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Showing posts from July, 2014

A review of "In the Soup" (1992)

The short bit for people who don't like to read reviews:In the Soup is an oddball mix of buddy comedy, slice-of-life drama, and film-inside-a-film meta commentary.  At times manic and at times plodding, it's most easily summed up as "a neurotic writer tries and fails to make a movie."  More accurately it plays out like a dramatization of third-rate mobsters with an indie sensibility.  I'd recommend it if you're looking for an honest and self-deprecating approach to the "suffering artist" archetype.

My Rating:  3.5 / 5

An Open Letter to My Minions

My Fellow Terrorists / Thugs / Meth Dealers / Commandos / Vaguely Ethnic Third-Rate SEAL Knockoffs,

I appreciate the effort.  I really do.

But why the hell do you keep fighting Jason Statham?

Look at him!

Things You Notice the Second Time Around

I'm making pretty good headway in my latest pass at "I Need a Job."  This is maybe my fourth or fifth go at the story in the last six months, but only the second in-depth rewrite.

One of the great things about revising the novel now (compared to the first time I went through) is that I've forgotten enough of the finer details that it's easier to notice stylistic ambiguities.  When you've recently pictured a scene in your head, you know exactly what it's supposed to look like; it won't seem strange to you that details are missing.

This, in turn, has led me to notice a few odd habits (quirks?) I seem to have when I'm writing in a hurry. I thought I'd share a couple of them in case it might be of help for any other writers out there.

Week in Review: 7/27/14

Movies I Watched in the Last Week

1) Riddick - Having not actually seen the second part of this trilogy, I do have to wonder if there's any useful exposition I missed that would have made Riddick better.  But my complaints are all in the back half where it turns into a dumb one-liner contest without any good one-liners and Riddick everybody is busy rubbing cheese graters on their buttocks to show off who has the baddest ass.  The first half is really good, though.  Lots of neat little moments where Vin Diesel is wandering around and interacting with a pretty cool alien world.

My Rating:  3 / 5

A Review of "Snowpiercer" (2014)

The blurb for people who don't like to read actual criticism:
Snowpiercer is one of the best movies I've seen so far this year and I strongly recommend it.  I can't say that it's an unqualified hit - there's definitely a lot of people who aren't going to enjoy it - but as long as you're even remotely interested in science-fiction, dystopian fiction, obvious political metaphors, and/or grim visuals, then you'll find a lot to love here.

My Rating:  5 / 5

The longer bits for people who like film discussion:

A review of "Road Games" (1981)

The short bit for people who don't like to read reviews: If you're looking for a low-budget, small-scale truck-driver-themed thriller centered principally on a single, nearly-powerless protagonist, go watch Duel.  And after you're done with that, go watch Breakdown.  But if you've already seen those and you're looking for a good third, you could do a hell of a lot worse than Road Games. It is in no way unique, but it is a well-made movie with at least three truly great scenes and one fantastic performance by Stacy Keach.  It's a quick, fun watch that's perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

My Rating:  4 / 5

Fun_Dad_82 Reviews "Red 2"

Wow!  What a movie!

Bruce Willis is a retired CIA operative.  Sign me up!  He makes lots of the jokes and has a girlfriend.  But she doesn't ruin things.  It's all okay!

In this movie, you will see him shoot many guys and the action is pretty good too.  He even flies a plain at one time!  James Bond, eat your heart out!

Dialogue Indicators

There's a time-worn gag out there about how if you want ten different opinions on the economy, you just have to put two economists in a room together.  I'm not sure of the exact wording, but the exact same sentiment applies with writers and dialogue.  (For that matter, writers any any kind of stylistic choice, but I better stay focused.)

I noticed this while making revisions to "I Need a Job."  I've received contradictory suggestions as to how to handle my characters' conversations.  One reader thought it was mostly fine the way I had it.  Another reader thought I needed to add more indicators to clarify who was speaking.  One reader suggested using "said" almost universally.  Another reader liked more active words like "exclaimed" and "marveled."  And so on.

The Internet is of no help - mainly because the people who offer advice are either parroting Stephen King or Strunk's Elements of Style or they're baselessly sprayin…

Week in Review: 7/20/14

Movies I Watched in the Last Week

1) The Raid 2 - Kind of a step down from the first one, to be honest.  I don't think the 2.5 hour runtime was justified and the plot managed to feel a bit overly convoluted - it's like they went too far in the opposite direction from the sparse storytelling of the original.  That being said, The Raid 2 still had some of the best action scenes committed to film.  Virtually every fight scene with Iko Uwais is an exploration of claustrophobia, and it's brilliant for it.

My Rating:  4 / 5

Movie Pet Peeves #5: Movie Titles That Just Name the Character and/or Their Job

Anchorman was a funny movie.  We all liked Anchorman.  But they screwed up by calling it Anchorman.  Because ever since Anchorman (which is a movie about an anchorman), comedies aren't allowed to have real titles anymore.

Neighbors is about neighbors.

Chef is about a chef.

Identity Thief is about an identity thief.

Grown Ups is about a bunch of assholes.

What happened to the time when people tried to come up with clever titles?  Or if not clever, how about something that's at least relevant to the plot or gives us a little more info?  Bad Santa is a crappy title, but at least I get that there's something special about this particular Santa.

A review of "Hell Comes to Frogtown" (1988)

The short bit for people who don't like to read reviews: If you're into cult movies, chances are good that you've already heard of Hell Comes to Frogtown. You don't really need my recommendation - the title should be enough to sell you.  If you're not the type that goes looking for dumb titles, but you're looking for some ironic fun?  I guess I could try some wacky! little blurb like, "It's got Rowdy Roddy Piper in it!  'Nuff said!  L0LZ!"  For everyone else, I'll just say that this is a fun bit of fluff with the most confused gender politics I've seen in a movie since... well, ever, I guess.  That alone is worth the price of admission.

My Rating:  3.5 / 5

The Inevitability of Terror

Transformers: Age of Extinction came out earlier this summer.

I have no desire to see it.  I've not made it a secret how much I detest Transformers 2.  And although the other entries in the franchise have not hit a low quite that far, I can't say I've enjoyed them too terribly much more.  I doubt that the addition of a few extra characters I give no shits about will make any difference this time around.

Unfortunately, my wife likes these movies.

The Fear of Turning Lame

In my rush to get "I Need a Job" published and to sort out a project pipeline to make sure I don't slack off, I keep running into the same mental block.  It usually comes up via the same offhanded comment either online or in person:

"You know, [insert famous person here] did all their best work in their twenties."
The idea that aging = crappier work is a universal one and certainly not confined to the area of creative arts.  When we think of a clueless person, who do we picture by default?  Some old guy, naturally.  It's a stereotype and can probably be disproved if I bothered to do another thirty seconds of Googling.

But there does seem to be a noticeable trend toward pablum among aging artists.  It's most obvious with actors, I think.  Consider Robert De Niro.  The guy started with The Godfather, Part II and Taxi Driver and built up steam with The Deer Hunter and Goodfellas.  But as of late you really only see De Niro in groaners like Last Vegas or Li…

Week in Review: 7/13/14

Movies I Watched in the Last Week

1) Naked Space / The Creature Wasn't Nice - This was actually not nearly as bad as I was expecting, so at least there's that, right?  To be fair, this movie had a decent share of little chuckle moments and silly gags that just barely worked.  Plus, it's a spoof movie from a time when spoofs were real things instead of just a bunch of bullshit.  Even so, this movie runs its best jokes into the ground and has a lot of dead air; probably not worth your time to look it up on Youtube.  (Unless you're young and don't understand what a "spoof" is.  In that case, consider this one a primer.)

My Rating:  2.5 / 5

The Post Wherein I Bitch About "Her"

It's been awhile since I've seen a movie that managed to raise so many interesting questions and touch on so many fascinating topics while also irritating the shit out of me.  In this way, Her is 2013's Prometheus.

I'm having a hard time pinning down the rating I want to give to this movie.  Since the acting is good and the premise is strong, I want to settle on a 3 / 5, but it really bugged me.  In fact, I'm getting kind of angry the more that I think about it. It may even be one of those movies.

So let's piss off the Internet:

My Rating: 2 / 5

Now here's the part where I bitch and moan.  I'll try to keep it under 1,000 words.  (I know you've got places to be.)

Hipster Holy Grail: Man About Dog (2004)

The Hipster Holy Grail is a weekly experiment where I try to find and review a movie that's at least 10 years old and has less than 1,000 ratings on IMDb. I always hope to discover something amazing. Sometimes I don't.  This week, I watched....

The blurb for people who don't like to read actual criticism:Man About Dog meets an incredibly specific niche.  If you're looking for a Ritchie-esque crime(ish) comedy from the UK with somebody like Brendan Gleeson, but not, and you've already run through the A list, then MAD is for you.  Unfortunately, if none of those things sound remotely appealing, then this week's entry is going to be a dud.  Maybe go try The Barbarians?  That one's fun for all types.

My Rating:  3.5 / 5

The longer bits for people who like film discussion:

Five Lessons to Learn From / Before Playing "Fiasco"

Fiasco is a great tabletop role playing game.  It's been around for a few years, but being a role playing game, I don't think it's well known outside of gamer circles.  Which is a shame, because it's incredibly easy to pick up and enjoy.

It's basically a guided improvisation course based on the works of the Coen Brothers and similarly-toned dark comedies.

The basic structure of the game goes like this: First, you roll a bunch of dice.  Then you match up the numbers on the dice with plot elements on a few numbered lists - these are things like character relationships, props, locations, etc.  After you've chosen a minimum set of elements, you and your friends gather around a table and take turns either Setting Up or Resolving a scene.  The goal is to act out a bunch of scenes until you've basically just improvised a 90-120 minute movie.

I'm skipping all of the finer mechanics of the game, but that's basically it. (If you want to see it in action, you …

Planning Ahead

Since deciding to self-publish, I've been stuck in this sort of overly-enthusiastic mindset where I feel I need to plan my entire writing career now.  It's the sort of attitude that is one part anxiousness, one part excitement, one part naivete, and one part optimism.

I suspect that if I ever do become a well-known writer, I'll look back at this past weekend and laugh as I do now with my childhood plans of becoming Indiana Jones.

In any case, I spent some time last Friday coming up with release dates for the next dozen or so books I plan to write.  Some of them are already written, but need to be revised; others are entirely untouched.  Either way, if all goes according to plan, I will have a steady publication schedule right up to my 40th birthday.

Week in Review: 7/6/14

Movies I Watched in the Last Week

1) Extracted - Did you guys see my review of Anna?  This movie is basically the same plot, only done better.  It's a low-budget production, so there's some issues with the visuals and presentation, and the script could've used quite a bit of streamlining, but even so - I thought this was a fairly compelling movie.  Good one to check out on Netflix sometime.

My Rating:  3.5 / 5

Needless to say, it's not based on my book.

Shit.  There's a movie coming out later this year called Get a Job.  It has the same premise and virtually the same title as "I Need a Job."

I'm not exactly appalled that somebody else out there is making a movie about young people seeking employment.  Young people trying to navigate the major landmarks of early adulthood?  It's like the deepest well in story-telling history.  Slacker, Clerks, Good Will Hunting, etc.  I even reviewed a movie like this just a few months ago.

But considering that I was planning on releasing "I Need a Job" later this year, this is, in my mind, a crisis.

A review of "Clownhouse" (1989)

The short bit for people who don't like to read reviews: If you're looking for a straight-forward, moody, no-frills horror movie featuring kids in peril, then you could do a hell of a lot worse than Clownhouse.  Despite its controversial reputation, it remains an effective and tight little thriller that works well in spite of (or maybe because of) its reliance on cliches and easy scares.  It's the perfect horror movie for preteens who are trying to sneak in an R-rated movie, and as long as you can ignore the gratuitous underwear scenes, cheap music, and abominable real-world tragedy behind the scenes, you may yet have a good time with it.

My Rating:  3.5 / 5

The Meaning of "Kill Your Darlings" (With a Brief Review of "The Heat")

I saw The Heat last week.  It was okay.

The movie was mostly funny, although I felt it relied a little too much on Melissa McCarthy's "angry fat woman" schtick.  (Don't get me wrong - I think McCarthy is a talented actress and a hilarious woman, but I'd like to see her play more than one note.  Or at least, if she is going to hold that note, maybe let's allow the rest of the cast to mix it up a bit.)

I enjoyed that the narrative was mainly focused on Sandra Bullock's arc, in which she is humbled by her partnership with McCarthy - a cop who is more than her match.  But there was one specific scene in this arc that shouldn't have been in the movie.  Paradoxically, it is also one of the best scenes.