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

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.


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.


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.


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: 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

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


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!


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.


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.


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: Fullmetal Alchemist – Brotherhood

friday flix jae scribblesIt’s been a long time, friends, but welcome to another edition of Friday Flix. This week we’re doing it anime style in the foreign fantasy lands of Amestris, something like the European industrial revolution as far as setting goes. For those unfamiliar to the anime scene, there are actually two series titled Fullmetal Alchemist the first premiering in 2003, the second in 2009.

Why two series? Well, the original only followed the manga (Japanese comic) story line for half of the series, then went off on its own tangent. Now, I should note I was a HUGE fan of the original series. And when I was in Japan, it was still quite popular. I found me one of these.

Fullmetal Alchemist charm

I own the original series on DVD and there are bits of the story I think they do better than the new series (of course, the contrary is also the same). But, that having been said, is the 2009 series worth watching? You bet your sweet bippy it is!

The description from

Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric hoped to resurrect their mother’s corpse when they attempted human transmutation, but their reckless defiance of alchemy’s Law of Equivalent Exchange resulted in no miraculous reunion. Their experimentation with forbidden science plunged the boys into a hellish nightmare; half of Ed’s limbs were torn from his body, and Al awoke to discover his young soul transferred to a suit of armor. There is but one way the Elrics can restore what was lost – find the fabled Philosopher’s Stone. In a land marred by war and persecution, where truth comes only with tragedy, they undertake their desperate search. Every step closer to the mythical Philosopher’s Stone brings the broken brothers deeper into the darkest shadows of reality. Sinful abominations, both unnatural and human, will try to keep the boys from their redemption – but the Elrics must forge ahead if despair is to be transmuted into peace.

There are English dubs available as well as Japanese language with English subs. I tend to do original language and since I once heard the original series’ voice for Edward and vomited, I decided Japanese it is.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (aka Philosopher’s Stone) briefly touched on this idea of alchemy, and FMA runs full blast with it. Much like Voldie wanted the stone to get his body back, so do the Elric bros. That’s the power of a Philosopher’s Stone. Although when the Elrics realize what it takes to get a Philosopher’s Stone, they’re faced with major moral dilemma. So think scientific wizardry at the turn of the century.

One of the main characters is an empty suit of armor. Try working with that characterization. Even better, the massive, intimidating suit of armor has a little boy’s voice. Alphonse Elric quickly became one of my favorite characters (although the Elric bros tie on favs).

Seven deadly sins run amok throughout both stories. It’s interesting to see how each character plays out their sin, be it Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, etc. This is some serious creativity, taking old things and making them new. And above all, you come to love these Elric brothers as if they were your own siblings or kids. You want them to succeed no matter what, despite any flaws or difficulties that come their way. That’s some good storytelling!

2004 vs. 2009

So are they both worth watching? Purists will say skip the 2004, go straight for 2009. I say don’t count 2004 out. Even though they did their own thing with the story, the idea is still interesting. Plus it makes for an interesting study on how a story can go two separate ways depending on choices we make. What a perfect case study for us writers to see what worked better for each storyline.

I liked Barry the Chopper from 2004 better than 2009. The former was much more terrifying and left our boys in a lot more trouble. 2009’s BTC seemed too juvenile, reminiscent of Pokemon episodes. And that’s another complaint I have about the 2009 series. It seemed a lot more juvenile in the beginning. I felt like 2004’s was a bit more mature throughout, although 2009 does get crazy awesome in its ending. For those of you who are in the know, compare Rose’s story line between the two.

I liked Hohenheim from 2009 better than 2004. Good gracious, Hohenheim 2004 is almost completely useless to the story except that he’s the Elric bros dad. He’s shows up like he’s late for rehearsal and gives a half-baked performance before leaving the bros to do what they could have and would have done on their own in the first place. 2009 Hohenheim? He’s a bad a** mambo jambo who knows how to use alchemy like a boss. And did I mention he’s a big part of the reason the story is happening in the first place? You really dig Hohenheim 2009. 2004? Meh.

Something that bothers me about anime in general is going off on side character stories just as soon as the plot is getting good so they can drag it out. Ugh, I don’t care about the half animal dudes’ backstories and everyone’s brother and sister and cousin and so on. Maybe I’m remembering 2004 with rose-colored glasses, but good gracious is 2009 riddled with filler bits all over the place. Sometimes I wondered when the Fullmetal Alchemist of the show would be back on screen again. It got a bit Peter Jackson for me at times.

But all that being said, the ending of 2009 is beyond your wildest dreams and makes everything worth it. Well, minus a really long wrap up. Please, don’t do this in your novels. It kills the satisfaction.

Also, I just missed this video from the 2004 series, since it was my fav closer.


I really think it’s worthwhile watching, not only for the pure awesomeness of the story, but to compare different paths the story took and understand that our novels may do the same thing. I know with SHADE it started on a very different path than it’s on now—and that’s okay. Think parallel universes. Which one is better? Whichever one gets you to the strongest story.

Have you seen either of the FMA series? Do you agree or disagree? Any other series you would recommend?

Friday Flix: Smoke Signals

friday flix jae scribblesAnd we’re back with another edition of Friday Flix. This week we go to a lesser known but splendidly superb movie I was first introduced to in film school: Smoke Signals.

Something I love about movies is their ability to transport you into different worlds, different cultures, and different viewpoints. So I very much appreciated a little slice of life film maybe giving a little insight into growing up as a Native American. The screenplay is written by Sherman Alexie, who drew on his experiences growing up in the Spokane Indian Reservation, and directed by Chris Eyre, also Native American, whose goal is to “focus on contemporary Native American life, with a rejection of conventional stereotypes.” (via Wiki)

Movie description via Netflix:

On a Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, reservation, nothing ever changes — until the estranged father of Victor Joseph (Adam Beach) bites the dust in Arizona, and Victor must go collect the cremated remains. The problem is, Victor can’t afford the fare. But annoying nerd Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams) will float Victor a loan … if Thomas can tag along. This tender tale of self-discovery is based on acclaimed author Sherman Alexie’s short stories.

Smoke Signals is a beautifully put together movie with lots of quotable lines, high emotion, great performances, and great story.


The movie has two protagonists, although most of the story belongs to Victor. For him, life is mostly about trying to reconcile his drunkard father ditching him and his mom several years ago.

Victor starts out as a kind of likeable jerk, and as we go more and more into backstory you understand why he treats Thomas the way he does and I think his fears in becoming the loser he believes his father is.

Poor geeky, almost Urkle-esque Thomas admires Victor like the older brother and family he never had. For him the journey is figuring out, as the film puts it, what it really means to be an Indian. His innocence and honesty are what give him an awkward charm and grates on Victor.

Thomas and Victor.

So how do we tie these two polar opposites together? Because Victor’s drunkard father saved Thomas from the fire that killed his parents when he was a baby. This reeks of wonderful story tension.

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Friday Flix: The Booth at the End

friday flix jae scribblesWoo hoo, Friday’s here! And of course that means another edition of Friday Flix. This week I’m going with another TV series. It’s what I’ve been up to lately, I can’t help it. After posting about Roswell, a few people recommended Xena to me, which I have been watching. But then my friend ninja-texted me to watch this new series The Booth at the End. If you’ve heard of it, it’s probably because you frequent Hulu. If you haven’t, well, it’s a Hulu original series.

The fact that Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are making their own original series was always good news to me. But even better to see that one of them is really, really good. Hollywood and network TV, much like the big dogs of publishing, is losing its power to disruptive technology and I’m glad. That’s not to say I dislike Hollywood completely. They still put out good movies occasionally. And network TV is still very creative. But it sometimes seems a bit stale—as if they’re afraid to take chances on anything that won’t instantly make them $100 billion or more. It’s as though artistic expression has been banished.

Anyway, I thought more about this because all this week people have been talking about Scott Turrow’s frothing-at-the-mouth rant about the old publishing system dying. Is it a really bad thing if the power is dispersed? That means more authors can have their chance at success, and no one’s forcing the change, it’s just happening. Sounds more like America to me. (You can read more about Turrow’s rant on Amal’s and Kristen’s blogs.)

Okay, enough ranting about Big Media. Let’s get back to The Booth. Each season is 5 episodes long and each episode only lasts 23 minutes, but it’s amazing how much story they pack into those 23 minutes. What’s The Booth about? Here’s the description from Hulu:

A mysterious Man sits at a booth at the end of a diner. People approach him because they’ve heard The Man has a gift. He can solve their problems: A parent with a sick child, a woman who wants to be prettier, a nun who has lost her faith. The Man can give these people what they want. For a price. The Man makes a proposition. In exchange for realizing their desires, these individuals must complete a task, return to The Man, and describe every step in detail. The trick is that these tasks are things that would normally be inconceivable to them. But The Man never forces anyone to do anything. It’s always up to the individual to start – or stop. The Booth at the End asks the question: How far would you go to get what you want?

How far would you go to get what you wanted? I have to admit, the first two episodes of this series had me questioning whether I would continue much further. It seemed much too nefarious for my tastes. It’s the third episode that finally brought in the purpose for me—and then I was hooked.

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