Friday Flix: City Hunter

friday flix jae scribblesIt’s no secret to most that I have a huge crush on Korean actor Lee Min Ho. He had me at Boys Over Flowers. How could I not love this face, even if he is quite a jerk as Goo Jun Pyo?

But now he’s an action hero, you say? Sign me up! City Hunter is something like James Bond meets Ocean’s Eleven. LMH plays Lee Yoon Sung, and as Netflix describes it:

The son of a murdered government agent — begins working in the Blue House, the presidential residence in Korea. He tries to find the five men who betrayed his father 28 years ago, and makes a plan to punish them his own way.

THE GOOD

Yoon’s love interest Nana starts off as a girl holding down several part-time jobs but eventually she ends up as a bodyguard for the Blue House, so in American terms, she basically becomes secret service. It’s because she’s a tough girl who can take care of herself that Yoon gains interest in her. He’s got the looks and charms to get any woman he likes, but it’s the one more equal to himself he falls for. I like that in a romance plot.

kim nana

Don’t mess with Nana!

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Friday Flix: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

friday flix jae scribblesIt’s Friday and you know what that means! Time for some more Friday Flix. Something wicked this week comes. Evil, and the men who would fight it. Join Tucker and Dale whose only desire is to enjoy Tucker’s new vacation home.

The description from IMDB.com:

Tucker & Dale are on vacation at their dilapidated mountain cabin when they are attacked by a group of preppy college kids.

I know, it sounds like it’s on par with Dumb and Dumber (and it is) but since a lot of friends strongly recommended this movie to me and since it was Netflix Instant anyway, I thought I’d give it a go.

THE GOOD

Alan Tudyk. *drops mic and walks away*

*comes back and picks up mic* Okay, I know for some of you that might not be enough of an excuse, although it does make for a lot of the reason I watched this movie in the first place. But in addition to Alan (who plays Tucker) we have an equally fantastic performance by Tyler Labine (Dale). They do “best buds” right and considering the environment of the movie, are very well written.

Something else that surprised me about this movie was a covert discussion about prejudices. You have a bunch of college kids who could probably be cast as the popular kids in a teen movie coming to hillbilly country with both their college kid and city slicker prejudices fully in tact. In fact, that’s how Tucker and Dale are introduced, through the lens of these college kids. I have to admit, I did wonder about them, too.

But as a few minutes pass and we get to know T&D, we realize despite their quirks, they’re pretty decent guys. You even have Tucker encouraging Dale to go talk to one of the college hotties. I found it interesting to see how not long into the movie I’d feel a lot more comfortable around the hillbillies than the “intellectuals.” It makes for an interesting discussion on personal prejudices.

So at its root, this is a movie about overcoming prejudices and having confidence in yourself to step out of the box people may try and put you in. This movie may surprise you.

THE BAD

Gratuitous violence for the sake of gratuitous violence isn’t really my thing. I know it’s supposed to be humorous in a way, but I still felt uncomfortable every time someone bit the dust—and in terribly violent, grotesque ways EVERY time. I think it could have been toned down a lot, but I admit I’m probably not the audience they had in mind.

Although they tried to give a couple of the ladies brains, this still isn’t a terribly woman-friendly film. Mostly they’re objectified damsels in distress. One tries to be a psychologist, but it’s more akin to the early stages of Reese Witherspoon lawyering up in Legally Blonde. Still, at least effort is being made, I guess.

THE CONCLUSION

Is it a worthwhile watch? It depends on your tastes. If you like Alan Tudyk, definitely. If you like slashers mixed with humor, probably. If you’re intrigued by the idea of examining prejudices, maybe. It’s definitely not going to win any prestigious awards, but it’s a fun little flick I enjoyed seeing at least once.

A lot of the humor comes in the ignorance/acceptance of Tucker and Dale to their environment, especially their reaction to the “vacation home” of Tucker’s. The state of it would make most of feel ripped off, but they feel like kings in a palace. Again, it left me wondering about judgements we make and why we make them. So there is something to be had on the intellectual side as well as the good, old-fashioned goofy humor. But definitely not one for the young kiddies.

Have you seen Tucker and Dale vs. Evil? What did you think? Anything you would add to the good or the bad? Do you have any interest in seeing the film now? Have you had any recent experiences that made you reexamine prejudice in your own life?

Friday Flix: World War Z

friday flix jae scribblesTime again for another edition of Friday Flix. I had a tough time choosing. I recently also saw Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and Warm Bodies. But at the end of the day, being able to talk about Peter Capaldi won me over, so away we go!

World War Z is one of those clever titles you wish you’d come up for your story—at least in amount of cleverness. It just works, don’t you think? I’d heard good things about this flick, but hadn’t gotten around to seeing it until earlier this week when a friend decided she wanted to see it again for her birthday. And away we went!

What is World War Z about?

United Nations employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself.

Thrilling, right? Actually, this description points to something I wondered about a great deal of the movie, and we’ll get to that in a second.

THE GOOD

They had a theme running through the movie that they stuck to and this theme is what helps Brad (Gerry) survive some crazy stuff: movement is life or movimiento es vida (extra points for some Spanish learning). Because Brad doesn’t hesitate when others would languish in their cars or scream in the streets for FEMA to save them, he moves, and he survives. Having a recent interest in survivalism, I appreciated and took this theme to heart. You hesitate in those situations, you probably die. Count on yourself to save you and if someone else comes, great.

The zombies were formidable. Although part of me wants to say, okay, so how can corpses run really fast? They’re corpses for crying out loud! But I was willing to shrug it off to probably explained in the book for the sake of story. The whole movie you’re thinking, “Whoa! How are they going to stop these zombies? They’re practically invincible!” Seriously, even mostly crispy, burnt zombies can still get you. I like a good formidable opponent in a story. So A+ for that.

Okay, and don’t get me started on the awesome female soldier who kicked butt even AFTER sustaining a major debilitating injury. She has every reason to quit and go home, but she sticks with Brad to make sure humanity has ever chance of survival. And she wasn’t in love with him, she was just another comrade. I don’t know if I’d call it Bechdel-approved, but it’s certainly a positive step.

Story-wise, I loved how it built over time to add line upon line of tension. It seemed to follow Donald Maass’ recommendation of how can it get worse for your characters (likely because it was first a novel). I think you’ll have a good time watching this one. I also didn’t find it over-the-top gory or serious senseless violence, at least it seemed far less gross than Walking Dead.

THE BAD

About halfway through the movie I found myself wondering what exactly Brad’s character did prior to this movie and what made him so integral to the plot. It seemed like pretty much any GI Joe could have done his job. I guess his super power is he pays attention good? It’s a nitpicky thing, but I couldn’t see why he was integral to the story other than we were told. It would have helped if we knew just a little more about Brad’s character before. Like his weaponry skills weren’t all that awesome and I didn’t see him negotiate with anyone in any impressive sort of way. And since the temporary running military force was running short on resources, I couldn’t see why Brad was suddenly that important.

Maybe one of you all can tell me. But it said something to me about story. We may have in our head an idea or several ideas about what qualifies our characters to be our protagonist, but let’s make sure the readers get that sense too. And I’m betting the book does, but the movie needed it, too.

I also had major issues with the introduction of a certain character that might as well have been listed as Dude #5 for how long he stuck around. They spent forever talking this dude up on how he was going to save the day—and then he was out of the picture for the rest of the movie. As far as I could tell he was only there to deliver one piece of information to Brad that helped him come up with the solution at the end of the movie. I just think it could have been done a better way. It seemed so abrupt you almost weren’t sure that was the end of his part in the story.

Okay, one small thing on logistics. They have a cargo plane take off from an aircraft carrier. Any of you see the problem with that? Do you remember Top Gun? They have to hold those jets in place while they gear up, like Marty did in Back to the Future with the DeLorean. And even then, as my air force friend explained, the jets tend to dip a little once they go off the runway before being airborne. So talk to me about how a cargo plane is making that run… Nitpicky, I know. Not a movie killer, but it’s the details that can make or break a story sometimes. They’re important. Do your research.

THE CONCLUSION

I’d so go see World War Z, especially if you like zombies, especially if you like intense movies. It made me eager to check out the book. And let’s not forget what we started this post with, and that’s Peter Capaldi. For those that don’t know, he’ll be the 12th rendition of the Doctor. I giggled in the credits reading he was a W.H.O. doctor, you know before he became Doctor Who. Zing!

His part isn’t major, but I watched him and his expressions carefully for the few times he was on screen. I think he’s got the intensity the Doctor needs. I’m looking forward to meeting him in the near future.

Did you see WWZ? What do you think, worthwhile? Not? Anything else you noticed you’d nitpick about? Other things they did well? What’s been your favorite zombie movie you’ve ever seen? Are you ready for Peter Capaldi to take on the Doctor?

Friday Flix: The Conjuring

friday flix jae scribblesAnd we’re back with another edition of Friday Flix, but this week, things get scary—real scary. On my way into work last Friday I heard one of the local DJs talking about this new movie coming out called The Conjuring. I hadn’t heard about the movie prior to this occasion and when they were calling it the scariest movie they’d ever seen I was intrigued. The DJ also mentioned how this movie was fairly clean as far as scary movies go AKA not a gory slasher, which I hate.

I love a good scary movie, but usually what’s available are gory, blood fests and I say a big NO THANKS to those. I called up my bro, whom I knew would also love a good scary movie, and we headed out right after work to catch the last matinee. Besides, it’s always a little nicer if a movie really freaks you out that it’s still light outside when it’s over.

What is The Conjuring even about? From IMBD.com:

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.

IN ADDITION TO GOOD SCARES IS A GOOD STORY

Slasher films are usually terribly predictable and without the scares would probably make terrible movies in and of themselves (and let’s face it, some are even with the scares). The Conjuring does a great job of combining story with scare so you’re even more invested in the characters and even more concerned when the scary starts to hit the fan.

We start the movie with Ed and Lorraine and one of their previous cases that’s its own kind of creepy. The back of your writer mind will probably wonder what it has to do with anything. Don’t worry yourself, there was a point and it’s coming later in a terrifying way.

But what I liked about it, is it set the stage for our main protagonists. It gave them credibility and since they are talking to interested parties on a sort of lecture circuit it makes sense later that the family would be able to contact them for help. Those of you doing multi-protagonist stories, I would highly recommend this film as a study on how to incorporate both stories and make them matter.

The writers took great care in giving us plenty of scenes to get to know and like both the haunted family (the Perrons) and the Warrens. But in those scenes they laid the groundwork for later scares and kept the tension running high. One of my favorite laying-the-ground-work moments had to do with the children playing a game involving clapping, kind of like Marco Polo. When you view the movie, watch for how something innocuous can turn into something terrifying later on. It just worked so well!

EVERY CHARACTER HAS PERSONAL MOTIVATIONS

Do you know what a flat character is? Someone who has the depth of a piece of paper. When creating characters, if we want to make them believable, we have to give them a back story. That is not to say we dump back story on the pages, but that we know it whether or not we ever show it.

To put it in simpler terms, each character must have a life going on outside of the current story. What would they be doing if your story wasn’t happening?

The Warrens, they hint at in the beginning, have had something go wrong in their demon hunting days. And like good storytellers, the writers don’t let us know what that is until it’s absolutely critical.

We also get lots of little moments from the Perrons as to why they would choose to stay in that haunted farmhouse. They’re in dire financial straits, and even when living on the street sounds more appealing than living in that farmhouse, the writers give us another important reason why they can’t leave.

As you can see, I thoroughly enjoyed watching this story unfold coming from the perspective of a story maker. I think you will, too.

IT’S JUST PLAIN FUN

Okay, aside from some good story telling, they just have a lot of fun with it and couch in a lot of good scares. The camera angles, the acting, and pacing all contribute to a good ride. There are lots of red herrings in the sense you think something will go one way—in fact you’re convinced—and it turns out completely different.

I loved how they used different objects to build suspense, like the music box you see in the previews. They even had a reference to Wait Until Dark, another good suspenseful movie I highly recommend.

the-conjuring-lili-taylor-matchGranted, it’s not the most brilliant movie you’ll ever see, but it comes as a breath of fresh air amidst an environment of remakes and reboots. Plus that it’s loosely based on a true story helps with the spook factor.

ONE THING THAT SETS IT APART

Often at the end of thriller or horror flix I’ve seen is that you leave thinking, Thank goodness they made it through that! -or- Thank goodness it’s over! And I’m not saying that won’t cross your mind, but at the end of this movie comes an interesting emotion to consider: hope.

Even though they went through a horrible deal, and we go right along with them, I felt a lot of positivity at the end. It seems the message of the movie was we are stronger than those things we have to face. And that uniting together as families can give us that strength.

I was surprised to walk away feeling in some parts uplifted, even though most of my reason in watching this film was for a good scare. That’s why I’ve been recommending it to nearly every person I see.

Granted, it is a VERY scary movie, and if you can’t handle it, you probably shouldn’t try. But if you appreciate a scary movie sans gore, crudeness, and much foul language, this is a flick for you.

But maybe try it at the matinee. 😉 Enjoy the trailer.

Have you seen The Conjuring? Did you love it? Do you want to see it? What do you like/hate about horror movies? What do you wish we would see more of? What do you think, are demon hauntings real or just freaked out people hallucinating?

Friday Flix: Man of Steel

friday flix jae scribblesIt’s that time of the week again. This week with Friday Flix we go super—at least Superman is in this one. Was I excited for a new Superman movie? Definitely yes! Did the movie live up to my expectations? Well, let’s just say Man of Steel was Man of Stilted. Disappointed? I was too.

I mean something produced by Christopher Nolan should be awesome, right? That’s what I thought, too. Let’s just say if you like spectacle more than you like story then this movie is for you.

The description from IMDB.com :

A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.

Kind of sounds boring already, doesn’t it? So what is it about Man of Steel that was Man of Stunk? Let’s get started!

THE THING ABOUT BACKSTORY

Backstory is not a bad thing. If you have been in writing long enough you understand that while backstory is necessary you don’t want to clutter up the beginning of your story with a lot of flashbacks and info dumping. If you caught any of the previews, you know Man of Steel will do a little bit of backstory because it’s necessary to understand where Superman is coming from—especially those who don’t know much about the Supes.

However, the problem with backstories or flashback is that it slows the story down. You’ve got to know when to put it in and when it’s appropriate. If you just put it in there willy nilly you’ll bore your readers and your story won’t have much meaning.

The issue I had with the backstory in Man of Steel was that the writers spent hardly any time having us get to know Clark Kent in the present. We see a lot of scenes of him rescuing people, and an awful lot of brooding, but there weren’t very many of those getting-to-know-you moments except in flashbacks.

I guess the point they were trying to make the movie is that he was kind of a misfit/loner in the beginning, uncertain of himself. But it doesn’t work well for a movie if your main character is just breathing and not interacting because we can’t see what’s inside of his head on screen.  We didn’t really get to connect with Supes and so when supposedly important battles would happen, I found myself not caring because they hadn’t created any real meaning. The only affinity I had for Supes was young Supes. In fact, part of me wished we could just watch that part of the movie instead.

Oh wait, they’ve done that.

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