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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, November 30, 2015

Movie Review - Spectre

Spectre  $$


148 Minutes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Cristoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, and Ralph Fiennes.
Director: Sam Mendes.

            The Bond franchise had some worthy competition this year with Man From Uncle and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation this year and Kingsman: The Secret Service  last year. Frankly, I feel that all of those films outperformed Spectre.

            In this film we find James Bond primarily operating on his own as MI6 undergoes changes and the threat of shutting down the Double-O program entirely. James is on the trail of a secret organization that was the driving force behind several of the threats he has dealt. In order to find the leader of this organization he has to protect Dr. Swann (Lea Seydoux), the daughter of the assassin known as Mr. White (Jesper Christensen). 
            Spectre has all of the traditional 007 elements. This is how I ranked them.

1. Fun – Not so much. My son, a friend, and I all agreed that we were more interested in the movie ending so we could go home than we were in seeing what happened next. It felt slow and uninspired.
            Spectre gets 0 MB for fun.

2. Story – Nothing we haven’t seen before. James does some globe trotting in search of the bad guys, seduces women, and kills a few bad guys. The unfortunate part about it is that he does all of this without demonstrating hardly any emotion. It was nice to see the Spectre storyline finally introduced into the franchise reboot and as an origins story for the villain it works fairly well.
            Spectre gets Full MB for story.

3. Technical – There are many state of the art special effects. Most of the time, the high end films get a Full Movie Buck rating in this category because they have employed top people in this field and made the film look and sound tremendous. While Spectre does look fantastic and the rest of the special effects are excellent I can’t get past the vehicle chase seen early in the film. The three of us attending the movie all agreed that this was probably the dullest chase scene we had ever witnessed.
            Spectre gets a Half MB for Technical.

4. Acting – As I mentioned before I felt Daniel Craig turned in a performance that reminded me more of an emotionless robot than a man risking everything to save the world. I found it hard to care what happened to Mr. Bond. On the other hand, I wholly enjoyed the performance from Ben Wishaw as Q and Ralph Fiennes as M. The movie might have been better if it had focused on the efforts of these two members of the British spy squad as they worked together to bring down the gathering of villains. Lea Seydoux was a mistake to cast opposite of Daniel Craig. With both of them on the screen together none of their scenes generate any energy. Christoph Waltz turns in an excellent performance as the mastermind who has organized the villains of the world.
            Spectre gets Half a MB for acting.

            Put all of that together and Spectre earns a rating of 2 Movie Bucks. If you’re going to put out a turkey I guess Thanksgiving is the best time to do it. My suggestion is to avoid this film and check out one of the many good selections that are currently in the theaters.

                        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 27, 2015

Writing Prompt Three

            PROMPT 3 – THE COVER STORY

            Titles are not the only way to find inspiration in the books and movies that already exist. Movie posters and book covers provide a visual stimulation for your creative juices. Look through the shelves of your local book store until you find a cover that grabs your attention. Ignore the title, ignore the back copy and decide what story that image speaks to you.
            The back cover can also give inspiration in the form of the story blurb. Obviously, you don’t want to steal their story idea, but something about the description might stand out and generate a unique concept of your own.

            Here are five classic movie posters

            Airplane (Plane tied in a knot)
            Vertigo (Man in a spiral)
            True Grit (Cowboy silhouette with eye patch)
            Singing in the Rain (Three people wearing rain coats and umbrella)
            The Shining (Twin girls blocking a hallway and boy on bigwheel)

            Based on True Grit I generated the following pitch.

Cyber Eye – The eye always knows. Jake is a detective who doubles as a bounty hunter. Unfortunately, the bounty hunting business is booming. His cybernetic eye has made him the most sought after bounty hunter on the continent. Until he captures a criminal who claims to know where his dead wife is living.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Writing Prompt #2


            This is by far my favorite writing prompt. In Hollywood, many movie deals are made from a simple comparison of two successful films. The banter for these pitches go something like this, “This is Driving Miss Daisy meets Silence of the Lambs.”
            For the best results use stories that have clearly different plots and settings. Then find a way to put them together in a way that blends the key elements from both stories, but in a way that gives you a finished product that is unique. As difficult as that may sound keep in mind there is a lot to work with in these stories: plot, theme, character, setting, mood, conflict, etc. There exist an endless number of possibilities that can be generated from any pairing.
            In my mind, the best thing about this sort of prompt is how it lends itself to creating cross-genre tales that stand out from the excessive clones and retellings of previously successful stories.

            Here are two Oscar winning movies.

Ben Hur (1959)

Titanic (1997)

            Based on a blend of these two films I generated the following elevator pitch.

Sea of Fire – After encountering a powerful religious leader, a fisherman and his family are converted to a faith that preaches peace and tolerance that are at odds with the vicious laws and violent nature of the country in which they live. A long time personal rival uses his position as a judge to falsely accuse the family of treason and they are forced to work as slaves during a barbaric race across the ocean. If they win they will be set free to colonize the newly discovered land. If not, they will remain as slaves or die in one of the many sea-battles that are a normal part of the race.

            Since I had so much fun with the first one I decided to combine these two films.

Gladiator (2000)

Chicago (2002)

I’m Spartacus – Cross Gladiator with Chicago and you get a musical set in the violent, bloodthirsty height of the Roman Empire. Sing along with the cast through rousing numbers such as No, No, I’m Spartacus and When In Rome – Kill the Romans. Follow Spartacus and his band of gladiators as they break out of the Roman prison and fight their way to Broadway where they realize their unspoken dreams and tell the story of their lives on stage. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Writing Prompts

     My most popular workshop is Jumpstart Your Creative Juices in which I discuss writing prompts. If you think that writing prompts are nothing more than exercises handed out by creative writing teachers--you are mistaken. They are a proven method of generating some truly memorable story ideas. The first novel I wrote was based on a writing prompt and has an elevator pitch that never fails to capture the attention of the people I share it with.
     That being said, I recently promised to repost the writing prompts I have managed to develop for my workshops. If these look familiar it's because I've posted them before on my blog. I did manage to clean them up a bit, but they are basically the same. I'll be posting one of them a week until I have gone through the entire list. I hope you enjoy them.

            PROMPT 1 – TITLES
            I generated the idea for my first novel from a Title prompt. As a beginning author I worried about running out of ideas for stories—silly me. Just to see how hard it would be to generate more story ideas I scanned through a list of movie titles. Whenever one caught my attention I wrote it down. Once I reached a goodly number of interesting titles I took a closer look at the list. Death Race 2000 was on the list and started me thinking about what a race would be like for dead people and from that I wrote Hellathon.
            My example is based on movie titles, but any sort of title works. Movies, novels, short-stories, songs, and even band names can all be used to generate ideas. The trick is to let your mind wonder what kind of story you could write with that title. Look at it figuratively. Look at it literally. Look at it with whimsical eyes. Use it as a starting point for your creativity.

            Here are the ten titles. I hope you have fun with it.

            1. They Might Be Giants
            2. The Long Goodbye
            3. They Were Expendable
            4. Thunder Road
            5. Angels Die Hard
            6. You Only Live Twice
            7. Keeper of the Flame
            8. A Song Is Born
            9. A New Life
            10. Walk, Don’t Run

            Based on the list above, I generated the following elevator pitches.

Based on “They Might Be Giants” is a pitch for a children’s book: Jared and Sally have been asked by their father to take a pair of shoes to a customer in the next town. They are the most enormous shoes either of them have ever scene. Could it be that the people living there are giants? And if so, what will happen to the children when they arrive?

Based on “The Long Goodbye” is a pitch for romantic screenplay: Rob and Sarah have one last weekend together before he ships off to war.