Friday, August 30, 2013

The Grandmaster

PG-13 / 1 hr 48 min / Action - Biography - Drama

What is it about?

This is the story of the legendary Ip Man.  He was an influential martial arts teacher in China in the first half of the 20th century.  He is continuously billed as "The man who taught Bruce Lee Kung Fu".  The movie follows his rise, fall, and reemergence in China. 

You will like it if...

You like movies that have a bit of everything or are a fan of Woo-ping Yuen.  As expected with Woo-ping Yuen, the fight scenes are fantastic.  Normally if they used jump cuts with in close zoom, I would be very angry with the director.  In this case they mix it with slow motion to make some amazing shots.  Other directors and editors should take notes.  This is how you successfully use the quick jump cuts in fight scenes.  I still prefer the wide shots, but they did an enjoyable and artistic job with the fight scenes. The main 2 actors, Ziyi Zhang and Tony Leung Chiu Wai, both do a good job dialing up the drama.  One of the main problems with the movie is how they break it up so there is no real transition between stories.  They resort to putting text on the screen.   For those of you who are looking for a fast action movie, this is not it.  As wonderful as the fight scenes are, the rest of the movie kind of drags along as some Chinese dramas do.  The movie moves like a snail surrounded by salt hills at times.  I enjoyed the movie for what it was, but overall it's just slightly above average.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Batfleck! Crisis of the Ben!

I'm sure you all have heard by now that Ben Affleck has gotten the role as Batman in the upcoming sequel to the Man of Steel movie.  No matter how you felt about Zack Snyder's reboot on the Superman franchise, everyone seems to have an opinion of Affleck as Batman.  Most have been negative to the point where this could possibly be the apocalypse, and we should all be praying for salvation.  I can assure you that it is NOT that serious. It can always be worse.

Who can forget the Bat-nipples debacle? Clooney did not help matters.  Add in the awfulness of Ah-nold as Mr Freeze.  They really should have made him the first film version of Bane.  He would have been much better in that role.  Anyway I am not here to talk about Batman & Robin, and its many levels of horribleness.  I would much rather have it complely erased from my memmory. As I'm sure most true Batman fans would.

Clearly Affleck is not my first choice for the role either.  I thought Bale was good wearing the cape, but there was no chance he was going to reprise the role.  Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the best actors of our time. It would be interesting to see him in the role, but it's not likely for him to be in any superhero movie.  Gerard Butler would make an excellent choice, but he might overshadow the star.  Remember this is a Superman movie..  not Batman.  Josh Brolin is another name that has been thrown around.  I don't think he's so much better than Affleck that we should be protesting like this is the death of all cute puppies and kittens in the world.  He does have that squinty-eye look that would work well with the costume on. 

So why the protest?  There doesn't seem to be a candidate that would fit what they need for the role who would be a major upgrade over Affleck.  Remember that many people questioned the choice of Keaton when he was first given the role as Batman, and he has been one of the best to wear the cape.  I think we all just need to get over it.  If he completely craps the bed on this one then he deserves all the insults we can give him.  People on the internet are reacting like he already has without giving him a chance.  It's not like they gave the role to William Shatner.  That would be worth protesting!

It is all going to come down to how well they do it. If the script is well written then Snyder will make it pretty.  He is very good at making interesting and iconic shots throughout the movies he has made.  Unfortunately he hasn't always had a Gerard Butler to deliver the lines, or a script that maximizes his talent.  Superhero movies should fit his style like a glove, and we saw that with Man of Steel.  The problems with that movie mostly have to do with the script trying to do too much.  I expect the sequel to be much better with or without Affleck wearing the Dark Knight's cape.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Kick-Ass 2

Rated R / 1 hour 43 min / Action - Comedy - Crime

What is it about? 

Why hasn't anyone ever tried to become a real life superhero before? That's the question that Kick-Ass asked himself in the first installation before donning the green diving suit.  In this sequel he decides that he's bored with life without the suit, but if he's going to do it, he wants to do it right.  He seeks out Hit Girl to train him and wants to team up with other heroes that have come out of the closet wearing their mostly silly costumes. Cris D'Amico is also putting together his own supervillain crew to try to get back at Kick-Ass for killing his father.

You will like it if...

You liked the first one. Hit Girl is still awesome.  Kick-Ass is still goofy and altruistic.  The new characters are interesting, but underdeveloped.  The sequel doesn't quite hit the same chords that the original did, but it tries.  The action scenes are awesome.  All I have to say is..  Mother Russia.  If you liked the first one then you have to go see this one.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

6 Things to Think About While Writing a First Draft

It's now time to start writing the first draft of your WIP (Work In Progress).  You have your Outline and Character Sheets for each of your main characters. You have prepared for this moment, and now it's time to get to the fun stuff.  This is a list of things I think about while I am writing my first draft.

1. What does my outline say? 

Your outline should have already broken the story down into manageable bites.  This makes things quite a bit easier.  You should have a starting point, an ending point, and a short description of what happens in between all written out for you.  Now all you have to do is expand on the description and fill in the blanks. This gives you a straight line of action to follow.

2. Point of View

I have caught myself on several occaisions switching the point of view in the middle of writing a scene.  If you are writing in 3rd person then you can continue to switch back and forth.  The problem being that if you switch too much then you can confuse the reader as to whose head they are peeking into.  Be explicit.  Leave no doubt who the reader is following at any given moment.  If you leave it up to interpretation then you give your readers a chance to get it wrong.  That can cause confusion later in the book if what takes place in that scene is significant to the story.  I have a whole chapter that I am currently working on rewriting because the point of view it was originally written in made it too confusing. 

3. Tense

Inconsistencies with tense can cause all kinds of problems within the story.  It's easy to slip into writing in the past tense when you are trying to write in the present.  When you're telling a story to friends, it's usually about a past experience.  Naturally you tell it in the past tense.  It's hard to break that habit unless you continue to think about it while you are writing.  You also want to write about actions as if they are taking place as the words are being read.  In the mind of your readers those events are just now taking place.  Their imagination is creating the image in their minds as they read.  Reading a story in the past tense makes me think of reading some kind of news article.  You don't want your story to sound like the news do you? 

4. Narrator/Character Voices

How does your writing sound to you?  Stay true to the voice you set for your characters. If you just write what's going on in your head then the character will sound like you.  Don't work from your head.  Get inside your character's head and role play the scene from their point of view.  If you have a narrator watching from the outside then make them entertaining.  Unless they are trying to fall asleep, no one wants to read a monotone character.  Give them depth and make them unique!

5. It doesn't have to be perfect! 

What?! Did I really just type that?  Yes I did.  Some people like to edit and rewrite as they go.  Really it is your personal preference.  I can't do it.  I have to move on.  If I continue to edit and rewrite it will take months just to finish 1 chapter.  There's no guarantee that the early chapters won't have to be rewritten or heavily modified anyway to accommodate events in subsequent chapters.  Remember this is just your first draft.  Writing is rewriting.   The first draft for me is about playing with the characters and getting ideas down on paper.  You can always make it better in the next draft.

6. Have FUN!

Writing can be a soul crushing experience.  Sometimes you just want to give up.  When you are lacking inspiration, you just have to suck it up and force yourself to get words down.  That's the most important time to remember that this is supposed to be FUN!  If you enjoy writing it then others will enjoy reading it.  If you're not having fun then maybe you need to rework what you are doing, and figure out what will make it fun. Sometimes I will just type random craziness just to get things going.  If you notice lines in a story written by me that say "Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?" or "Dandroid, the motorized Lego Mech, is fighting Godzilla near Guam." then I need to fire my editor for letting those get through more than 3 drafts!

Friday, August 9, 2013


Rated R / 1 hr 49 min / Action - Drama - Sci Fi

What is it about?

Max is a former criminal who is just trying to live his life and stay out of trouble. Trouble seems to find him anyway.  One day while at work, and accident causes him to receive a large dose of radiation.  He only has 5 days to live.  The only thing that can save him is one of the healing machines on Elysium. Elysium is a space station that houses a colony for the government and the rich.  There is no crime or sickness there.  Max is trying to get there any way he can.

You will like it if...

You like sci fi action movies.  The special effects are amazing, and very similar to District 9.  The story is interesting and very well done.  The acting is very good.  My only complaint is that every action or fight sequence is shot with a camera that is jerking around like the operator is having a seizure.  You can't tell what is going on in more than half of the fight scenes.  You have to figure out what is going on from the grunts of the combatants, or you can wait for the camera to stop moving for a second and see who is on top at that moment.  It doesn't ruin the movie, but it does take quite a bit away from it.  Otherwise it is a fantastic film.  I would suggest you go and see it immediately if you enjoy Sci Fi.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

We're The Millers

Rated R / 1 hr 50 min  / Comedy - Crime

 What is it about?

A small time drug dealer gets robbed, and his supplier forces him to go on a drug run to Mexico.  He comes up with the idea of having a fake family similar to the Flanders family from the Simpsons. He thinks that the police won't look twice at them.  He recruits an uptight kid and a stripper that live in the same building as him along with a girl that appears to be a runaway or perhaps homeless.

You'll like it if...

You like family comedies.  Each member of the family has their issues that get resolved as the movie progresses.  I'm really surprised that they didn't re-work this one to make it PG-13.  There are some gross out scenes similar to "There's Something About Mary", but they aren't vital to the story and aren't particularly funny.  There are a lot of big laughs in this one, but the movie resembles a family drama in between those moments.  The outtakes at the ending credits are also worth sticking around for after the end. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The To Do List

Rated  R / 1 hr 44 min / Comedy - Romance

 What is it about? 

A high school valedictorian, who has always done everything right, gets booed off the stage during her speach at graduation.  She is tired of being called a "loser" because she is a virgin.  She decides to make a to do list of all of the sexual acts she wants to participate in before she goes away to college.  The only problem is that she doesn't know what most of them are.

You will like it if... 

You like teenage comedy or romance movies.  Flipped comes to mind.  I also really like Aubrey Plaza who plays the main character in the movie.  I would recommend Safety Not Guaranteed to see more of her work.  This one is more of a comedy than either of those movies, and it has some hilarious moments.  If they hadn't set this up as being a movie that takes place in the early 90's it wouldn't have worked.  Teenagers today have access to the internet and all of it's glory holes. This movie may not resonate with some, but I found it to be entertaining throughout even if only mildly so at times.