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Sucker Punch Review

poster from the Warner Bros. film Sucker Punch

This was an awfully lean week for new movies. My choices were limited to Roderick Rules, which I could only be induced to suffer through in exchange for a large pile money, and Sucker Punch, which was greatly anticipated by comic book nerds but looks retarded. Stupid won out over torturous, of course. Sucker Punch is Zack Snyder’s third blowout action movie, the other two being 300 (dumb) and Watchmen (decent). It looks like another comic book movie, but actually it’s not. He made up the whole thing and it goes like this:

A young woman finds refuge in escape plans and fantasy worlds after she is committed to an institution for the criminally insane.

The thing about his making up the whole thing himself is that there’s no one else he can blame when the movie turns out badly. I’m guessing a lot of people will be sucked in by the trailer’s visuals forget to think about that crucial, make-or-break element: story. I’ve watched the movie. I’ve seen the visuals. I know the story. So I can now tell you that my suspicions were correct. Sucker Punch is retarded.

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Advice for People With No Valentines, Which I Have Learned From Watching Movies

Last year I wrote a list of unconventional Valentine’s Day movies to watch with your boyfriend or girlfriend, but if you’re like me, you have no Valentine for the upcoming holiday. When Monday rolls around, people like you and me have two choices. We can sit around going “boy, I sure hate Valentine’s Day” or we can get off our asses and go get ourselves a partner. How does one go about landing a boyfriend or girlfriend? Well, conventional wisdom states you should internet date or hang out in bars. But instead, try one of these sure-fire, guaranteed to work methods that I have learned from watching movies.

Get Fired

As movies like Morning Glory and How Do You Know show us, the instant you get fired from your job (as long as you work very hard, are not at all appreciated by your boss, and are fired through no fault of your own) you will immediately get a new and better job where there will be attractive people to date, or at least someone rich that you meet on a street corner who is willing to support you while you ponder your life choices.

Crash a Vehicle

This never fails. Crash a car, crash a plane, crash a train, crash a dogsled…you don’t even have to be driving it. All you have to do is be on it and a hero/heroine will swoop in out of nowhere a la Speed and sweep you off your feet. Or, if you happen to crash on a deserted island, whichever man/woman you happen to be traveling with or near will automatically become your boyfriend/girlfriend by the time you get back to civilization (see Romancing the Stone, Six Days, Seven Nights).

Move to the Middle of Nowhere

Persons with common sense would naturally assume that the bigger the city they move to the bigger the dating pool and therefore the greater the chances that they find a compatible mate. But these people are wrong. You need to move to the most godforsaken corner of nowhere in order to find your soul mate. It happened in Twilight, it happened in New in Town, and it will happen to you.

Kill Your Friend

Experience (gleaned from watching Life As We Know It, No Reservations, and Raising Helen) says that if you bump off your friend/relative and his/her partner, they will leave you their child and automatic pass into the land of significant otherdom. You may end up falling in love with a person you hate right now, but them’s the breaks.

Go on Vacation

This is probably the easiest one to accomplish on short notice (remember: Valentine’s Day is on Monday). It doesn’t have to be anywhere exotic or expensive, and you don’t even have to go alone. But leaving your home country is guaranteed to get you a hot partner, even if you don’t really want one. It worked in Eat, Pray, Love, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, French Kiss, and Letters to Juliet, so it must be true.

Become Terminally Ill

Sadly you’ll only get a couple of months of couples bliss out of this one, but it never fails, at least if you believe Nicholas Sparks. A better bet would be to try and get on the other side of the equation by hanging around sick people in the hospital. It worked for Jake Gyllenhaal in Love and Other Drugs and for Izzy on Grey’s Anatomy, though the trade off is usually having to look after them and then be sad when they die.

Become Embroiled in an International Conspiracy

This can be difficult to accomplish if you don’t work for the “State Department” (and by that I mean the fake State Department, the one that employs CIA agents), but if you believe Knight and Day, RED, and every James Bond movie ever made, all you have to do is hang around doing the things you normally do, like traveling on planes, answering phones in a call center, or being a nuclear scientist, and a hot secret agent will one day just fall into your lap accompanied by a whole lot of trouble. If you’re lucky, the hot agent will stay and the trouble will leave, not the other way around.

Act Like An Idiot

This one works especially well for men, particularly fat and/or ugly ones who like to tell jokes. As movies like Just Go With It, Hitch, and The Invention of Lying suggest, the more you act like a hopeless tool the more irresistible attractive women will find you. It even sometimes works for women. Just look at When in Rome. She acted like a lunatic and she landed Josh Duhamel!

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A Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I know it’s Christmas Eve, which is sort of late to be sending in request letters, but that’s why I’m emailing this to your Blackberry instead of putting it in the mail. It’s probably better to go paperless anyway seeing as how you’re in danger of being melted off your land if we don’t knock it off with the carbon dioxide spewing factories already.

Anyway, in case you were wondering, for Christmas I would like:

a Blue Toes DVD
a boxed DVD set of Pensacola: Wings of Gold
an Into the Sun DVD (the one with Michael Pare, please. Not the one with Steven Segal)
a Popples DVD boxed set (Region 1)
Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Summer Vacation on DVD
a new season of Defying Gravity
and a second Firefly movie

Yes, Santa, I do realize that because of a lack of interest by studio heads, none of these things actually exist. But I figured since you’re magic and you have your own workshop, you could hook me up. I’m willing to trade for homeade cookies, but both my brothers are home so you’ll have to hurry up if you want any. These things disappear fast in our house.

Thanks Santa. Don’t forget to put the studded tires on your reindeer, it’s getting pretty snowy in places and you don’t want to fall off a roof and wind up in the hospital before you get to my house.

Your Friend,

Kat

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Tron Legacy Review

poster from the Walt Disney Pictures film Tron Legacy

When the original Tron came out in 1982, it was like Star Wars in terms of how many people flipped their lids for it. Back then, computers were glorified calculators that took up whole rooms and could only be afforded by very important universities and used for very important scientific research. A movie about using a computer to go inside a video game just about blew people’s minds. So naturally, Disney waited 28 years to make a sequel. It’s called Tron Legacy, and here’s the storyline:

The delinquent heir to a computer company investigates a page from his missing father and finds him trapped inside the computer world he created several decades ago by a tyrannical computer program.

It’s a cool idea for a movie, but Disney completely missed several boats, which will undoubtedly hurt its bottom line. First, there’s the technology boat. People who have grown up watching Reboot cartoons no longer find stories about the insides of computers new and different, even if Tron did do it first. And second, there’s the 3D technology. A year ago, it was new, and people flocked to Avatar just for the experience. And now it’s old and people don’t care anymore. So Tron Legacy is effectively stripped of its novelty factor and left to stand on the old fallbacks: story, character, setting, and special effects.

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Trailer Reviews for November 12, 2010

Coming out this weekend: Morning Glory, Skyline, Unstoppable, Monsters, Inside Job, and Stone. Plus the Cape Breton Island Film Series also is showing Kisses.

MORNING GLORY



Why this movie is coming out on a Wednesday instead of a Friday is beyond me. It cannot hope to set any sort of record for opening weekend take, as it is not a sequel, a big budget action movie, or a 3D extravaganza. It is, however, a funny, engaging comedy-drama produced by JJ Abrams that is filled with all-star actors. So there is some reason for fuss. Rachael McAdams, Harrison Ford, Dianne Keaton, Jeff Goldblum, Patrick Wilson, the list goes on and on. They (thankfully) didn’t give away the entire thing in the trailer, so there’s something left for the full movie to contribute. And it’s got to be good. How else would all these awesome people come to be involved otherwise? Space radiation?

SKYLINE



And speaking of space radiation, here’s another alien invasion movie. There have been a lot of them over the years: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Independence Day, The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds, etc. There’s even a couple of TV shows on the bandwagon right now. The posters for Skyline look cool but I’ve watched both trailers and the only thing that’s in any way different is the “look at the light, turn funny in the face” thing. This, along with the “trying to escape the city” thing, makes it more like a zombie movie. If there are some gasp-worthy revelations and air combat, it could be cool, but if they spend the whole time screaming and running around on the ground I’m not interested.

UNSTOPPABLE



There’s a train. And it can’t stop. And it’s liable to explode. So basically it’s Speed, but with a train instead of a bus (or the oh-so-memorable cruise ship from Speed 2). Is it just me, or does this seem kind of boring to you? It’s supposed to be an action movie, and they’re portraying Denzel Washington and Chris Pine’s train engineer characters like they’re freaking fighter pilots or something, but who are they kidding? Trains travel in straight lines. They cannot turn. They can be easily diverted by flipping a switch further down the track. I don’t see how their premise makes any sense. They pretty much HAVE to say “based on a true story” or everyone would go: “no, that’s stupid, that would never happen.” It had better be pretty damn exciting if they want to make up for this inherent stupidity of premise.

MONSTERS



Ho hum, another monster movie. This time the reason there are monsters is that a space probe crashed. It’s like The Andromeda Strain, except the microorganism creates monsters that kill humans instead of directly killing humans, so there’s an extra step in the process. That hardly qualifies it as “utterly unique and original.” It’s a town, there are some people, things are trying to kill them, they try to escape, some of them die. Ho hum, been there, done that. The only thing that really qualifies as different is that it’s set in Mexico instead of the United States. Will Americans even watch it? My guess is that they probably will, because a monster infestation seems like a good excuse for an invasion – hence all the planes and tanks (that Mexico cannot afford) in the trailer.

INSIDE JOB



Finance is extremely boring to the average person, which is how so many “financial planners” manage to con people out of their life savings. No one wants to really think about how money works. They just believe the guys in suits when they start talking mumbo jumbo. But given how disastrously this has worked out, especially in the United States, maybe its time we started actually thinking about it. This movie is a good place to start, because though it is about finance, it’s also about robbery. And I think everyone can agree that they don’t like being stolen from. If this documentary is still too boring for you, go and watch The Other Guys. The case they’re working on is about the same stuff.

KISSES



The CB Film series movie this week is Kisses. The trailer was pretty short, but those kids look cute and it got picked for a bunch of film festivals, so I guess it must be decent. Though it does seem like they spend a lot of time almost getting kidnapped. Is Dublin like the vacation destination for retired child-nappers or something? They mix up black and white and color as a statement, so I guess it’s pretty arty. Could go either way.

For some reason, I’ve talked about Stone already before. Click here to read what I said about it and watch the trailer.

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The Birth of “Wild Helicopters”

A little while ago, I did a bit of a profile on Airborne, the anthology one of my stories appears in. The launch party for it was last week. It was fun. I did a reading of my story, “The Wild Helicopters of the Australian Outback,” and we all ate cookies and talked nerd fiction and signed books. People seemed to really like “Wild Helicopters,” which is a friendship story about an artificially intelligent helicopter and a newly graduated aerospace engineer set on a floating wind farm in the outback of Australia. Everyone was surprised to learn that I’d never actually been there (Australia).

For today’s Random Friday article, I thought I’d give you a bit of background on where “The Wild Helicopters of the Australian Outback” came from, since “where do you get your ideas?” seems to be the #1 most popular question asked of writers by non-writers.

The short answer: me dunno.
The long answer: my brain makes a mishmash of stuff I hear about and sometimes it gets interesting enough to write down. To illustrate this process I’ll show you the doodles from my notebook that started “Wild Helicopters.”

I loooooove blimps. I’ve wanted my own personal car-sized airship for forever.

Katrina Nicholson's doodle of a personal sized blimp

My brother Jared is in training at Ryerson University to become an aerospace engineer. I’ve been hounding him for ages to make me my blimp but so far he hasn’t obliged (some brother, eh?) He’s more concerned with doing his homework assignments, one of which he told me about: designing aerial wind turbines. I love wind turbines too, and I know a bit about physics, engineering, and flying from college/Air Cadets, so those three little words spawned a picture in my head that combined blimps and turbines. Jared told me later my made up version actually looked a lot like what he had in mind.

Katrina Nicholson's doodle of an aerial wind turbine

Of course, you never have just one turbine. You have a whole farm of them. And where in the world is there a lot of empty space to put a whole farm of wind turbines? The Outback, of course, which I was reading up on after watching Rogue, a horror movie set in the Northern Territory. So that one floating turbine turned into the Beckett’s floating wind farm.

Katrina Nicholson's drawing of an airborne wind farm

This was the first appearance of a helicopter in the mix. It turned up because:

a) I also love helicopters
b) Greg McLean, the director of Rogue said in the DVD commentary that some cattle/sheep farmers use helicopters to herd animals and it gives them mad skillz
c) The people who worked on the farm had to get around somehow.

But since the turbines were airships is made sense for their personal vehicles to be airships too, like the one I wanted for myself. So I messed around with how to make them “green” powered.

Katrina Nicholson's drawing of a green airship

Then of course I realized they could just charge up on the turbines, and the charging spawned thoughts of power poaching which created a spot for the helicopters in the story – as mooches, like rabbits on a real farm. But of course people know better than to steal, so having them be piloted helicopters makes the story too dark. Insert primitive AI into the mix and voila! You’ve got a cute but annoying wild machine to create some conflict at the farm.

And the rest of the story flowed from there. If you want to read it, I think the Cape Breton Regional Library has a copy, or you can order a copy of the book. It comes in old fashioned paper and newfangled e-book formats, and the e-book one is only 7 bucks.

Of course, my story is only one of sixteen short stories in Airborne. To find out about the others, you can get the skinny on the publisher’s website.

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Resident Evil: Afterlife Review

poster from the Sony Pictures film Resident Evil Afterlife

Even with very popular franchises, like Indiana Jones or Star Wars, by the fourth installment the teat is starting to get pretty chaffed from all that milking. Resident Evil: Afterlife is the fourth installment in a film series based on a nine installment videogame series. By now the cow is dead, and they’re reduced to recycling old milk that wasn’t very tasty to begin with. Resident Evil: Afterlife has essentially the same plotline as all of the other films:

A genetically engineered superwoman meets up with a bunch of survivors of a zombie apocalypse caused by the evil Umbrella Corporation and tries to keep them from getting killed.

… and yet people will watch it. It will make money (it is making money – it’s at the top of the box office this weekend) and there will be a Resident Evil: Some Other Random Death Word, just like Resident Evil: Afterlife rather arrogantly assumes there will be. I’ll admit to liking the first Resident Evil movie, and to not completely hating the first sequel, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, but enough is enough already!

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Book Launch!

Airborne anthology by Third Person Press

A while ago I mentioned in the My Work section of the site that one of my short stories, “The Wild Helicopters of the Australian Outback,” is being published in an anthology soon. Well, “soon” has been given an official date: October 6th, 2010.

The anthology is the second one in a series that started with Undercurrents in December of 2008. (I was in that one too). That one had a water theme, this one has an air theme, the next one’s going to be earth themed and I assume there’ll be a fourth “fire” one after that. All the stories are speculative fiction (i.e. sci-fi, horror, or fantasy), which is wierd for Cape Breton. Most of the books that come out here are about fishing, mining, Celtic culture, or fishing miners who love Celtic culture. The series is put out by Third Person Press, a local independent publishing company.

The launch party is at the McConnell Library in Sydney, Nova Scotia from 6:30 to 8:30 in the evening. So for those three or so readers who are actually from my hometown, come down and see me! There’ll be readings and food and stuff and you can get your book signed. None of us are really very famous yet. A couple people have books published, some work for newspapers or whatever, but someday one of us will make it big (ME!), like J.K. Rowling big, and then your copy of Airborne will be a rare, signed book that will fetch many dollars on eBay for your kid’s college fund.

My story, “The Wild Helicopters of the Australian Outback,” is about a recently graduated aeronautical engineer who comes home to her family’s floating wind farm to help fight off the pesky artificially intelligent helicopters who keep hanging around leeching their power, only to find herself making friends with one instead. It’s a cool story (if I may say so myself). It combines five of the top entries in my ‘Coolest Things Ever’ list (Australia, wind turbines, blimps, helicopters and wilderness adventures) and it’s my favorite thing I’ve ever written (so far, anyway).

Here’s a list of the other people who contributed to the book, just in case you’ve actually heard of them before:

Chris Benjamin
Jill Campbell-Miller
Ken Chisholm
Donna D’Amour
Kerry Anne Fudge
Meg Horne
Theresa MacKay
Bruce V. Miller
Krista C. Miller
Sue MacKay Miller
Sherry D. Ramsay
Julie A. Serroul
Peter Andrew Smith
D.C. Troicuk
Nancy S.M. Waldman

You can buy a copy of Airborne at the launch (the last book cost about $20 so this one will probably be the same) or you can get it online after it comes out. There’s probably going to be an e-book version for about $5. There was of the last one. I’ll post links when I find out for sure.

Anyway for now check out the awesome cover! (look to the right… up a bit… yup, that cover) Nancy Waldman, one of the editor/writers, did the artwork. Totally cool, right? Those things in the cloud are little pictures representing the different stories. If you look on the left you can see a helicopter. That’s me!

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Top Ten Fictional Film Pilots

I love airplane movies, especially fighter plane movies. There’s just something about dodging enemy planes at high speed five feet from the ground that screams “awesome!” But if there’s one thing I’ve noticed from years of watching movies, it’s that the best fictional pilots aren’t always in films that you could classify as plane movies. Sometimes they’re not even the main characters. Even if they’re only in a few scenes, even if aircraft aren’t the primary focus of the film, these pilot characters have mad skillz and they deserve to be recognized. So what follows is a list of the top ten most awesome, most skilled, most interesting movie pilots of all time.

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Identical Spec Ops Action Movie #3: The Expendables Review

poster from the Lionsgate film The Expendables

Welcome to the third and final review in the Identical Spec-Ops Action Movies That Came Out in the Summer of 2010 series. You can read the first two reviews in the series, The Losers and The A-Team here and here. This last installment is called The Expendables, and features nearly every member of the meathead action movie actor club (except Steven Segal and Jean Claude Van Damme), so I fully expected it to be awful. Imagine my surprise when it actually turned out to be pretty good.

The premise is, of course, identical to the other three movies:

A handful of operatives known as the best in their field find themselves betrayed and facing impossible odds of survival as they attempt to perform ridiculous feats of physics-defying action to get their lives back and stop a bad guy from doing something really bad.

…though it’s slightly less identical because they’re mercenaries. Getting betrayed is something that happens to them every other week, so it’s not such a big deal here. And instead of getting their lives back if they win, they get money, which is pretty much the same thing to a mercenary.

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