Thursday, April 28, 2016

Keanu

Rated R / 1 hr 38 min / Comedy

What is it about?

Rell just had his heart broken. His favorite flavor in the taste challenge for Lay's Potato Chips did not win, so it is being discontinued. It is the end of the world for him. Then a young kitten, against all odds ,finds him in the mean streets of wherever. He names the kitten Keanu and promises to never leave the kitten alone. He immediately goes with his friend to see a Liam Neeson movie with his best friend Clarence. When the two of them get back Keanu is gone. **Epic Darth Vader NOOOoooooo!** Now the two of them will go on a journey to find the missing kitten and free their feline friend from whatever precarious circumstances they find the cat in.

You will like it if...

You like Key & Peele and cute kittens. Keanu brings the Key & Peele brand of silly comedy to the big screen. Like their TV show skits there are some hits and misses throughout the film, but the two have an undeniable comedic chemistry that makes them watchable even when the joke falls flat. The script itself is fairly predictable like most action/comedies, but there are some nice subtle additions that I enjoyed. They made Keanu a character that helps to move the plot and has its own lines of "Meow" throughout the film. At it's best the film Keanu is cute and hilarious, but you have to be a fan of Key & Peele to enjoy it. Watch a few of their skits on YouTube. If you like that brand of comedy then Keanu is definitely your cup of tea. I love silly comedy, so I enjoyed this one for what it was.

Next Week

Godzilla has picked Captain America: Civil War, deal with it! As always the movie selection is subject to change based on what is showing here in theaters.

Upcoming to DVD on April 26

  • Joy - Jennifer Lawrence starts a business!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Death and Taxes

The old saying goes that there are two things certain in life, death and taxes. I doubt Benjamin Franklin imagined Godzilla being the bringer of death in this instance, but that won't prevent me from mentioning Godzilla... Beacause... Godzilla!

This being the dreaded deadline month for filing taxes in the United States, I don't want to retread the pain many of you had to go through this past week. Instead I want you to consider an alternative. Revenge! No I am not advocating that you go tar and feather your local tax man. I am talking about how writers get their frustrations out when life gets really crappy and there is not much you can do about it. We take it out on our characters!

Killing Characters

MWAHAHAH! You should be MWAHAHAHing with me. That is the first step in planning the death of a character, but which character are you going to kill? or you could go all Game Of Thrones on your manuscript and kill off every meaningful character there is to replace them with others. If you're not into getting a reader invested so you can take away all the characters they care about that's OK. For now let's just pick one character to kill. There are Care Bears out there and they care, so we'll settle for just one brutal bloody death.

Next you must think of the most painful way for them to go. A knife puncture to the lung causing them to choke on their own blood. Encased in a reinforced glass box with a glow stick and then buried in wet cement. Use your imagination to find the best way to torture, dismember, and ultimately kill your character. Vent all of your frustrations with your character being the representation of whatever is causing you anguish. All the stabby feelings will leave, but you will be left with a mess to clean up.

Clean Up Your Mess

I'm not just talking about a body here. I mean, if there is a body left. There is more to this than the killer trying to cover their tracks. Once I have killed a character off, I consider how the other characters feel about it and how they will cope. Losing a friend or a lover is an emotional experience. They could vow to never love another and that could cause them to become cold towards others. Perhaps the other characters all worked together so they could mix the blood with tomato to make a salsa for their nachos? Mmmm... nachos.

I also consider how that death fits within the story. Can I bring the character back like a comic book? Are there clones? Perhaps that character was a spy for the Clockwork King and they just sent vital plans for the only weapon that can stop him. Run for your lives! Oh wait..  you're the author, so you have control. What was I talking about? *wanders off leaving you to take care of the mess*

The Huntsman: Winter's War

Rated PG-13 / 1 hr 54 min / Action - Adventure - Drama

What is it about?

Back in the day there were two sisters, Anna and Elsa, who wanted to build a snowman. Wait... wrong movie, but maybe characters based off the same characters? Anyway, Anna helped Elsa release her power by using dark magics on her lover to have him eat all the gummy bears. She was furious and turned him into a popsicle. She heads north to start her own kingdom. She raises an army by stealing babies and training them to be Dougie dance instructors. With an army of them she will be as unstoppable as a T-rex with grabbers. It's never enough though and after the fall of her sister she now wants her sister's mirror.

You will like it if...

You liked Snow White and The Huntsman. This film likes its predecessor tries hard to be an epic fantasy film like the Lord Of The Rings movies, but falls short of that. Winter's War is very similar to the prior film. The strength is in its cast which is fantastic. I absolutely adore Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, and Charlize Theron. Hemsworth does his best to keep up, but the women are all more interesting characters even though he is the "star" of the film. The story is much better than the straightforward script put forth in the prior effort. In the end it is still predictable, but it does add some nice wrinkles that help with developing Chastain's character. The cinematography continues to be a strength of this series. Many people are calling this an unnecessary sequel and ripping it apart based on the prior film's failings, but I think this one is a superior effort. Yes the love angle(s) do get cheesy in spots and the film does suffer from a lot of the same weaknesses of the prior film, but I enjoyed it for what it is. It is a light bit of standard fantasy entertainment that features some of my favorite actresses.

Next Week

Godzilla has picked Keanu, deal with it! As always the movie selection is subject to change based on what is showing here in theaters.

Upcoming to DVD on April 26

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Perception

Oh Herro there! *throws rainbows at you* Today I want to talk about how the perception of things can drastically change the way things are presented and how it relates to writing fiction. The way we perceive things has an effect on everything else. It's an important part of everyday life and thus is important to writing about fictional lives as well. So let's dive in and see what we can see.

The Glass Is Half Full

Are your characters optimists or pessimists? This is an important question to ask for each character. It helps to set the tone for your world. Your voice or narrator can present things in wildly different ways. A line like "The flowers danced in the sunlight their scent reminding me of Spring" into a line like "I put sunglasses on to shield myself from the harsh rays of light, my sneezes remind me of the rampant infestation of pollen in the air". One casts a positive happy mood on things while the other sounds like something Grumpy Cat would say. Both lines could be used to describe the same thing.

Obviously the current situation will have an effect on how your characters feel at the time. Their outlook on life will still push things one way or another. Given a hopeless situation an optimistic voice will still cling to hope like a lost puppy. While a pessimistic voice will find something wrong with the least stressful of obstacles. The power of confidence and belief battles with doubt and denial all day every day. This is yet another layer that can be added to a character to make them feel realistic. Everyone has their inner doubts, but what side wins?

Set The Mood

This sets the tone for each scene, so think about what kind of scene it is. Are people going to die? Is it a jarring experience or are the heroes finally storming Captain Fluffything's evil fortress filled with death traps? That could help determine if you want to foreshadow what may happen by setting the mood going in. Even an optimistic character is not immune to the dark hue of the fact that something *might* happen.

As a writer you have the freedom to show readers that everything is not as rosy as it seems. It could be that the rose is made of glass and that glass is already cracking down the middle. All it would take is for the bad guys to touch it once and the whole thing would shatter. That would release the magic of the ancients and unlock the prison of the Undead Magna-Dragon. Then your heroes would have only 2 choices. Die while fighting valiantly, or unleash the Godzilla.

One of your characters may also have duct tape and think that will help hold the magic in. They can draw a smiley face in the middle of it as a ward against those who would try to run or say that we are all doomed. As a writer you can let that lighten the mood to act as a tension breaker or you could let the following silence hammer home the hopelessness of the situation.

Conclusion

In a world where perception is everything, a writer can work to control what that perception is to lead the reader down a path of their choosing. We have the power to set the mood based on what is happening and how the characters feel about the situation. Your voice while writing and describing things sets the tone for what is coming. It can be used to shock the reader with something unexpected or to help foreshadow the incoming event.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Criminal

Rated R / 1 hr 53 min / Action - Drama

What is it about?

A hacker known as "The Care Bear" has developed a tool to hack into the Military Industrial Complex. He has offered to sell it off to the United States in exchange for a million Pixie Stix and a Keurig. Unfortunately the CIA operative who was set to bring in "The Care Bear" slipped on a banana peel and died (wait.. Deadpool can't die!). He was the only one that knew the hacker's location. The CIA recruits Doctor Strangelove to inject Deadpool's mind into someone else's because they need to ensure the hacker tool doesn't get into the wrong hands.

You will like it if...

You like slow moving action films with older movie stars. Kevin Costner isn't the star he once was, but he does still have a bit of magic left. I feel like he is better suited to more of a supporting role than lead though. Gary Oldman should go back to playing villains, but he does a decent detective. The acting in this film made up for a lot of flaws in the script. The entire premise of a hacking tool on a thumb drive has been so overdone and makes no sense. Why would there only be 1 copy on a thumb drive? They also wrote Gary Oldman's character to be incredibly stupid. He's the guy in charge yet he makes impulsive rash decisions without a backup plan over and over again. It's not realistic at all and makes it look like the character has a chemical imbalance in his brain. The story also moves at a snail's pace as they try to use Gal Gadot as sort of a "love conquers all but not really" plot device repeatedly. In spite of all the flaws and predictability of the script Criminal still is a mildly entertaining film thanks in part to the star power of the cast. If you are interested I would wait for Netflix/Redbox.

Next Week

Godzilla will pick between The Huntsman: Winter's War or Elvis & Nixon. As always the movie selection is subject to change based on what is showing here in theaters.

Upcoming to DVD on April 19

Monday, April 11, 2016

Libertaria

Hello everyone! Instead of my usual weekly blog post I thought I would share a choose your own peril type of story that I used to love as a kid. This one is about Libertaria. You will not find Godzilla here. This is currently a very short choose your own path style story with around 3-5 decisions to make before reaching an ending. I may choose to expand or create another story based in this world in the same fashion using the choose your own path model.

Libertaria is a utopia/dystopian (depending on your viewpoint) society that has adopted the full Libertarian agenda. They believe that all regulation is evil and that the free market should be free to decide the fate of every man, woman, and child. Feel free to play around with the story as much as you like while adding comments.

Start Here

It is a nice day filled with sunshine and blue skies. Another beautiful day in Libertaria. With the fog of waking up leaving your head you realize that...

You are filthy skinkin' rich!
You live in an average home with a solid middle class income.
The smell of poop surrounds you because you are poor.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Hardcore Henry

Rated R / 1 hr 36 min / Action - Adventure - SciFi

What is it about?

You wake up with no memory in a vat of liquid. Your wife wakes you up by pulling tubes out of your chest to reveal that you have been in The Matrix the whole time. She tells you that your name is Henry. The robots have rebuilt you, and now you are like Robocop but not a cop. Your wife screws on one of your feet and it like totally does not line up with the rest of your leg. Before you get Morgan Freeman's voice installed the alarm goes off. It turns out that a crazy blonde guy is taking over. Now it's time to escape before everything explodes.

You will like it if...

You like mindless violence, first person shooter games, and vomit inducing shaky camera use. I want to warn you all going into this film that the shaky camera use in this film is more jarring than anything you have ever experienced. If you have ever experienced any motion sickness, no matter how mild, this film will trigger it. I get a mild case of motion sickness when I try to read while in a moving car. I started to get a headache 10 minutes into the film and 30 minutes in I became so physically ill that I was sweating. When I left the theater I felt better almost immediately. Going back into the theater caused the headache to return. In Doom there was an excellent sequence of first person action that was done very well and it obviously made people wonder if a full movie could be done in that style. This is the result, but it's not done anywhere close to as well as that action sequence. It's as if a preteen gamer decided to make a film like a first person shooter video game with no story while using a GoPro camera. The story would be interesting if everyone that even tried to advance the story wasn't shot immediately. I'm not even kidding. Every single time. If you can stomach the shaky camera, some of the stunts and death scenes are gruesome. Hardcore Henry could have been a highly entertaining action film, but the shaky camera is going to be too much for anyone who experiences any kind of motion sickness and the severe lack of any kind of story makes it almost completely unwatchable. This was the worst experience I have ever had at a theater and I cannot recommend this film to anyone. This film is the reason why there will be no more votes for the film that I will review from now on.

Next Week

Godzilla will pick between The Jungle Book and Criminal. As always the movie selection is subject to change based on what is showing here in theaters.

Upcoming to DVD on April 12

  • The Forest - Creepy horror film, but not all that scary.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Social Footprint

Recently I have gotten a few new followers on Twitter, so I thought I would dedicate this blog post to them. Many of them are new to Twitter, are writers like me, and have less than 500 followers. I'm not going to say that I am a social media guru or that I have all the answers. What I want to do today is share with you all some of the things that I have learned over the last couple of years since I ventured out of my cave to dabble in social media. Your social footprint is important. Take the time to get a pedicure now and then.

The Long Game

If you are working towards being a writer or author then you have to look at it as a long road to success. Chances of being one of the lucky ones who strike it big on your first effort are about as good as winning the Powerball Lottery. Most of the authors I have spoken to and are making enough money to support themselves without any other income are marketing geniuses who also have a ton of books out. The vast majority of them did not reach the point where they were making enough money to support themselves until they had 6 or 7 or maybe even 15+ novels out. Think of how long it takes to write, edit, and put together everything else it takes to build a quality novel. It could be years before you will see a significant financial return for your work.

I know that doesn't have anything  to do with social media, but it is important to follow those who have done this before you. You can learn a lot from them. They have been there, done that, and have a T-shirt so old that it has holes in it. I can't tell you how much I have learned from other authors on Twitter, Facebook, G+, etc.. People like Lindsay Buroker, Hugh Howey, Joanna Penn, and so on... or anyone else willing to share information is someone you should attach yourself to. I particularly like Lindsay Buroker and Hugh Howey. Lindsay routinely will share information on what she is doing from a marketing standpoint and if it works for her. That doesn't guarantee it will work for you, but it is a starting point. Hugh Howey along with another author known as "The Data Guy" started the Author Earnings project that has all kinds of good information.

Just remember that following these people doesn't mean they will interact with you. They have thousands upon thousands of followers who are constantly sending them messages. That doesn't mean they won't interact with you, but it is not likely to happen. One of my friends that I used to speak with regularly on twitter, Cara Brookins, had 8,000 followers when I first met her on Twitter. Now she has over 250,000. Another, Rachel Thompson, had 1,500 when I met her on Twitter and now has over 150,000. Neither of them got there overnight. I watched their social footprint grow over the past couple of years. I don't speak with either as often as I used to, but that doesn't mean I don't still root for their continued success.

Gaining Traction

The absolute best way to gain loyal followers and grow your social footprint is to get a genetically enhanced virus injected into your body to make you super irresistible. If that doesn't work then reaching out to people and interacting with them works too. One of the traits I see that works very well for people who have a large following on social media is that they reach out to people and interact with them. Unless they are super famous celebrities, then it's just because they are famous for something. They are constantly meeting new people and generally being helpful or funny.

Having that outgoing personality is so much easier on social media than in person for introverts like myself. I can have the confidence that I am saying the right thing because I have time to read it and edit as needed. I am not nearly as good when put on the spot. Still I can do much better. To be honest with you all, I haven't really tried. I tend to follow a method of following people and if they follow me back and are interacting with people then I add them to a list that I pay attention to. This is the wrong way! Bad me. Very bad me! Go sit in a corner me! *faces wall and cries*

On Twitter the best way to meet other writers or better yet people who read a lot is to use hashtags! Google writing hashtags or reading hashtags. You will find tons of them! #reading, #amwriting, #writing, #books, #bookworm, #Godzilla and on and on. Finding people talking about reading and writing is not hard. You just have to look. It's also very important to organize your contacts into lists on Twitter. It is impossible to keep up with a Twitter feed of 2,000 let alone 10,000 or 100,000. Don't try, it will only make you insane. *waves maniacally* With lists you can separate the people you follow into different categories like My Little Pony Fans, Authors Who Chat, Insane People, and Possible Loch Ness Monsters. That way if you want to discuss writing topics then you can scroll through your Authors Who Chat feed and see what they are talking about.

Writer Groups

Eventually you are going to be invited into a good writers group. I have been in a few and there was a time that I hosted one of my own. The bad news about these groups is that they tend to fizzle out. Writing is so time intensive and many authors are working a day job or they have kids to look after on top of it all. I have found that good writer groups stick together for as long as the person running them can keep them alive. It becomes a recruitment race. If they can keep fresh blood flowing into the group then the activity continues to flow. The good writer groups are genuinely helpful and have thoughtful conversations. The bad writer groups have authors spamming BUY MY BOOK over and over without any real discussion, so it's easy to tell the difference.

That doesn't mean I suggest you don't join up. I suggest that you do join these groups and make as many lasting connections as you can. When it comes time to put together a blog tour or when you need help with something, these are the people most likely to do so. You WILL need help at some point, so cultivating these relationships is important to expanding your circle of influence and strengthening your social footprint.

Eye In The Sky

Rated R / 1 hr 42 min / Drama - Thriller

What is it about?

Col. Katherine Powell has been tracking terrorists for 6 years. Today is the day she is going to make them eat peanut butter sammiches, but she will not give them any milk or anything else to drink. Her goal is to capture the infamous Dorothy along with Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man. There is no more yellow brick road for them after today! She commands the deadly "Eye In The Sky", a disembodied eye that shoots lazers. They will all be meeting in one place today, a straw house that could be blown over at any moment, so she waits and watches. The Big Bad Wolf could be paying a visit as well.

You will like it if...

You like slow tension filled dramas with a message. This film manages to be intense and frustrating at the same time. This is no small feat, but it manages this by playing into day to day frustrations we come into contact with daily. No one wants to take the blame, so instead of making a decision, people try to cover themselves and shuffle off the responsibility to others. We all know people like that. That recurring theme is something I could have lived without in this film, but it does provide some unintended humor to the story. The tension within the film is fantastic though. I've never heard so many people almost screaming "Buy The BREAD" at the screen during a film. Don't worry, it will make sense if you decide to watch Eye In The Sky and in no way spoils it. It was good to see Alan Rickman in what is one of his last roles (he voices an animated character in the upcoming Alice Through The Looking Glass). He gets as much screen time as Aaron Paul even though he doesn't get as prominent a billing. Mirren is the star of the film, rightly so, although I can't say anyone gives more than a decent performance. The tension of what happens will keep you on the edge, but some of the filler will frustrate you to no end. I have to believe that all the filler made the final cut to pad the run time to the studio sweet spot of 100 minutes. It could have easily been 80 minutes or less and that would have made it a much better film. In the end Eye In The Sky is a decent drama that satisfied more than the last 2 films I reviewed. If you like tension filled drama in a military setting then this film checks that box. If not then you might want to wait for Redbox/Netflix.

Next Week

The Boss, Hardcore Henry, Demolition, or whichever film you vote for. Vote early, vote often, vote in the comments or Godzilla will pick the movie! As always the movie selection is subject to change based on what is showing here in theaters.

Upcoming to DVD on April 5