Sunday, January 30, 2011

Prince of Persia

Watching Prince of Persia tonight. I won't post a full review, since I did that the first time I saw it in the theater.
Suffice it to say, it is a bit of a failure, in my opinion, for Disney. As I posted the first time I watched it, I was hoping for something as cool and instantly immersive as Pirates of the Carribean. Where did they go wrong with Prince of Persia?
- The lead is no Johnny Depp (he could be an Orlando Bloom, I suppose)
- No ensemble cast. Wasn't the cast in POTC just awesome?
- The score is no where near as cool
- They didn't leave us wanting to be Persian the way POTC left us wanting to be Pirates
- The leading lady, while beautiful, is not as hot as Elizabeth Swann

I don't know what else could have been changed. Clearly it was a big budget film. The scenery is beautiful. Maybe there is too much CGI. I have found that too much reliance on CGI will not save a movie. They seemed to put a lot of faith into the time travel effects of the dagger. Could have saved some money there I think and put some more thought into good dialogue and good storytelling.

On a totally separate note, I selected Prince of Persia for tonight's viewing because it was one of the few films I owned on Blu Ray. I just bought a Blu Ray player and I am thrilled with it! Yes...I am waaaay behind the times on my home theater technology.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Asking before receiving

I read a Dilbert cartoon a day or so ago in which Dilbert is sitting in his cubicle and he reflect that "I ask for so little."
There is an introspective pause and then Dilbert realizes...

"And boy do I get it!"

I think we all try to ask so little of life, of others, of ourselves and yet we feel victimized when we get so little. Why wouldn't we? We haven't asked for more! I am as guilty as anybody of this...probably more so, because I have prided myself on asking for so little.

And boy have I gotten it! I need to change this...right now!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Brief GGE Update

Some brief GGE news:

Think I found a new artist for Danger Guild. I loved our previous artist, but he's just got too much n his late to spend time with us. It's a good problem to have as an artist, I would say, being able to turn away $$$.
In any event, we'll get rolling on Danger Guild again and get some samples out as soon as they are available.
Sent three finished works off to Green for his review and editting. While Gates provides a lot of the mechanics of story crafting, typing, and businessy stuff, Green provides a huge amount of the creative effort. Our stories tend to have very distinct characters, distinct imagery and snappy dialogue. A good deal of that comes from the (sometimes twisted) mind of Green (Tim Green for those who don't know).
So with one under contract, three in editting and one being drawn, we are about to develop a couple of new properties.
Also planned for this year is a total website revamp, and hopefully adapting some of our prose work into graphic novel scripts or screenplays.
It just all takes time and that is the one thing we can't make more of.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Character Development for storytelling

I have been using an interesting tool for character development lately. It takes some time, but it is a lot of fun. It basically helps flesh out some key aspects of a character before ever writing a word. This helps keep your characters human, consistent and interesting.

It's basically a table that looks like this:

It is really helpful for me and a lot of fun to execute this prior to writing a sentence. The Notes section can be where you record background information, history, etc. The Notes section can become pretty full throughout the writing process.
Tools are fun to use, but sometimes the right thing is to decide not to use the tool. It's all part of the creative process and using the right tool for the right job. I have derived a lot of benefit from this one though, so I thought I would pass it along.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I love it when a plan comes together!

Just saw the new A-Team movie (2010). Now let me say that I was a huge fan of the original show, even with the campy parts. I loved the premise and everything. It could have been a bit more serious for my tastes, and fortunately, the new movie makes it just that way.
I was so pleased with this movie. Not quite as pleased as I was with the Star Trek reboot, but very close.
The movie was funny, action packed and a bit more serious that then original show, which is important since even the kids today expect a bit more from their action comedies than we did back in the 80's.
Still, I thought this was a very worthy remake. I loved the few times they used the original music and, of course, I still love the van.
What a hapy time for a geek like me. We have
  • Star Trek reboots
  • A-team is back
  • Transformers are in full swing
  • Star Wars is still huge
  • Battlestar Galactica still rocks
  • True Grit just came back out
  • My superheroes are all new again thanks to the successful superhero movies of late (Batman, X-men, Spiderman, Superman, Fantastic Four, The Watchmen)
It's a great time to be a fanboy! It's also proff that great stories and ideas are timeless. Even more incentive to go create one!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Resident Evil: Afterlife

Wow. Am I just in a grumpy mood or am I actually posting two negative reviews in two days! I saw Resident Evil: Afterlife, expecting to love it. I have a long love affair with Resident Evil, having played the original game and just about every game since (excluding the Wii one). I saw every movie and loved them, and the Resident Evil films have become standard Halloween-watching fare at Chez Gates.

So, needless to say, I went into Afterlife expecting great things.

I was sorely disappointed.

As usual, I will point out some good things:
  • Visually stunning
  • Some decent new characters (loved the basketball player)
  • Milla Jovovich is a bona fide kick ass action star
  • Ali Larter is hot
  • The new bad guy was mildly interesting
  • Very "cross genre" (how can I say a zombie film is cross genre? Easy. Milla is a bonafide superhero in these films, so to me, this is a superhero vs zombie movie. Always has been).
So what was not good about it?

I thought the story was a bit weaker than the others. It was cool that Japan seemed to have survived all these years of infection, but why? And why inexplicably and suddenly did their protective measures fail? The people in the prison in the U.S - where have they been for the last 4 years? It seemed like they had just realized there was a zombie apocalypse that had been going on for years now.
Finally, why do some of the zombies have huge tentacles that burst out of their mouths everytime they feed? I suspect this was solely for 3D shock effect. Not a good use of the 3D media. Don't invent a new zombie characteristic just to make me squirm. It cheapens the story.

So that is my review. It is painful to deliver, like slugging an old friend in the gut. Maybe there will be more...if so, let's hope they are better.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Cape

I can't believe I'm going to say this, but The Cape really failed to deliver, in my opinion. For anyone who doesn't know, The Cape is a new superhero show on NBC. It's not based on an existing comic (not that I know of) but there is a comic in the show that the main hero bases his superhero identity off of.
Now, don't get me wrong, there are a couple of things about that show that come off as cool.
  • The costume. Very cool costume.
  • The premise. Works with criminals. Trained by carnies.
  • The carnies (some cool characters led by Keith David who always rocks)
So, what's wrong with it?
  • For what coolness is has, it still comes across as campy. It's too much like a comic book translated directly to a TV show
  • Characters - the characters, especially the main hero, is just not real enough. He doesn't have many major problems. When I think of some great heroes, I think of their flaws. Peter Parker, Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne, all of the X-men. They are flawed people and in being flawed, they seem real. This character doesn't feel real. Too much like The Phantom or The Shadow. Both Phantom and Shadow were cool, but we want more these days. We want some character-driven drama set in a world where superheroes exist. We don't want just four color pulp action. It's okay as a diversion, but not as a TV series unless you are making the latest Power Rangers.
Sorry to rant. I am usually a really forgiving reviewer, especially of superhero pop culture, but The Cape left me feeling a bit flat and I had hoped for so much more! Now, I certainly applaud NBC for giving another superhero show a try. I love seeing these out there, but I don't see this generating the buzz that "Heroes" did, and if givne a choice, I would watch "No Ordinary Family" instead of The Cape. No Ordinary Family has a less believable premise, but more believable characters and, to me, that makes better storytelling.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Vampire Empire

I just read in the Raleigh News and Observer that a local writing duo had published a cross genre novel involving Vampires in a Steampunk setting. How freaking cool is that? The book is "The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire Book One". It sounds really cool. The authors are Clay and Susan Griffith. You can check out their blog here.
I love Steampunk and I love the fact that is seems to be on the rise lately. People are making some cool stuff into "steampunk" versions.
I can't say too much about "The Greyfriar" yet since I haven't read it, but it sounds awesome, it is by a local pair of authors (local to me anyway) and it is cross genre, which I love. The steampunk bit is just icing on the cake so I will definitely have to give it a read.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

True Grit

Finally got to see the new "True Grit"! A bit of history...I had to watch John Wayne movies growing up. They were my Dad's favorite. I watched so many that I was not a huge fan (I am now - I think as a means to connect with my Dad). Anyway, the first time I saw the original "True Grit", I was struck by three things:
  • Rooster Cogburn was not your typical John Wayne character
  • The dialogue was unlike any western I have ever seen or read
  • My Dad did not like Rooster Cogburn
Obviously this was a formula for me to love the film. I did. I have watched it hundreds of times. When I saw the new one was coming out, I was thrilled. I saw it last night and was not disappointed. The dialogue is still some of the catchiest around. I love that Portis' novel is still impactful after all these years.

I know I usually blog about sci-fi, fantasy, writing, zombies, etc. This movie though (and especially the book that spawned the film) impresses me because it is "different" in a very formulaic genre. I also work in some formulaic genres and I would love to find a voice that was different enough to be notable decades after I penned the words. I think in these cases , different (but familiar) is a very good place to be!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Bone Sword

So I wander across Rhemalda Publishing on Facebook. Seemed like an interesting publisher, so I "friended them" or "liked them" whichever it is...
Anyway, that led me to Walter Rhein's book, "The Bone Sword".
I saw the release of the book and didn't take the plunge to buy it. Then I read some reviews online. After reading the reviews (not 100% positive), I thought, I owe it to myself to read this book. Even the "bad" reviews made the book sound good.
So, I got a Kindle for Christmas (yay!) and the first book I bought was "The Bone Sword".
I had a bit of reluctance when I first opened the book. I think Rhemalda qualifies as a small press publisher and I have bought books from small presses before and been a bit disappointed. I was also a bit nervous for Walter Rhein. I had communicated briefly with him via Facebook and he had asked for my honest feedback of the book when I read it. I was afraid my honest feedback might be negative. So, I allowed myself, for just a moment, to lower my expectations when I started reading "The Bone Sword". I quickly realized that I had lowered my expectations prematurely and without cause.
As I read, I  began to think things like "Oh, that was cool!" and "Well done!" and "This could actually be a good book". I was only slightly's not just a good book. It's a damn good book!
I really liked the characters. The characters are all very unique and feel very "real". The primary good guy in the novel is a total bad ass. His name is Malik and I could easily see him as the basis of a series of books like Conan. As a matter of fact, the book put me in the mind of Robert Howard only set in a much less barbaric setting. Even the bad guys are really cool. Without offering any spoilers, I loved the bad guy who had a penchant for torture. I loved Malik's nemesis. I even really liked the corrupt nobleman and I was a bit disappointed when he died without getting to see more of him. Good bad guys really make a novel for me and Rhein did not disappoint!
One thing that I particularly loved was the plot twists that caught me off guard, but seemed to really fit well in the story. The story was, in no way, predictable, but it also fits together really well.
The world building was well done. One definitely gets the sense that the setting is fully established and has a rich history before the events of the story and will continue to have an ongoing saga after the close of the last chapter.
A note on magic - fantasy stories typically have magic and this one does too, but it is done to perfection. It's not a common thing. People are scared to death of it and no one understands exactly how it works (though it is clear to the reader that there are certain "rules" guiding the magic). Couldn't have been handled much better in my opinion.
Were there any negatives? Minor. It wasn't a perfect book, but the imperfections were extremely slim. A clunky sentence here and there, but that might just be Rhein's "voice".
One very pleasant surprise - the book was essentially devoid of editing errors to my eyes (I'm not an expert but I usually catch at least 2 or 3 even in books by big publishing houses).
One thing I loved was that in the beginning of the book, even the hero (Malik) seems a bit disdainful of "common" people. So does the Earl and the Priest. I began to wonder if the author felt similarly. By the end of the book, however, Malik's perceptions of common people has really changed. Such a change is so essential in a character. I hope, if we are fortunate enough to see more of Malik, then the changes will persist. Some authors, when they realize they have a good hero for a series, begin keeping their characters static in an attempt not to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. I personally think this is a mistake, but that's a rant for another day.
Sorry for the really long post's the bottom line.
If you like a good fantasy story, and you like cool heroes and well defined characters set in a believable setting, then go buy a copy of "The Bone Sword". I cannot imagine how you could be disappointed.