Friday, December 30, 2011

Freaky Friday: Devil

With Universal Pictures behind this project, M. Night Shyamalan as producer and story writer, and Tak Fujimoto handling cinematography, DEVIL has all the puzzle pieces in the box. Yet, this film got mixed reviews when it hit theaters. It's likely do better in DVD sales, but when you break down the parts, it becomes clear where the pieces don't quite add up to the whole.
It begins with a stunning opening scene of New York City upside down. The sequence is visually engaging and coupled with moody music sets a chilling picture - creepy and gothic. This section of the film's cinematography is credited to John Frost whose worked on other horror projects such as Drag Me to Hell. It's a stark contrast to Tak Fujimoto's style who often gives us sharper angles and a mix of close-ups and shaky cam. Fujimoto has also worked on The Happening, Signs, The Sixth Sense and The Silence of the Lambs - no stranger to horror, thrillers or Shyamalan projects.
Now into the story. It begins with Detective Bowden (played by Chris Messina) investigating a jumper suicide. He and his partner track down the correct building of the crime to discover five people trapped in an elevator, and the situation quickly unraveling. Unfortunately, Messina's lackluster performance downplays the suspense and sense of urgency. Add the fact that you don't actually care about any of these people stuck in the elevator and you get a bland showing.
The one saving grace amongst the characters is the security guard, Ramirez (played by Jacob Vargas) - who isn't actually stuck in the elevator, but monitoring the situation. He narrates a tale of el Diablo as told to him by his grandma-ma, and compares it to the odd occurrences happening in the elevator. His superstitious zeal and religious overtones usually would have me ruling out this character type, but some how Vargas manages to make this character not only likable, but relatable.
To recap, we have some nice visuals, a mostly uninspiring group of characters, and oh yeah, they're stuck in an elevator. Not the best mix for a successful movie. However, I will say in classic Shyamalan form, we are rewarded with an interesting twist at the end. AND I guessed some of it, but still didn't figure out the whole thing. If you can keep me guessing, it's always a plus in my book.

Rating: C+ (Worth a rental, but not one for the collection)

PS I don't think the original jumper had any relevance to the story. Although, I could have missed something. So, if you watch it and figure out if I missed a side plot, please let me know!

PSS It's the last Freaky Friday of 2011! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

What do you think of twist endings? Are they easy for you to figure out? Do they drive you nuts?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Freaky Friday: Wishcraft

Brace yourselves readers, this one is a ride, but not the adventure park roller coaster. Nah, it's sort of like the broken teacup ride that your mom forced you to go on with your kid sister - slow and painful. Let's break it down in list form so that my brain doesn't explode. Oh Wishcraft, I barely new ye...
  • Acting that toddlers unable to form full sentences could have pulled off better
  • Dialogue (see above)
  • A star overweight and incompetent "athlete" named Jimbo who screamed like a hyena
  • A detective named Sparky - does this one even need a comment
  • The killer's freaky mask that's some lame copy of a cross between the Scream masks and a pig
  • A samurai sword, should be cool, but not the way the killer wields it - yes, this makes me a martial arts snob. I don't care.
  • The "hero"aka Brett Bumpers. Really Brett Bumpers? *sigh*
Brett Bumpers!
The main character, Brett Bumpers *giggles*, makes stupid wishes on some weird totem - three wishes, how original. I don’t know how he found it, because I missed the opening fifteen minutes - real shame. But, first he wishes for a hot and popular cheerleader to go to a dance with him, then he wishes for said hot and popular cheerleader to become his girlfriend. Can’t he think of a better wish? Like I dunno, world peace?
Hot & Popular Cheerleader
His nerd buddy gets a hold of his totem - insert inappropriate joke here - and wishes to be a “badass mofo”. Yeah, I don’t know what it means either. It gets perpetually worse, and I had to turn it off about an hour in. So, I have no idea how it ends, sorry. But, with 45 minutes more of the movie to go, I couldn’t take it anymore. This movie is everything cliché and WRONG about horror movies. If you want just under two hours of mindnumbing stupidity, check it out. Otherwise, stay away. Far far away. 

UPDATE: I checked out the ending just for you all and... Initial verdict stands. STAY AWAY!

Rating: F

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Writer Wednesday: #Pubtip Collection and Hanukkah Happiness!

You may have heard about this crazy little thing called Twitter. It's a social media conglomeration to the nth degree. And Dawn gave us some great tips last week about how to take part in its stormy seas. Now, I'd like to tell you about a hastag called . As we learned, hashtags are used to track conversations. Anyone can use them and anyone can post...well, pretty much anything. But, is often used my agents, editors and writers to help convey some "truths" about the publishing universe.
How cool is this picture?
Since I often enjoy the conversations, I thought I'd put together this string of some of the best I've come across.

Been saying similar thing in many submission passes--too much front load exposition. Hook me by starting with questions, not answers. (Dec. 13)

Someone once compared email to a conference, and Twitter to the after party. I concur. Twitter is not for business correspondence  (Dec. 13)

When submitting a manuscript, name the file after your book. Using sample.doc or book.doc will get lost in an editor's inbox. (Dec. 17)

Never pester an agent after getting a rejection letter. It wont' change my mind. It'll only make me mark your email address as Spam. (Dec. 16)

If 1 of your characters ever says "As you know..." delete EVERYTHING said after that. People don't talk about stuff they both know. (Dec. 15)

Never make editors jump through hoops to read your submission. Going to your website, accessing your shared docs etc--all bad. (Dec. 15)

You may see your manuscript as part of a series, but make sure it stands alone as well (and indicate that in your query letter). (Dec. 13)

Feel free to debate these or add your own in the comments. I'd love to get your feedback.

And to all my Jewish readers out there...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Freaky Friday: Saw

Every so often a movie or book comes along that makes you go, "Wow! This is new!" When SAW first came out in 2004, my original reaction was just that. I could not believe the visual impact the film had on me. For most of the movie, you're watching two men captured in a small dirty bathroom trying to figure a way out. Not such a visual enticement, but...
Cartoon Sketch


Then, it gets graphic. And I mean graphic! I've actually decided to use sketches because I want to keep the blog age friendly. Everything from jaw ripping metal masks to fishing through human organs to hacking off body parts with a rusty...you guessed it...saw. We are talking NOT kid appropriate AT ALL.
Hey, wait, you say, I thought this was something new and gore isn't new. No, it isn't. But, it's a large part of the movie so I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it. What was new, at the time, was the storytelling in the form of a game. Puzzles that the viewer has to unravel along with the characters. I can't tell you the thrill of trying to unmask the killer as the movie progressed and the TWIST!!! NEVER SAW IT COMING - pun intended.
I pride myself on figuring out stories - movies and books - sometimes before I even pick up the first page or the film begins. (My writing partner, Yelena, can tell you all about how I took great pleasure in spoiling Breaking Dawn. Ha! Saw it coming a mile away.) Much like Dr. House, I'm a puzzle addict, so SAW piqued my interest from the get go, and when I couldn't determine the ending...BRILLIANT!
If you haven't seen this movie, you're in for a real treat. The sequels also don't disappoint, for the most part. Although, I haven't seen the 3D one yet. Heard it wasn't so good, but I'll reserve judgement. They're also several "game" or "puzzle" style horror movies that emerged since the SAW movies hit it big. But, nothing I've seen so far has measured up to this film.

Rating: A+

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Writer Wednesday:
Featuring Dawn Rae Miller

I'm so happy to introduce you all to Dawn Rae Miller, a fabulous YA author and Twitter aficionado. I met Dawn through the writing boards, and I'm confident to say that she is one of the most talented authors and gracious people I've ever had the privilege to know. Here's a snippet from her bio...

In addition to writing her own books, Dawn is the ghostwriter of a commercial YA series. She also spends too much time on Twitter. So much, in fact, her agent wonders how she actually finishes things. (Answer: She never sleeps.).

When not writing or procrastinating online, she's either running, chasing after her three young sons or trying to convince her husband that he really does like vegetables.

Dawn lives in San Francisco and is member of The YA Curator blog.

Her book Larkstorm is out now, and I highly encourage you to pick up a copy. But first, let's hear from Dawn and her take on how to use Twitter effectively. Take it away, Dawn!

TWITTER, TWITTER, WHAT ART THOU?
 A Guest Post by Dawn Rae Miller

"I’ve spent the past two weeks talking about myself, my book, and my road to publication. Frankly, I’m tired of myself.

So…LET’S TALK TWITTER!
I’ve had many conversations with fellow writers about how to use Twitter. Usually along the lines of, “Is it a giant time suck?” Can be. “Will using it drive sales?” Maybe.

But the number one thing I hear: “I don’t understand Twitter.” If you fall into this camp, you’ve come to the right person. I am a Twitter-fiend.

For those who don’t know, Twitter is an up-to-the-minute feed where anyone can post anything at anytime. It’s 100% public unless you go off-feed and direct message someone. Otherwise, everything you tweet is searchable.

The best tweeters are the ones who respond to @replies and engage in conversation. Keeping that in mind, a few general rules:

Rule number one: Don’t spam Twitter with non-stop links about your book. People want to know about you. And you are more than your book. Talk about the weather (on twitter this is socially acceptable), a funny video, and books other than yours.

This doesn’t mean you can’t mention your book, but remember: No one cares about your book as much as you do. And chances are, the people who follow you already know about it.

Rule number two: Engage. Talk to other people. It may feel weird jumping into a conversation with someone you don’t know, but people are tweeting things because they want comments. So that lady whose pet parrot has a swearing habit? @reply her.

Rule number three: Share meaningful links to things you love, find interesting, or amusing. YouTube videos, best book lists, articles about the industry. Or even pigmy goats if you’re into those. Anything you think others will enjoy too.

Okay, so now that we’ve covered the general rules, let’s get on to advance tweeting.

  • When you @reply someone, only that person AND the people following BOTH of you can see the tweet. Therefore, if you want ALL your followers to know you’ll be signing at Hot-n-Steamy books on Friday, it needs to look like this:

“@superawesomeperson I’ll be signing at Hot-n-Steamy Friday at 4pm. Thanks for asking.

Do you see the quotation mark before the person’s handle? It allows the tweet to be sent out to ALL your followers. You can use any mark - a period, comma, whatever. Just make sure you use something before the @ sign if you want to broadcast widely.

  • When tweeting links, use a tweet shortening service like bit.ly. Not only will this gobble up less of your 140 character limit, it allows you to track the click-thru-rate.
  • Hashtags are used to track conversations. If you were to search #yalitchat you’d find a whole stream dedicated to conversations between Young Adult writers. If you search #ebooks you’ll find tweets about - surprise – ebooks. You can do this for TV shows #DrWho, music #indiebands, and even #JustinBeiber if you really wanted.
At this point, you may be saying, “This is all fine and great, but I don’t have a ton of followers and my feed is boring. How do I get more followers?”

Don’t give in to the temptation to grow your numbers quickly by using a service. If you let your numbers grow organically – one follow at a time - you’ll find you have better interactions with people. Why? Because those people WANT to follow you and you WANT to follow them. My best advice: follow people you find interesting and @reply them. They may not follow you back immediately, but don’t despair – some people need more than one interaction to add someone.

Which leads to, “Do I have to follow everyone who follows me?” Some people feel very strongly reciprocal follows are polite. Others think it’s a waste of time.

Personally, I don’t follow everyone. When my feed has too many people in it, I miss things. Sure, I can create lists that only track certain people, but then I’m not really following everyone, am I? It’s just a sham to make sure more people follow me.

My own rule of thumb is to follow people I interact with. If someone @replies me or pops up frequently in a friend’s tweets, I usually add them.

So there you have it: Twitter explained.

Happy Tweeting and I hope to see you on twitter!"

Thanks Dawn for revealing all of Twitter's intricacies. You can find Dawn at @dawnraemiller on Twitter. And now for more about Larkstorm...
"In the years following the destructive Long Winter, when half the world’s population perished, the State remains locked in battle against the Sensitives: humans born with extra abilities.

As one of the last descendants of the State’s Founders, seventeen-year-old Lark Greene knows her place: study hard and be a model citizen so she can follow in her family’s footsteps. Her life’s been set since birth, and she’s looking forward to graduating and settling down with Beck, the boy she’s loved longer than she can remember.

However, after Beck is accused of being Sensitive and organizing an attack against Lark, he disappears. Heartbroken and convinced the State made a mistake, Lark sets out to find him and clear his name.

But what she discovers is more dangerous and frightening than Sensitives:

She must kill the boy she loves, unless he kills her first."

To learn more about Dawn check her out on facebook HERE. And to purchase your copy, of Larkstorm check out...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Freaky Friday: Top Fears Revealed

Last week, I asked you to tell me your fears in a 100% unscientific poll. We got 12 takers. Thank you all for your honesty. Since I have no background in psychology, I will analyze these fears in a the most basic manner possible. First, colorful charts...
From this survey, it appears that Disease is the number one fear. In a time when flu shots, immunizations and doctor visits are standard, it doesn't surprise me in the least. Serious illnesses such as cancer and AIDS are very real concerns, especially with the frightening statistics that seem to be splashed across the TV every other day. Yet, remember that hypochondria (a preoccupying fear of having a serious illness) can be as debilitating to your life as disease itself. You should always take care to ensure your best health, but don't let this fear monster get the better of you.
No matter what your particular fear, don't let it stop you from living your life. When fear prevents us from going after our goals and achieving our dreams, then we've allowed it to subdue our nature, our passion. Take these words by those far wiser than me to heart...

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."
- FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, First Inaugural Address, Mar. 4, 1933

"Cowards die many times before their deaths
The valiant never taste of death but once"
- WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Julius Caesar

"There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid."
- L. FRANK BAUM, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

"It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more."
- J. K. ROWLING, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

“A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.”
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Children of Húrin