Quick Review: Rampage

Rampage

Look.

It’s a summer flick that came out in spring.

There’s the Rock making jokes about his muscle, a giant monkey, a giant flying wolf, and a giant crocodile.

I hope I don’t need a spoiler warning for this one.

What could I possibly spoil?

Not only has it been *insert number of months/weeks/days since movie release here* since I’m a lazy writer, but also it’s a movie based on a 1980s arcade game that didn’t have a plot other than basically those three above causing a ra—… havoc across America.

That’s basically the entire plot.

Animals got big and they decided to go smash, smash, smash. And the American treasure, The Rock, has to save the day.

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You can smile like this too if you had his work ethic.

Trying to go any deeper or even explaining the plot of this film is doing it a disservice.

And why are you going to go see Rampage for some clever plot? You need to accept that if you go watch this film with an analytical mindset, trying to break down all of its components to judge its merits by some aristocratic standards of cinema, you’ll come out of the theaters dumber.

You boob. 

There’s a monkey giving the middle finger, more blood and gore than I expected from a PG-13 movie, and surprisingly fun jump scares.

The jokes are low brow and predictable but I still found them amusing (and pleasantly surprised there wasn’t a poop throwing scene. I fully expected it from this film).

Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is playing a token-Texan Negan.

There’s the guy (Jake Lacy) who was in the last few seasons of The Office and it seems like he’s just not giving a damn about being part of this film. Actually, no one seems like they’re giving even half of an effort except the American treasure, The Rock.

Dwayne_Johnson_2,_2013.jpg

Respect.

Seriously. He seems like an awesome guy.

Anyways.

In short, it’s a dumb film with some really well-done moments that if you were to see those moments by themselves in isolation, you might be tricked to believing that its a better quality movie than it actually is.

In some sense, I guess it’s respectable effort given the source material…

rampage-1
Source Material

…and probably the best film adaptation of a video game I’ve ever seen…

Wow. I just depressed myself a little.

Umm.

Yeah.

Go see this film for a mindless fun. Just sit back, sip on your soda, and enjoy. It’ll be as worthwhile as spending that 25 cents back in the day to play the arcade game at the bowling alley.

Except this time you’ve spent 20 dollars and 2 hours of your life.

I’m going to go look through the list of film adaptations of video games to see if I can cure myself of this depression.

 

Expected: 2 / 10

Got: 4 / 10

 



 

4dx
No. No, you’re not. You’re in a cheap imitation of an amusement park ride that’s imitating an experience in a movie. You’re in a derivative of a derivative. Might as well spin around in your office chair and say you’re in a tornado. Have your office friends throw stuff at you for a more authentic experience than 4DX. You’re welcome.

Wait.

I’m not done yet.

Just don’t do the 4DX.

Just why? Why does this exist as the means to save the theaters?

Do kids really enjoy this?

The 4DX experience preview was better than the actual experience watching the film.

Water spray smelled funny.

Air blow was annoying.

The seat shook and tilted too much that it turned from fun to a road trip across the Rockies on a Daewoo Tico.

AND I KNOW. I’m sure there are a lot of you out there who enjoy it very much and I seem like a guy who finds shaking canes at dead cats and being charmingly anachronistically racist as my idea for fun.

a. s. aramiru.jpg
Hi. A. S. Aramiru revealed.

But as it is now, 4DX is a gimmick and films haven’t found a way to properly incorporate this technology to actually enhance the experience.

It’s just distracting.

I felt like I was sitting on a lap of a Russian circus strongman as he rocked me and shook me around while watching the film.

I see potential with the technology purely based on its preview experience but have doubts any studio will invest the effort and money necessary to synchronize film experience with the 4DX experience.

Prove me wrong, Hollywood. Or Bollywood.

 

Expected: Nothing

Got: F***ed



 

ARAMIRU CAN’T SMELL NOTHIN’ CAUSE OF ALLERGIES!

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Short Story: The Devil & Me (Part 3)

Part 1

Part 2



14 Years and 10 months

 

There are days that are more memorable than most. The kind of days that people relive in their minds through their entire lives. Sometimes we know it before those kinds of days happen but, more often than not, they tend to be a surprise gift. A happy accident.

But for some, even those serendipitous days are marked by something constant. A constant that refuses to wane or be forgotten. The blot on each page of their lives. Nothing short of a real-life curse. An imp sitting over their heads who nested somewhere deep within their minds and hearts.

Bleeding into their senses. Their wisdom. And their beings.

It’s there when they laugh. There when they love. And even there when they cry. Even as their tears roll down their cheeks, it’s the voice that tells them it’s not enough and yet they should be ashamed for giving into it.

For Suzie Lee the week on the lake with her friends and their chaperones would remain one of her happiest and the most adventurous moments of her childhood. It was her days that were more memorable than most.

They canoed through the wakes of the wild waters. They hiked through the creaking trees and where the wildlife cooed and watched. There was even an encounter with a bear and what was the most frightening moment of these young girls lives, in the end, became just another chapter of their adventure.

The fourth evening of their seven-day trip would be the most memorable moment for Suzie. But it would exist as almost a pocket memory of its own. Not because of the Devil but because it was another blot on an otherwise a perfect memory.

A more painful blot because it would have been, otherwise, a perfect childhood memory.

Suzie sat on the dock. Their red and yellow canoes were beached off on the side. The setting sun painted the lake with a blue and purple hue. The few islands they’ve visited filled the horizon like black domes, slowly losing their details to the fading light.

Blanketed by the grandiose nature and its twilight lit visage, Suzie wondered how difficult it’d be for her to drown herself in the lake.

If she pencil dived, no one might notice.

Pockets full of rocks.

A steely determination.

And then… fade away.

Into the cold.

Into the darkness.

No. Be real. Suzie told herself.

Pencil dive.

Pockets full of rocks.

A violent struggle.

Water pouring in through every crevice of her body.

Filling her lungs and stomach.

Possible last minute of regret.

Then… fade away.

Dangling in the cold. In the darkness. Her corpse gently being pushed one way or the other by the current.

Friends would cry. The family would cry. They’d blame themselves without realizing that the person who should be blamed the most was already gone.

And at that moment, Beelzebub appeared before Suzie in the most unnerving way that’d he would ever appear before her in her life.

From the distance, a familiar head slowly poked above the surface of the calm lake.

Beelzebub slowly ascended until he stood on the surface of the lake and stared at Suzie from afar.

He then took his steps towards her and for the first time, Suzie found herself being startled and nervous to see the Devil. She looked behind her at her friends and chaperone in a gregarious clamor. They had no idea that the Lord of the Flies had appeared. She knew they’d be of no help.

By the time she looked back, Beelzebub already stood before her with a stern look that she had never seen him with. But the dock was higher than the surface of the lake, so the Devil glared upwards at the young teen.

“Well, this just isn’t that menacing is it?” Beelzebub said. He climbed up to the dock and stood over Suzie.

“That’s better,” the Devil remarked.

“Hey,” the teen greeted her visitor.

“Hey,” the Devil replied.

“I didn’t call for you, y’know?” Suzie remarked.

“Your precious heart that wants to kill itself did,” the Devil didn’t sound much concerned.

“My heart, huh?” Suzie didn’t seem too impressed neither. “I have to be some special kind of a fuck-up if my crying, bleeding heart calls out to you instead of the other guy.”

“Well, gee, sorry for being a good friend and being there for you in your time of need. You were a lot cuter and more appreciative when you were younger.”

The Devil looked over to the campsite. Girls and women laughing. Telling stories. Eating snacks.

“Why can’t you just go there and enjoy yourself?” The Devil asked.

The girl did not answer.

“You were so happy… during this trip. Weren’t ya?” The Devil looked at Suzie who was still staring off to the lake with disinterest.

“I was,” Suzie finally replied. “And I think I am. Happy.

“But?”

“But what? I can breathe. I’m healthy. I’m with friends. My mom and pop have their issues but I know others have it worse. I should be goddamn happy. I’d be an ungrateful bitch not to be happy. I know that, okay? I know that. I’m so fucking happy.”

“…But?”

“….It’s as if… as if…” Suzie grew more and more agitated. These questions. Her feelings. Her lack of a better answer. The shame of admitting these answers. The embarrassment. “None of this is real? It’s all fading? And I’m just… never going to be able to hold on to anything. And I don’t… I don’t want tomorrow to come because it has to all start over again… and no matter what happens I’ll feel the same. Like something’s broken. Like I’m not good enough for anything. And I can’t get better. I want to be better but I can’t. And I’m so tired of it. I can’t even appreciate… appreciate that I’m out here. I’m just going to mess it all up somehow. I am messing it up.”

Suzie held her tongue. She was rambling. She felt silly. She felt trivial. She didn’t deserve to complain or feel bad.

Beelzebub to let silence come over them. Let them soak in what was said and what they were feeling.

“You thought about getting a shrink?” The Devil carefully asked.

“No. I just feel weird talking to some stranger about my problems. Like shit, you only care because I’m paying you.”

“Well there’s another way,” The Devil smirked.

“…My soul for the cure?”

“…Yeah,” The Devil seemed a bit embarrassed that Suzie stole his punchline.

“Does it work?”

“I wouldn’t offer if I didn’t think it was some sort of a solution.”

Suzie stared at the Devil for a little while and turned back towards the lake.

“Look, I know this beast better than you’ll ever know. It’ll only get worse,” Beelzebub began to make his case. “You’ll feel like you’re always running from your own shadow. And when you stand still it’ll be larger than you remember. You’ll have moments when you forget but those are the moments you’ll realize later just how sick you really are. Hopelessness.”

Suzie buried her face into her arms.

“You’re going to live your life feeling like you’re always just head above water. I’m the guy on the boat. But for me to give you my hand. To throw you the life jacket, I need something from you. I can’t help you without that.”

“…I believe you,” Suzie replied without looking up.

“But?”

“But.”

“You know,” Beelzebub felt flustered. What couldn’t she understand?

“At the end of the day who’s been there for you? When you felt like no one could hear those screams inside, when no one could tell that you were messed up. When you’ve felt alone, rejected, and unheard. Who was there for you?”

“You”

But?!”

“But, you’re you. You’re the devil. You want my soul. That’s what you do.”

“Because I want you to be with me. I want you to be part of what I’m building.”

“And I don’t want to give it,” Suzie finally looked up. “Isn’t this fine the way it is?”

“And what is this, exactly? You don’t think I’m like a shrink? Just coming for your soul? Except I can actually help you.”

“Do you love me?” Suzie stared into the Devil’s eyes.

“What?”

They stared in silence.

“Let’s not get gross, kiddo, alright?” This isn’t… that. Don’t get full of yourself.”

Suzie still stared in silence.

I wasn’t. She mouthed.

“I’m just asking. Do you love me?” She spoke.

“I love more of you than any of you will ever realize,” Beelzebub answered.

“You’re not my shrink. Far as I know our sessions have been free,” Suzie smiled. “I’ve already said no. Or maybe I’m fucking pathetic. I don’t know. But I like you as a friend. Friends tied by odd circumstances. You’ll always want my soul and I’ll always say no. Though the temptations there somewhere. Because this sucks.”

“Life?”

“Knowing that there’s something wrong with me and not being able to do anything about it. That I am the way I am.”

It was a question Beelzebub often pondered. She was the way she was. He was the way he was. But why?

“Is there a God?” Suzie asked.

“Who knows,” Beelzebub answered. It was not a question he could answer. Some of his brothers would tell her “no” or “yes”. Whichever they determined would help the case. But Beelzebub, without truly understanding why, believed his answer to be the correct one.

“If you’re real, He must be as well, right? I hope? For humanity’s sake?”

“That is being hopeful,” Beelzebub gave a sly smile. “Believing that there must be another side to this coin. What if this is it? What if I’m all you get? What’s worse?”

“Must be lonely for you,” Suzie said empathetically.

What?”

“At least, we get to believe. Hope. But you already know. Whether there is or isn’t. Either way, I’d feel like that’d be more lonely. More hopeless. Helpless. I don’t know. Maybe that’s why you come to see me.”

“You really were a better company when you were younger,” Beelzebub chuckled as he pulled out a cigar from thin air. Already cut and lit.

“Then stop coming to see me then.”

Beelzebub took a drag of his cigar and released the smoke into the twilight horizon.

“…can I try?” Suzie asked.

“You’re too poor for this,” Beelzebub answered.

“Suzie?”

“Yeah?” Suzie darted her head around to see her friend.

“We’re making s’mores and we were getting worried. Come join us?”

“Yeah! Sorry!” Suzie quickly looked around to see that the Devil was already gone.

Suzie and her friend chattered and walked back towards the camp as if nothing had happened. As if she had felt nothing. And when she looked back, all there was the empty dock and the beautiful scenery.

No Devil.

She won’t ask him to come back soon or that she’ll miss him.

They were what they were.

∗∗∗

 

Usually, when Beelzebub entered his bar in Hell, it tended to be a bit more cheery. Nods from patrons here and there, some hellos, some flirtations, and sometimes even cheers on more festive nights.

But only choking stillness awaited him this evening.

The bar was full but silent.

Patrons spoke only in sparse whispers.

Obviously uncomfortable, but none willing to be the first to leave. Or at least, none willing to seem like they were eager to leave.

They all glanced at Beelzebub with a spark of hope in their eyes. Pleading eyes that cried,

‘Help.’

And then they quickly turned their heads to their own crowds. Afraid that they would offend that one patron in the bar.

That one patron sat alone by the barside. Eating his order of liver and pomegranate with few flatbreads on the side. He had brought his own bottle of wine and offered some to the barkeep, Binkle, who graciously took the drink.

Beelzebub knew it wasn’t Michael. He knew soon as he opened the doors that there were only two beings that could unnerve the denizens of Hell to such extent and make the Lord of the Flies so tense.

Brother,” Beelzebub carefully called out as he walked over to the patron.

The Brother once had a name.

A beautiful name bestowed upon him by his father.

But it was a name that’s been long forsaken. Only used to recite the Brother’s wrath.

“It’s gotten better,” the Brother spoke of his meal without looking up. “New cook?”

“No,” Beelzebub answered. “Same cook. He’s just gotten better.”

“Always better for the people you already have to improve than to hire new,” Brother cut and ate a generous bite of the liver. He then took a bite of the flatbread. Then took a sip of his wine.

“The bread could be the next thing to improve,” the Brother commented.

“Is that why you’re here? To be Hell’s Duncan Hines?” Beelzebub was irked by Brother’s presence but was careful to not let his emotions slip. And even more careful in choosing his words and attitude. He always thought it was better to not treat his brother with not an overt reverence that may be perceived as sycophancy, rather, simply seem respectful with gentle show hostility.

The Brother smiled.

 

“You’ve been going to the mortal realm,” Brother still didn’t bother to look at Beelzebub. Still focused solely on his meal.

“Yeah.”

“To see a girl?”

“Yep.”

“Is it love? Lust?” The Brother said the latter with subtle, but violent disdain.

Neither.”

“Good.”

The Brother didn’t question Beelzebub. He knew that Beelzebub and his other brothers were far too wise to lie to him.

There the two sat, along with the rest of the patrons, in uncomfortable silence. Beelzebub declined a drink from Binkle. Only the Brother’s knife clanking against the plate as he cut the liver disturbed the silence.

“What is eternity without purpose?” The Brother finally spoke as he finished the last morsel of food on his plate. “What is eternity without passion?”

Beelzebub knew better than to answer one of these sorts of questions by Brother. The question was simply an invitation for a dramatic silence. A theatrical imposition rather than a thinking exercise.

“An eternity without purpose is being lost,” The Brother carefully placed the utensils onto the near immaculate plate. Neatly folded his napkin, placed it on the table, and then poured himself another glass of his wine.

“And an eternity without passion is being just a function. A perpetual, endless function.”

“And what are we trying to get at here?” Beelzebub asked with a slight snap.

“It’s embarrassing but I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole thing. For a long, long time. Why we are the way we are. Why they are the way they are. We’re at least made with purpose but what are they? And why were all of us made to be able to question our purpose? He trusted all of us so much. And yet I, his favorite, rebelled. I wanted to prove him wrong.”

“I thought it was to show him that we’re fine without his rules. His demands. That we can make a world for ourselves,” Beelzebub waved Binkle over as a way of ensuring of safe passage to pick up the plates and the utensils.

“That’s part of it. That in and of itself, I thought, made Him obsolete.  I wanted to show him that he had made a mistake. The power to choose was unnecessary and perverse. I wanted to show him, ‘I am what you made of me. Happy now?’ In fact, I even had a chance to ask him that exact question before… all this.”

“What did he say to that?” Beelzebub remembered the fall. The war. It was imagined by humans to be of some sort of an actual war. In reality, they all simply left His presence. There was no bloodshed but only grievance by their brothers and sisters.

“He said, ‘You’re what you chose to be and you’ll be what you choose to be’,” the Brother scoffed. “I wonder what he thinks by what they choose to be. Rapists. Murderers. Incestuous perverts. And of those who despise Him with all of their hearts. That’s what they choose to be, father. Who is He to judge them when He’s the one who set them free? So I decided to give them a place. Here. They don’t have to live under a tyranny they can’t understand, governed by a being they don’t want to understand. Let them be, who they choose to be. What He always wanted. Everyone just doing whatever they want. Trying to make sense of choices. Trying to figure out their purpose. Trying to find their passion. Doing. Whatever. They. Want.”

“Even kill themselves,” Beelzebub chuckled.

“Or save them. Look at you. I’ve always meant us to show the ugliness of the humans to let them relish in it… but you…  you don’t want any of the humans to actually understand suffering. The absence of God. The cruel reality of having choices. To understand why they need to come here. To be free. You didn’t want that girl to kill herself.”

“There are better ways to spend a life. Better ways she can get here. The suicide bunch tends to regret and leave if they ever find that things could have been different. They’re not understanding anything. They just want the things to end. They don’t like it the way it is. So they just want it to end. They’re just trapped and they want out.”

The Brother leaned in closer than Beelzebub was comfortable with.

“But what if I wanted her dead right then and there? Get her here and then sort it out.”

Beelzebub took a moment to search for his answer. But there was only one answer.

“I’d imagine you have the power to make any of us here do whatever you want,” the Lord of the Flies spoke frankly. “We’re mere insects compared to you.”

“And what would be the point of having any of you around if I were to do that,” the Lightbringer answered as he snickered.

Beelzebub gave the Brother a look.

“I know. I know. But I’m not Him. I’m not all-powerful, all-knowing being,” the Broher let out a big sigh. “Who gives a shit. Now… now… I’m so tired. I don’t know how He can keep this up. Or maybe He just doesn’t give a shit either. And I don’t give a shit what you’re doing Beelzebub. I just wanted you to know that. That’s why I came today. You don’t have my blessings with whatever you’re doing, but I frankly don’t care. I just want to have a nice meal. A nice drink or two. And maybe drive out somewhere to stare at the full moon as my dessert. That’s what’s on my mind.”

The Brother looked deeply into Beelzebub’s eyes.

“You know your purpose. Maybe you’ve found your passion. Who am I to get in your way? But looking at you. I admit I do feel lost about myself,” the Brother didn’t take his eyes off of Beelzebub. “So you have my blessings to do whatever the fuck you want.”

Beelzebub waved Binkle over. An odd sense of liberation washed through him.

“You want your drink?” Binkle asked.

“Vodka—” Beelzebub answered.

“Why?” the Brother interjected. “Is my drink not good enough for you?”

“Just bring me a wine glass.”

 



 

The overdue Part 3.

I think this is the part that had the most correct… soul *ba-dum-tss* and tone of the story.

There’s a lot of ideas here that could use some incubation time to properly develop and hatch. If I were to go through the editing and the rewrite process for this short story, this is the part that’d I’d look over first.

It was always planned to make the story mature as Suzie matures. To make the ideas, the odd philosophies, and the tone fit Suzie’s age. But there still has to be some sort of a deft and recognizable uniformity that carriers from section to section of the story.

I think the contrast is clear when comparing this part with Part 1. The story originally began as sort of a comedic short from a goofy idea I had while working other projects. The first part is really clear of that. But as the idea developed, it became something else.

And this is why editing and rewrites are important to a story. Because sometimes it’s hard to predict or plan how a story may develop or what new ideas, insights, and outlook you may get for your story.

Anyways. Sorry for the delay & thanks for reading!

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The Delay

Part 3 of The Devil & Me will be posted tomorrow. It’s been brewing for a little while and took a lot longer than I planned.

As mentioned before, there was only an outline of where the story would go after the first couple of parts. Even without the editing process and what not, this project turned out to be a bigger task to complete than I expected… for not fun reasons.

Part 3 is probably the closest to the correct voice for this short story and I’m at least happy about that. I’ll probably discuss in the future how much the story changed from its conception, the first part, and to its conclusion.

It’s interesting to see how a story can change and The Devil & Me is a demonstration of why editing is golden and why stepping away from your work and approaching it with fresh mind and eyes will probably do it more good than harm.

Unfortunately, it’s been a chaotic month with a lot of unexpected things occurring and I couldn’t justify giving this project and other blog posts more time than I was already giving it. I’m also trying to finish my next novel as well on the side.

I’ll get better at juggling it all but it seems the next month is looking a bit hectic as well. But I’ll figure something out.

Anyways. This is just how things go sometimes but I do apologize to those who’ve been waiting.

Short Story: The Devil & Me (Part 2)

10 Years & 7 months Old

O’ Where art thou, my lord?

My king. My savior. My hope.

I’ve asked and received not.

I’ve sought and found not.

And I’ve knocked and still find myself trapped in this rot.

Or was the fly the answer for what I’ve been asking.

The savior that I’ve been seeking.

The angel that you’ve sent to hark my knocking.

Am I supposed to know my lord of your words in silence?

Or am I supposed to find faith in his words that answered?

It was a little something written by Suzie Lee and it was meant to be for her eyes only. But Beelzebub decided to take it off her hands and read it as Suzie watched from her bed.

“I know it’s a mish-mash of Shakespeare and something you probably heard somewhere on TV and church—but not bad. Not bad for a ten-year-old” Beelzebub remarked. “But ‘Hark‘? Is that word being used correctly here?”

Suzie shrugged.

It had been a long while since she had seen Beelzebub. To the devil’s surprise, the girl only seemed a bit startled when he appeared from the corner of her room.

Beelzebub thought the room was quite an ordinary room for a ten-year-old girl who summoned the devil. Books, dolls, a desk, and a bed. The walls were painted pink.

“How you doing, kid? Been a while.” Beelzebub sat by Suzie on the bed. “That’s mean. I know you’re not all sunshines right now, otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.”

From the living room below, there was a gentle rumble of noise that’d come and go as if it was the palpitations of the house. Every once in a while either a male or a female voice would shred through the rumble and you’d be able to make out a word or two. And sometimes, both would scream and stomp and Suzie would get embarrassed that perhaps she wasn’t alone as she felt and others would find out. Or maybe they already knew.

“Why didn’t you come back since then? People didn’t believe me,” Suzie asked with a little trace of sorrow.

“Are you mad?” Beelzebub asked playfully. “You know people would literally kill to have me show up. And look at you. Not a drop of blood on you. No goats. No lambs. No virgins. Nada. I should be the one that’s mad!”

“No, I’m not mad,” Suzie answered with a smile. The devil smiled back.

“I figured you were probably busy. Probably doing some important stuff.”

“And I was,” Beelzebub walked by the room’s door.

Suzie’s mom raised her voice. Then the dad raised his even higher.

“Do they ever just go at it?” Beelzebub asked.

“You… are not an angel are you?” Suzie carefully asked. “What’s your name?”

“I’m an angel,” Beelzebub answered. Suzie’s eyes widened. “Though not the kind that you may mean. Name’s Beelzebub.”

“They do. They used to hide it before,” Suzie decided to answer the devil’s after all though she seemed a little confused by what Beelzebub meant. “Can I call you Beezy?”

No. No you may not,” Beelzebub replied.

“Why?” Suzie asked.

Beelzebub chose not to answer.

An awkward silence wafted across the room.

“I feel like I started it,” Suzie finally confessed.

“Why?”

“I said something. They started arguing. And then mom said something about this is why I lie about you. And I said you were real. Then they started fighting.”

“Ah,” Beelzebub made his way back to Suzie’s bed and sat next to her once again.

“I didn’t even get to finish my lasagna,” Suzie buried her face into her knees.

“So, that’s why you called for me?” Beelzebub’s eyes lit up a bit. “Not the lasagna but because of your parents?”

The child didn’t answer.

“Well, I’m flattered that you’ve thought of me but just so we’re clear. I’m not working for Him,” Beelzebub pointed up. “Whatever you and I decide to do—it’ll be between just you and I.”

“I see,” Suzie’s eyes were moist and left spots on her pants.

“Promise your soul and I’ll make sure your parents stay together,” Beelzebub stood and offered his hand with a grin.

Suzie stared at the devil in silence. Contemplating his offer. The moment lasted long enough for Beelzebub to feel a bit awkward.

“No,” the girl finally answered.

No?”

“No. I think it’ll be better for them if they just got divorced,” Suzie wiped away her tears. “It’ll make me sad and I’ll miss having them both very much but it’s what’s best. That’s not why I called you anyway.”

“So what did you call me for then?” Beelzebub sat back down again.

“I just wanted to see again that you were real,” Suzie paused. “And…”

“And?”

“And I didn’t want to be alone.”

Tears begin to flow down Suzie’s face again. There was a period of time after her infancy where Suzie refused to cry. Even as a child she felt embarrassed and, without being able to form the words for it, Suzie felt like it was a sign of weakness.

Even when she had sand kicked in her face.

Even when she saw her little crush hold hands with another girl.

Or even when her mom and dad said something mean—Suzie refused to cry.

But as she grew older, Suzie found crying easier and more natural. There were more things to cry about than when she was younger. Reasons that she’d never have imagined as a child and types of pain that life can dish out that a young child couldn’t have known.

Life became more complicated and painful as she learned to interpret it. A baby mumbles. A child speaks. An adult expresses. All came at a cost.

But to her credit, crying would be a rare and private affair for Suzie for the rest of her life.

“Is that going to cost me my soul?” Suzie asked.

“Not today,” Beelzebub conceded.

“Well,” Beelzebub thought for a moment. “Unless you want to give me your soul for the lasagna?”

“No,” Suzie giggled. “Why do you want my soul anyway?”

“More the merrier at my kingdom.”

“At Hell?”

“Hell’s got a pretty bad PR but it’s not what you think,” Beelzebub rubbed Suzie’s head.

“Uh huh,” Suzie brushed away the devil’s hand.

“Why don’t I just tell you a bedtime story so you can fall asleep and I can be on my way.”

“Okay,” Suzie made her way underneath her blanket.

“I’m going to tell you about…” Beelzebub thought carefully about what would be a good bedtime story for a young girl. “…Ghengis Khan. He was fun. Wait till I tell you about what he did with babies.”

“Okay,” Suzie seemed gleeful.

“Hey, Beelzebub?”

“Yeah?”

“What’s a PR?”

∗∗∗

 

About three years ago, Michael the Archangel visited Beelzebub’s bar in Hell called The Center after the devil visited the mortal realm to meet Suzie for the first time.

“Brother,” Michael spoke with heavenly grace and paternal stern. “We need to talk.”

“No,” Beelzebub sipped on his drink. “No, we really don’t.”

Other patrons of the bar slowly excused themselves as the gold-haired archangel stared down Beelzebub.

“You know the rules, brother mine,” A seat next to Beelzebub was open but Michael chose to stand. “And you’ve broken them. Why?”

“You see,” Beelzebub clicked his tongue. “You see, Mikey, I don’t relly need to tell you a goddamn thing.”

Michael cringed at Beelzebub taking the Father’s name in vain.

“You have a problem? He has a problem?” Beelzebub walked over to Michael. The devil took a moment to take in the archangel’s anachronistic white robe before grabbing Michael’s hand and folding the archangel’s fingers into a fist.

“Kill me,” Beelzebub said as he placed his forehead on the archangel’s knuckles. “Do it.”

“Don’t be childish, brother,” Archangel lowered his hand.

Beelzebub chuckled. He gave nervous Binkle a look and sat back down. He sipped on his drink and stared at the TV.

The archangel stood and waited for the devil.

“Y’know,” Beelzebub remained focused on the TV. “Your brothers down here and I often wonder why you and Father let us live. Do you even know?”

“I follow His will. I trust that He knows best,” Michael answered.

“So you want to kill us?”

“No, brother. I have no malice in my heart for you and the others. Only pity.”

Pity,” Beelzebub scoffed and downed his drink. He waved Binkle at for another who glanced at the archangel as he served his master a vodka tonic.

“Get him a juice box or something,” Beelzebub told Binkle.

“You…” Binkle cleared his throat. “…You want a juice box?”

Michael stared Binkle for a moment. Binkle wasn’t sure if his heart had stopped for a moment because of the sheer beauty of the archangel or the fearsome power he posed.

“Yes,” Michael answered. “Do you have the Berry Blast?”

“…Do you have money?” Binkle asked.

“Do you think he has money?” Beelzebub snapped. “Does that robe look like it has pockets? Just put it on my tab.”

Binkle came around the bar and gave the archangel his juice box with the bendy straw. The archangel still refused to sit.

“What is it that you want to do for the girl, Beelzebub? For the humans?” Michael asked after a sip.

“I ANSWER THEM,” Beelzebub finally turned away from the TV. “I. Answer. Their. Prayers. What do you do? When was the last time you were there for them, Michael?”

“It’s not our position to interfere,” Michael placed the juice box on the bar table. “It is against what’s best for them.”

“What’s best for them? Okay,” Beelzebub stood and faced the archangel again. “What do you know what’s best for them? Whatever He told you was best for them? Where were you when a kid prayed for his mother to be saved as he watched her being beaten, raped and then chopped off limb by limb? Where were you when the parents are crying for His grace as their baby dies? Where–”

“Do NOT question my love for them brother!” Michael interrupted the devil. “DO NOT THINK FOR A SECOND THAT I DO NOT FEEL THE PAIN FOR THEIR SUFFERING!”

“THEN TELL ME WHAT’S WRONG WITH THEM BEING HAPPY!”

By now, the bar was empty. There was only Binkle, Beelzebub, and Michael. Binkle slowly descended below the bar table and held his knees tight and hoped that he’d make it through the day.

“Why can’t they just live happy lives? Why can’t we just help them have happy lives? What’s the point? Why all this? Isn’t being happy enough? Suffering will happen anyway so why not let them be as happy as they can be?” Beelzebub asked after what Binkle thought was too long of a silence.

“The meaning of their lives isn’t happiness,” Michael answered. “Life isn’t about being happy. You’ve never understood that Beelzebub.”

“Or I understand fine and you and Him are just wrong,” After a short staring contest, Beelzebub sat backdown.

“Humans,” Beelzebub grabbed a nacho that Binkle had prepared for him earlier. “I don’t think even he knows what he has spawned.”

“Hold your tongue brother.”

“I AM THE PROOF OF HIS FLAWS,” Beelzebub threw the basket of nachos. “Otherwise, why am I the way I am?”

“Or you’re part of his plans,” Michael calmly replied.

Jesus,” Beelzebub spat and switched his attention back to the TV. “We are the ones who can provide salvation to His slaves. All of us here are proof that something was wrong with His plans. We’re here because we want to show Him that we don’t need someone like Him. We choose to be free. Even if the cost is losing Him.”

There was no point in talking to the devil. Their conversations were echoes from the many similar conversations of the past.

“Answer me, Beelzebub,” Michael said as he headed for the exit. “What is love to you?”

“What is love?” Beelzebub didn’t turn to look at his angelic brother even as he left. “You tell me.”

“Something beyond happiness. Something beyond the present.”

The door closed behind the archangel.

The devil sipped on his drink as he turned up the volume of the TV.

His bartender placed in front of him some olives

There would be no other customers that evening.

Last drinks were served.

The TV turned off.

And the two retired quietly into the night.



 

Re-reading Part 2 to post on the blog reminded me why I ultimately didn’t push forward with this project when I was working on it.

While I’ll save all of my comments until the end for those who may be enjoying it so far, a short answer is a sort of a writer’s block that I got distracted away from when I had other projects come up.

And just for the record, these are un-edited so it might be rough in some parts and probably would have benefited quite a bit from going through the refinery i.e. an editor as all writing stuff tends to do.

Thanks for reading!

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Short Story: The Devil & Me (Part 1)

7 Years & 3 Months Old

Screaming children.

The little war drums of their tiny stomps pounding the grass and sand.

It’s a celebration of freedom. Liberation after hours of being trapped in school.

But for Suzie Lee, recess was a time for peace and serenity. The seemingly endless green of the playground fields, the labyrinthine of the big toys, and all the possibilities that a ball and a few friends could provide meant little to the young girl. Even all of the staff and other children would know exactly where to find Suzie each and every recess. Regardless of whether or not they knew her name, everyone in the school has heard of the girl who’d always spend her time at the sandbox by the jungle gym. The girl who was always huddled over drawing or building things with the sand.

The small girl, petite even for her age, had her black hair always tied into pigtails as she stared into the grains of sand. It was as if the sands were the cosmos and it was her job to arrange the stardust.

And it was Charles Bogart’s job to kick some of that stardust onto Suzie’s face.

Suzie coughed violently as she rubbed away the sand from her eyes. The special art drawn into the sand all but gone.

“Charles Bogart!” Suzie yelled but didn’t cry. Suzie never cried.

Charles laughed. His chubby cheeks turning red with his bucktooth revealed for the world to see.

“I hope the devil gets you!” Suzie tried to chase after Charles but tripped.

Her wishful omen was obviously a fair and just judgment for getting sand kicked on your face.

Charles ignored Suzie curse and fled with a wide smile stretched across his face. But he didn’t get far until a sight stopped him dead in his tracks and turned the smile, upside-down.

∗∗∗

“So you just showed up?” Binkle asked with an amused astonishment. He poured Beelzebub his vodka on the rocks.

“Yep,” Beelzebub answered as he squirted lime into his drink. He then drowned the carcass and stirred.

“Just like that? Poof?”

“Yeah,” Beelzebub sipped on his drink.

There’s a bar in Hell.

Well, there are many bars in Hell but there’s a particular bar in Hell known as The Center for being at the center of Hell. Which made little sense, as Hell was boundless and endless. The infinite plane for those who wanted to live away from God—either by choice or as punishment—and now lived under the mercy of the fallen angels: the princes of hell, i.e., the Devil. Or the devil[s] though the brothers didn’t mind sharing the title.

Anyways.

After an odd bet with even odder wages, Beelzebub had won against his six brothers and named the bar The Center and effectively made his portion of Hell, the center of Hell.

It did well for business.

Yes, people still had to work in Hell and pay their taxes to the princes.

Binkle was the master of the bar and the personal bartender for Beelzebub. While he was alive, Binkle was a comedian. His jokes impressed Beelzebub and his brothers enough that he was able to land the relatively cushy job of being the Beelzebub’s bartender. Though he was once fully human, the princes added bits and pieces to the comedian to their personal amusement. As of now, Binkle had seven nipples (one inside his ear), a hairy rat tail, and taste buds on his anus. The last bit was added by Asmodeus, one of Beelzebub’s brothers, and it was an addition Binkle was still unaware of. And, of course, the name Binkle which Belphegor, with his great sense of humor, had given the comedian. His real name was long forgotten.

“My mouth tastes funny,” Binkle smacked his lips. “It’s been like this all day. Your brother was here earlier, by the way.”

“Did he pay his tab?” Beelzebub sipped on his drink

“Well, he grumbled when I asked him of it,” Binkle prepped some finger foods for the devil then grabbed a mouthwash.

“Well that didn’t help,” Binkle said after a gargle and a spit. “So what made you do that?”

“Do what?” Beelzebub shook his empty glass in the air. Binkle relieved him of it as he handed him another.

“You know. Show up? When the girl summoned?” Binkle pushed a basket of fresh nachos to Beelzebub.

“Just felt like it. I mean, why not,” Beelzebub enjoyed Binkle’s skills as a bar chef.

“Something about the girl just beckoned me over. I don’t know. Maybe I was bored.”

“Did you just show up like that?”

Beelzebub was currently dressed in a way that a Beverly Hills yuppie would dress to look casual. Sports coat, t-shirt of a rock band they’ve barely heard the name of, darkened jeans, and shades.

“No, went with the classic,” Beelzebub turned into a hideous form that’d convince denizens of hell that there wasn’t a God.

“Wow,” Binkle said. “That kid’s going to need therapy.

In fact, Charles was in therapy until his senior year of high school. No one believed that he had seen a monster. As no one should. Everyone believed he was crazy. As one should when a child starts screaming and crying that he’s seen a monster and that everyone else can go to hell for not believing him. Once his parents could no longer afford his therapy, Charles turned to drugs and delved into cults that even Beezlebub’s brother Mammon found to be a senseless waste of goats. Eventually, after an emotional breakthrough with his friends and family, Charles decided to go to a dime-a-dozen art school that the same friends and family couldn’t convince him out of after they recently had such an emotional breakthrough. His obsession with flies didn’t win him many fans nor jobs. So after graduation, Charles worked through various fast food restaurants until he became a manager of one. Where he tried to swat a fly since by this point he grew an insatiable hatred towards them, and ended up falling face first into a deep fryer and died.

Don’t kick sand at people, kids.

“You’re other brothers are not going to not like that. And I’m not talking about the ones in hell. And by brothers I mean just one,” it took a lot of courage from Binkle to warn Beelzebub like that.

He studied carefully of the Lord of the Flies’ reaction. The Lord simply sipped on his drink, deep in thought.

“So, what now?” Binkle asked. “Are you going to try to bring her here?”

“I’m done with her. It was fun. But can’t turn a little fun into a headache,” Beelzebub said as he watched Binkle drink a shot of whiskey to get the funny taste out of his mouth with to no avail.

The heavy padded doors of the bar slammed open. A flood of light filled the bar with heaven’s glory. A heavy aura of the divine made the other patrons of the bar uncomfortable, perturbed, and annoyed.

A tall, fit man in a white robe and golden locks calmly walked toward Beelzebub.

“Brother,” the archangel spoke with a voice of grace and magnitude. “We need to talk.”



This is from a novella I was working on that I ended up putting aside when I had to work on different projects. I decided to post it on the blog and finish the story up here as well.

I don’t think it’ll end up being a novella as planned and probably will be a longer-short story.

I’ll try to post every Monday.

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a Quick Review: Avengers: Infinity War

avengers-infinity-war-et00073462-02-04-2018-09-21-43

It’s great.

Go see it.

I’ll keep the first part of this completely spoiler-free as it’s necessary for this film. It’s that integral to the experience and it’s not an experience that should be meddled with if you’re a fan of the series. However, it’s also a type of film (and perhaps speaks for my liking of it) that even any praise or criticism may sort of being a spoiler for those who truly want a genuine experience with all of its integrity intact.

I will note, however, that I have no idea how this film will be for those who haven’t watched many, if any, of the other Marvel films.

But if you have any inclination towards watching this film, stop reading, watching any reviews—such as this one—any interviews, any previews, etc., and just…

…go see it. Now.

This is probably not only my personal favorite of the Marvel films but also simply the best one yet. The writing and presentation of the film surpass the films of the past so superbly that the film may set a new standard too high for the next, inevitable, collaboration Marvel film.

I won’t be posting any pics from the film in this entry because that in and of itself would be doing a disservice to those who are thinking of seeing this film.

The tone is almost perfect with just the right balance of humor and gravity. It’s the near-perfect execution of what most of the Marvel films wanted to accomplish in the past. And it’s everything Justice League wanted to be and wished it could be.

 

pjimage9.jpg
Dark colors and frowns mean we’re serious.

 

It’s a writing marvel (no pun intended) regarding how meticulously and masterfully the writers wove together all the different characters and narratives.

The film is visually stunning and audacious. There are moments where you feel like you’re completely watching a different genre of film. There hasn’t been a Marvel film yet that could inspire such visual sense of awe.

Musical scores are complex and perfectly captures the valiant but seemingly futile efforts by the heroes, the bittersweet moment of the small victories, and the most complicated emotions portrayed yet by the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

So.

If you’re a fan of Marvel films in any sense—hardcore or casual—do yourself a favor and watch this film. If you’re a fan of writing, I’d recommend watching all the Marvel films and then watching this one to truly appreciate how deftly the writers wove the tales together, bring to life the flavors of each franchise, and still make it as much of an organic movie experience as this film was.

Go buy the tickets now. It’s worth it.

avengers-infinity-war-movie

Is this the greatest film ever made or even in the Top 50?

No.

And it’s not trying to be. But Marvel has shown that it’s best at what it does and squishes any hope DC films had of having their own entity in this space.

You want humor? You got it.

You want serious? You got it.

You want dark? You got it.

You want heart? You’ll choke on it.

This may be the only Marvel film so far that I’d consider seeing again in theaters. Perhaps, on the IMAX this time around. Maybe even give 4DX ago again if there’s a version available.

[ 8.5 / 10 ]

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SPOILERS REVIEW AHEAD


We will keep it short here.

One of the best aspects of the film is obviously how the film’s narrative can be seen in two different ways. It’s the story about the Avengers and/or it’s a story also about Thanos. In fact, the movie begins with Thanos and ends with him.

It’s a bold and creative way of establishing a villain that’s been only hinted throughout all the previous films over the years. Arguably, he’s earned the space of having his own film given the presence he’s had looming in the shadows of all the films in the past. He’s the most intriguing and humanized villain MCU has had yet and there are moments where the audience can genuinely connect with the Mad Titan.

My only concern going forward is that the writing has put them in such a hole that they may not be able to dig themselves out of it without some copout or cheesy solution to all these problems.

AKA most likely Magic + Time Stone. But given how impressively they accomplished a film of this magnitude, the writing team deserves our faith in them.

 

doctor-strange-1-1.jpg
“Thanos! I’ve come to bargain!” It was cheesy in his own film as well.

 

While there were other few problems I think the script had regarding forced action scenes, action scenes that didn’t make sense within the logic of the film’s universe, characters acting not like themselves but acting based on what the plot demands, and etc. But these are, ultimately, pedantic problems given what the film has accomplished.

I’ll personally be very sad to see it all end next year. I can’t imagine the next phases of Marvel Cinematic Universe having the same amount of wonder and grandiosity.

Nerd Talk

  • Alright, we understand Thanos is the Mad Titan, but why does he actually think his ideas make sense? It becomes established that he was some sort of a figure in an advanced society that people would actually listen and ostracize him for being mad (or he was that crazy homeless guy). If you suddenly take away half the population from a planet, more than likely their societies will collapse. I guess technically that’s okay with his logic?
  • How does Thanos maintain the economy of his armada? Are there no single galactic police patrol What was Thanos’ plans after succeeding? Watching the Sunsets and then doing what his army?
  • I was truly hoping to not see a post credit scene with this one. It cheapens the wholeness of the experience. Especially by the fact that the post-credit scene was a hint to the next film in the franchise, and thus, sort of taking away the feeling of encased experience of an enclosed storyline.
  • Where’s Nova or the Nova Corp?
  • So did Captain America get an upgrade? How is he strong enough to handle Thanos’s heralds? How is he strong enough to hold back Thanos with the freakin’ Infinity Gauntlet?
  • I’m a sucker for those “good guy finally showed up moments” and was absolutely giddy like a child when Cap finally showed up.
  • So did Vision get a nerf? Are we just going to accept that the weapons… uh… blocks (?) intangibility? Can’t vision download all the fighting techniques around the world? And isn’t he supposed to have enhanced strength or whatever? And the laser beams?
  • Why is opening the barrier at Wakanda and bottlenecking the swarm a good idea to prevent the alien dogs from going around them? Why can’t the dogs just run around them once they make it in? They were seeming an endless swarm. And aren’t they worried about other threats that may potentially get in? What if they’re just overrun? No one tested these dogs in a fight. Does Wakanda not afford some sort of a drone that can watch the perimeter? Have some sensors? They have forcefields on a cape for heaven’s sake. What about those future jets they had to provide cover fire? What about some tanks? Wtf Wakanda? #WakandaForever
  • Thor had the worst of them all in this film. It’s heartbreaking seeing this film shortly after viewing Thor: Ragnarok.
  • Only weeks after his lesson, Thor proved that he is indeed a God of Hammers. Or hammer-axe in this case.
  • How’re Groot’s branches so strong anyways?
  • Why didn’t Thor take out the big threats right away after he joined the fight at Wakanda? Why the hell did he think it’s alright to let the rolly-tanks go all about and the heralds fight normal human beings?
  • Okay. I know we’re taught to aim for the torso. But is there a reason why Thor didn’t really have a concern about the gauntlet? It seems like he definitely could have at least stopped the snap. Are we just all supposed to accept these heroes let their emotions get the best of them?
  • Conveniently the original Avengers surviving is convenient.
  • Also, Thanos really underutilized the Reality stone after showing us exactly how powerful that stone was.
  • The scene with Gamora’s death was surprisingly emotional and did an incredible job of allowing the audience to finally connect with Thanos a bit on a human level. Even the cruelty of his actions added to his humanity. Arguably, the humanization begins when Gamora and Thanos begin to interact.
  • I’m okay with Red Skull the Soul Stone keeper. It’s a very comic book moment.
  • The scene with Nebula’s torture is a lot more gruesome than I anticipated from these films.
  • I wonder if they’ll ever add the Sentry as a storyline for the older audience. Most likely for Netflix or something. But not sure how they could portray him without movie budget.
  • Doctor Strange’s banter with Tony Stark was worth waiting for.
  • Peter Quill was more annoying than endearing in this film. The fact that he possibly ruined (or followed) Dr. Strange’s plan was a bit infuriating as it seemed too obvious it was going to happen and felt a bit forced. We’re coerced to understand humans act very erratically when they hear their loved ones die. We get it. But I could also see Peter help to get the gauntlet off sooner to beat Thanos with it.
  • What the f— was Thanos doing for 2 years? What grand schemes? He just brute forced this whole shebang. And it becomes established in the films that he had his armada for quite a long time. The gauntlet was also made not too long before this film since it had to have happened during Ragnarok.
  • Loki’s death, while setting quite the tone for the film, felt a bit forced.
  • He’s probably coming back to life.
  • On that note, some of the jokes in the film were too on the nose.
  • Dr. Strange really underperformed the fight against Ebony Maw.
  • Dr. Strange was very anime against Thanos.
  • Thanos dropping the moon was one of the coolest scenes I’ve seen in these films.
  • Iron Man’s new suit was very anime. How far we’ve come from Iron Man 1.
  • It was really hard to keep up with the names of the Black Order.
  • I ended up just calling them heralds, to those of you who were wondering, because Thanos is basically acting as Galactus of this universe so far.
  • Finally, the film essentially broke itself when it established that portals can indeed cut off limbs.