Friday, May 25, 2007

Can't Stop The Serenity: Silicon Valley

Got plans for Father's Day (June 17th)? Why not bring dear ol' dad to a charity screening of Serenity, the 2005 movie based on Joss Whedon's Firefly?

Can't Stop The Serenity: Silicon Valley benefits Equality Now, a non-profit group working to end violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world. Just $10 gets you in to see some Big Damn Heroes, and the chance to be one yourself.

But don't take my word for it:

Buy your tickets now at, and tell your friends and family! (If you can't make it to Silicon Valley on the 17th, check for a list of other dates and locations.)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Dead Die Hard

Thanks to Kung Fu Monkey, I've had the Die Hard song running through my head for several days. So this week, I dipped into my laserdisc collection (yes, they still work, thanks for asking) and watched Die Hard, Die Hard 2, and Die Hard with a Vengeance.

Some spoilers below!

Now, I've always liked the original best, but I hadn't watched any of these films in several years, and it was shocking to see how bad the second movie is, and what a Frankenstein's monster the third is. I'm sure the upcoming fourth installment will be entertaining, but I don't hold out any hope that it will have any kind of consistency or real continuity with the earlier films.

The first Die Hard is, frankly, a historical document. I don't think even law enforcement personnel can carry unsecured firearms on commercial flights now, and you can only light up a cigarette at LAX if you're inside one of the smoking terrariums. Then there are the gas prices (77 cents a gallon for premium), the lack of cell phones or other wireless devices among the party guests... the list goes on.

But all that aside, it's a tightly wound suspense story. Sure, there are plenty of gunfights and explosions and stunts, but they all occur within the framework of a good narrative (based on the novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp). John McClane doesn't go looking for trouble; he does everything he can to avoid direct confrontations with the terrorists. He doesn't need to fight them to defeat them--he just has to interfere with their plans.

Everything in the first movie happens because of the characters, and even the supporting cast are crucial to the story. McClane's wife Holly, big bad Hans Gruber, and the sidekicks--LAPD Sgt. Allen Powell and limo driver Argyle--could all have been stock roles, just filling space or moving the plot forward to the next action scene, but the movie takes time to develop them so they're not just cardboard cutouts.

The second movie is a massive disappointment. I mean, it doesn't just suffer by comparison; it actively blows huge, overwritten, expository chunks. Not only that, but it doesn't even try to make the people matter; it's all about blowing shit up. Of course, given that it was based on a different novel, 58 Minutes, by Walter Wager, it's not surprising that the characters lose their way.

The third movie was originally a screenplay titled Lethal Weapon 4.

Perhaps the thing that bothers me the most is that the quality and intelligence of the dialogue diminishes almost geometrically in the sequels. The original is peppered with macho insults, but that turns into simple cussing in the sequels: everything is about masturbation in the second movie, and sodomy in the third. Apparently scarcasm has become too subtle for today's action heroes.

I will see the fourth one, Live Free or Die Hard, but I'm not too optimistic at this point. The original Die Hard revitalized the action genre back in the eighties, but I think we need something new, especially since special effects are a dime a dozen now with computer graphics and whatnot. It still hasn't gotten any easier to write a good story.

Monday, May 07, 2007

...and Washed the Spider Out

You haven't seen Spider-Man 3 yet? It's skippable. You really want to go? Try a matinee. As I said to D on Friday, it's not so much about "what happens next" as it is "some stuff happens." She called it a ride, which is also a good description. You don't really need to pay attention to the story, because nothing of real consequence happens; just enjoy it while it's happening. There's action, there's comedy, there's eye candy. Not much else.

I believe there are two major axes on which superhero movies can be charted: exposition and tone. Some flicks try to explain everything, and others just go for the fun. Too much exposition about how the Phantom Zone actually works will bog down your story; not enough exposition and your audience won't be able to suspend their disbelief. Take yourself too seriously, and people will get thrown out of the story; make everything into a joke, and they won't be able to engage in the first place. It's a delicate balance.

Spider-Man 3 falls somewhere in the bottom two quadrants: not quite enough exposition, especially in the Venom department, and with wild tonal shifts that undercut what the teasers and trailers were selling as a darker story than the first two movies. And even if there was a justification for each of the three villains to appear in this story, there wasn't a good reason to overstuff the movie.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Gone in 120 Seconds

D and I saw Next last night, and it's a good thing we didn't pay for it. (I used two AMC Gold passes I'd received as a thank-you for a special project at work.) The premise is intriguing--a man who can see exactly two minutes into his own future--but completely wasted on a total cheat of a story.

The credits claim that the film is based on the Philip K. Dick story "The Golden Man," but that's like saying Babe was based on Animal Farm. The short story is completely different, more ominous, thought-provoking, and just plain better.

That said, I do think there's the potential for a TV series based on Next--the final shot of the movie practically screams "THIS WAS A PILOT," and a good writing staff could take the premise and have a lot of fun with it. If Highlander and Stargate could redeem themselves on television, why not this piece of crap?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


This link sent to me by Cary:
Let’s talk about lolcats. Lolcats, or cat macros, are a subset of image macros. They’re pictures of cats with captions typed across them. In essence they’re the “Hang In There Baby” posters gone feral...

I quickly realized that there are no long-form lolcat works. The closest is Spatch’s wonderful Cat Town, and it’s only a relative to lolcats. That set my fevered brain to spinning: what would a lolcat story look like? What if lolcats had a TV channel? What kind of shows would be on it?

The answer is clear: they would show Star Trek. [my link -CKL]

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

"Love Lucy"

My fourth 365 tomorrows story has been published:
Love Lucy

I'm always fascinated by the forum discussions, wherein I learn just how different my work looks to other people.

This story was inspired by LUCYinLA's video blog on YouTube, the creepy-but-train-wreck-fascinating RealDoll, and the painstakingly specific content ratings used in slash fiction. I didn't intend to present any particular moral or political view. I just wanted to explore the aftermath of a decision. As my wife likes to say: Actions have consequences.

I found writing the story very difficult, for two main reasons: first, because I had a lot to say, and trimming it down to 500 words meant that I had to abbreviate or remove a lot of detail. Second, the subject matter is very intimate, and imagining the main character's anxiety and anguish took a lot out of me, emotionally. (Perhaps not as much as the hijacking scene in Waypoint Kangaroo, but in some ways, just as badly.)