Welcome back! We’re in the fall season now and hopefully that’s a good sign for cinema. I was very disappointed with the releases in August. September had quite a few releases as well, including The Predator and The House with a Clock in Its Walls. The Predator is a brutal sci-fi film with lots of action. It’s clearly targeting adult audiences. The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a fantasy kids movie with an emphasis on adventure. These films don’t have anything in common and that’s okay. Are either of these movies worth watching? I’ll tell you about it below.
Let’s start with The Predator. The titular Predator crash lands on earth while he’s fleeing from an unknown enemy. He survives the crash and begins his version of big game hunting, specifically killing humans who are trained in combat. The Predator is quickly captured and observed by a government agency. Everything becomes much worse when a hulking mega Predator and his alien dogs start attacking the facility. A team of soldiers and mercenaries prepare for battle against a powerful enemy and it results with massive amounts of bloodshed.
Overall, The Predator is a lousy movie. But it still has some decent elements. I’ll just throw the positive elements in one paragraph. The regular Predator is actually really cool. He has great creature effects and seems very similar to the Predators we’ve seen in earlier films. In a way, the Predator is an effective action antihero. The actions scenes are really good and entertaining. This film has a quick pace with endless action sequences and it works pretty well. It’s very exciting and fun, although not substantial. I’m sure a lot of action movie buffs will enjoy this film. Boyd Holbrook is fine as Quinn McKenna, a sniper and the main protagonist. He’s a pretty good action hero with a gritty and somewhat relatable personality. Henry Jackman composed the musical score and he brought back a lot of material from the original Predator movie. I really appreciate that part. This film has a nice length as well. The runtime is around an hour and forty minutes long, which is perfect.
Everything else is negative. The plot is a bunch of inconsistent nonsense. It’s simple yet a little hard to follow. The story doesn’t move from point A to point B. It’s just a montage of action scenes that are splattered on the screen. There doesn’t seem to be a particular reason why the Predators invaded earth again. The plot tries to add more elements to the Predator mythos and it doesn’t make any sense. It’s such a mess.
The humor is absolutely cringe worthy. Ironically, The Predator is almost a comedy. It has a lot of humor, but the one liners are really awkward. None of the humor is clever or appropriate for the setting. I can’t believe the screen writer and director thought audiences would find the dialogue funny.
Most of the characters are unimpressive. In fact, I noticed a lot of bad acting. Maybe it was just a paycheck for the most of the actors. Naturally, a lot of characters die in this movie and I didn’t care. Some of the characters are annoying and others were simply underdeveloped. It has a multitude of useless red shirts in the form of soldiers. The government’s best soldiers are incompetent buffoons who are only in the film to die gruesomely. I found the supporting cast pretty weak and the story doesn’t seem to have a central villain except for the mega Predator. Aside from McKenna, the characters aren’t believable.
Something seems kind of weird about the film editing too. I didn’t notice a lot of shaky cam, but the scenes cut around very quickly and awkwardly. It wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of material was taken out of the film. The remainder of the movie wasn’t put together in a fluid way. I don’t have a great understanding about film editing, but something didn’t seem right.
Furthermore, the visual effects are humdrum. This movie looks like a Syfy channel film with a bigger budget. The VFX don’t have a very good quality and it’s quite disappointing for this era. I expected much better VFX from a Predator film. I could be wrong, but it looks like the VFX team didn’t spend a lot of time on the CGI. Maybe they were in a rush.
You definitely don’t need to see this movie in theaters. It would be a waste of money for most people. I only recommend this film for diehard Predator fans and people who love violent actions flicks. The majority of viewers could skip this film entirely. However, you could try it on streaming or cable some time. You might find it mildly entertaining on a service like Netflix or HBO.
The House with a Clock in Its Walls opens with a recently orphaned boy named Lewis. He's a socially awkward and intelligent boy who moves in with his eccentric uncle named Jonathan Barnavelt. Pretty soon, Lewis realizes his uncle is a goofy warlock who lives in an enchanted house. They notice a strange ticking sound in the walls of the house and some deep research reveals an ominous truth about the estate's former owner. Expect plenty of magical hijinks and mania to occur in this film.
Honestly, I didn't think this movie was any better than The Predator. Regarding positive elements, I found Jack Black as Jonathan Barnavelt somewhat entertaining. Jack Black is actually becoming a pretty decent actor. He was very quirky with some charm that worked quite well for a kids movie. I also like Cate Blanchett as Florence Zimmerman. She’s a witch with a damaged past and Jonathan’s close friend. She’s amusing and fits into the fantasy elements very well. Black and Blanchett have good chemistry as an eccentric duo of magical friends.
This film has really nice production design, especially in regards to the enchanted house. It’s creepy and ornate with a lot of detail. The rooms and set pieces are creative with many interesting elements. It would probably take more than one viewing to notice every magical item in the house. Overall, the production design gave me vibes from Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride. It’s definitely one of the best film’s best features.
So, I have quite a few complaints about this movie. First of all, it’s way too scary for children of a certain age. I think elementary school kids are the target audience, but this film has a ton of thrills and chills that will freak them out. It’s more suitable for kids in middle school, but they won’t like this movie very much. A lot of the thematic material, humor, and character elements will bore preteens. Most adults won’t care about this film either. Basically, I don’t believe this movie can successfully satisfy any particular age group.
I fail to see the humor in this film. It’s supposed to be a comedy. There’s a lot of cheesy name calling and the rest of the humor doesn’t work effectively. Lewis is supposed to be a funny kid, but I didn’t find him particularly entertaining or humorous. A lot of the comedy relies on lame tropes, such as poop jokes. Some people might find it amusing, but the humor didn’t work for me.
This film also has pretty bad VFX. The actual production design is good, but the visual effects are very outdated and cartoonish. Several of this year’s movies have underwhelming VFX, but this one is much worse. I’m really surprised these graphics got past the editing room. It’s more like the VFX that we saw in movies from a decade ago. Typically, Universal Studios has pretty good visual effects, so this was uncharacteristically disappointing.
There isn’t much of a villain either. You don’t really see the main antagonist until the third act. He has a back story, but it’s very thin and unoriginal. When you see him, the main villain is quite creepy, but again, he’s too scary for the target audience.
Ultimately, Eli Roth probably wasn’t an appropriate choice for a director. He made a lot of hardcore horror films that are difficult for many adults to watch. Roth directed the first Cabin Fever movie, both Hostel films, the remake of Death Wish, and a gruesome cannibal film called The Green Inferno. A director who has more experience with younger audiences would have toned down the horror elements to fit the age range. This movie is only PG, but it’s probably closer to a PG-13 rating in my opinion.
I’m not recommending The House with a Clock in Its Walls. Certainly don’t bother seeing it in theaters. You could probably skip it entirely, even on streaming services and cable. I thought it was going to be really good because the trailers showed a lot of potential, but it didn’t work out.
Hopefully, the rest of this year’s cinema will be more promising. I guess we’ll see what happens. Do you think movie studios are focusing on quantity instead of quality? Tell me your thoughts in the comment section. Watch out for my photo gallery of this year's Gaslight Expo. It was a lot of fun and I'll probably post my photos next weekend. That’s all for now and come back again soon.
Welcome back! I have another fun steampunk interview for you guys. Today's guest is Michael C. Holdsworth. He's the creator and lead instructor of an inventive exercise program called Torque Blade. It combines fitness with fantasy, which is quite appropriate for steampunk fans and anyone else who embraces creativity. Michael is also the author of Blades of Torqueadia, a steampunk fantasy novel that influenced the Torque Blade program. This is going to be a unique interview.
Q: Why did you become interested in steampunk as a genre and subculture?
A: I think the aesthetic of the Victorian era and up to the 1930’s resonated with me at a young age. I would wear my grandfather’s flat cap with my drain pipe trousers and granddad vest at 12 years old. From then on the top hat, bowler with vests and baggy pants became something that I wanted to wear, but didn't have the courage to step outside of the accepted norm at the time. However, I would get away with the top hat when traveling on my own in my early 20’s. Comics such as 2000 Ad and shows that used the Victorian era as a back drop were also favourites of mine, but at the time I had not heard of the label of steampunk.
Q: It seems like steampunk is quite popular among teenagers. Why do you think youth crowds gravitate to steampunk?
A: I can't answer for the youth, but I can extrapolate from my own inner dialogue that the popularity is due to the belief that the past had a different pace and a sense of security. There is also to some extent a romantic slant. However, the future also offers a chance to master a course of ones own whilst maintaining the technology of the day and a potential future. It gives a person the opportunity to be creative.
Q: Do you have a favorite type of steampunk? Victorian, Wild West, post-apocalyptic, or something else?
A: I think something else works for me. Alternate Dimensional History perhaps is where the timeline strayed. A what if dimension? Except the aesthetic remained within the borders of the Victorian and Diesel era. All the technology of today, beyond, and a dash of sorcery would be my preference.
Q: The Mortal Engines is going to be released in movie theaters later this year, but I’m afraid it’s going to be a box office flop. Hopefully, I’ll be wrong. Why do you think steampunk struggles to thrive in films and television?
A: That's a good question. I think its because when steampunk is touted as a product it misses the goal. Dr Who, Firefly, The Tales of Jules Vern for example may be defined in that way due to aspects of the content, but to be promoted as such may potentially be a kiss of death (I believe the norms’ may not appreciate the concept). Perhaps its a promotional issue born of funding? If you consider the backing that the Wizarding World or superhero genre receives compared to new movies that may have a small chance of financial gain for example. However, the creative folk on those movie projects will draw from the steampunk culture when inspiration is needed. The more steampunk becomes mainstream the more successful the genre will become unfortunately. To steal a line form the Incredibles and twist it a little, “When everyone is a steampunk, no one will be.” I for one hope that The Mortal Engines does really well and I am looking forward to watching the film.
Q: Every steampunk fan has their own definition of the genre and subculture. What does steampunk mean to you?
A: It allow me to express who I am. It gives me an avenue to promote my ideals. My self expression can be augmented into regular daily living and allows me to draw from many inspirational points.
Q: Are you interested in additional “punk” genres? Cyberpunk, dieselpunk, atompunk, biopunk, etc.
A: In a manner yes, but not as a defined parameter. I admire the art work and the aesthetic.
Q: You wrote a very interesting and lengthy steampunk book titled Blades of Torqueadia. What’s the basic premise of this novel?
A: I use the unique concept of promoting wellness through fantasy. If you enjoyed the fantasy concepts of Dune or are a fan of the imagery of the Sherlock Holmes movies, then this coming of age story has a lot to offer. What if you could exist as a thought and live for millennia; moving from unknowing host to host, traveling in the form of an overheard word or by a gentle touch? The Veho are such beings. The Veho elders, once worshiped as gods, guardians and mentors of humanity; almost extinguished through campaigns of internal strife. Now remembered only in nursery rhymes by the uninitiated and whispered in dark corners by true believers. Its 1884 A.T.E. (After Torque Era) and Aefry, a young girl comes of age. She is gifted with a pair of archaic wooden blades used for physical prayer by a disbanded religious sect. Beneath the wood, an ancient secret seeks release and with it, the Veho come out from the shadows. For me, the fantasy book is a catalyst that speaks to change and how to adapt to it by developing those coping skills. My background is immersed in these subjects and I wanted to promote them in a manner that would potentially allow people to become emotionally engaged and influenced the potential totality of wellness for the reader. This is achieved by the subject matter of the book, coupled with the training programs for health and wellness.
Q: How long did it take to write your book?
A: I started the book three times and must have edited it about six or seven. Between that, we moved homes twice, had two babies, and I went to college for a year to retrain to work in a different industry. So in total – six years. A labor of love you might say. I first had to learn how to write a book that coupled with my dyslexia and it really put a crimp in my giddyup. I knew what I wanted to say in the story. I knew I wanted to use characters to promote my wellness concepts and I enjoyed doing the background work (research that encompassed nuero-pharmacology to the history of pneumatic weapons and everything in between) of inventing the world.
Q: What were some of the biggest influences on Blades of Torqueadia?
A: I drew a lot of my inspiration from many areas. Primarily the book and the journey within is based on the concept of the paradigm in the fable. I didn't a want to write a self help book nor did I want to write a book a health and wellness, as I find both quite dry. For people to have an interest, they must be engaged emotionally and fantasy allowed me personally to be very motivated. I have been fortunate that my career has taken me in a path where I have been exposed to Jungian psychology, health and wellness trends, theology, etc. However, in truth when looking back at my time as a youth and in the military, I found that books would allow me to enjoy a respite from reality. Some of my favorite writers such as James Herbert, David Gemmel, Terry Brooks, David Eddings, and Terry Pratchett have been a great inspiration.
Q: Aside from your own work, do you have a favorite steampunk book?
A: That's a tough question as I haven't had the opportunity to read that much at the moment. I have enjoyed in the past many character driven stories in a comic I would read called 2000 Ad. The UK comic played a big part of my childhood and many stories there had art work that imagined an alternate dystopian reality/future. Judge Dredd, Nemesis, and Slaine to name a few. The worlds were visually rich and imaginative, incorporating a certain steampunk aesthetic in some cases.
Q: You’re also the creator of a specific fitness program called Torqueblade. What makes Torqueblade different than other forms of exercise?
A: The TBFB, Two Big Freakin’ Blades. That's the initial comment I get. For me, the Blades allow a person to channel an aspect of their personality. I have had many reactions and as soon as a person holds a blade, a light goes on in their eyes. It's quite magical actually for me as a person watching the experience. As a martial and fitness practitioner for over 30 years and as an instructor since 2000, I am well aware of the emotional component to any regime. I embraced the functionality of those concepts and applied them to my experiences. Torqueblade evolved from that. The exercises are based on public domain exercises that trace back over three thousand years, potentially more as history is always changing. My exercises for the Torqueblade prescription are claimed to originate from the Persian peninsula and are known as Meal or Club training amalgamated with Medicine ball training (earliest exercises of which are described by Socrates apparently?). Both of which were codified in the Victorian era on both sides of the Atlantic.
Q: It seems like something called an Aspect Avatar is important in Torqueblade fitness. Would you mind explaining this element?
A: The Aspect Avatar is a cognitive mindset technique to create positive feedback for behaviors that are deemed beneficial by the participant. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon that is not used to its full potential in my opinion. A person will decided on a part of their personality they would like to define and focus on that with other memories to elicit an emotional response. New skill sets and coping mechanisms can potentially become habitual. In my story, I use the same description of the Aspect Avatar as the manifestation of the Veho. The Veho are an entity in the form of consciousness that can migrate from person to person as an idea or a suggestion. It's anything really that inspires a change. This is my attempt to describe the process of change and how to accept it and that knowledge is useless unless acted upon. For example, a person may know what they need, but will not follow through with the tasks and sabotage the attempt at gaining healthier attributes. Inversely, a person may look like they have achieved their full potential, but have not mastered the knowledge to get to where they are. Of course, not all knowledge is used for laudable reasons and this is where the antagonistic Veho appear. However, in a true sense, no real villain sees themselves as such. This is true with the Dust-eaters of Eresh-Ki. She prefers order and compliance, whereas Torque is an advocate of developing skills to offset chaos. The Veho is/are such knowledge.
Q: What are the major benefits of Torqueblade?
A: There are many benefits of the Art of Adaptability the Torqueblade prescription is part of it. Torqueblade can and does stand on its own as a functional training prescription that develops range of motion, balance, and strength or grace in movement. It is a gateway to other prescriptions of physical prowess, such as the Tribe prescription, a boot camp with the Torqueblades. The Tranquilblade prescription is a form of mediation in motion based on sword forms from Europe and South East Asian Archipelagos. Sentinel is a cardiovascular conditioning prescription applicable for fencing if desired.
Q: Any form of exercise can be frustrating and tedious for the participant. Do you have any words of encouragement to help people push forward?
A: Look inside and seek the voice that cry’s out, “Move,” It can be found in the darkness protecting the light,
It can be found in adversity striving for right,
Standing stalwart, a blade in each hand, protecting that which lies within.
It is a Torqueadian, a knight paladin.
Q: There’s an editorial on your website about The Art of Adaptability. What does it mean?
A: When I came up with the “The art of Adaptability,” (I thought I was unique, however there are many such titles out there. Who knew?) I had been trying to connect my training of martial efficacy, fitness, emotional memory formation, mental health, Jungian psychology concepts, theology, cognitive behavior therapy, etc. A big task for me can be described essentially as three core expressions:
1) Perception of Reality
2) The Link (breath) Between Perception and the Physical Form
3) Manifestation of that Link. Or in other words, “The Art of Adaptability” is health and wellness for the totality of the individual. In my opinion, this process can be used to help people achieve their wellness goals and have a bit of fun doing it.
Q: Did your background in law enforcement and the military influence the development of Torqueblade?
A: Yes, but in an inverse application. I am not an advocate of exercise that has negative connotations, such as using it as a method to cut the wheat from the chaff. Although, it is a quick method and is employed in many activities. For me, the opposite is true and exercise should be used as a tool for the pursuit of emotional and physical health in my opinion.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about Torqueblade?
A: As soon as I touch the Torqueblade, there is emotion for me. I am triggered and I enjoy the process. I do not feel that I am exercising for the sake of it. I enjoy the movement and the flow between exercises.
That's the end of another steampunk interview. I'm sure you learned a lot of details from Michael's answers. If you're curious about Torqueblade exercise, check out his website. I'll leave a few links at the end of this post. Torqueblade has a very cool website with plenty of videos, tutorials, and explanations. Most people want to try something different periodically and this is a good chance. Thanks for visiting my blog and have fun. I'll see you guys next week.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.