Friday, January 24, 2014

How Frozen Should Have Ended

Have you ever watched a movie or a TV show that you really, really liked? Probably. At least, I hope you have. If you're only watching things that you DON'T enjoy, then the terrorists have already won, haven't they? Now, have you ever watched a movie or TV show that you really, really liked and thought, "Man, that was great, BUT...I wish they'd done so-and-so differently instead"?

If you answered yes to the question above, then you'll know exactly how I feel going into this blog post. I recently took in the new Disney movie, Frozen, and I'm happy to say that it was mega-awesome (I'd make some kind of pun about the movie being "cool", but some sins are just unforgivable, folks). It was a stellar, well-rounded, beautifully-animated feature that harkened back to the glory days of Aladdin or Beauty & the Beast, when Disney was the reigning champion of cartoons everywhere and our childhoods were rife with plush Abus and "Under The Sea" sing-along cassette tapes. But, having said that, there was one part of Frozen that totally fell flat for me, and that was the way it ended. Well, lo and behold, a few days after watching it, I came up with an idea for how it SHOULD have ended that is so maddeningly better than the ending they actually used that it makes me grind my teeth to think that I'm not working for Disney right now.

I'll tell you what it is, but f you want to fully appreciate the ending I came up with, you'd best see the movie first. Needless to say, what I'm about to tell you is gonna be deep in the heart of spoiler territory. So if you haven't watched Frozen yet, watch it: It's great. Watch it, then come back here and finish reading this. And if you HAVE seen it, then settle in, grab some popcorn, and let me regale you with how this one humble writer thinks Frozen SHOULD have ended.

And if anyone from the Walt Disney animated studios happens to be reading this: I'm available. I'm very, very available. And my last name is Fantasia, for crying out loud, I'm practically gift-wrapped for you.


Okay, boys & girls. So, at the end of the movie, Elsa (our ice-slinging anti-heroine) is accepted by the townsfolk of Arendelle. Her sister, Anna, shares a first kiss with her new hubby, Kristoff. Then we pan away from the castle, a snowflake glitters in the foreground, and that's about it. Cut to credits.

Well, in the ending I came up with, we get one final scene after all of that. It's the middle of the night. Anna is lying in bed. The door to her room opens, and Elsa tiptoes inside. She sits on the edge of the bed, leans in,  and sings one line of dialogue in a soft voice:

"Do you want to build a snowman?"

Anna smiles and opens her eyes. Cut to black. The end.

I just think this would be such a sweet, beautiful way for the girls to come full circle. Frozen is, after all, their story. It's not the typical princess romp that revolves solely around finding true love, heck no. It's a tale of a broken family, and the two sisters left to pick up the pieces and try to salvage what's left of their childhood. Ever since accidentally hurting her younger sister at the beginning of the film, Elsa has shut herself away from life. She stopped having fun. She stopped showing emotion. She stopped living, in a sense. As kids, it was always Anna who would approach her for nighttime adventures like building snowmen and ice skating in the castle ballroom. So to have ELSA be the one to instigate that -to have her rouse Anna on a quiet night so that the sisters can have fun and enjoy one another's company -is a perfect way for her character arc to complete itself. I honestly can't imagine how Elsa's story could have ended any other way. It would have been a beautiful close to an absolutely wonderful movie.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to share. And if you DO work for Disney, like I said: Very. Very. Available.

Stay cool (sorry, I just couldn't resist that time).

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Canon in D Major

Something has come up in the nerdia world of late, something potent enough to make me get off my lazy behind and write another TQM post. Sorry it's been so long since the last one, but I've been busy teaming up with Corey Feldman and Jennifer Love-Hewitt to save the president from space-pirates. That was a thing that happened.

Anyhoo, the big brouhaha in the news lately seems to revolve around the demise of one of video gaming's most trailblazing development companies, LucasArts. Since it was a subsidiary of LucasFilm, LucasArts became property of Disney during their acquisition of the company in October of last year. When Disney announced the other day that it was shutting down LucasArts and cancelling some of the titles the game developers had currently been working on, some fans (kind of understandably) had a bit of a spot of bother with the whole situation.

But what's REALLY getting people riled up is the fact that -since Mickey Mouse is now effectively emperor of the Star Wars sandbox -other properties related to the films' Expanded Universe, or EU (i.e. comic books, novels, video games, etc., anything related to the movies but NOT the movies themselves) will also be stricken from the record.

But you know what, fellow sexy Star Wars disciples? This doesn't really bother me. And it shouldn't really bother you, either. Here's why.

LucasArts was a company. Companies can appear and disappear at the drop of hat. They can exist one moment and be gone the next. All those Star Wars-related books and video games, can't UNmake them. They've been made. They exist. They're filling out our bookshelves and gracing our TV screens and embedded in our collective subconscious. If you liked them, then you have nothing to worry about; they'll always be there.

But that's not what most fans are concerned about, is it? No, what most fans are concerned about is that Disney's new films and projects will render previous EU material non-canon. For those of you aren't fluent in Geekish, non-canon is a fancy word that describes something that is related to or set within a fictional storyline that isn't actually an official part of that storyline at all. For example, I bet everybody has heard of Twilight, right? Well, let's say I read the first Twilight book, then I sat down and wrote a 4,000-page story featuring Edward, Bella, and Jacob teaming up to fight space-pirates with Corey Feldman. What I wrote is 100% related to Twilight. It takes place in the Twilight universe. It features all of the characters and settings. But it's not officially part of the Twilight story. Ergo, it is non-canon. But a year later, Stephanie Meyer releases New Moon, the official sequel to Twilight. New Moon, therefore, is canon. (Although, one couldn't help but make the argument that MY story would have been a million times more erotic and awesome. Just sayin')

There are probably something like 500 books that have been published telling the stories of what happens to Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia after the events of Return of the Jedi. And fans are upset because they believe that after all these years, those stories will be rendered obsolete by whatever movies Disney makes. The Disney movies (being actual, official Star Wars movies) will replace all of those other stories as the Star Wars canon.

But I'm here today to tell all those fans that they literally have nothing to be upset about. Because all of those Expanded Universe novels and comic books and video games and lunchboxes NEVER WERE CANON TO BEGIN WITH.

You heard me right, fanboy brethren. None of that stuff is or ever was officially canon, at least not in the sense we've been discussing so far. Heir to the Empire takes place in the Star Wars universe. It's a great book. A lot of people read it. But Timothy Zahn (the gentleman who penned it) is no different from me writing my masterpiece about Edward, Bella, Corey, and the space-pirates from beyond the Moon. Timothy Zahn is just like us: he's a Star Wars fan who loved the movies so much he created his own fantasies about what would happen next. The only difference is, he has some pull with publishing companies and whatnot and managed to sell his fantasies for a considerably impressive profit. And if we all had his writing skill, we probably would have, too. Knights of the Old Republic takes place in the Star Wars universe. It's a great game. A lot of people played it. But aside from being developed by an offshoot of George Lucas' own company, it still just came to life because a bunch of hardcore fans wanted to create a cool new experience in the galaxy we're all so familiar and in love with.

All Expanded Universe Star Wars media is, in essence, fan-fiction with a budget.

That's not to say that I'm undermining all of that work or questioning its quality. Just the opposite. Some of the best Star Wars stuff out there comes from these games and TV shows. The Clone Wars cartoon is actually so well-written and complex that some of its episodes put all six movies to shame. But at the end of the day, it comes down to one guy creating an original piece of material, and everybody loving the material to such an extent that they use it as fuel for their own creative endeavors. If you so much as played with Star Wars action figures as a kid, you were creating Expanded Universe stories.

What I'm suggesting here is that if we love Star Wars as much as we claim we do, then at the end of the day, canon is all relative, isn't it? Who's to say that the events of the novel Heir to the Empire and the events of the upcoming Episode VII aren't both canon, simply taking place in universes/timelines parallel from one another? I don't think any sci-fi fan on the planet is averse to the idea of alternate universes, if  Star Trek, Back to the Future, Fringe, LOST, Doctor Who, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Legend of Zelda, Assassin's Creed, Futurama, Stargate, He-Man & the Masters of the Universe, and every single comic book ever made EVER are any indication. If you absolutely adored Heir to the Empire and end up wholly detesting Episode VII with every fiber of your being, then who is Disney to dictate what is or isn't your own personal canon? In your eyes, the events of Heir to the Empire are what REALLY happened to the heroes of the Rebel Alliance after the fall of the Empire, and Episode VII was just some crappy parallel universe "what-if" storyline that never really appealed to you. And vice versa. Just like how in my eyes, Edward and Bella never ended up as a couple; instead, Bella fell head-over-heels in love with Corey Feldman and his dreamy brown eyes, while a bitter Edward joined the crew of the S.S. Scallywag and became a (literally) bloodthirsty space-pirate who sailed the seven galaxies in search of treasure and debauchery until being defeated in single combat by a time-traveling dinosaur with a fancy mustache. That shit is my canon.

Friday, November 9, 2012

War Song

I'm still a bit too excited and edgy to come up with a clever, biting opening to this article. So, if it's okay with you beautiful people, I'mma skip the formal intros and get right to the main course, because I've got a lot to say about this one. Cool? Cool.

So. Star Wars.

Yup, we're going there.

Anyone who knows me in person knows that Star Wars is to me what Tyra Banks was to Will Smith circa 1992...i.e. I know too much about it for my own good and it's pretty much the only thing I ever talk about. I'm the quintessential Star Wars nut: I love all the movies, I've got about thirty Hasbro action figures, I've read a bunch of the expanded universe novels, and I've got about six different visual dictionaries on the subject. You know that alien band that's playing in the bar in A New Hope? Well, I'm such a detail-obsessed wackjob that I can tell you what that band's name is and what planet they come from. (If you really have to know, they're called Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes, and their species [the Bith] come from Clak'Dor VII. One of the instruments they play is called an "omni box". What else do you wanna know, ladies?). Yeah, I'm one of those guys. But I like to think that what differentiates me from the more creepy, hygienically-impaired members of the nerd society is that I obsess because I LOVE, not because I like to nitpick about things on internet chat rooms or show off my "skillz" to impress Goth chicks.

So, naturally, when I joined the rest of the world last week in discovering that Disney bought out LucasFilm and plans on making at least three more Star Wars movies, I went through a variety of confusing (and sometimes arousing, but we won't go there) emotions in a very condensed period of time. Face it, Star Wars is my lifeblood: sure, I'm also a huge fan of superhero movies, Lord of the Rings, LOST, Harry Potter, Joss Whedon, The Simpsons, Assassin's Creed, Pixar, Nintendo, and other nerdia (which is a word I just made up that means "nerd-media"), but Star Wars is the king. The Mac Daddy. It trumps them all. It was the first true fanboy experience that any of us had. If being a fanboy was a religion, Star Wars wouldn't just be the Book of Genesis: it'd be the entire goddamned Old Testament. And maybe the Letters to the Corinthians, too,

I wanted this TQM post to be about my personal thoughts on this revelation. And to be honest, it's still kind of hard to put it into words. Am I excited? Sure I am! I mean, George Lucas had mentioned toying with the idea of doing sequels to Return of the Jedi in the past, but we long ago dismissed those as the mere ramblings of a crazy old flannel-man, and George stated very firmly that the prequels would be the final installments in the film series. So to find out now that we're going to see a multitude of new Star Wars movies...well, it's a little bit surreal. It feels like a false rumor, or a cruel practical joke...until you find out that it isn't.

I am a bit saddened, though, that the series will no longer be part of the LucasFilm family. Disney, it seems, won't be content until they own everything, everywhere. They already locked down Pixar and Marvel Comics, and now they've added Star Wars to that list. I wouldn't be surprised if next year we'll be hearing that Disney has just spent $8.03 billion to purchase the rights to coffee. Not a coffee franchise; just coffee, period. And every time anyone buys a cup of coffee or roasts a coffee bean anywhere in the world, Mickey Mouse will reap the benefits somehow. And the year after that, it'll be doors. Wanna have a front door to your house? Not until Disney gets their cut, chump.

I'm in the middle of a little love-hate spat with Disney right now, because -in my opinion -they've been slacking. They made Hercules, then they made nothing good after that. For a long time. And then they just bought out everybody who was making good things and rode their long coattails all the way to the bank. If you were to ask me, the only worthy piece of entertainment Disney put out themselves after Hercules was Pirates of the Caribbean. It's kinda sad that the company who led the world in family entertainment back in the early nineties spends the present just sitting back getting fat while Pixar, Marvel, and (now) LucasFilm do all the hard work. But that's a matter for a whole other blog post entirely. If you ask me, Star Wars won't be quite the same without hearing that 20th Century Fox theme before the opening titles. :(

But other than that...yeah, I'm pretty optimistic! There's obviously a lot that could go wrong, but that can be said for any movie. There's also plenty more that could go right, and that's what I'm looking forward to. I'm just curious as to what the hell these new movies could possibly be about! I mean, the current 6-film saga is about Darth Vader: his childhood, youth, descent into darkness, and redemption. Now he's dead, his son Luke (SPOILERS!) has forgiven him for his injustices, the Empire is defeated, and all is right with the galaxy. For the first time in a long time, there's peace. And call me crazy, but the idea of watching Star Peace just doesn't have the same appeal. I'm sure a clever enough writer can come up with something intriguing enough to spawn a whole new series, but until then we can only speculate. And if they're hard-pressed for said writers...I'll do it. For free. Come on, Disney, you're lookin' at a free lunch here!

Though as long as we're on the subject, here are my two cents:


Whatever you do, Disney, please DON'T jump on the 21st-century bandwagon and make a hard-boiled, gritty, Star Wars Begins where Han and Leia's badass son is played by Jason Statham, and everyone wears black trenchcoats, and lightsaber blades only come in silver now because primary colours aren't hardcore enough for today's modern audiences. Just remember what made the original six movies so magical and expand upon that in every way possible.If you're going to try to be edgy and gritty, then you're not making a Star Wars movie; you're just making some other shitty movie and calling it Star Wars. Just be kids again. Design cool-looking spaceships and take us to awesome planets and introduce us to likeable characters who pilot imaginative land, sea, and air vehicles. The beauty of Star Wars is that its limitations are only defined by your own. So don't squander that opportunity, Disney, or I'm throwing away my Junior Mouseketeers membership for good.

I'm no whiny, squealing complainer...I'm not going to demand that you include Boba Fett or a cloned Emperor or anything like that. I'm putting my faith in you, creators of the new films. In 2015, I hope you pleasantly surprise me. There's only one thing I can think of that you really, really need to consider putting into these movies, only one thing that is absolutely irreplaceable: John Williams. In this humble writer's opinion, without Mr. Williams behind the conductor's baton, it just wouldn't be Star Wars.

P.S.- "Nerdia": copyright Andrew Fantasia, 2012, by the way. Just sayin'.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Black & Yellow

Good evening.
Fellas, this one is for you. But ladies, you're more than welcome to stick around! You may learn a thing or two you didn't already know about us strapping, enigmatic Y-chromosomers.

Those of you familiar with the practices of the Jewish faith will know that when a boy reaches a certain age, he becomes a man in the eyes of his peers by partaking in a custom known as a Bar Mitzvah. This is an age-old tradition that's been going on for generations. But I'm here tonight to tell you -and you're hearing it here first, folks! -that I've discovered a second custom, another rite of passage that can be used to identify the passing from boyhood into manhood. It is a symbolic struggle that every boy on the planet must deal with at one point or another. But it doesn't come in the form of a religious experience, nor does it take shape via physical transformation. Instead, this rite of passage is nothing more (and nothing less) than my own namesake: a single, solitary question.

The question being: Betty or Veronica?

For the uninitiated, here's a quick history lesson: Archie Andrews is an American comic book character who debuted in 1941 from the comic company MLJ Magazines. The character eventually became so popular, however, that they shortly changed their name to Archie Comics. In a nutshell, Archie Andrews is a well-meaning but naive ginger-haired teenager who surprisingly has not one, but TWO smokin' hot girls both pining for his affections. And Archie, that beautiful idiot, can never seem to decide on which one he loves most. To this day, Archie comic books are still being published...which means that Archie has been unable to decide between the two girls for over 70 years now.

But let's give the man some credit...this ain't exactly an easy choice.

The two aforementioned smokin' hot candidates in question are Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge. Betty is a blonde beauty, sweet, kind-hearted, gentle, shy, but spunky. She has the unbelievable ability to be both a tomboy and a girly-girl all at once; she could be slipping into her Riverdale High cheerleader outfit one minute, then sliding under a car to give the engine a tune-up the next. She adores Archie and treats him (and everyone else, for that matter) with the utmost respect. Veronica Lodge is a gorgeous brunette who also happens to be the daughter of a multi-millionaire. Thus, Veronica tends to be bratty, spoiled, and stubborn. She's a very high-maintenance gal, who enjoys such pleasures as shopping, sunbathing on the beach, and going out for wallet-gouging dinners at French restaurants. She also adores Archie, but she tends to take him for granted, and often brushes him off entirely to continue her on-again, off-again relationship with Riverdale High's resident asshole, Reggie Mantle.

Now, at this point, most of you are probably waving your arms in the air and insisting that only the most obtuse, OBTUSE idiots would pick Veronica. But back that judgment train up for a sec, homies. Like I said, this isn't that simple.

Yes, Veronica can be a bee-otch at times. But can we blame her? Her rich daddy, Hiram Lodge, spoils the pants off of her, and lavishes her with money and credit cards without ever really teaching her the true value of a dollar. As for Veronica's mother, the woman is barely present. I've read over 100 Archie comic books and I think I may have seen her once: Veronica has a piss-poor male role model and a nonexistent female one. That's got "recipe for bee-otch" written all over it.

Besides, let's remove Archie from the equation for a minute. When she's not hanging out with boys, Veronica spends her time with her best friend in the whole world...who happens to be none other than Betty Cooper. And when these two are alone together, that's when the real Veronica Lodge starts to bubble to the surface a bit. On her many girls-nights-out with Betty, I've seen Veronica selflessly stand up for her friend, donate all of her childhood toys to poor kids, pay for all of her friends' Christmas shopping, organize school bake sales and pep rallies, & tons of other stuff that no self-proclaimed bee-otch would touch with a 10 foot pole. See, Veronica plays the hard-to-get card around the boys because her lack of a normal childhood has made her more than a little insecure. She needs to flip-flop between Archie and Reggie; not because she's mean, but because she simply doesn't know what she's doing. And she'd never admit that, of course. So she just smirks and pretends that it's all part of her "bad girl" routine. Unbeknownst to the boys, she's a total sweetheart. And because of her rich, cold upbringing, this means that she became a total sweetheart all on her own. That, my friends, is one hell of an admirable accomplishment.

Most people who read Archie Comics start doing so at a young age, but when we get older we inevitably find ourselves staring for longer than usual at those pages where Betty and Veronica are lying on the beach in their generous bathing suits, and we take to asking ourselves: if we were in Archie's EXTREMELY lucky shoes...who would we pick? And the answer that immediately follows usually sounds something like this:

"Betty! No, wait, Veronica! Yeah, Veronica!, screw that, I'll go with Betty! Maybe. Or Veronica....definitely Betty. Probably. 50-50." And then we'd give up and pull out a coin to settle things.

Therefore, I submit to you that this, THIS is the ultimate test of manhood. There is no right or wrong answer to this question: what matters is whether you can answer it without second-guessing yourself. And that is what separates the men from the boys. Archie is 17 years old and has about as much intelligence as a baby monkey; he's still got a long way to go before he can pick one girl over the other. It could take some men years to finally realize what it is they truly want. It's never too late to find out what your answer will be, and you'll learn something valuable about yourself in the process.

So to those of you who can answer the question without a moment's hesitation, congratulations. You've reached a level of wisdom and maturity that others can only dream of. And to those of you who still don't know for sure, don't be discouraged. Mulling it over, after all, is half the fun. :)


Oh, you're still here? What's that? You're asking what my choice would be? Well, gosh, if you really want to know, I guess it wouldn't hurt to tell you. But remember: this is a personal journey. Choices are based completely on individual emotional response, so don't go looking to my answer to help you out with yours, okay?

To learn whom I would choose between Betty or Veronica, feel free to highlight the spoiler-free section below.

Both. In a hot tub. With some strawberries.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Exhibit E

They say that he who lives in the past is doomed to miss out on the future. That's all well and good, but if the future of action cinema is going to be Andrew Garfield skateboarding through New York and moping about his parents, then you'll forgive me if I continue to look backwards.

And what better way to look backwards than with this summer's heaping helping of nostalgic macho goodness that is The Expendables 2? Oddly enough, upon stepping out of the theater, I came to a funny realization. In a year that gave us The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man and Brave and ParaNorman and Madagascar 3, I stand to reason that The Expendables 2 is still the most kid-friendly movie of 2012.

If you're done laughing and shouting out loud to your computer screen that it's the most violent movie of the year and that I'm some kind of idiot for making such a claim, lemme try to explain myself here. Yes, E2 has a lot of action and a lot of violence. It's also got some healthy doses of blood, gore, explosions, and light profanity. But you know what? It's also a TON of fun! Nostalgia aside, let's pretend we haven't been waiting for this on-screen team-up for 30 years and try to get into the mindset of, say, an 8-year-old boy. This would be his favourite movie. There are big explosions, loud guns, tanks blasting shit to pieces, wacky characters spouting funny one-liners, good guys who act really heroic, bad guys who act really nasty, and generally a lot of ass-kicking and subsequent name-taking. This is exactly, to the letter, the kind of stuff 8-year-old boys love. Want proof? Just watch an 8-year-old boy play with his action figures for five minutes. The stuff he'll come up with could be ripped from the pages of any Expendables script.

There are themes in cinema that are not appropriate for young audiences, but I don't think E2 had any of them. There are no F-words, no adult themes, no heavy emotional duress. There's hardly even a mention of sex (the general consensus the movie puts forward, in fact, seems to be that girls are icky, unless they're cool and tough like the boys are). There's nothing in here that an adult would have to explain to an inquisitive kid. And yet I saw no children in the audience for The Expendables 2. Instead, I saw all of the children seated in the theater for The Dark Knight Rises, a movie that features (among other things): sex, partial nudity, numerous adult themes, the death of heroic characters, stock market jargon, frightening images, a bus full of little orphans about to be blown up by an atomic bomb, and corporate espionage. You know, for kids! Hey, parents, when you take your little ones to a movie, here's a hint: do some fucking research first. Just because Batman is on the poster doesn't mean it's going be a magical ride of smiles & rainbows.

On that note, The Expendables 2 is also a perfect movie for adults. We are, after all, the target demographic here. Everybody who's been waiting for these actors to blow shit up onscreen since the 1980s will finally get their wish granted. The first movie was a little more tame and light on the fan-service, but this one doesn't pull any punches. If somebody told me 25 years ago that one day I'd get to see Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up to fight a bunch of soldiers who were working for Jean-Claude Van Damme, I'd have probably peed my pants with glee. Heck, I almost peed my pants with glee yesterday when I watched the damn thing happen. There's something euphoric about seeing all of these heroes in one movie; The Expendables 2 is for action cinema what The Avengers was for comic books. Going back to the 8-year-old playing with action figures example, it reminds me of exactly that: anyone who's played with action figures in their youth knows how cool it was to team up a Ninja Turtle with a Spider-Man villain and make them fight a battle against Optimus Prime and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Your imagination was the limit. That's how E2 felt.

You know what? Even the elderly will find something to enjoy here, watching aged relics like Stallone & Schwarzenegger take part in another glorious bullet-opera as the two actors playfully jab about one another of glory days long past, and reminisce about how much fun they used to have. The two actors are still having lots of fun (it shows), and I think that will put a smile on any Golden Ager's face; it's a nice little testament to the fact that our elders have indeed been through a lot of great shit in their time, and they've seen and been through things the rest of us couldn't even dream of. If there's any movie of 2012 that really sticks home the "respect old people" thing, I can't think of a better example than E2.

In a nutshell, The Expendables 2 proves that -while it may be no masterpiece of film, and is by no means the best picture of the year -it's got something everybody can enjoy. And that's worth something. So take your kids. Take your parents. Take your grandparents. This is a movie for everybody. that that the more serious stuff is out of the way, can I be a geek for a moment? Because here is my wish list for The Expendables 3:

-it should be a much longer movie, to give more screen-time to the growing list of actors.
-instead of having one villain, the villains should be another team of Expendables, only these guys have much darker agendas. That way every one of the heroes can be pitted against an evenly-matched opponent and make for some bone-crunchingly good fights.
-Schwarzenegger has to get in there with his fists this time, Commando-style.
-new additions to the cast should include: Carl Weathers, Michael Biehn, Nicolas Cage, Jackie Chan, Steven Seagal, Harrison Ford, The Rock, Daniel Craig, Liam Neeson, Jean Reno, and (if there's a just and loving God) Sean Connery.
Make it happen, Hollywood!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Ballad of the Spider

Gather round, children, I've a tale to share with you. Pull up a chair and listen close, and you might learn a thing or two before the end...

Once upon a time -not so long ago, in fact -there was a man named Marvel. When Marvel was young, he was one of those children who had a lot of toys. His bedroom was littered with fun toys of all shapes, sizes, and colours. And Marvel loved each and every one of them. He would sit in his room, perched atop his bed or inside a fortress constructed out of blankets, and play for hours. Every toy was used and appreciated to its fullest extent. But Marvel's absolute favourite toy of all was Spider-Man.

Spider-Man was one of those toys that Marvel took everywhere. He brought it in the car with him. He took it over to grandma's house. He would bring it to school, tuck it safely in his backpack during class, and play with it all recess long. Marvel adored the Spider-Man toy; cherished it, even. To him, Spider-Man was more precious than all the gold in the world.

As the years went on, and Marvel grew older, he gave away some of his lesser-used toys to other children. When he found out that his uncle & aunt (to whom he was very close) were having a baby, Marvel did a very noble thing and gave that lucky baby the coveted Spider-Man toy.

"But, Marvel, you love that old toy!" his aunt said to him.

"Yeah, I do," admitted Marvel as he handed the toy over. "And I've got a lot of fond memories of it, too. But here's hoping my new baby cousin will make all-new memories. I only hope this Spider-Man toy makes him as happy as it's made me."

So more years rolled by. By now, Marvel was in his late twenties, married, and his wife had just given birth to twins. An ecstatic Marvel was at the top of the world; life was certainly good, and could only get better from here. But one night, as he sat watching his newborn twins drift softly off to sleep in their crib, he noticed a few inches of empty space between them and couldn't help but feel that something was missing. It only took him a few moments to realize what it was...

The very next morning, Marvel went back over to his uncle and aunt's house to visit his little cousin, a precocious nine-year-old boy named Sony. Marvel made his way down to the basement of the house to find Sony sitting lazily on the carpet, sucking on his thumb and not really doing much of anything. Scattered about the room was a mess of unused toys and other odds and ends. It was a hot summer morning, so a ceiling fan rotated overhead, bathing the room in cool air. The boy looked up when his older cousin entered the room. "Hi, Marvel!"

"Hi, Sony!" Marvel said, kneeling down so that he could be at eye level with the boy. He noticed an enormous black electronic device positioned next to the wall in the corner, and curiously inquired as to what it was.

"Oh, that? That's my PlayStation!" Sony chirped happily. "It's my favouritest toy in the whole, wide world! I play with it every day!"

"Sounds like fun!" said Marvel. He noticed something else, a flat black box with sleek LED lights. "And how about that?"

"Oh, that? That's my Blu-Ray player! It's also my favouritest toy in the whole, wide world! I play with it every day, too!"

"Sounds great!" said Marvel. Then he noticed a massive pile of colourful toys sitting next to the Blu-Ray. "And what are all those?!"

"Oh, those? Those are Underworld, Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, and Men in Black! I've had those toys since I was a baby! They're my favouritest toys in the whole, wide world times infinity!"

"That sounds swell, Sony!" Marvel said with a happy chuckle. "Looks like you've got a lot of really neat toys down here." He shifted his weight on the shag carpeting to get more comfortable. "Actually, Sony, speaking of toys...that's what I came here to talk to you about today."

"Whaddya mean?" asked Sony, tilting his head curiously. Then his eyes flashed with excitement. "Did you buy me a new toy?!?!"

"Um, no, not today. Sorry," Marvel said. "See, buddy, the reason I'm here is I'm sure you know by wife and I just had two babies. Twins, actually."

"Yeah, mom and dad mentioned it last week," said Sony, who looked utterly disappointed that there were no new toys in his forseeable future.

"Well," Marvel explained, "we bought a lot of new toys for the babies, and we really don't need any more. But...I was setting them down to sleep last night, and a thought occurred to me. I thought that it would be so nice, and so sweet, and so gosh-darn poetic, if I could give my very own children my favouritest toy in the whole, wide world. If I could pass down the one toy I cherished above all others to my babies, and let it be loved for a whole other generation."

"Which toy is that?" asked Sony.

"Well, the Spider-Man toy, of course," said Marvel. "I loved that toy more than anything when I was little."

"But you gave that to me!" said Sony.

"I sure did," said Marvel, "back when you were born. And I'm sure you've had a lot of great times with it, too! But you've gotten bigger since then, and you don't use that Spider-Man toy anymore. You've got plenty of other toys that you love more. So I thought it would be nice to be able to pass Spider-Man down to my babies."

", I use it all the time!" Sony lied. "I use it plenty!"

"No you don't," said Marvel. "I can see it from here. It's lying right there behind the couch, under that pile of unwashed socks and crushed soda cans."

Sony rushed over and retrieved the Spider-Man toy from beneath the pile of garbage, clutching it defensively against his chest. "No! It's mine!"

"But your parents told me you haven't played with it in almost five years now," Marvel said gently. "Don't you think you should let someone younger have it? Someone who'd appreciate it more?"

"No! Mine!" Sony whined. "I appreciate it more."

"But, Sony, be reasonable. I was here five years ago, the last time you played with Spider-Man! I remember you said -and I quote -'This toy is stupid and I don't want to play with it anymore'. Then you tossed it behind the couch onto that exact spot where it's remained for these past five years until you moved it just now!"

But alas, little Sony wouldn't budge an inch. He kept the toy securely in his hands and scoffed. "Mine!"

Marvel sighed, defeated. He knew his little cousin well enough by now to know that there was no arguing with him. "Okay, Sony," he said, his shoulders slumping with disappointment. "You win. You can keep my cherished childhood toy." Before Marvel turned to leave, though, he added, "But...I want you to make me a promise right now. I want you to promise me that you'll play with it. You'll take good care of Spider-Man and you'll play with it and appreciate it and never treat it carelessly. Because that toy means more to me than any other toy in the world. And I want to make sure I'm leaving it in good hands. Okay? Do you promise?"

"I promise!" Sony squealed with delight. "I'll play with it right now! Watch!" And he tossed Spider-Man up into the air triumphantly.

But unfortunately, Sony tossed the wall-crawler a little TOO high. Spider-Man collided with the whirring overhead ceiling fan and shattered upon impact, scattering a dozen bits of broken plastic every which way until pieces of the mutilated Spider-Man were strewn all over the basement. "Oops!" Sony blurted out. "Oh, well!" And he continued to suck his thumb obliviously as a heartbroken Marvel turned and left the room.

And that, boys and girls, brings us to the end of our little story. So what have we learned? We've learned that there are some things in life too precious to give away. One person's idea of gold might be another person's idea of pure garbage. Toys are meant to be played with, kids, not hoarded. They're meant to be loved and enjoyed and appreciated to their fullest extent possible. If you've got toys you never use, guess what? There are a million people out there who would love to use them. Waste not, want not.

The end.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Let's Reboot!

I'd imagine that somewhere deep in the bowels of Hollywood is a studio where most of the industry's screenwriting takes place. Located within this studio, there must be an impossibly gigantic whiteboard which all of the writers look to for inspiration. The whiteboard contains nothing less than Hollywood's current formula for success. The words "HOW TO WRITE A MOVIE" are (I assume) plastered firmly in thick, red silicon letters above this whiteboard so that there can be no question as to what the board's contents are all about. And written on the whiteboard itself would be the two sentences that studio executives are practically demanding their writers to follow:

"Step #1: Reboot something that's already popular".

"Step #2: Make it dark and gritty now".

It fells like by this point, the words "dark" and "gritty" have gotten tossed around so often in Hollywood that most folks there have become a bit confused as to their meaning. For example, every other blockbuster that gets released these days boasts about how "gritty" their fresh new story is, how it's "the grittiest film" you'll ever see. But we know that's a lie right away, don't we? The grittiest movie I've ever seen and ever will see was Spider-Man 3, because it had a character who was literally made of millions of tiny particles of sand and grit (although, since the majority of it takes place on sand, I'd say Beach Blanket Bingo would be a close second). But I digress.

Reboots are the other half of this trend. Everything is getting rebooted or remade now, and even their titles are getting an extreme makeover. Remember Judge Dredd? It's getting a reboot this year. Only, it's just called Dredd now. How about Invasion of the Body Snatchers? They got a remake, but it was called The Invasion. Why? Because in today's fast-paced, smart phone-fueled world, people don't have time for silly things like words. Brb ttyl LMFAO.

The reason I started writing these blogs at The Question Mark in the first place is because I've always wanted to continuously hone my writing skills and hopefully get exposure which could lead to future writing jobs some day. I'd really like to get paid to write books and scripts for the film/TV industry, so I'm dedicating this week's TQM entry to all of the Hollywood producers out there who are looking for writers to pen their next great masterpiece. I'm presenting you producers with six ideas for six great movies, all while never straying from your golden rules: "reboot something that's already popular; make it dark and gritty now". Also, Hollywood, I'm going to cater to your other whim: the titles will be as short as possible, so that people can spend less time telling the box office clerk which movie they want to see and more time paying for their ticket, okay? So here are my six ideas. If this doesn't make you wanna hire me, then I have no idea what will.

This is the retold, much better story of the life of everyone's favourite dim-witted southerner, Forrest Gump. This time around though, his mother never really loved him and Jenny died in a horrific car crash when she was 14. So Gump has become a gravelly-voiced badass bent on revenge. The entire movie will focus on his time as a soldier in the Vietnam War. The effects of war make him psychotic (as war is wont to do), and he starts imagining that he sees Jenny wandering the jungles. He goes mad trying to follow her specter, ripping the throats out of enemy soldiers in really cool, bloody ways as he inches closer to Jenny, only to have her slip away from him again and again. His commanding officer, Lieutenant Dan, decides to utilize Gump's psychosis by unleashing the man into a P.O.W. camp and letting him run wild. The "Life is like a bandolier of bullets" scene will have the audience cheering with delight.

Woody is an antique cowboy doll whose owner (a boy named Andy) was killed in an attempted terrorist attack on Washington D.C. by Al Qaeda insurgents. Driven mad with grief, Woody has become a gravelly-voiced badass bent on revenge. He, Buzz Lightyear, and a shitload of G.I. Joe toys discover a way of constructing actual working miniature guns out of Lego and TinkerToy. Together, the small army leaves the safe confines of Andy's house and wages war on the terrorists who dared to mess with them. Instead of learning to overcome their differences like they did in that bland "original" version, this time Woody and Buzz learn that dousing a chainsaw in gasoline and setting it ablaze allows you to kill twice as many terrorists as you would with a normal chainsaw. Also, Jason Statham does a few voices in it. He plays everybody.

John Hammond is a wealthy scientist and entrepreneur who has spent the last several years cloning dinosaurs on an uncharted island southeast of Costa Rica. The cloning is a success, and before long Hammond hatches plans to open a dinosaur gaming reserve (because theme parks are juvenile; gaming reserves are much more gritty and edgy). However, Hammond is stranded in the jungle one night and is devoured by a T-Rex. Hammond's son Jack, a gravelly-voiced badass, becomes bent on revenge. Armed with an arsenal of weapons that would make The Terminator blush, Jack ventures into the depths of the island to lay the smackdown on his father's creations and teach those overgrown iguanas who's really at the top of the food chain.

A poverty-stricken man and his two small children are trying to eke out a life in a post-apocalyptic Seattle. One day, the children find an abandoned antique car in a junkyard and insist on fixing it up. Before long, the father and his kids have converted the vehicle into a wicked-cool fire-red Lamborghini Diablo with side-mounted guns and rocket launchers. The kids nickname the car "Bang" because that's the sound its guns make when they're fired, and the car seems to take on a mind and personality of its own. Instead of the childish plot of the original, silly musical version, this movie takes a drastic turn when both children are kidnapped and tortured by a serial killer/drug lord who also has an army of zombies for some reason. The kids' father, who was already a gravelly-voiced badass to begin with, automatically becomes bent on revenge. He and Bang embark on a cross-country road trip of blood, bullets, and collateral damage in an attempt to rescue the children and save the day.

Ferris Bueller is an average American high school student who happens to be gifted with exceptional cleverness and improvisational skills. Faking illness to get out of school, Ferris prepares for a day of fun and excitement...and gets more than he bargained for. See, it turns out that the reason he's so clever and witty is because he's had a top-secret government chip implanted in his skull, a chip containing thousands of covert agent training tactics and escape plans. When the government discovers Ferris' location, they send agents to kill him. Luckily, they enter his house while he's out catching a Cubs game, but they murder his sister in cold blood. Ferris, whose voice is now full of gravel and whose personality is now badass and driven by revenge, decides that he's going to play by his own rules from now on. He sets out on a quest to take down the government agents one-by-one, utilizing every one of his awesome skills at disguise, identity theft, and theatricality to achieve his bloody goals. And all the while, his bumbling yet lovable principal Ed Rooney is constantly trying to prove that's he's not really sick after all!

Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, and Ray Stantz are three down on their luck scientists obsessed with the paranormal and occult. With no means of garnering income, they open up a ghost-catching business in the hopes of becoming New York heroes. Instead, they're ridiculed. Until one fateful night, when a truckload of Al Qaeda insurgents (who were planning some kind of terrorist attack on the MetLife building) all perish in a fiery explosion before they can accomplish their goal. The terrorists' ghosts are angry, bitter, and full of resentment, and strike a deal with a Sumerian god of destruction named Gozer to harness the powers of Ancient Evil and make New York City burn! Catching wind of this nefarious scheme, the Ghostbusters trade in their proton packs for some much more badass heavy artillery machine guns that can also kill ghosts, and they set out to make sure that justice is served the American way! Rick Moranis stars again as an aged Louis Tully, who is no longer an accountant but an Iraqi War vet who has a surprisingly soft-spoken voice but regardless is full of thoughts of revenge. Also, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is just a big white tank now, because that's grittier.