Is It Too Early to Ask for a Do-Over of 2020?

The month of January is almost over and so far 2020 seems to be shaping up to be a repeat of 2016. The notable deaths over the past month of people who have had an influence on me:

  • Neil Peart
  • Buck Henry
  • Christopher Tolkien
  • Terry Jones
  • Jim Lehrer
  • Bob Shane
  • Kobe Bryant
  • John Andretti

It’s just a reminder of how limited life is and how we should take our chances to be an influence when the opportunity arrives. Also a reminder that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for any of us.

Distractions

Distractions are always a problem when writing. Sometimes it’s weather. Sometimes, it’s a new job. Sometimes it’s a new medication adjustment. The past few days have been all of the above. I am sitting at 3065 words out of the 50k target as of the moment. I’ve also discovered my latest distraction to add to those previously listed: Disney+.

For those waiting for a paycheck to subscribe, Disney+ is offering a 7-day free trial. So far Disney+ is amazing and the choice of things to watch is huge. For me, so far I’ve watched Star Wars (A New Hope) as a test of the service and I’ m stuck on watching the show Rebels.

For us, this is replacing Netflix for us and World of Warcraft for me. Though I’m starting to think this is going to be a much bigger distraction overall for me.

Brightburn

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Spoiler Alert:
While I normally attempt to avoid spoilers in discussions of movies and books, the nature of the story of this movie means the discussion necessarily involves some spoilers.
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Brightburn offers an unusual take on the superhero story. Although in some ways there’s elements here that remind one of M Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable trilogy, it is the Superman origin story that is important to be familiar with here.

Brightburn parallels the Superman story. Kyle and Tori Breyer replace Jonathan “Pa” and Martha “Ma” Kent. Brightburn, Kansas replaces Smallville, Kansas. Brandon Breyer replaces Clark Kent.

From the crash of Brandon’s spaceship on Earth through puberty, the story parallels that of Kal-El’s childhood from the Superman story. However, once the child hits puberty, the story takes a turn to address the nature versus nurture debate in terms of superhero stories.

Around the time of his 12th birthday, the young Brandon starts to develop abilities that are beyond the norm. Instead of a green glow and a message to protect the Earth, Brandon’s spaceship glows red and offers strange whispers in the night, hinting at a more ominous source than Jor-El and Krypton.

When he first comes in contact with his spaceship, Brandon, who up to this point in the story has never been cut or injured, is cut by a piece of the ship, which is also witnessed by his mother Tori, again paralleling that the one weakness Brandon has is similar to Clark’s kryptonite.

The origins of Brandon are left unrevealed in this story. However, the dark whispers to “Take the world”, the red glow of the spaceship, Brandon’s own acknowledgment of being “special” and “superior”, and the design of the mask Brandon takes to wearing as he goes about his actions hints at something Cthulhuish and Lovecraftian in origin.

The rest of the story is a play on the 12 year old Brandon discovering and using his powers to protect his powers and identity. Most of those who know Brandon’s secret, weakness, and identity are removed by the end.  The ending ambiguously offers the possibility of sequels and more stories to follow. As the closing credits run, they are interspersed with clips showing that Brandon’s actions stretch beyond the borders of the town of Brightburn and his alter ego is called “Brightburn” in the media.

Since this is billed as a horror movie, there are elements of horror gore in a few of the scenes, but otherwise, this is easily viewed as a superhero/supervillain origin movie. This is a must view for fans of superhero stories, fans of comic book movies, and those with an interest in the nature versus nurture debate.

Rocketman

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Note:
I will avoid spoilers here and request that any comments remain spoiler free as well.
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My wife and I watched the Elton John biopic Rocketman tonight. I was interested in this one mostly for the music, but after watching it, I love the storytelling techniques used.

The directors used two interesting techniques to tell this story. The first was the framework of using a 12-step rehab meeting with flashbacks, which I loved the overall framing this way.

One of my favorite movies is For the Love of the Game, and the the rehab flashbacks reminded me of the framework of nine innings of a baseball game that was used in that movie. It was an interesting and effective framework in both films.

The other interesting storytelling technique used in Rocketman was to use Elton John’s songs within the flashbacks to tell the story. It gave the film a kind of musical theater feel in addition to the rehab framing. At times, the song would be the bridge into the flashback. Other times, the song would be the bridge back into the rehab circle.

Some do not/will not be okay with the handling of his sexuality, and the fimmakers don’t try to pave over it the way the filmmakers of Bohemian Rhapsody did in the case of Freddie Mercury. In some ways this films plays out much like Elton’s story would in an actual 12-step meeting and it’s all laid out as a confession with the good, the bad, and the ugly on display.

Even if you don’t agree with Elton’s life, I still recommend this to anyone dealing with traditional 12-step issues as well as those of us using the 12-steps to work through other areas of our lives. It demonstrates that when we commit to the 12-steps, they actually work.

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Note:
I again request that any comments remain spoiler free.
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Little Monsters

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Note:
I will avoid spoilers here and request that any comments remain spoiler free as well.
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So, Little Monsters is a movie that’s currently only available on Hulu. The Hulu description read:

A film dedicated to all the kindergarten teachers who motivate children to learn, instill them with confidence and stop them from being devoured by zombies.

I’m not really a fan of zombie movies. I’ve seen most of the big ones, but they’re just not my thing. However, between the description and the promotional picture in Hulu, the same photo on the image above, I got a Shaun of the Dead vibe about this one. And since SotD is one of my favorite movies, zombie, comedy or otherwise, I decided to push “play”.

The opening credits and the first part of the movie is slow. Sadly, it’s rather painfully so, but once the “real” story of the movie starts up, it’s worth the wait.

Based in Australia, the real story starts up with the school kids going on a field trip to a petting zoo, which just so happens to be right next door to a super-secret U.S. military base testing facility. What could go wrong? Glad you asked. Everything you can imagine is the answer.

Somehow the field trip group featuring the main characters manages to avoid the big wave of zombie attacks before making it back to a souvenir shop where they prepare for what they believe will be their last stand. This group of kindergartners is dependent on a school teacher who plays a ukulele and sings Taylor Swift, a womanizing alcoholic children’s show star, and the unemployed slacker uncle of one of the kids, who’s only agreed to go on the field trip only to improve his chances of hitting on the teacher. The odds don’t seem to support these kids making it to the end of this movie.

Surprisingly, for a zombie movie, gore is on the minimal side, at least until the final battle. Also, surprising is the fact with gore toned down so much, the adult language usage is still heavy.

But despite the language and several inappropriate jokes, the movie ends up being pretty funny and sharing a story about adults who care, make the best of a bad situation, and keep the kids unaware of how much danger they are really in,

I recommend this one to fans of zombie movies, fans of Shaun of the Dead, and fans of just general absurd humor. It does take a bit for the real story to start up, but it’s a pretty fun ride once the real story starts.

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Note:
I again request that any comments remain spoiler free.
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