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Showing posts from August, 2014

Week in Review: 8/31/14

Movies I Watched in the Last Week

1) Blue Jasmine - I'm normally not a huge fan of Cate Blanchett; I think she's a great actress, but I often find her cold and unsympathetic, even when she's supposed to be the warm romantic lead.  It feels like she starred in Blue Jasmine specifically to prove me wrong.  This was a great movie and she absolutely deserved the Oscar for it.

My Rating: 4 / 5

I'm an Asshole About Other People's Opinions

At one point in time I was considering posting a long, whiny rant about what I call "bandwagon criticism," but after many attempts to rewrite it, I've given up.  It turns out that I keep reaching the same conclusion: I'm kind of an asshole.

I don't mean to be.  I'd like to think that I'm growing wiser and more patient each year.  But I keep finding myself to be intolerant of certain opinions.  At times I feel like I'm singling out "the mainstream" and distancing myself from it like some snotty thirteen year-old.  What gives?

It's hard to express what I'm talking about without specifically giving myself away as a dickhead, but here's an example.  Somebody watches Artificial Intelligence for the first time.  Then a week passes and we end up talking about it.  "I loved that movie!" I'll say.  And then they'll shrug and say, "Yeah, I dunno... I think it would've been better if it ended with David looking at…

Hipster Holy Grail: City Killer (1984)

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 5,000 ratings on IMDb. I always hope to discover something amazing. Sometimes I don't.  This week, I watched....

A quick note before the review.  I didn't have a clean source to pull screencaps for my write-up this week, so almost all of the images in here have a "Movies 4 Men" logo in the upper right corner.  If that will detract from your enjoyment of a 30-year delayed review of this film, then I apologize in advance.
The Short Bit for People Who Don't Like Reading Reviews
City Killer is a movie about a villain whose camp and overacting is outmatched only by the incompetence of the police force that's out to get him.  This is not the kind of movie that you will necessarily quote for years to come, but it's sure to put a persistent dumb smile on your face.
My Rating: 4 / 5 (NBM)

A Review of "The Call" (2013)

The Short Bit for People Who Hate Reading Reviews
This movie was pretty fun for the most part, even though it gets really dumb toward the end (the last few minutes especially).  Abigail Breslin does an amazing job as always and Halle Berry's alright, too.  It's a good Sunday afternoon thriller.  If you're looking for a more entertaining movie with a similar concept, though, I'd recommend Cellular instead.  (Same level of stupidity, but way better execution.)

My Rating:  3 / 5

The Bit Where I Complain About the Internet
Before I get into my review, I have to bitch about something.  I took a peek at the Wikipedia entry for the movie and I saw this garbage:

This... this is a joke, right?

What the fuck, Internet?  "A 911 operator talks to a kidnapping victim" is such a difficult a premise to follow that it you have to call it "high concept?"  What do you consider to be "low concept," then?  The victim just looks at the camera and goes, "O…

Getting a Book Ready for Self-Publication

In keeping with the idea of this being a writer's journal - I know, I keep forgetting about that, too - this week I thought I'd bitch and moan about all the overwhelming post-production, pre-sale book stuff I'm going through right now.

Here's the story so far for people who aren't keeping up with my life*:

*You mean you aren't obsessively checking up on me?  I guess that's fair since I'm not doing likewise.  So, how's your morning so far?  Good commute?

I finished my first complete draft of "I Need a Job" about a year ago.  Ever since, I've been making revisions, sometimes major, sometimes minor.  Earlier this year I decided that it was time I hold off on submitting queries to literary agents and just self-publish the book - not because I don't think I'm good enough or because I don't have the time, but because I'm worried that if I don't keep up some momentum with this book, I'll fall into the same cycle of desp…

The Moment a Movie Turns Awful

I try not to turn movies off before they're over.  For one thing, it seems to take away your right to complain about it later - "How do you know it's no good?  You barely watched any of it!"  But more importantly, I feel like the movie could suddenly turn around and become amazing.  I'd hate to miss out.

Unfortunately, what with time being limited and me having to put up with the inconvenience of gainful employment, I have to follow my gut.  If a movie hasn't pulled me in by around 20 minutes, I have to turn it off.

This is a pretty good rule of thumb.  I think I read somewhere (probably Cracked, which means it's probably only 15% accurate) that the average human attention span is only about 20-30 minutes.  If you want to keep somebody engaged then you need to switch things up in that amount of time.  This is the reason that movies can't have scenes in the same location for too long and also why most TV shows tend to be around this length.

Hipster Holy Grail: Anna to the Infinite Power (1982)

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 5,000 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:Anna to the Infinite Power is an interesting, albeit deeply-flawed science-fiction film.  On one hand, it's rough around the edges and has some schlocky acting.  On the other hand, it's got a fair amount of depth for what is essentially a kid's movie and explores some fascinating subject matter.  With a bigger budget and a more evenly-paced script, this would have been a classic.  As it stands, I'm conflicted for a final rating.  I want to put it higher despite its flaws.  So in keeping with the film's geeky math themes, I'm giving this an incredibly precise rating equivalent to a 2.9 out of 4.

My Rating:  3.625 / 5

The longer bits for people who like…

A Review of "Bad Words"

The blurb for people who don't like to read actual criticism:
I had a great time with Bad Words.  It’s one of those rare comedies that is both unabashedly cruel, but grounded in actual sentiment.  A quick peek at Metacritic tells me that I may be on the extreme end of this opinion, but I've never let that stop me before.  Time will tell if Bad Words is as memorable and quotable as other comedies I've loved, but for now I'm happy to give it high marks.

My Rating:  5 / 5

The longer bit for people who like film discussion:

Reading Old Work

Just for the hell of it, I recently read a few chapters from a novel I wrote about ten years ago.  "Norton Is Thinking" was a college project about a kid who takes over his high school.  I complained about its ending last week, and since then it's been a bit on my mind.

Looking at something you wrote ten years ago is like having a conversation with a Pod Person.  You see traces of yourself, but it's generally off-putting, bizarre, and a bit upsetting.

There are passages that are clearly my own:  Abrupt shifts from third-person omniscient to inner monologue.  Contemplative exposition of barely-relevant details.  Low-key discussion of frustrating ideas.  The occasional angry (and possibly undeserved) outburst.

Does everything need an epic ending?

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy last weekend.  I liked it overall - I think it's one of the two best Marvel movies so far, along with the first Iron Man.  It was fun, it was snappy, it had likable characters and good banter....  Unfortunately, it also had an epic ending.

The rest of the movie - or at least, the parts that worked - is narrowly-focused on a small group of ne'er-do-wells and their misadventures together.  GotG is basically just a movie about five people(?) who are able to overcome inner conflict by working as a team.  It makes sense for them to band together for some final fight with the villain because the climactic showdown would prove that they're able to work as a unit.

What doesn't make sense, though, is to throw in a thousand other pilots and soldiers for a massive dogfight.  That's not what the movie is about.  Once you pull the focus back to a planetary scale, the characters get washed out in the scope.  Doomsday Device or no, the movie falls ap…

Hipster Holy Grail: Allotment Wives (1945)

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 5,000 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:
Allotment Wives is a movie I'm recommending more for the idea than the experience.  The movie's not actually great, but it's interesting enough to dig up for the historical interest, with a dash of speculation and wonder.

My Rating:  3 / 5

The longer bits for people who like film discussion:

A Review of "This Book Is Full of Spiders"

The blurb for people who don't like to read reviews:
This Book Is Full of Spiders, the sequel to John Dies at the End, is a 2012 horror-comedy by David Wong.  Like JDatE, it describes the misadventures of a couple of slackers as they do battle with supernatural, evil forces.  Specifically, they are up against an army of zombie-like creatures who threaten to spread a terrible infection across the world.

Overall it's a pretty fun read.  The action remains tense and exposition comes out just fast enough to keep you invested, but slow enough that you remain in the dark.  It's a mostly-excellent book that I would definitely recommend.

My Rating:  4 / 5

Researching a Story

This weekend I finally got my head back into writing my current novel, "Born Loser."  I was happy to have worked on a fairly substantial scene.  The one problem I kept having was that I couldn't tell if it was accurate enough.

The scene takes place at a famous landmark in Baltimore, which I've never actually inspected close-up.  My familiarity with it is passing at best.  The scene doesn't rely on exacting detail - it's not like the characters are going on a National Treasure styled hunt for a clue where one minor slip-up would render the adventure pointless - but since it invokes a real-world thing, I have a strong inclination to make sure I'm not writing anything that is at odds with reality.

I'm sure this is prompted by past moments of incredulity during movies, TV shows, or books where an error has taken me out of the story's momentum.  You've probably had the same experience a few times.  The characters are in a city you've been to, l…

Week in Review: 8/10/14

Movies I Watched in the Last Week

1) Dear Mr. Watterson - I love "Calvin and Hobbes" as much as the next guy, but I was really hoping this was going to be a documentary.  Instead it's just a bunch of people talking about how great Bill Watterson is.  For maybe 20 minutes they almost start to actually talk about something interesting when they get into the commercialization of art, but the rest of it is just a bunch of ass-kissing.  It's technically well-made, but if all you wanted to do was say you like "Calvin and Hobbes," couldn't you just make a 15 minute Youtube video?  I've never seen such a well-made bunch of nothing in my life.

My Rating: 2 / 5

Tales From My Shitty House: My Shitty Bathroom, Part 1

This is was my shitty bathroom.

You're seeing it here without the fixtures.  It's probably for the best, since the sink, toilet, and tub were such horror shows that I don't really want anybody to know that I had been using them.

Hipster Holy Grail: If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? (1971)

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 5,000 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: Can you really call something a movie if it's not even a full hour long?  You can if you've been on vacation and have a deadline to meet for your movie blog.

If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? is a hilariously misinformed propaganda film that is so clueless it gives new meaning to the word "misguided." This is one of those rare treasures where an artist's sincere attempt at exposing "the truth" of a topic has revealed an inner ugliness and a depth of stupidity that cannot possibly be replicated by satirists, no matter how hard we try.  In just 50 minutes, it manages to cram in more non sequiturs, logical fallacies, misplaced rage, and …

I Want To Punch This Thing

A quick unpaid endorsement of a product:  I like Puffs tissues.  They're of good quality and they're typically the least expensive option when I'm shopping for things to wipe my nose on.  So it's pretty much the only brand of tissues that we have in our house unless we find a good deal on a generic brand.

Lately Puffs has been selling these "back to school" themed tissue boxes that feature a lot of colorful little characters mixed in with school buses, pencils, apples, globes, etc.  I don't normally care a whole lot about the pattern of the tissue box itself - we buy them because, as mentioned before, the price is good and they're functional.  What does it matter what the box looks like?

Writing Ad Copy

I'm feeling confident about "I Need a Job" right now.  I think it's a solid manuscript with a lot of great jokes and I'm proud to stand by it.  Unlike a lot of my past work - which I tend to distance myself from the minute I hit the "Save" button - I want to tell everyone I meet about this one.

My next big challenge is going to be trying to convince the rest of the world to feel the same way.  The most important way to do that, from what I understand, is to write some good ad copy for the book cover.
Covers sell books.  The cover art is important, but the book description / blurb / tagline is just as crucial.  The former is something that I can't really do - I'm not much of an artist.  As proof, here's one of my recent entries in a game of Telestrations:

The Post in Which I Complain About a Crappy Character in "Riddick"

Riddick was a mediocre movie, but perhaps its biggest misstep was how badly they dropped the ball with their lady badass character, Dahl (Katee Sackhoff).

It's not too much of a surprise; lady badasses are rarely implemented well in movies.  Mainly it's because of the same problems that tend to plague all women in movies: bad dialogue, paper-thin motivation, no depth, fetishization of virtually everything they do....
Somebody could greenlight a movie about a super-heroine whose power is that she kills bad guys by vomiting owl pellets like a machine gun and Hollywood would still find a way to both frame the vomit as a sexy game and have her boyfriend save the day.