Thursday, July 31, 2014

What's new with me. What's new with you?

I've been putting off doing one of these for awhile now, mostly because things have been up in the air a bit lately, but it's just been too long, right? What am I talking about? You long time readers out there can probably guess what's coming... that's right, kids, it's time for some...


Yep. What's up with me? What's up with my writing?

For those of you who follow the Scribblerati blog, you've probably heard about how I recently broke my computer by accidentally shoving it off the edge of the table. This was a bit of a derailment as far as my writing was concerned. At the time, I was in the middle of a new book/thing and it was during a part that was being particularly difficult, so the forced time off during the repair process pretty much sent that writing project flaming and smoking straight into the ditch. I tried to yank it back out of there. I tried to get the engine to kick over and get her back on the road, but... well... 


...I think it's done. At least for now.

So what's next?

I'm working on it. I have identified four (4) ideas that are basically ready to be worked on. Five, if you count The Impossible Virginia Dare, but I don't. That book has been blown up by two different and successful pieces of genre-work so far. Lev Grossman's excellent Magicians series killed my idea for an outcast teen at an American School of Magic-based book, even though it was about different shit and had more to do with alternate dimensions, it was still covering enough of the same ground to make me uncomfortable. Then the fantastic TV show Orphan Black came along with their really cool clone-based story line and detonated my alternate dimension versions of the same person all warring against each other story. Again, it wasn't exactly the same, but fuck it... close enough. In today's market, why step up to the plate with one strike already against you, right? I figure, who needs the comparison, even if it's not an entirely correct one. The world has no time for nuances, people. I haven't completely given up on the story, of course. There's a good character there, there's good ideas there, but it's all in pieces right now, and so I'm stuck in a holding pattern with the story, waiting to see if it's going to show me a new shape or not. Fingers crossed. We'll see...

In the meantime, like I said, I have four ideas that could develop into viable novels...

One is a space opera/broken earth dual story idea that's a spin-off from a couple of short stories I've done, I guess it could be classified as a long distance romance. Another is a dystopian-future crime story based off an article about civilians trespassing on Army artillery ranges in order to salvage scrap metal. The third is fantasy novel about a group of common soldiers trying to walk home through a ravaged countryside after their side loses a vicious war for the crown. The fourth and final one is a super villain heist story. My plan is to write the 1st chapters of each one, just to work the muscles out a little and jumpstart the idea juices a bit and then hopefully I can use that energy to start drafting some outlines. We'll play it by ear, best case scenario, I end up with four ideas pre-packaged and ready to go. Worst case... whatever.

I've already written one. It went well. Three more to go.

Once I've finished that little idea/project, then I'll be moving on to 2nd drafting my book Monsters. You might remember me talking about it from a while back, it was the one that was basically a fantasy Dirty Dozen vs. a Dragon in a post-apocalyptic future rife with wild magic. For you new kids out there, the end result was that I wasn't all that happy with the 1st draft, not to mention the title, so I set it aside to percolate a bit. It's been over a year or so, and in the time since I've had some pretty good new ideas on it, so I think I'm ready to start rewriting/re-drafting it. I've also come up with a new title. 

I'm calling it: Agatha Ironhand.


After that, well... that's several ideas down the road, so whatever. I still plan of re-visiting Gunslingers of the Apocalypse and final drafting that off the last critique I got, but that book's kind of trunked, so no big rush. The zeitgeist has moved on, y'know? I do have a couple of other ideas, but they're still baby-ideas. They're not even crawling, let alone defining their own worlds for me, so they're all on the backburner for now.


Last, but not least, my short story Harris is back again with the good people at Onyx Neon. Here's my author's interview with them... I'm so charming. Anyway, you might recall that they originally published it in their short story collection Cifiscape Vol. II, which you can purchase right here

Or... you can wait.

Y'see, that's the big news here, my friends, Onyx Neon is now doing an on-line short story initiative called Onyx Neon Shorts (Got a short story to submit? Click here), so in just a short amount of time you'll be able to purchase my short story and download it directly to your e-reader thingy. Welcome to the future, people. I am your King. I know a lot of you out there have wanted to give me some of your money for quite some time now, well... here's your chance. Don't let it pass you by. No one wants to look back on that kind of regret.

And that's it, that's what's up with me.

What's up with you?
Jon

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Films I'm looking forward to - Gone Girl (2nd Trailer)


Yesterday I talked about how much I loved the films of Terry Gilliam and how I expect to love his upcoming film Zero Theorem too. Well, I love the films of David Fincher as well, and have an equal expectation that I will love his upcoming film Gone Girl too. Also, just like Terry Gilliam, I have  talked about this love before. Right here, in fact.

And to nail the hat-trick, much like my post yesterday... here's the new trailer.


Yeah, I'm really looking forward to this film. I'm hoping to get a chance to read the book first, of course, and I probably will. It'll probably be next, I think. I have bumped it up in the To-Be Read stack. Like everybody else out there, I've heard mostly good stuff, of course, so I'm looking forward to it. I've heard some people complain that the characters are too unlikable, but I usually ignore critiques of that type. Much like my politicians, I don't feel the need to be able to have a comfortable beer with my fictional characters before I can enjoy their story. I have also heard a few complaints about the book's ending from some reliable sources, but author Gillian Flynn has said that she actually rewrote it for the film...? Having not read the book yet, I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. It's certainly an interesting thing.

We'll see, I guess. I'm excited to find out.


Let me know what you think,
Jon

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Films I'm looking forward to - Zero Theorem (2nd trailer)


I keep forgetting this film exists and is out there... or at least, soon will be... I've mentioned the film before now, of course, right here. How could I not? It's Terry Gilliam, and it is a well established fact that I love me some Terry Gilliam. Not only is he a Python alum, but his filmography is the bleeding edge of imaginative and cool when it comes to genre work. Don't believe me, take a look.

See? I told you.

The reason I keep forgetting about this film is because Terry Gilliam films take awhile to come out. Mainly due to the fact that the guy has always had problems with getting his stuff made. Legal problems, financial problems, it's almost tradition, his sets are plagued with issues. Heath Ledger died in the middle of filming The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. And the obstacles were so constant, so great on the set of his continuing effort to make a Don Quixote film that it was turned into the fantastic documentary Lost in La Mancha, a film that if you haven't seen, you should. Basically, he's a director who's never had it easy when it comes to getting his vision to the screen at all, let alone whole and untouched, and when you add to that the fact that his vision often leaves the more mainstream audience a bit cold, well...


Let's just say his films have become more like rare and special events, something more akin to spotting Bigfoot in the wild. They're worth your time, but they also require your patience. Like I said, they're usually slow to get here. In this case though, Zero Theorem seems to be taking longer than usual. That's why I keep forgetting the film is on the way. That's all right though, because it makes the reminders that much more fresh and exciting, getting a new image or trailer is like re-discovering a Christmas gift you've forgotten to open.

And so... here's the latest trailer.



It's very Gilliam, right?

Probably not that surprising, after all, much like other famous visionary Directors like Wes Anderson, Zach Snyder, Quentin Tarantino, Tim Burton, Terrence Malick, or even David O. Russel, Gilliam has an unmistakable style. He's a visionary, and the only worry with brash and unique voices like this, is that they might have bloomed early, screaming for the sky out of nowhere like a sudden firework, blowing up bright and loud, but soon enough fading away. The worry is, the thing that once made them interesting and new will become stodgy and airless, their visionary quirks becoming cliches. I don't know if that's the case here, but I've heard so-so early reviews on this one, a couple saying that at times the film felt like an aging and confused Gilliam complaining about the kids and all their twooting-tweeting-whatsits on their doo-dads and gizmos not looking up at the dinner table, blah-blah-blah. Whatever. What can I say, the man is no spring-chicken, folks, so this is not an unlikely possibility...

However, all that having been said, I'll still be there. I'll take bad Gilliam over most of the shit that hits theatres, so we shall see. Until then, I prefer to think sunny thoughts.


Your pal,
Jon

Monday, July 28, 2014

Films I'm looking forward to - Mad Max: Fury Road


It's been over a year and a half since I last mentioned this film. And even longer since I first heard it even existed. It's basically been in some form of production for forever now. There was a time when it didn't seem like it was going to happen. Production was delayed. Production was halted. Wars, sand storms, anything and everything that could happen to a film set, seemed to happen to this one. It was almost like the hand of god itself was trying to keep this movie from being made. And yet somehow, against all odds, it persevered, and from the look of this trailer, we're all gonna be the better for it.

But you know what, we'll chat after the jump, okay? For now, let's all just take a moment here to drink in this quick draught of cool and refreshing awesome, shall we?


Fantastic. Amazing.

I loved it. I love the style on display, the action beats, the look. It looks perfect. 

George Miller's Mad Max trilogy is one of the three biggies for me. As a kid, he was one of the ones that blew my mind wide open. He's part of what I call: The Three Georges (Lucas, Miller, and Romero). The three of them all made movies that greatly influenced me, hugely influenced me, both in what I like to watch and what I like to do with my free time. They're the root.

Yeah. I'm a fan.

So, probably somewhat understandably, I was a little worried about this film. Of course I was. Who wouldn't be? Should they even bother? How long has this franchise been dead? Thunderdome was nearly thirty years ago. Plus, didn't The Day After come along with its harsh reality and pretty much kill dead that brief moment in B-film history when the Post-Nuclear Apocalypse was all cool and romantic. Sure, sure, Mad Max and Road Warrior both hinted very heavily at Peak Oil and the resulting Sociological Collapse as being the responsible bogeymen, but time, the influence of American Cold War culture and Thunderdome itself has since firmly rooted the idea of Post-Nuclear War as the Raison d'etre. So, with that in mind, is the topic even relevant anymore? Post-Nuclear Apocalypse is a little like Cyberpunk now, right? Have we moved too far past it for it to even make sense anymore? These were questions I had, fair questions, I think. And that's not even mentioning all the production issues either, like I said, it was like God had a vendetta. The whole production seemingly turned Sisyphean. So, wouldn't it just be better to pull up stakes and go home?

But then I watched this trailer and... yeah, I'm really glad they didn't.

Fuck it, man... it looks fantastic.

I've heard that the film is gonna be a "side-quel", meaning that its story takes place at some point between The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome, but with the Interceptor appearing in the beginning of the trailer, I'm not sure how that's even possible. I'm more inclined to believe it's an alternate tale, with the story taking place in lieu of The Road Warrior. I actually kind of like that. Continuity is not that important really, especially in loosely connected stories. In fact, at a certain point it turns into a chain, choking your narrative out and dragging it down into the murk. Continuity is a good story tool, but it can also make the best creators slaves to the worst, so fuck it. There's no need to tie themselves down to a story line that was set up in some movies made over 30 years ago.

Especially when you have a new Max.

And how great does Tom Hardy look, right? He looks perfect. And forget about Tom Hardy, what about Chalize Theron? The make-up? The robot arm? Fantastic. I love it. As for the story, I've heard it described as one long chase, and it looks like there's tons of practical effects going on too. This is all good news, people. All good news. I can't wait.

Count me in as officially excited,
Jon

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Before the Dawn


Hey, good news, people... Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens this weekend, and as most you can probably guess from my previous entries about this film (here, here, and here), I am super-excited. Super excited. I won't bother re-hashing exactly why again, because if you're both unaware at this point and/or just can't be bothered to click through on those links, then let's be honest... you don't give a shit.

But that's cool. 

Just rest assured, I am super excited. So, in preparation for heading out to catch the flick this weekend, I recommend you do two things. 1. Watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes if you haven't seen it yet. Or again, if it's been awhile. It was one of my favorite films of 2011. I found it to be surprisingly good, it worked as an homage, a reboot, and it's own stand-alone film. And 2. You should check out these three videos below. They're not mandatory or anything, but since Dawn of the Planet of the Apes picks up 10 years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes, these videos can provide you with a nice little glimpse into just what transpired over the course of that decade as the world tried to deal with the fall-out from the last film.

First up is Quarantine.

This film takes place about 1 year after the outbreak of the Simian Flu. It's about how the first cracks in society to show appeared within families and how, once those started to break apart, order and rules followed soon after. This one seems very mumblecore in tone and presentation, but don't let that hold you back. It's not bad.


Next is All Fall Down (Even through the video is titled: Struggling to Survive... which is weird.)

This one takes place 5 years after the outbreak of the Simian Flu and here's where you really start to see the tattered remnants of the old world finally begin to crash down into a new one. Very atmospheric. I love the decay. Plus, while all of these short films focus on the human side of the intervening 10 years between the feature films and there isn't any ape-action or anything, this one comes the closest and does a good job of hinting at the conflicts that lie ahead.


Finally, we have the Story of the Gun.

This one really spans the whole of the 10 years after the outbreak of the Simian Flu and it's one of those types of things where the story follows a specific item's journey as it passes through various hands. The especially quick-witted out there can probably guess that the item in question is a gun. This is probably the most effective piece of the three (and the longest), and it also hints at the main themes of the upcoming film.


All in all, I really enjoyed all of these. They're really well done. They're focused and they don't try to bound past the limits of their budget or ability. All in all, they're all much, much better than the last couple of short films I've featured here, so... hooray, redemption! Anyway, if you're a fan, be sure to check these out and then head out to the theatres this weekend and see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It's supposed to be great. Fingers crossed.

Can't wait,
Jon

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Mis-drop



And finally, my friends, here is the third short film I have on deck for you. I promise, it'll be the last one for awhile, probably, at least for a few days... maybe... anyway, the film is called Mis-drop and it's by Ferand Peek. The synopsis:

300 years in the future, a forensic accountant reviews the video stream from one mercenary's drop-pod which has been damaged during the initial stages of a colonial invasion.

Well, that doesn't really tell you much. And of course, if tradition holds, what little it does tell us will probably have very little to do with the actual film. We shall see, won't we?

Let's watch...



Hmm... not bad. An interesting approach to the familiar sci-fi trope of the Orbital Drop Trooper. All in all, it was a simple idea that could have gone really badly, and for the most part they pulled it off, I think. It was generally pretty well written and acted and featured an economic use of special effects, which as a result avoided having them end up just highlighting the limitations of the project, as they so often do. The film's one real drawback wasn't really the filmmaker's fault, not really, it was due to an unavoidable flaw in the storytelling style they chose. The POV style of film-making is where you have the character either in control of the camera and/or directly interacting with the camera. It's Blair Witch style basically. It is inherently limiting narrative-wise. The filmmaker is definitely able to be more intimate with its subject, but that very same intimacy ensures you can't go anywhere outside of the subject, like when our young soldier goes running off to do whatever the hell he is going off to do. I mean, I think a tank was chasing him, but whose tank? Who knows...? And there's no way to get answers because your camera is fixed. It's a pretty common problem with these types of films.

I've talked about the film Willow Creek before.

Well, I watched it last night and it was hindered by the exact same issues. Great moments of tension buried by the style's complete inability to allow the story to finish up cleanly, everything is locked down too tight. Once your protagonist moves away from the camera, you've lost the story, as evidenced here. This is almost always going to happen in every POV film, unless your story is specifically tailored to work within those limits.

Through that link above--the one where I was talking about Willow Creek--I wrote down three rules for what a POV film needs to do in order to be a satisfying cinema experience. Just for fun, here they are again...

1. It must make sense as to why the film even exists at all.
Why are the characters there? Even more importantly, why are they filming? Okay, fine, a bunch of local boobs are going to explore the old abandoned asylum, I've been there, I've done that, fine. But you know what I've never done? Film it. And here's a better question: Why does one of the characters even own an expensive camera in the first place? Sure, in this day and age everyone has a camera on them, pretty much all the time... but it's a Smartphone camera, not an expensive HD rig. So why? Are they a reporter? Is it for a TV show? Do they have a personal history with the site/story? Answer those questions before you start, or you suck. At least make the attempt. Note: "Look at the new camera I bought just because," does not count as an answer.

2. It must make sense as to why the characters keep filming.
There comes a point in every one of these films where the shit has well and truly hit the fan. It all goes bad, big time. Chairs flying about. Monsters screaming. Buildings shaking. Ah! Ahh! Aaaaah! Run, dummies! Run for your lives! It is at this point that anyone truly concerned with their life would run, run like their ass was on fire. If nothing else, they would definitely stop trying to film, regardless of the camera's "low-light" capabilities. And if they dropped the camera? They would not go back for it. I mean, come on! If there's giant spider monsters and zombie children chasing us and I drop your camera? We will get the fuck out of there, drive to Target, and I will buy you a new one, all right? Good. As long as we agree on that. See, it's here that most of these films fail. Do you know why Cloverfield sucked? It's because it was a terrible movie. No, really. It was. It also sucked because a bunch of hipster wadjob douchebags would not keep filming while running from a giant monster. Do you know who might? A news reporter. This is the most important thing to think about when making your POV film. The characters have to have a real reason to stay in the situation. Find it, or you suck.

3. Acknowledge the limitations of the genre
The camera is a character. Everything that happens has to acknowledge that. You can't ignore that. The characters and the environment can't ignore that. If there's a zombie coming up behind them and the camera guy is the one in the back of the pack, he needs to be attacked first. I realize it's scarier to watch the zombie creep up on an unsuspecting character, but too bad, so sad. It also means you don't get have character interactions, or have a character be all alone and contemplative, in the same way that you can in regular movies. I'm sorry. Those are the rules. You have to adapt. If the camera is a person in the story, then they always have to be a person in the story. And most of all, understand your camera. You just can't drop them over and over again or they will break. Also, digital recordings aren't the same as taped ones, so old footage can't bleed over. It just doesn't work that way. You have to acknowledge that. Bottom line, it's very easy to cheat, but you can't... or you suck.

So, did this film do this? Was Mis-drop a successful POV short film? Not really, but it came close, which isn't too bad for a quick little independent project. Well done, Mr. Peek.

What do you think?
Jon

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

NOVR


So yeah, I've got a few short films to share with all y'all and here's the latest one. It's called NOVR and it's directed by Geoff O'Rourke and written by Geoff and (presumably) his friend Shane Ronan.

From the synopsis...

The film follows two soldiers who have destiny thrown upon them when they discover what might be humanities only hope - in a war they have already lost. A NOVR.

Whatever the hell a "NOVR" is...


What an awful presentation, right? And I don't just meant the ridiculously terrible and completely unnecessary color palette either... well, kind of... Mostly I'm talking about the shitty Vimeo Player. It's like two inches tall! What a shit player.

So, the film? First off, I love the gun toss in the cabin. What the fuck? How ridiculous was that? Why would you do that from two feet away? I can just hear the embarrassingly unaware blocking conversation that took place before filming too. "They're so ready! They're so prepared!" It's so dumb... You know they practiced that throw like a dozen times too. It also seemed like there was a lot of nonsense dialogue going on too, like characters are often talking just to fill a scene... or to distract from the bombastic score... Lines like: "If we're gonna get out of here, we're gonna need some cover," says unnamed soldier number one as he runs into a ton of gunfire that is coming from the very soldiers he was just talking to on the radio, otherwise known as... covering fire... Hmmm. There's also a lot of character interaction that doesn't really jive with the supposed desperate importance of the situation, most of that seemingly filled with cheap tough-guy talk, conversations by the bastard children of all those arty cops and robbers films of the 90s, probably something crappy like Boondocks Saints. Oh, and the action movie cliches... the film is stuffed to bulging, people. Stuffed to bulging. It was like they were following a check list. Ridiculous.

AND... here's another short film where its synopsis seems barely connected to the actual film. At least... I think its barely connected, I couldn't really understand anything the creepy baby voice said. I hope it wasn't important... probably not. I mean... What "destiny was thrown upon them"?

In the end, this film seems to me like a really good example of where the democratization of film and the availability of decent-ish looking special effects have led to some small-time filmmakers over-reaching a bit. Or maybe a lot. It's not that it's that bad or anything, there's some talent on display here, sure... but what is this film exactly? I mean, this isn't a story at all. It's a 15 minute long tease for a larger story that will never be told. What is that? What's the point? I appreciate the effort and the creativity, but maybe it's better to pull the focus back a little when it comes to your first couple times at bat. Especially when you can't afford shit, and when telling the story means you need a long lead-in explanation to start off and a trilogy of feature length films in order to finish.

Plus, I missed just whatever the fuck a "NOVR" was... a star-child, I guess? Whatever.

What do you think?
Jon

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mech: Human Trials


Here's a couple of short films for you to watch... well, they're actually connected, so it's really more like one short film in two different places, especially because one is less than a minute long. Whatever... Here's some short films! And they're supposed to be good ones too. In fact, based off the strength of this particular venture Writer, Director, and Producer Patrick Kalyn has apparently landed a deal to turn the whole kit and caboodle into a feature length film, but who knows what that means, maybe something, maybe nothing. So first up--from Kalyn's site Don'tDoMech.com--is a mock PSA that teases the short film...


Huh. It's a little on-the-nose, sure. And it's more of a teaser obviously then an actual take-off on a real PSA, but it looks good. Kind of a cliche tease end-beat there, but whatever. Anyway... next up is the short film itself. Here's the official synopsis:

After a serious accident, a man is introduced to a designer street drug promising to restore his ravaged body. Desperate to mend himself, he becomes consumed by the drug - only to discover it is threatening his humanity.

Hmmm... Sounds interesting. Let's take a look.



Not bad. Interesting ideas. Looks good, kind of TV-ish, quality-wise, but not bad. The dialogue leaves a bit to be desired, but then subtlety wasn't a real strong point of the PSA either, so no real surprise there. Plus, after watching it, I suspect it might not be fair to try to hold it to any kind of real story standards. I mean, is it a short film or is it more of a show reel? Like I said above, Patrick Kalyn did get a feature deal off of this supposedly, so maybe he got what he needed from it. Plus, y'know... it doesn't really tell a story at all.

You know the weirdest thing I've noticed about a lot of these short films? Their synopsis usually turns out to be completely full of shit. Almost as if they're from a different movie. Or at least, a longer one. I mean: Accident? What accident? He's desperate to mend himself? Maybe I missed a brief mention at the beginning, because the majority of the film didn't seem concerned with anything like that at all.

What do you think?

Jon