Speculative Fiction Saturday: Corpse Bride

corpse brideWell, since it is Halloween, it stands to reason that I should review some film that looks like it is Halloween-related in some way. I probably could have selected any horror movie, and I could have also chosen The Nightmare Before Christmas from Tim Burton, but I decided to do a less-remembered film known as Corpse Bride.

This film showed up on Netflix, and I had remembered that I seen this one. Normally, films that can barely be remembered are worse than just plain bad films. Corpse Bride received mostly favorable reviews, and it is actually quite creative. I’m not really certain what to make of it, honestly.

The issue with animated films is the scripts have to be very polished before they are approved. The reason is obvious: there is little room for ad-lib in the world of animation, and this is especially true of claymation. The issue is that I think Corpse Bride had some good ideas, but the script could have used a few more drafts.

One of the things that I do remember about the film is that it uses Tim Burton’s black-and-white and yet still somehow in color world. Burton’s Batman Returns is a good example of this, as the only colors that were visible were the actor’s faces. Animation gives the director even more control over the color palette, and everything in this Victorian world is gray.

Even though the film is PG rated, I’m not certain if it is really for kids. In fact, it has an element of maturity to it that is welcome for a claymation film, but it doesn’t use any sex or violence. It starts out with a noveau-riche family who want to marry their son Victor to poor family’s Victoria. Normally, films that start with an arranged marriage have a character who wants out of it because he or she wants to love someone else.

The film makes you think that this is going to happen in Corpse Bride. Victor has a wedding rehearsal, and can’t get his vows right. For some reason the priest, played very creepily by the late great Christopher Lee, doesn’t seem to like Victor’s delivery. Victor then rehearses his vows complete with ring, and he put it on what he believes is a branch. As it turns out, the branch is a skeletal hand, and the vows are enough to inspire some magic. This enables the Corpse Bride to rise up as an undead bride, so she can marry Victor.

Victor then ends up in the land of the dead, and what makes it very odd is this afterlife is very colorful and lively compared to his normally drag Victorian world. This was one thing that I remember most about the film, because it felt like nothing that I expected. Then there are several other plot twists that come up, including that I won’t spoil about Victor, who seemingly does something out of character.

Corpse Bride is one of those films where there is some magical spell, and it is all about breaking it. Personally, I like stories like this, and there usually are some loopholes that show up so everything works out. I will have to say that the very ending shot is good, but it is rather vague.

This is one film that I will recommend, but here is one thing that I will have to say. I hadn’t seen the film after several years, and I had forgotten it was a musical. Seriously, I didn’t remember one song from this. I consider any musical that doesn’t at least leave one catchy tune in your head a failure, and perhaps it just should have left out the songs.

Why my book “The Labyrinth House” Looks so much like “The Maze Runner”

Okay, I have written a book known as The Labyrinth House and it was published in 2014. The issue is that it bears a strong resemblance to a book out now, a bestseller that is also a movie called The Maze Runner, which was published in 2009.

I’m going to say that I am not at all upset with James Dashner (author of The Maze Runner), and I don’t think this is a case of plagiarism. This isn’t like Antz and A Bug’s Life, where one is trying to out-do the other, or however those movies went down.

This is a simple case of two authors having similar concepts, and releasing their works at different times. In my case, I first conceived of The Labyrinth House in 2003. At the time, I conceived it as a pilot to a TV series, and I even sent it to an agent who can hopefully back this up. I also have a copy of the screenplay manuscript that I sent to myself, and it is dated December 17, 2003. I’m not certain if this “poor-man’s copyright” still applies, but I’ve got some time-stamped files that can back this up.

I honestly don’t think that it will ever come to a lawsuit, because honestly, my book isn’t really selling at the level as The Maze Runner. The issue is my book looks like a Johnny-come-lately. It looks like I copied James Dashner, but trust me, I didn’t.

Now, here’s some similarities and differences.

1) The main character wakes up to find himself in a giant maze.

In Dashner’s work, the main character Thomas is not given a backstory, and wakes up as a partial amenesiac, which is the same case of the people there. In my work, the main character Bradley, finds himself in a maze, but he is fully aware of where he came from. All the people that he meets are not amnesiacs, and they have been there for several years, in some cases, centuries. Yeah, time doesn’t pass.

2) The main character meets a huge threat in the maze.

In Dashner’s work, the people imprisoned in the middle of this maze cannot go out because of these mechanical monsters known as Grievers that will kill anyone in their path. In my work, Bradley meets Robert, a human who essentially has the same agenda.

3) The pattern of the maze reveals the puzzle.

In The Maze Runner, the main character realizes that the maze is a pattern, and that it the shifting walls spell out letters. In my book, the maze walls don’t move, but there is a similar pattern. You can believe that when that part showed up in Dashner’s book, I was about ready to call foul.

Again, these are similarities, and these works, are incredibly different. It would be like comparing Antz and A Bug’s Life, two films that are extremely different in plotlines and tones. However, A Bug’s Life will be the one that will be remembered. I’m sort of hoping that my book won’t be the Antz, but honestly, I need to let people decide.

Now, there is a sequel written for The Labyrinth House that I am working called The Labyrinth City, and it should be out by next year. At this time, I’m going to need to stop reading Dashner’s series. It’s nothing personal, and I think it is a decent read. The issue is, I don’t want to pick up anything unconsciously from it.

For those that have read my book, and want to leave comment below, feel free.

Where We Rant about “Sexy” Yandy Costumes, just in time for Halloween!

Crazy Orange FishWell, I’ve been hearing a lot about these “sexy” costumes, and many of them come from Yandy. Yeah, I put a link there, I understand that many of my readers are Christian, but if you don’t think you should click there, don’t.

There’s an example of Yandy’s work, and that is technically not a sexy Finding Nemo costume, it’s a “Crazy Orange Fish” (it’s one of the more tame looking ones). But yeah, what do you think when you see that? Sexy Nemo. And there is like a sexy Bugs Bunny costume, sexy SpongeBob, and if you can name something, it has been made sexy in a some form.

I think the big problem that most have with sexy costumes is that it hypersexualizes that which shouldn’t be sexualized. Should Halloween be an excuse for women to dress like this?

This is one of those questions that doesn’t have an easy answer. If I support these sexy costumes, then I could easily be accused of liking them for the wrong reasons. If I don’t support these costumes, I risk looking like a prude. There was a time when I did the latter, but all I have to say is that I wouldn’t want to see my daughter in one of these.

Then again, my daughter is not old enough to wear these adult sized costumes. It’s pretty clear that Yandy is getting attention because of the controversy, and there is just something inherently funny in seeing things that shouldn’t be sexy made sexy. I don’t feel that it is somehow corrupted, there just probably is a time and place for them. The issue is I don’t know that time or place.

Our Review of the Power Plus 3 13400mAh Mobile Battery

CheeroI’ve reviewed more mobile batteries than I can count, and I’ll be honest and say that I’ve kind of got into a habit of how to review them. It really comes down to the amount of mAh, and the Cheero Power Plus 3 has 13400 mAh.

Yeah, that is all well and good, and it does have all the usual features like two USB ports and a micro USB input port. The two USB ports include a USB 2.4 A output port and a USB 1 A output port as well.

Of course, it has that button to press where you can see how much juice it has when the four lights. Yeah, for some reason, every mobile battery has the four lights, and I don’t know who started that particular standard.

You should be able to purchase the Cheero Power Plus 3 on the Cheero site for a price of $39.99.

Holographic comedians are coming! Man, I hope not.

redd-foxx-and-andy-kaufmanI’ve mentioned before that there was some recent holographic musicians like Michael Jackson put in holographic form. It wasn’t the first time, as Tupac Shakur was once on stage as a hologram at Coachella 2012, and I am not the first time that was done.

The issue is now Hologram USA wants to give comedians the holographic treatment. The purpose is to make this an “authentic experience”, but isn’t this kind of not authentic at all. In all honesty, it is about the same effect of watching a movie of a man doing a stand-up comedy sketch, but in three dimensions.

So if Eddie Murphy was dead, you could just watch Raw, or you could use a lot of technology to put that movie or another Murphy performance in a 3D hologram. Which is easiest? Seriously, I don’t really like this idea, and they are thinking of using comedians Andy Kaufman and Redd Foxx.

Yeah, I really don’t like this idea. This is not what you want to see if you go to Vegas. If anything, this is something that you would see in the background while you’re gambling.

Now I know why Robin Williams’ family didn’t want his image to be used for stuff like this.


Kangaroo Computer is World’s Smallest Portable PC

Kanagroo ComputerWhat you are seeing here is not an iPhone case, but it is a computer. It is a Kangaroo computer, the world’s smallest portable PC.

It is a Microsoft Windows 10 PC, and if you hook it up with a keyboard, mouse, and monitor, you’ve got a a desktop. You can even used an iPad, projector, or big-screen TV as a monitor. It even has Windows Hello integration, with that embedded fingerprint reader for easy login.

As for the internal specs, it has an Intel Cherrytail (Z8500) SOC and it has 32 GB of storage with a large capacity microSD card. The battery is good for four hours of casual use.

If you want to get the Kangaroo computer, it is available at Newegg.com and the Microsoft Online Store for about $99.


Boogie Board Play n’ Trace

Boogie BoardI have reviewed Boogie Board products before, which is made by Improv Electronics. They have now created a new product known as Play n’ Trace.

The Play n’Trace is a translucent LCD writing surface, which allows the user to trace something onto it. Yes, it is not really made for adults, but for kids.

I am assuming that it will work like the first Boogie Board as you can draw on it, and then hit a button to erase it. Yeah, it doesn’t seem to save the drawing like the 9.7 LCD e-Writer.

I think this might be a terrific gift, particularly a stocking stuffer, assuming that you can fit it in a stocking. It costs about $29.99.

Our Review of Guitar Hero Live

Guitar_hero_live_screenshotWell, I had a chance to try out Activision’s new Guitar Hero Live, and I will have to say that music games are back, baby. Some of you might remember when this peaked, back in the…last decade. Games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero made music a game, and even though the goal is a high score, you just don’t want to mess up the music.

I am pleased to say that I am having as much fun with Guitar Hero Live as I did with its last iteration. The issue is it was difficult. If you are familiar with the original game, you had five frets that you had to push at the right time. The right time was when the musical notes hit a certain threshold, and you had to strum at the same time. The five frets have been replaced with two rows of three to make six frets, and it is somewhat difficult to manipulate. Something tells me I will get good at it, and it makes the game more challenging.

There should be 240 songs available, but you have to unlock them. There is this GHTV that you can tap into to get more songs, but you have to earn them as well. I’m not certain really how to do that, but I certainly want to, without having to pay real money, that is.

The issue of performing songs is you are on the stage, and you can see people cheering. These people will boo you if you do bad, and that has happened. I have no idea how this was filmed, but it is pretty brilliant. In short, this game makes me feel like a rock star, and I can’t wait to play more of it. Find out more about the game here.

Speculative Fiction Saturday: Ant-Man, a silly yet serious superhero film

Ant-ManThese days, Marvel just isn’t satisfied with one big superhero film a summer, and these days there are at least three. This one, Ant-Man, was a big question mark for audiences, as it feels like something that Marvel didn’t expect much from. The issue is that it delivers more than a lot of other superhero films, and there are parts of Ant-Man that are better than Avengers: Age of Ultron.

It is difficult talking about Ant-Man as it was originally going to be directed by Edgar Wright. This director is better known for his comedies, and he made one of the funniest films of all time with Hot Fuzz. Sadly, Wright left the project for some reason or the other, but his name is on the screenplay credit. I’m not certain what the film would have been like if Wright had been at the helm, but this one is more than adequate.

As someone who knows this character from the comic books, I am more familiar with Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, rather than the second one, Scott Lang. The story is centered around Scott, who is a criminal who was arrested for a failed heist, and cannot seem to be able to get an honest job with his criminal record. The issue is that he cannot see his daughter unless he can get some cash, so he decides to go back to his life of crime.

Scott’s first post-prison heist involves stealing from a very tight safe, but the only thing in it is some weird red astronaut suit. Scott puts it on, and discovers that the suit grants its wearer the power to shrink. At this point, the audience can’t help but wonder how a script with such a Saturday Morning Cartoon of a premise got green-lit. The only time shrunken movies worked was in the first and what should have been last Honey, I Shrunk the Kids movie, but that movie was smart enough not to take itself too seriously.

The issue is Ant-Man does. The audience can sympathize with Scott as he fails in the eyes of his ex-wife and daughter. There is a weird sense of taking itself too seriously in this film that works in the midst of what is at best a B-movie.

Back to the plotline, which has Scott returning the suit to Hank Pym’s house. Pym catches him in the act, but does what he can to make certain Lang is taken out of jail because he has a special job for him. Pym’s company has been taken over by his protege, Darren Cross, who is just short of breaking Pym’s shrinking secret. Hank wants Scott to break into the Pym company and destroy all evidence of the shrinking technology.

Yes, at it’s heart, Ant-Man is a heist movie, like Mission: Impossible. This includes a very long montage with Lang training in the Ant-Man suit, as well as the blueprints, the plan, and finally the execution. By the way, there is a scene where Ant-Man must break into an Avengers complex, and there is an interesting cameo by The Falcon. Without spoiling too much, the film ends with a heist that goes wrong, all with a plan that the heist would go wrong, so now we’re doing this planned Plan B. Every heist movie has this.

I would have to say that the ending actions scenes are both crazy and amazing all at the same time. It is interesting to see that the miniaturized world is made so beautiful. There is one shot of Scott flying on the back of an ant through these server towers, and it feels like he is a superhero flying in between buildings of a major city. The rest of the effects look good, and it makes you wish that you could shrink yourself just to see what the world is like.

The reason why Ant-Man succeeds is that it has a silly premise, runs with it, and actually ends up in a good place. Even though this film follows the heist film by the numbers, there are elements of it that are quite different and welcome. For example, Scott’s daughter Cassie has a new dad, and it would have been easy to make this character a jerk, but the film thankfully doesn’t go that direction.

This film is also funny on so many levels, and it is not because the story is so frivolous. I have no idea how Marvel pulled this one off, but it is definitely better than it really should be.

Beyerdynamic MMX 2 Multimedia Headset

beyerdynamic mmx2_4cIt’s unusual when I review two products in the same week, oh wait, I guess it isn’t. Still, I had a chance to review the MMX 2, and in spite of the numbering, the MX 300 is only one step up, honestly.

The MMX 2 is a professional gaming headset, and you might think that a headset that looks so light will only produce earbud-quality sound, but this is not the case. In fact, I am hearing some interesting bass right now, and it is quite great.

This particular headset has a controller that can hook-up to the PC’s USB port, and you can kill the mic or control the headphone volume. Then you can connect the microphone and headset to that. The microphone is on a flexible holder, and it works pretty darn well, as I just tested out. It is a plug and play feature, by the way.

Another terrific feature of the MMX 2 is the headband, which is really adjustable. All-in-all, it is quite good gear, and it can be purchased at the Beyerdynamic site for $99.00.