The stories of the last three weeks

July 24, 2012

I’m back. My brain is a puddle of blancmange, swilling around in the back of my skull somewhere due to 25-odd hours of air travel and transit waiting I’ve just been through, so I’m not making much sense. But I have to stay awake till bedtime on the Australian clock to avoid jet lag, so here I am, rambling at you lot. The trip was fantastic, we saw great things in Paris and the UK and attended my cousin Joanna’s wedding to Chris. It was beautiful wedding and I drank a lot of wine and danced like an idiot all evening. Bloody brilliant.

You’ll find a random selection of photos from the trip if you go over to my Tumblr blog and scroll back to 6th July. You’ll see Notre Dame, cheese, Cornish coastlines, castles and handsome couples in love among many, many other things.

I thought I might say a few things here about each of the stories I consumed this trip, given that this site is story-powered. I tend to watch a lot of movies when I fly long haul. I read a lot naturally, but in short bursts between in-flight films. So, here’s a brief line about each thing:

Movies watched on planes:

JOHN CARTER – A rollicking sci-fi adventure in the old pulp style. Great fun.

WRATH OF THE TITANS – Truly, truly awful, but incredibly pretty to watch.

CHRONICLE – I was surprised by this one. I had no idea what to expect and it turned out to be really good. Three lads get inexlicable superpowers after stumbling across something (perhaps a meteorite – it’s never explained) and the film explores what happens to them. It’s a handycam, found footage piece a la Blair Witch, but done very well. I liked how it quickly went very dark.

SEEKING JUSTICE – A clever thriller about freelance vigilantes who start getting a bit out of control. I thought this one would be quite cheesy, but it was actually very engaging. Interesting questions about the morals of vigilantism were explored.

SAFE HOUSE – An exciting who’s-really-on-what-side espionage thriller. It was set in South Africa, which made a nice change from US-centric Hollywood movies and was very well put together. If you’re a thriller fan, I’d recommend this one.

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE – Even for a comic book movie, this was fucking ridiculous. It was absurd and kind of crazy, but did play up some interesting ideas. As a 33,000 feet high distraction, it was entertaining enough.

JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME – This was a surprise gem. A very clever and funny movie, excellently acted, that tossed around ideas of fate, destiny and coincidence.

MAN ON A LEDGE – The title of this film is exactly what it’s about. The man in question being a framed cop who is using the ledge antics as part of a great caper. It’s quite clever, but the caper is absolutely ridiculous.

THE RUM DIARY – A film based on the Hunter S Thompson book of the same name. Johnny Depp does an excellent job in this. In fact, the whole thing is brilliantly acted. Loads of fun.

RAMPART – A gritty police drama with Woody Harrelson as the most corrupt cop ever. The film explores corruption and morality. It’s very good but has a deeply unsatisying, ambiguous ending where some closure was really needed.

So that’s ten movies during a total of around 40 or so hours of flying. Not a bad effort. And no, my memory isn’t that great – I jotted them all down in my notebook as I watched.

While I was in England I saw two films:

CATFISH – A documentary about a social media friendship that quickly develops into something much greater and creepier than originally thought. It was a very entertaining film and a fascinating comment on the nature of our online identities, but I have a suspicion that the whole thing is a cleverly constructed hoax. (And a quick check on wikipedia shows I’m not the only one who suspects this!)

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES – I may well blog a lot more about this during the week, but suffice to say I really enjoyed it. It was certainly flawed (how the fuck does Bane eat, for example?) but nonetheless a very solid completion of a very solid trilogy of films. Throughout Nolan’s Batman trilogy there have been many changes made to canon, and I’m a Batman nerd, so I know of what I speak and I’m hard to please. However, for the sake of turning Batman into a single, coherent story over three films, I’m okay with those changes and these are the only Batman films to date that I think are worthy. It really is one of the strongest film trilogies ever, I think.

And then I read a couple of books while I was away:

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING by Julian Barnes – A philosophical story addressing life and consequence. It’s a very short book, but a good one (it won the Booker) and I enjoyed it a lot.

SUITED by Jo Anderton – This is the second in the Veiled Worlds trilogy – the first was Debris. I loved Debris and this was an excellent second installment. The world and mythology was developed in much greater depth and I can’t wait for the third book in the series now to see how it all wraps up.

So there you have it – the stories I enjoyed while I was away. And now, I’d betterzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…


Maintain the rage

June 25, 2012

I’ve noticed a funny thing over the past couple of weeks, and ended up becoming embroiled in it a little bit myself. The vast majority of reports I’ve read about Prometheus share my total incredulity at just how shit a film it is. Seriously, lots of people are quite rightly ranting about just how awful it is.

However, there are a lot of people out there who enjoyed it. I don’t really understand how anyone could enjoy such a flawed “story”, however pretty it looked, but there you go. It worked for them, so fair enough. Now here’s the funny thing: a lot of those people have started attacking those of us who hated it.

“Why can’t you leave us alone?” they ask.

“Why can’t you just let people like what they want to like?” they ask.

Well, you can like whatever you want. But I will be quite vocal about how I find that bloody weird and have no idea how a person finds enjoyment in it. Just like some people believe there’s a giant spirit daddy in the sky who cares about them. That kind of willful ignorance astounds me, but whatever floats your boat. Believe what you like.

However, just as it’s your right to claim enjoyment or belief in these things, it’s equally my right to exclaim my dislike of them and my astonishment that anyone could find them good/real/likeable, etc..

“It’s offensive,” people cry! “You shouldn’t offend people’s opinions.”

Why not? Their opinion offends me. Where’s the outcry about people offending me with their claim that Prometheus was a good film? (Well, actually, this is it, right here.) I find the film and its defenders offensive – not as people, but in that particular opinion. It doesn’t mean I hate everything about that person. The vast majority of these people are decent, intelligent, upstanding folk. But they have one particular view that I find nonsensical. If they’re allowed to freely state that view, why is it offensive for me to counter it?

You might have realised by now that I’m no fan of tolerance. Tolerance is a bollocks word, in my opinion (you’re free to disagree with me). Tolerance means tolerating something. Tolerating something means putting up with it, even though we disagree or don’t like it. It’s too often used as a shield against debate. We have to tolerate religious intrusions into secular life, for example, while we still speak out against them. We have to tolerate the idiocy of the lowest common denominator setting the bar for all of us. But tolerance is not the same as respect.

Yes, we’re all in this game of life together and we have to get along, so we do tolerate all those things and more, in as much as it’s everyone’s right to hold whatever view they choose and we can’t tell them to change. Nor can we force them to change, and people who use their view as an excuse to harm or oppress other people are fuckwits who are quite rightly villified. But “tolerance” doesn’t mean we have to agree. Nor does it mean we have to respect those views (and you don’t have to respect mine). It doesn’t mean we can’t speak out against them. Those people also have to tolerate our view too, which we can state as readily as they can.

Obviously, I believe in maintaining the rage (you’re free to believe otherwise and you’re free to tell me so). Without a righteous fury we’d be walked all over. It’s when people stand up and say, “Enough of this shit!” that things change.

I maintain my right to rage.

I maintain my right to expect quality.

I maintain my right to lament crappy stuff.

Let’s go back to the Prometheus thing, and the upset among people who enjoyed it. The upset is with the many being so vocal in lambasting it for being a terrible film. Sure, if you enjoyed it, that’s fine. But you enjoyed it despite all its flaws. You ignored the completely insane actions of the characters, the numerous plot holes, the completely nonsensical premise of the whole thing. You sat there and you enjoyed a $200 million senseless spectacle. Good for you. I’m glad you had a good time, I really am.

But I expect more – especially from someone with the credentials of Ridley Scott, playing in the well-loved Alien franchise. I can’t enjoy what was indeed a fantastic looking film when the characters are complete idiots. I can’t enjoy the incredible special effects when the “story” appears to have been vomited out by a drunken chimp. And I have every right to question the people who can enjoy it despite those things. I will defend to the death your right to your opinion, but I will still question it.

It’s not a character judgment. It’s not an insult to the core of your being. I’m not questioning your right to an opinion or your validity as a person. I’m questioning one particular position you maintain: How can you enjoy such a terrible story, regardless of how good it looks? And if your defence is simply, “Fuck it, I like to turn my brain off and enjoy a pretty movie” then okay. (But seriously, how do you do that!?)

However you do manage to enjoy it, don’t try to tell us it’s a good movie. Don’t try to tell us that the screwed up story and idiot characters don’t matter, or aren’t there. Don’t tell us we can’t lambast that shite and all who enjoy it for being a part of the problem. You’re still good people – we just disagree with you about this. We might disagree with you about other things too. Don’t get upset when we rage against the crap we endured while we expected something better. There’s far too much spectacle over substance in Hollywood, and I’m getting sick of it. Cut back a few dollars on the special effects budget and hire a good writer who will tell a kickass story. In the meantime, we’re going to be pissed off at the rubbish stories that keep getting peddled out.

It’s our right to rage against a terrible film and you have to tolerate that.

NB: I don’t claim to be a flawless, master storyteller, but I constantly strive to write good stories that make sense, with believable characters. If I write shit, I want you to tell me about it, so I can work on getting better.


Judgment Is Coming

June 24, 2012

After the horrible burn that was Prometheus, I’m very cautious about getting too excited for upcoming films. But there are two things this year I can’t help anticipating. The Dark Knight Rises and Judge Dredd. Based on this new trailer, I have a rising sense of excitement for Judge Dredd. It could actually be very good… Fingers crossed.


Prometheus – what a pile of shite

June 18, 2012

Blade Runner is still the greatest movie of all time. Alien is still the benchmark movie by which all space-horror should be measured. It’s hard to believe that the man who brought us these amazing films is also responsible for the execrable mess that is the long-awaited Prometheus. I saw this movie last night and I’m still angry about it. I had to teach a tai chi class this morning and it was hard because underlying my calm, professional exterior was a seething, unavoidable rage at a film that couldn’t have been more shit if it actually tried to be the shittest film ever made. There will be spoilers here, but don’t worry – you should save your money and not see the film anyway. But I’m assuming most people have seen it already.

From a simple film-making point of view, it was a stunning achievement. The design, the effects, the atmosphere were all excellent. But that matters not when the story makes no sense. Seriously, a script written by randomly pulling letter tiles from the Scrabble bag would be more coherent. Now, before anyone thinks I’m totally missing the point, I know it’s a massive allegory for Creationism with an extremely heavy Christian agenda, brutally mixed with various other mythologies. It is written by Damon Lindelof, after all, who brought us the atrociously unacceptable Christian Shepherd ending to Lost. (Talking of scripts that make no fucking sense.) That allegory would annoy me anyway, in this case even more so as it’s rammed down our throats like a face-huggers egg tube. But I might be prepared to forgive the great exogenesis bullshit if it was tied into a credible story. But it’s not. It’s so far from a credible story that the film should be called The Great Incredible Anti-Story.

It should have been awesome. The cast are one solid bunch of capable professionals, but they can’t be expected to save a film when the script is delivered to them as shit stains carefully shaped into letters on used toilet paper. That’s the only way I can imagine that this script was “written”. The character inconsistencies and plot holes in this film are breath-taking. I’ll just look at the first few things we see:

We open with a possible Earth and a huge, white, muscly alien dude drinking some goo that disintegrates him and seeds the planet with his DNA. Okay, I was prepared to buy that – there are surely better ways to mix their DNA with the goo, but if they use this whole sacrifice method, then sure. It’s absurd, but I’ll roll with for now.

Cut to humans investigating cave paintings. They spot a recurring theme – big dudes pointing at six dots. With absolutely no evidence or explanation whatsoever, this is interpreted by a Christian scientist as an invite by Von Daniken’s aliens to come and visit. Why!? What possible reason could there be to immediately assume that’s an invite? Well, we’re told later in the film, “Because that’s what I choose to believe.” Fuuuuuck!

Anyway, this is enough to trigger a trillion dollar expedition to the planet in question. Wait, they found a planet in the vastness of infinite interstellar space using a cave painting of six dots? Yes, they did. Apparently. Because “plot”.

So they fly there and there’s this moon, right, and that’s where they’ve been invited to. So they break orbit, cruise in, see a big mountain and say, “Let’s cruise that valley.” They turn a corner and voila! There’s the alien installation. How do you instantly find the correct valley on a planet the SIZE OF A PLANET!? On top of this, we later learn that this isn’t the homeworld of these big, white, muscly alien sacrificial DNA vendors, but it’s actually a massive production depot for weapons of mass destruction that they intend to use to destroy humanity. Why did the cave paintings “invite” humans to their massive WMD moon? What the fuck possible reason could they have for that? Anyway, back to the timeline. (Bear in mind that I’m only a few minutes into the film at this point.)

The crew immediately decide to explore this installation and send off these 3D mapping drones. Without waiting for the mapping to be finished or for any explanation of why the air is suddenly breathable and not full of pathogens, they take off their helmets and start running around inside, because complete lack of science or any kind of brain.

Suddenly and for no discernible reason, a holographic history lesson starts up and tells them things they need to know, because “plot”. Incidentally, this same inexplicable hologram happens later, giving androidDavid the password flute tune he needs to operate all the things. Yes, you read that right. Aliens with massively advanced technology turn their computer systems on with a quick tootle on a flute. Sure, that could be conceived as a very clever password system, assuming you don’t have a randomly triggered hologram show up and give that password to anyone who happens to come along. Why were there holograms of past events showing up all over the place!?

Anyway, back to the opening twenty minutes of the film. Our intrepid selection of the most unscientific scientists ever assembled discover the fossilised remains of a big alien. The geologist immediately freaks out and says, “I’m only here for money and rocks, fuck this noise” and says he’s going back to the ship. He asks if anyone else is going and the biologist says, “Yep, fuck this noise.” The biologist! The one who is presumably along on the trip because he’s really into biology and that, yet he’s not going to investigate a new, alien species. So off they fuck. And even though the geologist is the one with the mapping drones, and even though those drones are live-feeding a three-dimensional layout of the entire complex to the ship, and even though the ship is in constant contact with everyone and can see on the map exactly where everyone is at all times, the geologist and the biologist get lost and inexplicably left behind.

They end up stuck there as a convenient plotstorm comes out of nowhere and decide to wait it out in a scary room full of inexplicably replicating alien goo. Then a weird alien snake thing appears. The biologist, who was moments ago terrified of a 2,000 year old fossilised humanoid, is suddenly and inexplicably besotted with this up-standing, threatening, hooded, hissing alien snake thing. After all, he’s a biologist, so he’d know you never have to be concerned when a snake thing that pops out its hood stands up and starts hissing at you. That’s completely unthreatening. So he tries to play with it and it kills him. And sprays acid blood on the geologist. All because “plot”, of course. Incidentally, said geologist, who dies facedown in the goo, comes back later as a violent zombie-hulk thing. For no reason at all he travels back to the ship all folded over like some contortion-zombie showing off his crazy, uncanny crab walk, then just stands up and fights everyone like a normal zombie-hulk until he’s burned to a crisp. And just going back to that snake thing – where did it come from anyway? We can only assume it spontaneously evolved from the black goo in a couple of hours because.

Anyway, I’m going to stop now. You’ll have a pretty good idea of just how fucking awful this movie is and I’ve barely scratched the surface of plot holes and character stupidity – people who see worms in their eyes but don’t seek medical help, for example. Or people who die because they can’t turn left or right while running. And so on. Not to mention the complete lack of any consistency in any of the “science” randomly thrown at the film like poo from the monkey cage.

Other people have done excellent work deconstructing this piece of shite from various angles:

This post does an excellent job of exploring the allegory, even though the allegory is senseless and is hammered home at the expense of all story and characterisation.

This post is an excellent exploration of many of the plot holes, including several that I’ve mentioned here.

This post explores the massively mysoginistic plot basis.\

And this four minute video covers a lot, but certainly not all, of the plot holes and nonsensical “story”:

I am so fucking angry with Ridley Scott right now. After being so excited about this movie, it couldn’t have been worse if it tried.


The Hunger Games and movies that are better than their books

April 12, 2012

The Hunger GamesYou may recall that a week or so ago I was talking about the hype surrounding The Hunger Games, reading YA fiction and my disappointment with aspects of the book. The comments on that post led me to reconsider going to see the film. As did many of the comments on Facebook, surrounding the same discussion. So I went with my wife to see the film and you know what? It’s way better than the book. I hate saying that, as films are almost never better than books, but in this case it’s true. And I think I know why.

The main reason a film can never be as good as the book is because you can’t fit all the complexity and detail of a good book into a one and a half to two hour film. Look at the length of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy of films from Peter Jackson. Excellent films they are, and very faithful to the books, but not nearly as good. Not even with the eleven hour total of the extended editions. Therefore, reading the book always immerses you more than watching the film. The characters have more depth, the world is more fully realised, the story itself is more deeply explored. For this reason, a film based on a short story or novella is invariably better than a film based on a novel.

Sometimes a film can be outstanding. The best movie of all time is Blade Runner. Don’t bother arguing that point with me – you’re wrong. Blade Runner is a masterpiece. It’s better than the book it was based on, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick. BUT! It’s better because the movie is inspired by the book, but it’s very different. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep is an excellent book, as is most of PKD’s work. But it’s far from the story that gets told in Blade Runner. So the book inspired the movie, and there’s a lot of crossover, but the movie is not an adaptation of the book.

The Hunger Games movie, to get back to the point, is an adaptation of the book. And it’s a very faithful one. The reason it’s better is because most of the issues I had with the book, the things I saw as the biggest flaws, were excluded in the film. We didn’t have to sit through twenty minutes of how Prim got her fucking goat, for example. As I mentioned in the other post, that I linked at the start of this one, someone said of the book, “I’m sure there’s a pretty good novella in there somewhere.” And that’s why the film is better – the film-makers found that good novella, and that’s the story they told.

Sure, there were some aspects of the film that could have been developed a bit more. Some of the worldbuilding, so boring in the book, could certainly have been given a minute or two more in the film, but in this case I’ll take the tightly-paced, interesting film over the saggy, boring book every time. Which is a shame, because the book should always be better than the film. This time it’s not.

It’s also worth mentioning that Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Katniss in the film, is outstanding. She’s a simply brilliant actor and totally nails the character. She played a strangely similar role in a film called Winter’s Bone. If you haven’t seen that film, I highly recommend it.

Also, thank the tentacled appendages of the Great Old Ones, the film totally fixed up that fucking stupid werewolf thing. I was very pleased about that.

So I don’t think I’ll bother with the other two books, but I’ll probably catch the films when they come out. The Hunger Games movie was really enjoyable, and excellently realised. Reading time is limited and there’s a lot of good stuff out there I want to get to. I would never normally do such a thing, but in this very rare case I’ll skip the books and get the story stright from the movies.


The Hunger Games, hype and adults reading YA

April 2, 2012

The Hunger GamesLike so many people, I’ve just read The Hunger Games. I read it because I wanted to know what all the hype was about. The books on their own were a big success, then big budget movie moguls took them on and the production company engaged in a massive online hype campaign. Also, a friend suggested I read them, as he thought they were pretty good. So I did. Meh.

I probably won’t go to see the movie, but, in case I did, I wanted to read the book first. The book is always better than the film, after all. And so many people have waxed lyrical about The Hunger Games, I thought it must be worth a try. In all honesty, I was underwhelmed at first. The book drags interminably with an unnecessary amount of worldbuilding and backstory. It’s called The Hunger Games, for fuck’s sake – the games really should start before I’m halfway through the book. They do, just, at around the 40% mark or so, but that’s way too late. I was moaning online about it and one person said, and I paraphrase, “Yeah, I read that book. I’m sure there’s a pretty good novella in there somewhere.”

That was a fairly accurate comment. However, when the games got underway, and kids were running around trying to survive and kill each other, my interest was hooked. In case you’re wondering what the hell I’m on about, The Hunger Games is the story of a post-apocalyptic kind of future where the masses are entertained every year with one boy and one girl from each of twelve districts dumped into a wilderness arena where they have to hunt and kill each other for televisual shits and giggles. There can be only one and so on. Also, if you haven’t heard about The Hunger Games, how’s that rock you’re living under?

So, as I said, the games themselves were good. It was interesting stuff, exciting in its own way and I finally found myself enjoying the story. I could understand what some of the fuss was about. It wasn’t brilliant, certainly not worth the level of hype, but it was pretty good. That first 40% of the book, however, should really have been, at most, 10%. The whole thing would have been much better. And as a book for young adults, it doesn’t need to be a huge tome.

So I could kind of understand where the affection for the books came from. Whether I’ll bother with parts two and three remains to be seen. While I ended up enjoying the last half of the book on a very superficial level, it didn’t take away from the many, many flaws. The vast majority of the worldbuilding and the concepts on which the entire story is built are very contrived. There’s a lot of forced convenience in the telling. But this is okay when you’re just having a casual read. It’s not claiming to be anything else.

The dicussion on Facebook also raised another point, when someone said, essentially, “You’re reading a book for children, so you should be bored”.

I was astounded at that. There’s a vast chasm between writing/storytelling that is simpler and less sophisticated than adult fiction and writing/storytelling that is boring. Kids get bored too. To suggest a book for teens should bore an adult is asinine. It would bore a child too. A story aimed at a teen/YA audience certainly won’t have the depth and complexity of an adult novel, but should still be an engaging and entertaining story. When you read something like Harry Potter or His Dark Materials, there’s nothing boring about those. Except the last Harry Potter book, which should have been called Harry Potter And The Interminable Emo Camping*. Seriously, that book should have been half the size and it would have been great. But that’s a whole other rant.

The Harry Potter stories and the Dark Materials books are not boring, even though they’re aimed at a YA audience. They’re interesting and well-paced throughout, and they deal with subjects which challenge the thinking of their YA audience, just like YA fiction should. We should never write down to young people – they’re smarter than you might think. The Hunger Games deals with themes which should challenge YA readers too – kids as young as 12 running around killing other kids as young as 12 for sport, for instance. The whole premise of the book seems well outside a YA purview. Perhaps that very fact alone is what’s made The Hunger Games so popular. And that story, contrived and flawed though it may be, isn’t boring. The first 40% of the book is boring, however, and it shouldn’t be. To suggest we ought to find it boring as adults reading YA is ridiculous.

It should simply have been a shorter book, with all that worldbuilding and backstory tightened right up so that we got into the excitement of the Games themselves sooner. At least, that’s my opinion. And you all know how much I like to share an opinion.


One more thing before I go – I have one MAJOR issue with this story. I’ve saved this for the end, because it’s a real spoiler if you haven’t read the book. So, if you want to read it, maybe you should skip this last bit. I mean, the whole story is utterly predictable from the outset. That’s the lack of sophistication I was talking about earlier, which doesn’t have to be boring in a well-written story. But…

We know damn well that Katniss is going to survive. We know almost certainly that Peeta will survive too, somehow, or die doing something to ensure Katniss survives. From the very opening scenes, we know how this thing is going to play out, but we’re happy to go along for the ride.

There are several problems with it, which I really can’t be bothered to go into now any more than I have already and, in truth, it doesn’t matter. I still enjoyed the book and I’m glad it’s popular and getting young people reading. Top work.

But, right towards the end, there’s a surprise twist thrown in that’s just fucking mental. What the holy god-dancing shit is that thing with the dead tributes all coming back as werewolves? Or something. Seriously, what the shit, Suzanne Collins? All these kids had been killed in various ways. Many of them we don’t know how they died, but they did. Then they’re suddenly all werewolves come out to screw around with the final battle between our heroes and the one surviving tribute. It’s utterly bizarre. Why are they werewolves? How are they werewolves? What the fuck is the point in suddenly throwing that in at the end?

Sure, if you wanted some extra excitement, throw in some random attacker to mess with the balance of things. Even a pack of genetically modified wolves or something. But why the dead kids from before? Dead, remember? No longer freaking living.

And, just as a matter of detail, if Katniss, Peeta and Cato hadn’t managed to get onto the Cornucopia and have their last little scrap up there, that pack of wolfchildren would have torn all three of them to pieces and there would have been no victor, so letting those werekids out at all makes no sense.

Anyway, I’ll stop ranting now.

* I can’t take credit for that title. I can’t remember where I heard it, but it’s perfect.


Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (DVD/Blu-Ray) – Review

March 13, 2012

DarkDon’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a horror film with a mixed heritage. It’s an American story, written by Matthew Robbins and Guillermo del Toro, directed by comic book artist Troy Nixey and filmed in Mount Macedon and Melbourne in Australia. The setting, perhaps in a hat tip to H P Lovecraft, is Providence, Rhode Island. The film is a labour of love for Del Toro and a remake the 1973 ABC made-for-television horror film of the same name that had a huge effect on Del Toro as a child.

The film stars Guy Pearce as Alex, Katie Holmes as Kim and young Bailee Madison as Sally. It has to be said that the absolute star of this film is Bailee Madison. She’s excellent in every scene. Alex and his girlfriend, Kim, are restoring an old mansion and estate, with an eye to getting some serious architecture industry attention and therefore a great boost to their careers. For reasons largely unexplained, Alex’s young daughter, Sally, flies in and comes to live with them in the mansion while the restorations go on. We’re told that Sally’s mum gave her to her dad and the lack of care from the mother is clear in a few examples. No real reasons why, but that’s how it is. We can accept that. It’s just the first of many tropes this film plays.

Read the rest of my review at Thirteen O’Clock.


Beautiful book shop stop-motion animation

January 11, 2012

I found this via Neil Gaiman’s Twitter feed (@neilhimself). He said:

People kept sending me this YouTube stop motion bookstore video, and finally I watched it. Now in love.

And I have to agree with him. It’s just beautiful and it must have taken an incredible amount of time. If you watch the section with a clock in view, two hours pass just for that short sequence. And, while I’m a big fan and proponent of digital publishing, I do also agree with the final sentiment of the film (read the cover of the last book).



Writing with no regrets – Guest post from Lorna Suzuki

October 11, 2011

There are many ways to get published these days, and the face of publishing is changing all the time. Self-publishing no longer carries the kind of stigma it used to, yet there is still a fairly valid supposition that most self-published work will be inferior in quality of story and presentation. This is certainly not always the case, as many success stories have shown us recently. There are also authors starting the traditional way, but taking control of their own publishing later. Small and indie press are providing writers with more opportunities than ever. With that in mind, today I have a guest post from Lorna Suzuki who has turned down offers of traditional publishing to go her own way, which includes a film deal for her self-published work. I thought her story might be interesting for readers here. Enjoy.

Writing With No Regrets
by Lorna Suzuki

In my short fiction-writing career, I’ve been blessed and more fortunate than most writers, especially being that I am an indie author.

I know many authors seek validation by being published through traditional means, even if it’s not one of the big six. They believe traditional publishing means they are now credible writers, even though some question the quality of some of these books being published. Once, an aspiring author seeking traditional publication mentioned that writers like me are ‘jumping the queue’, thereby making it harder for serious writers like him to compete in this business. I’ve even been to writers conferences and have overheard authors seeking traditional publication speak of how they’d ‘never stoop so low as to resort to self-publishing’ as they, with their noses turned up, rushed by workshops covering this very topic.

For me, I’m proudly indie and deliberately so. I never started writing fantasy with the intention of becoming rich, receiving a huge advance from a large publishing company or to have my name on the cover of a book. Maybe I’m naïve to be happy knowing my fantasy series is slowly but steadily gathering a following and making its way into libraries in Canada and the U.S., but writing fiction for a living was something I never truly considered.

I wrote my fantasy series as a lasting gift to my daughter. I created an imaginary realm filled with characters whose stories I felt were worth sharing with the world.

Now, for those who say I was never published traditionally because my work is mediocre and I just couldn’t land an agent: I’ve had two literary agents in the past, the last had an excellent track record with multi-book deals with the big publishing houses in New York. The whole experience was not exactly soul-crushing, more disheartening than anything else.

I released my last agent, and used Kim Roberts, one of Hollywood North’s most talented, knowledgeable entertainment attorneys (and producer of Sepia Films) to negotiate a wonderful option agreement with a fantastic production company.

Even with agent representation, it’s been either the editors or president of publishing companies I’ve met on my own, than via any agent introduction.

In the case of one successful, growing Canadian publishing company, the president of Libros Libertad had been following my writing career via the local newspapers and on TV. He contacted me when I was in the midst of meetings with a film producer seeking rights to option my adult fantasy series. The president of this company was pleasant, professional and as a writer, he understood the challenges many authors face, and that many worthy novels never get out there because the competition is fierce.

We did have couple of great meetings, and I did go as far as reviewing a publishing contract, but the burden of negotiating film rights had far greater precedence at the time, so I had to decline his offer of a multi-book deal to focus on this.

The next person interested in publishing rights for the adult fantasy came from the editor of Raincoast Publishing (their claim to fame was being the publisher of the Harry Potter series in Canada). I met Raincoast editor Jessie Finkelstein at the Surrey International Writers Conference. When we were discussing the Imago fantasy series, Ms. Finkelstein loved the concept of a strong female protagonist that had NO supernatural powers to take on much larger opponents. She found it refreshing that I featured a petite female warrior, one that used her intuition, years of training and smarts to overcome challenges to survive in a world that was not tolerant of her type, the only half human/half elf being in her realm.

Ms. Finkelstein loved that the female protagonist had fighting skills grounded in reality (based on my style of martial arts), blended in with a high level of action as well as a poignant story that touched on real world issues like overcoming racial and religious intolerance, male chauvinism, abuse and the will to survive against incredible odds.

She loved the concept so much, but Raincoast specializes in YA fiction, not adult fantasy. Because Ms. Finkelstein was aware of the level of violence and the sexual content, she had to ask: “Are you willing to rewrite your series for a YA audience?”

Now, some writers struggling to be picked up by a traditional publishing house denounced me as being crazy for giving the answer I did, but I already had a growing fan base of very loyal Imago fans, the ones who drop everything to attend my annual book launches to get their next fantasy fix. At the risk of being accused of selling out or disappointing the fans that loved the series written with an adult audience in mind, I had no choice but to say no to Ms. Finkelstein.

Do I regret saying no to her? Do I ever wonder what would have happened if I did rewrite to fit Raincoast’s catalogue? The answer is no.

Just last month, the executive producer who had optioned rights for the first three novels in the Imago series for a major motion picture trilogy contacted me. A publisher in Asia who knew of my series and the impending movie project asked the executive producer to contact me to see if I’d be interested in negotiating rights for the release of the Imago series in Asia.

I was flattered they wanted this, but for me, I didn’t even bother asking the executive producer who they were and what were they willing to offer.

Crazy, right?

Maybe… but for me, I’m a firm believer that things will happen when they are supposed to happen and whom they are supposed to happen with. And like my female protagonist, I tend to follow my intuition. I’ve spent much of my life multi-tasking on so many levels. Somewhere along the line, this means something can suffer in the process. I felt it was better for me to focus on one project at a time. As the creative consultant of the upcoming motion picture trilogy, it’s better to give the proper care and attention to the movie project now, than to regret it later.

Now, don’t get me wrong. When the time is right, under the proper terms and conditions with the most suitable traditional publishing company, I might consider an offer. It will have to be right on many levels for me to give up self-publishing, especially in light of the fact J.K. Rowling, with her website, has almost single-handedly made self-publishing respectable now.

In the meantime, I’m quite happy being indie. For now, the executive producer wants me to continue building the fan base as we march toward full production! So, off I go, trying to win readers over one book at a time. And thank you, Alan, for inviting me to do this guest blog.

You can find Lorna on twitter: @LornaSuzuki
Or at her website:


George Lucas Strikes Back

September 18, 2011

This is just brilliant. It’s a fantastic bit of faux trailer-making in its own right, but it’s also a brilliant concept. I so wish this was actually the case. It really is the only thing that would make any sense in an ideal world. Sadly, what really happened is that George Lucas disappeared up his own arsehole and has spent the last decade systematically raping the childhood memories of us all. But let’s not dwell on such things and just enjoy this awesome piece of work:

Here’s the thing on YouTube.



The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Zetetic.

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