Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Stars of Iron" Is Back (SPOILERS)

Stars of Iron, the sequel to the Stargate/Draka crossover Snakepit, has just been updated for the first time in around six months.

"Snakepit" saw the Draka discover the Stargate after an incursion into the Solar System by a badly-damaged Goa'uld starship, conquer Abydos, and assist this timeline's version of the Tollans in their fight against the System Lord Tanith.  Meanwhile, the Alliance refugees aboard their sleeper-ship The New America were transported to the other side of the galaxy by the Asgardian known as Loki after he uses an Alliance officer with the Ancient gene to wipe out the Replicators.

(Deus ex machina, I know, but Stargate is full of them.)

Thus far, "Stars of Iron" follows the Alliance survivors who find they've been transported to an Ancient station.  They establish themselves there, find Stargates of their own, and begin exploring the wider galaxy themselves.  They accidentally dial Earth and discover the Draka have the Stargate too before encountering the forces of the System Lord Ba'al.  Things get worse...

It's a good story so far, although the Alliance right now is in a bit of a spot.  Hopefully the author won't let it go un-updated for six months again, so we'll see this storyline play out in a relatively timely fashion.

Friday, July 29, 2011

"Red Tails" Movie Trailer



Now this looks cool.  I don't know about the Red Tails specifically, but the Wikipedia article about the movie depicts them as being part of the Tuskegee Airmen.

The air battle sequences look cool and I'm interested in both war and history, so I'll definitely be seeing this one.

White Boy(s) Rap for Jesus


Stepping Out at VBS from North Avenue on Vimeo.

We watched this video during services at church earlier this week, I think.  Phil Cobb (the dark jacket and the dollar-sign necklace) and a guy I don't know put on a rap performance as a sort of orientation for the kids of Vacation Bible School.

Given North Avenue Presbyterian Church's urban location, putting the church's message into rap might be a good way of reaching people.  I admit it does come off as more than a little goofy, but given the target audience, I don't think that's a problem.

(I remember watching the cartoons I loved when I was a kid like Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and G.I. Joe and they're goofy.  But I didn't recognize that at the time.)

Hope you all enjoy it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just Finished "The Lost Legion" (spoilers)

Just finished The Lost Legion by H. Warner Munn.  I found the book in the Georgia PINES network in McDonough and read about a quarter to a third of it before I changed jobs.  I found it again in the Atlanta-Fulton library system and it was one of the first books I requested when I got my Atlanta-Fulton library card a few months after I got here.

(I was busy with work, Battle for the Wastelands, and other such things.)

It's a really interesting book.  Basically Emperor Caligula sends the 13th Legion and its commander, who is descended from Julius Caesar, on a suicidal mission into Inner Asia to find the descendants of Roman prisoners taken at Carrhae.  The 13th Legion, in TVTropes terms, is a whole army of Gumps--their actions set in motion significant future events.

*An Armenian prince finds a broken sword abandoned by a cowardly legionary, uses it to fend off attackers, and decides to make it his dynasty's emblem.

*The son of the legionary's commander rescues St. Paul from some bandits.

*The daughter of a Roman merchant who follows her useless boyfriend who's been press-ganged into the legion marries a Hun after her now-husband is killed.  Her son, fathered by her first husband and born after his death, is named Eitel after his stepfather--a name that sounds an awful lot like Attilla.  It's strongly implied a distant descendant will be Attilla the Hun.

*The legion's exile ultimately triggers the coup against Calilgula.

There's a sequence in the text where the author describes the long-term historical effects of the Thirteenth's passage through Asia, so I think there's more than just this.

As far as the ending goes, a Roman scouting party finds a ruined Roman-style town and when they are themselves all but wiped out by a group of Mongols, the lone survivor is taken in by Chinese who remark that he looks a lot like their grandfathers and bears weapons like their own.  The legionary eagle is taken to a temple and placed beside another legionary eagle, one taken at Carrhae.

Although the story is fictional, there is a theory in the archaeological world that Roman soldiers did end up in China.  Here're some links:

http://www.archnews.co.uk/featured/5124-a-lost-roman-legion-in-china-part-one.html

http://www.archaeology.org/9905/newsbriefs/china.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1541421/Roman-descendants-found-in-China.html

Of course, however cool this theory is, it's very hard to prove.  There are people indigenous to the area who look white and that could explain the genetic links to Europeans.  Plus the Tocharians, an Indo-European people, did migrate into Western China in ancient times.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2010/11/no-romans-needed-to-explain-chinese-blondes/

One of the comments in the above article mentions Buddhist art signed "Titus" being found in Asia, citing Foreign Devils on Silk Road.  One of the survivors of the Legion, an artist, is depicted as having been sold into slavery and making his way to India where he paints a mural of Buddha that features some of his companions from the journey in the painting as well.  Another "Gump" moment.

And one more fun thing.  Although The Lost Legion does not have its own TVTropes page (even though it needs one, since I can think of a few tropes off the top of my head), there's a trope called Lost Roman Legion and the novel is mentioned, complete with spoiler tags.  And there are plenty of other books about the men captured at Carrhae and what became of them.

I'll probably check some of them out.  My Gates of Vasharia novels, should I ever finish them, will someday go on this page, as they're based on the conceit that the Ninth Legion, thought lost in Britain, traveled to another world via a random hole in space-time and set up a new empire there.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Snakepit Fake Film Trailer

Another fake film trailer courtesy of Keith...

This one is for "Snakepit: A Stargate/Draka Crossover," another piece of fan-fiction I enjoy.  I found it on my alternate-history forum and was also posted on some other fora I'm less familiar with (I think stardestroyer.net and spacebattles.org).

Basically, the minor Goa'uld Kar'lac and his badly-damaged ship arrive in the Solar System a decade after the Draka win the Final War.  The Draka fend him off and in the process discover the Stargate.  The Draka version of SG-1, under the command of Anton de Polignac sets out to explore and eventually conquer the galaxy.  Along for the ride is a Draka version of Daniel Jackson.  "Snakepit" and a couple of minor stories have been completed and posted on fanfiction.net, but the sequel "Stars of Iron" is on hiatus due to the author being busy in real life.  He thinks he'll get back to though.

I blogged about "Snakepit" a lot in the past, but neglected to post the film trailer.  Here it is, for your entertainment...

EXT: SPACE

(Camera pans down to the Earth)

Narrator: In a world...

(Camera zooms in, showing ice covering many temperate regions and numerous battlestations and spacecraft orbiting overhead)

Narrator: ...where things turned out...

MONTAGE SEQUENCE

(An animated, coloured worldmap labelled '1942' shows Africa and the Middle East as a solid block of orange. Arrows lance out from the swastika-marked German Reich into Russia, then additional arrows move out from the orange block to encircle the Axis forces.)

(Draka paratroopers descend from the sky into Georgia.)

(Draka Citizens fight SS troopers with horrifying efficiency in the ruins of a village)

Archon (V/O): The Draka will conquer the world for two reasons; because we must and because we can.

(Janissary jackboots stomp across a fallen Nazi flag. Pan up to reveal the ruins of Berlin.)

Narrator: ...a little differently...

(The worldmap, now labelled '1948', shows all of Africa and Eurasia save Britain, India, Japan and SE Asia in orange, with the rest in blue. The two blocks are labelled 'Domination of the Draka' and 'Alliance for Democracy'.)

(Nuclear mushroom clouds and kinetic explosions engulf familiar cities and landmarks in a rapid-fire sequence.)

(The worldmap, now labelled '1998', turns entirely orange.)

(The Draka flag is raised over the ruins of New York City.)

EXT: SPACE

(A pyramidal starship emerges from hyperspace, obviously damaged, and engages Draka weapon platforms.)

Narrator: An ancient menace is about to return.

INT: TOMB

(The camera rapidly follows Karl'ac and a group of Jaffa down a corridor, then lingers as they halt in front of a Stargate.)

Narrator: And they haven't the faintest idea what's about to hit them.

(The Jaffa are mown down like cattle by heavy machine-gun fire, then a squad of ghouloons lope into the middle of the group and tear the survivors apart.)

INT: DANTE BASE

(Anton de Polignac and his squad, massive and heavily armed in their power armour, stand before the Stargate as it opens.)

Anton de Polignac: Service to the State!

MONTAGE SEQUENCE

(Draka tanks engage Jaffa on a dusty street.)

(A Draka missile obliterates a Goa'uld outpost.)

(A Ha'tak explodes.)

(Anton de Polignac's boot crushes a Goa'uld symbiote.)

Anton de Polignac (V/O): Glory to the race!

TITLE SCREEN

DARK SCHTROUMPF PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS

IN ASSOCIATION WITH ALTERNATEHISTORY.ORG

SNAKEPIT

THIS FALL

THE FUTURE JUST GOT R-RATED

MONTAGE SEQUENCE

(Two naked female Drakensis enthusiastically make out in a tent - we mostly just see their faces and the bare back of one of them.)

(de Polignac snaps someone's neck.)

(A Tollan woman screams in ecstasy at something we can't see. Daniel Jackson moves into view.)

(Jaffa stare in horror at a display of impaled corpses.)

(A space station explodes with gigatons of force.)

You all like?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Just Got Paid for "Coil Gun"

I'm a very happy camper right now.  I just got paid $271.05 for "Coil Gun."

This is my first professional level sale, so I don't know how it goes with other markets, but my other sales were to lower-paying markets that did not pay as quickly.  Kudos to Michael Wills at Digital Science Fiction.  And this is my largest haul for anything I've written--the next biggest contender, "Skirmish at the Vale's Edge" (BattleTech), was $196.

(Which reminds me, I've got some more stories in mind for protagonist Arnold Hoefer, who was fairly well-received on the BT boards, and the Clan Wolf conquest of the Oberon Confederation in general.  Maybe I can get to work on those at some point.)

"Coil Gun" will be in the third edition of Digital Science Fiction, which will come out this August.  When it becomes available, I will promote the heck out of it via this blog, my Facebook fan-page, and other means.  Once print editions become available, I intend to head down to Griffin and do the book signings I promised my former co-workers at The Griffin Daily News so long ago.

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Revenge of the Fallen Reboot"--What's Next?

While I was on vacation with my family in St. Simons, I gave some thought to what might happen in the aftermath of "The Revenge of the Fallen Reboot."  Don't worry, I don't intend to write it--I'd like to finish Battle for the Wastelands by Veterans Day or at least pretty close to it.

SPOILERS for "Reboot" if you all haven't read it yet.

However, here're my thoughts on what a third story would look like.  It resembles the 1986 animated movie, which I saw at least twice as a child, a lot more than it does Transformers: Dark of the Moon, although it uses movie-verse characters.

*It takes place 20-odd years later.  Sam and Mikaela have since married and have a son named Daniel.  In the 1986 film, the G1 Sam and Carly were married and Daniel was their son.  The Autobots have established a ground-based civilization on Earth (Autobot City, like in the animated series) while the Decepticons remain primarily in space. 

Given the Autobots' origins among Cybertronian civilians and the Decepticons' origins among Cybertron's military, I figured the Decepticons would be more likely to be, in what fans of A Few Good Men, would recognize, "out there on the wall" while the Autobots would prefer a planetary existence.  Plus Starscream remembers the Fallen was not just a danger in his own right--he was the herald and apostle of Unicron, who is still out there somewhere.  Despite issues, the peace agreement brokered by Optimus Prime and Starscream (after finally usurping Megatron) remains in place.  Both sides cooperate in the mining of Energon and the creation of new Cybertronians (or to put it cynically, new toys), while other survivors filter in as they learn about the end of the war and Cybertronian settlement in the Earth system. 

Meanwhile, the humans have colonized the Moon and Mars, using borrowed Cybertronian technology to (partially) terraform Mars and build warrens and domed cities on the Moon.

*This peace is disrupted by the arrival of Galvatron and his minions, reforged by Unicron from the dead Decepticons (which included Megatron and probably Soundwave as well) cast into a black hole at the end of "Reboot."  Galvatron has taken the place of the Fallen as Unicron's herald and Unicron has learned from his mistakes with his last herald--he has given him a substantial army of his own rather than simply making him more individually powerful.  And Galvatron has the Fallen's ability to raise armies of robo-zombies from fallen Cybertronians and destroyed human military equipment too.  It has taken Galvatron this long to return to take his revenge because he probably cannot remember where Earth is (due to battle-damage from Starscream's assassination) and because Unicron had other plans for him.

*Galvatron and his army tear through the Decepticon defenses in the outer solar system on their way to Earth.  Galvatron takes pains to kill Starscream specifically, and then kills Jetfire who tried to avenge him.  He manages to collect a few Decepticon followers who recognize him as Megatron reborn and want to renew the war with the Autobots.  I'm thinking Dropkick, a lesser Decepticon from "Reboot" who got some POV chapters, will be one of them.  Bypassing Mars (which is out of the way enough they can do that without leaving their rear exposed), Galvatron and company batter their way through Earth's defenses and attack Autobot City.  They're driven off, but not before Ironhide, Optimus Prime, and others die (like in the 1986 film).

*As the Autobots and their human allies lick their wounds and attempt to rebuild their defenses, Galvatron returns to Unicron.  He intends to use Unicron to destroy the Autobots and the Decepticons who have remained allied to them, along with the pesky "fleshlings."  Unicron, who is fairly close to the Earth system, goes for it.

*The Autobots choose new leadership.  Not sure who among the surviving movie-verse Autobots would be chosen.  Bumblebee, perhaps, as one of the last survivors of Cybertron?  Or we could bring in Hot Rod, as one of the new Cybertronians created in the Earth system?  Bumblebee is the most recognizable Cybertronian movie character, but it was Hot Rod who (eventually) succeeded Optimus Prime in the 1986 film.

*Unicron arrives and begins devastating Mars.  Knowing that Unicron was able to defeat the much more advanced Quintessons (the original creators of the Cybertronians) in a straight up space battle, the humans and "good Cybertronians" come up with a different plan.  Their spatial forces will engage Unicron in order to provide cover for a ground force to land on him (it?) and dig inside to attack his vitals directly.  I imagine the Nemesis would take the lead in the space-battle, while the more colonization-oriented Ark would be the one landing the masses of Cybertronian ground troops and spacesuited humans.  There, the human forces (under the command of Lennox, who would probably be a general by now) and the Autobots under the command of Bumblebee or Hot Rod, must face off against Galvatron.

Now the stuff I'm not so sure about...

*Not sure how to get Sam and Mikaela involved in the violent mayhem again.  Their presence in North Africa in "Reboot" was a bit contrived--they got caught up in the deployment of NEST troops by accident.  Perhaps they'll be background characters and it'll be Daniel who is on the sharp end, so to speak.  He'd probably be around the same age the Daniel character was in the 1986 film, after all, while Sam and Mikaela would both be in their 40s.  "Transformers: The Next Generation" perhaps?

*I wonder what to do with Miles and Leo?  Given the Cybertronian fixation I gave Leo in "Reboot," I could imagine him having some kind of technical job after graduating college.  The fact Miles and Sam are drifting apart does come up in "Reboot," so him being left out of the story entirely could be doable.  Or maybe Sam runs into him at their 20-year high-school reunion, they awkwardly make conversation, and then promise to keep up better even though both of them know they won't?

Do any of your fan-fiction types want to take a stab at this?  If so, leave a comment and we can discuss it.  I'm not going to write anything, but I can always provide ideas and advice.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Draka/Transformers Fake Film Trailer

Keith posted the trailer for the Draka/Transformers crossover I described in this post on my alternate-history forum.  Here it is for your enjoyment.

(A view of Cybertron from space, city-sized explosions bursting over its surface.)


OPTIMUS PRIME (V.O.):

Our world was consumed by war...

(Earth is seen from space, its ice caps swollen by nuclear winter, dust storms raging over North America, debris floating in orbit.)

OPTIMUS PRIME (V.O.):

...just as yours has been.
(The camera zooms in on Nevada, too fast to make much out, and stops to show SAM WITWICKY and his father RON working on the partly disassembled engine of an excavator, Draka serf tattoos visible on their necks.)


RON:

I wonder what they're looking for?

SAM:

What does it matter?

(Zoom out again. The rubble of the Hoover Dam rises above them along with the wreckage of the power station buildings. Hundreds of other SERFS are clearing away the rubble with both power and hand tools. GHOULOONS and Draka OVERSEERS patrol the area.)


(Zoom out further to space. One of the larger spacecraft hulks suddenly sheds its outer layer of debris and deformed metal and sprouts sensors and racks of missiles.)


OPTIMUS: (V/O)

Now our war has come here...

(RAVAGE leaps into the middle of a party of heavily burdened SERFS, energy weapons fire cutting over their heads. He swats screaming humans out of the way with irritated snarls, shrugging off bullets from the OVERSEER's pistol. SAM crawls away as BUMBLEBEE appears over a rock outcrop, struggling with LASERBEAK.)


OPTIMUS (V.O.):

...and your war has become ours.

(LENNOX, EPPS, and five other SOLDIERS survey the wreckage of a Draka forward base.)


EPPS:

Who the hell could'a done this?

LENNOX:

Not who. What.

(SAM and MIKAELA BANES--who is wearing something scandalously revealing--watch as BUMBLEBEE transforms from car mode to robot mode.)


MIKAELA:

What...the hell...is that?

SAM:

It's a robot. Like, a...super-advanced robot. (beat) From space.

(Watched by RAVAGE, LASERBEAK and RUMBLE, MEGATRON bursts from a new hole in the wrecked dam, shrugging off boulders and fragments of rebar.


MEGATRON:

I...am...Megatron!

(A dozen flame-wreathed metallic objects descend from orbit towards the former United States.)


(ERIC VON SHRAKENBURG is seen talking to an AIDE in a Draka command centre.)


AIDE:

Excellency, we've detected more of the alien signatures among objects that have fallen to Earth in the last few weeks.

ERIC:

How many?

AIDE:

Over nine thousand.

ERIC:

What?!

(Hundreds of missiles streak through space, pinpointing and destroying Draka ships and weapons platforms. An enormous Autobot in robot mode, FORTRESS MAXIMUS, his size indicated by the much smaller Transformers manouvering around him, fires a volley of lasers and kinetic projectiles at incoming missiles from his shoulder- and arm-mounted weapons. The camera turns with him as an equally large Decepticon, SCORPONOK, opens fire on him.)


OPTIMUS PRIME (V.O.):

Autobots! Transform and roll out!

(Montage: Dozens of wrecked, rusting or abandoned vehicles lying/sitting in the streets of bombed-out American cities reconfigure themselves into shiny, new, beweaponed versions of the same vehicles and speed off. More AUTOBOTS emerge from underground parking garages or subway tunnels, some transforming into helicopters or aircars.)


(OPTIMUS in truck mode leads a convoy of Autobots down a freeway through the desert.)


STARSCREAM (V.O.):

Decepticons! Attack!

(A formation of Draka Falcon hypersonic fighters dissolves suddenly as a third of their number open fire with energy weapons and massacre the rest.)


(Several DECEPTICONS rampage through a Draka military base, shooting anything that moves. Several American SERFS cheer them on until STARSCREAM absently obliterates them as well.)


(A shadow falls over a DRAKENSIS OFFICER, and we see in his face that he's just learned the meaning of fear. The camera spins to show the towering form of DEVASTATOR rising above him.)


TITLE:


STARRING SHIA LABOEUF


(SAM accepts a gun offered to him by EPPS.)


SAM:

Guess I'm in the army now.

TITLE:


JOSH DUHAMEL


(LENNOX pulls the pin from a grenade with his teeth.)


LENNOX:

Enslave this, you sick freaks!

TITLE:


MEGAN FOX


(MIKAELA moves in to kiss SAM.)


MIKAELA:

You're twice the man any Snake will ever be.

TITLE:


AND SAMUEL L. JACKSON


(AGENT SIMMONS looks up over the back of a speeding jeep as Iowa cornfields blur past.)


AGENT SIMMONS:

That's it! Enough is enough! I have had it with these mutha(inaudible) Snakes on this mutha(inaudible) plain! (He lifts a rocket launcher.) Everybody strap in! S'time for some pest control!

TITLE:


WITH THE VOICES OF PETER CULLEN


(Freed SERFS stampede through a newly blasted gap in a razorwire fence, watched over by OPTIMUS PRIME, JAZZ, LENNOX, and his SOLDIERS)


OPTIMUS PRIME:

Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.

LENNOX:

Hell yeah.

TITLE:


AND FRANK WELKER


(A hologram of MEGATRON addresses ERIC and his ADVISORS.)


MEGATRON:

Know this: I have conquered and enslaved worlds for a million years. You are no more than insects to me.

(The camera pans over an apocalyptic battlefield in the ruins of Los Angeles, hundreds of AUTOBOTS and DECEPTICONS fighting each other and DRAKA soldiers shooting at both and trying not to get stepped on.)


TITLE:


UNITED PRODUCTIONS OF SAMOTHRACE PRESENTS


A MICHAEL BAY FILM


(SAM silently screams a denial.)


(MEGATRON and OPTIMUS PRIME charge at one another in slow motion amid burning rubble.)


TITLE:


TRANSFORMERS


COMING THIS SUMMER


(AGENT SIMMONS struggles with a remote detonator, pounding on it with his fist when it fails to activate.)


LENNOX:


You want a hand with that?

SIMMONS:

Naw, leave me alone, I got this.

(A Draka fortification explodes in a colourful and extremely noisy fireball.)

"United Productions of Samothrace" is a reference to the world the Alliance survivors settle in the Alpha Centauri system after the Domination of the Draka conquers the Solar System.  The conceit Keith is going with is that this is a Samothracian film.

Having Samuel L. Jackson playing Simmons isn't IMO the best idea, but maybe if they have John Turturro playing the Draka commander who has made Mikaela his concubine, that'd work.  Turturro's Simmons is comic-relief in the second and third films, but in the first movie, he was downright creepy and evil.

Promoting a Friend's Music

At a Presbyterian church retreat a few years ago, I met my friend Will, whose wife Carol was doing music composition at Georgia State University.

I went to see Carol's senior performance at GSU one night.  There was a piece that was all about the emotion of fear that I particularly enjoyed.



That's the first movement.  Here's the second:



Here's her web-site if you want to find out more about her:

http://www.carolmarieunderwood.com/

Getting the music uploaded was kind of a pain, since Blogger apparently cannot run uploaded audio files like uploaded video files.  I had to put the music together with a Facebook photo I took of Carol and make a movie using Windows Movie Maker.

Here's the link that taught me how:

http://www.consumingexperience.com/2007/06/blogger-how-to-upload-mp3-files-to-play.html

Movie Review: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" Part Two (2011) (spoilers)

Saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2last night.  Here's my review:


The Good

I liked how we saw more of the actual Battle of Hogwarts than we did in the book.  The scene where Voldemort used the giants to batter through the statue-guardsmen defending the bridge into Hogwarts shows tactical acumen on his part--he's using his toughest units for the job.  Plus, given his attitudes, I imagine he'd prefer to use giants to pureblood wizards for meat-grinder tasks.

The importance of the Elder Wand is highlighted by it being necessary to break the magical energy shields defending Hogwarts from bombardment.  The Death Eaters are attacking Hogwarts using ordinary curses like a multiple-rocket launcher (firing in arcs toward the target en mass) without success and then Voldemort busts out the Elder Wand and cracks the shields.

I also liked "let's finish this together" when Harry throws himself and Voldemort off one of the towers in Hogwarts.

The escape of the abused guard-dragon from Gringott's was well-done.

Although some people really objected to this, I didn't dislike seeing the actors who played Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Draco "up-aged" for the epilogue set 19 years later.  Wizards in the books have longer life-spans than Muggles (Dumbledore was either 114 or 140 when he died and he was able to defeat multiple Death Eaters and duel Voldemort a year before), so them looking younger than ordinary 36-year-olds actually makes sense.

I liked how Harry decided, upon learning he was the Elder Wand's new master, to simply break it and throw it away.  With the Elder Wand gone, even if someone were able to find the Resurrection Stone and steal the Invisibility Cloak from Harry or his heirs, there will be no Master of Death.

I also liked how, when Professor Flitwick referred to Voldemort as "You Know Who," Professor McGonagall flat-out says "his name is Voldemort" and then tells Flitwick that Voldemort will try to kill him regardless of what name he uses.  That was awesome.

Harry's dialogue with the Gray Lady (the ghost of the daughter of Hogwarts founder Rowena Ravenclaw) was well-done.  The part where Helena Ravenclaw flips out about how the young Voldemort defiled her mother's diadem with dark magic was cool.

Hermione and Ron's kiss, although rather different from the books, was very well-done.

On a general note, the film was never boring.

The Bad

This is a general comment, but a lot of important stuff was abbreviated. 

*Snape's back-story particularly suffered from this.  We only see a very limited amount of James Potter's bullying of Snape--Snape borderline-psychotically venting on James years later ("your father was a SWINE!") is rather pathetic if Lily were the sole issue, but if James had treated Snape badly from the beginning of their Hogwarts years (as he did in the book), that's something else.  We also don't see Snape's growing association with the Death Eater wannabe kids and how their views rubbed off on him to the point he referred to his best friend/love interest using the wizarding version of the N-word when, years before, he said being a Muggle-born didn't matter.  Although we do see Dumbledore telling Snape to kill him so Voldemort will trust him unconditionally, we don't see the line about why that's important--Dumbledore believed Voldemort would assume control of Hogwarts and wanted Snape to protect the students from the Dark Lord's excesses.

*Although Harry makes a reference to Lupin's son in the "death march" scene, we never actually see him.  Fans who've read the books might pick up on Tonks' near-announcement of her pregnancy in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, but not many others would.

Some of McGonagall's lines during the lead up to the Death Eater assault seemed to conflict with the dignity of her character.  When she sends the castle's statue guardsmen out to fight, she gets borderline-giggly and says she always wanted to use that spell.  Not cool.

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the teen Snape was played by Alec Hopkins.  They should have had him playing Snape when he defected to Dumbledore and later when we see him cradling Lily's body rather than Alan Rickman made to look younger.  Alan Rickman is in his 50s or 60s--having him playing a 20-something came off as a bit ridiculous.  Hopkins is 25, so him playing Snape (who would have been around 21 at the time) would be appropriate.

What exactly was Snape doing at Godric's Hollow?  He shows up soon after Voldemort's death and cradles Lily's body while crying.  I can understand why he'd be upset, but how he learned about this is never explained.

I didn't like how McGonagall retaliated against the entire Slytherin House when Pansy Parkinson advocated turning Harry over to Voldemort after Snape was driven out of Hogwarts.  McGonagall is supposed to be tough, but fair.  In the books, she gave Slytherin a choice as to whose side they would be on and all of them, including the cowardly Head of House Horace Slughorn if I remember right, marched out of the castle.  However, Slughorn later returned with reinforcements and although it's not expressed very clearly, Slytherin students could have returned with him.

I think it would have been better if we'd seen even more of the Death Eater attack on Hogwarts intercut with Harry's search for the diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw.  It'd be a means of building suspense, plus we could give characters like Lupin, Tonks, and Fred on-screen deaths.  Rowling said Bellatrix killed Tonks and Dolohov (who the Trio could have killed earler but did not) killed Lupin and it would have been good to see this.

In the "19 years later" scene, adult-Ginny's hairstyle was kind of goofy looking.

The Verdict

A good movie, although it could have been better.  8.0 out of 10.

This review was also posted at the Dudeletter: http://www.dudeletter.com/?p=955

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Some Off-the-Wall (But Plausible) Alternate History Scenarios

Here are a couple of alternate-history scenarios posted on AH.com that are incredibly plausible and well-thought-out responses to fairly bizarre challenges.

The first one is a challenge to get Alexander the Great in Japan.  Although some people thought it was ridiculous, the user-name whose handle is Admiral Matt came up with a really awesome scenario.

Alexander the Great in Japan

To make a long story short, there's a mutiny against Alexander while he's in Afghanistan and he and his loyalists end up wandering across Asia, intermarry with some horse-tribes, and conquer Korea.  As an old man, he invades Japan to fight pirates there.  AM made a comment about how he wouldn't get anything more than a novelette out of this scenario.  I think I'll post this entry in the original thread to jog his memory.  That scenario was just awesome.

Here's a second one, based on a topic I posted this afternoon in response to a discussion about neo-paganism in a society with minimal Abrahamic religious influence.  I came up with the notion of a Wiccan Tibet.

The user whose handle is jakewilson posted the following scenario:

(Partially) Wiccan Tibet

Basically, Tibet ends up a protectorate of an India that becomes a British Dominion (think Canada) and Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca, visits the country.  He notices the use of pentagrams in Tibetan Buddhist ritual and ties it in with his "Witch Cult" theory.

Those of you who are interested in alternate history and creativity in general might like these scenarios.

If a Facebook Ad Brought You Here, Sound Off!

I recently bought $50 worth of Facebook advertising to promote my blog.  According to Facebook, the ad reached close to 40,000 people and got 25 clicks.  Facebook charged me $9.05 for those clicks, so I imagine by the time the $50 runs out, I'll have gotten 125 to 150 clicks. 

I initially cast a very wide net that got little attention, so based on the advice of my little brother and some half-remembered journalism school lessons about narrowly-focused advertising being more effective, I reworked the ad to include Harry Potter, Starcraft, and Transformers in the actual ad and for it to focus on people who have indicated interest in those three topics (and science fiction, writing, etc).

Thing is, I've seen Facebook links (that aren't blog-links I've posted on my wall or other people's walls) with URLs like apps.facebook and the like on the blog's list of traffic sources, but I haven't seen that many of these clicks.  The Facebook ad redirects people to http://www.accordingtoquinn.com/, so clicking on the advertisement should bring one straight here.

Setting up an ad on Facebook was fairly easy and I checked it twice to be sure it's directing to the right site, so I don't think I've made a mistake in the ad itself.  So, if you're coming here because you clicked on a Facebook ad, I'd like you to comment on this post so I can be sure everything's working.

Any help you all could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's Nice To Be Noticed, But...

I logged on this morning and found I was getting traffic from the Starcraft Wiki, this link in particular.

http://starcraft.wikia.com/wiki/Johnny_Raynor

The link basically states that Johnny Raynor, Jim Raynor's apparently-dead psionic son who is only mentioned in the novel Liberty's Crusade (and I think some of the comics as well) would have appeared in the novel I would have pitched to Blizzard had the company been willing to accept unsolicited submissions.

Thanks for the publicity, but that isn't accurate.

What I was suggesting on the earlier page was separate from my novel.  For the sake of clarity, I will explain both:

*My proposed novel would have taken place after Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty and set the stage for Heart of the Swarm.  As I imagined it, the events of Wings of Liberty decapitated the Zerg Swarm and caused a lot of political instability within the Terran Dominion as Mengsk's greatest crime--calling down the Zerg on the Confederate capital of Tarsonis and obliterating it--was revealed.  Without Kerrigan, the Zerg Swarm was breaking apart and going wild and Raynor, Prince Valerian, and Valerian's General Warfield were going to liberate threatened worlds--and taken them from Valerian's evil, embattled father at the same time.  Meanwhile, Sarah Kerrigan, the Zerg Queen of Blades now restored to humanity, was dealing with the colossal guilt being the worst war criminal in human history brings as well as the hostility of Raynor's crew and the threat of revenge by another formerly-infested Terran freed from the Swarm.

I wrote a synopsis, a treatment, and all the other stuff for my submission and wrote William Dietz, author of the novel Starcraft II: Heaven's Devils, about how to proceed.  Unfortunately, I learned that Blizzard operates on a "don't call us, we'll call you" policy re: tie-in fiction.  My friend Matt Schafer later found this policy had been posted on Blizzard's web-site too.  No unsolicited fiction.

Darn.  In any event, the trailer for Heart of the Swarm and some early bits of the storyline show my predictions as to what would happen were off-base.  The Dominion appears to betray Raynor and company early on, Kerrigan escapes to take control of the Swarm, and Raynor has gone missing.  Ouch.  I hope he survives the whole experience.

*The scenario with Raynor's son was something I posted on the Battle.net forum as something I wanted to see in Heart of the Swarm.  My scenario was that Kerrigan's assault on the weakened Terran Dominion using Zerg she has brought under her control would take her to the Ghost Academy.  There, she would find  Raynor's son, who it turns out really didn't die in a "shuttle accident" soon after being taken by the Confederate government and had been part of the Ghost program ever since.  One fellow thought this was awesome and that he'd never imagined Kerrigan as being a stepmother before.

This scenario would have been a mission in the actual game (Kerrigan attacks the Ghost Academy), not part of the proposed book.

Could someone who is a member of the SC Wiki correct this?  Feel free to link to this page as well as the first one.  :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Productivity Update

It's been a long time since I slugged a post "Productivity Update," so here goes...

*I just approved the final edits for "Coil Gun," which I sold to Digital Science Fiction.  It's slated for the third edition, which comes out in August.  The anthology (it's more a series of anthologies than a magazine per se) will be available on Kindle and other e-book formats for $3.99.  I should be paid fairly soon too, which is doubly awesome.  Once it's available, I'll be sure to post the appropriate links here and on my Facebook fan page.

*Digital Science Fiction reopened to submissions (for the fourth issue) this morning.  I submitted my story "Picking Up Plans in Palma," which is set in the same alternate-timeline as "Coil Gun."  I think it's a better story, since it's longer and told from the point of view of only one character.  This means more development of the protagonist.  I also applied the adage "write what you know," since SCUBA diving is involved.  :)

I've plotted out some novels set in the same world in which the protagonist of this story is one of the main characters--the novel takes place during the WWIII depicted in "Coil Gun," but "Palma" takes place several years earlier.

*I brought my Lovecraftian story "The Beast of the Bosporus" to my Lawrenceville writing group the other day.  They came up with many suggestions for improvement that will also cut the length.  The first draft (which I think I wrote in 2004 or so) was 10,000 words long and one critique said it was like reading Toynbee, with monsters.

(The story is set in the 16th Century Ottoman Empire and features several historical figures as characters.  I figured that would be rather different from typical Lovecraftian fare, which is set in New England in the 1920s.)

I've got it down to just under 7,000 words now.  There's still a fair bit of material to cut, although some of the suggestions will add length.

(One group member said including a portrayal of an honest, devout Muslim in addition to the alcoholic Sultan Selim "The Sot" and the messing-with-things-man-was-not-meant-to Vizier Mohammed Sokolli Pasha would defuse any claims of anti-Muslim bigotry.  To that end, I'm going to expand on the character of Sokolli's Janissary bodyguard Mehmet.)

*I haven't gotten a whole lot done on Battle for the Wastelands, although I did write some more material from the last chapter in my notebook while waiting for a meeting to start on Monday.  I think I'll plug that material in tonight.

*I haven't done much with The Thing In The Woods.  Given how this is a one-shot story and it's all about teenagers, it probably won't require extensive research.  I could probably finish that fairly quickly if and when I decide to apply myself.

*"The Revenge of the Fallen Reboot" is done.  I started writing it soon after I saw Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in 2009 and due to it being a lower priority than other projects, it languished.  Now it's done and no more fan-fiction.  Due its length (60,000 words), I think this one might qualify as my third finished novel.

(I wonder if Hasbro is interested in "roads not taken" novelizations?  Star Wars had the Infinities comic-books after all.)

If you want to read it, here's the story.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Transformers Fan-Fiction Scenario

Keith Fraser, a member of my alternate-history forum who wrote the crossover between the Draka and the Twilight novels I blogged abour earlier, has posted a fan-fiction "plot bunny"--a crossover between Transformers and S.M. Stirling's Draka novels.  :)

(That kind of thing seems to be his bag.)

The premise is that the Cybertronians arrive in 2007 or so during the Draka timeline, which would be after the Domination defeats the Alliance for Democracy in the Final War but before they've completely pacified the Alliance territories.

Here's what Keith wrote about the general world situation:

-Jetfire teleported to avoid the nuclear destruction of the DTL's version of the Smithsonian and, realizing that both sides were using Cybertronian technology, sent a distress signal which was picked up by both the Autobots and Decepticons.



-Megatron and the Allspark were dug out of the Arctic and hidden in the Hoover Dam as per TFTL, providing the US with its technological leg-up (some of which was stolen/acquired by the Draka).


-The solar harvester inside the Great Pyramid was dismantled and analyzed by the Draka long ago, and was responsible for much of their technological leg-up.


-The crashed Ark and Sentinel Prime were fought over secretly by Alliance and Draka forces during the Protracted Struggle; most of the technology was destroyed, but the Draka recovered Sentinel Prime and a few of the space-bridge components.

He then described what happened to the human cast members.

-Sam Witwicky survived the Final War (the movie trilogy indicates that he is clearly half-cockroach) and is part of a serf labour force excavating the remains of the Hoover Dam (which was deliberately demolished during the Final War to stop the Draka getting to the goodies inside). More specifically, he and his mother are hostages for his mechanic father's good behaviour. He has a crush on the labour camp commandant's bedwench (who can be either Mikaela or Carly, since the two characters are largely interchangeable).



-Most of the members of Sector 7 were infected with the Stone Dogs and died in the Final War. Agent Simmons is one of the few survivors, now somewhat (more) unhinged, and is making his way across the post-apocalypse US to try to stop the Draka excavating the Hoover Dam site.


-Lennox, Epps and some of their men make up a surviving fallback force that links up with Agent Simmons.


-The politicians, computer hackers and wacky ethnic comic relief characters were all killed or enserfed.

He then derailed from the Transformers movie canon considerably, giving the Transformers themselves big upgrades so they're stealthier and harder to destroy, including the ability to withstand tank fire.  I think that goes a bit too far, since the movie-verse Transformers are much more destroyable with human conventional weapons than the Transformers from other media.

(I'm told a comic-book depicts Megatron being bombarded with human artillery and aircraft, not being damaged in the slightest, snorting contemptuously, and walking away and one of the Dinobots is damaged but not destroyed by a nuclear bomb.  I used to watch the animated series religiously and I don't remember much human military involvement at all--maybe they were staying out of the way?)

Here's how Keith intends to begin his story:

The action begins when Bumblebee and two of Soundwave's subordinates (Laserbeak and Ravage) clash near the remains of the Hoover Dam. The battle is witnessed by a group of serfs including Sam who were on latrine/trash burying/whatever detail and their guards; the Decepticons massacre the group except for Sam after Bumblebee is seemingly disabled, but then he rallies and drives them off.



What happens next? Will the Autobots and Decepticons ally against the Draka? Will Sam get laid? How will the Draka react to physically superior opponents who consider *them* vermin?

Here're my thoughts on how the story would go if I were writing it.  No, I'm not going to write it myself, howver cool that would be.  I've got better things to do.
 
*The commander's "bedwench" would be Mikaela.  Being British, there's a much larger chance Carly died in the Final War (Britain is densely populated and would suffer more in a nuclear exchange--plus in the Drakaverse, the Stone Dogs-addled British nuked London themselves) and if she did survive and ended up in Draka hands, she might have been given limited Citizenship or made higher-status serf than some mid-level officer's concubine.
 
(The Draka hate Americans, but being the descendants of loyalists and Napoleonic vets, might feel more kinship with Britain.)
 
Plus if the Witwickies survive the war and get enslaved by the Draka, chances are Mikaela would have survived as well.  All of them lived in the same general area, so they'd probably get captured in the same Draka roundup.
 
*I liked the idea of Simmons surviving infection by the Stone Dogs virus but being more crazy than usual.  He could actually be a source of comic relief (as he was in the later movies) or a somewhat darker figure (like in the first film--since the Stone Dogs drives its victims violently insane, him being a bit dangerously psychotic makes sense).
 
*I also liked the military characters being part of the Alliance fallback forces.  In the Drakaverse, they wouldn't be deployed in the Middle East, since the Draka controlled that area since WWI.  It's more likely they'd be in the Continental United States when the hammer falls.
 
*The politicians would definitely be killed--the novel Under the Yoke describes the leaders of defeated European countries being paraded through the Draka capital in court-jester outfits before they're publicly executed.  Bobby Bolivia (the only "wacky ethnic comic relief character" who isn't anything else from the first film) would probably be killed or enslaved.  Maybe he's a serf entertainer for the Draka commander who keeps Mikaela as his concubine.

However, I can definitely imagine the computer-hackers from the first movie being given limited Citizenship.  The Draka lost a lot of their technical people during the Final War and the Alliance's superweapon--a computer virus their agents built into Draka equipment at the factory--gave the Draka particular trouble.  The Draka leader Eric von Shrakenberg pushed through the deal to give as many Alliance survivors as possible Citizenship to ensure the Domination had access to their skills.

Given how one of the hackers is black, this could be kind of awkward.  Eric's proposal gave Citizenship to people many Draka considered "racially totally unsuitable."  The black hacker would be one of the very few free blacks in the entire Solar System and I can imagine Draka "mistaking" him for a serf and abusing him, counting on the fact he's an overweight nerd and they've been trained from childhood to be killing machines to win any resulting fights.

(Of course, since the Alliance had universal military service, chances are he'd be in a lot better physical shape.  Still, the Drakas! anthology features American soldiers being told to avoid hand-to-hand combat with Citizens--they will lose.)

*As the discussion progressed, the concept of the two Cybertronian factions joining forces to take down the Domination of the Draka took shape.  Optimus and Megatron both want to revive Sentinel Prime for different reasons, while the Autobots will be horrified by the abuses the Draka heap on everyone else and the Decepticons will want to show the "master race" who the real masters are.

(It was suggested that Starscream, being Starscream, might try to make some deal with the Draka.  Given how one of the biggest things about the second two movies that sucked was that Starscream's desire to usurp Megatron was largely ignored, I'd love to see this.)

*With the Domination getting knocked around, the millions of Alliance survivors given Citizenship might remember they were Americans (or Britons or Australians or Japanese) before they were "Draka" and see opportunity.  Although the majority of Alliance survivors would be slaves, the neo-Citizens are in the best positions to cause trouble.

*Given how the Draka by this point have extensive orbital assets and orbit-to-ground weapons, the Cybertronians will need space assets of their own to avoid being hammered to bits by Rods from God.  Both the animated series and the live-action films featured the Autobot Ark and the Decepticon Nemesis, so I would imagine they and space-capable individual Cybertronians would make an appearance.

Keith said he might write a fake movie trailer like he did for his Twilight/Draka story, the one I posted here.  If he goes through with it, I'll post it here.

I'm posting this here so that any of you fan-fiction writers out there can take the ideas for a spin.  I'm officially retired from fan-fic writing now that The Revenge of the Fallen Reboot is done, but that doesn't mean I can't sow ideas like seed and see what sprouts.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My (First) MARTA Column

Now that Sunday alcohol sales (see my "Will to Power" post) is done with, I've been in need of a new topic to write column after column about.

And so I found it--the transportation one-percent tax, or as I've always called it, the TSPLOST.

(For those of you who aren't from Georgia, a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax or SPLOST is a one-percent sales tax implemented for a limited time to pay for certain projects, like a new government building or a land-purchase.)

Here's my first column:

http://www.northfulton.com/Articles-c-2011-06-28-188000.114126-sub-Expansion-of-rail-beneficial-for-the-state.html

When I was in Griffin, I did some state-level stories about the passage of the TSPLOST, which took multiple legislative sessions, as well as the Atlanta-Macon passenger rail line that was on the unconstrained project list and was a topic of political debate in Griffin and Spalding County's local government.

However, Matt Schafer pointed out in a Facebook discussion that expanding MARTA northward would be more effective than the Atlanta-Macon line in getting commuters off the roads and after some thinking, I've come to believe he's correct.  The Atlanta-Macon line would take care of people commuting from the southside, but I think there are more commuters coming from the north.  Plus expanding the MARTA Red Line north would be within one county (Fulton) and not be so difficult politically, unlike a multi-county Atlanta-Macon line.

I concede MARTA does have some issues that would make suburbanites leery of it coming to their county, but I think that would be more applicable to Cobb and Gwinnett, which historically rejected MARTA, than to North Fulton, whose residents already pay the MARTA tax but have to drive down to North Springs to actually use the train.  Plus MARTA's own leadership wants their agency merged into a wider Metro Atlanta transit entity--an entity including the other counties' transit systems (like Cobb's bus line) might be more effective and more palatable to voters and taxpayers.

I've written a second column about the first wave of cuts to the unconstrained project list.  I'll post it here when it goes live, probably this coming Tuesday.

The voters will approve the regional sales tax in 2012, but the final project list must be completed by August 15 of this year.  I think I'll be flacking for rail expansion all summer long.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"The Revenge of the Fallen Reboot" is Done

http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5208263/1/Revenge_of_the_Fallen_Reboot

I wrote the climactic chapter in a marathon writing session on July Fourth and posted it before I left for a friend's party.  I then wrote the first part of the last chapter during "down time" at said friend's party when the other guys were playing beer pong, his wife was knitting, and I figured I had more productive things to do than get their cat chasing after the laser from an infrared thermometer.

It's done.  I started writing this a few days after I saw Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in 2009.  I essentially wrote this story to prove a point, or several points:

1. It is possible to have epic Michael Bay-esque action sequences and have a coherent plot and characterization.  I had friends who said they saw the movie for the action scenes and the storyline was a secondary consideration.  My question is, why can't you have both?  Bay can command massive amounts of resources--finding good writers should not be a problem.

2. I could write something better than what appeared on-screen.  The concept was sound, but how it was executed was just aggravating.  I will give props to the people who wrote Revenge of the Fallen for being successful screenwriters, but there were some massive plot-holes in that movie.

3. Anyone can complain, but providing constructive ideas and suggestions shows talent.

This one took me a lot longer to write because I had a lot of other projects going on, like my Harry Potter story "Lord of the Werewolves" (which I was about halfway through at the time) and my original novel Battle for the Wastelands.  The latter was one reason why at one point "The Revenge of the Fallen Reboot" went six months without an update--I think at this point, I was writing the first few chapters of Battle.

Ironically, taking as long as I did to write it meant I was finishing up around the time Transformers: Dark of the Moon came out and interest in the Transformers series revived.  I'm not going to claim to be the best Christian in the world, but I was reminded of Romans 8:28.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28, NIV)

It seems like lack of and/or diversion of focus actually came in handy.  :)

This will be my last fan-fiction.  I have much better things to do with my time, especially since now I've got a quarter to a third of Battle to go before the first draft is done.  As I said in my last chapter, I've played in others' sandboxes long enough.  Now it's time to build a new sandbox, so others can play in it later.

(Given how my first two, possibly three finished novels are fan-fic, I'd be a massive hypocrite to object to people using my ideas in their own work, especially if they acknowledged I was the creator and final authority.  Many writers are advised to throw away their first completed novel--however, by using other people's ideas in a non-commercial context, hopefully I "worked the bugs out" in my own writing without sacrificing any of my ideas.)

There's not going to be a "Dark of the Moon Reboot," however much that movie needed one.  If I did write one, I'd keep the space-race, Sam-job-angst, and the stuff that happened with Sentinel Prime, but not replace Mikaela with Carly, keep Bumblebee with Sam, and rewrite the entire invasion plot to account for the probability the human nations and armies would make a much better account of themselves.

I hope y'all enjoy the ride. It's as good as my Harry Potter stories and about one-half to one-third the length, so it won't take as long to read.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Movie Review: "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (2011) (Spoilers)

I saw Transformers: Dark of the Moon with a couple of friends last night.  Here's my review:

The Good

For starters, the movie was never boring.  Even the cinematically-superior Super 8 had moments where it dragged.  I will give Michael Bay and his coterie of writers credit--I've seen several Bay films and I don't think any of them were dull.

Sentinel Prime's betrayal was a really good idea.  I've discussed the concept of evil Autobots with some people on my alternate-history message-board but I've never seen it actually done.  It would have been more interesting if more Autobots went went him--in his ultimatum to the United States, he demands that "Autobot rebels" be expelled, which came off to me at the time that there were non-"rebel" Autobots.

I liked a lot of the humor, including the bathroom assault on Sam by conspiracy-theorist Jerry Wang (Ken Jeong) and how he later busted out out two pistols on Laserbeak.  Although I didn't like Sam's behavior for much of the early part of the movie, I did find him funny at times.  The scene where he totally spazzes out and (briefly) overpowers a NEST soldier was one of them. The scene where Sam's mother starts talking about how he wouldn't be so lucky with women a third time unless he had a large member--and how Sam and his father both react to that--was also amusing.

Speaking of Laserbeak, I liked him (or was it her?).  I remember in the cartoon that he was Soundwave's spy-bot, but here he does quite well as an assassin robotic vulture-from-hell.

The "secret history" angle of the film (the Cold War space race was really about who could get to a crashed Cybertronian spacecraft first) was interesting.  And they brought in the Buzz Aldrin, which was kind of cool.

I remember when I was a kid watching an episode of the animated series in which the Decepticons' gambit is to bring Cybertron to Earth, although I cannot remember why.  It's good to see they took a plotline from the TV show and at least tried to provide a reason for it (convenient location to billions of slave laborers to rebuild it).  I also liked that we saw the war on Cybertron, however briefly.

The Decepticon gambit of using small-scale space bridges to bypass the defenses the humans and Autobots have established to defend against orbital attack was a clever one, as well as how they manipulated the Autobots into reviving Sentinel Prime and how they actually had the space-bridge components the entire time.

I did like how they depicted Megatron, despite lying in a trash heap in an alley after being essentially usurped by Sentinel Prime, watching Cybertron materialize in Earth orbit and being glad the planet has been saved.  Although the ideological differences between the two Cybertronian factions are not described in detail (I would deduce the Decepticons are fascistic due to their cult of personality around Megatron and Cybertronian-supremacism), I imagine Megatron would have ultimately wanted the best for his world and race despite his general villainy.

And however much I didn't like Sam (Shia LaBeouf) earlier in the movie, later on, when he in TVTropes terms Takes A Level In Badass, he's impressive.  He holds a gun on Carly's treacherous boss, plays a pivotal role in killing Starscream, and then later hammers Carly's boss into a space-bridge device with a length of rebar after vowing to kill him.  No "hero refuses to kill the villain and the villain does something stupid to get themselves killed" idiocy here.  Boo-yah.

And *how* Sam is depicted killing Starscream is foreshadowed by a training session in the NEST base in which we see human soldiers jumping on Bumblebee from above.  Writer Ehren Kruger did think that one through.

The Bad

Where do I begin?  There's just so much to criticize once you actually start thinking.

Sam was really, really obnoxious in the beginning of the movie.  I can understand that not being able to find a job would be frustrating, but I would expect someone with his life experiences to be much more desirable to employers (since the Autobots' existence is apparently known to the general public, there's no need to cover up his role in the first two films) and have much better job interview skills.  Seriously, I've bungled job interviews, but never as atrociously as he has.  One would hope an Ivy League school (Princeton?) would have prepared its graduates better.  And the way he behaves toward Carly wasn't cool at all.

Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) was not a good character.  She and Sam had little chemistry, which is kind of important given how she's set up as the love of Sam's life.  The only depth they tried to give her was that she was from a military family and her brother had died in battle and that only comes up in one scene, when she and Sam have their fight.  That part of her character could have been developed much more, perhaps if it had been introduced earlier--when we see that she and Sam are living together, we could see photos of her and her brother, for example.  About the only significant thing she does besides being taken hostage is to manipulate Megatron into turning on Sentinel Prime. 

(I admit it, I did like the "Sentinel Prime's bitch" line.)

I'm not going to defend Megan Fox's behavior, but it would have been far better if Steven Spielberg or Michael Bay (whoever actually pulled the trigger) simply made her watch Schindler's List a bunch of times or volunteer for one of Spielberg's Holocaust projects as a condition of further employment to get it through her head that no matter how overbearing a director is, comparing him to Hitler is ridiculous (and given how Bay is Jewish, particularly insulting).  If Fox absolutely had to go (some crew from the second film accused her of diva-like behavior), they could have recast Mikaela instead of shoehorning a much less-developed character into her role and throwing in some comments about how Mikaela was "mean" and how she dumped Sam, which strike me as being fairly out-of-character.

(Especially the latter--see my earlier post In Memorium: Mikaela Banes in which I noted that loyalty was one of her character's big traits.  If Sam had said "she chose her father over me" or something like that, it would have been much better.  Instead, we get petty crap like her being "mean" and dumping Sam.  Really, Michael Bay?  How immature.)

Starscream's attack on Sam and Carly toward the end of the movie was ridiculous.  I have never seen a mechanical life-form spit that much.  He was like an F-22-sized psychotic Sylvester the Cat.  And the drama-queen way he screamed when he got speared in the eyes by the gadget in Sam's glove was so irritating.  I like my interpretation of Starscream better (I wrote a fan-fic entitled The Revenge of the Fallen Reboot that basically transplants G1 Starscream into the movie-verse) than the one depicted in this film.  He wouldn't be second-in-command of the Decepticons if all he was was a sycophantic whiner.  And again, his penchant for treachery and his desire to usurp Megatron were completely ignored, just like in the second movie.

The U.S. military, like it did in Skyline, appears to have largely lost its capability of engaging beyond visual range.  When the Decepticons occupy Chicago, we see a couple of human fighters being taken out at knife-fighting range by Decepticon spacecraft with no indication they had attempted to attack from greater distances. At least they correct this later when they attack the Decepticons with cruise missiles guided in by special-ops troops.

Speaking of the special-ops guys, they entered Chicago via Ospreys, which are largely unarmed, and they did it without escorts.  No wonder Starscream was able to destroy half the aircraft and kill (I assume) a whole lot of them.  Lennox was in contact with General Morshower and even asked for a distraction so his team could get in.  We don't ever see this distraction, although the fact Lennox's team wasn't absolutely massacred by the Decepticon gunships seems to indicate it works.  Sam, Epps, and Epps' friends manage to infiltrate the city on foot and we later see some other soldiers entering the city via its waterways, so it would have been smarter to have done this.

The film depicts the Decepticons having forces, including gunships and even a much larger battleship, on the Moon.  Apparently they've been there for decades.  Where were they during the first movie?  I would imagine Megatron would have called them in during the battle for the AllSpark, which was his primary goal--he was so intent on catching the AllSpark that he wasn't paying attention to his surroundings and got frozen into a glacier.  There was no indication in the first movie that he was intending to meet up with Sentinel Prime.  The Decepticon forces would also have been useful in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, given the casualties the Decepticons were taking from the massed NEST tanks and the (apparent) lack of human air support.

The first movie bashed Bush, which I didn't like, and the second movie bashed Obama, which I didn't think was really appropriate either.  The third film features another obnoxious civilian official in charge of NEST (granted, she's an improvement over the guy from the second movie) and depicts both her and the U.S. government willing to agree to Sentinel Prime's demands after two hundred Decepticons infiltrate the United States via the space-bridge.  If the U.S. government was depicted as being in on the (phony) exile of the Autobots, that would be one thing, but the movie essentially depicted the (Republican) Congress, Bill O'Reilly, and the Democratic administration as a bunch of foolish appeasers and Optimus Prime being the sole mastermind of the plan in order to prove a point with the human leadership.

(I concede the infiltrated Decepticons could have done a lot of damage, but it couldn't have been worse than what happened to Chicago *after* the apparent assassination of the Autobots when they left Earth.)

And although this is a bit petty, the scene where we see the Decepticons in hiding in Africa and a bunch of National Geographic-style animal shots are interspersed with Megatron's posturing was lame.  Unless of course the goal is to show how degraded Megatron has become--he intimidates a bunch of elephants and demand they bow before him.  If only it weren't obvious that the animal shots were taken from elsewhere--the coloration and lighting look rather different.

The Verdict

An entertaining movie until you actually start to think about it.  Five out of 10. 

Although I do admit feeling a bit tempted, I'm not going to write a "Dark of the Moon" reboot fan-fiction.  "The Revenge of the Fallen Reboot" is going to be my last fan-fic, although I'll gladly disburse ideas to my loyal readers for them to use themselves.

This review also appeared here at the Dudeletter.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

My Empire Groweth...

The other day, I created a Facebook fan page that now has 19 members.  Now I've expanded my Internet reach--my old Scouting friend Nicolas Hoffmann has made me a guest film reviewer for his blog, the Dudeletter.

Here's the link to the announcement.

Here's the link to the first review he's used, Super Eight.

Hopefully this arrangement will be mutually beneficial.  I've got so many film reviews he'll be able to copy and paste old ones for awhile before he wants new material.