Sunday, April 26, 2015

Weird West art by Rodrigo Vega

The title pretty much sums it up. Here, take a look at this piece recently done by Rodrigo Vega!

For the page it was posted on and to view more of Vega's art, click here:
This guy is an awesome artist and his stuff is well worth your time looking at! His style is like a combination of H.R. Geiger and Frank Frazetta.
I'm hoping to commission him myself sometime. Can you imagine him doing more dionsaurs and cowboys together? :D

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jurassic World third trailer analysis

Well, the third trailer is out, and I'm actually getting hyped. Why they released the earlier trailers almost eight sodding months before the movie comes out is beyond me. Anyway, take a look. I think this is the best of the trailers so far. Think they'll make anymore?

I have to say, each trailer is actually boosting my confidence of how this movie will go. Usually it has the opposite effect on me. I'm still somewhat cautious, as this movie still has ample opportunity to suck, but it seems like the creators are pretty confident in what they've made.

You see, at this point, we know the entire basic plot of the movie. The trailers we've gotten reveal most of the key points, and now it's just a matter of filling in the gaps. Most movies don't do this if they think their script is weak. Notice how most trailers these days are extremely vague, showing only action bits and such with dramatic music. This is because they want you hooked on the action, but also because that's usually the best stuff they have.
When a trailer is vague you have to ask: What don't they want me to see?

Well, Jurassic World looks like it's got nothing to hide. It's not being secretive and trying to sucker you in with curiosity. It's completely open and proud of what it is. It's not trying to fool us into thinking it's something it's not, unlike a lot of other crappy movies with hyped trailers. Yes, I'm looking at you James Cameron, with your pet project, Avatar.

Granted, just because the trailer is honest doesn't instantly mean it will be good. But this does lead me to believe that the developers are proud of what they've got, or they have an awesome marketing team.

Some other stuff leaps out at me though. On one hand it looks like they are trying to portray the dinos more like real animals with a greater level of depth than the other movies, with the exception of the original. Owen, is apparently understanding how the raptors behave, how they think, and the fact that they are interacting without massacring everything outright leads me to be hopeful about how they'll be. It's not the exact same schtick of "smart medium dino hunting people through buildings." These ones might actually be given some individual personalities!

Two lines in particular really made me start thinking.
"Everytime we've unveiled a new attraction the attendance has spiked. Corporate felt genetic modification would up the wow factor."
"They're dinosaurs, wow enough."

Honestly, this really says a lot to me, although I may be reading too much into it, but follow me here. The second trailer I think really hurt itself by revealing info on the new super predator they made, and gave me the impression that it was made for no really good reason.
My head interpreted it like this:

Scientist: Hey everyone, we made a super scary new dinosaur!

Protagonist: Um, why did you do that?

Scientist: Iunno, seemed like fun at the time.

The line about how corporate feeling this was a good idea adds another dimenion though. Scientist gal isn't calling all of the shots. She's got investors and suited yuppies to answer too. This makes the concept of making a new dino make far more sense than before, not to mention unfeathered dinos that has made so many people so happy.
In the end, the Jurassic World park is owned by a bunch of number crunching executives like in Robocop. They invested in this park to make a crapload of money, and by heavans they're going to do what they can to get it. Why would they care about historic accuracy when they could make dinos look cool and get more attendees?

In a sense this makes the park way more realistic, or at least to a guy like me who enjoys overanalyzing stuff. But think about it. A corporation has made a fantastic asset that has universal appeal, and they plan on milking it for every cent that they can. Who cares if there is a mistake here or there in the structuring? It'll bring in the money!

Sound familiar? Like another large group that hauls in hundreds of millions of dollars every year even when they make grotesque mistakes in their creations, but is still dominated by cliques of uncaring and apathetic suits who are interested only in profit while having no real ground knowledge of the projects they're overseeing?
Where have I heard of this group before... Oh yeah, Hollywood!

I really like to think that this part of the script is a reflection of what happened during pre-production. If so, this movie is far more intelligent than I had anticipated.
I like to think it went something like this:

Writer: Okay, here's the rough draft of the script! Did lots of research, got all our ducks in a roll, so we should be good. Paleontologists heartily approve too!

Executive 1: Why do the dinosaurs have feathers?

Writer: Pardon, sir?

Executive 1: The dinosaurs, they all have feathers. Why? They look ridiculous.

Writer: Well, science has discovered that many dinosaurs had crude feathers to some degree, and it's now acknowledged fact that raptors definitely had them. Lots in fact. A huge chunk of our fanbase has been eager to see them portrayed accurately for some time.

Executive 1: But they look stupid! No one will want to watch a movie with feathery creatures. We want to scare people, not make them feel cuddly!

Writer: They can still look scary, the director has that handled.

Executive 2: Where is the new dinosaur gimmick?

Writer: Gimmick?

Executive 2: Yeah.

Writer: Um, the dinosaurs are the gimmick.

Executive 1: No, no, we need new dinosaurs on the roster. Not the same boring stuff everyone has seen already. Except for the T-rex. It is now required by law to have one in a dinosaur story.

Writer: Um, alright, I'll pencil in some lesser known species that are exotic and haven't gotten screen appearances before.

Executive 2: Nonsense! They aren't new enough!

Writer: ... I don't follow.

Executive 2: Simple! Every dinosaur, no matter how obscure or "exotic" is going to be known to some degree, and therefore boring. We have to create something totally new!

Writer: If they are all boring, then why would we bother making a movie then?

Executive 1: [Has seemingly not heard the Writer's comment] Exactly! Wait, I know! It's a lab right? They can genetically engineer their own killing machine!

Writer: I don't think that will-

Executive 2: [Puffing himself up proudly] Perfect! That's just what this movie needs! Now, what are some cool features it can have?

Writer: But the Syfy Cha-

Executive 1: Well, the T-rex is the standard for meat eating dinosaurs, right? Well, this has to be even bigger!

Executive 2: Yes! Much bigger! And smarter!

Writer: [Barely contained annoyance] Is this really necessary?

Executive 1: It's decided! The key to making this a hit is to dump the feathers and have an engineered super creature! Alright, hop to it.

Writer: [Grabs scrip with white knuckles, muttering under his breath as he goes back to his desk]

So, yeah, I can see how this is a fascinating parody or metaphor of how Hollywood itself works. I'd be quite pleased with that.

As for the beastie itself being an above average monster that enjoys killing and is super smart? Eh, I'd prefer if it weren't there, but it's not nearly as far fetched as you might think. I have in fact come across plenty of examples of animals killing for fun. Leopards, dolphins, baboons, and others, all killing other wildlife for seemingly no reason, not even bothering to eat what they killed. These are all highly intelligent animals too, so thus far the creature is falling in line with reality.

The tracking device is slightly more iffy. I don't know where it was placed, but I can well believe that it dug the thing out. I've heard of animals doing weirder things. I'm more iffy on it recognizing the transmitter for what it was. I'm not saying that it's not smart enough to use such a thing as a trap. I've heard of that happening with real animals too.

Peter Capstick in his first book, Death in the Long Grass, told how he followed a wounded leopard into a chunk of cover, following the blood trail, until some blood dropping onto him from above. The sodding thing had literally used its own blood as bait, then climbed a tree and was waiting for him. Thankfully by that point it had bled out, and Peter and his companion had only to fish him out of the branches.
See what I mean by not being so far fetched? I've also heard plenty of occasions where other wounded cats and animals fleeing, then pulling a fish-hook maneuver and flanking their pursuers, doubling back on their own trail. And seeing how most of the guys in the trailer are packing Kel-tec shotties and what looks like an HK UMP-45, they're pretty undergunned. At least Owen is packing a 45-70! :D

So... yeah, I'm pretty hopeful. I'm not spoiling myself, I'm prepared for this to be disappointing, but thus far it looks like it will at the very least be adequate. Certainly I'm banking on it being better than The Lost World or Jurassic Park 3. Guess we'll find out in a month or two! Keeping my fingers crossed!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Poltergeist remake? Time to hoist the black flag

Okay, the frigging gloves are coming off. This habit of Hollywood remaking things has gone beyond insane as of late. Okay, it started off in the 90's where we had one here and there with debatable quality. In the 2000's it got way worse, but now it seems nothing at all is safe. What won't they remake?! Is nothing sacred? For frak's sake.
I'd heard that they were going to remake Poltergeist, which is literally the only haunted house/ghost movie I've ever actually liked. Most of those kinds of movies just don't work for me. Poltergeist however was a gem that was delivered by the immortal Stephen Spielberg and stands up just as well today as when it was made. It's bloody awesome and a movie I can watch over and over again. But then I saw this heresy:

Okay, allow me a moment to hyperventilate into a paper bag.
Okay, done.

Yeah, I'm kinda mad over this. This sodding trailer looks like every other ghost movie that's come out in the last five years. Unseen forces yanking someone away sharply? Yeah, never seen that before.

Folks, there are only two reasons to remake a movie that I can conjur up.
1. If the original movie had interesting ideas, but just plain wasn't much good. I'd actually like to see a remake of Valley of Gwangi. As mush as I enjoy that movie, let's face it, the only part that really stands out well is the stop motion dinosaurs. There's plenty of movies out there that are just kinda meh that you could improve upon if you actually have some decent writers.
2. If you want to do a very different take on the story. The Thing from Another World is a really darned good 1950's horror movie and one I still enjoy, but when it was remade as John Carpenter's The Thing is was dramatically different, yet still superb. Rather than a plant monster of the original movie, Carpenter went back to the original story Who Goes There, and delivered a fantastic comparison that still stands proudly today as one of my favorite horror movies.

The Poltergeist remake fits neither of these. The Speilberg version is perfect. There is nothing wrong with that movie. So it's not like it was a cool concept that got messed up during the execution.
It doesn't really fit the second bill either. They say that they are trying to make it more into a kid's movie with more focus on the brother than Carol Ann.

You know what? Screw that. There is no reason to remake this movie other than plundering a classic for cheap bucks. It just isn't going to measure up. I'd be willing to bet every cent I own that this won't measure up. I mean, I won't because I don't gamble, but crap's sake, it's not exactly a secret that most remakes frigging suck.

I don't know what it is, but it seems like there's been a writer's holocaust in Hollywood. They either belong to a handful of good director or have vanished off of the face of the earth. It staggers me that with these gigantic budgets rivaling the gross national income of most countries they can't afford to hire a half decent writing team. I'm rendered speechless at how these movies keep failing at delivering on even the most fundamental aspects of storytelling.

And while I'm in my angry chair, I might as well rage about a few other remakes I've heard of, such as the intended remake of Forbidden Planet.
For those of you who don't know, Forbidden Planet was one of the best scifi movies ever made, and holds up even under modern scrutiny. It even has my favorite robot of any form of fiction I've seen, Robby the Robot. I almost had a coronary when a friend of mine mentioned this thing to me.
My only hope is that it gets stuck in development limbo and never sees the light of day.

I hereby officially declare war on Hollywood. For every half good movie they put out, a dozen crappy remakes are forced out of their grotesque orifices for extraordinary sums of money. I'm done with them. I don't think they can economically support themselves much longer actually. The amounts of money they spend for movies compared to what they get back just shouldn't be working.

Of course, I somehow doubt that they'll mind one tiny blogger yelling at them. Rather this is more of me simply venting my frustrations. Rawr. My little squeaks won't affect them in the least bit, but I might as well get my opinions down to channel my rage.

Hopefully I'll have something better to talk about later.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Hey Feds, weren't you supposed to HELP people?

I remember a few years back during the craze and rage over Obamacare I began thinking over the whole system, and actually quickly deduced that not only would it not work, but it would more likely harm the people it was intended to help. Time and again I was proven correct in this supposition. Sometimes it sucks being right.

For the past few years I've been on the bare minimum of healthcare of any kind, since most of it is now likely to result in me suffering more problems than will be solved. Stitches for gashes? Hah! I've got superglue and duct tape for that. But there are some things you just can't solve with aspirin and gause. Wisdom teeth are one of those.

I've only had one of my wisdom teeth removed, and for the past few years I've experienced differing levels of discomfort and pain in my jaw. I've literally had my wisdom teeth cut through my gums at points to say hi to the world, but for the most part it's been easy to ignore. The last few weeks however I've been experiencing much worse jaw pain.

Then this morning, lo and behold, I discovered that I couldn't close my mouth all the way. Whenever I closed it the rear gums on the left side of my mouth literally got in the way because they had gotten so swollen. That was somewhat horrifying. When I did try it was like I was chewing through raw tissue, although the swelling has gone down somewhat.

So I mention this to my mom, and discover that we're trying to find a new dentist. Our old one was awesome. Family friend, member of our church, he was a good guy who helped us out when we had issues before and worked things out for us since life hasn't been overly kind. But no longer, because they won't accept Fed insurance. So now what am I supposed to do? I guess I'll invest in some aspirin. I think I'll need it. Some types of pain just aren't that easy to deal with.

Anyway, frigging thanks Obamacare. My bleeding, savaged mouth tissue appreciates your efforts. Anything else you'd like to screw up? Gotta tell you, it's a short list. Muttermuttergrumble...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Red River Rangers: A Whiskey & Wheelguns Novelette

Now this is what a Weird West story ought to be! Whiskey and Wheelguns really caught a gem with this story. I had high hopes after seeing the good ratings on Amazon, and I was not dissapointed.

Where to begin? Well, let's start with our primary character, Catherine Cartwright, the owner of a cat-house out in one of the zillion western towns, being found at the scene of a pretty grissly multi-murder and holding a bunch of weapons, literally getting caught red handed. She passes out from exhaustion and the sheriff regards this as a pretty open and shut case, as there generally aren't a whole lot of good reasons to chop up a small group of teenagers like in a Jason movie.

Cat is actually a pretty decent character. She's attractive but doesn't fall into the pitfall of some over-sexed bimbo. Nor is she a steely ice queen without emotion. She is very much a strong-willed caring woman that is very practical although not a scholar. I really like her and she helps bring the story alive. Good on you Jessica West!

Okay, before I go on I've gotta mention the author of this story, Jessica West. Aside from having an awesome name that I'd expect from a pulp character, she seems like a promising author and couldn't help but check out her Amazon page to check out what else she has. Here's an excerpt from her bio that I couldn't help but laugh at. It should tell you all you need to know: "She leaves a trail of blood or pixie dust in her wake, but such is the life of a Horror and Fantasy Writer."
Okay, what sane human being wouldn't find that entertaining? Sold!

Without spoiling too much, there are undead involved in this story. I say undead and not zombies or vampires, because the lines are actually quite blurred. The creatures involved definitely lean towards the vampire side, but it's not quite clear cut, which I'm actually okay with. In the wake of the cultural plague known as the Twilight series, many fans of vampires can get a might touchy about anything that differs from the tradional lore, myself included. I've read Bram Stoker's Dracula and hold that as the standard and am liable to start nitpicking when something deviates without a good reason, even though I'm not really a big vampire fan. I mention this now so that I can analyze the next portion in greater depth, since it is fascinating, at least to me.

Spoiler alert, beware ye who proceed!
Cat is hung for her crimes which she doesn't regret, being savvy enough to know what happens if you don't kill undead monsters, but she is ressurected shortly after her hanging. The way the author portrays her coming to understand what is going on with her is excellent, and truly does get you invested. You learn about the transformation and the character as we explore what she can do now along with her.
Some of her abilities do deviate from the classic lore, specifically in not instantly being horrifyingly evil. And yet this didn't bother me, and I began to wonder: Why? Why did this not bother me? All the other vamps up to this point had been like teenagers on an MMO if they exploited cheats. Why wasn't she? This is actually never explicitly explained, and somehow this seems to help. Cat is just as in the dark as we are. She feels temptation for certain things, but she has enough self control to not pull bad stuff. And yet will she remain that way? Will she become more aggressive over time? We don't know!

The way this is set up really makes it somehow feel more real and gets you interested. I want to know what's going on with her dangit! Is she naturally different, or does she simply have greater willpower? Will we ever find out? Beats me! But take note aspiring authors: If you want to deviate from classic lore, this is a great example of how to do it. It's executed so well and Cat comes across so well that it really helps you let go.
And in case you're wonder about what happens in broad daylight, she takes the original style, that of digging into the earth and going to sleep, rather than bursting into flames. Works for me!

We have another strong character along named Jesse, and I actually find him to be rather endearing. He's a broad-shouldered tough who can shoot straight, but unlike most other classic cowpokes he isn't a guy that eats nails and sweeps ever woman off of her feet. On the contrary, he's actually very shy around women-folk and tries to be a real gentleman. He does have some level of innocence, which actually couples very nicely with Cat's undead situation. How does he react when she rises from the grave? How does he react to her acting the way she does? All pretty good ways I think. They have an interesting dynamic. It's not on par with Firefly, but it's good enough to get me invested and actually caring about them.

Zarahemla Two Crows actually pops up here, much to my surprise, but as is standard, he's frigging awesome. Ah, but that's not all! We get a decent roster of other characters ready to cut down any unnatural critters popping up to start trouble, and one character in particular, Snakeblade, one of the most awesome names I've ever heard, has a great backstory. So many cool characters, squee!

Don't fret though, there is plenty of good action. Very well done, and the story overall comes together quite nicely.
After finishing I was delighted to discover that there is a sequel, which you can bet your boots I'm going to purchase, and you should too. I hope that it keeps on going after that too, as there is a lot that can be done here!

Overall, yes, an excellent Weird West story that sets the bar rather high in my opinion.

So start saving your pennies and buy yourself a copy! You can get yours here:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Snake Oil and Other Tales of the Weird West

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I've put this off for way to long, and it's about time I do this collection some justice! This was actually one of the very first Weird West things I picked up when I began lurking through the backdoors of the Amazon Kindle areas, so I'm actually rather ashamed that it's taken me so long to get around to it. Well, better late than never, right?

This is a three story anthology, all written in slightly different styles and different setups with some very interesting ideas.

The first up is the Snake Oil story, which I think is very solid. An airship trundles on into this backwater town and the captain begins selling his famed snake oil that can bestow all sorts of fantastic qualities upon those who drink it. Almost everyone takes to getting a bottle, figuring that it'll be worth the investment. Our main character, a young boy, finds that his father is forbidding he or his brother from buying the stuff, being a suspicious man. Low and behold, his brother has already purchased a bottle! The effects however are not what were advertised...

I'm not gonna go much into spoilers, as I try not to reveal too much in a book that I feel is worth reading, so I'm hoping you'll take my word for it and give it a look. It's a solid story and one that sticks out pleasantly in my mind. The perception of things going on from Ben as a youngster with his innocence and fear of everything going on yet standing up bravely in the face of it all is very well done and you can't help but feel admiration for his pluck. Jennifer does a great job on that mark. Way to go!

The second one is Cowboy Jake and the Moon Men. In terms of writing style I like this one the best. It's done as if Jake was sitting across from you at a table and relating a fun yarn, a style of which I'm fond of and Jennifer does a wonderful job here. My only complaint is that I'm just a little bit sketchy on the presence of the Moon Men. They are just kind of accepted and not seeming strange to anyone at all. They are pretty much aliens with a fondness for bison, (Not buffalo, bison! Bison darned you! I declare war on you common word usage!) but overall seem like they're just kinda there. They are somewhat mysterious with motives that no one much understands, but you'd think with aliens visiting there would be more fascination about them from everyone else.

I should stress that this isn't a huge problem, as they aren't actually the primary focus of the story, but kind of on the side and spectators, but it did kind of stick out to me. Anyway, it's basically a fun story where Cowboy Jake gets into a duel that is in the more old European style what with seconds, weapon checking and such, with another trail trekker that certainly does not go as expected. Again, it's really the writing style that makes this particular story shine as it really does feel like a fun story swap from a guy who was actually there.

The last is The Great Ghost Train Robbery. I confess that this one rubbed me the wrong way, but for a reason I admit is completely petty. It has Annie Oakley as the main character who is going on a journey to try and sort out some strange goings on with train robberies.
Now this is just me, but it annoys me when characters from history are reused in this manner. Now don't get me wrong, I love Annie. She's actually one of my personal heroes! But taking her and making her into something that she wasn't irks me. I had a similar problem in Cowboys of Cthulhu when the main character pretended to be Jessie James. It just plain didn't sit right with me. I know, I know, I should change from my skirt into a pair of big boy pants and get over it, but I still feel I should be honest.

That complaint aside this isn't a bad story by any means and deals with some interesting ideas with ghosts going around robbing stuff, although I do wonder how they plan on using the money they get.

Anyway, this is a competently written compilation that I encourage you to check out if you like Weird West writing, as it certainly delivers.
You can buy it on Amazon right here:
If you're interested you can also check out the author's blog here: