The Importance of Being Scared

Shadows seem to dart around and morph into strange images in my peripheral vision. Every gust of wind outside my window, every creak of the house settling, is the potential harbinger of my doom.

So I was going to write about my hunt for the Northern Lights, but that’s taken a back seat to the terror I feel at this moment. So what, I hear you asking, could possibly reduce me, half-man half-bear and all hunk, to a whimpering schoolgirl curled up in the fetal position in the corner of my room? Well allow me to drag you, kicking and screaming, into the depths of horror known as the Marble Hornets.

I found this little youtube phenomenon after some guy on a forum I frequented did a small review of it complete with the phrase “Don’t watch this if you’re easily scared.” Well when you put it like that you’re practically daring me to watch it, and let’s face it, everytime someone prefaces a statement with a phrase “Don’t” our immediate response is to “Do”. But, for the sake of not freaking anyone out, I’ll not say anything specific about the program itself. Rather, I’ll concentrate on the importance of fear.

Fear is what kept our caveman ancestors alive, what kept them from stupidly crawling into the mouth of a sabretooth tiger or falling off the edge of cliffs like a line of lemmings. Fear is still an important part of our lives today, and what keeps us from driving our cars off the edges of cliffs like lemmings and, to drag this back on point, what keeps me from trusting my life to a possibly drunk pilot flying a complex piece of machinery built from parts of the cheapest bidder and bought by bankrupt airlines. But while I have to take powerful, and delicious, sedatives to get on a flight without causing an incident that results in the airport being locked down, to be afraid of the preposterous and impossible can indeed be fun.

Not giggling fun of course, not any kind of fun that I can explain but if you get a thrill on rollercoasters (which, just for the record, I hate) you know the kind of fun I’m talking about. To be afraid of monsters is, perhaps, the most primal of our fears. It’s why we are wary of dark alleyways, and flinch at unexpected sounds. The logical fear says there might be a potential mass murderer in that dark alleyway, or that odd sound might be an intruder in the house. But in the primitive center of our brains, a holdover from eons past, we imagine beasts in the dark. That dark alleyway now becomes the home of slithering creatures waiting to feast upon you as soon as you leave the safety of the light, and that strange noise the clicking of a zombie’s jaw as it dangles uselessly from a few pieces of rotten flesh. It makes the heart pound and the mind race.

Yet for all the unpleasantness of fear, it provides an experience that no other emotion can provide. Your senses never feel so keen as when you fear the dark, you can hear every creak of the house and every rustle of the wind. Your eyes see everything and nothing at the same time as your wild imagination makes various images appear against the blank canvas of the dark. So don’t fear the dark, embrace it and allow yourself to see the impossible, and to fear the unknowable.

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Mistakes!

Never admit your mistakes.

Especially in a court of law! The 5th amendment is your friend, the right to not incriminate yourself is paramount in our legal system. Of course I only know this because of…you know, research for a crime story…yeah that’s good…research! Huh, what? I was here all night, I swear. I have witnesses, right guys?

Now, where was I? Oh yeah, mistakes.

And never admit your mistakes when you know you’re dead wrong, especially then!

So I’m not even going to mention how those two reviews I wrote were terrible. In fact, they don’t even exist. Do not scroll down, do not pass go, and do not collect two hundred dollars.

Okay, so all joking aside, I realize that those reviews didn’t go down too well. And don’t try and tell me they were fine! When a writer can’t pull a decent review out of his own mother, he knows they’re crap. But that’s okay, it made me realize that even though this is a blog and only has two readers, I owe it to those readers to at least put some proper effort into these things.  Just doing that off the top of my head just doesn’t cut it, I’m not that good yet.

Or at least, that’s what I would say if, you know, I’d actually written those two reviews. Which of course I didn’t. Anyway for my two beloved readers stay tuned for more updates. I’ll be updating my blog more frequently in the future, look again tomorrow for my ill fated attempt to find the Northern Lights.

Double Feature Time!

Okay, so since it’s been a while since my last update I’ve decided to upload 2 reviews I’ve written. The first is a good movie, “The Greatest” featuring Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon and Carey Mulligan. And the other…well not so good, “Right at Your Door”, starring a bunch of people I’ve never seen and never want to see again. Scroll down to read.

These are almost flow of conciousness reviews, if I think about these too much my writers block just smacks me in the face again. But feel free to add any criticisms you have or requests for other movies to be updated. I got a bit carried away with my “Right at your Door review” so it’s a bit too long.

Review: The Greatest

The Greatest is a small independent film released in 2009 featuring Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon and Carey Mulligan and it’s title is appropriate because it features some of the greatest writing and acting of any movie I’ve seen. Writer and director Shana Feste makes a powerful and confident debut with this subtle yet emotional movie about loss and grief.

When Bennett (Aaron Johnson) is killed in a car accident the family is left to try and pick up the pieces of their lives. Sounds like a pretty straightforward plot right, maybe even a little dull. Well Feste manages to make this story a far more unique movie by throwing in a curve ball that really adds emotional depth and complexity to the plot. Bennett’s girlfriend (Carey Mulligan) survived the crash, and arrives at their house to tell the grieving father (played by Pierce Brosnan) that she is carrying the baby of his dead son. Pierce Brosnan does an excellent job playing this role, at first playing a stoic and almost emotionally deadened father just trying to keep it together for the sake of his wife (played by Susan Sarandon), before a very moving emotional climax.

Carey Mulligan and Pierce Brosnan have an excellent on-screen chemistry, they play genuinely off each other in such a believable fashion that you’d think you were watching a documentary on familial grief. Carey’s character, initially threatening to rip the family even further apart with the constant reminder of their son’s death growing in her belly, comes to be the only thing holding them together. Her performance is exemplary, and really captures both the plight of teen mothers and of spouses that have lost their partner. It’s a very subtle performance, you won’t find any huge explosive moments filled with teenage angst and hormones or self destructive behavior as other movies have done with the teen pregnancy storylines. Instead it comes down to the very emotional talks she has with every member of the family, acting as almost a councilor for the family despite her having many difficulties of her own.

The only weak link in the movie, in my opinion, is Susan Sarandon. She comes off as a near homicidal maniac one bad hair day away from turning this wonderful movie into a cheap version of SAW. Now, I certainly don’t know what a mother who lost her child would be going through at this point in the movie, perhaps Sarandon’s performance is right on the mark. But in the movie, it only detracts from the rest of the movie’s excellent and subtle emotional performance. Her eyes, for one thing, look as if their about to burst from her skull during several scenes, but that’s how she always looks so I won’t hold it against her. Her psychotic demeanor throughout the movie just leaves you constantly thinking that this movie will take a wrong turn down Murderizer lane. Throughout the movie I was hoping the family would either commit her to an asylum or, preferably, give her the Ol’ Yeller routine and tearfully put both barrels between her bewildered looking face. I truly think that another actress would have fit this role much better, Sarandon acts more as a distraction to the main movie than anything else.

Overall however, this is an excellent movie. The cinematography is low key, no fancy lens filters or dark lighting to tell you “Hey, your supposed to be sad!” as other movies have tried, no it all comes down to the actor’s performances to draw you in. The soundtrack is very mellow if a bit predictable, no vocals, but the usual sad violin and piano duets. But really, the acting and the superb story are why you should look this movie up. Don’t let his previous experience as the simple James Bond fool you, Pierce Brosnan is an excellent actor and really displays his talent in this film. And even though Susan Sarandon sort of detracts from the experience, it’s not enough to stop you from enjoying this film. So if you ever have a free night where you feel like watching an excellent emotional movie, rent “The Greatest”.

Right at Your Door: A Review

You know the great thing about being unemployed is? Watching movies. Not just the biggies that everyone goes to see. But the small, independent movies that I otherwise wouldn’t waste time watching if I had a job/college/women demanding my attention. Indeed, I would probably have never seen “Right at Your Door” if I’d had any combination of the three (preferably the third one of course), but I figured why not.

You know the bad thing about being unemployed is? Watching movies like “Right at Your Door” and knowing that those are 90 minutes you will never get back…

Okay, so “Right at Your Door” isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen (“End of Violence” still holds that prize) but it certainly wasn’t very good. In fact I wouldn’t include good in there, it was passable. Sort of. You see I rented this movie because the premise sounded incredibly intriguing.

“Right at Your Door” is a small independent film distributed by Lionsgate publishers and is about a dirty bomb that has been detonated in Los Angeles, and a husband that seals the house as recommended by Homeland Security (by using Cling film and duct tape, which is just about as effective as the “duck and cover” defense against Nuclear Bombs in the 50’s)  but unfortunately his wife is still outside. Does he risk bringing his wife in and possibly infecting himself? Or does he leave her to die outside? It’s an intriguing idea isn’t it?

Unfortunately “Right at Your Door” completely squanders this idea by horrifically bad writing, characters, actors and basically anything that didn’t have to do with the cinematography. In fact the only reason I watched this movie through to the end was because the premise was so damn intriguing. I usually avoid giving away the plot in my reviews, but really I don’t think anyone really needs to put themselves through this movie unless you have 90 minutes of life you don’t mind losing. So here it goes, the Cliffnotes of “Right at Your Door”. You can thank me later.

It’s lovely day in California, the sun is rising illuminating the hovering smog cloud. A man gets up and fixes his wife a fresh Cappuccino, complete with that fuzzy looking sugar/milk concoction that goes with it, and runs her shower. He tries to get a little action going but she has to go to work. He kisses her goodbye and –

BAM

The credits roll.

I HATE it when movies do this. You know, if your going to give me credits after you’ve already shown me the first five minutes of the movie, at least do it gradually. Have them fade into the shot, or put them in the background, don’t set us up with the characters and then cut out to an incredibly annoying credit rolling sequence. But it’s been a long time since I’ve seen an opening sequence this annoying. The music sounds like a cat scratching a chalkboard while standing on top of the keys of an out of tune piano. The names and titles eventually line up to feature what looks to be a street map, presumably of the bomb site, which is weird since we never actually see any of the explosions or even go anywhere near downtown Los Angeles.

Cut back to the guy brushing his teeth, and he hears the emergency alert buzzing from his radio and as the announcer comes on the main character hears what would make any of us freak out, an explosion has ripped through downtown Los Angeles. This part of movie really shines, in fact I think the cast of the radio station used in this movie were the best actors of the entire movie.  The announcers voice is laced with the same fear and confusion that I remember hearing from the real life commentators during 9-11. A woman reporter who occasionally calls in and tells the radio station (and thus the audience) about the situation at the actual bomb sites does a spectacular job making the audience feel as if we’re there at the blast zone. In fact she might do too good a job, I found myself straining to hear her descriptions of the explosions, while the incredibly annoying husband desperately tries to call his wife who was heading into downtown LA.

Now, at first this is pretty reasonable. I think I would probably act the same way if something similar happened. But then it just gets stupid. So after nearly a half hour of panic stricken attempts to reach his wife he lets the neighbors gardener and proceeds to seal the house. Then his wife finally shows up, having fought her way through the blast zone and run who knows how many miles to get back to the house. Now, what happens next should seem simple right? Let the poor woman in, I mean this guy was desperate to find his wife this should be a simple decision.

No…he doesn’t want to let her in. You see the news has now released information that the victims in the blastzone are now highly infectious, spreading the disease like the plague rats of old. Now actually, thinking logically, it makes sense to keep her locked out with this information now available. But you see you can’t build up this man as a character who will sacrifice everything for his wife and then when he finally finds her pulls a complete 180 and locks her out. If this happened more organically, maybe I could believe it, if he seen other survivors wandering by with their lungs hanging out of the lips then sure I could see not wanting to let them in. But he has only the radio’s word on that, and his crying and pleading wife is inches away from him. That is NOT consistent character development. That’s borderline schizophrenia.

But the husband isn’t the only character to do this. After pleading for her husband to let her in for at least several days, she pulls the same stunt and runs off with some stranger to go see if they can get supplies from a Navy base where a ship has offloaded supplies. Where this stranger came from is still a huge mystery for me, there is some dialog about him being a friend from work but that doesn’t explain anything. Seriously, he shows up for about 3 minutes and then he’s never seen again. And the Wife, whose been wanting inside the house this entire time, runs off with this stranger on the insane notion that she can get medicine from a navy base in the middle of a crisis.

Another big problem with this movie is the constant use of fade to black transitions. They use this to show that time has passed. Gee, thanks movie. Never would have guessed. There are plenty of other ways to show the passage of time without having to constantly interrupt the flow of the movie, and pulls the audience out of the movie. And in a movie where emotion and tension are going to be paramount, giving us small breaks in the form of 10-15 second blackouts is NOT a good idea.

So anyway, the wife finally arrives back home and immediately starts bitching that they wouldn’t give her medicine. “That’s not help! That’s not help!” she cries.

You know what lady? There’s almost 4 million people living in LA, they can’t just be handing out meds to every one who wants them. They need to prioritize. By the end of the movie I was hoping that they’d all end up dead.

And guess what!? They do!

In a twist that actually makes sense, at least compared to the rest of the movie, the husband’s act of sealing himself inside the house actually caused the virus to grow faster and mutate to become more deadly. You see without proper ventilation it grew hot and damp, a perfect breeding ground for a disease. Finally, the movie almost redeems itself with a plot twist that finally makes some sense.

And then they put a fumigation tent over the house and gas him like a termite.

No really, I wish I was making that up! They pump the house full of chemicals and he dies. Really?

At this point the movie has made it pretty clear that they don’t trust the government, constantly making the government out to the be bad buy for the entire movie despite taking perfectly legitimate courses of action in the face of a biological attack. Then, as if to finally convince us they’re evil, they gas the main character. Now that doesn’t even make sense from any point of view.

What was the point? If anything the government would want to study this new strain of virus, and he’d be invaluable as Patient Zero (first diagnosed case) to test new drugs on to counteract the effect.

But really that was what the whole movie left me feeling.

What was the point?

Greetings, Greetings.

Welcome to the Writer’s Block. Okay okay, so I’m bad with titles, I admit that. It seemed clever at the time, as I created this blog to write about the horrific writer’s block I’ve been suffering lately.

So, quickly moving on, I created this blog to write about my horrific writer’s block. And so I shall.

I have writer’s block.

Okay okay, so I should probably elaborate.

Words and I have always been the best of friends, not the spoken word, god no. When speaking I turn into bizarre cross between Dan Quayle, hilariously misspeaking words and phrases, and a man whose had his jaw wired shut, unable to enunciate or even string a couple words together. But writing? That’s always been as easy as breathing for me, I’ve been writing stories since I was young. Teachers used to give out vocabulary lists as assignments and you could either write the meaning of the word or turn the list into a story. I used to force my poor Elementary school teacher’s to read six, seven or even eight page stories of terrible fiction. Once my 4th grade class was given a rabbit shaped piece of paper with only five lines on it and told to tell a story about why we had to replace the Easter Bunny. Most kids wrote “I replaced the Easter Bunny cause he was sick at home” with various misspellings and grammar errors. I used the paper Rabbit’s ears, head, the 5 lines provided, the back of the paper and stapled an extra piece of paper on to tell a grand saga of my heroic journey to save the Easter Bunny from the clutches of evil. It was filled with ten times the mistakes of my peers, and the story was barely coherent and I couldn’t actually read the ending (my handwriting was so horrible that even I couldn’t read it, and my sieve like memory had lost the ending to inequity.) But Damn it all, I had actually out done my peers, and let me tell you that was a rare occurrence! Take that, Zach, my fourth grade bully! (Yeah, I’m totally not bitter.)

Anyway, to drag this back on point, I’m a writer. By choice and by birth. I was born to write. Whether or not anyone out there is born to read what I write is irrelevant, I’ll continue to write until the day I die (or I’m finally locked away in a padded cell). So for me it’s incredibly frustrating to be stuck staring at a blank screen or a clean sheet of paper without a word on it.

You ever seen one of those zombie movies? Well, if you have, you know how it goes. You know at the end of the movie when the last remaining humans manage to heroically escape the horde of lumbering, yet seemingly desperate zombies? Yeah, I’m one of the zombies. I’m shambling along desperately after a paragraph, a sentence, a solitary letter to sink my teeth into. Only to watch with profound sadness as they sail into the sunset, taking my Pulitzer prize and all my New York Best Sellers with them, presumably to be eaten by other zombies after the credits roll.

Yes, I know well the plight of those poor zombies. Me and every other writer out there who has ever suffered writer’s block knows that feeling.

So I decided to write this blog. Hoping that maybe just writing about my frustrations about writing would get me writing again. There’s a paradox in that statement somewhere but I don’t care, I want to write.

So for those of you following me, be aware. If I don’t break this writer’s block this blog may eventually turn into the ramblings of a mad man. Much like Jack Torrence (From 1980’s The Shining) my final words might read “All work and no play makes jack a dull boy” and then the murders will start!

But rest, before my inevitable insanity hits, my blog will contain more than just my writer’s block and weakening grip on reality. I’m a bit of a renaissance writer, I dabble in a bit of everything at the moment. From Movie and Video Game reviews, to the difficulties of writing fantasy stories, and even half-baked short stories about pyromaniacs, you’ll be able to find them all here.

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