Manic Monday

Life is still heaps of craziness, but I didn’t want to leave you with nothing. This video comes via Feeling less than impressed by Hollywood movies these days? Gawker says the 3 minutes of this commercial is more powerful than anything coming from the big studios. What do you think?

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.


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.


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.


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

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: Star Trek Into Darkness

friday flix jae scribblesIt’s that time again, and this week we bring you something dark and sequelish. Okay, not -ish, just the sequel bit. But still! Top notch movie headed your way. I’m going to start out non-spoilers and give you fair warning when they begin. Anyway, is this Jae’s favorite movie of the year? Quite possibly!

My only complaint? More Cumberbatch please? No, actually one of my real complaints was only a brief appearance by Noel Clarke (also known to us Whovians as Mickey). I mean, it’s cool that he got a part and all that, but why so short?

And speaking of geekery, is there some way we can get Cumberbatch and David Tennant in a project together. I don’t know what said project would be, and I really wish Tennant was still the Doctor for this little bit of geekery. Either way, somebody make this happen.

Okay, onto the IMDB description:

After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

It’s not often that sequels are better than their predecessors, but in STID’s case, this is certainly the case. Lots of action, a few less lens flares, and a whole lot of fun.


Those who have followed the blog long enough know I’m a big fangirl when it comes to John Williams, but my close second is Michael Giacchino. In fact, if John Williams weren’t taking the job, I’d suggest Giacchino for composing the new Star Wars movies. He’d do it right, peeps. He made it still very Star Trek, with theme kickback to the first film, but also brought in a little new. And who can’t love a soundtrack with titles like these:


I think the word is out, so I don’t feel like this is a spoiler. But I recommend watching The Wrath of Kahn if you want to get all the fan jokes plentiful throughout the movie. JJ loves his alternative universe jokes, and STID is no exception. There will be a scene you’re crying along with everyone else and then suddenly laughing your geek self silly with people giving you the stink eye, cuz they don’t get the funny. Trust me, it’s delightful, but if you don’t know Wrath of Kahn well (meaning having watched it recently or often enough), you may not get it.

I think it’s JJ’s way of saying to the fans, I know I’m totally screwing with this franchise, but here’s some delicious candy. See? Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?


Kirk and Spock have a sort of lover’s quarrel a lot of the movie, though with good reason. It makes certain parts of the climax that much more effective. Which is one of the main reasons I love this show. They did a lot of groundwork in the beginning to make the climax both believable and satisfying.

Zachary Quinto does the perfect Spock, much as he did in the last film. Everyone so glad he was cast as Sylar, even if that show completely fell apart? Mm-hmm, thought so.

Okay, but back to the bromance, there are tons of Vulcan/Human mishaps and misunderstandings to be had, which for us writers, is good to watch and see how the relationship arcs for the climax.

And now, here comes the…


We start right in the middle of action, which is good. It doesn’t like some movies, with, let’s say, two jedis on some boring mission they didn’t care about.

Nope, we get right into it. Spock must stop a volcano from erupting to save some powdery tribal peeps. Okay, one nitpick. I didn’t get why Kirk and Bones were in the temple, other than for the plot’s sake to get the people out of the temple when the volcano smashes it, and to bring Kirk and Spock on screen.

Anyways, so Spock is supposed to stop the volcano and does, but at the cost of his own life, except Kirk won’t let the latter part happen and gets them in trouble. So, the inciting incident for me was this moment. Because now Kirk faces the big problem.

He no longer is captain of the Enterprise. Now Kirk must prove he understand the responsibility of being a captain and how his choices affect his crew or lose the Enterprise team forever. (Sounds like a query letter, right?) Great big problem.

And now come all the subplots: the terrorist, Spock’s betrayal and their deteriorating friendship, proving himself, etc. All culminating back to solving the big problem.

It’s like the movie Home Alone. No, stay with me for a second. Kevin’s big problem is he’s too little/immature to take care of himself. He’s mistakenly left at home where he not only learns to “grow up” but takes care of some bad guys all by himself. Even with all the slapstick humor aside, Home Alone is a great example of a well-written movie (we often cited it in film school). Mind, I’m just talking about the first movie, not about any of the sequels.

But back to STID. Kirk’s story follows a great line of climax build with things continually getting worse for him. I remember from Donald Maass’ books the question: if your character gets what they want, how can you make it the worst possible thing? And vice versa. And for Kirk, they follow this rather nicely.

He gets a position as 1st officer with Admiral Pike back on the Enterprise. Okay, not exactly what he wanted, but he’s back on his ship and perhaps he can regain captainhood soon. Only the worst happens. The terrorist attacks. Now he’s not only lost his position but a father figure in Pike.

He convinces the head honcho (can’t remember the dude’s name, Marcus I think) to let him take the Enterprise and go after Cumberbatch. Yay, he has his ship back! Except he learns he’s been set up as the scapegoat to start a war and wasn’t expected to come back alive.

It goes on and on like this, the stakes getting higher and higher. *sigh* I really enjoy a movie with a good plot. It seems so rare these days.



The only downside to watching this movie is that you can’t buy it yet. I know, I could go back and see it again in the theater, but I’d rather spend my $$$ on owning the movie. So I guess I’ll have to wait a few months… 😦

But seriously, I ❤ this movie in a major way. If you loved the first movie, you’ll certainly love this one. Lots of high drama, stakes, action, and great humor. I can’t say enough about this movie, except, if someone knows JJ personally, please tell him to send me an advance copy. What are we thinking, all, September for this to be out?

Have you seen Star Trek Into Darkness? Please mark your comments with a nice big SPOILER if necessary, but what did you think? Did you enjoy it? Best movie of the year? Did you see it more than once?

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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