworth's secretary was inexcusably stupid. I hate inexcusably stupid characters. By comparison, Annie Potts' Janine from the original was a smart, sassy, funny character with attitude and some great lines. I don't know anyone who felt insulted by Annie Potts' character. By the way, her cameo in the movie was excellent, probably the best one. Andy Garcia's mayor again, completely one-dimensional.

Even the main cast was largely not fleshed out. 

Kristen wiig's character, whose name I can't even remember, just fell flat. She was obviously supposed to be the Bill Murray of the group and it didn't work, which is odd, because she's a funny actress. 

Melissa McCarthy's character was obviously supposed to be the Aykroyd,but  none of her jokes were funny. The few I can remember revolved around her food orders getting messed up and her berating the delivery boy.  

Rosie Jones honestly had some of the funniest moments in the movie. Her character was also probably the most fleshed-out. In a lot of ways, she had the most to offer to the team. 

The character of Holtzmann, was supposed to be the Egon of the group. She was no Egon. The character of Egon and even Dan Akroyds's character in the originals worked because they were straight men. Egon never got the joke, he was always serious. Funny things happened around him and he didn't realize it. He'd be flirted with and didn't get it, he'd subtly tell Murray how much to charge, and it was hilarious, but he didn't see it. Dan Aykroyd's character was always over eager and into everything that was going on. Even he didn't get the joke half the time. The character of Holtzman seemed to always be setting up the next joke, most of which fell flat.

One of the things that made the original so good and also gave it a lot of depth is that busting ghosts was more than just a scientific Endeavor for these characters. It was also a business and their income source. These were scientists who had been discredited due to their findings and beliefs and had to find a way to make a living. There were multiple scenes about how they got their money and how they would eventually run out of it. Prior to busting their first ghost, Slimer, they were almost out of funds they were going to be destitute. This movie had none of that. 

Beyond what was just simply supposed to be the scientific endeavor, there was no mention of where they got their funds or their equipment. The only indication about their funding and equipment, was that they stole large pieces of equipment from their University. By the way that would not have been enough to build everything they had.  After that it, appeared that they built all the rest of their equipment out of scrap.  I'm an engineer none of that would have worked. By having them steal all of that equipment it would have made them criminals. Also what kind of scientist, Melissa McCarthy's character, doesn't know that their equipment has a function where it moves, especially since she "designed it herself."

While on the subject of equipment.  What kind of scientist tests out highly dangerous equipment in a back alley?  That was beyond irresponsible and resulted in quite a bit of property damage.  This also occurred after Rosie Jones entered the group, she could have given them access to unused subway tunnels or closed train yards.

Does this movie have redeemable qualities? Yes. Could this movie have been saved in the writing stages? Yes quite easily.

I'm a fixer by Nature. When I see something that could be good I want to fix it. Maybe it's the engineer in me, maybe it's the writer. Whatever the case, I see many ways in which this movie could have been fixed in small subtle ways that would have made it better. 

The core movie itself was good. The Ghostbusters concept should have work in today's world. All the various Ghost Hunter shows out there prove that people are willing to believe in the existence of ghosts. The movie even references this. The movie has a lot of good references in it to the originals and to the modern world. 

I will say however, that I found it shocking that only one person in the movie ever used a cellular phone. The movie seems trapped in a different age. Anyone who's seen the previews, and not the movie, will know the scene at the concert of the girl use a selfie stick, who still uses a selfie stick?, to take a picture of herself, Rosie Jones, and some kind of demon. That is the only time someone whips out a phone to take pictures. By contrast, look at the new Doctor Who. In Matt Smith's first episode, when the aliens invade, the way he tells that somebody, Rory, knows something more is going on is that he's the only one not taking pictures with his cell phone.

So how would I have changed this movie to make it better? Well there's a couple of easy fixes that I would have used:
#1:  Make the movie a continuation of the original not a reboot. 

There's a reference in the movie about how they've covered up similar incidents in the past obliquely regarding ghosts. That could have been worked into the movie much better to make it a full-on continuation of the original Ghostbusters. Look at Star Wars episode 7, one of the reasons it works so well was that it was a continuation of the old story bringing it into a new generation.

#2:  Moving out of New York. 

Now hear me out here. With a largely Saturday Night Live based cast I understand why they made it be New York again. But why not move it someplace else? Maybe it's just because I'm from the west coast and the southeast, I really don't care that much about movies based in New York that are constantly referencing things in New York. Why not move it someplace new, some place that might not get as much exposure in movies. Now that I'm based in Seattle maybe I'd like to see it someplace up with the Pacific Northwest. Or how about down for their self down in LA, or Dallas, or Chicago, or any other major or minor muscle. It did not have to be New York and by taking it out of New York it could have taken the whole concept in a fresher Direction.

#3:  Have the movie be a handoff. 

This could have been done this very easily.  The beginning could be largely unchanged.  But after they find their first ghost, they are contacted by the remaining members of the original Ghostbusters. At that point it's revealed that ghost activity has been pretty low level for the last couple decades. 

It could even be a great meta reference to all the ghost hunting TV shows. The Ghostbusters themselves are funding these TV shows in order to find ghosts throughout the country. They then send in one of their regional franchises to catch any ghosts that are too dangerous or  harassing to the owners of the properties. 

The Ghostbusters than offer the new lady Ghostbusters a franchise. This takes care of so many issues in the movie in particular those involving funding. From there the movie could be largely unchanged you could still have these characters busting their first ghost getting caught in public at cetera. But instead of the mayor telling them that they can't be so public, it's Ghostbusters headquarters telling them this. They could then explain that with the help of the government they have kept the existence of ghosts to a minimum.

It also creates a great means of character growth.  Imagine them receiving their first shipment of OG ghostbusting gear, and Holtzman commenting on how "80s" it is before souping them all up to create their new gear.

#4:  More fleshed-out characters. 

All of these characters could have been fleshed out a lot more. By having the movie be a continuation instead of a reboot, it would have allowed the characters to become much more their own as well. At the same time make The Supporting Cast not insulting and more real. Especially the secretary character. Chris Hemsworth's character could have been very funny very sassy very maybe not as intelligent as the rest of the crew but he didn't have to be just an idiotic pretty face. If they wanted that they should have cast Ashton Kutcher.

It would have even allowed for them to fix some of the character mistakes of the original.  Winston, for instance, was originally written as an Air Force Veteran who helped teach them tactics.  The studio forced the change to have him instead be a guy off the street looking for a job because Ernie Hudson was an unknown (another good cameo, but not as good as Annie Potts').  They could given that backstory to Rosie Jones' character, and it would have made a nice nod to the original as well. 

#5:  Make the final villain's form more original.

Don't get me wrong, that the villain was a live person manipulating ghosts was great.  His final form however was far too marshmallow man like for my tastes however.  I liked that he used their symbol as his final form, sort of, but it just felt off.

#6:  Overuse of CGI.

This one should go without saying.  In an age when practical effects are making a comeback, neon CGI ghosts just don't work anymore.  Even the scariest movies of late that use ghosts hardly show the ghosts.

With those changes the movie, and even the franchise could have been saved.  At this point however, it is dead in the water and I doubt that we'll get any kind of continuation.

Overall I give the move a 3/5 stars.  It has the bones of a good movie, it just failed to deliver in the end.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Fitness Log 15-August-2016

Weight Loss Milestone Chart, 15 August Update
Week 3 of the fitness plan.  We have some actual data points on the weight and waist size charts.

A quick glance shows that I am closing on the Milestone A weight objective, I've already passed the threshold.  The waist line Milestone A, I have surpassed Milestone A and am closing on Milestone B.

Onto this week's numbers:

Height: 6'
Weight: 244lbs (Past Milestone A threshold, 60% of objective, figuring on a start weight of 250 lbs)
Waist Size: 42.5" (.5" loss)
Belly Size:  44" (1 inch lost)
Neck Size: 18.5" (no change)
Bicep Size: 16.5" (no change)
Thigh Size: 27" (.5" loss)
Calf Size: 18.25" (.25" gain)
Chest Size: 45" (1" loss)

I am noticing a change in my face now when I look in the mirror, it is slimmer.  I am also lifting more weight or pushing more reps/sets everyday, so I am getting stronger and fitter.  In that way the weight numbers are not as upsetting, but I am still on track for Milestone A objective in two weeks.

The problem that comes is this:  My gym's opening has been delayed, possibly to October due to issues with another tenant in the building.  On the plus side they will open up the preview center in the mall for members to use free of charge.  We'll act as demo for the equipment.  They are also looking into placing a temporary preview center in front of the gym location in portables.  Neither of these is an ideal solution, but improve, adapt and overcome.

Exercise alone will not result in weight loss and to that end, this is what my diet became over the weekend and what I plan to try and keep to.

Breakfast:  1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil (solid) plus supplements (see below)
Lunch:  Small, high protein lunch, minimal carbs plus supplement.  This weekend the boys and I made real fruit smoothies for lunch, high fiber with protein powder.  I paid for that later that day.
Dinner:  Smaller portion, high protein, with salad.

Curiously enough, I'm not getting that hungry.  I get more psychological hunger as my brain reminds me that it's time to eat.  My stomach really isn't rumbling, except when I have too much fiber.  Based on the low carb intake I could be forcing my body into ketosis, so it is burning fat much more regularly, this a good thing.

I'm still dialing in my supplements, but for now, here we are:

Helix Nutrition RB-TON3R (x2/day, breakfast and lunch)
1000 mg Metabolic Matrix
  - EPA
  - DHA
  - CLA
  - Alpha-Linolenic Acid
  - Oleic Acid
  - Vitamin E

Cellucor Super HD (x2/day breakfast and lunch)
10mg Niacin
3mg Vitamin B6
250mcg Vitaming B12
250mg Thermosculpting blend
  - Green Tea leaf extra
  - Simpro Protein Hydrolysates of Blue Whiting
  - Dandelion Root Extract
250mg Sensory Impact Blend
  - many ingredients, hard to read, will fill later.

160mg Caffeine Anhydrous (this part left me jacked on friday)

100mg Vitamin D3

Overall, I am feeling great and think I have a real chance of getting this weight off.  I will be cutting in additional supplements as needed and have taken Tumeric here and there when I felt a possible swell coming on.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Fitness Log 8-August-2016

Weight Loss Milestone Chart

Week 2 of the fitness plan.  Above I posted my milestone chart with objectives and thresholds for the two major measurements, weight and waist size.  My wife pointed out to me this morning at weigh and measure in that I was measuring my waist wrong.  I measured it at my pant line, she said to do it and my belly button since that is where most of the fat is.  She says she's also noticed a change in my physique just over the last week.  I am well into this now, no turning back.

Had a slight set back this week though, got sick over the weekend, just overly fatigued, could barely move so I skipped the sunday workout.  I also had some carbs on thursday (homemade oatmeal, raisin and macadema nut cookies, hey I'm not made of stone.)  Friday (free pizza in the break room, again, stone man I am not.)  Sunday a pita sandwich at the airshow and pho for dinner.

Onto the numbers:

I am engineer, as well as a writer, let's go over my current numbers, which I will update weekly:

Height: 6'
Weight: 246lbs (at Milestone A threshold, 40% of objective, figuring on a start weight of 250 lbs)
Waist Size: 43" (pant line)
Belly Size:  45"
Neck Size: 18.5" 
Bicep Size: 18"
Thigh Size: 27.5" 
Calf Size: 18" 
Chest Size: 46"

I need to review and make sure that I am taking measures at consistent places.  The increase in neck, bicep and thigh especially are surprising.  On the other hand, I have increased the amount of weight I am lifting, so that I am getting stronger again.  The biggest problem with that is that my cheap weight bench might not be able to carry much more, and I don't have that many weights left.  Guess I need to run to goodwill and grab some more weighs and home depot to get some bar stock to reinforce the bench.

Can you see a difference yet?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Five Scene Fixes #2 Star Trek Into Darkness

Don't shoot me.  I am not here to bash trek.  I enjoy the heck out of Trek, but STID, while it had the potential to be great, was just bad.  A lot of that was lack of self identity and horrid writing, seriously bad writing.  So bad that I had to list nine scenes minimum to fix the story.

This movie could have been great.  It should not have been a retelling of TWOK but of Space Seed.  Imagine  changing just these scenes and how it would have changed, and maybe improved the film:

1:  Opening, Kirk and McCoy distract the aliens so that the Big-E can blast open the caldera of the volcano from the opposite side, or beneath the water, venting the volcano harmlessly.  The shuttle must provide targeting data however and crashes due to proximity to the volcano, mandating the Big-E to go atmospheric and reveal itself to save Spock.  You have inherently the same scene with Spock; waiting for the inevitable before Kirk rushes in to the rescue without the need for the silly underwater scenes (sorry spaceships aren't built to go underwater, Scotty even comments on that).

2:  Kirk does not lose his command due to the potential political fallout.  Instead Admiral Pike will transfer his flag to the Enterprise in order to keep Kirk on a tighter leash.  Remember, Kirk and crew saved the Earth in the last movie, to send him back to the academy would make the public question Starfleet in a huge way.  If instead, they just see an Admiral actually command the fleet's flagship, they will accept that much more readily.

3:  The transwarp pod (the biggest Pandora's box in the movie) doesn't send Kahn to Kronos, but to a freighter passing by the Sol system.  Kirk and crew then rush off after it instead after seeing that its course has changed towards Klingon Terrritory.  Scotty also remarks that the pod burned itself out upon usage (just like the one that beemed him and Kirk to the Big-E in the last film).

4:  The Kirk/Scotty argument proceeds much the same, but Kirk begins to see the cracks in what is going on, and instead of firing Scotty, subtly sends him to investigate.

5:  Added scene, Kirk and Crew catch up to the freighter, after several days and the captain (Mudd?) reveals that Kahn commandeered a shuttle to escape to Kronos.  The timeframe issue in this movie was just bad, no Trek movie, series, or book has ever said that Earth and Kronos were within a day of each other.  Several movies of late have done this, either having a nebulously short time line (SW-VII), or making everything seem to take place in an absurdly short amount of time (Ghostbusters 2016).

 6.  Make mention that the abandoned area of Kronos where they find Kahn is that way due to Nuclear Fallout.  This will come into play later, and explain some of McCoy's motivations to study Kahn's blood.

 "He spent enough time in that irradiated waste land to kill you three times already, Jim.  He has an unusual resistance to radiation."

7:  Scotty takes the coordinates Kahn provides and uses a repaired Transwarp pod to beam to the top secret facility without his little buddy.  Remember, this is a top secret facility, and he just flies on in with the rest of the crew with no identification and no question asked.  Also, a little easter egg could be thrown in here and after Scotty beams aboard the Vengeance, Porthos materializes after years of being trapped in a matter stream from Scotty's experiment he mentioned in the last film.

 8: While the Enterprise is falling towards Earth, again after taking several days to get back, Spock informs Kahn that they have his crew alive but unless they save the Enterprise his crew will die.  Kahn teleports direct to engineering and prevents Kirk from entering the warp core.  He then saves the Enterprise, forcing a debt upon Kirk and asks Kirk to take his crew someplace safe, where they and the Federation won't come into contact.  But he also asks that he send his body with them, so that they can mourn properly.
Kirk and Spock can still have a scene, not as touching, where Spock comments how Kirk was about to sacrifice himself to save the ship.  Also have McCoy pronounce Kahn dead, but put back into a stasis pod.

9:  Instead of the Vengeance crashing, the restored Big-E, and other ships, able to get out of Space Dock in an emergency, grab the ship before it can crash, saving millions of lives.  This was another major plot hole, where did all those other ships in space dock go?  I get that the captains of several ships were killed by Kahn earlier, but none of those ships had crews that could fly them?

10:  Kirk implores the Federation to allow him to deliver Kahn's body, and the rest of his crew, to an out of the way, in hospitable world they discovered (Ceti-Alpha Six) where they will live without technology in the hopes that they will eventually develop a more peaceful society.  This leads into McCoy complaining that he wanted to study Kahn longer, and his remarkable resistance to radiation, and a post credits scene where we see Kahn's colony some time later (years preferably).  We see a man plowing a field, he looks up and smiles, revealing that Kahn is still alive.

Ok, so that went long and was ten scenes.  There would be some other small, subtle changes as a result of these, but that would, IMHO, take care of many of the issues people had with the film, and create an ability to have a true NuTrek TWOK later on down the line, or allow a possible remerge of the timelines.

Also, STID created several big Pandora's Boxes:  The Transwarp Pod (makes ships all but obsolete), Kahn's super blood (renders people immune to death), Super Fast Warp Drive (can cross distance to major adversary's planet and back in two days), Super Torpedoes (Can be fired distances of light years away).  These changes close the lids on those boxes and mitigates the issues they created.  Is it perfect, no, is it better, I think so.

 Will I do one of these for ST: Beyond?  I don't think so.  I thoroughly enjoyed that movie, and while there were some plot holes, none of them were movie breaking.  It was a fun movie.  As for my next movie to go after, I am open to suggestions.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Book 3 Update

While I am still waiting on my editor, I did receive the first concept sketch from my artist for Book 3, Rising Warrior/Rising Threat, and I am blown away.

I added the standard text and logo just because I couldn't resist, but it looks great even as it is.  I almost want to release the book with this as a variant cover.  The artist has also insisted on doing the full cover instead of just the character art.  Given that he is asking the same price as my last two artists who am I to argue, but I will pay him more.  I can't wait to see the final product.

Fitness Log

And now for something completely different.

On a blog mostly about writing, indie publishing and tech it might be odd to see a title like Fitness Log, but let's get something out there.  I'm overweight.  My weight has always fluctuated, when I was younger I would pack on weight during the winter only to shed it in the summer.  After the diagnosis of my son Owen's illness I began to add on the pounds slowly and never lost them again.  Stress, illness, stress, not eating right, stress, work issues, stress, willpower loss, stress, etc... led to be reaching 250lbs.

Inspired by friends who have lost weight, my wife who lost the stress weight over the last year, and the fact that I don't like being this heavy I am now taking the weight loss seriously.  Combine this with the fact that I will start making appearances for my books and I don't want to roll up looking like GRRM and I have a definite goal.

To that end I have purchased several pieces of gym equipment, am fixing up my bike and am taking on a revised diet and exercise plan.  I'll also be posting my progress on here as a means of motivation and encouragement for myself and others.

To start let's list the exercise plan:

Office Days:
Wake Up:  A40 workout 3-5 sets.
A40 workout:  10 Flutter Kicks, 10 Toe Reaches, 10 Pull Ins, 10 Reverse Crunches with leg Extensions
At Office, A40 Ab workout every hour, walk around building every 1-2 hours.
Return home and commence resistance training.
Ride Bike around neighborhood.
3x20 Bench Press
3x20 Seated Rows
3x20 Lat Pulls (alternating front and reverse)
3x20 Tricep Pushes
3x20 Bicep Curls
3x15-20 Kettle-bell Squats
3-5 A40 Ab Workouts
After dinner, cool down walk with the boys.  (Pokemon Go Walk)

Telework Days/Weekends
After getting everyone else out the door complete resistance training workout.
A40 Ab Workout every hour
Longer hike/bike ride as time allows.
After dinner, cool down walk with the boys (Pokemon Go Walk)

Diet Plan:
Breakfast:  No Earlier than 8-9AM depending in wakeup time.  Low/No Carb, High Protein  (Bacon and Eggs)
Lunch:  12 Noon timeframe, Low/No Carb, High Protein  (Varies depending on availability)
Dinner:  Post evening Workout, Low/No Carb, High Protein.  (Chicken, Steak, Salad)

Assuming that I can stay with this I hope to lose a significant amount of weight by my first official book appearance at the Olympic Collectibles Show on 1 October.  That is also when my new gym will open and I will start using their equipment and varying my workout more.

And since I am engineer, as well as a writer, let's go over my current numbers, which I will update weekly:

Height: 6'
Weight: 247lbs
Waist Size: 44"
Neck Size: 18" 
Bicep Size: 15"
Thigh Size: 25" 
Calf Size: 17" 
Chest Size: 46"

Ultimate Goal, assuming no major muscle weight additions, 200lbs, and  36" waist.