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A Good Day to Die Hard Review

poster  from the 20th Century Fox film A Good Day to Die Hard

I was facing a dilemma this week. Should I go to see the terrible looking horror movie (Dark Skies) or the terrible looking action movie (Snitch)? As you can see, I chose neither. My friend wanted to see Die Hard, so to Die Hard we went.

Loose cannon cop John McClane travels to Russia to bail out his screwup son, only to find that he’s caught in the middle of a CIA operation.

If you’ve ever seen a Die Hard movie you know that they’re all about smarmy good guys defying the laws of physics and destroying half the city trying to take down bad guys with nefarious plans you forget about after two minutes because the point of the movie is explosions, not plot. This movie is the same, but seems a little more perfunctory, like John McClane is just marking time until he can retire with all his vertebrae intact.

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Zero Dark Thirty Review

poster from the Annapurna Pictures film Zero Dark Thirty

I love war movies, Navy SEALs, Joel Edgerton, spies, and The Hurt Locker, so obviously I had to see Zero Dark Thirty, even if it the trailers made it look like a mystery thriller in which everyone knows the end (spoiler alert: Osama Bin Laden dies). But since I haven’t read No Easy Day or Code Word Geronimo yet, everything except for the end would be a mystery to me. Here are the bare bones:

A young CIA officer devotes her life to tracking down terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden by gathering information on his personal courier.

I suspected (and have now confirmed) that there are a lot of people who will not like Zero Dark Thirty. They’ll think it skips around too much or that it’s too confusing or that there’s not enough action. But I’m not one of those people. I loved Zero Dark Thirty. It was smart, tense, and edgy, and I’d watch it again.

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Wild Helicopters Wins First Place in Story Pros

You know how I write screenplays in addition to reviewing movies? (You didn’t? Click here then) Well it turns out I don’t suck at it! I just found out this week that my script, The Wild Helicopters of the Outback (which is based on my short story from this anthology) won first place in the Family/Teen/Animation category of the 5th Annual Story Pros Awards.

Wild Helicopters is about a young Australian aerospace engineer who defies convention by befriending one of the pesky, artificially intelligent helicopters who steal power from her family’s floating wind farm. I started adapting it into a screenplay because an Australian animation company was looking for scripts. Even though I originally envisioned Wild Helicopters as live action, I figured the odds of getting it made that way were pretty slim given how many helicopters were in it, so I thought: why not go for it?

Sadly the animation company I wanted to submit it to went belly up before the script was done, so in lieu of any other likely companies turning up in my Google searches I decided to submit it to Story Pros for some exposure (Coast Guards had almost won with them a few years back, and I had a coupon). And I won!

Winning this contest is a pretty big deal. I get a bunch of money, a buttload of software and services, and (the best part) readings from producers and agents and stuff. Here’s hoping some Australian producer will like it, not care that I’m not Australian (Canadian is sorta almost as good, right?!) and make it into a movie with real live helicopters (well, not really live, but really not animated).

Cross your fingers! I sure am. If you’d like to read Wild Helicopters, Story Pros will shortly be posting a Winner’s Circle with a link to the script.

P.S. – Special thanks goes out to Meghan Lightle, who gave me story notes on the first draft.

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Act of Valor Review

poster from the Bandito Brothers film Act of Valor

This week’s choice of movie was a no brainer. As I mentioned, I have a crippling weakness for actioney real life jobs, so if you’ve got a movie, documentary, or biography about a fighter pilot or a UN police officer or a rescue diver, I’m so there. Act of Valor was exciting in trailer form because it’s sort of a hybrid of all three: movie, doc, and bio, with a made up story based on true events starring both real SEALs and actors.

A team of Navy SEALs tangle with South American drug cartels, Somalian smugglers, and religious extremists to stop a smuggler/terrorist team from executing a terror attack in the United States.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this movie. All movies say they’re new and different but this one seemed like it actually would be. Now that I’ve seen it, however, I have to report that watching Act of Valor was not the unique experience I was hoping for. In fact, it felt exactly like watching my brother play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. I’m not sure if this reflects well on Call of Duty or badly on Act of Valor.

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Remembrance Day Movies

Since I’ll be away at Hal-Con this weekend, I decided to replace this week’s in depth movie review with an overview of films you might want to watch for Remembrance Day.

For most people, Remembrance Day means wearing a poppy on their coat for a week or so, and maybe even going to a ceremony. It’s rote. It’s what they’re supposed to do, at least on the surface. But you’re still missing the point unless you’re really thinking about and appreciating our soldiers, sailors and air men/women. If you don’t find that speeches and documentaries have really helped you understand what our military men and women have and are going through on our behalf, these movies may help. They’re fictitious, but they’re all based on true stories and they have that sense of immediacy that documentaries lack.

I’ve endeavored to include a broad spectrum of viewpoints and experiences, not just US Army ones, so please don’t message me asking where Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down are.

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Online Chat Interview!

Starting at 2pm Atlantic on Monday, November 7, drop by www.bittenbybooks.com for the Tesseracts Fifteen launch party. You can post questions for the authors (like ME) and editor to answer. Every question you post earns you more chances to win a $50 Amazon gift card, which will be awarded at 2pm Atlantic on Tuesday when the event ends.

If you go there between 9pm and midnight Atlantic on Monday night and ask wierd questions about helicopters and wind turbines and brain surgery or whatever, I’ll be there to answer them. And you might win a prize. Fun! Yay!

The following other authors will also be dropping by at various times during the event:

Cat McDonald
Claire Eamer
Claude Lalumière
Elise Moser
K. Boorman
Kevin Cockle
Leslie Brown
Lynne MacLean
Michele Ann Jenkins
Michelle Barker
Mike Rimar
Nicole Luiken
Robert Runté
Shen Braun
Tony Pi
Virginia Modugno

So be there or be the square loser who can’t win any free stuff! FREE STUFF!

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The Thing (2011) Review

poster from the Universal Pictures film The Thing 2011

I have not seen the original The Thing, which is the way I usually like it when I’m trying to review remakes. The tendency is to assume that the new one is just lazily leeching off the older one’s success, so it’s better to go in fresh and evaluate it on its own merits. But in fact this new The Thing is not a remake. It’s actually a prequel with the same name as the original. What?? Whatever. It has essentially the same plot as the original, anyway, as that’s generally how things go with horror “sequels” – change the setting or characters and repeat.

A team of Norwegian scientists in Antarctica accidentally release a murderous frozen alien life form that can hide among them by imitating human tissue.

This is a very scary premise, and I was genuinely unnerved by The X-Files season one episode “Ice,” which borrowed from the original Thing. I had great hopes for this movie, especially since Joel Edgerton, a recent addition to my Awesome List, was in it, but despite the promising premise, it turned out rather blah. Not bad, but not that good, either.

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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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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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Red Review

poster from the Summit Entertainment film Red

If you believe Hollywood, there are two ways to handle getting old. The first is to pretend you haven’t and the second is to be proud of it. Movies like Red (which, ironically, is directed by Robert Schwentke, who is only 42) are what you get when Hollywood denizens choose option B. It’s the “lets not lose touch with reality” approach to aging, and it’s why I’ve been looking forward to the release of Red, which is about what happens when you pit age and experience against youthful ambition.

A retired CIA agent hooks up with his old team to fight back when younger agents from the CIA come looking to kill him.

I suspect that studios are watching Red closely to see if there’s any money in action movies starring old fogies. So the success or failure of this movie could actually determine what sorts of jobs older Hollywood actors might have open to them in the future. I don’t know about anyone else, but my reaction to this new “geriaction” genre is: more please!

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