Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Five Year Anniversary is Dead

Despite a severe lack of updates I’ve somehow made it to Beta is Dead’s fifth anniversary. BALLOONS!!!

Balloons make everything better
It seems I’m still kicking, despite all appearances to the contrary. A year ago I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue with this blog since there’s so little reward in it. By mid-2014 I was actually feeling significantly better about the blog but I was hampered by some personal issues (and, no, you don’t get to know what those issues were, you nosey so-and-so) which led me to working on my novel rather than writing about movies or cartoons or whatever is it is I normally do. Almost immediately after I finished the first draft and was ready to get back to reviewing things I got a new job that not only ate up all my time but made me not really want to touch a computer after work (eight hours staring at computer screens will do that to you). So in a real way 2014 was probably the worst year in this blog’s history.

But there’s no use in feeling down about it. Instead on dwelling on a lousy year it’s best to plan for the next one and that’s what I aim to do! (I actually had a pretty good year, just not for this blog)

So for 2015 I foresee myself being busy enough that regular updates will not be in the cards. I’d always had the pipe dream of a MWF schedule but I don’t think that’s likely to happen, not unless I make enough money to justify it. I will try to post as often as I can. Expect an anniversary related blog sometime before the end of the month. I also promise I will do everything in my power to make sure there will be posts for Black Superhero Month.

Reviews may be a bit trickier but we’ll see. Traditional the first review of the year is a Mila Kunis film (not because I’m a big fan but because what else am I going to review, am I right?) but that may or may not be the case this year. Jupiter Ascending was delayed to an early February release so if I don’t review something before I see it then tradition will prevail.

A major thing I want to talk about is my book. I finished the first draft last September but since then I have not had the time to edit it that I would like, mainly due to my new job. In 2015 my number one goal is to begin (key word) the process of getting it published by December, even if that’s only shopping it around to agents who won’t return my e-mails (or whatever the first step is; I dunno, man). So I need to get this second draft done, then the third draft, then the fourth draft and then maybe a fifth draft depending on how I feel about it. I plan on this being my priority which means if I feel I have to choose between this blog and my book I will put Beta is Dead on an extended hiatus. If this happens I will likely say something on here.

Any way my hope is that 2015 will be a good year and that we’ll all be here for the sixth anniversary.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Beta's Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2014

2014 was a hard year for me, as evidenced by my lack of updates, and while I’ll likely get into that more when I do my anniversary blog (though I doubt I’ll go into specifics as this still isn’t that type of blog) the most relevant issue I had was an inability to see movies as much as I had in the past. I used to see several films a week and now I’m averaging one every three weeks which is really upsetting for me as going to the movie theater is my favorite hobby. As a result of this trend I missed out on a lot of films that got a lot of buzz (Birdman being the obvious example). Also what movies I did see I simply didn’t have time to review. So this will likely be one of the least interesting “Top Ten Favorite Movies” list I’ve ever done. But I will do it nonetheless!

Anyway the rules are the same as ever: 1) I only count movies I’ve actually seen and I can’t see every movie so if your favorite film or some critical darling didn’t make the list there’s a decent chance I never got around to seeing it. 2) This is not a “Best Movie” list; it’s my list of personal favorites. It’s subjective and you’ll do well to take that in mind. But please, feel free to post your own Top Ten list in the comment section or even if you just have a movie that you think I snubbed. I mean, also comment if you agree with the list but seeing as this is the internet I’m not hopeful.

Beta’s Top Ten Movies after the jump.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Nerd Rage #17: Beta vs. Marvel Studios

They've come a long way from being a bankrupt joke
A blog in November? What madness is this? As I suggested a while back I have decided not to participate in National Novel Writing Month this year, partly because of all my work with my book earlier this year but main due to having recently started a new job that would not allow the time to writing 50,000 words in a month and still have anything resembling a life (actually my new job doesn’t leave much time for any writing at all, to my great chagrin).

Anyway Marvel Studios formally announced their movie schedule through the year 2019 (and for some reason this is considered a fine move) and apparently it made everyone I know go insane with anticipation. Some of the films sound pretty cool and others one sound kind of “meh”. I thought it would be fun to briefly at all of Marvel’s upcoming flicks and judge mercilessly despite knowing almost nothing about any of them. And hey, maybe you don’t know much about the characters in the film and this may be a nice learning experience.

Of course supposedly a list of Marvel movies was leaked earlier this year and I distinctive recall many people on my Facebook feed losing their shit over it; taking it completely at face value. I recall being very skeptical about it, especially with World Word Hulk, Captain America: The Fallen Son, and Avengers: Civil War as none of them really made any thematic sense to me based on what had already been established. (Though, let’s face it, Marvel could have easily changed key details of their films after the word got out but we either way it’s hard to know of sure) In any case I didn’t even want to talk about those rumors until things were verified. Now that the official list of films have come out I thought I’d go through them (and since I had a few friends who asked my thoughts about it I get it all out of my system at once).

Congratulations, suckers; you f**king fell for it!
So today we’ll look at all of Marvel Studios’ upcoming films. This does not include the upcoming X-Men, Spider-Man or Fantastic Four flicks as they are produced by different studios (Fox and Sony respectively) nor will be looking at DC Comics' line-up partly because they probably deserve their own topic and partly because I don’t want to angrily ramble right now. I mean, I may still do that today but at least this way I’m not starting out already being annoyed and pissed off at the source material. (Doctor Doom is an angry hacker? Really?)

Marvel Studios’ future after the jump.

[WARNING: While most of my ramblings are just conjecture I may be spoiling plot points for future films simply by taking about the comics they're based on. Read at your own risk.]

Friday, October 31, 2014

Review: Pontypool

Happy Halloween, everybody. As you may well know by now I’m not a huge fan of horror films (like, at all) but I had such a fun time reviewing Evil Dead last year that I decided to review another horror film today. My friend Travis, upon hearing I was thinking of reviewing a horror flick, got super excited and sent me a list of films he thought I would like because he’s a giant fan of the genre and is also history’s greatest monster. Despite reservations I decided to take him up on his suggestions and watch the 2008 film Pontypool which is based on the 1995 novel Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess (who also wrote the screenplay). It’s a zombie flick…kind of. The fact is that the film is part of the zombie genre of horror but plays itself differently from the norm.

Directed by Bruce McDonald Pontypool is a low-budget Canadian feature that didn’t get a heck of a lot of screen time in the USA until finally being released on home video in 2010. Despite this the film received a lot of favorable reviews over the years. Perhaps now something of a cult film whether or not it can overturn my long established dislike of the genre is the question of the day.

Full review after the jump.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mini-Reviews: Sin City - A Dame to Kill For, The Maze Runner

It's taking me longer than I anticipated to get back into the swing of reviewing things again here on Beta is Dead (the previous blog was actually started after I was half-way through this one). To make matters worse both the movies we’re looking at today are pretty much old news and you’ve already either seen them or at least decided that you’re not going to bother seeing them. The cost of being idle is high when you’re a writer, I guess.

Anyway today we’ll be looking at two film adaptations, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and The Maze Runner. Sin City 2 is the long promised sequel to the 2005 film and both movies are (mostly) based on the comic of the same name by Frank Miller. Now I’m not sure what the shit took so long for this movie to get made but here’s a list of movies Robert Rodriguez chose to direct over Sin City 2 during the near decade gap:

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (2005)

Planet Terror (2007)

Shorts (2009)

Machete (2010)

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (2011)

Machete Kills (2013)

No less than three kids films and a full length version of a fake trailer AND its sequel (neither of which were all that great). Planet Terror is the only film on that list that doesn’t feel like a waste of time to me. Oh yeah, Frank Miller directed The Spirit in 2008 and it was one of the worst films of the decade; that’s not as important but it’s still notable.

The Maze Runner is based on a young adult novel of the same name by James Dashner that originally came out in 2009. And…that’s pretty much all I know about it. The Maze Runner did extremely well in the Box Office while Sin City 2 was a major bomb, possibly the biggest bomb of the summer. But as we learned from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Dredd, and any Transformers movie monetary success does not always determine the film’s quality.

Two reviews after the jump.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Kickstarter Weekends: Like Father, Like Daughter; Zombie ApocalyOOPS!

By my calculations (i.e. I looked at the archives) it’s been about eight months since the last Kickstarter Weekend. Aside from the obvious glitches this summer with me working on my novel I think the major reason for this has been that I haven’t been visiting Kickstarter and other crowd funding sites as often as I used to. Perhaps my obsession over them has cooled off. That successful, but ridiculous, Potato Salad campaign that floated around everywhere certainly didn’t make me too eager to visit any projects for a while. I should point out that the most interesting crowd funding project I came across during the off time was Hullabaloo, a steam punk hand drawn animated short film starring a strong female lead character (!) that made 588% of its goal on Indiegogo. I would have blogged about it if I wasn’t so distracted this summer but obviously it didn’t need my help.

Anywho today I’ve decided to get back on the horse, so to speak, and look at two new projects. In this case both of them sort of tugged on my heartstrings as the creators remind me of what I myself might need to do in the near future to see my own dreams and vision come to fruition, more so than the average campaign I cover. But before we get to talking about the new stuff we need to revisits the old stuff…and it looks like there’s a lot of old stuff.

Michigan City Vandals Album Project: Funding Semi-Successful

Final Earnings: $1,150 ($5,000 Goal)

This project failed to meet its $5,000 goal but because the Michigan City Vandals were using Indiegogo it would seem they got to keep what they made (to a point; Indiegogo’s cut was probably pretty steep). As it’s been such a long time since the campaign ended the album has since been recorded and released so I guess it all worked out in the end. I’ve listened to it and I think it’s pretty good. You can find (and hopefully buy) it here.

One Nation - Out of the Darkness: Funding successful!

Final Earnings: $13,515 ($13,000 Goal)

Another close call but the project managed to end in success. As far as I can tell they’re still working on getting the book itself done but I haven’t heard a tremendous amount of things about the comic lately. Of course that’s partly because I sort of forget to keep tabs on it over the summer. Oops.

Water War: Funding Unsuccessful!

Final Earnings: $0 ($30,000 Goal)

This one bums me out but in a way I’m not really surprised. The concept of this film was amazing but the presentation of the project was overly ambitious. With a super long KS video (not to mention several prequel videos!) I imagine a lot of potential backers backed away without giving it a fair shot. Director Josh Nikolas had vowed that he’d try to make the movie even if the campaign failed but I’m not certain what, if any, progress has been made since then. As of right now it seems that my dream of seeing a flick about children shooting each other with squirt guns and being over dramatic about the whole thing will remain just that; a dream.

Robot Heart: Funding Successful!

Final Earnings: $28,914 ($3,000 Goal)

Absolutely no surprise here since the project was funded before I even got to post the last KSW. I do want to mention that since I posted that last KSW one of Kawehi’s video covers (I think it was “Heart Shaped Box”) and went viral and she has become massively more popular and famous than she was before. In fact she’s had another project on KS since the last one and it not only got funded super quickly it made $42,972 ($3,000 goal)! Wow! [EDIT: The new project is still ongoing as of this writing, though not for much longer, and has picked up even more money than originally reported].  Overall this makes me feel really good as I get to see someone I’ve admired do very well after seeing them struggle with their art in the past plus it gives me some hope for my own artistic endeavors.

Then again if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year it’s that "hope" is bullshit and poisonous. F**k it, let’s move on.

Two new projects after the jump.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

State of Beta is Dead

Hello everyone. If you’re a regular reader of Beta is Dead I’m sure by now you’ve become concerned by the severe lack of updates, especially based on what I said earlier this year about possibly quitting the blog business altogether. Or perhaps you didn’t really give a shit and didn’t even notice. Either way now that it’s October (…really?) I figured I give an update about what’s been going, what hasn’t been going on and what my plan going forward is.

The lull in updates has primarily been due to two factors. The first is personal and as you should know by now I don’t like using this blog as a live journal. Still if you’re a loyal reader and have been upset from the lack of hearing from me I suppose you would want some sort of explanation. Long story short this past July something made me very, very sad and my ability to function was impaired but is now relatively fine. The second reason is that I spent the second half the summer being obsessed with finishing my novel. As you probably noticed I have stats for book projects I’m currently working on post on the sidebar and if you were observant you may have seen the word count for “Project Brothers” skyrocket over the past few months. I put everything in my life on hold while I worked on it. I managed to post a few blogs during this period but the more I wrote of my novel the more it felt like any other writing was a distraction.

Somewhere along the line I went from “I’ll work on this review later tonight” to “f**k everything that isn’t this book, goddamn it!”

So anyway the first draft of my first novel, “Project Brothers” (clearly not its real name), is done so my obsession has died down and bit. Beta is Dead is, um, not as dead as the name implies and I’ll be attempting to get back into groove of writing shortly (easier said than done as it’s taken me three days to actually even start this blog). I also have something I’m working on but it’s better not to talk about it now in case it doesn’t work out. I will just try to do reviews until I get back in the habit of writing blogs.

That all said November is coming up. For the last couple of years I've tended to take November off to participate in National Novel Writing Month. Since I basically took September off doing it again so soon seems pretty lousy. Also I’m unsure I want to try to blaze through another 50,000 words of a new book when I probably should be editing the current one. As of right now I haven’t decided what I’ll do but I’m leaning towards skipping it this year. We’ll see.

Anyway bottom line is that I’m sorry I was gone but now I’m back. I also still haven’t seen the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie yet so my sanity is relatively intact.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (Film)

I’m sure by now we’re all aware of Marvel Studios' latest offering, Guardians of the Galaxy; judging by the Box Office numbers we’ve all gone to see it at least once. Tagged as Marvel’s riskiest film to date GOTG managed to become one of the year’s biggest hits. I am a little late to the party as my current life situation did not allow me to see this film at a Thursday midnight showing like I would have years ago but I was able to see it after opening weekend and I feel I can properly review it today. However before we get into the movie let’s look back on the comic that inspired it.

First appearing in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 in 1969 the original Guardians of the Galaxy seemed to be Marvel Comics’ answer to DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes, in that both were about a superhero team operating about one thousand years in the future. GOTG was more of a rebel faction fighting against an alien empire rather than a team of super-teens fighting future crime. This incarnation of the team lasted for some time but was never really popular outside its niche audience and never received an abundance of attention outside the hardcore comic book fanbase (which is why you’ve probably never heard of Charlie-27; I sure as hell hadn't).

Cult worthy title or Silver Age silliness?
You decide!
In 2005 Marvel launched a pretty massive crossover event called Annihilation that untied most of their cosmic (i.e. “outer space”) characters in one epic storyline. The comic was extremely well received despite still being more of a cult hit, and ended up getting several sequels and spin-offs over the next few years. One of those spin-offs was a rebooted Guardians of the Galaxy book in 2008. Rather than taking place in the far future this title took place in the Marvel Universe proper, just in space, and was formed by several per-existing cosmic characters: Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Phyla-Vell (the third Quasar), and rapper Adam WarRock Adam Warlock, who is definitely not a rapper. Though pretty much being exclusively fifth-string characters the team carried on the reputation Marvel had created for itself in recent years for their best storytelling being in the cosmic portion and thus the title garnered a very vocal following.

While the book has been off and on the radar since it's initial launch someone over at Marvel Studios thought it’d be an a awesome idea to make a film version based on the cult title that features characters that no one in the general public had ever heard of. And as the film has made millions and millions of dollars it’s hard to say that wasn’t a brilliant move. This film was directed by James Gunn who also directed the cult films Slither and Super, which makes him an interesting choice to helm this flick. Many people are saying this movie was very good but there are also people who are saying it’s highly overrated. Seeing as I can think of at least one other film that was highly overrated by the internet in recent memory (coughcoughfrozencouch) I think it’s best I examine it myself.

They're like the Avengers...IN SPAAAACE!!
Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: This review contains some spoilers. Nothing too bad, and really nothing that hasn't been floating around already, but they are still there and unmarked. Read at your own risk.]