Posted on Leave a comment

‘Captain Marvel’: The Problem with Prequels

Before the movie everyone is waiting for, fans of the Avengers films have to, get to, or whatever your verb choice is, sit through “Captain Marvel.” The movie in and of itself, without its connection to the larger franchise, has nothing really wrong with it.

Clark Gregg is amazing and fun. Brie Larson is a badass, and Samuel Jackson delivers as Agent Fury. There’s plenty of action, one lame reveal, and an amazing cat made for the Internet. The lame reveal is lame, but it’s surprising in its lameness, which makes it less lame by a smidge. At any rate, Marvel makes a good movie.

The problem is that “Captain Marvel” is a prequel, so there aren’t any stakes to speak of. You know what’s coming next “Avengers: Endgame.” If you’ve seen the other Marvel films, you know the Earth isn’t in danger, at least during this film. Captain Marvel is coming to fight Thanos and save the current half of the Marvel universe. That meta-knowledge renders the stakes in this film pointless. Captain Marvel, Agents Coulson and Fury, and Korath are all safe. Flashbacks have the same problem as prequels, but they’re shorter. (Let’s not talk about a flashback in a prequel; it gets too difficult to process.) How do you raise the stakes if the audience knows the outcome?

“Captain Marvel” doesn’t answer the question well. Instead, it settles for a cliché shot at an ancillary character Still, it’s a nice film, with a beautiful tribute to Stan Lee and his cameo. “Captain Marvel” is just enough to whet the appetite for Marvel’s “Endgame.”

Read more blog posts about Marvel.

Which was better: “Captain Marvel” or “Wonder Woman”? Leave your answer in the comments!

Posted on Leave a comment

5 Episodes in: Isolation within and outside of ‘The Umbrella Academy’

Isolation is one of those themes that pops up quite a bit in science fiction. From “The Twilight Zone’s” first episode ‘Where Is Everybody’ to Will Smith’s “I Am Legend,” people are fascinated by the effects that being alone for an extended period can have on a person. It’s probably in part due to the dual nature of humanity. We want to be alone, and we need companionship; every person is somewhere on the spectrum between these demands, and it changes depending on the day and inner requirements.

Spoiler Alert.

This theme should have been clearer from the start of “The Umbrella Academy.” There were so many other things to adjust to, however, that it got lost until episode five. Number Five is the most isolated. He spends decades in the future with a manikin, who is as real to him as any person. Luther spends four years on the moon, which for him was enough.

Allison has been psychologically isolated from people for most of her life. She couldn’t discern what was real and what was the result of her power. She is now isolated from her daughter ad is attempting to build a new relationship with Vanya.

Pogo, and this is important, was left alone in the house after all the children moved on with their lives. Diego constantly talks about how mom was treated, but he doesn’t pay any attention to the talking chimpanzee who also had to put up with the abuse (as Diego sees it) that father dished out. Pogo says that he owes everything he is to Mr. Hargreeves, but it’s clear he’s hiding something.

Klaus used drugs to keep the spirits at bay. These are the spirits he should have been connecting with his whole life in a “Ghost Whisperer” sort of way. Unfortunately, his father’s ill-conceived training regime did nothing but frighten a young child into a life of escapism and dulling fear through chemistry. He continues to refuse to embrace who he his and what his power represents, even if there’s nothing scary about his brother Ben, who hangs out with him.

Diego lives in the backroom of a gym and goes out nights to fight crime. He has spent his life pushing people away and doing things his way without compromise. The death of his not-girlfriend sends him further down the road to isolation. He doesn’t recognize that he needs companionship, but his actions suggest otherwise as he takes Klaus with him to stake out the donut shop.

Surprisingly, it’s the relationship between Hazel and Agnes that hammers the theme home. Hazel feels acutely alone, and it’s affecting his work. Perhaps his isolation is worse because he spends all of his time with a partner as they travel 52 weeks a year. When he opens up to Agnes, he reveals that his job is fulfilling anymore.

People need companionship. They need to be part of something bigger than themselves. They need to be loved. Religions, cults and sports teams flourish because they can provide a semblance of these things. Humans define themselves in terms of the other; we don’t know who we are without someone else to base ourselves on. It’s part of our strongest desire – that of establishing and maintaining our identity. Sometimes, that means embracing the love of family, both biological and chosen. Sometimes, it means choosing something more carnal.

When a man finally shows interest in Vanya, she falls for him. She doesn’t care if he’s nefarious. On the outside he presents a nice-guy façade, and he does things to support and help her, including, unbeknownst to her, murder. Vanya won’t take the warnings of Allison because she has been isolated for so long. She hasn’t felt worthy and no one has expressed to her that she is worthy. Her father always told her she was ordinary. Her siblings ignored her to the point that when Allison watches tapes from their childhood, she says she wouldn’t let anyone treat her daughter that way. Vanya wrote a book that further estranged her from the family. She lives alone and pushes people away. So, when she finally decides to open up and take a chance, she falls hook, line and sinker for the manipulations of Leonard.

Vanya gives Leonard her love, literally and her power, figuratively. Leonard, a creep, stalker and killer, dumps her pills and unleashes Vanya’s creative power. Not all creative power is good. Some people use their creativity to destroy. The atomic bomb, hypersonic ICBMs, new forms of torture… the list of terrible creativity is long and horrific. Vanya’s power isn’t just to build but to destroy, and when she finds out about Leonard’s manipulations, it could be apocalyptic. Allison still provides hope that someone can reach her.

Posted on 2 Comments

One Episode in: The Umbrella Academy devalues creativity

The only child, Number Seven, or Vanya as she likes to be called, without powers is perhaps slated to be the most powerful of all the superhero children gathered at the Umbrella Academy. In the first episode we’ve already seen Vanya, played by Ellen Page, practicing violin on a stage. She’s written a book, and her dream patterns were beeping off the chart and compared to the relatively normal brain patterns of the other children. She is clearly the most creative of the group, and that’s what makes her dangerous.

Diego and Luther are the tanks. Time and space travel boy is a freak! His fight scene against what appears to be an elite military group was incredible. Suggestive woman is dangerous, but says she has stopped using her power. And Klaus, a drug addict and cliché, speaks with the dead – that’s a different kind of freaky. That leaves Vanya, who is undervalued and underappreciated.

Creativity and the resulting innovations are what set the humans of today, homo sapiens sapiens, apart from other humans and animals. Being able to make something and then turn that to other uses is how people became the dominant species on Earth. People aren’t the fastest or strongest. They aren’t even the smartest necessarily, but people adapt the situation to their needs. Too cold? Build a fireplace and house. To hot create an air conditioner. To wet? Open an umbrella.

Vanya also trained with her father though she may not see it that way. She knows what the people in the group can do and how to use their powers, and as soon as she adapts her thinking to solving the problems at hand, she will be the one to guide the members of the Umbrella Academy to greatness with better chances for success.

Posted on Leave a comment

After 2 Seasons: No ‘Salvation’ for CBS series

Spoiler Alert:
CBS’ “Salvation” illustrates the problem of a countdown. When a show has a significant, world-ending event on the calendar, it can only end poorly. The asteroid is coming and for two seasons of “Salvation” the main thrust of action comes from the reaction of people to the asteroid and the ineffectual efforts of the government, a rogue hacker organization and a genius billionaire to divert the asteroid from its course. There are plenty of amazing, thought-provoking episodes, especially in the first season. And then there are the dumb actions, mostly in the second season.

By the penultimate episode, none of that matters. Humans are doomed by the incoming asteroid. Old rich and evil people have made off with the show’s namesake spaceship/lifeboat for humanity and there’s nothing left to do but tie up loose ends, except “Salvation” is a TV show and needed a way to continue if it were picked up for a third season. (It wasn’t.) That’s when the writers decided it wasn’t an asteroid.

If you’re writing a series with an asteroid and you’ve built it up to the point of impact, you either need to end it with a bang or with the success of people over nature. In this case, “Salvation” decided to offer a vote of no winner and scuttle everything it had built up to the last episode, which was unfortunate because they could’ve gone out with a bang.

Posted on Leave a comment

‘Star Wars’ R2D2 builder Tony Dyson on Creativity

I was lucky enough to be invited as a journalist to Malta Comic Con 2015, where I met the man who built R2D2 for the Star Wars films of the 1970s and 1980s. Tony Dyson was a personable, friendly man who invited me outside to interview him about creativity. For a Star Wars fan writing a dissertation on creativity, this is about as good as it gets. Dyson summed up his advice for people who want to be more creative in two words – “Play more.”

Check out my interview with Tony Dyson:

Now go forth and play.

Want to know more about creativity? Get a copy of “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Purchase “Penguinate: Essays and Short Stories: Improve your creativity for a better life and world.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.

Read more about Malta Comic Con 2015 at our archive site.

Posted on Leave a comment

Peter Pan, Tinker Bell and Creativity

In the stage play when Tinker Bell drinks the poison that is intended to kill Peter Pan and starts to fade, Peter says it’s because not enough people believe enough in fairies. If the audience could believe more in fairies, and show that belief through applause, Tinker Bell could be saved. This isn’t the only time that the two characters are associated with belief.

In Disney’s 1953 screen adaptation, Peter tells the Darling children that they can fly. “All it takes is faith and trust… and a little bit of pixie dust.” As long as the children think happy thoughts and believe they can fly, they can.

The first step to improving your creativity is to believe you can. Too many people believe that creativity is an innate gift bestowed upon a blessed few at birth. The reality is that everyone is creative, you just have to harness it, practice it and release your inhibitions. None of that can happen unless you believe in your own creativity and your ability to improve it first.

Think you can improve your creativity? We do to, get a copy of “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Steps for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essay and Short Stories: Improving Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” Let us help you fly!

Posted on Leave a comment

Disneyland Attractions and Their Movies

Partners statue in Disneyland

Many Disneyland attractions already have movie attached to them. The Jungle Cruise will get its eponymous movie, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in 2020, though the boat designs were based on 1951’s “The African Queen.” The Indiana Jones Adventure has a series of films and a TV show based on the popular character; there are rumors of a fifth film in the works for 2021. Tarzan’s Treehouse is connected to Disney’s animated feature of the same name and was formerly known as the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse; the Swisskapolka is still played in memoriam of the former incarnation. This leaves only the Enchanted Tiki Room as an attraction in Adventureland without a movie.

The Pirates of the Caribbean has had five movies based on it. A sixth one was scheduled but the writers walked out and Disney has yet to clarify whether the reboot will move forward. The Haunted Mansion had a terrible movie made about it and deserves a do-over. Tom Sawyer’s Island, based on the Mark Twain stories of Tom and Huck Finn with a pirate overlay, has a movie starring JTT and the tie-in to the Pirates of the Caribbean. The seasonal Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes have the surprise hit of the 1950s “Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier,” which started on the weekly Disney TV show and moved to the theaters after it became so popular. New Orleans Square is pretty much covered unless you want to count the Blue Bayou or Club 33 as attractions.

Critter Country’s Splash Mountain is based on the never-to-be-seen-in-the-U.S.-again “The Song of the South,” and Winnie the Pooh has several films, and TV shows – most recently, “Christopher Robin.” The Country Bear Jamboree also got a movie; however, the film released after the show was evicted from the premises.

Over at Frontierland, the Mark Twain doesn’t have its own movie; neither does the Sailing Ship Columbia or Big Thunder Mountain. Big Thunder Mountain does have a series of comic books. The Golden Horseshoe Stage was designed by Harper Goff who also did the saloon in “Calamity Jane.” The Shooting Exposition is another attraction that is missing a movie. But does it deserve one?

Fantasyland is all about the mostly animated films of Walt Disney, which contributed to the TV show “Once Upon a Time.” From “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” to “Frozen,” just about every attraction has a movie to go with it. “Dumbo” and “Alice in Wonderland” are represented twice, and that’s not including the miniatures in Storybookland Canals. Even the Matterhorn is tied to “Third Man on the Mountain.” It’s a small world, however, does not.

Toon Town is also replete with films, or at least, the short cartoons of Disney’s past. Home to the Big Five, Toon Town also features nods to the Disney Afternoon with Gadget’s Go Coaster. “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” provides the framework for Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin.

Tomorrowland has its own movie, which was better than it was given credit for. The attractions in Tomorrowland mainly rely on “Star Wars,” “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo for their themes. The exceptions are Space Mountain, the Monorail, the Astro Orbitor and Autopia.

Main Street U.S.A.’s attractions appear to be completely ignored by Disney’s movie making machine. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, the Penny Arcade, and the Main Street Cinema are all attractions without movies though Disney did distribute “Lincoln” in 2012. None of the vehicles on the street have their own films.

So, which of the attractions that do not have films should be made into a movie? Or is Disney going to need to create new attractions to find the next Pirates of the Caribbean franchise? Leave your comments below, include a possible plotline, just keep it PG.

Thinking deeply about a subject is part of becoming more creative. If you like Disney, a great place to start to think deeply and improve your creativity is with “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity” for a more in-depth analysis of my favorite ride. For other articles related to Disney check out these links.

Posted on Leave a comment

‘Frozen 2’: The Fall of Elsa

Let’s forget the mildly entertaining and somewhat inconsistent shorts that Disney spun from its billion-dollar franchise ‘Frozen’ and look at the new teaser that just dropped. A determined Elsa faces the fury of a stormy coastline. Was she kidnapped and left on an island? Shipwrecked? We don’t know. We do know, by the determination in her face and body language, that she’s going to get off the island using her ice powers. The ocean can’t defeat her. (I don’t know why she needs a running start or how long she plans on running.The ocean is big.) She could probably make a stairway or bridge over the waves, but that would be way less cool.) Winter is coming!

Floating multi-colored diamond shapes…

All the SVENS! Gather the herd, we have places to run!

Anna shows off her athleticism. That’s quite a leap. Of course, tossing a bust around like it’s a bouquet of flowers showed off some of Anna’s unexpected strength.

Elsa is fighting fire to save her friend Olaf. Is this the time we see the demise of Olaf? If this scene comes before Elsa fighting the ocean… I fear for our friend who likes warm hugs. Maybe, it’s retribution for the short that was too long and shown before “Coco.” Olaf! Some people are worth melting for. Just maybe not right now!

The wind through the leaves as fall settles across the land. Has fall come too early? After Elsa’s eternal winter of the first movie, is this how the trees would react? Are those two new characters? It doesn’t look like Christoff’s coat. And he’s being blown like a leaf on the wind. It could be Hans or the son of the Duke of Weselton.

There’s a fell voice on the wind. All of those blowing leaves… It’s the Fall of Elsa. How else would a queen, her sister and the official ice deliverer be able to leave the castle and ostensibly the kingdom? Who did they leave in charge? Hans? He was a capable leader who seemed to care about the people of Arendelle, even if he wanted to kill the sisters.

The all female version of “Vuelie,” the seemingly weirdly out of place opening to the first movie featured a choir of men and women. This trailer version is different. And cut! No, Anna, I didn’t mean that literally!

I have already proposed several different plotlines that I’m pretty sure Disney didn’t consider. You can see them on my Patreon page as a preview of my planned book “Penguinate! The Disney Company” if you join today! You might also want to check out five bad pick-up lines from “Frozen” at our Weebly archives.

Posted on Leave a comment

13 episodes in: ‘Salvation’ Won’t Come from Shoddy Work

After 13 episodes of “Salvation” the most unforgivable action came from an assassin. He shoots his target at close range in the shoulder, then shoots a bystander in the chest and head. He had surprise on his side, so this should have been an easy task. Instead of checking on his target to see if she was still alive or dead, he douses everything in flammable liquids and starts a fire.

Dude. Seriously? You’re an assassin. Your next move after shooting the bystander would’ve been to go around the desk and finish off the target. Morgan Freeman in “Nurse Betty” said it best, “Three in the head, you know their dead.” (I use the quote in “The Pirate Union.”)

Because this professional killer and cleaner didn’t do his job, the target was able to send an incriminating email and accomplish the task, her death was supposed to prevent. We aren’t 100 percent sure that she’s dead, so it might be that this assassin did not complete his mission at all.

Maybe, this makes the story more interesting, but come on. All I want is for people to do their jobs well. Whatever your profession, whatever work you do, do it well. Even if you don’t like it. Until you quit, you need to instill in yourself the habits that will transfer to any other work you choose. Doing the job correctly should be a top priority for everyone who is employed.

And, I guess, I also want a story that’s a little more believable. The fate of the world is in question; this assassin knew that the target needed to be eliminated. He should’ve completed the job correctly.

Posted on Leave a comment

Harness the Power of Video Games

One of the reasons why video games are so popular and so easy to play for hours is because they set up quantifiable goals that allow you to understand whether you’re being successful or failing. It’s not just save the princess; it’s save the princess while scoring the most points or doing so in the fastest time. Hardcore gamers will sit for hours trying to gain levels, get treasure, discover secrets, complete side quests, and feel accomplished. Even gamers who play Match 3 games or Farmville have goals they can measure – one more level to complete or a certain score to attain. The numbers are tracked, saved, compared to your friends, and celebrated when milestones are reached.

Continue reading Harness the Power of Video Games