Monday, March 26, 2018

Best and Worst Video Games into Movies, Dark Tower and Justice League, Movie Trivia Answers, and Ninja News

I’m back from vacation and ready to talk movies!

Video Games into Movies – the Best and the Worst

With the release of the Tomb Raider reboot, I thought it would be interesting to check the track records of other video game to movie films and franchises. While a great video game movie has never been made (they’ve all had issues) the world wide box office success of some surprised me. And for a few, it was rather horrifying.

Middle of the road:

Mortal Combat - Paul W.S. Anderson directed what amounted to a good action flick that did decent at the box office in 1995 - $122.1 million. Unfortunately, the director did not return two years later for Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and its box office tumbled to $51.3 million due to a messy script.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was hailed at the first big breakthrough in realistic animation. Sadly, it wasn’t. Nor was it really anything like the video game. While it did take $85.1 million at the box office, it cost $137 million to make. Not good.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was to be the first in a franchise for actor Jake Gyllenhaal. And while this fun action flick raked in $336.3 million in 2010, it cost $200 million to make. And thus, no sequel followed.

The losers:

The first video game movie was Super Mario Bros. in 1993. It cost $48 million to make and this bomb of a film only earned $20.9 million.

Wing Commander came out in 1999. It cost $30 million – and only made $11.5 million. Ouch.

House of the Dead came out in 2003. Directed by the infamously horrible Uwe Boll, this $12 million dollar film only brought in 13.8 million.
But wait, it gets better!
Uwe Boll’s Blood Rayne followed in 2005. Costing $25 million, it only earned $3.6 million at the box office.
And now the icing on the cake!
Postal, his 2007 offering (which was a tasteless video game made into an even more tasteless movie) only earned $146,741.00. That’s $146 thousand, not millions!
Boll, congratulations for hitting the very bottom of the barrel.

The winners:

The first Lara Croft Tomb Raider came out in 2001. While it cost $115 million to make, it raked in $274.7 million, enough to greenlight a sequel. Sadly, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life only made $156.5 million.

Angry Birds cost only $73 million to make and brought in $349.8 million despite lackluster reviews.

Warcraft brought in the biggest single-movie total in 2016 with $433.5 million. Foreign audiences accounted for a large percent of its take, eating up the first incarnation of the World of Warcraft.

Resident Evil
The first film came out in 2002, directed by Paul W. S. Anderson. It cost just $33 million and made $102.4.
Resident Evil Apocalypse followed in 2004, making $129.3 million.
Resident Evil: Extinction was 2007 and it made $147.7 million.
Then Paul W.S. Anderson returned in 2010 for Resident Evil: Afterlife. It made $296.2 million.
The director continued with Resident Evil: Retribution in 2012, raking in $240.1 million.
The sixth film, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, came out in 2017 to the tune of $312.3 million worldwide.
The franchise grand total – over $1.2 billion.

Any of those numbers surprise you? And how many have you had the (mis)fortune to see? I’ve seen all but a couple…

Movie Reviews

The Dark Tower

Now, I read the first book of the series and wasn’t impressed.
Having said that, the book was light years ahead of this film.
It seems like they tried to cram several of the books into one hour and a half long movie. It would be like trying to cram Lord of the Rings or even the Harry Potter series into one short movie. It certainly wasn’t the first book – I recognized the Gunslinger and the Sorcerer and not much else.
Even if you’ve never read the series, this film was very disappointing. Short on exposition, character development, and world building, it’s like a bad CliffsNotes version of what the movie could’ve been.
And while watchable, it’s also instantly forgettable.
Not recommended.

Justice League

I reviewed this film when it came out last November and you can read that review HERE. It wasn’t perfect but it was a lot of fun and this DC fan loved it.
Now that it’s out on video and I’ve seen it a second time, I wanted to add to that review.
I liked it even more on the second viewing!
There were a ton of humorous scenes and moments that I’d forgotten. Plus knowing the story, I could see there was a lot more character development than on the initial viewing. The action also just rocked.
And the scene after the credits has me very excited for the next movies. (Plus we should get Green Lantern soon as well.)
After the film ended, my wife turned to me and asked what film the critics saw. I still have no idea, either. DC hating, Zach Snyder hating – who knows? Or just people who don’t understand the difference between Marvel and DC films. Marvel gives us big-budget action-adventure films based on comic book characters. DC gives us comic books brought to life, and there is a difference.
Still highly recommended.
And early screenings of Aquaman say it’s awesome and a lot like Wonder Woman. (My wife is really excited about that movie…)

Ninja News

Please welcome new IWSG Admin Shannon Lawrence! She will be rocking the newsletter starting next month.

Last week while I was on vacation it was my turn at the IWSG site and my article was on lessons learned from really bad movies. Check it out if you missed it!

April – May IWSG Goodreads Book Club reading will be Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need by Blake Snyder

Available now!
Return to Dyatlov Pass by JH Moncrieff
In 1959, nine Russian students set off on a skiing expedition in the Ural Mountains. Their mutilated bodies were discovered weeks later. Their bizarre and unexplained deaths are one of the most enduring true mysteries of our time.
Nearly sixty years later, podcast host Nat McPherson ventures into the same mountains with her team, determined to finally solve the mystery of the Dyatlov Pass incident. Her plans are thwarted on the first night, when two trackers from her group are brutally slaughtered.
Find it on Amazon and Goodreads

Movie Trivia Answers

Here are the answers to the animated movie trivia:

1 – Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, 2002 – Ice Age
2 – Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, 2012 – Madagascar 3
3 - Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow, 2001- Shrek
4 - Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, 2011- Rango
5 - Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Sylvester Stallone, 1998 - Antz
6 - Patton Oswalt, Brad Garrett, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, 2007 - Ratatouille
7 - Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, 2016 - Zootopia
8 – Bruce Willis, Gary Shandling, Steve Carell, William Shatner, 2006 – Over the Hedge

Have you seen any of those video game movies? Why do you think they can’t make a really great one? Watched The Dark Tower (or read the books) or seen Justice League? Get any of the trivia right? (Pat Hatt got seven right.)

Will see you on April 4 for the monthly IWSG posting – plus the April movie preview and a guest!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Ayreon Universe, Judas Priest Firepower, Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, Animated Movie Trivia, New Releases, and More!

Some music, movies, and books news and reviews for you today - plus a little movie trivia! And today I'm at the IWSG site with an article on lessons I learned from really bad movies.


Ayreon - Universe

Ayreon Universe is Ayreon live in concert for the first time ever, organized and arranged by Arjen A. Lucassen and Joost van den Broek. The Ayreon Universe set list features selected songs from all Ayreon albums plus a selection of Star One songs.

Vocalists include Floor Jansen – Nightwish, Damian Wilson – Threshold, Hansi Kürsch - Blind Guardian, Tommy Karevik – Kamelot, Anneke van Giersbergen - The Gentle Storm, Marco Hietala – Nightwish, Jonas Renkse – Katatonia, Mike Mills – Toehider, Marcela Bovio - Stream of Passion, Robert Soeterboek - Star One, John Jaycee Cuijpers - Praying Mantis, Edward Reekers – Kayak, Maggy Luyten – Nightmare, Lisette van den Berg - Scarlet Stories, and Jay van Feggelen and Irene Jansen - Ayreon

This concert is available in many different boxed sets (audio, video, t-shirts, signed, etc.) and comes out on March 30. I will definitely be picking up the pack with all of the CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Rays!

And just to whet your appetite:

Judas Priest – Firepower review

The metal gods are back with their umpteenth latest album!
First of all, it’s so refreshing to see people rocking out who are much older than me.
Secondly, don’t think these are a bunch of has-beens churning out crap for a quick buck. One thing I’ve always admired about this band is that they put their heart into doing the best they can. They are absolutely a fan-centered band.
I’m pleased to report this is an excellent album. It’s probably their best since Painkiller. While there isn’t a signature track, every song is solid without a dud in the bunch.
If you’re a fan of the band or old-school metal, you won’t be disappointed. Halford’s vocals sound amazing and relatively young Richie Faulkner tears it up on the guitar.
Highly recommended!


Some news from JoBlo:

Aerial footage of the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge theme park.

The latest addition to the Disney theme park arena is the upcoming Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attraction, which will allow visitors to immerse themselves in the world of Star Wars. The park is still under construction and won’t be open until 2019, but you can take a look at the foundations and sheer scope of the park in this new video released by Disney. Here, there is some aerial drone footage of the park, showing off the massive soon-to-be-completed structures.

Watch Tommy Wiseau (from The Room) get inserted into a bunch of disaster movies.

The video posted by Screen Junkies arrives just a few days before THE DISASTER ARTIST, a film based on Wiseau's unique experiences while making "the Citizen Kane of bad movies," THE ROOM, makes its Blu-Ray and DVD debut. When making the parody video, Screen Junkies invited Wiseau to stand in front of a green screen while reacting to each of the films selected. Once Tommy was done being Tommy, the outlet cut it all together to hilarious effect.

Denis Villeneuve plans to remake Dune.

Over the years, Frank Herbert's "Dune" has proven to be a notoriously difficult project to adapt. As the novel is quite dense, it's been almost impossible to whittle down the story in order to get it to fit into a single film, but it seems that Denis Villeneuve may have found a way around that. The BLADE RUNNER 2049 director will be the next to tackle DUNE, and he offered a quick update (via The Playlist) while speaking to a packed house in Montreal’s Place des Arts’ Théâtre Maisonneuve for the Rendez-Vous du Cinema Quebecois this week.
Dune will probably take two years to make. The goal is to make two films, maybe more.


Available March 15 –

Blue Sludge Blues by Shannon Lawrence
A collection of frights, from the psychological to the monstrous. These tales are a reminder of how much we have to fear…
Find it at Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo

Last Call by Tara Watson
Newly-single attorney Gwen Cooper’s list of things that make her happy is pretty simple:
1. her teenage sons
2. her stilettos
3. finally taking control of her own life
Find it on Amazon

Available March 16 –

The Thick of Things by J.L. Campbell
When love takes you by storm, hang on for the ride of your life.
Find it on Amazon

Since Coco just came out on DVD, let’s do a little movie trivia on computer animated films. Name the movie from the actors and year.

1 – Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, 2002
2 – Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, 2012
3 - Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow, 2001
4 - Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, 2011
5 - Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Sylvester Stallone, 1998
6 - Patton Oswalt, Brad Garrett, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, 2007
7 - Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, 2016
8 – Bruce Willis, Gary Shandling, Steve Carell, William Shatner, 2006

Answers on March 26!

Impressed by the Ayeron concert footage? Fan of Judas Priest? Ready to explore the new area of Star Wars at Disney World? Think Dune needs another remake? Picking up any new books this week? And can you guess the trivia?

I will be visiting family the third full week of March and won’t be online. However, I will have a really unique post March 19 at the IWSG site on lessons learned from really bad movies.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Insecure Writer’s Support Group #IWSG, March Movie Preview, Radius Review, and New Releases

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts for the March 7 posting of the IWSG are Mary Aalgaard, Bish Denham, Jennifer Hawes, Diane Burton, and Gwen Gardner!

Today’s optional question - How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?

I celebrate by taking a day off from writing! I usually don’t do anything really special, but I do relax and do something non-writing related.
Like watch a movie.
I watch a lot of movies…

Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime - and IWSG Anthology comes out May 1!

Pre order at Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo
Find on Goodreads

Plus there is a Facebook-Tick Tock Mystery and a Tick Tock Mystery blog - check them out!

Radius Movie Review

A man wakes after a car crash with no memory and soon discovers anyone who gets within fifty feet of him dies instantly.
It got great reviews and I was curious – how could they maintain a whole film if no one could get near him? The movie handles that well with a woman who was also in the car crash with him and has no memory or identity on her. The film focuses on the two trying to figure out what is happening and who they really are.
This science fiction thriller definitely has you guessing. The two characters start to have flashbacks from their lives before the crash, increasing the mystery. And of course some of the problems stem from a lack of full disclosure. (Why don’t people talk to each other?) It’s a quiet film that moves at a good pace and makes you think.
You may or may not guess the truth before the end reveal. (My wife made a wild guess halfway through and was actually right!)

New Releases

Clowders by Vanessa Morgan
When Aidan, Jess and their five-year-old daughter, Eleonore, move from America to Clervaux, it seems as if they've arrived in paradise. It soon becomes clear, though, that the inhabitants' adoration of their cats is unhealthy. …
Find it at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Amazon FR

Corners by Corrina Austin
Everyone needs their own special corner...
Find it at iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Amazon, Nook, Amazon CA, and Goodreads
Plus there is a book trailer on YouTube

March Movie Preview

Here are the upcoming theatrical releases for March! As always, descriptions courtesy of the IMDB. Snark provided by me.

9 –

A Wrinkle in Time
After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find him.
Director: Ava DuVernay
Stars: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris Pine, Bellamy Young, Reese Witherspoon
Bad buzz could put a wrinkle in this film’s profit.

The Hurricane Heist
Thieves attempt a massive heist against the U.S. Treasury as a Category 5 hurricane approaches one of its Mint facilities.
Director: Rob Cohen
Stars: Toby Kebbell, Maggie Grace, Ryan Kwanten, Ralph Ineson
The trailer makes Sharknado look pretty by comparison.

16 –

Tomb Raider
Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she finds herself on the island where her father disappeared.
Director: Roar Uthaug
Stars: Alicia Vikander, Hannah John-Kamen, Walton Goggins, Kristin Scott Thomas
Will this finally be the film that breaks the video game to movie curse?

23 –

Pacific Rim Uprising
Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost, reunites with Mako Mori to lead a new generation of Jaeger pilots, including rival Lambert and 15-year-old hacker Amara, against a new Kaiju threat.
Director: Steven S. DeKnight
Stars: Scott Eastwood, Adria Arjona, Tian Jing, Charlie Day
Sad that Guillermo del Toro isn’t directing but happy giant robots and monsters will continue to beat the crap out of each other.


Ready Player One
When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune. Wade Watts finds the first clue and starts a race for the Egg.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Letitia Wright, Hannah John-Kamen, Olivia Cooke, Mckenna Grace
Hope it rocks, but even a sub-par Spielberg film is better than most of what’s out there.

How do you celebrate after hitting a writing goal? Excited about Tick Tock? Have you seen Radius? New books you want now? And what movies do you want to see this month?