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Ever wonder what it's like to be in that moment between struggling artist and published author? Read on and find out.

Monday, December 30, 2013

What I Learned In 2013

            Here we are at the end of the 2013. It has been a landmark year for me. Several short stories and my debut novel were all picked up for publication. In the space of twelve months I passed from a wannabe writer to bona fide author. During this time I learned some important lessons.
            At the top of my list is the importance of branding yourself. There’s a lot of work and frustration involved in becoming a published author. Doubling, or even tripling, that workload is insane. Brand yourself and then once you are firmly established you can think about going a different direction.
            Marketing yourself involves getting the readers to identify you with a specific kind of story. In my case, I started out with Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror. My earliest published stories were The Coyote’s Tale (fantasy), Not Fragile (science-fiction) and Matches (horror). Fortunately, all three of these genres blend well together. Writing any one of them did not ruin the expectations among my readers.
            Publication and the subsequent marketing of The Gathering changes things. Even though it is speculative fiction it has religious themes that fans of my fantasy and sci-fi may not find interesting. It has a different audience than my short stories.
            As I started preparations for the upcoming blog tour in January and scheduled book signings over the next two months I realized what a nightmare this would be if I had to split my efforts between two genres. The situation would have been even worse if I had attempted to launch two author personas as I had planned.
            During this past year, I had been working on a comedy-murder. I like being funny and wanted to branch out and show people that I could write about more than zombies, dragons, and space aliens running amok. My plans also included a collection of children’s stories that I planned to self-publish.
            The truth of the matter is that a demonstration of my versatility as a writer will need to wait. I have to focus all of my efforts to spread the word that I have written an excellent speculative fiction story about the end of the world from an LDS point of view. The articles on my website need to contain subject matter that will interest people in reading The Gathering. Any materials I create for book signings, speaking engagements, and media interviews need to promote my expertise on the apocalypse. When people hear the name of Randy Lindsay, I want them to immediately think about that author that writes touching stories about the end of the world. And I’m just not talented enough to do that and promote a line of books, under a different name, that deal with a pair of goofball private investigators in Hollywood.
            If I had known at the time I signed my publishing contract what I know now I would have immediately started on the second book in the series. And if I understood then just how much effort goes into marketing a book, I would have started preparing my marketing materials right away.
            Now, where did I put that time machine?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Movie Review - 47 Ronin

47 Ronin  $$$ 1/2


119 Minutes
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, and  Rinko Kikuchi.
Director: Carl Rinsch. 

            This is an interesting take on a true story. My first experience with this event was with the film Chusingura. I found it to be an interesting tale, but the tragic ending kept it from being a favorite. In 47 Ronin Carl Rinsch has changed things up a bit by introducing a fantasy element to story. As far as I’m concerned it worked.
Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) is the respected Lord of Ako. His rival, Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano), devises a plan where Lord Asano is bewitched into attacking him and is then forced to commit seppuku in order to regain his honor. The samurai that served Lord Asano are stripped of their honor, reducing them to masterless ronin, and banished. Led by Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), the ronin vowed to gain vengeance against Lord Kira for his treachery.

            Kai (Keanu Reeves) is the centerpiece of the fantasy elements placed into the film. He is a half-breed outcast, with tremendous fighting skills, who has fallen in love with Lord Asano’s daughter, Mika (Ko Shibasaki). The twin issues of forbidden love and samurai envy plague Kai.  

            47 Ronin reminded me of the epic sagas of old, except set in Japan. It gave a wonderful sense of the mythology of that country that I hadn’t previously experienced before. All-in-all, I thought it was really quite good.  

            1. Fun – This movie caught my attention and kept it. Dragons, witches, ghosts, and a mysterious race of warriors all added to the unique flavor of this film. It manages to pack quite a bit of gore-free action into the story. I give the movie a full MB for the fantasy retelling of an actual event.  

            2. Story – Working with a historic event can be challenging. Adding the Keanu Reeves character to the story allowed them to insert a few hopeful moments to this tragic tale. Weaving the fantasy elements into the story made it lighter and more interesting as well. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few flaws in the story, but because of their innovation in making these adaptations to the original tale I give it a full MB for storytelling.  

            3. Technical – This was a beautiful movie. The scenery and special effects made it a joy to watch. Creature special effects added to the wow factor of the film. I give it a full MB for the visual treats it presented.  

            4. Acting. Good. Keanu Reeves gives a standard performance. If you like Reeves then you’ll like his part in this film. And if not, well . . . the lead role is sort of split between him and Hiroyuki Sanada, who gave an excellent performance. The choice to bring in Japanese actors for most of the parts was spot on. I especially enjoyed the wickedly delightful witch (Rinko Kikuchi). Put that together and I give a full MB for acting.  

            47 Ronin gets 3 ½ Movie Bucks from me. This film, more than most, will benefit from seeing it on the big screen. Catch it as a matinee, which will make it easier to take the children. It probably isn’t appropriate for young children, but I had no problems with having my pre-teens watch it. 

                        Randy’s Rating System 

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Blog Tour Anyone?

            Guess what I did for most of last week. Go ahead, take one wild and crazy guess.

            That’s right, I worked on my upcoming blog tour for The Gathering. And now I’m writing an article about it. Talk about the blind leading the blind. But I’ll do my best to give you some helpful hints on the process. If you don’t plan to ever become an author you can just sit back and giggle at all the work that went into mine.

            For those who are unfamiliar with blog tours, you basically convince as many bloggers as you can to mention you on their blog. This is usually a month long process that centers around the release of an author’s book. Fortunately, I’m not doing this alone, Cedar Fort has helped me.

            The first step in creating a blog tour is to block out the dates. As you can see from the banner below, mine runs from January 2nd to January 31st. Since the release date for The Gathering is the 14th this gives me roughly two weeks of blogging before it comes out and another two weeks once it’s on the shelves.

            Next, you’ll want a visual reminder of the blog tour. This is a task that Cedar Fort took care of that would have been difficult to do on my own. See the lovely banner below? You could do a blog tour without a banner, or a button, but it wouldn’t be as effective. A graphic announcement of the tour will catch the eye of anyone visiting a blog that’s participating in the tour and they tend to stay up on the active page for most of the month. Some bloggers may even add it to their sidebar for the duration of the tour.

            Then you need to find bloggers who are willing to participate. Once again, Cedar Fort helped me out in this area. They provided me a list of blogs that I could contact about the possibility of getting involved. It still took me about ten hours to go through that list and check to see of the blog was active, dealt with novels in my genre, and had open spots in their schedule. I also made the rounds with my own personal contacts, writers that I’ve met at conferences and on the internet.

            If you don’t happen to have a handy list to work from then start with your blogging friends. See which blogs they have linked to on their blogs and then go there and check out the links they have too. Keep this up until you find enough blogs to promote your novel during the upcoming tour. That probably means about sixty since at least half of them will not be interested.

            Now all you need is content. What exactly is it that the bloggers will be doing? They could be reading the book and writing a review. They could be interviewing you as an author. They could be doing something as simple as mentioning that your book is for sale and posting the back cover blurb for it.

            One of the things I’ve learned during the marketing process is to make it as easy as possible for them to participate. I offered to send over an author interview that I wrote myself and they could use that as a starting point or post it as is. These are busy people and they are going to be much more willing to help you if you reduce the amount of time and effort they will have to give in order to do that. I’ll be doing a guest post for one of the blogs in my tour. In that situation, they give me a topic to discuss and I write an article that they will post on their blog. Minimal effort on their part and I get the chance to reach a new group of people.

            Whatever your fellow bloggers agree to do, they will need the proper tools. In addition to a banner, those tools will likely include links to your blog, a link to the Amazon.com page for your book, any content that you pre-generated, an image of your cover, and in my case a link to the blog tour page on my publisher’s website. I’m sure I left out several others, but this should give you an idea of what I mean.

             Finally, make sure to thank everyone once the tour is over. These people expended time and effort to help you sell your book. Do the same to show them how much you appreciate it. Not only is that the civilized thing to do, but it paves the way for a good working relationship with them in the future. It might even help you make some new friends.



Monday, December 9, 2013

Movie Review - Frozen

Frozen $$$


108 Minutes
Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad.  
Director: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee.


            Frozen wasn’t exactly what I was expecting from the previews. It turned out to have a fair number of musical numbers, none of which were in the trailers. What appeared to be an evil sister menacing a kingdom wasn’t that at all. On the plus side, the film had plenty of funny parts that didn’t show up in the advertisements.
            Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) are sisters and heirs to the throne of Arendelle. Elsa has the magical power to freeze things. As children, Elsa nearly kills Anna while they frolic in the frozen fun of her creation. Of course, that leads to an over reaction by the parents in cloistering the palace from the rest of the kingdom and forbidding Elsa from ever using her powers again.
            Then the parents die and Elsa is made queen. She accidentally unleashes her power and freezes the entire kingdom then runs away. Anna sets out to save her sister and the kingdom, enlisting an ice merchant named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer Sven.  

            Frozen offers up plenty of fun for the family, but falls short of becoming a Disney classic. It earned 3 Movie Bucks. And this is how I rated it in each of the four areas of film quality.  

            1. Fun – Plenty of fun. The characters that go looking for Elsa are all funny and provide a steady stream of humorous bits. At its heart, this is a tale of two sisters who love one another and that certainly adds to the appeal of this movie.  I gave this part of the film a full MB.  

            2. Story – Unfortunately, a princess that is kept cloistered from the kingdom at large has been done—a lot. Adding a second princess doesn’t really make that part of the story any fresher. I felt that the real story here is Elsa. She has a more compelling story and is the one who undergoes a change. As much as I enjoyed the character of Anna, my mind kept drifting to what must be going through Elsa’s mind during all of this. Still, this was a funny script that flowed well and gave out plenty of laughs. I gave this aspect of the film a half of a MB.  

            3. Technical – Good animation. They did an excellent job with the ice theme, presenting plenty of eye-popping art based on the cold. Where I felt the film really fell down was with the musical numbers. None of them were catchy. Some I felt were fairly tedious. And the opening score sounded like it belonged in the Lion King rather than in a Scandinavian setting. The overall technical efforts earned a half a MB.  

            4. Acting – Very adequate. No painfully delivered lines. The funniest performance came from Josh Gad as Olaf the snowman. Kristen Bell was very likeable in her role as Anna. I gave this aspect of the film a full MB.  

            If you want a nice family movie for the holiday, then you are pretty safe with going to see Frozen. See it as a matinee and take all the kids.  

                        Randy’s Rating System 

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Movie Revie - Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World  $$$


112 Minutes
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman and Christopher Eccleston  
Director: Alan Taylor and James Gunn.

            Before the nine realms existed there was darkness. Which was just how the dark elves liked it. Then came the light and a whole mythology of creatures that dwelt therein and the dark elves decided to wage war against them. With the Aether they planned to plunge the universe back into darkness, but the Asgardians stopped them.
            As the nine realms align the conditions are ripe for another attempt at total darkness. Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), the leader of the dark elves, returns with the last of his race in order to finish the job. This time the Asgardians can offer little in the way of resistance and Thor makes the decision to take the weapon away from Asgard in order to eliminate the dark race once and for all—an act of treason.
            Worse than that, he allies himself with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to do it.

            I found Thor: The Dark World very entertaining. That being said, it is in no danger of winning any Oscars. I gave it a rating of 3 Movie Bucks and feel that fans of the franchise will have a good time watching it.  

            1. Fun – I definitely had fun watching the fill. Based on my rating system, this was the film’s best category.  There’s action, comedy, quite a few bits of coolness, and a couple of touching moments. I especially liked when Thor obliterated the big rock creature at the beginning of the film. I give the move a full MB for non-stop entertainment.  

            2. Story – decent. The plot is not original, but I liked mythology surrounding the dark elves. I also enjoyed getting a better glimpse of the nine realms. The strange mix of archaic weapons and high technology was wondrously interesting. I gave this element of the film a half MB.  

            3. Technical – Very nice. Lots of cool other-world outfits, weapons, and vehicles used in a large number of scenes where things went BOOM!!! What’s to say—this was a visually effective film. I give it a full MB for extreme eye-appeal.  

            4. Acting – Good. I think Chris Hemsworth put in his best performance as Thor to date. Although, he still has some room to grow. For what little we see of him, Anthony Hopkins is tremendous. There wasn’t enough of Rene Russo. And then there is Tom Hiddleston. What can I say other than, Wow? This is a role that may stand out as one of the best fantasy/sci-fi antagonists of all time. I’m hoping they decide to make Loki: God of Mischief sometime soon. Overall, I give a half MB for acting.  

            Add that all together and you get 3 Movie Bucks for Thor: The Dark World. Perfect for a matinee outing with the family. You definitely want to see it at the cinema where it can be experienced in large-screen magnificence. 

                        Randy’s Rating System 

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Stage Two


            I’ve written a book, a publisher has picked it up, and now I can just sit back and bask in the golden rays of my success. Or at least, that is what I thought when I was still a naïve author in training. Don’t get me wrong, no matter how many books I write and get published I’ll still be an author in training, but I’m not as naïve about the process anymore.

            Signing a contract with a publisher only means that you have moved on to Phase Two of your work as an author—marketing. In my situation, there was a relatively short amount of time between the agreement to publish and the release date. Six months would have been plenty of time to prepare my marketing campaign if I had actually started on it when I had the chance. Instead, I waited until my publication date was about three months away before I got rolling with it.

            Had I known what I know now I would have approached the upcoming release date differently. Hopefully, all of you can benefit from my mistakes and avoid them in your own journey as published authors. Here is how I would do it now.

            Celebrate – Let’s be reasonable. Signing with a publisher is a significant goal for any author. Take a couple of weeks to soak it all in. Consider it a vacation from your work as an author and be prepared to get back to work when you are done with it.

            Go back to school – up to this point the education you have received as an author has been related to the writing craft. That’s great and it needs to continue, but then you need to learn how to market your book. No matter how good your publisher is at promoting their titles they will never be as passionate about the book as you. Pick up a couple books on marketing and spend the first month studying them. That doesn’t mean to just read them. In order to successfully market your book you need to understand how the information you read applies to your specific work. I found Jump Start Your Book Sales by Marilyn and Tom Ross to be the most helpful of the books I studied.

            Create a plan – after you finish your marketing studies take a couple of days and make a list of all the tasks that you will need to do to market your book. Don’t be surprised if some of these tasks cause you to add more items to your list.

For example, book signings seemed a simple enough step when they sat innocently on my list. Then when I looked into what I would need to do to make my book signings successful I realized that there was a lot more to it than I had thought. I needed to find locations to hold the signings and decide which ones were best for my particular book. I needed to contact the locations in advance so that I had plenty of time for them, and myself, to prepare for the event. I needed to come up with a way attract customer attention to my table, to devise a creative way to entice them to purchase the book, and to develop items to pass along to those customers who weren’t quite ready to buy the book. This went from being a single item to one that had over a dozen tasks associated with it.

Get busy – once you have a plan, start working it. There are definitely some things that will need to be done before you can move onto other tasks on the list. Items like creating an author bio and a list of book related interview questions will need to be done before you start questing for media interviews. Then there will be plenty of research to find actual newspapers, radio stations, and television shows for you to contact.

All of this may seem too much. At times it does to me. But if I want my book to succeed and if I want people to read it then this is what I have to do. One of the pieces of advice I received along the way is to do five things every day. I can do that. I can write and answer five interview questions in one day. I can contact five newspapers about whether they would like to interview me. I can send out five e-mails to companies inquiring about forming a strategic alliance.

So don’t sweat it. Five items. Every day. They add up.



Monday, November 25, 2013

Movie Review - The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire   $$$$ 


146 Minutes
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, and Woody Harrelson.  
Director: Francis Lawrence. 

            I made the mistake of being in the theater on opening night for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It was a madhouse. Young people packed the halls and excitedly talked about the film. Some were dressed in Capitol City styled costumes that evoked memories of the rich and decadent citizens in the first movie. Even after we walked into the auditorium to see Thor, the noise of the crowd penetrated the walls.
            Fortunately, I only had to wait until the following morning to see it myself and didn’t have to sit on the floor for hours to do so. If I were young, I have no doubt that participating in an opening night rush would have been a highlight of my month, maybe even the entire year.  

            Katniss (Jennifer Lawrenece) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) embark upon their victory tour, traveling through all twelve districts giving speeches to the masses and attempting to smile as they do. This should be a joyous time for our winners, but it isn’t. The government has cracked down on the population in order to crush a rebellion before it has the chance to get started. Katniss wants to run off into the wilderness with Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Peeta wants to be with Katniss regardless of where that might be. And the people want hope.
            For the people, Katniss represents hope.
            For President Snow (Donald Sutherland), Katniss represents trouble. Snow announces an unprecedented move to hold a special hunger game with the previous winners. This promises to be the most dangerous game ever.  

            The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is an excellent movie. I gave it my top rating of 4 Movie Bucks and feel that this is sequel that will not disappoint fans of the original film.  

            1. Fun – The beginning of the movie moved a bit slower as Katniss and Peeta work through their victory tour, but I enjoyed the character development that happened during this part of the film. There are plenty of tugs on the emotional heart-strings. I give it a full MB for solid entertainment throughout.  

            2. Story – Superb. The plots are nicely developed. I especially enjoy the romantic subplot that makes it so easy for us to tell Katniss to stay with the boy she’s with—in that scene. When she’s with Gale it makes perfect sense that she should stay with him. And when she’s with Peeta that seems right as well. I’m not normally much on the romantic triangle aspect of a story, but find myself enjoying this one. I found the writing to clever and powerful. I gave this element of the film a full MB.  

            3. Technical – Top notch. Special effects were great. The director, Francis Lawrence, put together a seamless story that hit on all the right notes. I gave this aspect of the film a full MB.  

            4. Acting – Tremendous. I can’t think of any role that wasn’t performed well. My only disappointment was that Woody Harrelson did not capture my attention with his soul-weary former champion as he did in the first film. It was still a good performance though. I give a full MB for acting.  

            That amounts to a perfect score of 4 Movie Bucks for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. This film will certainly give Ender’s Game a run for its money as my top pick for the year. Go out and catch this movie at your favorite cinema and experience in all its cinematic glory. 

                        Randy’s Rating System 

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Movie Review - Free Birds

Free Birds   $$$


91 Minutes
Starring: Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, and George Takei.  
Director: Jimmy Hayward.

            Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. It beats out Halloween, it beats out my birthday, and it even beats out Christmas as far as I’m concerned. So it bothers me that there aren’t more movies and television specials that focus on all the turkeylicous wonder that is the holiday. As you can guess, my hopes for this movie were high.    
            Reggie (Owen Wilson) is not your usual turkey—he’s smart. Call it luck, fate, or clever plotting on part of the writers, but Reg ends up getting a Presidential Pardon and is taken to Camp David to live the dream of intelligent turkeys. His new life consists of watching Mexican soap operas and ordering pizza by the truckload. Until, Jake (Woody Harrelson) turkeynaps him.
            Jake has a plan to sneak into a secret government facility, highjack a time machine, and travel back to the first Thanksgiving to save countless gobblers from their deaths at the hands of future holiday feasters.  

            Free Birds is good family entertainment. However, it failed to hit the mark as an instant holiday classic. I had hoped this film would be the Thanksgiving version of A Christmas Story, but some uninspired writing and directing have dashed that dream on the jagged rocks of disappointment. On the positive side of that news, that leaves an opening for me to create the first definitive Thanksgiving movie. Free Birds earned 3 Movie Bucks and this is how it rated in each of the areas.  

            1. Fun – Good. The funny parts in the trailers were not the only entertaining bits in the film. The turkey characters were likable and fun to watch. I enjoyed the romance between Reggie and Jenny (Amy Poehler) and the rivalry between Jake and Ranger (Jimmy Hayward). All of it added up to a full MB 

            2. Story – The basic concept of a pair of turkeys traveling back to the first Thanksgiving was good. Unfortunately, past that point the plot was mundane and predictable. It just felt that the writers were going through the motions of cranking out a funny family film. On the plus side, they created a funny script that was funny enough to earn a half MB.   

            3. Technical – The animation was good, although I don’t know why turkey chicks come in red, blue, and yellow varieties.  The problem I had with the film was with continuity, which is the responsibility of the director. I know this is meant to be light entertainment, but Myles Standish (Colm Meany)  character really bothered me. He is depicted with what looks like a match in his mouth—which weren’t invented until 1826). His clothing and the gun he wields have an 1800s style to them. This character was not so much a villainous pilgrim as a Wild West gunslinger.
            The overall technical efforts earned a half MB.  

            4. Acting – Good. Owen Wilson puts in a wonderful voice performance for the main character. The rest of the cast did well. I particularly like George Takei as the voice of S.T.E.V.E. the time machine.  

            If you want some good clean Thanksgiving fun, I recommend seeing Free Birds as a matinee. The kids will love it and the adults should get enough laughs to make the trip worthwhile.  

                        Randy’s Rating System 

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Gathering


            Today is the big day.
            Well, it’s one of the big days. My first novel goes to print. The next big day will be January 14th when the book is officially released and I can run down to the nearby stores and look for it on the shelf.
            Until then, I’ll just have to settle for revealing the cover and telling everyone what the book is about. Ready?

                Many of the prophets have spoken about the events that will happen prior to Christ’s return. It has been described as a “Great and Terrible” day. The Gathering follows the lives of the Williams family as they struggle not only to maintain their faith, but also survive the calamities and disasters which have been foretold.



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Movie Review - Ender's Game

Ender’s Game   $$$$

114 Minutes
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, and Ben Kingsley.  
Director: Gavin Hood.

            From the trailer, you might think that this movie was an action-packed space opera. But you would be wrong. While the action scenes are spectacular the heart of this film is the story itself. And what that really means is that this is a film about people in a difficult situation. It is about character.
            Fifty years ago, Earth was attacked by an alien race known as the Formics. Tens of millions of people died in the attack and humanity won by the sheerest of margins. Since then the top military people have started a program to take the brightest children and turn them into military strategists, in the hope that their young minds will be able to forge new tactics that will be effective against the aliens.
            Ender (Asa Butterfield) is a gifted young man. Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) believes he is the one that will bring victory to the humans and save our race. Ender is transferred to a battle school orbiting Earth and begins his preparation to become commander of the Earth military force. However, it is relationship with a series of bullies that is at the heart of this story’s conflict and what makes this film really stick out as a shining example of what Hollywood can accomplish when it sets its mind to it.  

            I found myself immersed in this movie right from the beginning. Don’t be surprised if it receives a couple of Oscar nominations at the end of the year. Ender’s Game earned a top rating of 4 Movie Bucks. 

            1. Fun – The film moves at a slower pace, but one that I think fits the nature of the subject. I wanted to find out if the Earth would survive another alien attack. Even more so, I wanted to find out what was going to happen with Ender. I give a full MB for fun.  

            2. Story – Excellent. A brilliant young man who should be going to school and hanging around malls with his friends is instead forced to prove himself to the military and his peers. It also deals with the nature of war in a way that I found refreshing. I’d like to give this more than a full MB, but that would be breaking the rules. A full MB will have to be enough for the story element of this film.  

            3. Technical – Good. The special effects were outstanding. The scenes in the battle room were exciting and best seen on a big screen. I give this aspect of the film a full MB.  

            4. Acting – Spot on. Asa Butterfield was a good choice for the main role in this film. He brings a vulnerability to the character of Ender that I think really gives the story an added dimension. Harrison Ford gives the performance that you’d expect from a veteran actor of his quality. The entire cast turned in performances that added to the quality of the film. I give a full MB for acting.   

            Add it all together and you get a perfect score of 4 Movie Bucks for Ender’s Game. If you are in the mood for some silver screen entertainment and like science-fiction then don’t hesitate to go out and catch this movie at your favorite cinema. 

                        Randy’s Rating System 

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013


            Frankenella walked, hand-in-hand, alongside her mother. The bolts in her neck itched in nervous anticipation. This was the first time she had been to the village. All the scary stories of angry farmers roaming the countryside with pitchforks and torches had given her a healthy distrust of the place.
            Mom had laughed at her fears, pointing out to Frankenella that that is what she deserved for listening to Father’s absurd tales of horror. There were no monsters in the village anymore than there were in the graveyard. After mother and daughter attended the grand festival tonight, Frankenella could see that for herself.
            Up ahead a mother and child walked along the road. The child looked normal enough with his green, patchwork skin and dusty, work clothes, but the mother was something of a fright. All of her parts matched as if put together from a single corpse and not a stitch or seam to be found.
            Frankenella remembered her manners and growled at the two as they walked past. The boy returned her growl and the malformed woman laughed.
            “See,” said Mother. “Just what I told you. Perfectly normal people.”
            The next street had lights along it. Small groups of people walked, strolled, and even skipped on the sidewalks there. A man and four children crossed the street and accompanied Frankenella, and her mother, to the house up ahead.
            “This is the fourth time for us,” said a girl who had glittering wings and a bright pink dress that dazzled with miniature fake gems. She had creepy smooth skin like the woman before. In fact, so did the man walking with her and a boy.
            Images of monsters chasing Grandfather into a dark, shambled mill sprang to mind. Perhaps the stories Father told had been correct after all. The thought of an entire village of smoothies gave Frankenella the chills—and not in a good way.
            Not sure what else to do she growled at the pink monstrosity walking next to her.
            The girl flinched at first, but then reared her shoulders back and said, “That is not the way to treat a princess. I’m not going to talk to you anymore.” And she stuck out her tongue.
            Mother had always warned Frankenella not to stick out her tongue, it might fall off. Now she had no doubt that Father was right. The village was filled with monsters. She looked up at her mother, hoping that they would turn around and go back home, but they didn’t.
            “Follow the rest of the children and do what they do,” said Mother.
            Reluctantly, she ambled forward. The monster children knocked on the door of a house and waited. Frankenella stood at the back of the group and watched.
            A monster opened the door and flashed her fangs at them. Of all the scary things Frankenella had seen this evening, this was the scariest. The monster had wrinkled skin and teeth that were too white and too perfect to be natural. Sure, her hair was tangled and of a healthy gray color, but that didn’t set off the sense that the insides of the creature had somehow shrunk, leaving the outer layer in such a horrifying state.
            The village children shouted, “Trick or Treat.” They held out open bags and the hag dumped small packages into each one.
            “What about you?” she cackled at Frankenella.
            Taking tiny steps forward, Frankenella stopped just out of reach of the hag. Not having a bag, she held out her hand, palm up.
            “That is an amazing costume,” said the hag. She leaned forward and tugged on one of Frankenella’s neck bolts. Her lips covered the bleached fangs in her mouth and her eyebrows creased.
            “Those are really connected to you.” The hag looked up at Mother and then back down at Frankenella. Then she screamed.
            Frankenella screamed, afraid that the wail of the hag might steal her soul.



Friday, October 25, 2013

Movie Review: Escape Plan

Escape Plan   $$ 1/2


R (For violence and a few F-Bombs)
155 Minutes
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Jim Caviezel.  
Director: Mikael Hafstrom.

            My favorite part of going to the movies is watching the trailers for coming attractions. And sometimes what they show you in those previews is exactly what the movie delivers. I found that Escape Plan fell into that category. You have Arnold Schwarzenegger. You have Sylvester Stallone. You have a movie about people attempting to break out of the perfect prison. If you go to see this film that is exactly what you are going to get.
            Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is an expert on prison security. He is a partner in a company that tests maximum security facilities by inserting him into the prison and allowing him the chance to escape. He is approached by CIA operative Jessica Miller (Caitriona Balfe) with an offer to test an international detention center for high profile bad guys.
            Once Breslin is inside he finds out that things are not run according to the normal rules. He is trapped and will need to find a way to escape this perfect prison or die there. Then along comes Emil Rottmyer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who takes an unusual interest in Breslin. The two of them work together to escape before they are killed.

            I enjoyed the movie. It has no chance of earning any Oscars, but then again that isn’t why we go see either of these iconic action heroes. They did what they do best and I felt that it was a reasonable effort overall. Escape Plan earned 2/12 Movie Bucks. This is how I rated it in each area.  

            1. Fun – Good. Problems with the plot provided small obstacles in fully enjoying the film, but overall I was pleased with the experience. I especially liked the character of Hobbs (Jim Caviezel) and that more than anything else made me decide to give a full MB for fun.  

            2. Story – An escape expert inserted into the inescapable prison is not a new concept and it isn’t handled in a new way during this film. In fact, the massive holes in the plot really made me groan during the show. There is no emotional content for the characters; Stallone is the tough guy and Schwarzenegger is the likeable guy. Backstory and motivation seems to have been thrown in as an afterthought. I gave this area of the film production Zero MBs.  

            3. Technical – Most of the technical aspects of the film were good. The actual sets for the high-tech prison impressed me quite a bit, but there are a few directing gaffs that offset the highpoints. I give this aspect of the film half a MB.  

            4. Acting – Pretty good. Stallone, as the lead actor, was pretty wooden in his performance. Too much tough guy, not enough anything else. Normally, I would dock this aspect of the film half a MB for a substandard performance, but I felt that the effort put forth by the rest of the cast made up for it. Schwarzenegger was engaging. Faran Tahir, Amy Ryan, Sam Neil, 50 Cent, Vinnie Jones, and Vincent D’Onofrio all did well in their roles. However, Jim Caviezel really stood out in my mind. I thoroughly enjoyed his wicked warden role and give this aspect of the film a full MB because of it.  

            If you are in the mood for an action flick with two of the big names in that genre, then you should catch Escape Plan. Just ignore the gaping bullet holes in the plot and you should be fine. The final rating for the film is 2 ½ Movie Bucks.

                        Randy’s Rating System

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.