Review: Man of Steel

Superman doesn’t do anything halfway. He can’t. As a near indestructible alien from a destroyed world, raised on a farm in the middle of America, the character simply does not know how to do things halfway.

This, however, is a double-edged sword – it means his failures are equally catastrophic.

The same goes for Superman movies, and after the failed last attempt to reboot the movie franchise, I will admit I was trying not to worry too much about how well Man of Steel would do with re-introducing the character.

It has been said that a hero is only as good as its villains. While I think this is not entirely true, it certainly has some weight within the concept of superhero movies.

To an extent, because of how powerful Superman (Henry Cavill) is, there is even more need for a solid villain to stand against him.

General Zod (Michael Shannon) certainly has the ability – as a fellow Kryptonian – to stand up against the Man of Steel, as far as power goes, but more importantly, his character – while certainly very tightly focused in purpose and logic – is very well presented.

This is important, as just because a character should be able to challenge Superman does not mean they are portrayed well in doing so. Previous movies with Lex Luthor as part comedy relief and part stupid crazy – rather than a cold and ruthless business tycoon – prove my point.

This is not a problem in Man of Steel. With the movie starting during the last days of Krypton, we get to see General Zod act in a cold and ruthless manner in a misguided coup attempt he believes is necessary to save the Kryptonian race.

This does a great job of placing the character and his motivations, while allowing the the reasoning behind the infant Kal-El – the someday-Superman – being sent to Earth to shine through, as well as how and why the General was banished to the Phantom Zone.

Unfortunately, while General Zod is a very ruthless and challenging enemy, especially with his Kryptonian technology and soldiers, the writing really struggles with him. As a being specifically designed to fit a military role both genetically and through training, he should be able to easily crush first the scientist (and Superman’s father) Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and later the untrained Superman.

The movie’s plot features a great central plot, as Zod invades Earth searching for the wayward Kryptonian, and does well in neither completely ignoring Clark Kent’s childhood growing up in rural Kansas, nor in spending too much time on it. While the movie did jump from the destruction of Krypton to an adult Clark Kent, it uses well-placed and written flashbacks to help define the moral growth of the character and his motivations.

Dylan Sprayberry – the actor who played young Clark Kent – does a great job, as do both Kevin Cosner and Diane Lane as Ma and Pa Kent. While there is a solid story woven throughout these flashbacks, and this manner of revealing things seems to work better at keeping the film from falling into three different stories of Krypton, young Clark, and Superman, it does also feel like there could have been a lot more to Kal-El’s development as a child.

The side characters seem to suffer from the same problem. It is great to see the strong human element of what goes on around Superman, and to see both the military and civilians like Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) stand up and act heroically against threats most humans would bail from. However, there’s just so many storylines and such huge town-shattering fights going on around the cast that we don’t get to see much character interaction, which is a shame.

Other than the poor depth of character interaction, another weakness of the film is the camerawork.

Far. Too. Much. Shaky cam.

During the battles, it’s not a problem as fights are actually very nicely demonstrated, but I don’t need the camera shaking during a council meeting. It’s distracting.

Other, calmer times where the camera was not steady also detracted from my ability to focus on the scene, which weakened it. I don’t even know where to start with how stupid I thought the close ups on Superman learning how to fly looked. They just looked poorly conceived and not any better brought about.

I do give credit, though, for some of the comic book Easter Eggs that managed to get worked in. Certainly, they aren’t needed to enjoy the movie, but if you do catch them they’re a nice touch.

Overall, I think Man of Steel was a successful action flick and a nice reboot. It doesn’t always hit the mark but generally it holds up well, and despite its flaws there was enough substance there that I left satisfied.

6.5/10 – Fun film, but points off for disappointing camerawork.

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Review: Epic

With only the visually impressive display in the theater lobby and the movie trailer I’d seen at a previous show, while I knew I wanted to see Blue Sky’s newest animated film, Epic, I wasn’t entirely positive what kind of movie it would be. A young human woman shrinking down in a forest and meeting a magical race that lives there protecting the place sounds a lot like Fern Gully. Visually, the Boggans that were the force of corruption looked much more like orcs from Lord of the Rings, just smaller. Unfortunately, while enjoyable, Epic needed to be a little bit more to live up to its title.

Image

Not so epic, Epic.

 

This animated 3D film misses being truly fantastic due to many small reasons, rather than any one glaring mistake. This certainly keeps the movie enjoyable, but doesn’t push it into the realm of being a fabulous adventure that tugs on one’s emotions. With the last two films I’ve seen in theaters being Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3, this movie just fell short of wowing me like they did. This might be an unfair comparison, so I will also say that the last animated 3D family film I saw, The Croods, was more “Epic” than this film.


Certainly, the plot doesn’t push itself. It is a bit cliché, having the good forces of the Leafmen fighting the evil forces of the Boggans. The magic of Queen Tera (voiced by Beyoncé Knowles) keeps the corruption of the greedy Mandrake (voiced by Christoph Waltz) in balance within the forest. This is unacceptable to the wicked leader, so he hopes to strike during the time she selects her heir, which happens only once every hundred years, when the moon is full during the height of the summer solstice.

 

Within the larger area of this forest there is the human Bomba (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), an eccentric scientist and father of Mary Katherine (“I go by M.K. Now”, voiced by Amanda Seyfried), who pays him a visit after years of separation. She hopes to reconnect with her father after the recent passing of her mother, but finds his obsession with finding an advanced civilization of tiny people living in the forest just as crazy as her mother – and the scientific community as a whole. Again, a little cliché, but this theme of parents and children trying to connect appears in multiple places through the cast.

 

In addition to M.K. feeling she cannot connect with the only parent she has left, there is the relationship between General Ronin (voiced by Colin Farrell) and Nod (voiced by Josh Hutcherson). These characters do not have any actual blood relation, but the general has been trying to watch out for Nod as he is the son of a good friend and fellow Leafmen member who passed away. Nod has found himself unable to live up to the expectations of the leader of the military forces defending the queen and forest, which keeps them both upset with each other.

 

Mandrake’s son, Dagda (voiced by Blake Anderson) works hard to make his father happy and emulate him. At the start of the show these two seem to have the closest relationship, even if it isn’t perfect, of the three parent relations.

 

Unfortunately, while all of these potentially very emotionally moving relationships exist in the movie, none of them pick up enough weight to become emotionally moving. They’re just parts of the whole story instead of their own tales being told alongside.

 

The parenting theme is more loosely continued on into the main plot as well, which focuses on Queen Tera’s heir. It is the selection of, protection of, and potential corruption of the pod that will pass on the Queen’s power over the forest that forms the central story. Through the telling of this we manage to see the few flashes of something Epic that, unfortunately, do not last quite long enough.

 

The first hint of an Epic story is in the huge Boggan attack that forces Queen Tera to flex her Mother Earth powers as she tries to escape, and ends with M.K. being shrunk down and pulled into the role of guardian for the pod. The revelation of the massive numbers of Boggans and the Queen’s power was impressive.

 

I am not sure if this lack of a sense of urgency and intensity was purposeful or not. I could see it being something they chose to avoid to try and keep the whole more family friendly.

 

On the plus side, the comedy relief characters were not obnoxious for the sake of easy humor. Mub (the snail voiced by Aziz Anasari) and Grub (the slug voiced by Chris O’Dowd) did add amusement in places without going over the top. They even had their own separate personality traits. Mub wanted to be a Leafmen while Grub was sure that M.K. was into him, so saw Nod as a rival for her affection. The characters were certainly imperfect, but not to the extreme level that so many animated movies rely on. There was likely at least one person similar to one or the other of them that you knew in school.

Image

Let the staring match begin…

Overall, there were many great characters. In addition to those already mentioned, my favorite of the whole film is the glow worm Nim Galuu (voiced by Steven Tyler). He gives great personal advice and helps them find their way even if he doesn’t have all the answers.

 

However, with the fantastic setting, culture and characters, the story just doesn’t hold the intensity that it should. I didn’t get deeply invested in any of the characters’ problems.  

 

There were aspects of the characters that were touched upon or hinted at that never saw any revelation. What was Queen Tera and General Ronin’s relationship before their responsibilities came to them? How did the Queen know that M.K. would be the key to victory, but not know how to avoid the problem being created in the first place? How did the family dog lose his leg? Well, okay, that last one isn’t perhaps as important, but since it was brought up that he had been a four legged dog before the separation and was now a three legged dog, it did make me wonder, which seems a silly distraction.

 

In the end, while I certainly enjoyed the movie, it really comes down to the fact I wanted more. Certainly, there is a good version of wanting more when you see a movie. Wanting to see the characters face more challenges in a sequel is a good thing. But here it was seeing the outline of an epic storyline and not getting it fleshed out and paced in a way to make it feel truly larger than life. I do not believe this was because the members of the forest civilization were so small or because the story did not hold massive consequences. Instead, I fear what happened were that the choices made in pacing and elsewhere to create this family film kept it from growing as ‘epic’ as it needed to be.

 

Enjoyable, but could have been better. 7/10

 

While there is no end scene in or after the credits, I did find the layout of the scrolling credits over a background of Bomba’s research notes and equipment to actually be an enjoyable addition.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The t-shirts are now available

Image

Created in a secret laboratory, this shirt was originally intended to help the author of the book Lab Rat to identify himself as such. But as with most such advancements in science, alchemy and magic, once the results made it into the real world, unexpected permutations resulted. This current generation of the shirts has mutated to gain a QR code linking to this site.

The shirts are available in many different colors over at http://www.zazzle.com/bamcreations

Art by E. T. Willoughby.

Design by B. A. Maddux.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

Remembering Taz

Digging takes enough energy to make it kind of therapeutic, I’ve decided.

Those were the words I texted a friend who was checking in on me. His timing had been good, as I needed a break and to hear from someone who cared so that digging the grave would keep from getting too dreary.

The grave was for the seventeen year old, black, large framed, 22 pound house cat, Taz. While he started out as my brother’s cat, since he was the one who found the litter of large, weaned kittens in the irrigation pipes he was setting up at work.

Yeah, my brother had called me and asked me to come help catch them and bring cages and gloves and the like, and I did help him catch the feisty guy, I had other cats at the time, and my brother was the reason the cat was caught. Sadly, all the siblings, including a pretty steel gray one got away.

And Taz was very aggravated and unfriendly the first night. But leaving him in the cage, in a small side bathroom where nothing could bother him, coming in to check on him and get him nice food didn’t take long to make him into a very loving cat with the family. I honestly don’t remember if it was overnight or two nights. I think it was just one, though.

Things were not always pleasant though. He was bound and determined to be the alpha male feline of the place, and jumped the other cats almost every chance he got. Even neutering them all to reduce the hormones didn’t take that attitude away from him.

He, like all the cats, was an indoors/outdoors cat, and would go out and make sure and chase all the wild tomcats away. Which, as large as he was, was not a problem. Sure, he’d get the rare injury, and during one of the cold early winters of his life, he managed to freeze the tip of one of his ears off in a straight line, but it always seemed like he wore the rugged look with pride.

As my brother went off to college and the city to work and I moved back home, he could not take the large framed feline with him so left most of his pets with the parents and I ended up helping care for Taz and so it became my bed that he would got to whenever he was spending the night in.

When I got sick, he would make sure and lay on me and purr so I stayed in bed to heal.
When It was chilly, he would make sure he lay between (or on) my feet to make sure they stayed warm and the blankets didn’t get kicked off. He also liked to keep my feet warm as I typed at the computer.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When my brother and his wife moved back next door, Taz wold often walk with me down to their house. Didn’t go in because of the large dogs there, but seemed determined to keep me company as I walked there, and – many a time, the way back. I suspect that depended on if he found something interesting or not, but mostly, he appeared before I got too far back through the pasture between the houses.

He was a large framed cat, but had such a tiny sounding meow from such a strongly built feline. One expected more of a roar from his looks, so the soft meow was even more shocking.

His purr, on the other hand, absolutely rumbled the room he was in when he was content and happy enough to purr, which was very often.

Certainly, he was starting to show his age, and seemed to be having trouble, even with assistance from me washing the area and treating it, with he left ear. He was getting kind of stiff and slow moving until he got started, but still seemed happy and able to do what he wanted, so I was kind of preparing myself for losing him, but it was still a level of surprise when I found him curled up in the garage where he passed away during the day.

Last night was hard. This vibrant, loving cat I helped catch over a quarter of my lifetime ago, and gotten used to being in my life almost every day was gone.

The rest of the family is all out of state. I was the only one around who could pick his remains up off the floor. Oh, how he hated it when I changed garbage bags, I had thought as I picked him up in one. I am not ashamed to admit that’s when I started crying. Hell, got a few tears now as well at that memory. But it was dark and too cold to take him out and bury him then, so I found a box — took two tries to find one large enough– and set him up off the ground for the evening so that the calico could still eat out there if she wanted to. I’d say it was too late to bury him as well, but I didn’t get to sleep for many hours after that.
Certainly, I wasn’t ready to have done it yet at any case.

So last night I mourned him.

I remembered all the good times, letting them power over the bad.

I was thankful that he had been in my life for so many years.

I was happy that we had given him a life that was surely much longer than it would have been if he had remained wild, and likely, as much as he purred and rubbed against his people, I know he was a much happier cat than if he’d been alone.

My family and he all had richer lives for having shared them.

And today, after a ten hour workday, I came home and decided I needed to take care of finding a place to bury Taz, The weather turned nice today, and the soil was still freshly moistened from the rain a few days back, so conditions were ideal, and the garage wasn’t going to stay a preserving 40 something degrees Fahrenheit.

So I found the shovel and went out around the yard, then into the pasture to find a good location. It was at this point I texted my friend that it was kind of a dreary feeling going out to do this.

First potential site I looked at had too many roots too soon and just didn’t seem to agree with being dug up. I know that sounds kind of odd, but I’m okay with making a decision like this based on a feeling.

The second one, I figured would be similar, but didn’t get that feeling. I figured there would be more
roots, but actually didn’t have too bad a time with them. The sandstone rocks, on the other hand, were something to deal with, but those, I could pile on the other side of the hole from the dirt and use to mark and help secure the grave after, so I didn’t let them stop me.

And it was after I had gotten a good start on the grave at that second site that I made the comment about digging being therapeutic.

I’m not sure if it is just the fact that it was a lot of work. Breaking the soil and pulling it out of the ground with the shovel, digging around the six inch or larger rocks and getting them loose enough to pull out by hand, the physical activity certainly brought up a sweat. I might look up later to see if the hormones and chemicals the body produces during exercise has effects that would account for calming down emotionally in a guy or not, but not tonight.

It might also have been the simple fact of having set myself a goal with challenges and accomplishing it successfully. North East Kansas soil is not the worst to dig in, but it certainly took effort to get the sandstone rocks out of the hole and keep it large enough and get it deep enough. But I managed it, and that was something to feel good about.

Or it may have simply been working with the dirt.

I was a kid who played with mud, building and guiding the flow of water. I drew in the dirt and enjoyed getting dirty. As I grew older paying attention to plants came and went, but whenever I have worked with the soil either to plant or to landscape, it has been – for lack of a better term – grounding. Perhaps for the two other reasons of being physical labor and setting and accomplishing constructive goals. But whatever the reasons, it brings me a level of calm and solidity.

So I gained a level of calm digging the grave. I was able to go back to the house and get Taz’s remains and get them there. I was able to set his body in the ground and bury it.

It was hard, yes. But I managed, and set the stones over the grave to help protect it. As I did all of this, I thanked him for sharing his time with me and remembered all the good times and shed a few more tears.

I know I’m going to miss him still.
I am even as I write this.

Taz was a large part of my life for most of the past seventeen years.
It will take time to get used to him not being there. When I came in from work, at first glance I thought the black space heater sitting by the hallway back to the bedrooms was Taz sitting there welcoming me home after his long day of sleeping on my bed.

It will be hard for a while, but I will honor our time together by remembering the good and being thankful for sharing our paths. Continuing on my own path with those treasured memories is the best I can do, I feel.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

This Week’s Progress

Looks like it’s a good time for a short update on things I’ve accomplished this week.

B.A. Maddux AuthorI’ve designed and ordered business cards with my name and blog site on them, to be able to hand out as needed. It wasn’t too much work, just a little research followed by design and placing the order. Time consuming and slower for me being picky rather than strenuous. I’m happy to have them on the way.

I’ve also been examining making a version of the Lab Rat shirt I wore at Furry Fiesta available for anyone who might want it. I wont be making any big changes, just adjusting what the barcode says and also adding a QR code so folks with phones can scan it to get my website. Not sure how many folks use it, but I’ve had a few folks tell me they do it all the time. I believe I’ve gotten it arranged so it is usable without detracting from the design. I need to get one and test it to make sure the code works fine as it is on the shirt before I start offering them to the public, but I am concerned that the pricing will turn a lot of folks off.

The price without discount is steep for a shirt, but the ones I got previously were at a discount they were running at the time, and the website does occasionally offer as much as 50% discount on shirts ordered. Admittedly, the 50% off I had seen was still in the cold months of winter, so it may be over half a year before those discounts show up again for short-sleeved shirts, but I’ll try and keep folks up to date, as well as include a link through my website whenever I get things finalized.

I also picked up a custom business card holder so I can take my new business cards with me to future conventions. Tomorrow, I’ll be checking with my work to make sure I can get time off to go to RMFC 2013 at the beginning of August.

As always, as plans finalize, I’ll let folks know.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Furry Fiesta 2013

So, last month’s visit to Furry Fiesta 2013, was great. I got to see several friends that I had not seen in person for a while, meet a few new folks, and be in some discussions with fellow writers. It was my second full-blown furry convention, as well as the first since I got Lab Rat published, which let me learn some more about how to best approach conventions as an author.

Certainly, having made up the T-shirts with the cover art of my novel on the back and the title and my name on both front and back did get a couple of furs to ask me about it, which was the goal. But, in chatting with folks about it, I figured out that it would have been helpful to have had some business cards with that information on them to be able to hand out as well.
Furry Fiesta 2013 before badges

With my publisher not attending the convention this year, there were also no books available to be bought and then signed by me. If I had been thinking ahead I would have looked into having brought a few copies with me and tried to set up in the artists alley for a day – so even more learning.

I had arrived a day earlier than I planned, and after kicking around the hotel for a while, by Thursday morning and early afternoon I had extra time to kill. Luckily, my friend SableGriffon was able to suggest a good idea for playing tourist for the afternoon.

He suggested I go see the Dallas World Aquarium – and it was a good idea, and I had a great time moseying through looking at fish, turtles, sea horses, penguins, crabs, sharks, rays, frogs, monkeys, crocodiles and more. They all seemed well cared for and healthy.

I got back and lazed about and wandered around a little before and during Thursday night’s registration, getting my badge and packet and getting reacquainted with the feel and layout of the place.

Enough time and events have passed and I’m not going to be able to give a day by day run down of what all I did, but in overview, I had a great time.

I did get to see SableGriffon in person a few times as he was serving in his capacity as daytime security for the convention. Got a welcoming hug and gave a few “hang in there, I know it’s been a long day” ones to him in support. He dressed up well as a sheriff, though sadly I never thought to try and get a picture of him.

In fact, I did a poor job of getting photos all around. Too many distractions, I think, and I hadn’t – despite getting a few pictures with my phone at the aquarium – really gotten into touristy mode.

I got to see Majorra, Fin, and Rikku again. Majorra did a very cool sketch for me. I also met two of their roommates, though sadly, being told their names – at most – once and not writing them down, I have failed horribly to remember them. Which is not to say that I don’t remember the individuals, just not their names. Certainly, the visit to the sushi restaurant was enjoyable.

Another face I got to see again was Rocelin. We didn’t get to chat for too long, but it was good to get to say hi in person.

I made it to most (but not quite all) of the writing panels. I also got to chat with author Phil Geusz for a while. His experience with publishing novels on Amazon has given him insights he was happy to share.

I got to say hello to Rukis while getting her signature on my copy of ‘Heretic’. Would have liked to say more than just a quick hi, but didn’t want to hold up the busy traffic at her booth.

Also got to say hello to Blotch, buying a print. Again, didn’t stay and chat because others were wanting to look through and potentially buy.

I know there were others I chatted with and met, but sadly, my memory failed to maintain the details needed to name them all. It is my poor ability to remember names as well as a very busy three weeks worth of convention – followed by my first international vacation to London (which will be another journal) – which caused this, I think.

There were also several folks who I had hoped to get to say hello to, but missed meeting in person at the busy convention. But, there will be future conventions to try again, and maybe I’ll have gotten a spot in the con’s artist alley to make me an easier fur to find.

All in all, I had a great time chatting with furs I knew and just met. I enjoyed the panels I attended and the activities of the convention. I did register for the 2014 Furry Fiesta after the convention finished up, so maybe I’ll see you all there.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.