Category Archives: films
Recently teamed up with a creative team of actors and filmmakers, most notably my friend and burgeoning artist
Roberto Jones, to create a short film. The film, styled in the tradition of French New Wave Cinema, depicts two lovers as their relationship evolves into something substantial though lacking communication. The film trails the production and dissolution of language, the non-verbal communication of intimacy, and the messy memories of post-break up. I wrote the script based on some suggestions from the director, forming a script that was actually also a poem. Check out the poem and video here:
Dressed as Superman at the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, I was obviously standing out among a sea of black clothes and batman insignia. I kept trying to explain to people that Batman and Superman were actually friends who just occasionally fought….. well, no one understood.
I was duly excited for The Man of Steel trailer which preceded the movie. I watched it and, well, at first I thought….. fishing? Hitchhiking? Right.
But I have thought a little more deeply about the upcoming film, and I feel that it deserves a lot of hype. I will definitely be going, I assure you (dressed as The Flash).
First off… watch the trailer if you haven’t already.
We will see a different Superman origin. It has been clear that when Clark Kent enters the green crystalline cave for the first time, he
realizes his powers. He begins to fly and kick ass and generally be awesome. Right off the bat…
In this movie, we get to see Superman grow into his powers. Sure he is the most powerful being ever, but hey, at least he will get an actual character arc. Sure, the trailer looks a bit confusing with clotheslines, fishing boats, and all, but those are important– maybe. What really is important is that the trailer doesn’t show Superman in action. Not until those three seconds at the end. If we simply saw him fighting the villain and defending Earth– yawn, we’ve seen that.
In the new criteria of what makes good superhero films, we need characters to actually feel like characters, even perfect men like Superman.
Also, we get a pretty great actor Henry Cavill playing Superman who looks enough different than previous Supermen to feel fresh. Christopher Nolan is one of the producers, so think of him as assurance for quality control. If the script had gone wacky and terrible, he would have shot it down long ago. Zack Snyder is directing the film; honestly, I’ve seen 300 and Watchmen. I did not feel terribly good about the Watchmen movie (and I loved the comics). Maybe if he pulls this off, we can forgive him for that weirdly fetishistic movie Sucker Punch.
Regardless, he has a really cool style that is splashy and colorful like a comic book.
Basically, I support a Superman who is sometimes more man than super, who begins the “alienated” to alien, who still rises to save the day in the end despite his differences because that is who he is.
There’s something alluring about reading or writing about a character going insane or under the influence of drugs. Someone so lost inside their own minds that hippos prance across their dreams, leaves of fall graceful as ballerina marsupials in the stream of never going home.
I honestly have been considering the adventures of protagonists who are less with us mentally than physically. Sometimes, because the POV characters are snorting some serious stuff or injecting bee venom into their veins, their sentences come out uneven with the universe like gut-flavored Jell-O. Stories written in stream-of-conscious style are difficult enough to read without the character being so overwhelmingly addled.
Take for example Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho (spoilers ahead). When not describing what shampoo he uses and criticizing business card fonts, Patrick Bateman likes to violently murder people. Mostly hobos and prostitutes, though, so it’s okay. Toward the end of the novel, Patrick discovers he may not have killed anyone, simply having hallucinated the murders. Of course in the film this is hinted at far more heavily. In the book, reality is up in the air. Do you believe Bateman has murdered people or simply suffering gory delusions?
The unreliable narrator lends a beautiful obscurity to events in a story. Once you realize he is a liar, you question everything you’ve told him up to this point. A lot of writers use this vagueness– this unreliable because of insanity as a plot device that can either seem awesome or like a joke. A good example of how the unreliable narrator can completely change the outcome of the novel is in Fight Club, but I won’t talk about that because I’m not supposed to.
When the character is not insane, he may simply be on drugs while writing it. Imagine Alan Ginsberg’s poetry in prose form. Imagine Naked Lunch. If not the character himself, then perhaps the author is on drugs or drowning in alcohol. And while many writers swear by their personal “muses,” I find much of this incoherent and pointless.
Sometimes, an author can be utterly sober and make no sense. I’m not a huge fan of Joyce and find him overrated, so I’m not afraid to say I quickly gave up on Ulysses.
I’m not saying this cannot be enjoyable, only that by writing it, an author is taking a huge risk. How Anthony Burgess ever published A Clockwork Orange I will never know. On a first reading, this thin book brimming with made-up language, drooges, and psychosis makes very little sense. You need a lot of patience to dismantle and understand such books.
There are good and there are bad, but the question: Are they worth writing? Are they worth reading?
Can we learn anything from writing straight from the mind of a drug-addled lunatic? Perhaps. Though written in harsh grammar and strange language, Requiem for a Dream proved quite readable and interesting, dealing in how addiction takes over
lives. Then again, I would contest that the film does almost just as good a job, so there may not be a purpose in reading the book. Yeah, I said it: sometimes movies are better than the books they’re based on. *Cough, cough, Jurassic Park*
One such book I read nearly a year ago was published by a dark, edgy, experimental publisher Two Dollar Radio. The book was The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich. Reading it is like being doped up while tied to the roof of a train car as it races down the track at a hundred miles an hour. The plot is a mix of local lore, mythic teenagers, hedonistic helplessness, and strange hallucinations. Despite the fact that I still don’t know what happened, the book affected me. I enjoyed at leas the experience of delving into the protagonist’s mind to see things through her warped eyes.
What do you think about reading novels that sometimes don’t make sense or with such unreliable narrators that you question their sanity?
Also, check out this comprehensive list on Litreactor of books about addicts.
If you have yet to see The Avengers movie, do not read on. I don’t care if I ruin this movie for you, and you’ve been warned. Instead, go watch this really sick movie, then come back to read this review.
Alright, guys, let’s get down to business (to DEFEAT the Huns… I mean, Loki?) When brother of Thor Loki decides to raise an intergalactic army to overtake earth, it’s up to Samuel L. Jackson with an eye patch, Scarlett Johansson in a full-body leather suit, and that guy from the show The New Adventures of Old Christine to rally up the world’s mightiest heroes in hopes of saving our planet.
Years ago, there was a dream, a dream to reboot several popular comic book characters as lead roles in their own movies, then to combine these universes into one so that these characters could interact. Then came today, May 4th, the day The Avengers came out. While I really enjoyed the individual movies, the one that really fell short for me was Thor’s. For some reason, the thought of portals through space and Thor’s friends threw off the vibe. But Thor does much and more to rectify himself in this new film, and I think we reach an even greater understanding of the Thor/Loki relationship. While Thor was minus hammer for most of Thor, he makes good use of his magical hammer in this new film. Also, I’ve got to praise Tom Hiddleston’s acting, which is superb and hilarious. He has such wit and good timing, and he did well conveying his motives and that sort of smug “I know something you don’t know” attitude.
Another standout performance is, of course, RDJ. The movie crackles with energy when he steps on-screen.
But who surprised me was Mark Ruffalo. He did such a great job as Bruce Banner, the man trying to contain the beast, that he deserves a lot of credit. His subdued manner and overall demeanor– his performance was note-perfect. Subtle and quiet, only to explode when the green guy came out. Even though the Hulk was great (his fight with Loki was incredibly enjoyable), Bruce Banner held his own against his counterpart. The movie is not just high on action (which it is, oh yes, it is), but it’s funny. Hilarious, actually. On par with the first Iron Man film.
Who really deserves credit for making this movie come together is Joss Whedon, the director of this whole shebang. I expected, though reluctantly, that this movie might not live up to my high expectations. How would they incorporate all of these characters? Would they just join forces, just like that? That would make NO sense. Fortunately, the director and writers worried just as much about storytelling as awesome action sequences. The film actually portrays each characters’ shortcomings and personal conflicts with a lot of skill and detail. Iron Man’s selfishness, Hawkeye’s lonliness, Black Widow’s past, Thor’s relationship with his brother, Captain America’s disorienting incubation in a glacier for fifty years, the Hulk’s anger problems and personal philosophy. Seriously? You can fit all that in a movie, have characters clash constantly against each other, then bring them together in a single movie. Well, the movie is pretty long, so… yes.
Then again, who cares how long it is when you have so much epic-ness occurring on screen? Let’s review some of my favorite scenes:
1.) Every scene where the camera was positioned behind Scarlett Johansson as she walked away (every scene with her in it)
2.) The Hulk vs. Thor
3.) Iron Man vs. Thor
4.) The Hulk tearing apart that giant alien worm-thing with metal armor
5.) Iron Man redirecting a nuclear missile into space (Good for you, Tony! Taking one for the team!)
6.) The reveal of a new villain. At first, I thought it was the Red Skull returned, but it could possibly be Thanos, who is much more formidable than the Red Skull. After thinking about it more, I suppose that makes more since. Would the Red Skull really assemble such an army to gain the tesseract?
Either way, I am stoked about phase two of this series which will lead up to the Avengers 2. We’ve got Iron Man 3 and Captain America 2 to look forward to. The casting is very, very good. I certainly hope Ruffalo gets his own movie, showing how he has begun to control The Hulk; not to mention a movie about SHIELD members Nick Fury, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. This movie is a promise for all the really great things that will come soon.
Share you own thoughts if you have seen the film!
Tonight, at midnight, The Avengers will assemble and undoubtedly save the world as well as sweep in millions in box office dollars. The movie featuring A-list superheroes such as Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Hulk will be a spectacular display of intergalactic action sequences and awesome fighting. We’ll see fights of Captain America against Iron Man, Thor against Iron Man, and Thor against Loki. Expect this to be pretty amazing.
I shall be going at 3:55pm tomorrow, so expect a full review by tomorrow night. So, what are the reasons I am excited?
1.) The Avengers Canon
For those of us who read comic books, The Avengers might be the most confusing group of superheroes following the X-men. The reason is that throughout the group’s history, there have been an insane multitude of different heroes on the team from Spider Man to Ant Man, from the Wasp to Black Widow (they had a big infestation problem, apparently.) When I first heard years ago that an Avengers movie would be made, I was curious about who would make the cut. From the looks of the trailers, we have a very decent line-up. Then several directors worked together to build each character’s individual films to contribute to the overarching movie that comes out tonight. Look out for how this director Josh Whedon uses group dynamics as a conflict, as this was a serious conflict in the comics.
What’s particularly interesting is that who will take the role as a leader. Nick Fury rallies them, but who will lead the team? Cap? Iron Man? Thor? Hawkeye (haha, just kidding!)? We might be surprised to see how this group works together, if they work together at all. We know already that several key characters who are protagonists will come head to head.
Spoilers: By the end, Iron Man and Captain America began a civil war, and now Captain America is dead. In the comics, anyways. What if this happened in the movie? Weird.
Let’s be honest, guys. This chick is hot, and when you place a hot chick in a full-leather-suit, you’re going to get people’s attention. Funnily enough, a friend of mine wore this same costume to comic con. Quite a lot of people wanted to take their pictures with her for some reason.
3.) Crossovers Can be Great
As a lover of many individual comics, it’s sometimes strange, sometimes great for comics to cross over. Just like those Scooby Doo episodes with the Harlem globe Trotters or Batman. The Avengers is just one type of crossover, where many different heroes of the same universe unite to fight a common cause. Because this is simply on film, I feel titillated to watch it unfold. They’ve done such a great job of building each character that once you combine them, you know cool stuff will be going down.
4.) The Cast
Apart from Scarlett Johansson, the cast is male-heavy (because most superheroes tend to be males.) But we have quite a sick line-up for this movie. First comes Chris Evans as Captain America. Now, Evans played another Superhero “The Human Torch” of the Fantastic Four at which I thought he acted splendidly. Originally, I thought it was not so cool to give him another superhero role, but after see the Captain film, I feel fairly confident that he embodies the character.
Next up are two new additions, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk and and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye. Now, I absolutely love Edward Norton and was sad to see him go, but Mark Ruffalo will be an intriguing replacement, I’m sure. After seeing him in The Kids Are Alright, I like him as an actor. Hopefully, he’ll be able to capture the underlying fury versus the calm demeanor that Bruce Banner possesses.
I have only seen Jeremy Renner in the new Mission Impossible movie, and though I wasn’t incredibly impressed, I’m not worried.
Chris Hemsworth has to put on a rather ridiculous accent for Thor, but come on, Thor is awesome! I will in fact be dressing up as Thor for this film.
We’ve got Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and man, does he play the perfect Fury? No doubt, this was probably the second best casting choice.
What was the best? Robert Downey Junior. This guy absolutely kills it as Iron Man/ Tony Stark. He has infused his character with such realism and megalomania that his very presence is augmented on screen. And I believe because of the success of the Iron Man movies (in part because of Downey), Iron Man will play a more significant role than usual in this upcoming film.
Tell me your own thoughts about the movie both before and after you see it. Are you stoked?
I watched The Woman in Black for the second time last night and came under the impression that every horror movie ever made should take place in the 1800s, perhaps the early 1900s. Once the characters get technology, all the mystery is gone.
So you think there might be a poltergeist in your house? Don’t worry. There’s an app for that. The wonderful new spectral locator app on your IPhone will indicate whether or not paranormal activity is going on within your home. When you find out a ghost is haunting your attic, sell your house and move away!
How lame would that be, though, if through some technology we could trace ghosts, kill vampires, and reverse every killer zombie plague? Thanks a lot, Richard Matheson!
Would The Ring not lose a lot of its scare value if someone received a tweet, “U will die in 7 days #Evilcurse.” Then, Samara comes climbing through your IPad as you’re trying to watch 30 Rock on Hulu.
My point is, with as many technological advances as we have today, the things that once were scary have been demystified. We’re no
longer superstitious of demons possessing people with epileptic seizures. Not every crow means death. But back in better, less complicated times, true horror existed in uncertainty. These days, we are too certain that we know everything. Not that we can ever truly know anything.
Think of Plato’s wall, and what doubt it casts on the shadow of reality being truly reality, a real world and not one of shadows. Maybe this idea itself, the sheer notion that perhaps we paragons of technology don’t know EVERYTHING, perhaps that is today’s new horror. No more ghosts, ghouls, and goblins. Only uncertainty. Only a true ignorance where once we presumed was vast, concrete knowledge. Every day, we learn that things we absolutely knew without a doubt were never in fact true.
Is this merely more reason to lament the days when we were certain about our own uncertainty, not so mixed up about it?
What we need is more ghosts and haunted houses. Call me cliche, but I love those stories. In fact, check out this Litreactor article on Haunted Houses.
What are your thoughts? What’s the last good horror movie you’ve seen/horror book you’ve read set in modern day? Or do you prefer to kick it old school?
Thursday night, fans will take to the streets to stand in line to see the midnight premiere of The Hunger Games, based on a popular book by Suzanne Collins. I am completely stoked for this movie, but I have put off talking about it because I feel like we’ve been inundated with talk about it. Here are some things I am looking for.
Collins certainly does not shy away from the grotesque details even in this young adult novel. But by turning these violent games into film form, is that not glamorizing death and gore and child-fighting? The first thing I thought when they said there would be a movie was, “Ooh, we get to watch kids kill each other.” Or will the movie focus more on the injustice of this rather than amp up the violence? I’m very interested in seeing how the director addresses this.
2.) Josh Hutcherson
While I will certainly watch Jennifer Lawrence who won an Academy Award, I’m more interested to see how Josh Hutcherson will peform in this movie. I have been watching his career since the dismal Cat in the Hat. But his performance in The Kids are Alright was fantastic. When he was cast as Peeta, my first thought was “perfect.” This guy is going to knock the performance out the park. He’s going to kill it. So, watch out for this kid’s performance.
Not to sound like a hipster, but I like Suzanne Collins before the whole Hunger Games craze. In fact, I got just as involved with her The Underland Chronicles. I am very happy she has received so much commercial success, because I want to see what she does next. If people really like The Hunger Games, maybe they’ll make a movie about giant rats, giant cockroaches, and Gregor!! Crossing my fingers.
4.) Scenes Removed or Added
I know a lot of readers, when seeing the movie adaptation of their favorite books, freak out when things are changed. I see these changes as sometimes very positive, because it allows the film to tell a slightly different story than the book does. Which means both can be consumed as separate entities, yet still enjoyed. But I think The Hunger Games will mostly stick very closely to the text, with the addition of perhaps one extra scene and the deletion and downplaying of a few characters.
5.) Lenny Kravitz as Cinna
Cinna was one of my favorite characters, and I was interested in what who would be cast. There are some casting decisions I found to be perfect: Tucci and Sutherland. But Lenny Kravitz seems like the most interesting choice.
He looks so cool. Love his music. If he is also a good actor, that’s a plus. We shall see what happens next Friday, when the movie is released.
Definitely one of my favorite characters. Perhaps most people do not like Woody Harrelson, but I think he can both intense and very funny. Evidence: Zombieland and Friends with Benefits. I’m interested in watching him get drunk and embarrass himself.
See you on the 28th. The world will be watching.
When I discovered that a film had been made of On the Road, I was a little incredulous. It chronicles Kerouac’s somewhat true, somewhat made-up, and basically plot-less. But it’s a portrait of a life, of a wild life, a life of frivolity and existentialism. Of freedom, thoughts, and philosophy.
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” – Jack Kerouac
My first reaction to this particular half-true novel was to treat it as a veritable guide to living life. A how-to manual. Who needs a job when you can take a typewriter and drugs and set forth into the Wild West? But that was such an idealistic way of viewing these adventures. Sure, they’re fantastical, and Kerouac mesmerizes you with beauty and savagely constructed words, but there’s a sadness in this story too.
On the Road truly is the tale of youths, hopeless and lost, dream-less. Directionless but powerful, like grenades set loose. He once explained, “I’m writing this book because we’re all going to die.” And in these characters, we find ourselves completely enamored. The lovable Prodigal sons before they return home.
I’m not sure how well this can be translated into a movie, but I liked the look of the trailer. And can the style be translated to film at all? Part of what makes this book magical is how beautifully it’s written, like a backwards Bible but with better metaphors. Because I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I’m worried as well. And also exciting. This book and this writer are very big influences on my own writing.
But that can’t be half as hard as translating David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas to film. I recently finished that, and… well, you can read about it here:
What do you think about this classic becoming a film? Can it even be done? Share your thoughts.
This is what feels good. When you dance onto stage, spinning. Bow deeply holding hands before the curtain falls one last time. This is what feels good. Shaking hands, nodding heads. You’re beaming. You’ve done it and done well. This is what feels good.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been consumed by a play at the local theatre. Spending a lot of time rehearsing late into the night. Somehow, that’s worth it once an audience sits in the seats, laughing and applauding. Suddenly, the antics make sense. Suddenly, your character comes alive. Tonight is the opening night of the Youth Wing production of You Can’t Take It With You.
It’s a comedy set in the 1930’s that calls for a lot of fireworks and cardigans, hints of communism, but mostly love. Here’s an actually decent synopsis:
At first the Sycamores seem mad, but it is not long before you realize that if they are mad, then the rest of the world is madder. In contrast to these delightful people are the unhappy Kirbys. Tony, the attractive young son of the Kirbys, falls in love with Alice Sycamore and brings his parents to dine at the Sycamore house on the wrong evening. The shock sustained by Mr. and Mrs. Kirby, who are invited to eat cheap food, shows Alice that marriage with Tony is out of the question. The Sycamores find it hard to understand Alice’s view. Tony knows the Sycamores live the right way with love and care for each other, while his own family is the one that’s crazy. In the end, Mr. Kirby is converted to the happy madness of the Sycamores after he happens in during a visit by the ex-Grand Duchess of Russia, Olga Katrina, who is currently earning her living as a waitress.
Acting is strange, but much like watching a show. You escape into a world entirely not your own, escape your life. You visit with people, meet them, and follow their stories. As an actor, you do that and more. We do not simply escape by watching, but by doing. We slip into a new skin. Zipping up our backs like reptiles shedding in reverse. We’re becoming new people. Our lives become null. I stand in costume and enter the stage. The lights blind me for a moment and then, I’m not Derek Berry.
It’s a strange bit of ecstasy. In the days leading up to the first performance, it feels arduous. You’re tired of your character, annoyed with the contrivance of the plot. On opening night, though, this becomes so simple. To act becomes effortless. Not at all acting. Just being. Only being another person, not you.
Even if your microphone messes up, spitting static signals into the air. Even if you have to wear lipstick and eyeliner, which is pretty damn hard to apply. Did you know eyeliner goes on the inside of your eye? It’s like poking your eye out with a Sharpie! Even if things go wrong, there’s a spirit. An atmosphere that propels a good show to become great.
You can feel it when it comes. This is what feels good. Last night, during the Grand Dress (the final rehearsal before opening night, where a small audience is admitted), we could feel it. A trembling in your bones. A sudden rush of blood to your head. The stage becomes very real, the lights not so distracting, the eyeliner somewhat attractive.
I’m not sure I can quite describe the sensation too well. But it doesn’t matter what character, what role, in what setting. You feel something come alive. And that makes everything leading up to the opening night ultimately worth it.
My book will probably never be a movie. Right now I’m holding my breath for it to become a book. But once I get an editor and publisher, I doubt many agents will option by movie. Even so, I doubt they’d do anything with the rights other than hold onto them. A lot of authors don’t realize that this is what happens to a lot of books. Some books, people would love to become movies, but some agent bought those rights and is holding out.
Once a book is picked up to get published, and if said book is generating any sort of buzz, you can be sure film agents are looking into making the book as a movie. Sometimes, just because the movie is super popular, an agent or director will option the movie or buy the rights. But not all books are right for the silver screen. There was a recent article on this in TIMES magazine that definitely worth checking out.
Why would some authors not want their books transformed into cinema? Let’s explore that shall we?
When books become movies, the author makes money. Sometimes, lot’s of money. No, not as much money as the producers or actors, but still– lots and lots and lots of money. Take Twilight for example, which significantly bolstered the sales of the novel. While books like Twilight and Harry Potter were popular pre-film-versions, the film sagas dramatically increased their revenue. The newest IT book to be made into a film is The Hunger Games. It will likely make a lot of money because it kicks ass and has a huge fan base.
Another book becoming a movie is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Johnathen Foer, which I happen to have liked. What intrigues me, however, is that the story based on some survivors of 9/11 does not seem like it could be easily transferred to film. There will be probably be significant changes to the plot line, which is fine, but… here’s where we have a problem. Authors are EXTREMELY protective of their darlings. Many understand that in movies, things need to be changed. But some can’t stand the idea of some director they don’t know meddling with the world and character the author created.
Some things are changed merely because they cannot be put onto the big screen. Take American Psycho for example. The book is one of the most disturbing pieces of literature I’ve ever seen and the movie a fun-gory piece of camp, though not exactly a masterpiece. Why? Likely because despite it being gory, they could not include all of the thematic significance expressed in the book. That, and they left out the scene that would be certainly inappropriate to speak of here involving a rat and a woman’s you-kn0w-where. Curious? Read here.
But my book, though I think there are no rats involve, contains similar gut-retching scenes. Scenes that on paper make your skin crawl, but in a film would just be… out of place. I’m not saying it’s anywhere near as bad as The Human Centipede or anything, but it’s still pretty bad. So, for the sake of this argument, let’s compare my book to something that would make a better movie: The Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games, if you’re disdainfully ignorant, is about Katniss Everdeen who is forced by her oppressive government to fight-to-the-death 23 other teenagers. Basically, there are kids doing crazy awesome stuff to kill each other. The book isn’t just good because of the fighting, but also because it explores political intrigue and the repercussions of suppressing a people. In this series, there is a real element of horror underlying everything. Scenes that could very easily become film. Also, it’s written in first voice, present tense. Perfect for a film.
Now… my book. It’s not that I wouldn’t like it, but firstly, I’d be super protective of my baby. Secondly, there are just too many static scenes for the screen. On page, there might be a level of tension as Sebastian sits on a psychiatrist’s couch, lying to him. But on screen, it might come across as just talking. Also, maybe there is such thing as too much murder. And maybe my book has it.
Either way, it’d be cool anyways.
What books-turned-movies did you enjoy? Any you didn’t?
I highly suggest you read The Hunger Games and watch the new trailer.
Also, while you’re at it, check out the synopsis for The Savagery of Sebastian Martinelli, my book.