26 Jun 2011

Romance is hard

Well I have finally finished my wee entry for the romance competition, and it was harder than I thought.  I initially did my research by reading some romance stories. And I will thank my friend for the loan. I won't identify them here just in case they don't want me to, but I appreciate all your help with this.

I have to say I over estimated myself. Or maybe that's not accurate. I think I just didn't appreciate the brevity that 120 words requires.

I have been told I am a contextual writer. And I see no reason to disagree with this observation.  My first attempt involved me sitting at my desk muttering "romance" over and over to myself. Then I came up with the idea of what would happen if you were the get away driver for a crew of bank robbers, and while you were waiting you met a girl?

Sure ok that has possibilities. So I started writing that.  Around 538 words later I realised I was in trouble. So with great effort I finished with this effort:

“Oi let her go, or you’ll get a slap!” A man’s voice cried out. Katrina and Anton looked over to see a young man marching towards them with intent. Katrina could see the stranger’s dark eyes burning with fury. 

“Look this ain’t your business mate” Anton sneered. To their surprise the stranger kicked Anton hard in the knee. Anton shrieked and crumpled to the ground letting Katrina go as he fell. 

“You hit him?” Katrina said in shock.
“Job done!” The stranger said “I hate bullies!”
“Who are you?” Katrina asked. Suddenly a burglar alarm went off.
“Bollocks! Look are you alright?” the stranger asked urgently.
“I guess?” Katrina said. The Stranger smiled as he ran off.

It's sliced, it's diced and I really wasn't happy with it at all.  But then while commuting to work listening to Adele's new album I had a new idea. And here it is:

As Paul walked in he instantly saw Emma, and he felt his heart pound in his chest.  She looked so cute in a red and black outfit. It highlighted her pretty pale skin and her dazzling green eyes.  She was talking to some tall blonde guy. Paul nervously hovered behind trying to look casual.  The blonde guy moved off. This was his chance. He felt sick with nerves, but with a deep breath he walked up to her. Paul hesitated before speaking.
“Hi.” He said nervously
“Hi, and what can I get you tonight?” Emma asked.
“Umm, a whopper meal please.”
“Anything else?”
Ask her, ask her.
“Umm onions rings?”
“Ok that’s $12.50.” Emma said
“Thanks.” Paul said.

So that is what I sent off today. Thanks to those who gave me advice on this I appreciate it. 


21 Jun 2011

Romance sweet romance

I've always been a romantic sort of chap. I guess that's why I left Hamilton.

Anyway the Wellington public library is having a writing competition. All you have to do is write 120 words where a guy and a girl first meet.


Well maybe. Any way I'm going to have a go for a laugh and see what happens. Still if it worked for Robin Masters, I'm happy to sell out.

Right where to start.....

Sadly that means research. So I'm off to fill my head with Harlequin and M&B and see what they like.

Wish me luck!

Aliens and wine

 7 monkeys 

A sad state of affairs has come to pass. My back is playing up again.  Because it involves my work it would be wise not to discuss the; whys and the hows. But instead simply to say my occupation is killing my back at the moment. 
Why should this affect my blog? Well I am back on the meds

This news may come as a complete surprise to those of you that assume my personality is or should be restrained by chemical inhibitors. But the meds I am referring to are not Ritalin, but severe anti-inflammatories and pain killers which I have to take regularly with exercise etc.

Again you may be wondering, while sympathetic what this all has to do with writing? Well obviously it makes it difficult to concentrate when the pain is bad, but the most awful thing of all is that while my back is re-aggravated I am ceasing all consumption of wine until I am better.

Yes valued readers no more Pinot or cheeky cheap and cheerful glasses of Italian to help relax me as I type a way.  

The awful terrible inhumane tragedy of it all.

Still I will soldier on and bring you today's blog.

is  possibly is one of the best sequels ever made in my opinion. And the reason is quite simple. Alien is a horror movie, Aliens is not. Many sequels merely attempt to imitate the first film, to recapture what made it successful. Aliens simply continues the story but in its own way. Ripley Scott directed Alien, and James Cameron directed Aliens. Two different directors with two entirely different approaches. Sigourney Weaver reprises her role as Ripley with Michael Biehn , Bill Paxton and Lance Henrikson

So a synopsis!

Continuing from the first movie, Ripley is woken up from her cryogenic hibernation to find that several years have passed. On earth she discovers that Earth has built a colony on the same planet where Ripley's crew found the Alien. Despite her warnings she is ignored and cast aside by her employer. Until Earth loses contact with the settlement and are sending some Marines out to investigate. Ripley agrees to accompany the Marines and investigate. And then Alien Hyjinxs!

 James Cameron is a master of pacing and action as is readily seen in other movies he worked on; Terminator and more recently Avatar. As the writer and the director he takes control and crafts a grand conflict in space. The story is good, the performances are fun and the effects, for me are terribly dated.  But for all he does, Cameron remains true to the first film so that the viewer feels that Ripleys story is continuing. As I said a wonderful sequel.

Aliens has its place in cinematic history, for one I believe it is the first time in cinematic history which a movie depicts women soldiers in front line combat service. It won two academy awards and is one of those rare movies that is very re-watchable. There are two versions of Aliens, the director’s cut and the cinematic release. I recommend you watch the director’s cut. Although it adds around 17 minutes to the movie, you won’t notice. It adds important story points and dramatic pacing to the film.

One final note some trivia. As previously mentioned James Cameron also directed Terminator which had cameos by Bill Paxton, and Lance Henrikson and starred Michael Biehn, all of which star in Aliens. 
And Cameron's ex wife Kathryn Bigelow directed Near Dark which starred the above and Jenette Goldstein also from Aliens. Michael Biehn is the exception. He was meant to star, but he could not do the role and it was taken by Adrian Pasdar.

I recommend it for most viewers as good night in.

12 Jun 2011

Warning the Owls are not what they seem

So I have noticed a trend I have which I should probably alert you to. The more I like a film the briefer the synopsis, while the more I dislike a film the greater the plot exposition as I rend it apart.
This is not always the case, but in fairness to you my valued readers, I felt an obligation to alert you.

So from now on I will place my monkeys under the image so you will be alert for any potential spoilers. There is little worse with reviewing, and I will endeavour not to reveal too much.

In other news I have been honoured to be invited to add a link of this blog to my friends face book group  The owls are not what they seem. This is a reference from  Twin Peaks,  that iconic series from the 90's. The group is a open discussion on film and TV.

Here is the description

"This group is designed to allow for a free exchange of ideas on Cinema & Television. From Francois Truffaut to Hershell Gordon Lewis, from James Cameron to Hal Hartley, from Fawlty Towers to The Sopranos....all comin' at ya at 24 frames per second. Members are welcome to contribute links, reviews etc. Criticism or dissenting opinions between members is always going to occur, but please keep it civil. I hope you enjoy discussing any passions you may have in this area. Cheers, Laurence :)."

OK I'm off to work on other projects, but the next review is Aliens.

11 Jun 2011

Alien 1979

As previously mentioned I like monster movies. I also enjoy science fiction and horror. So you would think that I would like Alien.

And you would be dead right.

Alien is a modern classic with a great ensemble cast; Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, Veronica Cartwright and Tom Skerrit. A wonderful collection of actors.

But why is it so good? Lets look at a synopsis.

The Crew of the deep space mining ship Nostromo are detoured from their journey home when their ships computer detects  some sort of beacon on a nearby planet. The crew set down and make the discovery of a lifetime, evidence of intelligent alien life in the form of the wreckage of a alien vessel. But as they investigate something goes terribly wrong.

What goes wrong? I am not saying.If you want spoilers try that spoiler blog.

When I first saw this film it scared the bejeebers out of me. To this day I lack any sort of bejeeber.

The director Ridley Scott, uses key lighting, and tight camera work to keep the tension high. Most importantly the Alien is rarely seen. It is only at the very end of the film that you see the Alien in all it's glory. You would think that the fact that the Alien was designed by that  weird Swiss artist H.R. Gieger would be disturbing enough, but no you only get partial glimpses of the Alien throughout the film. This allows your imagination  to run away into the dark and shadowy parts of our mind. It is also able to achieve this sense of horror without buckets of blood and dangling eye balls.

In an earlier blog I discussed film noir and Fantasy. Well here is a classic example of the Horror Genre in a science fiction setting.Whether you like science fiction or not, this story will sweep you up in the drama. The performance's by the entire cast are memorable and worthy of their talent.

The plot is simple, but the story is well executed. Good enough to spawn three sequels and a dozen b grade knock offs. Not to mention endless papers on feminist/Freudian/Marxist film readings. 

Alien is well crafted in cinematography and lighting to create the mood you want. The special effects and sets haven't really dated in thirty years for me. So the special effects crew probably deserve their Oscar. 

Despite it's age and the fact you may have seen the film in it's entirety through parody and other references, but it is still worth watching. After all if it wasn't good then it wouldn't be get that sort of attention.

This one of the top horror movies for me and I rate it eight Monkeys out of ten.

Thanks for reading, this post was brought to you by Jacobs Creek Pinot, and my bad back stopping me from going to a very good party.

5 Jun 2011

30 days of Night

Instantly I waiver over the rating….. Is it really a 7and a half? Well let’s come back to that.

I enjoy horror movies, especially monster movies with vampires, were-wolves, giant radioactive ants and the like always have. Horror is such a primal genre of story telling that I imagine goes back to Cro-Magnon days. There is something about fear that while repellent, is also attractive.  We enjoy the thrill and the rush of fear.

30 days of night is a film adaptation from a successful graphic novel (that’s big comic book for those who don’t know) starring Josh Hartnett and Melissa George.

Ok here is the plot synopsis; Barrow is the northern most town in Alaska. And given its position on the bald spot of the earth, for one month of the year there is total darkness.  This year some vampires turn up and decide that an isolated town in darkness for a month sounds like their version of Disneyland, but without the queues. The inhabitants of Barrow must do their best to survive.

Sounds simple? And it is. I think the concept is both obvious and cool.

Josh Hartnett plays the town’s sheriff who gathers up some survivors and tries to keep them alive as the vampires turn the town into a charnel pit.  I thought that the acting in the film was great, also as most of the cast are what you would call character focused actors; Danny Huston as the elder of the vampires, Mark Boone Junior as the belligerent town rebel, and Melissa George as the sheriffs estranged wife all give great performances (recognisable as soon as you see them).
  Also this film was shot in New Zealand which is great, but also has one significant downfall. The cast is littered with New Zealand actors who you will easily recognise.

Why is that bad? Because when my companions watched the movie, I felt that through their recognition of the cast they lost their suspension of disbelief and disassociated themselves from the movie.  Which is a shame because I thought the Kiwi cast held their own against the Americans.  But that’s just life really, and I also am guilty of this too when I saw an icon form my childhood CHIC LITTLEWOOD. Go Chic, WOOT!

Also if you like vampires movies and feel a bit dirty about the Twilight phenomenon you will love this. These vampires are not sparkly and mopey. They don’t care about humans, they don’t even like humans. You will feel cathartic post viewing.

Good plot, good story, good acting and a refreshing return to an overly abused subject.

7 ½  monkeys from me.

Ten Monkeys

To be clear I am putting my academic neck out a bit with this blog. But in all my time studying the aspects of national and international cinema, mainstream and independent film, it’s like any art, purely subjective.  Various people can go to the same movie and come out with different reactions of varying degree. Some people like different genres of film, or type or content.  It’s like literature, where some people love comics (sorry graphic novels) or Hunter S. Thompson; others enjoy Jean Paul Sartre, Graeme Green or Jane Austin. 

Face to face if people want a recommendation from me regarding a specific movie the first thing I ask them is “what are some of your favourite movies?” that way I can try and gauge their taste and try and ascertain whether they would like a film or not. In saying that I occasionally enjoy pushing my friend’s boundaries and try to expose them to less mainstream films.

So I have a one to ten rating system which is greater than your typical ‘5 star’ system. I find a rating of one to five to limiting, and lumps films together too easily.  So here are some examples of what constitutes a good film, or something starring Rob Schneider.

10 Monkeys

Obviously the highest rating, and to be fair a very subjective rating in some respects, any criticism is of course. This relates to movies that I consider the best in all regards; plot, story, acting, cinematography, music, enjoyment and the film’s ability to be revisited.  Examples of what I would rate a ten would be; The Professional and The Shawshank Redemption. Those films that even if you do not personally consider them a ten out of ten, you will still recognize their excellence.

Eight to Nine Monkeys

Excellent movies that still rate very highly over all in most regards. A lot of classics fall into this category for me, and I believe that there is a whole generation that would really enjoy films such as Rear Window, The Maltese Falcon and Spartacus.  This also covers movies that maybe not “excellent” per say, but for what they are highly enjoyable or personal favourites. Fun movies that although maybe not cinematic brilliance, are highly entertaining stories.  The 13th Warrior for its entertainment value, ability to be watched over and over, and possibly one of the only two decent films about Vikings ever made.

5-7 Monkeys

Basically an average film, and when I say that, probably enjoyable with good highlights, but not what I would consider a great movie. For me a good example is Madagascar The Penguins and the Lemurs were great, really very funny, and the rest was, fine. Another film would be The Fountain. I really enjoyed this film, interesting, compelling and thoughtful. Hard on my friend that sat through it with me as it was very art house.  A good film, but certainly not for everybody.  Other examples would be Oceans 11 (both the original and the remake), The Thomas crown Affair (both the original and the remake).  This category also includes my guilty pleasures of bad monster movies. I like a bad movie now and again, they can be hilarious.  So this category covers a range of sins.

Three to four Monkeys

Oh dear. Well this category falls under disappointing or just missed the mark. Basically I walked away unsatisfied or wanting to enjoy it because of one aspect such as a good cast, but realistically didn’t. Not awful, but there is a world out there so you should probably be doing something else, like the vacuuming. I imagine there will be some subjective choices here too as I generally dislike remakes, with some notable exceptions as above. Here are some examples: The Contract, this has two of my favourite actors in it, Morgan Freeman and John Cusack. But the story was severely lacking.  Hancock, This started off with a good cast and great concept, but quickly went downhill into dire. And Cloverfield. Enough said about that.

One – two Monkeys

Shite! Movies that make me angry for whatever reason, or are just plain arse. The sort of bad Kung Fu spin off’s with sad plots ripped off blockbusters from the 80’s and transposed into a shocking cliché with TV has beens.  Or just suck! In this I would personally class most movies with Steven Segal, any movie produced, written and or directed by the Wayans brothers, any movie with a notable exception anything with IV after it. There can be movies with some elements of good but are basically shocking. A Knights tale is an example. I know that as a student and lover of history I am biased, but except for the marvellous co-stars (including Alan Tudyk) I found it an awful film. If anyone ever gave this to me as a joke I would snap it in half. 

No Monkeys!

This category is for the worst movies.  I am not referring to bad but funny, or what is commonly known as a B movie, but actually utter and unredeemable effluent in my mind. A movie that I would walk out on or simply turn off. A good example is any movie that graphically depicts any sort of sexual assault or torture for pure spectacle or for the disturbed pleasure of the creators. Call me conservative if you will but you can set tension or a plot device without any explicit vileness. It also just includes films that are completely shite with no redeeming features. My examples are Massacre in dinosaur valley (yes I was fooled by the title) The zombie Diaries (I confused this for Diary of the dead) and also Man bites dog.

Ok so there you go. Oh why monkeys?
Well I like monkeys. I like saying monkey. And I own one.

Thanks for reading.