Friday, January 2, 2009

The Spirit

simply wasn't bad enough to be good. The trailer had convinced me that it wasn't going to be a seriously good movie, but I had high hopes that it could be the kind of bad movie that's big fun to watch. For the most part, though, it was not.

Kyle correctly observed that the movie would have benefitted from radical surgery, with many scenes and the entire back story best hacked off and fed down the disposal. The result would have been a one-hour HBO special, but that show might have been more fun to watch than the film.

None of this is to say that the movie provided nothing of value. Samuel L. Jackson chewed the scenery in ways that were at times highly entertaining. Watching Scarlett Johannson call some thugs "polyp" and "toejam" was fun. Paz Vega earned the immediate lust of every man in the audience. You also have to love any scene that contains the line, "And this one is for Muffin!"

Despite those fleeting pleasures, I can recommend this one only to hardcore Frank Miller fans or those, like me, willing to watch any comic-book-based film. (Oh, how did I miss that Punisher movie?)

R.I.P., Donald Westlake

He died Wednesday night, and already I miss the books I'll never get to read. I never met him, but I loved his Parker novels, which he wrote under the pseudonym, Richard Stark; I laughed at his comedic books; I marveled at the efficiency and ruthless logic of The Ax; and to this day I don't think any novel has ever better captured the twisted insides of a failing writer than his Adios Scheherezade.

I'm particularly sad that I'll never read another Parker book, but if you haven't yet discovered them, you still can. I suggest consuming them in the order in which he wrote them. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Let us together

resolve to do the little but oh so important things better and more often next year. Let us

* tell often and with true feeling those whom we love that we do indeed love them

* take a deep breath and pause a few seconds before doing anything mean or in anger

* rush headlong into acts of kindness and love

* hug like we mean it--and mean it

* hide not our passions but share them like rainbows of flame lighting a dark night so others might find better passage

* be present to the greatest degree we can manage: taste each bite, consider each word, let each note carry us away, read so deeply we become part of the story, savor each moment

I hope you end 2008 at peace and with joy in your heart, and I hope 2009 brings you more of each.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


was better than most of its reviews, though ultimately and unavoidably somewhat unsatisfying, because we all know the assassination attempt on Hitler failed. Despite that handicap, however, the film did a better than decent job of building tension and even hope that the coup might succeed.

Kyle and I joined about a dozen other hardy souls who went to a Monday night late show to watch Tom Cruise in an eye patch, and no one was disappointed: Director Bryan Singer injured Cruise early and got us quickly to the patch. As it turns out, however, the missing right hand, two left-hand fingers, and eye patch were not the most distracting parts of his appearance. That honor went to his hair, which actually managed to help distract you from the fact that it was Tom Cruise.

I have to give Cruise credit for doing a passable job in the role. There were whole seconds where I wasn't completely aware it was Tom Cruise--which is rare in one of his films. The best performances, however, came from the large number of talented British actors, each and every one of which acted Cruise under the carpet. It was a pleasure to watch these characters come to life on screen and then, later, realize, wasn't that Eddie Izzard? Bill Nighy in a serious role? Kenneth Branaugh sure doesn't look healthy. And so on.

I can't recommend the film wholeheartedly, and I haven't yet seen any of the other holiday offerings vying for your theater dollars, but this one is worth a look if you don't mind already knowing how it's going to turn out.

Monday, December 29, 2008

When you want zombies

you want zombies, and hellspawn simply won't do. That was the lesson of last night's late-show screening of Trailer Park of Terror. The Amazon page for the DVD specifically refers to "hillbilly zombies," so Kyle and I quite reasonably assumed we'd get to see zombies. The movie otherwise sounded promising; after all, the undead shambling amuck in a trailer park could easily provide great entertainment value.

Instead, we watched a truly horrifying opening trailer-park bit, a sequence that showed more promise than the rest of the movie put together, and then the film devolved into a relatively standard almost-every-kid-dies slasheresque flick. The best parts were the trailer-park actors, who ate the scenery (if no brains) extremely well, and the moments of inspired trailer-park lunacy.

If you're a horror-film fan in search of a hit of something on the odd side, check out Trailer Park of Terror. If you're in the mood for zombies, though, give it a pass.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The scary part of this phase

Each phase of writing brings, at least for me, its own particular set of demons. The chief demon in the plotting stage is the big ugly of uncertainty: What if I can't come up with a strong enough plot? What if the concept I've been contemplating is no good? Most frightening, of course, is this one: What if I never finish figuring it out and never start writing again?

Once I'm writing a book, the fear changes to concerns about the quality of the work, but I know that if I slog away at it, I will finish. After all, I have an outline, so all I have to do is write my way through it. All I have to do.

In the outlining stage, though, I never know exactly how long it will take to crystallize the plan, much less to feel good enough about it that I'm willing to start the book itself.

Kyle remarked to me that anyone who reads my blog will know how crazy I am. I disagree. I think any reader will know how neurotic I am about writing--but being neurotic and being a writer have, in my experience, a perfect correlation.

Back to the happy days of contemplating the next novel.


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