Mary Poppins Returns, My Late Review #Disney #MaryPoppins #EmilyBlunt

Hi All,

So my family finally got around to watching the new Mary Poppins movie and I want to give my thoughts on it. Anyone who’s read my blog long enough, knows that I have no love for the first Mary Poppins. It’s one of my two least favorite Disney classics for a plethora of reasons ranging from the history behind the film, the bastardization of books that were beloved to their writer, the horrible characters, and some of the more depressing scenes in the story. Yes, I am the 1% of people who hate the original Mary Poppins.

So when my wife puts on this movie for our weekly family movie night, my first reaction was to roll my eyes. One, this movie got what amounts to a C+ rating from critics and movie-goers, some loved it, some hated it. Two, this is yet another Disney sequel, likely a holdover from the Isner years that had little story and even less budget. Third, it’s a sequel to a story I have little tolerance for. So I resigned myself to 2+ hours of torture.

What I got… was not at all what I thought I was getting.

The story is set some 30+ years after the first movie. Mr. and Mrs. Banks have likely passed away, Bert is nowhere to be found (though it is mentioned that he’s travelling the globe), and Michael is now a widower with three children and is struggling to keep their home. Jane shows up regularly as well, living in a flat on the other side of town.  Michael is desperately trying to find a bank share that would pay off his house before the bank forecloses on it and… that’s where I’ll leave the plot. I really don’t want to spoil anything.

It is at this point Mary Poppins shows up and yes, in an unexpected twist, Jane and Michael actually remember her, though their memory on her magical abilities are somewhat questionable.

Because Mary Poppins is an ageless, magical, character, obviously Julie Andrews wouldn’t have worked here without extensive de-aging. Plus the fact that her vocal chords were damaged by nodule removal, made her a non-choice. Enter Emily Blunt. At first, I wasn’t sure about her, but if you’ve read any of the books… she actually fits the character better than Andrews IMHO. Andrews came off as a sweet person, but her character while kind, is supposed to be very firm. I never got that from Andrews, despite her best efforts. With Blunt, I get that. She has scenes where she comes off as stern, dignified, and not afraid to tell her ’employer’ how it is. She keeps her kindness guarded, but certainly let’s it show when needed. This, to me, is a more realistic representation of what a nanny would have been like at that time period… or at least one that children would not have run from. While she didn’t really resemble Andrews all that much, I found myself accepting her as Mary Poppins quite easily. Blunt’s performance really brought something to the performance that was quite welcome.

The musical numbers were done quite well. I honestly found myself afflicted by a tinge of nostalgia. Modern musicals, including Disney, haven’t really done so well. Despite the efforts of movies like La La Land, they just really fail to capture the whimsy of the musicals from the 50s-60s. Mary Poppins Returns somehow manages to revive the old Musical whimsy I thought long dead.

It was also great to see Disney give a nod to their old ways by going back to their old-school form of animation. They could have easily pulled a James and the Giant Peach and gone full CGI with ugly characters or tried to do something with Pixar, but they didn’t They took special care to make the animated scenes look like the ones we loved from movies like 101 Dalmatians, Robin Hood, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. It was a welcome nod to the past that could have easily just been ignored.

I was actually quite surprised to see David Warner now playing the Banks’s next door neighbors, still sailing around on his rooftop ship. He’s been noticeably absent from the movie scene for years. As a fan of his work in Hansel and Gretel, Star Trek 5 and 6, Ninja Turtles 2, and Wing Commander, I was happy to see him back in a supporting role.

Cast members from the original made appearances in the film in small places where they could. Dick Van Dyke appearing at the end and performing a dance number made me smile widely. I admittedly didn’t like him in the previous Mary Poppins, but I was a big fan of his in other movies, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Noticeably absent from the film was the original Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews. According to information I was able to find, the studio tried hard to get her into the film via cameo, but she declined out of respect to Emily Blunt. While I applaud the goodwill and can certainly respect that, I was honestly disappointed by the missed opportunity for Julie Andrews to give the film an endorsement and a kind of passing of the torch.

Instead, that job was given to another of Disney’s original darlings… Angela Lansbury. I won’t give away the part she played, but it’s actually quite appropriate and I loved hearing her sing for the first time in quite a while. I grew up with Lansbury playing Ms. Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which is still one of my favorite Disney live musical movies to this day!

One criticism I read on another blog was a criticism noting the absence of Mr. Banks. The argument was that he was such a major character, that his noticeable absence from the film was a big detraction. On some level, I would agree with that, however… Mark Tomlinson, another Disney staple and the original Mr. Banks, sadly passed away in 2000 at the age of 83 from a stroke and he had been retired for 18 years prior. While people accepted Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins, I doubt they would have accepted someone else as Mr. Banks. Even Blunt was a bit of a risk for Disney.

So honestly, at the end of the day, Mary Poppins Returns is much better than it has a any right to be. Given my feelings about the first movie, Disney’s history of low budget cash-in sequels that all but ruined the original films, and some of Disney’s lack luster storytelling in their original movies as of late… my expectations could not have been lower. Needless to say, even if they hadn’t been, this film still would have gotten high marks. I actually loved this a lot more than the original movie and found myself smiling through it as my kids enjoyed it. Yes, mine and my parent’s generation’s Mary Poppins wasn’t great, but the one my kids will now call theirs more than makes up for it.

This is a great movie that should be viewed by everyone who loved Disney as a child, whether you liked the original or not.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Unpopular Opinion: Incredibles 2 wasn’t worth the wait. (Spoiler Free)

Yeah… this was a major let down.

torch-and-pitchfork.jpg

Oh, bring it on!

I went to see it with my family the other night at a drive-in. My kids loved the original and watch it ad nauseam.  I admit it’s a fun movie and definitely an entertaining take on Superheroes.

I actually got a laugh out of Samuel L. Jackson’s character when he’s arguing with his wife…

“It’s for the greater good!”
“I am your wife, I’m the greatest GOOD you’ll ever get!”

(No matter how many times I hear that, it still gets a laugh.)

So the movie takes place seemingly immediately after the first movie… despite 14 years passing. When the screen lit up and the cast appears on the screen to pathetically apologize for taking so long to make a sequel, I admit that was funny. It set the stage for what should have been a good movie.

What came after was… underwhelming. The story was a fairly run-of-the-mill paint by numbers superhero story. The “Surprise” bad guy that Disney seems to try to unleash on their audience lately has become so predictable… I had to resist the urge to point at the screen and be like, (okay, okay, ONE small spoiler! Skip to the next paragraph.) “Yeah, she’s the bad guy.”

It’s not that it was a bad movie, it just didn’t bring anything new to the table. Not helping matters though, was the voice acting…

Some of it was fine, as usual, Samuel L Jackson was his normal self and did a good job, but the rest of the cast sounded tired and out of it… except for one character, who arguably was even worse than that…

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This character is being portrayed by a 49-year-old woman… and it really shows. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against older actors playing younger roles… as long as they can pull it off. At no point did I believe that was the voice of a teenager. She actually sounded older than Elastagirl, which was kind of cringy, to say the least.

All in all, I didn’t enjoy this movie at all. It’s fun for little kids, I suppose, but it really doesn’t bring anything new or exciting to the table. Save your money and rent it when it comes out.

Readers, what did you think? Was Incredibles 2 good? Do you want to see it? What did you like about it if so? Let me know down in the comments.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

The Great Studio Ghibli Hunt: A Review!

 

If it’s not plainly obvious at this point, I love Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli’s work. There’s a sense of adventure and excitement in the stories they produce, and even when it’s a dark story, the animation is always colorful and fun.

After watching Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Yes, I know, not Ghibli, but made by many of the same people, so it counts), Laputa: Castle in the Sky, and Howl’s Moving Castle to the point of memorization, and enjoying Kiki’s Delivery Service with my kids, I decided I wanted to branch out and bring some of the lesser known Ghibli movies into my house for my family to enjoy. Hense I started the Great Studio Ghibli Hunt. During this time, I will be buying one movie a month, and I will review it here for you.

This doesn’t mean they’re all getting a review. I already own about 10 of them and IMHO, they are the more well-known ones that really need no review.

So today I’m going to start off with a family favorite… one that my wife and kids absolutely love, but honestly… is fairly low on my list of beloved Studio Ghibli movies.

Ponyo:

Yes, I know… while technically not one of the lesser known Ghibli movies, I did kind of want to address this one as a way to start off.

So the story is basically about a little boy who lives near the ocean with his mom in Japan. The boy loves playing down by the water and one day stumbles across a tiny fish with an almost human face. This fish is Brinhylda, a daughter of… what I can only describe as an underwater alchemist. He keeps her safe in his lab, but eventually, she finds a way to escape and finds her way to the little boy.

Eventually, her father locates her and steals her back. However, she gets into his potions, sets off… some kind of a chain reaction that’s never well-explained, and throws nature out of balance.

At this point, Ponyo’s mother shows up. It’s revealed that… I guess she’s the Goddess of the Ocean. Apparently, the only way for the balance of nature to be restored is for the little boy to agree to love and care for Ponyo as she lives between to worlds. At the end, she transforms permanently into a human and… everything is back to normal.

Scratching your head yet? I’d be surprised if you weren’t. The major problem with Ponyo is the story telling. It’s definitely the weakest of the Ghibli movies thus far. Too little is explained and as a result, not a whole lot makes sense. It can be a little tough to follow and… well… let’s address the Elephant in the room.

It’s the Little Mermaid!!!

Pretty much. It’s a modern re-telling of the Little Mermaid. Honestly, that’s not a bad thing. I actually prefer this version to the bastardization of the original as told by Disney.

Let me just be clear on this, I don’t dislike this movie at all. I think it’s a great movie, but a great movie placed with legends. In essence, it’s so far the least great of a library of amazing movies.

Up Next will be When Marnie Was There.

The list of movies to recieve reviews are as follows:

Grave of the Fireflies
Only Yesterday
Porco Rosso
Pom Poko
Whisper of the Heart
My Neighbors the Yamadas
The Cat Returns
Tales from Earthsea
From Up on Poppy Hill
The Wind Rises
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
When Marnie Was There
Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter
Ocean Waves

I’ve already ordered When Marnie Was There and plan on watching it in short order. So if there’s one in particular you’d like to see out of the above list next month, let me know. I was planning on doing Porco Rosso, but I can change that! 



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Off of My Writing Playlist

This was quite possibly the first song on my writing playlist. I don’t remember for sure, but it’s been on there since before I can remember… Skip ahead to 4:20.

 

This is a destiny piece and it is absolutely fantastic. There’s a reason it’s played right as Simba steps onto Pride Rock for the first time as king. I play this when my hero first ‘picks up the sword’ and begins his journey, or after the final struggle is over and the heroes claim victory.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

You can also add me on Twitter!

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Custom Action Figures

I want to talk a little bit about action figures once more as I’m an avid collector of them. They’re fun to display, fun to collect, and certainly fun to play with your kids with… unless they’re the $30+ ones with fragile parts… then yeah, just the first two!

But what about characters that don’t have action figures, either because they’re just not popular enough or they’re just starting out… or they’re from a medium that generally doesn’t produce action figures? Or how about the problem I had with the Spider Gwen action figure that I felt was cheaply made?
_58(Yes, I’m still mad about that.)

Well for those of you who really want something like that… your options are fairly limited. Take me for example…

I have a character that I downloaded for Skyrim, then did a lot of extra modifying to. This character was tough, badass, and someone who literally never left my party. In fact, she was in part, the inspiration of a lot of really fun fan fictions dealing with Skyrim and other universes:
2014-07-26_00002

She followed my character on many adventures… and even stole kills from me on a regular basis. She was definitely the most bad ass out of any of the companions I used.

2014-08-20_00002

Anyway, I know that Skyrim has action figures, but what are the chances that they’d create a non-canon figure based on a mod? More importantly, this specific mod… the answer is, of course, NONE!

However, I really wanted one of her as she was hands-down one of my favorite characters in any medium. So I started looking into the possibilities of making her. I ruined a few Arwen and Tauriel action figures in the attempt… I’m sorry to say.

At that point, I’d given up. There was no way that this was ever going to happen. It was at this point that I came across an interview  with a toy customizer named John Harmon. I went through his page, checking out the other impressive work he’d done… and come to find out that there is actually a huge community of people that do this kind of work. Like actual message boards, contact pages, etc.

SWEET!!! So with excited fingers, I fired off a message to John as his were the most impressive I’d seen in my search about doing this figure. He replied to me pretty quick saying that he’d be happy to work with me, and asked for images of the character in question. Thankfully, I’d just finished about 10 hours of modding (no, not consecutive, I HAVE A LIFE!!! 😉 ), and so I sent him off some more high definition images:

(Yes, this is what Skyrim CAN look like with the right attention to detail, patience, and the right system)

At that point, we got down to the basics;
What size action figure?
Any weapons?
What the base figure would be?

So basically, he takes an existing action figure, uses as much of it as he can… though usually not very much, and creates a brand new one. He does this using parts of other action figures that look similar or when there isn’t any, he makes the parts custom.

So perfect, now we have a way of getting action figures we otherwise wouldn’t get, right? Eh… two things I need to mention here…

  1. This isn’t cheap. Most of the time, if you want a decent action figure, you need a high-quality base action figure. Those can run from $30-$100+ so factor that into the price, plus labor and other parts. Thankfully mine was… somewhat affordable? I have no regrets, being a geek doesn’t usually come cheap when you get down to collectibles.
  2. It takes time. A lot of these customizers, John included, do this as a career and usually have a lot of requests. Be prepared to wait 6+ months for your figure. I submitted my request on December 1st, I received my figure in late June, I believe?

Was it worth it? You be the judge:

And again:

So if you have a character you really want to see made into a figure and your geek cache is plentiful, I’d definitely look into it.

 



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

You can also add me on Twitter!

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Why Does Preachy/Safe Book and Movie Writing Fail So Badly?

Okay… I’m going to try to put a stop to this, because my focus on movie writing lately has taken my blog WAY off topic, almost to the point of Hollywood Advocacy, and it needs to stop. So hopefully this will be the end of it. However, there were some things that I needed to get off of my chest about the effects of political correctness, ‘safe writing’, etc. and movies are perhaps the more glaring examples… thankfully!

Anyway, here goes. I covered this a little in my topic ‘Why do we cater to Political Correctness in our Writing?‘ but I wanted to delve into this a little more. Think about it. Look at the movies and books that are overly politically correct, that cater to Social Justice demographics, and are extremely preachy in their message. Name one that really did all that well… Can you? Maybe I don’t see enough movies or read enough, because I can’t.

Now, let’s go and take a look at movies that weren’t ‘safe’ and weren’t necessary politically correct, and trusted their audiences to make their own determination…

Well, that’s easy for me. Disney’s the Hunchback of Notre Dame tops the kid’s movies list. Think about it, it’s dark, it deals with Christianity and the Christian God… which is something we don’t usually see in visual media much any more. Think about it, the main characters came under the protection of the church, and it’s even because a priest steps in that the Hunchback even survives!
The movie goes even further, prejudice against gypsies, hypocritical blind faith, lust and the dark side of desire, murder, and even genocide  are prevalent themes of the movie. It is edgy, interesting, and an absolutely beautiful film which still remains very high on my favorite movies list.

When this movie came out, was it panned by critics? Did people flock to social justice for protection? Hell no, the movie was a critical success and became the 5th highest grossing film of 1996. The audiences absolutely loved it! Heck, some even went so far as to say that the movie didn’t go far enough with the dark themes that are in the original source material.

Another good example? Well this one is a little more obscure, but Nuremberg, starring Alec Baldwin is a little-known gem that can be watched on Youtube. Too often today, we see historical bad guys needlessly over-vilified in order to drive the point home that they’re the bad guys. (Japanese pilots firing on the Hospital in ‘Pearl Harbor,’ which didn’t actually happen, is a perfect example of this). Nuremberg was the story of the trials surrounding the top Nazi’s that survived the war, and focused greatly on Hermann Goering. I’ve seen many movies that deal with this subject, and one thing that makes this movie different from so many of the others… is that not only do they humanize Goering, but they actually make him likable. Seriously, if you didn’t have the historical context of what he and the Nazi Party of WW2 were responsible for, you might actually find yourself hoping that this character is found innocent.
To be clear, they don’t do this to try to deny the Holocaust or try to downplay how evil this people were, far from it. The movie shows them, in my opinion, as they were. When I think of Nazis, I don’t think of vicious killers covered in blood running around like barbarians… well… okay I don’t think of the top Nazi officials and High-Ranking officers that way. No, I think of them as charming, soft-spoken, deceptively polite, manipulative, and even on some level, even likable. I know that sounds awful, and it is, but think about it… how did the Nazis come to power? Did they seize control? Did they attack the Reich in a violent coup and take control of the government? No, they tried that and failed. They actually took over almost completely legally through voting and politics. You cannot accomplish this by being a rude, hard-lining barbarian. You have to suave, you have to be likable, and you have to be able to be able to bring people over to your side. That is how this movie portrays them. It let’s you see things from their perspective, it let’s you develop a relationship with these characters because it trusts its audiences to remember that, even though Goering can suck you in with his charm, he was still an evil, despicable, man who was responsible for the deaths of literally millions of innocent people.

So the question then is… why do safe movies that cater to the Social Justice crowd fail, often overly politically correct, fail so miserably? Honestly… It’s because they don’t respect their audience! They don’t trust their audience to be able to handle controversial subjects and fear the threat of backlash. It’s sad, but that’s how it goes. People go to the movies for an escape, they want to be drawn in to fantasy worlds and allowed to use their minds to a certain extent while following the story. Unfortunately, too often, that’s not what we get…

Think about it… Do you think Disney would put out a movie like ‘Bambi’ today? Would they really risk showing the scene that launched a thousand tears with Bambi’s Mom getting killed? Well… maybe, but I somehow doubt it. That was a different time. At that point, the studios trusted their audiences. They trusted children to be able to handle things like that and respected them to be able to process it instead of coddling them like ‘pweshous widdle snowfwakes,’ but what’s more, they trusted us parents to be able to raise our kids and put everything into context so that they know, ‘Okay yes, it’s terrible, it’s awful, but that’s life. Yes it’s bad, but it’s something that happens.’ instead of sending them angry letters saying ‘Don’t show our kids bad stuff, we don’t actually want to have to parent them!’
Today? If you need proof that studios like Disney don’t trust their audience to put things into context, look at ‘Song of the South.’
s-l1000
I own one of the few legal VHS copies that pop up from Europe on Ebay every now and again and I can honestly say that the movie is harmless. It’s a pleasant little story, dealing with mythos and the stories passed down by freed slaves in the south. Again, it doesn’t hold back. It speaks of race relations and shows the difference in living conditions and status of the different races during The Reconstruction Era… and Disney refuses to release it. Why? Because they view it to be racially insensitive and are concerned about backlash. The problem here? YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO RACIALLY SENSITIVE WHEN YOU’RE DOING A PERIOD PIECE!! If you’re going to do a movie about the Reconstructionist South, you’re going to be showing racism. You’re going to be showing black poverty and the different in living conditions. You’re going to show racial epithets… and you know what? Even in a kids movie, you shouldn’t be ashamed of that! Let us show the movie to our kids and put everything into context, TRUST US TO DO THIS!

As for the controversy surrounding this movie and the fear of backlash? What backlash? The movie received mixed reviews and the only complaint of racism came from Walter Francis White, the executive secretary of the NAACP:

“The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People recognizes in “Song of the South” remarkable artistic merit in the music and in the combination of living actors and the cartoon technique. It regrets, however, that in an effort neither to offend audiences in the north or south, the production helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified picture of slavery. Making use of the beautiful Uncle Remus folklore, “Song of the South” unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts.”

Okay, now my own opinions of the continued relevancy of the NAACP aside, White later admitted that he’d never even seen the damn movie! So there goes the backlash. One complaint from an ill-informed individual, who wound up making himself look like a fool.

Did Gone with the Wind face the same criticism? Did it fail? No, it’s a time-honored classic? Okay then.

Moving on…

The other reason these things fail is because people don’t like being preached to. We don’t like being told what to think and how to do things. We read stories and go to the movies to have fun and get a little vacation from reality. I cite an example that happened to me a few years ago…

When District 9 came out in theaters, it was advertised as  Sci-Fi movie, that was on par with Star Wars. The trailers certainly backed this up and the marketing was great, so I went to see it… The result was a grotesque movie that was essentially a metaphorical docudrama of Apartheid. I was furious. I tried to give the movie a chance, but couldn’t. It was horribly written, unbelievable, and completely unforgivable. I marched out half way through the movie and demanded my money back. The manager came out and talked to me, trying to explain away why he can’t give me my money back. I told him that the movie was falsely advertised as a science fiction movie and there  was no mention of a political documentary and I wanted my money back. In the end, they gave it to me… mostly I think to shut me up.

This is what I’m talking about… if you wanted to make the movie as a political metaphor, fine, great, TELL US! Don’t trick us and then preach at us. People don’t like that. The movie had a good premise, but unfortunately went to a director who is known for his one-note stories that deal strictly with class warfare and apartheid. It shows you one side of everything and does not give the audience a chance to make any decision for themselves. No, you’re going to sympathize with the Aliens without any thought to ‘How did we get here, why are we at this point?’
No, we’re given a narrative story, told how to feel, and given no opportunity to decide anything for ourselves.

Sadly, things like this have been happening for a while now… so why am I so vehement about it? Well because when we don’t let the younger generation deal with Bambi’s death, when we aren’t respected enough to be able to take care of our families and think for ourselves … that’s when the thought police and the disrespectful coddling become relevant and even more so PREVALENT in our society… I don’t even want to think about what the end result will be when people who have been treated this way, or those who have been raised this way, attempt to stand on their own two feet against a cruel world when they’ve never been given the chance to even grow strong legs.

So what do you think, readers? Am I right, am I wrong, am I misguided? Let me know what you think, below…

Thanks!

(P.S. You may notice that I didn’t touch on the censorship of Mark Twain’s writing… well honestly, that’s because that is a separate issue all together, yes it touches on the points I made about people not being able to handle the terse language, but that’s dealing with more of a 1st Amendment issue and really I could write a full blog piece about that alone.)



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

You can also add me on Twitter!

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Why do we cater to Political Correctness in our Writing?

This is something I’ve seen, not only in writing, but also movie-making, and comic books. It’s something I can say that I’m guilty of as well.

What do I mean when I say we cater to the PC (Politically Correct) crowd? Well… honestly, we spend a lot of time concerned with the ethnicity of our characters, who get’s killed off and/or who gets center stage… not based on who is the strongest character, but rather which character isn’t going to make us look in any way bigoted.

Example: (SPOILER ALERT) I killed off a female character of Asian decent in one of my stories. In my next novel, I plan  on replacing her with another female character because it suits my narrative, but she’s not Asian or any sort of minority. She’s a very perky country artist that’s going to be more of a nuisance than anything. This, I admit gave me pause… and maybe it’s just me… maybe I’ve been affected by the mass-media because of incidents like what happened with James Rolfe, but even knowing that, it’s hard to get passed. In the end, I decided that it’s my story and I’ll write it however I want. DAMN THE TORPEDOES, FULL SPEED AHEAD!!!

Now I know what a lot of people are thinking… what, you have a problem with diversity? We should be adding more minority characters into stories! We don’t want to alienate people!!

That’s very true. People of all backgrounds should have someone like themselves to look up to. However, forcing/pressuring someone to write a character a certain way for the sake of diversity can have a damaging effect…

Consider this… you’re writing based on your experiences. You’re using fantasy to  make your story a lot more interesting and decide that you want to represent more people. As a result, you write in a character of an ethnicity, who’s culture and background you may not have enough information on. The result is a stereotypical character that some would consider something to the affect of a ‘black-face’ character and guess what? You’ve now offended the very audience that you’re trying to include.

So why not immerse yourself more in the culture! Take the time to learn more about people.

Very true. That’s good advice that I was actually going to allude to later on, but that’s not always an option. Put it this way, a writer living in Greenwich CT, who has spent their life there, is not going to be able to properly represent a person from… let’s say New Orleans. Even if they visit it for a little while. Immersion into another culture isn’t always possible unless you have the time and money to do it… which I can honestly say most authors starting out don’t have.

My point is that you should write what you know, do your best to learn, but don’t feel pressured by societal norms into writing characters certain ways. If you want to write in a character of another ethnicity or religion, just make sure you represent them correctly. Otherwise, you’re going to turn people off to your work.

Seriously dude, how can diversity in writing honestly be THAT damaging?

Well let’s take a look:

Most recently, Ghostbusters 2016. This movie was absolutely blatant in its girl power message… blatant to the point of being offensive to all 5 senses. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with a strong female as one of the leading roles in a story. (See Damnation and Soul Siphon). The problem was that Sony was obnoxious about it. Instead of making the women in the story equal with everyone else, they pushed something closer to a social justice warrior narrative where they promoted the women in a rather derogatory way. Instead of having them work with male characters side by side, they created a ‘Separate but equal (kinda)’ team of all-women, and from what I saw from the reviews, the male characters were weak, evil, or grossly incompetent.
This is where Star Wars and Fury Road worked where Ghostbusters failed. They made the female/minority characters work alongside their male/non-minority companions. They didn’t try to force any diversity message down anyone’s throats, they just wrote a great story with great characters.
As I stated in a previous review, a female Ghostbusters cast could have worked. If they had a Rey or a Furiosa on the team and maybe had them working alongside two male Ghostbusters (not even the majority) it would have been great, but that’s not what they did. They brought in a director that’s known for his ‘girl-power’ feminism agenda, which he then proceeded to force down everyone’s throats.
What’s worse, Sony and Feig double-downed on this and went so far as to paint the main fan-base of Ghostbusters as misogynistic and ‘assholes.’ Yeah… not the way to get butts in the seats. The result was a consistent controversy, critics of the film getting needlessly attacked for their opinions, key spokespeople having to do damage control, and the movie chalking in a multi-million dollar loss internationally.
Now the big money question: Have I seen the new Ghostbusters?
No, and I have no plans to. Sorry, but I was greatly offended by what Paul Feig said about geek culture and the damage Sony did to it, that I’m pretty much sworn off any of Feig’s work, past, present, or future. Geek culture and it’s progress over the last 20 years is something very near and dear to my heart, and I don’t appreciate us being painted with a wide, hypocritical brush as ‘assholes’ and misogynists. Sorry, but they’re not getting a dime of my money and I sincerely hope Sony studios gets flushed down the drain they’re already circling. (Hostile, I know, but oh well. I’m human.)

Second Example:
Marvel Comics… I’ve already gotten into this in a previous post, so I’ll just give a brief quote on it:
“I still enjoy Captain America with someone else holding the shield and Thor being a woman, because it’s explained well. It works and it all comes together. However when you make one character gay with no explanation (Colossus), or randomly change a character’s race (Nick Fury, Psylocke, and Spider-man), and do so with little explanation simply using the ‘Alternate Universe’ defense for poor storytelling, that’s where problems arise. It’s at this point that the pandering and blatant tokenism becomes obvious. For me, it was when they took arguably the most diverse team in comic book history,  a team that has literally had members from almost everywhere on the planet and actually dealt with bigotry and hatred, and made that team all women. Essentially, they took the X-Men, THE most diverse team and made it less diverse in the name of diversity. How does that even make sense?”

This may be why Marvel Comic sales are going down.  Honestly, that X-Men series didn’t last long, thankfully.

Next up…Disney’s The Frog Princess. This movie had controversy around it from day 1. Disney worked on the film over and over, altering characters, roles, even the jobs that these characters had, making it even less historically accurate in the name of not offending anyone.
Probably with little surprise… this movie didn’t do very well, which is a shame as the visuals and the villain are absolutely spectacular!

Fire Emblem has also come under fire for removing anything Nintendo thinks an American Audience might view as offensive and potentially misogynistic in some cases. It has drawn a lot of criticism and anger from the gaming community… which is sad because I absolutely love the series.

Another good example is the Character Percy from Pokemon. Percy was created because the show’s creators thought a western audience might find Brock racially insensitive… 4Kids, was also known for carefully censoring certain parts of the Japanese dialogue and editing it for… what they viewed as a more sensitive, American audience. Again, geeks and kids are far more intelligent than people like this give them credit. The backlash was pretty bad.

There are plenty of other examples, but I think I’ve made my point.

So… why did each of these projects fail? Was it the result of racism/misogyny/bigotry/sexism? Maybe in part, as certainly those can play a role in why select audiences might not waste their time with something… however I don’t think that’s the main reason. We currently live in a country that is extremely politically divided on almost every issue, and people are getting tired of it.
Political correctness was originally a term that, in modern usage, was used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended not to offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that… however, over time, the term has been used as a crutch by people who are either WAY too sensitive, or are essentially looking for a reason to create a divisive issue… Sony’s response to the Ghostbusters criticism is a good example of this. PC now comes with a negative connotation as it has become the war cry of the now euphemistically-named Social Justice Warriors, AKA the type of people who quote Martin Luther King Jr. or Susan B. Anthony without a firm grasp of the meaning behind what they were saying or what their main goals were. It’s become a tool of these groups used to stifle creativity and Freedom of Speech and thought under the guise of empowering it. Their actions continuously become less and less righteous, and more like they’re seeking either handouts, self promotion, or superiority of their select ‘under-privileged class’ instead of seeking equality. They are extremely hypocritical in their arguments and usually impossible to engage in a critical debate. (Look up the feminist argument of Barbie vs. HeMan and their response) They insert racial issues into controversy where they have no place, and create other controversies when they have nothing to complain about. Basically, many of the more extreme of these regressive people would rather us go back to the 50s-60s or earlier, as long as they and their group is the one on top.

The problem is… these are the people that our media is now catering to. The result is politics being inserted into movies, books, etc. where they have no place and it is turning people off. I liken it to a comedian I saw recently who stopped in the middle of his act to get on a soapbox give his opinion on various political issues without cracking a single joke. The result was boo’s, heckling, people telling him to ‘Shut up and tell a joke!’ and people walking out demanding their money back… myself included. That’s the real problem here. People are tired of politics and regressive views, they are tired of political correctness and the hypocritical views that come with it.
When we go to see movies, listen to music, see a comedian, read a comic or a book, there are political options out there. You can easily find media that is political in natures. However, unless these people specifically want politics forcing it on them in a movie, book, or other medium, will make you loose the majority of your audience. People are tired of this level of BS and it is starting to show in the  backlash that comes as a result.

In closing, if you want to right about another culture or person of another walk of life, go for it, just make sure you get it right. Do your homework and make sure you’re accurately portraying that person’s background. If however you don’t want to or don’t think you can properly portray that group, don’t. You are under no obligation to. Don’t let anything or anyone intimidate you or pressure you into changing who you are or how you create.These people are not the biggest threat to your Freedom of Speech… your fear of them is.This type of nonsense only has power if you let it.

Anyway… I know I said that I’d do my best to keep politics off of my page, and I apologize for going back on that, but this is something that I had to get off of my chest.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

You can also add me on Twitter!

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Why Davey Jones is actually one of the best villains in modern cinema…

This is going to contrast my normal formula of “Good Villain = Good Story.” It simply doesn’t add up here! I know a lot of people hate this character, but I think that has more to do with the story he’s apart of instead of the character himself.
So let’s talk about Davy Jones. I know, as bad as the movie that introduced him was, Davy Jones wasn’t really a bad character, not at all…

Maybe it’s just me and my personal bias of being drawn to the tragic villains. Part of the reason this movie didn’t do so well (aside from Jack and Barbosa being more side characters than stars) was the shallowness of each character. The heroes and lovers were exactly the heroes and lovers you’d expect from a Disney princess flick. The East India baddies were profit drive, no real dimension there… and the rest were just present for their stereotypical antics. It was a bland movie with no real surprises, and the plot suffered for it. No surprises… save one…

Davy Jones, despite the hate, is one of the most well-done tortured soul villains I’ve ever seen. Had this movie been better, Davy Jones might have been as legendary a villain as Darth Vader himself, but such was not to be. You first meet Davy Jones when he arrives to recruit a group of shipwrecked sailors to his cause and then tries to collect his debt from Jack Sparrow. Though it is never really mentioned in the movie, it does appear that Davy Jones was made out to be some sort of combination of the Grim Reaper and the Devil himself. Both roles, he plays well. He was easily hate-able and we all did so.

But then the movie takes a surprise twist. The first scene we see him on his own ship, in private, we hear his dark organ playing, and see Jones in anguish to the point of physical pain. It’s as though playing the song from his music box is the only way to relieve it, even though doing so breaks him down. That’s when you realize the true madness behind this character. The movie does an incredible job of really making you feel his pain and see what he’s going through without uttering a single word. I remember when I saw this movie in theaters, my throat got tight and my eyes began to water at this scene. At this point you already know his tragic story about how he was scorned by a cruel lover, but you really don’t understand the extent of the damage done until you see him here:

Even his theme music is shockingly painful. Listen to it play on the organ. The song sounds painful, but at the same time there is an almost comforting element to it. It is almost as though his former love wrote it to drive him to further insanity, but then calm him down and mellow him at the same time to keep him going and prolong his torture. I like to think that she wrote this for him because it’s just further proof of how cruel she was.

This certainly isn’t the first time Disney has done something like this. They did the same exact thing in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Seriously, watch the organ scene, you can see the demented evil, but at the same time, you can see that under the stoic, angry, and harsh exterior, a shred of his former humanity still exists. Ironically it is this one last shred of his former self that pushes him even further into madness. It is a scene that is done extremely well both times Disney employs it.

Perhaps the biggest bit of irony throughout the entire Pirates series that he is a part of, he is perhaps the only true innocent. I know, I know, he sank ships, murdered people, and was incredibly cruel to anyone he came across… but look at how he got there. Throughout his entire story, he was used and abused. First tasked to ferry souls for 10 years… 10 years he worked just to spend one day with the one he loved, only for her not to show up. As if that wasn’t bad enough, now you have the rest of the cast looking to either kill him, or use him as a puppet to carry out their whims. He is given no peace, no chance at redemption, and is forever locked in as a slave to his surroundings. Truly, there can be no more tragic a character. He even says to Jack Sparrow ‘My Freedom was forfeit long ago!’

My only criticism of this character is that they made him a little too awkward, which takes on a comical view that you see in the third movie, which makes him hard to take seriously. Ironically as he became a less dynamic character, the other characters became less stale and At World’s End turned out to be an improvement. I only wonder at what cost.
But I’m not really talking about his evolution in the third movie, I am more referring to his character from the second one, he was, and continues to be the only reason I still give Dead Man’s Chest decent markings and rate it as at least watchable.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

You can also add me on Twitter!

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Cinderella 2015

So… my wife rented this last night and then fell asleep. So I continued watching it alone. I don’t usually do movie reviews, but since this is a fairly recent fantasy film that has gotten a lot of praise… and I mean a LOT, I thought I’d give my take on it.

I tend to shy away from remakes, which let’s face it, that’s what this is. When a studio makes a second version of a movie they’ve already made, its a remake, plain and simple. I don’t care if it’s a different style or medium, it’s a remake.

That being said, I’ve recently revised that policy after seeing Angelina Jolie’s performance as Maleficent. When I first heard about this movie and listened to Jolie sing ‘Once Upon a Dream,’ I rolled my eyes. Maleficent is the best of the Disney villains and no way could Jolie do her credit. Having Jolie stand in for Eleanor Audley could NOT go well. I’m happy to say that I was 100% wrong. Jolie could not replace Audley’s dignified voice and performance, but she shouldn’t be expected to. This was a different take a on a time-honored character that told a story from her perspective. It was done incredibly well and I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it, that I’ve added this movie to my collection. (Just cover your ears during the end credits).

Back on topic. So I spent last night watching this movie. What were my initial impressions? Well… it was a beautiful looking movie. The sets were breath-taking and clearly someone spent a lot of time on them, the outfits were beautiful and appropriate and the cast… I think that would be my biggest compliment to the movie. This was a cast where I didn’t recognize a single person. Making this a cast of fresh faces, which you don’t see much in Hollywood anymore. Usually there is at least one big name to give a movie some street cred.

The soundtrack was beautifully done, both the singing parts and the instrumentals. I especially liked the homages to the original animated film that were passively added in. Movies often try to make a big deal out of things like that to show it’s attachment. This movie seemed like it was trying really hard to keep itself separate… did it do that successfully? Well, we’ll get to that.

So with all that said, did I enjoy this movie? Actually, yes, but not as much as you might think. As I said, it was a beautiful looking movie with great costumes and scenery, but other than that… it really didn’t bring anything new to the table. For all it’s efforts, it really didn’t break away from the classic animated film . It did explain a few plot points, like what happened to Cinderella’s real family, and why she put up with everything from her step sisters, but other than that, there really weren’t any profound changes.

It really didn’t bring anything major to the table. The how and why of the villain really wasn’t explained and the evil step mother was played as just that, a straight villain. The movie had a real opportunity here to explain the Lady Tremane better, especially when Cinderella outright asked her, but that fell flat on it’s face.

The other thing that did kind of bug me is the ‘Love at first sight’ set up. Disney, amid much criticism, has tried to shy away from that type of theme. One has to wonder why so many of their movies that do successfully get away from it fail so badly, yet a movie like this that reinforces it does so well. It almost kind of seems like we as the audience need to be careful what we wish for. Perhaps that fantasy element to story-telling should remain intact? Or perhaps new strides need to be made on the story-telling side of things.
I really don’t know, I’m not a princess story or fairy tale writer, so I’m not qualified to speak to that.

Moving on…

My other criticism is that the step-sisters were extremely under-played. They’re supposed to be over the top and I grant you that they were snobbish and mean, but that was really it. In the original, they were downright abusive, not only of Cinderella, but also of each other to an almost comical point.

Another point that was extremely underplayed in this version compared to the original was the dress destruction. In this one, it was a few tears. In the original… I think the Cinema Snob said it best when he said that it was the closest thing Disney has gotten to a rape scene in its classic films. Now I’m usually against that type of thing in movies… especially kids movies, but in this case, the way Disney did it, yes it was violent, but it gave the movie an edge that made it stand out in the endless flow of animated films.
In this movie… as with so many other things that made the original what it was, was really underplayed.

Compare the two scenes:

vs.

Now ask yourself, which are you more likely to remember?

All right… so with all that said, here is my overall take on the movie…

This movie was a remake, not a re-imagining like with the a fore mentioned Maleficent. A very well-made remake, but a remake none-the-less. It really didn’t bring anything new to the table. There was no twist, no behind the scenes story to explain why certain things happened the way that they did, and no real twist on the original characters.

Other takes on Cinderella like Ever After and (to a lesser extent) Into the Woods did this rather nicely. They added new dynamics to the story and in the case of Ever After, they even had the Queen tell the Brother’s Grimm that they got it wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a good movie and I highly recommend seeing it, the problem is that we’ve already seen this movie. Unfortunately it failed to break out of the shadow of the Disney Classic, which is really too bad given how much effort was clearly put into the film. Again, if you like the story, please DO see this movie. It is a beautiful remake that was surprisingly well done. You just need to curb your expectations in that you’re really not going to be seeing anything new.

 

Anyway, that’s my take on it. If you don’t agree, no problem. We are all entitled to opinions and I’m perfectly open to someone having a different view from mine.

(Even if you are completely wrong.) 🙂

Thanks friends, catch you on the flip-side!
-Jim

The Traitorous Main Character

So you’ve written your story. Your characters are beloved, not only to you, but also your reading audience. Well now you’re writing the next part in your series and are ready to do the unthinkable…

You’re going to have one of the characters turn on the others. One of your main good guys is now to become a villain and not just a villain, but one who was the cause of much of the turmoil that the other characters have gone through.

So how do you do it? Up until now, this character has been close to all of the others. They have become well-liked, and your audience has grown attached to that character. How do you suddenly make them the object of scorn?
Well it may not be as difficult as you think and it may not even be necessary. Let me explain…

If you’re going to paint the person as a straight villain, the shock and surprise alone should be enough to turn your readers against the character. If you’ve written it right, your readers should feel just as betrayed as the characters that they are reading about. Having the ability to make your readers relate, and even feel the same emotions that the characters are is a staple of a truly gifted story teller. Just make sure that you provide an alternate view of the events from the past stories so that everything fits into place. This is absolutely essential if the villain role is going to stick.

Above, I said that it may not be necessary to make the traitor the object of scorn. Indeed it isn’t. If you refer back to my Character Complexes thread, you can read up on how to create a villain that may not necessary be evil. Maybe this traitor has family that they are looking for, maybe they’re turning on their friends for what they perceive to be the greater good, or maybe there is a payoff at the end that is enough for the traitor to sacrifice their friends.
The point is, just because the character is no longer a good guy, or on the same side as the main characters, doesn’t mean that they’re bad. Quite the opposite, it just means that their circumstances have changed. That character can still be relateable and even likable.

Now, does that mean that this character won’t come back to the morally ‘right’ in the story? No, there is no rule in place that a character can’t switch sides.

So just remember when writing a traitor, it may be better and even easier at some points to not paint them as a straight villain.

Thanks and catch you all on the flip-side,

Jim