In discussing films, there might be spoilers. Sorry!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mega Important Filler Spot ... :)

Remember the movie Better Off Dead? Laughed recently thinking about lines like "Sorry your Mom blew up Ricky." or the dinner that crawled across the table?

Do not get me going on the hot car at the end, though most people who know me know I have a thing about hot muscle cars.

This is Lane's high school in the movie, a screen shot that lasted under a minute. It is also MY high school, the one where I spent three years as a photographer shooting photos very much like this. It's called Verdugo Hills High and is located about twenty minutes from downtown Hollywood. It's been used in a ton of commercials and films, including this fine example or cinematographic genius, and Corvette Summer with Mark Hamell in -- I want to say 1979.

And this brings an end to our filler spot ... :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Norman Reedus in The Conspirator ...

The Conspirator

Director: Robert Redford

Writer: James D. Solomon

I've studied Lincoln since I was a kid. In the fifth grade everyone else did a book report on presidents. I was assigned John Wilkes Booth. I have been to Fords Theater, read a bio or two on Lincoln, visited Arlington Cemetery to see the tomb of Lincoln's son and I have plans to visit Springfield, Illinois.

I was excited when I heard about The Conspirator ... even before I found out Mr. Reedus would be portraying one of the villains.

And yes, I knew even back then ... he would be bad and dead ... and I would be eating my five Oreo cookies again before the end of the night. Rules are still rules. :)

"The Conspirator" is the true story of the trail of Mary Surratt, the now presumed innocent victim of the government's quest for justice following the assassination -- the country's first -- of its president, Abraham Lincoln. James McAvoy brilliantly portrays the decorated Northern lawyer who first is strong armed into defending Mrs. Surratt, and later realizes it is the right thing to do even at the cost of his own relationships and reputation. Robin Wright and Kevin Kline join McAvoy in leading a tremendous cast.

Norman Reedus plays Lewis Payne, the killer who was supposed to take out the Security of State. Of all the conspirators to go after Lincoln's cabinet on the night of the April 14, 1865, Lewis Payne showed the most determination and the most violence. Yes, he didn't achieve his objective while Booth did fire a bullet into the president's head, but Payne did attack with a more personal weapon - a Bowie knife. It is a lot more up close and personal when you get your own hands dirty rather than shooting from a distance. He also stormed the house, kicked in doors, attacking others, rage making him move with a ferocity. This character trait, clearly portrayed by Mr. Reedus, was carried out throughout the film as it was him who shouted out during the trail that Mrs. Surrart was innocent, and it was him who, when facing the gallows, continued to spit at his executioners and struggle angerly as he was prepared for the inevitable.

John Micheal Weatherly portrayed George
, the man who was supposed to kill the Vice President, as history dictates, chickens out of his part of the plan and gets drunk instead. On the gallows, he is the one whimpering and scared. Consistency with the characters. It was a testament to good writing, excellent direction and great acting.

Lewis Payne was not a starring role. Because of this his dialogue is limited. The majority of acting had to be portrayed through actions, facials expressions and movement: a harder card to carry. Mr. Reedus must have pulled it off as my viewing partner of the film leaned over several times during the trial to whisper to me: "God, he looks miserable, like he's really there ..."

Lewis Payne was no Daryl Dixon. He couldn't be as Payne's character was based on a real live person, one capable of horrific violence. While Daryl might be a bigot through and through, I don't see him kicking a teenage slave to the ground as Payne reportedly did.

He wasn't a Murphy MacManus ... or any of a dozen parts that I might being to mind. But that is what is great about watching Norman Reedus in any part. Whether he is Van in Floating or Archie in Tough Luck - both roles carrying the whole movie - or he is Lewis Payne, sitting in the back of the room, very quiet and very still, not drawing attention from the story playing out in the forefront, he is very much the character he takes on. And it is hard at the end to see him, to know that even if Lewis Payne, by 1865 standards, deserved his fate, watching the scene on the screen as the prisoners are lead by the gallows, the play of emotions on their faces as they pass their own coffins, is difficult, no matter how many Oreo cookies await.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Packing up & heading down to Tucson for The Lessons of Firefly lecture. If you're a Browncoat, come & play with us. We'll be at the El Parador Tropical Restaurant, rear room, 2744 E Broadway Blvd, Tucson on Saturday at 10:oo am. If you just want to say hi, that works, too. :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

No, I'm not drowning. Not in water anyway. Life might be getting a little interesting these last few ... um ... is decades too long? :)

Loved this photo of the little man with his arms up. And I love the concept that if he is drowning use the phone. It's so much quicker that way. LOL

Have you ever thought about who writes these signs? Or worse, the questions at the grocery store when you pay with your debit card? I am convinced there is a man locked in a tower someplace, paid by the question he sends those machines. "Do you want to donate ...?" "Do you want cash?" "Debit or credit..." cuz really, they go to different places, right? Then the kid asks you Paper or ...

Ahhh ...

"We need to slow your life down," a friend said to me just yesterday.
"This is slow," I said.
"My god, what is fast?"
"You don't want to know ... " :)

I will be out of town then next few days, teaching in Tucson about the wonderful show that was "Firefly". It is amazing what you can learn about writing by just watching that show. On Saturday night, I'll be seeing Robert Redford's new movie "The Conspirator" staring our ever popular Norman Reedus. I also have "Meskeda" waiting here for a viewing when I get back. I've seen JGL"The Look Out" as well as "Stop Loss" and now, after writing them all up, I just need to find out who will be next. Matt Damon is leading, Colin Farrell in second and then Sean Patrick Flanery.

And all of a sudden, I have the urge to see "Boondock Saints" . Even if "The Conspirator's" previews gave me chills, I gotta stick by my ol' favorites. :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lessons of Firefly ... Jax Live, Appearing this Saturday!!

April 23, 2011, Tucson Arizona

Speaker: Jacqui Jacoby

Taken from the RWA Tucson Web Page ...

"Jacqui Jacoby will reveal the Lessons of Firefly in both sessions of our meeting. Though this TV show by Joss Whedon only aired through the fall months of 2002, it has continued to generate followers through word of mouth, DVD sales and followers known as "Browncoats". Firefly, created by the Rod Serling of our generation, was a masterpiece of writing. Each of its thirteen episodes taught character development, dialogue and plotting techniques. Its motion picture sequel, Serenity, not only touched on these subjects but added relationships, loyalties and loss to its repertoire. In this workshop, Ms. Jacoby use class participation and examples from the episodes to translate with words what Mr. Whedon was teaching us on screen. Joss Whedon has reviewed this workshop and has given his permission for it to be offered to The Romance Writers of America. As a die-hard Firefly fan who can quote dialogue and scene from both the series and the movie, Jacqui Jacoby knows how to get a crowd excited about the Lessons of Firefly. She is a workshop teacher who has appeared both live and online to give such classes as "From Austen to Aliens: How to Create Classic Tough Chicks" and "Behind the Scenes: The Research Before the Book." Winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award in Excellence, as well as the Suzannah and the Dixie for her books, Ms. Jacoby's articles have appeared worldwide. These days, Jacqui spends five days a week at her computer, creating her stories and writing her articles. "The most fun, though, is the research," she says. "I've worked with rock bands and spoken to the CIA to get info for books." A graduate of UCLA, Jacqui lives in the Arizona mountains with her husband of twenty three years and their three semi grown children."

Wow -- Jax here -- I like they way that sounds!! Now if I can just talk enough to make this true ... :)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

You get to spend all your time with one man and it will be ...

So, if you knew you had to spend the next six months with just one of these men ... :)

Please vote below ...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sidebar: Suicide Kings

Um ... woe. Just ... um ... woe. This movie, taken out of order because it sounded like fun, and not realizing one of the stars was ... um ... wooooe. I might have to rethink my Collin Farrell choice for next actor watched. I know Matt Damon was mentioned, too, but after watching the full potential of Sean Patrick Flanery, only previously touched upon in his rocking performance of Boondock Saints -- the man stares at me daily with a picture I have framed in my office that a young artist drew and all three prominent Saint members autographed ... but really that picture is not why I am thinking of an alternate choice in future months. It's not why I am sitting here thinking of switching to SPF. It's not even the knowledge I could watch Mongolian Death Worm -- a movie I want to see on it's title alone. I guess after watching a movie this good -- The Suicide Kings -- I just all of a sudden have the urge ... :)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"GI Joe ..."

It had great dialog:

"... we injected 1,000 cc of the nanomite solution into each subject. When they finally stopped screaming ... "

It had more action then you could possibly expect.

What it didn't have was an all too great of cast with a very good script or a sense of delivery or awareness of who their characters were supposed to be and hat exactly what it was they were doing.

I asked my kids as the movie came on: "Does JGL play a villain or a hero?"
"Give it a minute," they said, "and then you tell us."

Was it fun? It looked like it was fun to make. JGL said it was like playing with giant action figures all day and then going home. Was it a serious movie? Not by a long shot. "Stop Loss is a movie about soldiers," he said. "GI Joe is not a movie about soldiers."

Would I recommend this movie? I can think of a couple I would watch ahead of it. Do I think it's the type film an actor would look back on and say "What was I thinking ...?" No. I think they look back on something like this, not care how it was received and remember they had a damn good time making it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Before I move on to GI Joe, a cinematographic occurrence must be experienced rather than explained, I wanted to say a special Thank You to three people who helped me out this week during the move. They never packed a box, or garbage bag in our case, but they volunteered to cover me here so I would not have to worry. So thank you Cassidy, Mr. Curits and Madison. Your time and words were much apprecated.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Frogs Move Easier than People ...

Yes, this is a perfect representation of what moving is really like: smiles and butterflies and a quick hop ... oh, who the hell am I kidding ... LOL ... we had late nights, hitting two and three in the morning. We ran out of boxes and had to use garbage bags. We had the greatest set of kids to ever show up and say "What do you need? Where can I help? Getting food, moving this, cleaning that?" And with a Friday at 10:00 deadline looming, we literally finished getting the last thing in the truck and the last floor swept at Friday, 9:58. Yeah ... it was *that* close.

Did things always go right? Not even close.

"Who had the Chili Chicken Burrito," I called out one day.
"I got mine, the Black Bean and Cheese."
"Great," I say, "Who has the Chili Chicken Burrito?"
"Steak here." "Bean and Cheese over here." "Mine's the Burrito Bowl. Yummy."
"Great," I grit my teeth," Who. Had The. Chili ...."

How much fast food is too much for the body to take? And if most of those bodies are twenty-two or under, does the moving shit count as exercise while the almost fifty crowd reaches for Ben Gay and cracks when they bend at the knees?

We are in the new house surrounded by more than we ever realized we had, but we will get it it all either put away or sent away in a little while.

There were moments when each one of us took a turn: "This is hopeless. We are never going to make it." Then we would switch off and trade places, keeping each other going. Looking at it now, yeah, I wouldn't want to do it again, but you know what? It wasn't as bad as I thought and I think I might have even had some fun. I know I really enjoyed the company. Everyone deserves as set of kids as great as we got to borrow!!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Guest: Movie Characters that Live On by Madison Chase

Characters. Of all the people involved in the making of a movie, characters are the ones who can truly bring a story to life. It's their words, actions and personalities that speak to us long after the credits are over. Exceptional characters live on, to the point where I don’t even need to mention the name of the movie but rather just their names and you’ll know who I’m talking about. Hannibal Lector, Maverick, Clark Kent, James Bond, Scarlett O’Hara, Mary Poppins.

How about three more? Rick Blaine, Ilsa Lund, Victor Laszlo. Do I need to name the movie? Probably not. These characters, like so many others have found their way into views hearts for over half a century.

When Jax asked me to talk about Casablanca and why that movie and its characters are such a classic I thought, oh the hardship. Thinking back to old favorites is always a treat. And like many great movies, I can still remember when and where I first saw them.

For the few of you who aren't familiar with Casablanca, here's the cover blurb (thanks to vudu.com):
Resistance leader, Victor Laszlo's only hope in getting out of Casablanca is through Rick Blaine. But when Ilsa, Laszlo's wife and Rick's ex-girlfriend, gets involved, Rick must decide between his happiness or countless lives hanging in the balance.

Keep in mind, this movie came out in 1942. So why is it still considered one of the greatest (love) stories of all time?

Setting. Suspense. Intrigue. Comedy. Incredible music. Fabulous, memorable dialogue. A dash of glitz and a hint of glamor. A fabulous cast of secondary characters. And a love triangle that’s become legendary.

When these elements come together, as they do in Casablanca, you have an enduring story. Steeped in history, lush with the drama of the time, Casablanca is, dare I say, a sultry backdrop for the clash between the Nazis and the French. But more importantly, between Rick's heart and mind.

It's Rick's character that leads us through the story. His personality and heartache draw us in. The secondary characters like Sam and Louis Renault add depth, texture, heart and comedy to the movie, but they also shine a light back at Rick, putting his character further in the spotlight.

When Ilsa enters the picture, the movie really comes to life. We've got a flashback to a great love affair and back in the present, a heart-wrenching love triangle. People adore love triangles, and Casablanca offers a true classic. The scorned lover, the woman in the middle, the presumed-dead-but-very-much-alive-husband.

Without this love triangle involving these characters (brought to life by the actors) this would be just another movie about war-torn Europe with great music and plenty of drama.

Just as Gone With The Wind would be another movie about war-torn America without Scarlett and Rhett. See a pattern?

Without great characters, full of goals, motivation and emotion, a movie can fall flat, just as a book can. Regardless of the setting, special effects, music score and fabulous costumes and makeup, actors must breathe life into unforgettable characters so they may win our hearts and live forever in our minds.

About Madison
Since she was little, Madison Chase has been addicted to love. Now she spends her days and the occasional night, weaving stories of romance and love conquering all. And that’s fine by her. The ushy-gushy-mushy love stuff doesn’t bother her a bit. When not writing, Madison can be found snuggling with her hubby, playing with her dog, petting her cat, or sitting outside in the sun reading a book. She loves hearing from readers so write to her at madisonchase@madison-chase.com or visit her website at http://www.madison-chase.com

Friday, April 1, 2011

Talking With People Who Like Talking to People Who Like to Talk by Guest blogger H.E. Curtis

One of the classic complaints I hear about movies based upon books is the movie doesn’t follow the book, and dialog is no exception. Thinking of one of my favorite books and movies, The Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade in the book is a far cry from Mr. Bogart although both are delightful to listen to even though the visual picture of one is much different from the other though essentially they say the same lines, at least the ones which matter. Dialog is perhaps one of the hardest tasks an author has to develop, because he/she has to provide the visual and auditory both whereas film can fudge a bit. This has advantages for the author because imagination can at times be more forgiving with the written word than in film. If a nuance of dialog is missed in a book, the reader may be more easily held accountable as opposed to dialog in film placed upon the actor or director, where the mistake is heard and seen by all.

However, written dialog has drawbacks as well. The character Joel Cairo in the book is harder to identify as effeminate, or as “The Fairy” which Sam Spade calls him. In fact we are told in the book Mr. Cairo is indeed gay, whereas in the film the verbal dialog accompanied by visual cues tells us right away. The enjoyment in the book though comes in the reader making this discovery themselves, listening to the dialog and then matching the behaviors with conversations and descriptions which produce their own humor and tragic effects. But then there is the unique character of Mr. Gutman whose conversation pretty well matches the conversation and style both in the book and in the film, although the visual picture in the book is not the same one I see on the film, but that is not because of dialog but rather the book adds more detail that give nuances and history to the conversations and character himself.

Creating dialog is not as easy as it may seem, for in doing so the author has to know their character inside and out. Each character has a culture to them, and just like real life, dialog reflects culture and often times gives us unconscious clues about the person we are listening to, or in this case whose conversation we are reading. The written dialog must sharpen the instincts of the reader, something which film (because of its visual nature) tends to be more lazy about because it visually shows. A side note for a moment. When we watch movies or Television, we engage a different part of our brain then we would if listening to radio or reading a book. The first is more akin to an inactive state of our brain, while books and radio actually activate more of our brain. In creating dialog, the culture of our characters shines through, and if we wish it to or not doesn’t really matter for it will happen anyway. So in essence, our job as an Author is to make the dialog give life to our character. Unlike film, our characters can not get by on their good looks or their celebrity status to compensate for a lousy film. A lousy dialog will starve an author no matter how good the character is.

So remember Mr. Gutman’s words of wisdom. “Talking’s something you can’t do judiciously unless you keep in practice, and I’ll tell you right out that I’m a man who likes talking to a man that likes to talk.”


H.E. Curtis resides in the Sierra Nevada Foothills where he spends most of his time barefoot among the wildflowers, oaks and pines. He dreams of returning to Scotland and Ireland with his manacle-wielding wife, three invisible children (Not me, I don't Know and Nobody), three visual children and a twisted sense of humor and imagination.

He writes mostly Fantasy, Poetry and dabbles in Science Fiction, but will attempt almost anything once, twice if it isn't illegal. He has been published in Non-Fiction, Poetry, and Romantic Fantasy. Tribunal of the Rose is his latest release.